Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Venice Biennale's "All the World's Futures": May 9 - Nov 22





The Venice Biennale is unquestionably the most significant exhibit I'll witness this year, possibly this decade. The numerous pavilions of the citywide international event is currently in full swing, with this year's visual art program thematically titled "All the World's Futures", spanning the months of May through November. For it's 56th installment, programming director, Okwui Enwezor has assembled what looks to be a fairly stunning spectrum of sculptural, painting and installation work, with a focus on larger scale pieces in the Biennale's Arsenale and adjacent Giardini. The top prize, the Golden Lion for Best Pavilion went to Adelina Cüberyan von Fürstenber for her assembly of The Armenian Pavilion situated on the Island of San Lazzaro the work exploring the notion of “armenity,” which in her words encapsulates concepts of “displacement and territory, justice and reconciliation, ethos and resilience”. With Best Artist of the international exhibition going to US artist Adrian Piper, the Silver Lion for Best Young Artist awarded to South Korea's Im Heung-soon and Lifetime Achievement going to Ghana's El Anatsui. The Guardian's Adrian Searle navigates the miles of string, rotating trees, entire shops and spacial labyrinths of work describing the world’s socio-political past, present and future, laid out as this year’s compendious, "Venice Biennale: The World is More than Enough" with Natasha Morris sidebar covering "Iran Pavilion Goes Back to the Future". The New York Times' Randy Kennedy focusing on the programming's incitement to engage, "The Venice Biennale Shows its Political Stripes" and a feature detailing Joan Jonas' "Mirage" traveling to Venice after it's run at MoMA.

Enwezor's programming for "All the World's Futures" constructed around the premise of a Parliament of Forms, in which layers of the three intersecting curatorial filters; Garden of Disorder, Liveness: An Epic Duration and Reading Capital represent a constellation of parameters, through which to imagine and realize a diversity of practices. Heavily politicized, the content represented through the application of these filters have resulted in a vital cross-dialog of the political and economic. A month into the exhibition, the result has already been seen to give new life to the Situationist-like unifying of diverse fields of theoretical disciplines into a modern and comprehensive critique of the effects of Religious Fundamentalism, Oppressive Regimes, Oligarchy, Advanced Capitalism and Globalization. The Biennale's national pavilions have long-acted as cultural outposts of the countries they represent and when those countries are engaged in cultural, economic and even armed conflict with their neighbors, be it the global hotspots of the carnage in Syria or Russia's recent power grab, Venice becomes a platform for geopolitical frictions. The resulting manifestation seen in this year's Biennale range from the tensions of the Middle East to Marx-ian protest of the monetizing of art as investor's commodity to dialogs on the erosion of privacy using the very tools of the espionage industry to the wry reversal of Russia's incursion into the Ukraine.

What is arguably world’s oldest and most important international exhibition attracts an unstoppable force spanning 53 countries and 136 artists, it's character, vision and charisma, witnessed in Artforum's traverse of Venice, "Back to the Futures". And depicted in all it's pictorial glory by The Boston Globe's Big Picture, highlighting "Untitled Trumpet" by German artist Katharina Grosse, "The End of Carrying All" by Kenyan's Wangeti Mutu, the massive sculptural works of Russia's Irina Nakhova, "Speculating on the Blue" an installation by Flaka Haliti, a new video-opera by British filmmaker Peter Grennaway, "Occupations/Discoveries" by Brazilian artist Antonio Manuel, the 9,216 LCD panels of the "The portrait of Sakip Sabanci" video installation by Turkey's Kutlug Ataman, the cavernous crepuscular space of Japan's Chiharu Shiota's and his installation "The Key in the Hand", "They Come to US Without a Word' video installation by Joan Jonas, 'The Green Mirror' paintings by British artist Chris Ofili, the massive 'Untitled' paintings of Germany's Georg Baselitz, "Reisefieber" by Polish artist Dorota Nieznalska at the 'Dispossession' exhibition at the Palazzo Dona Brusa, the immersive spacial and liquid environments of "Our Product" by Pamela Rosenkranz, "Revolutions" by French artist Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, "Giardino dell'Eden" by Portugal's Joana Vasconcelos, new installations by Italy's Marzia Miglior, the immersive video installation "Factory of the Sun" by German artist Hito Steyerl and "Haiti 18°48'05'N 72°23'01'W'" a panoramic film projection by C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska. To cite just a few, of the multitudinous.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Substrata 1.5: Sound & Media Festival: July 16 - 18



