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April 30, 2007

Brand Upon The Brain Is Coming!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I don't think there'll be a grander cinematic experience to be had this year than the one Guy Maddin has in store. Beginning May 9th in Manhattan and continuing in Chicago and Los Angeles, his latest work, Brand Upon The Brain, will be shown as it was during its festival tenure, accompanied by a live orchestra, a Castrato and special guest narrator. The show to attend, clearly, will be the May 15th performance in New York, where Isabella Rossellini will be narrating - althoug that's certainly not to suggest that other screenings are skimping on the raconteurs; Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Eli Wallach, Crispin Glover and others will be lending their vocal talents from the East Coast to the Midwest.

The Los Angeles shows have yet to announce their itenerary, but I've already got tickets for the June 8th bow at the Egyptian. The calender is available at the official site, along with everything else you might want to know about what will be nothing less than "an "unprecedented act of faith in the enduring power of the theatrical experience." I can't wait.

* * *

It feels strange, having been in one place for a full week, and stranger still knowing I'll be here for several more. I'm restless. If all goes well, I'll be shooting a new short film (a comedy!) and a short documentary (not funny at all!) before the month is out; but I've a feeling all will not go well, and that my creative urges will have to channel themselves into uncharted territories. In the meantime, I am, as ever, writing away, and hoping that someday in the near future I can actually manage to finish something.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:58 AM | Comments (3)

April 27, 2007

For Lack Of Vinyl

I make a lot of impulse buys on iTunes these days, but if there's an album that I've been anticipating, that I really want, I still make the trip out to the record store. I'll gladly pay a few extra dollars to be able to hold it in my hands, because I want the things that I really care about to be as tangible as possible. What I really need to do is get a record player and start buying vinyl.

But enough with media-conscious preamble. This week sees the release of three new records worth driving to pick up, and also one really great show.

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  1. Joanna Newsom & The Ys Street Band is a three song EP, recorded at the end of Joanna's tour last winter. It includes one new song, Colleen, and new arrangements of Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie and Cosmia. Listening to the band's reinterpretation of Van Dyke Parks' string sections on that last track took me right back to that heart-stopping show last December, and made me wish the entirety of this version of Ys was available; I love the original record dearly, but homespun majesty of the live performance was nonpareil. I still get shivers just thinking about it.

  2. Bill Callahan's new record, Woke On A Whale Heart, ain't as stark and elemental as A River Ain't Too Much To Love, but Callahan's songwriting keeps getting stronger. We heard some songs from the record at his SXSW show; one of them, Sycamore, has been streaming on the Drag City site ever since, and it's the one that I haven't been able to get out of my head.

  3. The moral catalyst in Craig Zobel's film The Great World Of Sound is an acapella performance of Joanna Newsom's Clab, Clam, Cockle, Cowrie. The film's score was by David Wingo, and that's about as smooth a segue as I can manage from Drag City towards the new self-titled release from Wingo's band, Ola Podrida. I first heard these guys at SXSW, too, and they're beautiful; they've got a langorous, pedal steel sort of sound that was best characterized by Gorilla Vs. Bear, who aptly stated that they "do a great job of capturing the feelings that characterize the impossibly wide expanse that is our state." That state being Texas, even though Wingo and the rest of the band now live in Brooklyn.

That quote is actually in reference two bands: Ola Podrida and The Theater Fire, who together represent "Texas Music, in the best sense of the phrase." This leads me to my final bit of musical news. Curtis is shedding his bandmates and playing a solo show tomorrow night at the All Good Cafe, along with the incomparable Bosque Brown. The material he's been writing for himself is some of the best stuff he's ever composed, so if you're in the DFW area, come out and listen to it. And pick up Bosque Brown's new EP, too, which gives you the best of both worlds - CD and vinyl, together in one package. Some things just need to be analog.

Posted by David Lowery at 12:38 PM | Comments (3)

April 24, 2007

Last Minute Events

Breaking news regarding a few notable events!

