Posts Tagged ‘Indiana University Cinema’

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.

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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.

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*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.

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*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! 

The haunted house import from Japan centers on a possessed residence that literally gobbles up its doomed visitors.  A group of school girls unwittingly enter a haunted house of horrors.  Demonic possession, reanimated body parts out for blood, and downright bonkers fun house effects ensue.  Fun fact:  studio execs in Japan originally planned to produce a movie like JAWS.  Yet when director and producer Nobuhiko Obayashi discussed the pitch with his young daughter, she revealed her own childhood fears — which were far more twisted and inventive than a rehashed shark movie.  Thus, HAUSU was born.

Thus quoting from number 3 of “11 Scariest Haunted House Movies to Freak You Out in Your Own Home” by Jessica Ferri, courtesy of THE-LINE-UP.COM, and reason enough to check out the whole list by pressing here.  Yes, there are “the usual suspects,” PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, but other good films are on the list too, like the Spanish film THE ORPHANAGE and THE OTHERS.  One caveat, though, the links under each listing inviting you to WATCH IT NOW aren’t links to the movies or even to trailers, but rather to Amazon’s rental site.  But you can always go from there to their actual movie site and get an idea of what prices are if you want to buy the DVD.

Also, re. HAUSU, I highly recommend it, but do realize it’s a little . . . different.  Or to quote myself (cf. below, October 31 2015 — yes, I posted a review when the IU Cinema screened it for Halloween three years back), [i]t’s an “evil house” movie, but with a big difference.  This one combines the expected tropes with a weird undercurrent of surrealism, including cartoons, a demon cat, telegraphed punches — all clearly intentional — even slapstick humor in a tale of seven schoolgirls’ summer outing at the home of one of the girls’ maiden aunt.  An aunt she hadn’t seen since her grandmother’s funeral years in the past.  And in my opinion, HAUSU alone is an excellent film to ring in the new year, a year perhaps destined to be marked with its own surrealism.

So a few things it fails at, to credit the homage to Richard Matheson’s vampire novel I AM LEGEND behind George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  To give much attention to non-English language movies and, in particular, to Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI II for not only popularizing “zombies” as the name of the shamblers but also attempting to bridge the gulf between the original Haitian beliefs (noted here in, e.g., Bela Lugosi in WHITE ZOMBIE and Val Lewton’s I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, though it does suggest a different “bridge” via science fiction movies where aliens animate dead as puppets, e.g. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE*) and post-Romero popular culture.  But then again, hey, we weren’t there to be literary scholars but just to enjoy ripping good zombie destruction scenes.  And for that, Alexandre O. Philippe’s 2014 DOC OF THE DEAD delivered at Friday night’s Indiana University Cinema “Midnight” (that is, it ends around midnight, starting at 10 p.m. — we all need our sleep eventually) Movie.

To quote from the I.U. Cinema blurb:  Shot and edited in a cinematically edgy, high-octane style, DOC OF THE DEAD creates a rich pop-culture dialogue between zombie experts, celebrities, and indie filmmakers, including Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, and George Romero.  Created by the makers of THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS, this definitive zombie-culture documentary investigates the possibility and ramifications of an actual zombie outbreak.  Contains mature content, including graphic imagery and sexual violence.  Well, it had better contain the latter, that is to say otherwise what’s the point?  But it also ends on a sort of semi-serious note, on the idea of surviving if not “real” zombies, some kind of disease where victims might simulate zombie behavior.

Docent this time was Director Philippe himself as an extra, explaining the film as an attempt to discover “how zombies went from underground (or ‘under cover’) to mainstream in a very short period of time.”  Much thus is a series of short clips, jumping to topics like zombie fandom, zombie walks, etc., along with films that advanced the myth (e.g., RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD with the notion of zombies craving brains), allowing a sort of montage effect — fast moving and fun — with the ultimate question at least somewhat answered:  “Why are zombies such a big deal?”
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*And there is a short sequence actually visiting Haiti, plus a brief reference to Wade Davis (e.g., THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW).

The way the IU Cinema docent explained it, in Mexico November 1 is for remembering departed children, November 2 for all the dead.  Not being Hispanic, I’d learned that the 1st is All Saints Day, the 2nd All Souls, but if one assumes that children die innocent these map together.  The occasion Thursday night, as I write this, was a special Dia de Meurtos (so it’s really a three-day plural “day,” also taking in October 31, All Hallows Eve) showing of the film COCO. Or, quoting the IU Cinema blurb:  Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures, COCO is a vibrant tale of family, fun and adventure, as an aspiring young musician named Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) embarks on an extraordinary journey to the magical land of his ancestors.  There, the charming trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) becomes an unexpected friend who helps Miguel uncover the mysteries behind his family’s stories and traditions. Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, and Edward James Olmos round-out the cast.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, “Remember Me.”  The screening is part of IU Arts and Humanities Council’s First Thursday celebration of Day of the Dead.  And, yes, the events of the film take place on Dia de Muertos.

So I liked it.  It is fun and had good music, though as a Disney movie it also had some flaws, such as taking a visual joke that’s funny (in this case, a skeleton falling apart, then putting itself back together), repeating it while it’s still a bit funny, and then repeating it four or five times more.  Also heaping on its villain, making things worse and worse, stamping out even a hint at redemption.  But there are also bits of really good writing, one of which mentioned by the docent was the inclusion of the traditional song “La Llorona” near the end.  This is a film at heart of sadness and almost too-late reconciliation.  Also when the twelve-year-old hero requires his ancestors’ blessing — and needs it fast! — his great grandmother’s spirit first offers it if he’ll remember always to love his family (I don’t remember the exact words, but something like that — previously she had refused it unless he gave up music), then quickly changes it to “no conditions.”  It took me a moment to let that sink in, but yes, like love, a blessing that isn’t unconditional is really no more than a business deal.  And third, as it ended, I understood why the title of the film had to be “Coco,” why it couldn’t be anything else.




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