For the fifth year in a row, Seattle plays host to this exceptional three day mini-festival (three nights of performances and a masterclass hosted by renowned Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk) of precisely curated sounds by Rafael Anton Irisarri from the more substantive end of the ambient, neoclassical, psych, electronic, immersive-avant spectrum. Held in an intimate setting, with a explicit audience in attendance (no loud rock bar and hangers-on here) and a dedicated sound engineer. Exactly as a festival of these sounds, with the corresponding audience and venue should be curated, hosted and assembled. For the festival's final Northwest installment, this year's programming features indie chamber ensemble Rachel's pianist, composer, and arranger, Rachel Grimes. Founder of the 12K label sound artist and minimalist composer Taylor Deupree. Abstract techno and post-dub composer Uwe Zahn, who's Arovane albums were a defining element in the evolution of early 2000's electronic music, Visual artist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Tara Jane O’Neil. One of the great unsung composers of the 20th Century and Continuous Music pioneer, Lubomyr Melnyk. Cutting edge underground rock harpist and composer Mary Lattimore, pianist, minimalist composer and multi-instrumentalist Rauelsson. Tarentel guitarist and fearless explorer of the fringes of experimental psychedelia, Jefre Cantu–Ledesma. Jesy Fortino's hushed folkic utterances as Tiny Vipers, Norm Chambers' early electronic, concrete and tape music inspired Panabrite. With video, projection and film-art accompaniment spanning the festival by Leo Mayberry and experimental Super 8 and 16mm filmmaker, Paul Clipson. Update: Due to health and family matters, both Arovane and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma will no longer be performing. In their stead the festival have picked up Brock Van Wey's bvdub project and 12k artist, Shuttle358 for the Thursday and Saturday night performances respectively.

From the Substrata site: "Substrata 1.5 is the 5th edition of Seattle’s intimate sound & visual art weekend happening July 16 – 18, 2015. At its nucleus: an all-ages live performance program, workshop, and field recording trip within the beautiful Cascade region of the Pacific Northwest. The idea behind Substrata is to explore varying perspectives of scale though the use of sound, composition and visuals. It features three live performance showcases featuring accomplished and internationally renowned artists working within the cutting edge where structural abstraction meets physical dynamics. The performance program focuses on live electronic music: applying technology to a concert setting while incorporating traditional and non-traditional instruments. The workshop explores dilemmas within the sound arts community; the field trip engages participants and performing artists in deep listening exercises and mobile recording on site. Our goal is to create an immersive weekend experience that engages the audience in a dialog with the artists that goes beyond the constrains of traditional performer/listener interactions. Each showcase is curated to distinctly portrait different takes of the potency of minimalism, varying between weighty combinations of tonalities used to sculpt out atmospheric ambiance, or powerful dynamic structures made up of the subtlest filigree of sonic building materials. By creating compositional spaces dealing with a sense of mass, along with openness of structure, the perspective of scale and the listener’s place in relation is shifted to allow for greater a sense of place beyond the environ of the performance in the interplay of the moment and physics of the larger world. In all, Substrata is an event that fosters appreciation for our natural surroundings and creates meaningful interaction between artists/participants while exploring a new locality."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Seattle International Film Festival: May 14 - Jun 7




It's that time of the year again! SIFF once again arrives bringing a spectrum of cinema from across the world. This year, like the string of years since 2008, sees a qualitative diversity-dip in the percentage of foreign cinema, arthouse, auteur and all things challenging, cutting edge, progressive or adventurous. These were content agendas that once had prominence within the festival, making it of a caliber to challenge Toronto and New York. Those times, I fear, are officially over. That said, this year's fest isn't as painfully ommissive as 2011 or 2010 for that matter. We saw a period of relief from the lackluster programming described above which waned a bit in 2012 and 2013 suggesting a further trend in that direction. For last year's festival, their 40th Anniversary was celebrated with what seemed to be a renewed vision as their strongest programming in almost a decade. Nonetheless this year we're again seeing that same glut of middle-ground contemporary romances, clever quirky dramas for the sub-Sundance sect and a lot of filler seemingly there to entice some imagined Northwest demographic out of their Bellevue hobbles and inner-city condos.

By way of example, two west coast festivals that have produced smaller, yet significantly more qualitative festivals have established a standard that can clearly be seen from year to year. The San Francisco International Film Festival concluding just this week features not only a diverse body of work, ranging from commercial entertainment to the experimental, embracing both award winning auteur works, genre film and potential indie breakouts. A cross section of the programming can be seen in their selection of Dietrich Brüggemann's award winning "Stations of the Cross", Tsui Hark's martial arts adventure, "The Taking of Tiger Mountain", another award winning and critically lauded festival highlight in Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's "The Tribe", the rising star of Alice Rohrwacher and her most recent, "The Wonders", visual and comic artist Dave McKean's second directorial effort, "Luna", Sergei Loznitsa's highly priased documentary, "Maidan" and extreme Asian cinema is represented with Tetsuya Nakashima's "The World of Kanako". Our neighboring city to the south, though smaller in scale and less urban in some sense, has a strong showing in their Portland International Film Festival again this year. It should be established that with each of them concluding some time before, the content of in each of these festivals was made available to the programming directors at SIFF. They simply made choices otherwise. Which begs the question, what kind of thinking is behind choosing to not program something like Pedro Costa's Film Comment and Sight & Sound year-end charting, "Horse Money"? Or thrilling documentary insights into modern China like J.P. Snaidecki's "The Iron Ministry"? Smaller, developing directors and fringe cinema is also represented in PIFF with works like Tudor Christian Jurgiu's "The Japanese Dog", Mipo O's "The Light Shines Only There" and Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo's "Nuoc 2030". Both producing festivals of a caliber that SIFF has seemingly un-learned as they continue to go astray of the kind of vanguard seen in the international festival circuit of our neighboring cities.

