Music: Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps on Fri., June 6, at 8 PM

Dr_Caterwaul_Paolucci_Slattery_012313_72dpiBest Video Performance Space launches Friday night shows—what a concept!—on June 6 with a return engagement by Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps–composed of Michael Tepper on upright bass, Adam Matlock on accordion and vocals; Michael Paolucci on percussion; Chris Cretella on electric guitar and Brian Slattery on violin, banjo, trombone and vocals–plays as much music as it’s able to: blues and murder ballads, Eastern European folk, traditional music from North and South America, tango, swing, classical music, and the songs of contemporary songwriters (including Matlock), using the influences of the music they love to create fluid, improvised arrangements.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Monday, June 2. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, June 4. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Thursday, June 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: KATH BLOOM & TOM HANFORD, BOP TWEEDIE

• Friday, June 6. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, June 11. LITERARY READING: ALICE MATTISON, SANDI KAHN SHELTON

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, June 13. FOLK: ROBERT MESSORE

• Wednesday, June 18. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, June 19. GARAGE POP/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK: HAPPY ENDING

• Wednesday, June 25. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Thursday, June 26. ACOUSTIC GUITAR: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, June 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Wednesday, July 9. CLASSICAL GUITAR: ORPHÉE RUSSELL

• Thursday, July 31. ROCK: THE SHELLY VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Friday, Aug. 1. ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC: DAVID ELKIN-GINNETTI

• Friday, Aug. 15. POP/ART/PUPPETRY: POCKET VINYL, GLUMPUPPET

Music: Kath Bloom & Tom Hanford, Bop Tweedie on Thurs., June 5, at 8 PM

Kath_BloomSinger-songwriters Kath Bloom and Tom Hanford and Bop Tweedie play the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, June 5. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

For fans of the song and how to feel it, Kath Bloom (USA) is some kind of legend. She comes from a special place where country, blues and folk are made beautifully translucent and emotive. She has a special gift – her voice is delicate and tender,  yet retains that raw emotion and hard worn truths that allows each sung word to be felt.

The more you hear of Kath Bloom, the more you notice it’s not just the arresting voice, but the power of the songwriting. “Beautiful” is the typical response—the kind of beauty that comes from truth, musical and the deeply lyrical. There are no good comparisons, but if you like the deep well of Emmylou Harris, the more poignant lyrics of Lou Reed, the joy of Maher Shalal Hash Baz or even Joni Mitchell, you’re kinda in the right zone. In reality, she’s simply Kath Bloom: horse whisperer, vocalist, mum, songwriter and a beautiful person.

Her albums recorded with Loren Mazzacane Connors in the 70′s/80′s are rare things, full of songs that float and melt into the ether. Impossibly beautiful and hard to find on LP, but check the reissues from a few years ago. In the 90′s Kath’s music was famously featured in Richard Linklater’s film Before Sunrise. Since then she has been busy writing and recording to great acclaim. Two new albums in the last few years and she and her songs where also honoured on a tribute album featuring Bill Callahan, Scout Niblett and Mark Kozelek.

Kath Bloom will be performing with her longtime friend and musical compatriot Tom Hanford.

Bop_TweedieBop Tweedie has played in a lot of New Haven bands—23 Hello, Media Circus, Chronicles Of DAISY, Bop Tweedie and the Days—but now describes himself (on his musician Facebook page) as “your typical singer/songwriter type.”

These days he is performing his rockesque songs as a solo acoustic guitar singer/songwriter. His songs are “vaguely autobiographical.”

Tweedie’s influences are all over the place and always have been. “Classical, opera, rock, jazz, world music—chances are if it’s out there, I’ve listened to it,” he says.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Wednesday, May 28. SYNTH POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JASON PRINCE

• Monday, June 2. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, June 4. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Thursday, June 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: KATH BLOOM & TOM HANFORD, BOP TWEEDIE

• Friday, June 6. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, June 11. LITERARY READING: ALICE MATTISON, SANDI KAHN SHELTON

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, June 13. FOLK: ROBERT MESSORE

• Wednesday, June 18. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, June 19. GARAGE POP/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK: HAPPY ENDING

• Wednesday, June 25. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Thursday, June 26. ACOUSTIC GUITAR: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, June 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Wednesday, July 9. CLASSICAL GUITAR: ORPHÉE RUSSELL

• Thursday, July 31. ROCK: THE SHELLY VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Friday, Aug. 1. ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC: DAVID ELKIN-GINNETTI

• Friday, Aug. 15. POP/ART/PUPPETRY: POCKET VINYL, GLUMPUPPET

 

Rob Harmon’s Picks 5/27/14

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksHer (dir. Spike Jonze, 2013)

Occasionally science fiction films come along which are so unnervingly close to our own present situation that it can be difficult to parse out what we are already experiencing and what is conjecture on the part of the creator’s imagination. A perfect example of this is Spike Jonze’s latest film, and winner of last year’s Academy Award for best original screenplay, HER.