  1. This Wednesday night, I'm joining Bryan Poyser for a Texas Filmmakers Production Fund workshop. The event will be at the Magnolia Lounge in Dallas at 7:00 sharp. More details can be found here. It should be a fun and informative evening, and I'd strongly encourage all local filmmakers to attend and learn about one of the coolest funding opportunities available to them.

  2. On Thursday night, Some Analog Lines will be screening at the UCLA Critical Media Festival. The event, a presentation of the Film, TV and Digital Media Department, begins at 7:30, and is located at the James Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus. More information can be found here.

That is all.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:40 AM | Comments (4)

April 23, 2007

Sarasota Wrap-Up

I got back from Sarasota last night, nursing a hangover from the rather dionysian closing night party (where I hope I didn't say anything too embarassing to anyone).


James On The Beach, Contemplating the Future

It was a really amazing festival experience. A huge thanks to Holly and Tom for programming my films, and for hanging out with us all week even when they had to get up early every morning to keep things running as smoothly as they went. And an extra special thanks to Brian, Max and all the drivers in transportation for getting us around the city so efficiently.

As for the films - I think my favorites were the aforementioned A Pervert's Guide To Cinema and, in the narrative feature category, Zach Godshall's stunning Low And Behold (which features a grand performance from Barlow Jacobs, who gave me the coolest pink backpack ever before he took off the other day). There were also a lot of really great short films, including Pablo DiZeo's Snails, Radu Jude's The Tube With A Hat (which was at Sundance) and what might be my personal favorite, Pablo Agüero's Primero Nieve, which won a jury prize at Cannes last year. And I should give a special shout out to Crazy Sexy Cancer, which everyone should see when it airs on TLC this summer.

And then there are all the films I've already seen, loved and/or written about. Opportunities to see Orphans, Silver Jew, Hannah Takes The Stairs, Kurt Cobain About A Son, Pretty In The Face, Great World Of Sound and Quiet City still abound in the coming weeks. Get thee to Nashville, Boston or Maryland and see this year's crop of independent masterpieces!

I had forgotten how great it is to be at a festival with a film in tow; I need to work harder on getting my stuff out there! Suffice to say, I'm gonna do my damndest to get back to Sarasota next year.

Pictures after the jump...


My initial steps towards the ocean.


Ry and Craig Zobel in a heated dispute.


Michael Tully, negotiating the deal for his next film, 'Ping Pong Summer.'


Joe Swanberg and Aaron Katz at the Of Montreal show.


Me and AJ Schnack, gothing it up at the Of Montreal show. I'm upset that I both missed the makeup booth and forgot to bring my own eyeliner.


Ry Russo Young, AJ Schnack, Mike Tully and me - just four of the 1000 stars that were at the conveniently named 'Night Of 1000 Stars' party.


Joe adamantly insisting that I try some ice cream.


Ry and Paul Lovelace taking advantage of a photo op. I did this, too, but apparently I'm not photogenic enough to make it onto Getty Images. I don't blame them, I guess.


Joe and Greta during one of several late night oceanic expeditions.


Me, Ryan Harrington and Holly Herrick at the closing night party.


Me and Lodge Kerrigan, both wearing our red-eye well.


Pablo DiZeo's beautiful short film 'Snails' played alongside The Outlaw Son, and afterwards we shared the mic for the Q&A. On the night we took this picture, he hung onto my bag for me after I became too inebriated to do so myself. Thanks, Pablo!


Me, Nate Meyer (still shocked that his film 'Pretty In The Face' just won an award), Matthew Robison and Aaron Katz.


I've become irradiated by the Florida sunshine. I also need to learn how to smile more in pictures.

