Posts Tagged ‘Indiana University Cinema’

A bumbling pig farmer, a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an ambitious expat architect and a disenchanted rich girl converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly modernizing Shanghai, China.  Based on true events.  (From IMDb)

I don’t know about how true the events are, but the movie is called DEAD PIGS, and here’s the IU Cinema’s take on it:  Filmmaker Ash Mayfair is scheduled to be present.  A mysterious stream of pig carcasses floats silently toward China’s populous economic hub, Shanghai.  As authorities struggle to explain the phenomenon, a down-and-out pig farmer with a youthful heart struggles to make ends meet, while an upwardly mobile landowner fights gentrification against an American expat seeking a piece of the Chinese dream.  Like a mosaic, their stories intersect and converge in a showdown between human and machine, past and future, brother and sister.  In Mandarin with English subtitles.  Contains mature content.

Ms. Mayfair, a Vietnamese filmmaker herself, was on campus for one of her films as well, but she also acted as docent for this one, adding, of DEAD PIGS, “So funny, so moving, very sophisticated.”  And yes, the funniness often was buried within the absurdity of the situations, though in details also, but I at least began to feel sorry for some of the characters — not always all that innocent themselves — but trapped in an overall context that, laughs aside, wasn’t likely to end well for most.  But family, and love, became stronger than than one might have thought at first and over the closing credits was a an upbeat chorus, in English, of “Everybody Celebrate” (there’s also a group sing near the end in the movie proper, but that one in Chinese).

So to me, DEAD PIGS wasn’t entirely a laugh fest, but was surprisingly good as a movie.  Or, for a little bit more of the flavor, here’s the first paragraph of a Sundance review by Jessica Kiang, from VARIETY.COM (which can be read in its entirety here):   In the Chinese zodiac, the happy-go-lucky pig stands for good fortune and wealth.  So an inexplicable epidemic that decimates the porcine population in a developing part of China still heavily reliant on pig farming, could be symbolically as well as literally disastrous, and it provides Cathy Yan’s sprawling, bouncing, jaunty debut with its darkest images.  Along the wide river that flows sluggishly to the nearby city, thousands of discarded pig corpses keep bobbing to the surface like troublesome metaphors.  But despite tracking with forensic rigor the domino effects of this sudden aporkalypse, the surprise is the light sureness of Yan’s touch.  “Dead Pigs” is delightfully uneven, eagerly see-sawing between screwy and serious, occasionally even daring to be ditzy — not a quality usually associated with Sixth Generation maestro and executive producer Jia Zhangke.  If anything, Yan’s film, with its dancing girls, pigeon-fancying beauticians, Westerners-on-the-make and spontaneous musical numbers, is an antidote to China’s weightier arthouse output, settling the stomach after too much stolid social realism, effervescent as an alka-seltzer.


This was the classic, 1989 version, by Mary Lambert and screenplay (as well as a brief role) by Stephen King himself.  Though I think, if it were me, I might have ended the film a few minutes earlier, letting the viewers imagine the last scene.  And I thought there might have been too much suspension of disbelief asked for, not only the main premise which was okay, but also the “friendly” ghost PLUS the little girl’s 100 percent accurate prescient dreams.  But the ghost had some good lines, and the theme of “a man does something stupid, then seeing what he has done — and with plenty of warning against it — does a stupid thing again” is at least well served.

But that’s just my carping. I hadn’t seen PET SEMATARY before, but for suspense, marvelous cinematography, and some neat “down east” accents in the parts of Jud and Missy, I will say the movie is well worth seeing.  To quote the IU Cinema blurb:  The Creed family — Louis, Rachel, and their children, Ellie and Gage — is just settling into a new country home in Maine when the family cat, Church, meets an untimely death.  Convinced by a neighbor to bury the animal in a nearby pet cemetery, Louis soon learns how the ground — an ancient burial site — can change a thing.  Yet, when their toddler Gage wanders onto a busy road and is tragically killed by a semi-trailer truck, Louis is inconsolable and determined to resurrect him by any means necessary.  Based on the Stephen King horror novel of the same name, the film adaptation rights for PET SEMATARY were originally sold in 1984 to George A. Romero, but Romero chose to leave the production to finish another film, MONKEY SHINES.  Mary Lambert was Paramount’s first choice to replace Romero. She began her career in music video — creating iconic videos for The Go-Gos, The Eurythmics, Sting, and Janet Jackson.  Just one month prior to the release of PET SEMATARY, Lambert directed Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” video, which premiered to protests from the Catholic Church and a call for boycott from the pope himself.  Contains mature content.