Her is highly unusual for a film of its type, its terrain emotional, psychological, dreamy, and reflective rather than concerned with the usually grandiose issues dealt with in movies which are set in the future: primal fears of war, economic collapse, invasion, and technological advancement. If Her seems claustrophobic and more than a little bleak it is because its essential theme is our increasingly narrow and compromised emotional space—a shrinking beachhead of sanity—in a society which is continually being crowded out and run over by a clutter of static and inane sounds and images.

The film begins with an arresting close-up of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) as he stares into the camera and dictates a passionate letter somewhere off-screen, yet his viewpoint is confusing: could these possibly be his own feelings? Surely he is voicing the sentiments of someone much older than he could possibly be? This riddle is resolved once the action cuts away and the audience recognizes that Theodore is in an office—a über-chic one, at that, modern and minimalist—and that this is “the future,” where Theodore and his co-workers “write” letters—in a wide range of styles and levels of intimacy—on demand for their unseen clients. The effect of these early sequences, as the camera follows Theodore through an office filled with synthetic and contrived emotions and tracking along with him on his commute home through a familiar yet strange cityscape, is hypnotizing and magisterial, though also downbeat and mellow.

We soon find that Theodore lives a simple life. He works, he goes home, he daydreams about his faded marriage to Catherine (Rooney Mara) whom he finds endless ways to delay his divorce with. He occasionally hangs out with frumpy friend and neighbor Amy (Amy Adams)—a video game programmer—and her neurotically controlling husband Charles (Matt Letscher). He spends a lot of time on the computer, answering e-mail, playing games, searching for a quick and anonymous phone sex partner (voice of Kristen Wiig in a hilarious sequence), and mainly interfacing with the male, monotone voice of his operating system through a small earpiece and a tiny remote module which fits snugly in the palm of the hand (about the size of an old-fashioned little black address book). Soon, Theodore notices that a new operating system with artificial intelligence has hit the market and he picks it up. When installing the new OS, the machine asks him a few basic questions about himself and whether he would like a male or a female voice; he replies “female.” It thereupon addresses him in a smoky, husky female voice (Scarlett Johansson) and names itself “Samantha.”

As Theodore navigates the stiflingly lonely frontiers of his existence he comes to rely more and more upon Samantha, not just for information and data retrieval, but for her growing emotional maturity. Soon, it is clear that love has bloomed for both Theodore and Samantha but what sort of consequences can there be for a man-computer relationship in a not-so-distant future?

The experience of watching Her is disorienting and a little bit strange as it is a love story where only one of two characters has a body, presenting the viewer with some interesting challenges in where to apply their mental focus. Luckily, the film enjoys an enormously talented lead actor in Phoenix, who is able to defy the odds and hold the picture together. His Theodore is a uniquely sympathetic introvert, whose shambling Everyman presence, glasses, and bland mustache disguise a rich emotional life. If any man could be said to be “passed by time,” it is surely the withered and reflective Theodore. The other performances in Her are equally good top-to-bottom, from important supporting roles like that of the continually impressive Adams right down to a bit voice part by Jonze himself as an ornery pipsqueak of an AI video game character.

The music in Her, by indie superstars The Arcade Fire, is appropriately elegiac and moody and the beautifully muted camerawork is by upstart Dutch cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE FIGHTER, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY). Jonze, who—like the subject of last week’s post Jonathan Glazer—got his start in the biz with acclaimed work in the music video field, is best known as the director of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION. His latest work, charting emotional fallout of a decidedly futuristic but eerily-familiar variety, finds him in full command of his powers.