I also have the best photo of Joe Swanberg and Craig Zobel ever taken, but I think I should save it for later.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:56 PM | Comments (8)

April 21, 2007

Theory Is The New Rock And Roll

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Around the two thirds mark of Sofie Fiennes' riveting, rollicking A Pervert's Guide To Cinema, Slavoj Žižek delves into the differences between male and female sexual perspectives vis-à-vis Ingmar Bergman's Persona. He highlights what, to his mind, is one of the most erotic scenes in cinema's history: the one in which Bibi Andersson tells Liv Ullman about her orgiastic encounter with two young men on a beach. Žižek claims that this anecodote illustrates a propensity men lack; for them, sexual impulse is a straightforward trajectory that comes to an abruptly physical conclusion. Women, on the other hand, are able instantly perceive the narrativity of the sexual act, to essentially put it within a three-act structure, complete with consequences. Andersonn's extended anecdote, then, is a continution of the dalliance it is about; she was cataloguing the event and putting it into narrative form even as it happened.

Which got me thinking, because that's exactly what writers do. Always considering things outside the most immediate context, filing the most personal moments away for future exploitation (if I had my copy of John Gardner's On Becoming A Novelist on me at the moment, I'd offer up his marvelous passage on this phenomenon). I hesitate to make any explicit connections at this point, but I think what parallels can be drawn go a long way towards rationalizing artistic sensitivity (or, in other words, why even the most caustic, hard-as-nails novelists generally tend to be bleeding hearts).

On a more general note, Fiennes' film really is one of the best I saw at the festival; it's not often that talking-head documentaries could be called thrilling, but between Žižek's mile-a-minute personality and the ideas he expostulates on (not to mention the clever cinematic context which Fiennes places them in, exemplified by the image above), I think this fits the bill. All I've read of his work are various essays and reviews (beginning, two years ago with a piece entitled The Revenge Of Global Finance - once again, Star Wars has proven a marvelous conduit), but I came home from Florida last night to find a copy of his magnum opus, The Parallax View, waiting for me in the mailbox.

Sophie Fiennes is really cool, too (the title of this post was culled from her Q&A). And she was wearing No Sweat shoes!

* * *

The other two-and-a-half hour documentary I saw at the festival was Tony Kaye's epic documentary on the abortion debate. It's easy to criticize the film for being too long and too repetitive, because it is - but at the same time, it works, because it completely breaks down how hopelessly gray the entire argument is (the greatest moments of clarity, predictably, come from Nat Hentoff, Peter Singer and Noam Chomsky, and even they have widely divergent beliefs on the matter).

The film's greatest achievement, in my opinion, is in its last hour, when the scope becomes more singular. Kaye follows a 28-year old woman through the entire abortion process; as she shows up for the appointment, as her mental state is evaluated, as the instruments are inserted adn whatever's inside comes out. And then she sits down for an interview, and it's one of the most heartbreaking sequences I've ever seen in a film. The camera holds on her, and as she breaks down and tries to come to terms with what she's feeling, right and wrong go clean out the window.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:58 AM

April 20, 2007

I Don't Really Have A Title For This Post

Yesterday was a day of varying firsts. I went swimming in the ocean for the first time ever (technically speaking, at least), and I also suffered a grievous injury at a rock show, resulting in a rather effete bit of scarification. I feel substantially cooler now! The show was by Of Montreal, who overcame life threatening-sunburns to put on an absolutely outstanding evening of entertainment. That was followed by a hotel room party, a beach party, more of the hotel room party and finally a hotel hallway party. Then security said they were going to call the police, so everyone went to bed.

Some Analog Lines is screening in about an hour - once again, the only live action film in an animated shorts block (which is how I've been describing it to people). As excited as I am for people to see my own work, I can't help but be more thrilled that they get to see Everything Will Be OK and Rabbit up on the big screen. I can't get enough of those two films.

After my Q&A, I'm going to duck into Jessica Yu's Protagonist, and tomorrow I'll finally catch up with Lake Of Fire. I keep intending to see more films, and have consistently failed to do so - but then again, the festival does a pretty good job of providing worthwhile distractions. Like giving Mike Tully (aka Dr. Perfect) the opportunity to eat 72 shrimp in a row.