The Goth Cat Triana, as I write this, is asleep on the chair I usually sit in — I’m inclined just now not to disturb her.  And that about says it.

THE BUBBLE is the work of writer/director Arch Oboler, famous for his LIGHTS OUT! radio plays in the 1930s and ’40s.  He’s the same Arch Oboler responsible for the 1952 3-D film BWANA DEVIL, who for the rest of his life was a vocal cheerleader for the artistic and commercial potential of 3-D movies.

Oboler liked communicating his ideas about humanity and our imperfect society using the narrative vehicle of the strange, the bizarre, the unexpected.  THE BUBBLE is this kind of story.  Some have compared the film to an extended episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS, and there’s a ring of truth to that.  The events of THE BUBBLE unfold like a groggy dream, nightmarish not in its intensity but in its unsettling mood and mysterious implications.

Thus begins an Amazon review by David M. Ballew of THE BUBBLE, Friday’s “Not-Quite Midnights” series first fall semester screening at the Indiana University Cinema.  Maybe not madness, exactly, but lovely 1966 schlock with at least a sort of zombie apocalypse.  That is, it’s more a psychological thing, but the people in the mysterious town our heroes find themselves in, a man and his wife and their newborn child along with the pilot who unwittingly landed them there, certainly act like zombies.  The cabdriver asks “do you need a ride” but never drives (the hero ultimately commandeering his taxi), the bartender keeps polishing the same glass pausing only to repeat “how may I serve you?” when addressed directly, the bar’s entertainer does her dance without needing music. . . .  A kind of a bad place to raise a new child.  And, as the Cinema’s program puts it, [t]hen there is an even more terrifying discovery — the zombie inhabitants live under an impenetrable dome, trapped like insects in a jar.  Can Catherine, Mark, and their newborn baby escape THE BUBBLE, or will they become mindless drones trapped in a human zoo?

AND, going back to David M. Ballew on Amazon, the real star of THE BUBBLE is Space-Vision 3-D.  The first truly practical American single-strip 3-D system, Space-Vision delivers strong, deep, beautifully rounded stereoscopic imagery that is nevertheless pleasantly comfortable to view, owing in part to the felicities of the original system design and in part to the remarkable restoration work put forth in this Blu-Ray incarnation by Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz.  If 3-D were a classic Hollywood film actress, you would say she was never lovelier than she is right here.

In other words (but noting this was a theater version “[r]estored from the 35mm negatives by the 3-D Film Archive,” though it may have led to the Blu-Ray one Ballew cites), an ideal film for the IU Cinema:  entertaining, historically /technically important, even avant-garde in its way, and just a whole lot of fun.

Then a second quick note, in view of the lateness in sending some print copies, the DWARF STARS voting deadline for ultra short poems (see just below, August 30) has been extended until September 15.  SFPA has emailed a new voting link to members and it also appears in the July 7 email that included the link for the PDF edition.

HIGH LIFE is not an easy film.  Here’s the way the Indiana University Cinema put it:  In Claire Denis’ highly anticipated science-fiction film, Monte and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to deep space.  The crew — death-row inmates led by a doctor with sinister motives — has vanished.  As the mystery of what happened onboard the ship is unraveled, father and daughter must rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole.  Contains mature content, including sexual violence.

For me, I enjoyed it, dark as it might be for science fiction, but then when have I been put off by “dark.”  However between non-linear time and a disjointed scene structure, I’d have to see it a few times more to really get a handle on it.  But as a film (to quote the docent as best I remember) “draw[ing] strong visceral and emotional reactions,” and one “to think about afterward,” it worked.

Beyond that as one Amazon reviewer put it, to say anything much about the plot, other than it begins with a spaceman’s talking with a baby, would risk multiple spoilers.  So here is a closing of other reviews from Wikipedia:  David Ehrlich of INDIEWIRE gave the film an A- grade, saying it owed more to SOLARIS than STAR WARS and describing it as “a pensive and profound study of human life on the brink of the apocalypse.”  Jessica Kiang of VARIETY called it “extraordinary, difficult, hypnotic, and repulsive”. Charles Bramesco of the GUARDIAN gave the film 5 stars out of 5, saying Denis had reconfigured the genre’s “familiar components to create a startlingly fresh engagement with the question of what it means to be human.”  Steve MacFarlane of SLANT MAGAZINE wrote:  “The film asks down-and-dirty questions about what really resides beneath thousands of years of human progress, a savage and haunting antidote to the high-minded idealism of movies like Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR and Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN.”