But there remains a handful of legitimate, original, challenging, crafted cinema to be found in here too. Seattle International Film Festival in the past has existed as a focal-point of visionary cinema curatorialship, with the resources, funds and legacy to be hugely influential. This year I found some 15 or so films of interest, curiosity or gravitas that I plan to attend, running the spectrum from directors of note, archival restorations and new developing artists. As a consequence the majority of the titles listed below are simply films of curiosity, rather than considered essential viewing. Not the least compelling year on record, but not one even approaching the par established with SIFF's own stellar run spanning the decade of 1997-2007. I continue to be enthused about their home at the SIFF Cinema Uptown and expanded screens between the newly acquired SIFF Cinema Egyptian and Film Center. Their curation for these year-round venues has exhibited the scope of SIFF, with this year's Recent Raves series suggesting a visionary path forward for the cinema. Unfortunately the 41st Seattle International Film Festival doesn't continue this high standard.

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Saturday, May 16
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10:00 AM - Hiromasa Yonebayashi "When Marnie Was There"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
WHEN0516

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26797


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Saturday, May 16
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12:30 PM - Emeric Pressburger & Michael Powell "The Red Shoes"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
REDS0516

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26798

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Saturday, May 16
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6:00 PM -  Setsuro Wakamatsu "Snow on the Blades"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
SNOW0516

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26800

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Saturday, May 16
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9:30 PM - François Ozon "The New Girlfriend"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
NEWG0516

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26801

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Saturday, May 16
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12:00 AM - Corin Hardy "The Hallow"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
HALL0516

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26802

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Sunday, May 17
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4:30 PM - James Benning "Natural History"
SIFF Film Center Festival
NATU0517

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27329

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Sunday, May 17
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7:00 PM - Bill Morrison "Beyond Zero: 1914-1918"
SIFF Film Center Festival
BEYO0517

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27335

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Monday, May 18
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7:00 PM - James Whale "The Old Dark House"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
OLDD0518

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26808

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Monday, May 18
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7:00 PM - Yukun Xin "The Coffin in the Mountain"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
COFF0518

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26974


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Tuesday, May 19
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9:30 PM - Esteban Roel & Juanfer Andrés "Shrew's Nest"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
SHRE0519

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27196

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Wednesday, May 20
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7:00 PM - Sergey Parajanov "The Color of the Pomegranates"
Harvard Exit
COLO0520

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26899

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Thursday, May 21
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4:30 PM - Kutluğ Ataman "The Lamb"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
LAMB0521

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26816

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Thursday, May 21
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9:30 PM - Joshua Oppenheimer "The Look of Silence"
Harvard Exit
LOOK0521

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26902

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Friday, May 22
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6:30 PM - György Pálfi "Free Fall"
Harvard Exit
FREE0522

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27056

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Friday, May 22
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7:00 PM - Oren Moverman "Time Out of Mind"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
TIME0522

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26986


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Friday, May 22
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12:00 AM - Rodney Ascher "The Nightmare"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
NIGH0522

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26822

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Saturday, May 23
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11:00 AM - David Gordon Green "Manglehorn"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
MANG0523

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26826

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Saturday, May 23
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1:15 PM - Christian Braad Thomsen "Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands"
Harvard Exit
FASS0523

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26906

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Saturday, May 23
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5:30 PM - Matthias Bittner "War of Lies"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
WARO0523

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27063

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Saturday, May 23
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8:00 PM - Szabolcs Hadju "Mirage"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
MIRA0523

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27132


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Saturday, May 23
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9:45 PM - Fabrice Du Welz  "Alleluia"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
ALLE0523

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26827

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Sunday, May 24
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11:00 AM - Satyajit Ray - The Apu Trilogy  "Song of the Little Road"
2:00 PM - Satyajit Ray - The Apu Trilogy  "The Unvanquished"
4:30 PM - Satyajit Ray - The Apu Trilogy  "The World of Apu"
AMC Pacific Place 11
SONG0524 / UNVA0524 / WORL0524

