Tag Archives: Art

366 UNDERGROUND: WELCOME TO NOWHERE (BULLET HOLE ROAD)

Watch Welcome to Nowhere (Bullet Hole Road) free at NoBudge until Oct. 18.

DIRECTED BY: William Cusick

FEATURING: Brian Greer, Nick Bixby, Lorraine Mattox, Tina Balthazar, Cara Francis, Peter Blomquist, Stacey Collins, Kevin Gebhard, Stephanie Silver

PLOT: As described in the press kit: “a surrealistic take on the American Road Story, this experimental film follows the overlapping encounters of five strangers as they struggle to exist in the desert of the American West.”

still-of-lorraine-mattox-in-welcome-to-nowhere-(bullet-hole-road)

COMMENTS:  As mentioned above, Welcome to Nowhere is an Experimental Film—there’s not so much a linear story that’s presented here as a collection of tropes associated with the road movie and the American West. There’s the doomed couple (are they adulterers?) meeting miserably in motel rooms and throwing furtive glances at each other; loners and psychos; hookers waiting for johns (or dead in motel rooms), and state troopers with mirrored sunglasses.

As such, one can construct scenarios from the bits and pieces presented, and those looking for an overall plot will be disappointed. The emphasis is on atmosphere, which Nowehere has in abundance. And at under an hour, doesn’t wear itself out. It’s a tone poem, and the result is very refreshing, if the viewer is open to the experience. The film is based on a performance piece by the theater company Temporary Distortion.

As the filmmakers themselves pontificate, “In a series of warped, image-driven episodes, the archetypes of the American Road Story are deconstructed in action, dialogue, intent and ultimately meaning…these representations of the American promise of freedom and travel on the open road disintegrate into paradoxical fantasies of improbable escapism, perverse sexuality and futile violence.” It’s surreal, like a fever dream of a road movie enthusiast.

You can expect to find Welcome to Nowhere popping up in film festivals over the next few months. It will make its online premiere on September 17 at NoBudge.com where it will stream for a month only.

Trailer

Official Website

Facebook

still-of-peter-blomquist-in-welcome-to-nowhere-(bullet-hole-road)

GAUGUIN: THE FULL STORY. A FILM BY WALDEMAR JANUSZCZAK (2003)

“Oh, I hate that man. He left his wife and children, was cruel to Van Gogh, and bedded down all those Tahitian girls. I just cannot look at his paintings.” This is a simple-minded, uninformed, dull, and predictable comment that I have little patience or tolerance for, and I have heard it countless times whenever I list Paul Gauguin among the painters I identify with aesthetically. Several films have been made about about Gauguin, yet none of them have caught his essence, at least until this documentary by Waldemar Januszczak.  It is not a perfect film, but Gauguin is vividly present in it.

Donald Sutherland starred as Gauguin in the 1986 film Oviri, directed by Henning Carlson.  In that film, the banker Gauguin and his wife, Matte, are on a Sunday horse and carriage ride with his co-workers and their wives. The financiers engage in shop talk while Gauguin broods.  Finally, the frustrated painter taps the carriage driver on the shoulder and tells him to stop.  Gauguin looks at his wife and peers and says, “You are my jailers.”  With that, he jumps out of the carriage and walks off to find his paradise.  A nice story but one that is a total fiction, buying into the painter’s mythology.

In actuality, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), contrary to the repeated myths, was not a millionaire banker.  He was a successful stock broker.  He did not quit his job.  The stock market crashed and he lost his job.  Gauguin, who had been a “Sunday” painter for years, felt that this was reason enough to pursue painting full time, something he had been longing to do.  It was with this that his wife left him.  Gauguin did not desert his wife and five children.  His wife rejected him after he lost his income as a stockbroker.

Still from Gauguin: The Full StoryArt critic Waldemar Januszczak attempts to set the record straight.  “What’s to like about this man?,” Januszczak asks.  “First of all, there is the art, which needs no defense.  Gauguin painted some of the world’s most alluring woman and put them into several of the world’s most gorgeous pictures, but what I really like about him is that he did it for big and noble reasons.”  And then, most aptly, he says, “There is always more to a Gauguin than meets the eye.”  Januszczak covers Continue reading GAUGUIN: THE FULL STORY. A FILM BY WALDEMAR JANUSZCZAK (2003)

CAPSULE: CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (2010)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: (narration)

PLOT: Granted unprecedented access, Werner Herzog takes his camera crew into the Chauvet

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

caves of Southern France to capture images of the oldest artwork ever discovered—Cro-Magnon paintings that date back approximately 30,000 years.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s essentially a very sober and serious documentary on an important subject, with the presence (and odd musings) of ultra-eccentric director Werner Herzog supplying the only weird connection.

