We begin our look at the amazing cinematic year that was 1980 with a consideration of Friday the 13th. Yes, it was the beginning of a massively important franchise that also didn't quite fit what the franchise would become. We look at the reasons it should be on the National Film Registry, what the impact was on the world of genre film, and why it and Halloween are so important.
How should the Registry recognise the work of the legendary director John Waters? In this episode, I examine the possibility of four films that might be worthy - Pink Flamingoes, Female Troubles, Hairspray, and Cecil B. Demented.
If you love Artificial Intelligence, Poetry, road trips, movies, and philosophy, see Automatic on the Road!
Here, we interview Lewis Rapkin, director of Automatic on the Road, showing at Cinequest
Wed, Feb 28
Century 20 Redwood City - Screen 10, REDWOOD CITY, CA
Thu, Mar 1
Century 20 Redwood City - Screen 18, REDWOOD CITY, CA
Sunday Mar 4 at the Hammer theatre in BEautiful Downtown San JOse
Fri, Mar 9
3Below Theatre in Beautiful Downtoan San Jose!
Let's stop pretending for a minute: we all knew. Casting couch, sexual harassment and assault of young actresses, all of it has existed since the beginning of Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein was not the first time it came to light. Hell, there was a Saturday Night Live skit with Quentin Tarantino in the 90s that said just about everything. We simply denied that it was real, pretended that it was just some sort of extended bit being played out so that we could keep loving these lingering shadows without the guilt of knowing we were paying into a system of damn near ritualistic abuse. 2017 was the year the containment spell broke, and it came spilling out, the year we finally had to face the truth.
It was also the year I saw The First of Many, a short film that expertly tells the story of the truth behind the process of breaking in to the business in 1971 through the recounting of an audition. As the audition progresses, the director convinces our star to remove her clothes, and then assaults her. The story seems to honest, and that may be because of the experience behind it. Pamela Guest, who co-directed with her daughter (and the film's star) Elizabeth Guest, was raped by composer and director Joseph Brooks in the 70s in a scenario that mirrors the films. You've seen Pamela Guest in films over the years. She's one of those "Oh yeah, her..." actors. She's been one of the leading forces in addressing the sexual assault problem in Hollywood for years, and here she makes an impressive statement not only of the problem, but of the aftermath.
The entire way the scene plays out feels slimy, partly because Lawrence Levine (Gabi on the Roof in July, which is where I think I first saw him, and almost certainly met him at Cinequest in 2010) is so good at making it look like he's there just to do a job, and that the progression of inappropriateness is just another part of that job. It's a great performance, and one that I hope everyone sees, because he's not shown as what we want to think rapists are. He's a quiet monster using the fact that he's a talented and driven director as the lure.
Elizabeth Guest, a member of the famed Guest family that includes Christopher Guest (more accurately Christopher Hayden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest) and her own father, Nicolas Guest, who I loved in USA High back in the day, is absolutely great in playing her way through an audition that is both utterly banal and ultimately damaging. She shuffles her emotions with confusion, and deals those cards with precision. The second or third time I watched it, I found myself tracking tracking her shifts between emotional states, and it's remarkable that an actor can make those transitions without losing the audience, and even more impressive that she can make them without losing the script's impact.
This is an important and really well-done film. The three cards at the end of the film which tell Pamela Guest's story are heart-breaking, but also do not overpower what we saw. They are the vessel that the film was cooked in, informed by. It only makes the entire film more important.
And it is an important film, not only because it directly confronts what we now acknowledge as a problem, but because it reminds us that we were lying to ourselves for far too long.
You can see The First of Many as a part of Shorts Program 3 - The Reality of Illusion shouwing WED 2/28 at 2:15PM at 3Below in beautiful Downtown San Jose, THU 3/1 at 6:00PM in Redwood City, on FRI 3/2 at 5:15PM in Redwood City, and SUN 3/4 at 8:45PM at 3Below.
Jane is married. She's also unhappy. Or is she. Yes. She's unhappy. Why? Is it significant dissatisfaction with being so very satisfied? Is it simple suburban malaise? Is it complicated suburban malaise? Is it self-destruction writ small yet yearning to be written across the sky? Is it just a question of the nature of love? That is the central question I took away from Katie Orr's masterfully pained Poor Jane.
First off, let me talk about a performance. No one in Poor Jane has as much to do as Brady Burre. Not just because it's a movie called Poor Jane and she plays Jane, but because she has to make us believe she is broken without losing our compassion, that she is working towards something without ever really understanding herself or her environment, that she is not impulsive or compulsive, but propulsive, moving herself forward at all times for fear of stagnation. She is at times scared for completely irrational reasons, but Burre manages to make them feel as if there is a secret logic behind it all that we just can't see. This isn't merely a character piece, though. It feels more like the study of a floundering piece of humanity as presented through a series of interactions all of which involve a single character. The difference? When we think we understand Jane, she dodges our perceptions of her, because she doesn't understand herself.
Everything in Poor Jane seems designed to make us feel off. The camera work is at times sly, subtle, and when it does get a tough frenetic, it heightens the emotional content, while also disarming us from digging in too deep and making an overall judgment on the scenario. We are kept on our toes by the handheld camera work, and i love that. Very few films I can think of make better use of close-ups than Poor Jane. I'll name them - The Passion of Joan of Ark, Fake Fruit Factory, Applaus. Burre manages to convey so much in those moments where the camera is all hers that it draws us in deeper.
Director Katie Orr does an incredible job with the way the entire film is handled (and I loved her in another Fake Wood Wallpaper film, A is for Alex, and i feel like an idiot not having put those things together in my head, because I'm a GIANT FWW mark and have been ever since Blood Car!) and the script is phenomenal. I can not wait to see her take on more projects, because she has a voice that rings with new clarity. Maybe I didn't catch that this was a Fake Wood Wallpaper production because it's so unlike anything of their's that I've seen. It's not only more mature, even a fairly valid reading of the material is that Jane is a woman who has never fully matured, but it's more targeted, less sprawling. A is for Alex, which Orr co-wrote, has a framework of emotional insecurity upon which a series of secondary, and impressively intelligent, storylines are hung. Here, the story is the building of that emotional framework, and the constant questioning as to whether or not it's up to code.
I adore this film. It speaks to parts of my life that I am maybe not proud of, when perhaps I was a bit Jane myself. There are moment when I thought I was watching a gender-swapped retelling of my stupider days, right down to getting a hotel room for no good reason. Burre's reactions to these scenarios come across exactly like feelings I had when I looked back on my dumber moments. Maybe that's why I connected so thoroughly to Poor Jane.
So, yeah, it's a freakin' great flick. Go see it, though for those of you out there in the midst of a mid-life crisis; handle your shit, and then watch Poor Jane. You'll see why when you get there...
You can see Poor Jane on SAT 3/3 at 7:05PM, WED 3/7 at 12:30PM, and SAT 3/10 at 5:05PM in Redwood City, and on SUN 3/4 at 1:00PM at the Hammer Theatre in Beautiful Downtown San Jose!
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.