Posted by David Lowery at 10:51 AM

April 19, 2007

I Pirate My Own Movies

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The second public screening of The Outlaw Son screening was last night, and it was amazing, and I captured that amazingness on video with my little digital camera. Copies will soon be available on DVD on street corners and subway platforms around the world, complete with bizarrely translated snyopses on the laserprinted inserts.

As much as I love and am proud of the film, I was nervous as all hell before it showed. My heart kept racing and my pulse kept climbing, up until the point when I realized, suddenly, that it was working just fine up there on the big screen. Everyone seemed to get it. The long shot didn't feel that long at all, and the audience collectively winced at the appropriate moment. I was so relieved that I actually fell asleep during the subsequent short (which I'm sure was great nonetheless, since the programs Holly and Tom have put together have been so uniformly strong).

This is a pretty wonderful festival. I'll have more to write about it later (with photographic accompaniment). For now, though, an anecdote - set once again within the confines of an airplane. On my flight to Charlotte on Tuesday morning, I sat next to a businessman who made a very touching phone call to his son just prior to takeoff. Notes on breakfasts and homework and mutual "I love yous" were exchanged, and then the plane bore us upwards. I let my subconscious stretch its legs a bit, and through its peripheral haze I saw this businessman reach over to my tray table and, on a cocktail napkin, in green magic marker, write the words Summer Make Good.

This, of course, is the name of the most recent album from experimental Icelandic group Mum. I don't know why it was on my mind, or buried within my mind or wherever it was when it showed up there on the back of my eyelids; but I took the mental suggestion at face value and listened to the record all the way from North Carolina to Florida. Maybe it was setting a good precedent or something.

Posted by David Lowery at 1:56 AM | Comments (3)

April 16, 2007

Cormac McCarthy Goes Public

mccarthy.jpg Cormac McCarthy finally takes home a Pulitzer today, for The Road. I'm thrilled that he won, and not at all surprised; as I suggested when I reviewed the novel last fall, it's one of his finest works. What is surprising, however is that the same novel is the latest selection for Oprah's book club and, even moreso, that McCarthy, who in his entire career has limited his press to a single print interview in the New York Times, will be appearing on the show at some point in the near future.

I've never seen Oprah's show before, but I wouldn't miss this episode for the world. I know some people who take umbrage with the sort of branded approval that her book club (literally) represents; I'm really neither here nor there on the matter, but that this novel -which isn't McCarthy's most difficult, but is still far from what many would consider accessible - will be getting introduced to such a wider audience can only be a good thing.

Yesterday, incidentally, I read the author's other published work from last year, the 'novel in dramatic form' entitled The Sunset Limited. It's a one-act piece, set in a dingy apartment in which two elderly men have a philosophical confrontation. These characters go unnamed; they are distinguished by their ethnicity and, consequently, their dialogue, which bears on the one hand the silver tongued affectation of McCarthy's prose and, on the other, his innate sense of cultural dialect, and his ability to convey the rhythms and inflections of those dialects through perfect, precise syntax. He's one of the few writers whose printed work excites the ear as much as the eye.

* * *

There's still no release date set for the Coens' adaptation of McCarthy's No Country For Old Men, but you can see exactly one shot of it in their promo for Apple's Final Cut Studio 2. I had to stay my hand in ordering this upgrade as soon as it was announced yesterday; I don't really need it for anything right now, and I'd rather wait until this fall, anyway, when I might get a new machine to run it on (along with OS Leopard and the new Adobe Production Suite) and, hopefully, have a new film to try out all its features with. Including Color. Especially Color.