COMMENTS:  There are two things to keep in mind about Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  One is that those of us who missed it in its theatrical run will probably never get the opportunity to experience the film as it was intended to be seen.  Cave was originally shot in 3D, and for maybe the first time in film history, there was actually a reason to access that third dimension.  The Chauvet paintings were drawn on rocky walls, and the artists incorporated the bulges and ripples into their sketches (Herzog comments on how, in flickering torchlight, the horses and lions drawn on the craggy walls might appear to move—comparing the cave itself to a sort of proto-cinema).  The second thing to keep in mind is that this is an Important work; which is not to say that it’s not also Interesting, just that Herzog takes his responsibility to document these previously unseen caverns very seriously, and if it comes down to a choice between being Interesting or Important, he errs towards the latter.  The Chauvet caves, which were hidden by a rockslide and preserved away from prying eyes for millennia before being accidentally discovered by spelunkers in 1994, are considered of such scientific and historical importance that only a small number of the world’s top scientists had previously been granted access. The crew was forced to film under restrictive conditions: they were only allowed access for a few hours each day, were confined to a two foot metal walkway so as not to disturb any of the primeval footprints or animal skulls littering the cavern floors, and could only use handheld cameras and low-heat lighting elements that they could carry with them.  Since there are only a few painted panels of interest to amateurs, Herzog fills up the running time with interviews with scientists who gave us background on the caves and on Paleolithic man.  While he does pick a few colorful characters to interrogate—most notably a guy who dresses in deerskin and serenades us with a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” piped on a vulture-bone flute—these scarce quirky digressions aren’t as gonzo as some reports might have you believe.  The focus remains on the artwork.  Herzog passionately believes that when we look at these mysterious scrawlings of battling rhinos and half-buffalo women we are peeking at the first stirrings of the human soul, though through a cloudy window.  In the quiet finale the camera lingers over the detailed panels depicting cave lions and horses, remarkably rendered figures etched one on top of the other to suggest movement, while Ernst Reijseger’s mystical score of cellos, flutes and a droning choir plays an imaginary primordial liturgy.  It’s an intense tribute, and even a little trippy.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a Herzog film without at least one totally incomprehensible moment.  This time it occurs in a head-scratching epilogue.  After finishing his tour of the cave, Herzog takes a trip to a nearby experimental biosphere where a tropical climate has been created using heated water from a nearby nuclear reactor.  There, he films some albino alligators and proclaims them our doppelgängers, wondering how they would react to the caves.  It’s an obscure personal metaphor that provokes an almost universal response: “huh”?  But perhaps it’s the best way to end the documentary: we can’t completely understand what Cave‘s paintings meant to artists separated from us by 30,000 years of evolution any more than we can completely understand the peculiar vision of Werner Herzog.

Herzog made two documentaries screened in the U.S. this year, neither of which have been shortlisted for Academy Awards.  Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which certainly deserved a nomination, was ruled ineligible because it received a limited screening in 2010.  His other film, Into the Abyss, concerned interviews with three unrepentant Texas death row inmates, did not make the shortlist of fifteen features despite excellent reviews.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a journey to prehistory that’s simultaneously wondrous and tedious, profound and completely nuts — which is to say, quintessential Herzog.”–Jeanette Catsoulis, National Public Radio (contemporaneous)

LIST CANDIDATE: PEPPERMINTA [2009]

DIRECTED BY: Pipilotti Rist

FEATURING: Ewelina Guzik, Sven Pippig, Sabine Timoteo, Elisabeth Orth
Still from Pepperminta (2009)

PLOT: A whimsical young woman brimming with optimism moves breezily through her hometown in Switzerland, picking up new friends Werwen (Sven Pippig)—a sickly momma’s boy—and Edna (Sabine Timoteo)—a cross-dressing gardener—along the way.  The trio’s mission is to teach others to live without fear through experimental color hypnosis.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Pepperminta is a creative, experimental, singular film that defies standard classification.  It is at once funny, thought-provoking, insightful, fanciful, sexual, and wistful; it contains memorable visuals, bizarre characters, impromptu musical numbers, and flashes of complete fantasy.  It’s wonderfully weird, to be sure, but its sentimentality and naive perspective can be cloying and alienating for some audiences.

COMMENTS: Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist is known for saturated colors and themes of harmony and sensuality in her short works.  Pepperminta marks her first foray into feature-length narrative film, allowing her to expand upon these concepts in a more accessible manner.  Inspired by Pippi Longstocking, the story is a fantastical urban adventure set in a magical realist universe that’s open to Utopian ideas, and the central character is unflappable in her quest to bring joy, beauty, and strength to everyone she meets.  Pepperminta transforms the souls of those she chooses to be a part of her mission, healing them with flowers, touch, music, and contagious confidence.  She believes that through certain combinations of color a person’s outlook can be altered, and demonstrates this in several wacky encounters.

Pepperminta is primarily driven by its mysterious but likable characters.  The title character is quick-to-smile, red-haired, freckled, and feels completely at ease in her own body.  She wins others over to her side with unshakable kindness, even if her weirdness confuses most people at first.  Werwen is shy,  middle-aged, and allergic to everything; he easily falls in love with Pepperminta, most likely because she’s the first girl with whom he’s interacted.  With her help he conquers his fear of the outside world bred by his overprotective mother.  Edna is taciturn and serious-minded, slowly released from her hard outer shell as she opens herself up to her new friends, even tapping into the magical aspects of Pepperminta’s personality. Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: PEPPERMINTA [2009]