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27218
http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27219
http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27220

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Sunday, May 24
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9:15 PM - Alan Mak & Felix Chong "Overheard"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
OVER0524

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26832

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Sunday, May 24
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12:00 AM - Craig Denney "The Astrologer"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
ASTR0524

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26833

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Monday, May 25
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9:30 PM - Shim Sung-bo "Haemoo"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
HAEM0525

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27369

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Thursday, May 28
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4:00 PM - Daniel Garcia & Rania Attieh "H."
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
HHHH0528

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26996


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Thursday, May 28
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6:00 PM - Robert Siodmak "The Dark Mirror"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
DARK0528

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26991

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Thursday, May 28
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8:00 PM - Max Ophüls "Caught"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
CAUG0528

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26992


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Friday, May 29
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9:30 PM - Lee Kwang-kuk "A Matter of Interpretation"
Harvard Exit
MATT0529

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26929


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Saturday, May 30
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9:45 PM - Anucha Boonyawatana "The Blue Hour"
Harvard Exit
BLUE0530

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26934

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Sunday, May 31
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12:00 PM - Chad Gracia "The Russian Woodpecker"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
RUSS0531

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27083


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Sunday, May 31
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7:15 PM - Christian Petzold "Phoenix"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
PHOE0531

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26858

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Sunday, May 31
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8:30 PM - Batin Ghobadi "Mardan"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
MARD0531

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27157

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Monday, June 01
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7:00 PM - Ousmane Sembène "Black Girl"
Harvard Exit
BLACG0601

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26941


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Tuesday, June 02
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4:00 PM - Matthew Heineman "Cartel Land"
Harvard Exit
CART0602

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27133

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Tuesday, June 02
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9:15 PM - John Pirozzi "Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
DONT0602

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27015

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Wednesday, June 03
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6:30 PM Pan Si Dong "Cave of the Spider Women"
7:30 PM - Ho Meng Hua "Cave of the Silken Web"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
CAVE0603

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27094

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Wednesday, June 03
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9:30 PM - Fatih Akin "The Cut"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
CUTT0603

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26867

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Friday, June 05
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7:00 PM - Naoki Kato "2045 Carnival Folklore"
SIFF Film Center Festival
20450605

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27327

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Friday, June 05
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7:00 PM - Crystal Moselle "The Wolfpack"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
WOLF0605

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26871


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Saturday, June 06
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9:30 PM - Jonas Arnby "When Animals Dream"
Harvard Exit
WHEN0606

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=26978

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Sunday, June 07
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12:00 PM - Hao Zhou "The Chinese Mayor"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
CHIN0607

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27107


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Sunday, June 07
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2:30 PM - Sergei Eisenstein "Que Viva Mexico"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
QUEV0607

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27103

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Sunday, June 07
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5:00 PM - Peter Greenaway "Eisenstein in Guanajuato"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
EISE0607

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27031

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Sunday, June 07
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8:45 PM - Alberto Rodríguez "Marshland"
SIFF Cinema Uptown Festival
MARS0607

http://myaccount.siff.net/cinema/reserve.aspx?fid=345&id=27271


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Chiho Aoshima's "Rebirth of the World" at Seattle Asian Art Museum: May 2 - Oct 4 | "Classic French Film Noir: Honor Among Thieves" at Seattle Art Musuem: Apr 2 - May 21



The Japanese urban art underground finally hit the larger US museum-going audience and critical regard with exhibits throughout the mid-2000's assembled by the KaiKai KiKi collective and it's cultural figurehead, Takashi Murakami. Who's "Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subculture” exhibit and and more recently the Brooklyn Art Museum's “©Murakami” retrospective covered in the New York Times "Watch Out, Warhol, Here’s Japanese Shock Pop", that brought Japan's Otaku-generation anime, design, sculpture, video art to a larger western audience. But it was the proceeding "SuperFlat" touring exhibit that introduced many people to the blissfully macabre transposition of dream and waking world seen in the vibrant surrealistic work of another KaiKai KiKi member, Chiho Aoshima. Her large scale murals and video pieces exhibited a enraptured contradiction in palette, style and subject matter the Los Angeles Times called, "Chiho Aoshima: At Once Childlike and Monstrous". For those who missed it at the time, a decade later her jubilant psychedelia has returned to Seattle for the Asian Art Museum's exhibit, "Rebirth of the World".