HIGH LIFE will be re-screened Friday (tonight) after which the Cinema will go dark for renovations during the summer, then resume (I believe) in late August.

As the Indiana University Cinema docent put it, this “Caturday” afternoon feature was to “celebrate the joy of the internet cat video.”  Also noted, of what might be (sort of) the feature’s sponsor, “[o]ne of the internet’s most famous felines, Lil Bub, lives right here in Bloomington” (Lil Bub, however, would be unable to attend herself).  More formally put by the IU Cinema’s printed blurb:  CatVideoFest is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic Internet powerhouses.  CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and is committed to raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.  A percentage of the proceeds from this event will directly support Lil BUB’s Big FUND for the ASPCA, which benefits special needs pets nationwide.

And so it was for a good cause too, CatVideoFest being an annual compilation (quoting the Fest’s own website) . . . raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.  A percentage of the proceeds from each event go to local animal shelters and/or animal welfare organizations.  Thus the idea that local presenters can aim the funding to whatever they feel is the most pressing need.  The 70-minute-reel of cat videos is family-friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone.  The wide demographic appeal allows for it to be shown in virtually any type of setting — from museums to theaters to outdoor festivals and beyond.  This flexibility means there are almost no limits to where CatVideoFest can go!

Thus about an hour and a half of weekend afternoon fun (my favorite was the piece about the man who rescued a kitten on the highway, but when he got home could no longer find it in his car — it had to be there, but was also not there!  With the help of a mechanic it was ultimately retrieved from inside the automobile’s engine compartment, and thusly adopted is now named “Schrodinger”), and also a chance to be a do-gooder, which isn’t bad.  But also while doing a little research before the movie, I discovered (courtesy of Le Grande Cinema) that CatVideoFest is founded by filmmaker Will Braden, creator of YouTube sensation Henri, le Chat Noir, and curator of the popular Internet Cat Video Festival.

I know le chat Henri (see picture above, a mostly black cat much like Triana* but not quite that black), which is to say I’m acquainted with some of his own videos, one of which — the seventh, having to do with an incompetent cat-sitter while his real “caretakers” were on a vacation — was also a part of this year’s 2019 CatFest, and I recommend him to those who might not be.  One can find links in the footnotes in his Wikipedia entry or, for starters, Henri having retired from public life in 2018, one can find his final (eleventh), farewell video “Oh, revoir” by pressing here.

*The Goth Cat Triana was also unable to attend, but received a petting (plus her supper) when I got home.  One wonders though, should they ever meet, how she, a Goth, would get along with the older, Sartrean existentialist Henri.

An interest of mine is the study of artists other than writers, how they are inspired, how they translate experience into art.  On occasion this vice is fed by the Indiana University Cinema in collaboration with IU’s Eskenazi Museum of Art in a series of films about artists preceded by lectures at the museum.  An example last fall about Van Gogh featured the movie LOVING VINCENT (cf. September 9 2018); yesterday’s double-header for spring coupled an opening talk by Asian Art curator Judy Stubbs, including slides from the Museum’s collection, with the 2015 anime MISS HOKUSAI.

To quote the IU Cinema catalog:  This award-winning Japanese animated film, based on a historical manga series by Hinako Sugiura, tells the story of Katsushika Oi (ca. 1800-ca. 1866), an artist who worked in the shadow of her famous father — the great ukiyo-e print designer Katsushika Hokusai.  In addition to exploring issues of familiar relationships, gender roles, and the mystical power of art, the film depicts life in 19th-century Edo and alludes to some of Hokusai’s famous images, such as “The Great Wave.”  The movie itself, which begins in the year 1814 when Oi would have been about fourteen years old, is a series of fictionalized vignettes, often, as the blurb says, showing echoes of some of Hokusai’s paintings — as well as a few by Oi herself who learned from her father as well as assisting him — but to me the main interest was in a more general sense of what art should mean.  Thus scenes were included of the daughter taking a younger sister blind from birth under her wing, verbally “showing” her things they experience together, but also sometimes harsh criticisms of lesser artists by Hokusai and others, including even Oi whose paintings of women (e.g. “Beauty Viewing Cherry Blossoms at Night” shown below) were claimed to lack appropriate sensuality.

But then Hokusai, as perhaps too many artists, seems to have been a lousy father (the younger sister, in the movie, lived with her mother apart from her father who barely acknowledged her), Oi’s name itself — the name she used in signing her paintings — can be translated roughly as “Hey You!” with the suggestion that that’s how her father usually addressed her.  Nevertheless in real life Oi, who was married briefly, came back to her father and stayed with him until his death in 1849 at about the age of ninety.

