News and Notes
In documenting the twisted, glorious saga of el Mariachi, the renegade guitar player, director Robert Rodriguez fuses innovative shotmaking, intelligent editing, and smart writing to hit viewers with a full-blast cinematic experience. Antonio Banderas plays the swarthy Mexican musician on a mission to find El Bucho, the infamous drug lord who killed his novia. Packing a guitar case with enough munitions to supply a small guerilla army, Banderas combs through local cantinas -- shooting anyone who doesn't respond to his gravelly queries within 10 seconds. As Rodriguez blows up Latin stereotypes, el Mariachi continues to blow up everything in sight, even though he has avenged his love's death 30 cantinas ago.
As our technology makes leaps which streamline how information is delivered, the information itself changes in ways we cannot imagine. Image and reality are blending in ways never before thought possible. We are beginning to doubt everything we experience, even as we welcome it. In this age of in-flow-mation, a cute dog resembling a cartoon character can become a minor superstar. (Tip of the hat to ladygg.com for providing the link.)
The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy
"Officially, the devil arrived in Poland in 966," writes editor and translator Wiesiek Powaga in the introduction to this marvelous collection of demonic Polish fiction. The date refers to the conversion of pagan tribes to Christianity, which solidified the image of the imminent Antichrist. And thanks to the strong presence of Polish Catholicism, the devil has flourished in folklore and literature ever since. From the mischievous imp wearing a red jockey-cap in Slawomir Mrozek's "Co-existence" to the awesome power behind Jacek Dukaj's futuristic "The Golden Galley" (written when he was only fifteen), the visions of the devil presented here are as varied as they are fantastic.
Set in contemporary Jerusalem, this tragic love story tells how the insular, misogynistic fundamentalism of ultra-orthodox Chasidism subjugates and suffocates the lives of two sisters. Rivka and her husband share a deep intimacy, but their ten year marriage is threatened with dissolution because it has not produced offspring. Malka, Rivka's younger sister, is in love with a man who's left the messianic enclave for a secular life, so she is married off instead to a brute. The film is rich in the details of fetishistic ritual and archaic religious observance that inform the cult-like sexual politics.
Exercises in Style
Experimental cartoonist Matt Madden follows the example of French writer Raymond Queneau, who in his book, Exercises in Style, described the same mundane events over and over using a different writing style each time. Madden draws numerous variations of a one-page comic in which he announces the time and peers into the fridge. He also invites guest artists to work from his template.
Songs of Love - Live
Of all the great records he's made --with American Music Club, Toiling Midgets, and as a solo artist-- I have to say that this is my favorite. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and his heart on his sleeve, Eitzel delivers a raw, impassioned performance that reveals the essence of his forlorn standards and alcoholic anthems. This is proof positive that the man thrives on the intimacy and energy of a live audience.
Bobos in Paradise
Bobos in Paradise, a deft, insightful meditation on "the new upper class," cheerfully meets the definition of snack food for thought. Brooks's premise is simple: the anti-establishment Bohemian culture of the 1960s has merged with the work-a-day world of the bourgeois -- hence, the "bobo." Hilarity ensues as this new breed of educated elite runs rampant through the corridors of American culture, leaving a trail of upscale coffeehouses in their wake. Brooks backs up his claims with compelling, if sometimes fanciful scenes from American life, while also offering a quick survey of pop-cult crit from the past half century, from William Whyte's The Organization Man to Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
The Kirby Collector
Jack Kirby is to comic books what Picasso is to fine arts: an insanely prolific visionary who, in the view of many, embodies his medium in the 20th century. He helped to create a number of American comic book genres, including romance, but ultimately found his niche in cosmic power-fables such as The Fantastic Four and The New Gods. The Kirby Collector has grown from a fanzine into the premiere source for all things Kirby.
Derived from Raymond Jean's novel of the same name, this story within a story stars the delightful and engaging actress Miou-Miou as every bibliophile's dream girl. Inspired by the tale she's reading in bed to her lover, Marie decides to embark on her own career as a paid reader for an eccentric assortment of lonely, local citizens. What follows is a whimsical literary romp that's as irresistible as a perfect dessert. It's a sexy, light-hearted, utterly French excursion that quotes Baudelaire, Lewis Carroll, Tolstoy, Marguerite Duras, Jacques Prevert, and the Marquis de Sade. Shot in Arles in winter with flawless attention to color, the film also features a perfectly paced score by Beethoven.
My Neighbor Totoro
Two little girls move, with their father, to an old house in rural Japan. Besides adjusting to a new school and friends, they come to discover that a Totoro, or forest spirit, lives in a large camphor tree nearby. They soon encounter the Totoro and learn about his(?) secret world. The pacing is slow but never dull. The beautiful animation is painstakingly rendered but never overdone. Charmingly cute, the movie is a far cry from the syrupy goo that Disney mass-produces these days. I have not met a child yet who was not riveted to the screen.