Seattle Art Museum's cinema programming also deserves a mention, as this past season's calendar has been filled with quality repertory and archival works, beginning with a series by one of the defining voices of Italian neo-Realism, "Blowing Up Cinema: The Art of Michelangelo Antonioni". Including the masterful existential puzzlework of "L'Eclipse", the urban feminism of "Le Amiche", the part murder mystery, part postmodern gender commentary classic "Blow Up", another great classic in the form of the tragically hip, haunting observation on the modern disaffected and shattered romances, "L'Avventura" and the surrealistic experimental narrative of alienation and unease set against France's modernist industrial landscapes, "Red Sands". Concurrently SAM has also been running a "Classic French Film Noir: Honor Among Thieves" series, often starring the ineffable cool of Jean Gabin, in seminal genre establishing, and even later color neo-Noir by many of the great names who worked in the style, including Jacques Becker, Louis Malle, Jean Becker, François Truffaut and the master of them all, Jean-Pierre Melville. The nine titles in the series spanning almost four decades of cinema from the genre, "Golden Marie", "Honor Among Thieves", "Bob the Gambler", "Elevator to the Gallows", "The Finger Man", "Army of Shadows", "Le Cercle Rouge", "One Deadly Summer" and "Confidentially Yours".

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Wire's new album "Wire" & US Tour: May 26 - June 10 | The Drill Chicago: Jun 11 - 13



Genre creating post-Punk innovators, Wire return to the US after 2013's The Drill: Seattle wherein they recreated their The Drill: London festival with collaborative performances with Earth, Chastity Belt the Pink Flag Guitar Orchestra realization of their 1991 album, "The Drill". This tour's destination of choice bringing them to the midwest for the second stateside iteration of the three day festival, The Drill: Chicago featuring an extended lineup and collaborations with Tim Hecker, Ken Vandermark and Disappears. In cryptic fashion, their 14th and newest album titled, "Wire" is both a stripped down representation of their core elements and an expansion on the sonic path they began down in what can be considered their 4th iteration, a phase of their music initiated in 2002 with the release of the "Read & Burn" series. Previous tours have have shown that they draw from the totality of their recorded enterprise, pulling from everything as far removed as 1977's "Pink Flag" and 1978's "Chairs Missing" of almost four decades past. This totality representing Wire's mission to innovate, warp, mutate and play with pop music's parameter's, creating through the 80's and 90's unclassifiable post-Punk and experimental fusions, like "154" and such striking amalgamations of electronic and rock as 1987's "The Ideal Copy" and the gorgeously lush orchestrations of "A Bell is a Cup" to their early IDM pop fusions as WIR and the "So and Slow It Grows"  EP with LFO and The Orb, all the way back around to the present day, as a loud rocking trio who's first album proper was 2003's, "Send". All the while producing a substantial body of quality solo works spanning decades, like that Graham Lewis' ambient neo-pop as He Said, Bruce Gilbert's brilliant "Music for Fruit" and collaborative side projects like the DaDa inspired experimental pop-Concrete of Dome. Theirs is a legacy that's beyond quantification. It's safe to say there'd be no opening of the floodgates of mathy post-Rock revolution like we saw in the 90's without them. Perhaps NPR's Barry Walters said it best; "If you hear the occasional imprint of subsequent musicians (My Bloody Valentine's layered buzz, Blur's quaint Britpop, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's monumental drones), that's because those are among the many bands this one birthed. The 99.9 percent might not yet know it, but it's a Wire world after all."

Peter Brötzmann with Hamid Drake & William Parker at Seattle Art Museum: May 13



One of towering figures of the post-BeBop Jazz landscape, the 'saxophone colossus' Peter Brötzmann, who graced cover of the The Wire twice last year with a series of bold and impassioned interviews as well as a Primer for the magazine, is back at Seattle Art Museum with two other major players in modern Jazz. The legendary percussionist for many of the groundbreaking albums of the last four decades, Hamid Drake, and upright bassist and Jazz polymath, William Parker as part of Earshot Jazz' excellent Spring season programming. An ideal introduction to the man and his work can be had in Bernard Josse's, "Soldier of the Road" on Peter Brötzmann and his role as a pivotal figure in shaping the contemporary Euro Free Jazz scene. It does exactly what a music docu should do; iterate the cultural/political context that gave birth to he movement, explore it's various philosophies, depict the movement's cast of major players and show them in action. Namely Brötzmann with a rotating cast spanning half a century of players and collaborators. From his accounting his earliest childhood memories of German occupied Prussia and then Russian occupied Prussia and at a young teenage year, realizing his love of art stemming from a freedom that opposed the Nationalism and Fascism that inspired the war. Later to his taking up the Clarinet and painting and packing himself off to art school... only to land right in the middle of the BeBop and Hard Bop scene and then later at the vanguard of the Free Jazz movement.