But again the main interest for me is about art, and the artist whose works included the print series THIRTY-SIX VIEWS OF MOUNT FUJI in the early 1830s (when he would have been just over 70 years old), who wrote shortly afterward:  From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking into account.  At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants.  And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvelous and divine.  When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own. (Wikipedia)  And so the movie, while not quite quoting that, did end with the words Hokusai presumably said on his deathbed:  “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years . . .   Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

It wasn’t well attended on this cold Sunday afternoon, the kind of gray day where the sky spits tiny drops of freezing moisture, not sleet, not big enough to be rain, but just enough to accumulate and to add to discomfort.  I wouldn’t blame people for staying home, especially with children who could catch cold — as, if I don’t watch out, could I.  But inside the theater once things got going the screen was a splash of browns and yellows, reds and bright yellow-greens, tinges of purple.  Blues for night scenes too — this was about a journey of children, Tito, his brave girl friend Sara, in search for his missing father and, ultimately, courage for himself.

As the IU Cinema blurb explains:  Tito is a shy 10-year-old boy who lives with his mother.  Suddenly, an unusual epidemic starts to spread, making people sick whenever they get scared.  Tito quickly discovers that the cure is somehow related to his missing father’s research on bird song.  He embarks on a journey to save the world from the epidemic with his friends.  Tito’s search for the antidote becomes a quest for his missing father and for his own identity.  In Portuguese with English subtitles.

One reviewer, I forget which — Rotten Tomatoes?  IMDb? — made the comment that in terms of plot the film could have been anime, but he’s glad that it was instead done in a more earthy cartooning style, sketchy in places but rich in colors and texture as if an oil painting, as well as that Sara got to wear skirts below her knees.  Well, some of that’s mine, too.  As for the birds, we’re given to know that birds have long warned of coming disasters, fires, storms, things to be scared of.  In Tito’s case the birds are pigeons which, as one homeless person on a bus tells us, get no respect.  But they have hung around people for a long time, and if one could talk to them. . . .

Not giving overly much away, fear comes in part from isolation, but people are at their best working together, in flocks like birds.  So brotherhood isn’t a bad thing to practice, perhaps a message for our present times.  And there’s even a swipe at over-zealous capitalism which may exploit fear as a way to make money.  These aren’t profound things, TITO AND THE BIRDS being, after all, a film for children, but it made for a well spent afternoon.  Afterward I went downtown to the library, as I often do, the weather still cold but a few degrees above freezing now, enough to have melted whatever ice might have been on the sidewalks.  Then after that, walking back across the campus on my way home, I heard other birds calling, a blackness above of crows flying to their roosts for the night, and it looked very much like some scenes in the movie.

A cross-country road trip in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce, THE KING is far more than a musical biopic; it’s a penetrating portrait of America at a critical time in the nation’s history and an unflinching investigation into the state of the American dream.  And so, Elvis Presley!  Remember him?

A funny story:  About five hours ago as of this writing (which is to say last night) I was hustling toward the IU Cinema, worried that I might have left home too late.  Would the line be so long it would extend outside (the lobby space in the IU Cinema is not large), meaning I’d have to stand in the cold?  Should I have bought my ticket in advance?  Fast forward ten minutes and an older couple behind me as I was buying my ticket wondered if the movie had been sold out.  In fact, when I got there there was only one person, an even older man, finishing paying in cash for his ticket.  The fact is, as I opined to the ones behind me, it may be only us older people who even remember, that younger folk (such as IU students) might not even know who Presley was — a seminal figure in rock ‘n’ roll.  And once in the theatre that may have been borne out, there being only a handful of viewers and most of these rather gray looking too.

On the other hand, it was a cold night, and there will be another showing next Saturday, possibly more convenient to get to.

One hopes so anyhow, because the film is about a lot more than just rock ‘n’ roll and one of its earliest popularizers — in movies eventually as well as records and TV specials.  And one with a rather tragic ending, exploited like mad by a con-man manager, and dying young under sad circumstances as much through bad health as bad business decisions.  But there are also parallels to the culture he represented, of America in the 1950s when he came to fame and people still thought that by working hard anyone could “make it,” Presley just being an extreme example, no matter how poor or downtrodden their origins; but then in the ’70s when he died, with Presidents Nixon and in a few years Reagan, and what the country was seen now to stand for was less democracy than capitalism.  Thus money corrupting not only art through excess pursuit of the “bottom line,” but business in general and even democracy itself, with elections becoming playthings of the wealthy (and, yes, it was noted the current President’s origins are not exactly humble).

