Film still of "West of Memphis"
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Photography by Jeff Dailey

Amy Berg’s new movie
“West of Memphis”

January 25 2013
2:49 PM

When I heard about the release of West of Memphis, I was positively surprised that not even the media’s short memory could bury the story of the West Memphis Three. Indeed, after the three documentary films in the Paradise Lost series—the original from 1996 and the subsequent Revelations (2000) and Purgatory (2011) — brought considerable media, public and VIP attention to the case, director Amy Berg has partnered with producer Peter Jackson on a final chapter. For those who come cold to the film, tellingly describing itself as “an examination of a failure of justice,” this is the true story of three children who were brutally murdered in the woods of West Memphis, Arkansas; of three dysfunctional teens who were tried and convicted for the crime despite the lack of substantial evidence; and an eighteen-year legal fight over their continually maintained innocence, until their release in summer 2011 on the paradoxical condition they plead guilty. The Paradise Lost films, beside thrilling us with the legal elements of the case, offer a merciless portrait of the white-trash American province—replete with trailer parks, toothless mouths, and underlying prejudice—in a way reminiscent of Harmony Korine’s breathtaking Gummo. Selected for Sundance and Toronto film festivals in 2012 and was premiered in late December in NY and LA, hopefully this one will be as good as the previous ones while giving us what we still lack—closure. (Cristina Travaglini)

Film still of Miami Connection
Courtesy of Drafthouse

Forgotten B-Movie Masterpiece Miami Connection

January 4 2013
6:30 PM

The 1987 action flick Miami Connection was nationally released in the US for the first time in 2012. A few years ago, Zack Carlson, a movie programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse movie chain, bought a copy of the film on eBay and, after a small screening, realized its huge potential. The film stars (and was produced by) Korean émigré Y.K. Kim, a martial artist and inspirational speaker. Set in Orlando, Florida, it’s the story of aekwondo-themed electro-rock band Dragon Sound and its attempts to fight a cocaine trade controlled by a gang of ninja-bikers. In its opulent enactment of the trashy coolness of 80’s B-movies, Miami Connection might as well be an articulate post-modern prank. But the point of this gesture is that wave—once called “psychotronic” (from the magazine devoted to forgotten low-budget gems)—opposes mainstream cinema not from an “auteur” standpoint but from the ironic, light-hearted perspective of slackers. Miami Connection shows that loving quasi- proper or substandard products still has both viable commercial value and critical relevance. The case also reveals that the ’80s is still a mainstay of current Pop reference. The film’s slightly incoherent plot is more than redeemed by the mustaches, the choreographed fights, the bad lip-synchs, and the bland dialogues, in a setting that strongly recalls the TV we all watched as teens. (Francesco Tenaglia)

Guy de Cointet, Five Sisters (1982, remake 2011)
Courtesy Estate of Guy de Cointet, Eric Orr Estate
Copyright of If I Can't Dance
Photography by Sal Kroonenberg

Guy de Cointet’s Five Sisters and Marie de Brugerolle’s Who’s That Guy?

May 8 2012
9:20 AM

Guy de Cointet’s play Five Sisters, a meditation on glamor, beauty and feelings performed on April 27th at the LACMA, will be staged at the MoMA in New York on the 9th and 10th of May as part of their Words in the World program. The performance coincides with the screening of a documentary film about de Cointet made last year by Marie de Brugerolle, an art historian and dramatist. The film, Who’s That Guy? Tell Me More About Guy de Cointet should make known to a wider audience a French artist whose oeuvre is mostly referred to as “unmined” ; it played at the MoMA last Wednesday and was followed by a conversation with Marie de Brugerolle, Tim Griffin, Connie Butler and two of the performers from Five Sisters, Adva Zakai and Veridiana Zurita. Originally conceived with the artist Eric Orr, this re-staging of the play is in collaboration with the artist Elizabeth Orr, his daughter, who produces the sound and lighting. De Cointet’s paintings are better known than his performances now, so this will be an opportunity to see what correspondences there are between his word-as-thing coded letter paintings and the physical articulations of the angular women in his performances. Much has been made of his combination of the daily soap opera “low” culture of his adopted city and French haute literary theory, but it should be interesting to look more closely at what he draws from the fine arts world of ‘70s and ‘80s LA and the campy pop culture of his native France. (Eva Kenny)

Emily Wardill, Fulll Firearms, (film still), 2011
Courtesy of the artist

“Fulll Firearms,”
Emily Wardill’s new film

March 21 2012
10:57 AM

In a 2010 interview, Emily Wardill agrees with Hans Ulrich Obrist that identities are something that can be performed: “[Y]ou can have stories you hold onto, that you carry along with you as ‘being,’ as opposed to being in therapy which demands you search for answers and origins.” Surveying this idea, Wardill’s new film, Fulll Firearms, commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution (Amsterdam), Serpentine Gallery (London) and Film London’s FLAMIN Productions, tells a story of Imelda, a daughter of an arms manufacturer, who inherits her father’s fortune. She uses the money to build a house to accommodate the ghosts of the people killed by her father’s productions. Once the half-finished site becomes occupied by squatters, Imelda proceeds to take them for the ghosts she’d expected. Exploring the woman’s delusion and deception as part of her identity, Full Firearms secures itself a place in Wardill’s oeuvre of philosophical psychoanalytic films. Together with a short film The Pips (2011) and a series of sculptural digital silk prints, Full Firearms will be shown in Wardill’s debut exhibition in France at FRAC Champagne Ardenne (through April 22) and at Badischer Kunstverein (through April 9). (Aliina Astrova)

The Human Condition (film still), 1959-1961
Courtesy of Shochiku

Masaki Kobayashi’s
“The Human Condition” at
Maison de la Culture du Japon
in Paris

March 20 2012
12:23 PM

In his essay for Criterion Collection, critic Philip Kemp notes that film director Masaki Kobayashi was not considered prolific by Japanese standards: “But Kobayashi made up for his relative lack of quantity with a rare integrity and seriousness of moral purpose—allied to a visual and dramatic acuity— that earn him a place among the great humanist filmmakers.” Indeed, Kobayashi’s trilogy The Human Condition (1959-1961) still stands among the greatest humanist masterpieces. The famous words spoken by its protagonist Kaji—”It’s not my fault that I’m Japanese… yet it’s my worst crime that I am!”—are one of the most sharp and moving testaments to Kobayashi’s explorations of ethical responsibilities attributed to human existence. Although originally released as three separate films—No Greater Love (1959), Road to Eternity (1959), A Soldier’s Prayer (1961)—The Human Condition is commonly examined as a single piece, tracing the moral degradation of its protagonist. Nevertheless, due to its total length of 579 minutes, it is rarely screened in full. The coming program at Maison de la culture du Japon, Paris, provides a rare opportunity to see the whole film shown three times across nine individual screenings. Kobayashi expert Claire-Akiko Brisset will be present during three of them, providing an introduction to each of the separate films. (Aliina Astrova)

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