And then the 60's hit and there's not only players on both sides of the Atlantic, but audiences and collaborators from England, to France to Belgium to Germany and a inquisitive young audience, who might not necessarily 'get it' but are looking for the unheard and the liberating. Ad to that the corresponding movements in the visual arts, notably Fluxus and Brötzmann is right there in the fray of things making a strong connection with the ethos of the movement. From the Punk Rock noise and fury of the Machine Gun albums to the equally powerful 80's lineup that was Last Exit to his later years, still as fiery, still as invested, still blasting away on his horn. But as the documentary depicts, with an equilibrium tempered by his lifelong love of walks in nature, photography, botany and his deep passion for isolated individual time in the studio working on graphic works and abstract landscape painting very much of the German Neo-Expressionist school. All of this balanced with time spent touring and collaborating with some of the fieriest, loudest, most dynamic and adventurous players in the world; Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark, Fred Van Hove, Paal Nilsen-Love, Joe McPhee, Michael Wertmüller, Michael Zerang, Johannes Bauer... most of whom now make up Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet. This is how one weathers decades, becomes all bearded and grey and remains a fiery passion with depths of deep contemplation and at the front of a vanguard most of the world can't even begin to approach. As a live, physical, auditory performance he transcends all the words said and written above. By far.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Liturgy's new album "The Art Work" & US Tour with Lightning Bolt: Apr 15 - May 18



Many of us will remember the Lightning Bolt tours of the early and mid-2000's where their particular frenetic performative driving percussion and eruptive guitar were on manic display. Shows that not only spilled off the stage, invading the dancefloor, bathrooms, hallways and in the case of the No Gallery performance here in Seattle back in 2003 taking over a one block area of Capitol Hill until the police arrived. Throughout the 2000's they became something of an 'event' band operating on their own terms; made records when they wanted to and continued a almost situationist refusal to perform on any traditional stage or platform (with all the greatness and disasters that entailed). The inside perspective on their methodology and independently defined performance ethic offered by frontman Brian Chippendale's discussion with The Quietus, "Lightning Bolt Interview: Earthly Delights & The Quest For The Mask". This April and May they're back to tour with their most recent manifestation of hyperfrenetic mania, "Fantasy Empire" displaying the same human tornado frisson and impact, but with a more detailed, tooled  musicianship. It's less a fiery blur and more a detailed depiction of explosive aggression. The near-perfect bill of them and fellow Thrill Jockey artists led by Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, the frontman and “dogma director” of transcendental black metal band Liturgy who's vein of ultra-mathy brutalist rock that resembles little else in a genre than continues to expand beyond it's Black Metal origins. Liturgy occupying a far-flung branch of a growing international heavier school of blackness that Brad Sanders detailed in his piece for The Quietus. The article acting as an excellent opening unto the dark passageways of this genre's growing stylistic variances. Their music deeply invested in aesthetics and a philosophical, sensorial agenda, it's a rare form of metal that the Brooklyn-based band conveys through "Moral & Aesthetic Truths: An Interview With Liturgy". Their most recent, literally titled, "The Art Work" they've produced their most explicit representation of these ideas in action, making for a divisive work that has polarized the underground metal world. With it's dragging, rough and deeply ur-human guttural qualities the album is brought to life through vocal chants entrenched in stylistic references stemming from a myriad of genres. Combined with their straining, arduously orchestrated guitar work, the density of the textures and grandeur of it all verges on the exhausting. Live it should be oppressive in the best possible way.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lisandro Alonso's new film "Jauja" at Northwest Film Forum: Apr 17 - 23



Seattle has had the fortune of hosting rare screenings of Lisandro Alonso not only in the festival circuit, but a workshop and complete retrospective of the director's work, "At the Edge of the World: The Cinema of Lisandro Alonso" during his residency at Northwest Film Forum in 2009. In a series of interviews with Senses of Cinema, Alonso discusses his way of looking at and framing the world -- the physical nature of time and characters that inhabit it -- on the screen in a way that favors the enveloping integrity of the environment and the immediacy of moments within. Ranked in Sight & Sound's year-end poll, "Jauja" which opens next week at Northwest Film Forum not only features the unlikely paring of the producer and star power of Viggo Mortensen, but the 19th Century period setting in the aftermath of the Conquest of the Desert of the 1870's during which the Argentinean army attempted to drive all indigenous peoples out of Patagonia. Mortensen playing the Danish military engineer Gunnar Dinesen in search of his runaway daughter, making "Jauja,’ a Desperate Odyssey in the Argentine Desert". Ostensibly the film's premise has parallels with Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo" in it's associations of imperialism, place and setting and John Ford's "The Searchers" in it's commentary on conquest and xenophobia. In a sly nod of recognition, Alonso's discussion with Senses of Cinema asks "'Who’s John Ford?': An Interview with Lisandro Alonso". More than just a quest for his daughter and her disappearance into the landscape, Film Comment's interview and film of the week review, "Into the Unknown: Lisandro Alonso Travels Back in Time to Find a Way Forward with Jauja" places time as integral to the texture and force of the film. And as it progresses, by increments "Jauja" gradually shifts emphasis as Dinesen advances up the mountain, from the historical to the mythical to the Oneiric. Journeying into a space which is maddeningly impassable to a man of his logical mind; riding his horse over it's great expanses, the land offers up nothing of his daughter's whereabouts. By turns becoming an adventure in texture, scale, light and by the film's conclusion, even time. Like the film's protagonist, we travel through terrain, places and eras where the viewer registers the signs but cannot read them; they abstract interpretation and confound the rational eye.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Kranky Records Showcase and West Coast Tour with Loscil, Marcus Fischer & Simon Scott: Apr 12 - 18