Or, to continue the quoted blurb from above:  From Memphis to New York, Las Vegas, and beyond, the journey traces the rise and fall of Presley as a metaphor for the country he left behind.  In this groundbreaking film, Eugene Jarecki (WHY WE FIGHT, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN) paints a visionary portrait of the state of the American dream and a penetrating look at how the hell we got here.  A diverse cast of Americans, both famous and not, join the journey, including Rosanne Cash, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, and Dan Rather.  THE KING was executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, Errol Morris, and Roseanne Cash.  Contains mature content, including strong language, disturbing images, and drug references.

“Holy crap, what am I watching?”

So said the IU Cinema docent, describing her initial reaction, in introducing Thursday night’s showing of the Swedish film GRANS.  There is, in fact, a lot of “what’s going on here?” to wonder about although, having used elements of folklore and fairylore at times in my own writing, when the main reveal came about two thirds of the way through, I was able to nod and think, okay, and consider how the threads had been wound together.  It is rather neat, though others may be taken more by surprise — some at the showing even laughed, in perhaps a nervous sort of way.  And in certain ways, the border-grans-132198film is even ugly — it isn’t one I’m overly anxious to see again — but it is one that I recommend watching, especially for those of us into dark fantasy/horror, though I wouldn’t call it a horror film either.  More like just . . . different.

Or, ending by quoting the catalog blurb:  It is a safe assumption to say you have never seen a film quite like BORDER.  Tina (Eva Melander) is a customs officer who has the keen ability to literally smell guilt, fear, and fury seeping off of some travelers.  When she encounters a mysterious man with a smell that confounds her detection, she is forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.  The film is adapted by Danish-Iranian director Ali Abbassi from a short story by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also created the lonely vampire classic LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.  Blending supernatural folklore and contemporary social issues, the film explores themes of tribalism, racism, and fear of the “other.”  The film has been referred to as a genre-bending cross between an X-Men film and a Nordic noir crime drama.  In Swedish with English subtitles.  Contains mature content, including graphic nudity, sexual violence, strong language, and violent imagery.

It was a dreary, rainy Friday to near the end of the new year’s first week, so what better night to go to the movies?  The film in question, HEVI REISSU at the IU Cinema or, by its English title if one hopes to look it up on Amazon, HEAVY TRIP.  In this offbeat comedy from Finland, Turo is stuck in a small village where the best thing in his life is being the lead vocalist for the amateur metal band Impaled Rektum.  The only problem?  He and his bandmates have practiced for 12 years without playing a single gig.  The guys get a surprise visitor from Norway — the promoter for a huge heavy-metal music festival — and they decide it’s now or never.  They steal a van, a corpse, and even a new drummer in order to make their dreams a reality.  In English, Finnish, and Norwegian with English subtitles.  Or, to give it a theme, think Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss” or Søren Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” except, this being a “metal” movie, perhaps here couched in more vulgar terms.  That is, in the words of an older patient at the home where Turo works, “it’s better to s**t yourself than always have constipation.”

So maybe that includes throwing up on the audience due to nerves at one’s first public performance — but remember it’s metal and this is extreme.  Or having let it slip that you’ve applied for that Norwegian gig, and receiving unexpected support, having it all crash down around you when the call from the festival comes, and they’ve turned you down.

But then Turo’s would-be girlfriend shames him into not giving up and the real fun begins.  The stealing a van, et al., of the blurb.  Of “terrorists” at the Finnish-Norwegian border.  Or, maybe my favorite, an entrance to the festival grounds by sea aboard a replica Viking longship — a glimpse of which may be seen in the trailer by pressing here.

If you go to Amazon and skim the reviews, about the only complaint repeated over and over is that you have to be a real metalhead to get all the jokes.*  (And perhaps a Scandinavian one at that!)  But, although I am okay with metal music, I’d say I was neither and yet still thoroughly enjoyed the film.


*Or to the point, from Amazon reviewer Discordia, . . . I’m sure anyone could technically enjoy this movie, but to understand a lot of the humor, I think you have to be a metalhead of some sorts.  The movie pokes fun at many of the tropes and stigma concerning metal (obscene band name, pictures in the forest in full makeup, referencing not just current metal bands (Children of Bodom) but a lot of metal roots (Dio, King Diamond), what people who don’t like metal think the vocals sound like, etc.  The shirt the black guy was wearing in the final act was HILARIOUS and one of my favorite scenes was with the whole border patrol scenario.  4/5 from me! 

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