And on the subject of films of mine - the only thing film festivals send via post is, generally, rejection letters, so I was about to throw away the envelope that came this morning from the Academy Qualifying Black Maria Film Festival when I remembered that most festivals don't even send out letters anymore - why bother when a mass e-mail will do? So I opened it and found within notification that Some Analog Lines had won a Directors' Citation Award. Which, I learned, is essentially an honorable mention with a more dignified name. Which is great, considering I didn't even know I was in the festival.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:32 PM | Comments (7)

April 15, 2007

Duty Free

My bootleg version of Final Draft keeps crashing, so I've exported a bunch of my in-progress projects to (my legal version of) Movie Magic Screenwriter. In this programmatic cross-pollination, various action sequences have been interpreted as scene headings and dialogue has been given capitalized heft I'd never have allowed it of my own accord; looking at it is like reading a really excited person's rewrite of my own work. Page after page, it goes something like this:

She speaks slowly,

INT. ANNUNCIATING CAREFULLY, HER VOICE FULL OF

hope.

In case you hadn't guessed, I cracked open the last bottle of really good, really cheap Chianti I (illegally) imported from Italy. Nothing to declare, folks! Except that this new Lavender Diamond album I've somehow come into possession of is making me want to cry. Again.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:04 AM

April 14, 2007

The Outlaw Son in Sarasota

outlawson_hug.jpgThe Outlaw Son will be screening for the first time tomorrow afternoon, in the Vintage & Vanguard Shorts Program at the Sarasota Film Festival. I love the synopsis in the festival program:

A quiet, experimental drama that traces an underlying breach in a couple’s communication.

I love it because it's an interpretation that I'd never have thought of myself, but that's entirely applicable to the film all the same.

The really outstanding animated shorts program in which Some Analog Lines has been included will be screening almost immediately afterward, at 2pm. I won't be at either screening, since I don't get into Sarasota until Tuesday, but if anyone happens to attend, I'd love to hear how they go; in particular, how The Outlaw Son plays. That's my baby. All grown up. I just hope it's loud enough.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:07 PM | Comments (5)

Artsy

Well here we are, halfway to summer, and it feels like October outside. And inside, too, since I like to leave windows open.

A Catalog Of Anticipations I is being shown at our friends' 817 Gallery's spring exhibition all weekend, as a sort of partial dry run of the eventual installation I want to stage once all three parts are ready to be shown. Dropped in on a makeshift cubic screen at the last minute, the piece served more as an accent mark to the show than a featured work; still, it provoked some good response and conversation, and, more importantly, served as a swell inauguration to type of exhibition that I'm growing increasingly interested in. Yes, friends, I'm tiptoeing ever further towards abstract obscurity!

Posted by David Lowery at 12:29 AM

April 10, 2007

Jetlag

I remember reading something somewhere about how people are more emotionally pliable at 30,000 feet, and more susceptible to manipulation. This would explain why I teared up during the Beyonce music video that was shown on my flight home; that "to the left" line really packs a punch. And then I actually cried at various points during The Holiday, even though I could barely stand to watch it (for - I shudder to think - the second time). I was most moved in the scene when the octagenarian screenwriter played by Eli Wallach receives a standing ovation at a tribute ceremony. Wiping my impressionable eyes there above the Atlantic, I thought, for just a moment, that maybe I should try a little bit harder to make movies that make people happy.

Then I turned back to my current novel-in-progress, Anna Karenina. "That book you're reading, it's very sad," said the flight attendant as she passed my aisle. And it was.

Posted by David Lowery at 9:44 PM | Comments (3)

April 3, 2007

Dové la Cinecittà?

I just got into Rome about an hour ago. Sodium-golden street lights, misty rain; pretty much the way I remember it. I love this city!
It's been a pretty great trip so far...complete with some pretty amazing food. I thought about taking a page from Aaron Katz and maintaining a detailed account of my culinary adventures, but I've been pretty good about staying away from computers so far. And, needless to say, that little notebook of mine has remained unscribbled upon.

Tomorrow we're meeting up with my sister, who's studying here for the semester. And then, in a few days it's off to Venice...

Posted by David Lowery at 4:12 PM | Comments (5)