The month of April will see both a Kranky Records showcase in Portland featuring Benoit Pioulard, Ethernet and Loscil, as well as a west coast tour spinning out of the Northwest dates with Marcus Fischer and Slowdive's Simon Scott. Most of us came to know Chicago's (now relocated to Portland) Kranky as the home of space and post-rock in the 1990's, everything from Low, to Labradford, to Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Stars of the Lid have found an audience through the label in decades past. In the time since they've become one of the defining American imprints for abstract electronic, drone and neo-classical music. Concurrently forays into ambient neo-folk like the work of Portland's Liz Harris as Grouper and Thomas Meluch's Benoit Pioulard project have been a rich vein they've also mined. A sound epitomized in the ambient idyl of "Sonnet", Meluch's venture into extended tone sculpting released earlier this month. The west coast tour through the latter half of April features a lineup including the solo venture of Slowdive's drummer and sound designer, Simon Scott. One only need hear the jazz-inflected, Angelo Badalamenti-like doomscapes of his excellent "Bunny" on the Miasmah label to recognize that his work is a significant entity outside the context of the formative shoegaze band. With "Below Sea Level" on John Wozencroft's Touch and Taylor Deupree's 12K label he further established his sound in the company of abstract guitar and electronics composers like Christian Fennesz and Tarantel's Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. Scott's labelmate Marcus Fischer who put in a finely detailed, melodic performance at the inaugural Substrata Festival has continued to develop his vocabulary of pointilist electronically processed acoustic and environmental sounds. The two making complimentary framing for the long-established Kranky artist Scott Morgan and his Loscil project. "Sea Island" released last winter, sees him extend the subterranean bass and open expanses of his melodic electronic music into even further abstraction and scale. Performed as an audio-visual multisensory experience, Loscil has reached a point of near total synergy of image and sound with this current live incarnation.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

David Robert Mitchell’s new film "It Follows" at SIFF Cinema: Mar 20 - Apr 23



It's extended run indicative of it's success, David Robert Mitchell’s anonymous nightmare in pursuit "It Follows", has been getting just about nothing but exceptional press since it's premier at last year's Cannes Critic's Week. The film's partial period setting, desolate urbanism and slow unspooling mark it as a very different variation on the sub-genre of, "A Shape-Shifting Horror Stalks a Teenager". But Mitchell's film is less concerned with the shock and hysteria of the pursuit, than it is an inexplicable scenario in which the faceless nobody-and-everyone-at-once nature of the pursuer hides it's omnipresence in anonymity, everyday and mundane. Wired's "What Makes the New Horror Film 'It Follows', So Damn Good" describes the 'holy trinity' of director and screenwriter David Robert Mitchell, the teen protagonist as convincingly played Maika Monroe, and composer Rich Vreeland aka Disasterpeace, who supplied the retro game soundchip and synth-centric soundtrack. Pivotal to the film is it's sex-positive set up, one that's rarely explored in this honest a framing with teen films, to which it adds it's own compellingly sinister moral twist. Riffing on contemporary urban legends in the post-Ringu horror climate, the film places it's victims into the additional conflict of conscience and survival; when a victim is killed by the malevolent following presence, it will shift its attention back to the last link in the chain. Making it a question of survival by condemning others in the extension of said chain. Literally placing a human shield of bodies between yourself and the pursuing curse. Jonathan Romney's film of the week review for Film Comment focuses on the tone and milieu as significant aids in giving substance to both the character of the film and the viewer's suspension of disbelief. The cinematic ambiance of it's setting in and around Detroit enhanced by menacing, naturalistic use of steadicam and convincingly gutted, desolate urban locations. It's greatest strength though, is that Mitchell smartly chooses to keep us at a remove from our and the protagonist's knowledge of the pursuers true origin. The titular 'IT' of the curse travels in a straight line -- albeit a reversible one that runs both ways -- theoretically heading back to a single point of origin. But it's an origin that can never be located or pinned down because Mitchell retains that IT is a figure of unknowable, absolute indeterminacy. It's not for nothing that one of the supporting characters is seen absorbed in her reading of Dostoyevsky throughout.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien" at Northwest Film Forum, Grand Illusion Cinema & Scarecrow Video: Mar 19 - Apr 7



What will likely prove to be the repertory cinema event of the year begins the third week of March with both The Grand Illusion and Northwest Film Forum presenting the touring retrospective of one of the defining voices of the Taiwanese New Wave, "Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien". Named director of the decade in a polls conducted by Film Comment and The Village Voice at the close of the 20th Century, the Museum of the Moving Image, "Hou Hsiao-Hsien: In Search of Lost Time" and their symposium introduction still stands as the most succinct tacking of the paradox of this revered, yet rarely seen director: "It’s worth questioning, however, what Hou Hsiao-Hsien's admittedly rarefied brand of art cinema means to filmmaking and film history—even history itself —if he's not being seen anywhere but on the festival circuit. Just how can we support such grand claims for his importance, when he’s preaching to a ready choir and often empty pews? The answer is easy: wedding political filmmaking with a technique at once naturalistic and highly aestheticized, Hou Hsiao-Hsien has made films that wrestle variously, and either directly or metaphorically, with personal and national histories, the struggles between Taiwan and Chinese nationalism, the encroachment of capital on an ever-evolving way of life, and, most recently, the legacy of cinema itself. 'Essential viewing' couldn’t be more aptly applied to the works of any other living director,".



Kent Jones' chronicling of Hou's ascendency for Film Comment, from cult phenomenon to arthouse favorite and established auteur over the decade of the late 80's to 90's, "Cinema with a Roof Over its Head: Hou Hsiao-Hsien" probes the complex factors involved in how it is that a director as critically lauded as Hou Hsiao-Hsien remains largely unseen to this day. Foremost among them is that Hou's depiction of time and space conveyed through depth, color and hypnotically repeated motifs eschews being quantified through populist criteria. Even those outfitted with an understanding of the past half-Century of Asian film, where western paradigms can occasionally be applied to fill in our gaps in knowledge, in the case of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's filmmography the bridge to meaning still requires intellectual effort. A facilitative resource in bridging that expanse, the Senses of Cinema archives host a in-depth Hou Hsiao-Hsien spotlight featuring lengthy and analytic articles on the active visual minimalism of his cinema, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Optics of Ephemerality", his homage of sorts to Yasujiro Ozu's love of "Situations Over Stories: Café Lumière & Hou Hsiao-Hsien", the nuanced depiction of different eras through "The Complexity of Minimalism: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Three Times" and his intimate observations on the tribulations of modern, urban, Taiwanese women, "Hou Hsiou-Hsien’s Urban Female Youth Trilogy". The night before the series' kickoff, Scarecrow Video will be presenting a rare screening of the director's early feature "The Boys from Fengkuei" as part of their concurrently running sidebar of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's lesser known works. The film will be introduced by local critic and Asian cinema scholar Sean Gilman, and as with the rest of Scarecrow's monthly Screening Room calendar, admission is free. Considerately, memberships at both Northwest Film Forum and The Grand Illusion apply to ticket purchases at either venue for the full series.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Paul Grimault & Jacques Prévert's "The King and the Mockingbird" at Northwest Film Forum: March 19 - 22



Later this month a rare screening of Paul Grimault's "The King and the Mockingbird" will have a brief four-day run at Northwest Film Forum. Based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", while mixing in a bit of Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", the urban underbelly of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", the oppression of the working class in Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times", a villain straight out of a satirical Stalin-esque cult of personality and the subconscious detours found in the animated Max Fleischer adventures of the 1930s-1940s. Ad to this the design and setting influences of surrealist painters Giorgio de Chirico and Yves Tanguy, who was a collegial friend of the author of the film's screenplay. The complexity of this mid-century animated masterwork's influences is exceeded by it's storied decades-long production. Paul Grimault with the author of the proto-Noir classic, "Port of Shadows" Jacques Prévert on writing duties, began work on the project in 1947, after various disputes that ended production their producer released the film in an unfinished form, without either's permission. At which point it's real epic begins, Grimault spent 10 years in legal battles acquiring the rights to the film and another 20 raising the money to complete it as he and Prévert had envisioned. Decades later, it was finally finished and released in 1979 in France and central Europe with very little to no international distribution. Seen upon it's 1979 release by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata it has been credited as "The Film that Inspired the Founding of Studio Ghibli", with Ghibli returned the favor in 2012 with their own restored Japanese release and distribution of the film under the title, "Ōu to Tori". The North American premier of this new restoration came at last year's New York Film Festival with a run following at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Very favorable press at the time from The Village Voice, Time Out and the New York Times going some way to describe this bold hybrid of social commentary and satirical opulence, sci-fi polish, Swift-ian adventure and a lyrical and poetic tale of liberation at it's core, "Grimault's frames do the opposite of those that imprison film's escaping lovers; the director invites us in, to play and dream."