New releases 5/27/14

Top Hits
Cheap Thrills (black comedy, Pat Healy. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 63. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “The actors play Cheap Thrills straight, but you should watch it as a twisted comedy. Those who do will be rewarded, especially by the film’s outlandish final image. Craig [Pat Healy] is in the midst of a bad day, having been fired and received an eviction notice hours apart, and he’s wondering how he will support his wife and newborn son. In a bar, he encounters an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry), and the two of them fall in with a couple [David Koechner and Sara Paxton] with odd tastes and an apparently limitless amount of money.” Read more…)

Gambit (crime comedy, Colin Firth. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Silently slipped into a single theater like a heist in reverse, Gambit is getting the sort of American release you might not expect given its cast and a screenplay written, at some point in the film’s hot-potato history, by the Coen brothers. This nominal remake of the 1966 art caper that starred Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine has all the fizz of flat soda, but it’s not catastrophically worse than any number of films that open widely.’ Read more…)

Endless Love (romance, Alex Pettyfer. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “There’s a promising edge to the opening of Endless Love, which begins with a young man, David [Alex Pettyfer], speaking in voice-over about a young woman, Jade [Gabriella Wilde]. It’s a high school graduation somewhere in Atlanta, and as the camera picks Jade out of the celebrating crowd, David reminisces about how he’s been watching her for years. From the way he talks, he seems to have been watching her closely. Closely enough to suggest that he’s been long nurturing a passion, perhaps an obsession — something deep, troubling and real. Shallow, timorous and unbelievable, alas, end up being more like it.” Read more…)

Journey to the West (martial arts/comedy, Qi Shu. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 68. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “One rule of comedy is to make it big. Instead of a single pie to the face, try a fusillade and a slippery shoving match. Rather than a couple of anchormen trading insults, why not a street fight? And when it comes to a battle royal, you really can’t top Buddha for administering a beat down. That final example comes from a memorable climactic battle in Journey to the West, the latest, buoyantly cartoonish comedy from the Hong Kong star Stephen Chow. Returning to the same 16th-century adventure that fueled A Chinese Odyssey, which 20 years ago featured this multitalented comedian as the Monkey King, Mr. Chow energizes his new film with computer animation that, when the timing’s right, brings a playfully elastic sense of scale.” read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Who Framed Roger Rabbit

New TV
Person of Interest: Season 1 (high-tech espionage series, Jim Caviezel. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 65.)

Music: Rock by the Ivory Bills Wed., June 4, at 8 PM

Ivory_Bills_WebThe Ivory Bills play the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, June 4, at 8 PM. The cover is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

The Ivory Bills are three guys who like to rock—mostly on original songs by bassist James Velvet, but also on some choice, quirky covers. They’ve released one album and two EP’s in their four year career. Their 2012 highlight was opening for Roseanne Cash on the New Haven Green for the Arts and Ideas Festival.

Here’s what the press has had to say about the band:

The New Haven Register:

You know a James Velvet song: expertly crafted lyrics featuring witty turns of a phrase sung over a nuanced and driving backing layer of instruments. With The Ivory Bills, Velvet, longtime musical partner Johnny Java and guitarist John L. take a group of polished tunes and turn them into bar-band climaxes, a well-oiled set of rockers.

The New Haven Advocate:

James Velvet and friends masquerade as a simple, salt-of-the earth bar band… They almost get away with it, unless you listen closely and hear how Velvet’s expert sense of narrative plays out; how the sing-songy verses build into broadly tuneful choruses; how the band’s kinda-bluesy chug reveals a sharp knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll traditionalism.

Gary Vollono of Independisc.com and Cygnus Radio refers to the Ivory bills as “Tight & Tasty. Truly honing the power trio concept with balance, not bombast.”

Come out and see them and add your own encomiums to the list!

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Wednesday, May 28. SYNTH POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JASON PRINCE

• Monday, June 2. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, June 4. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Thursday, June 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: KATH BLOOM & TOM HANFORD, BOP TWEEDIE

• Friday, June 6. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, June 11. LITERARY READING: ALICE MATTISON, SANDI KAHN SHELTON

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, June 13. FOLK: ROBERT MESSORE

• Wednesday, June 18. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, June 19. GARAGE POP/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK: HAPPY ENDING

• Wednesday, June 25. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Thursday, June 26. ACOUSTIC GUITAR: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, June 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Wednesday, July 9. CLASSICAL GUITAR: ORPHÉE RUSSELL

• Thursday, July 31. ROCK: THE SHELLY VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Friday, Aug. 1. ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC: DAVID ELKIN-GINNETTI

• Friday, Aug. 15. POP/ART/PUPPETRY: POCKET VINYL, GLUMPUPPET

 

Film Screening: “Local Hero” on Mon., June 2, at 7 PM

Local_Hero_poster_WebBest Video Performance Space will screen the 1983 comedy/drama “Local Hero” on Monday, June 2. The movie starts at 7 PM and admission is $5. We will screen the film on our 120-inch projection screen.

“Local Hero,” which stars Burt Lancaster and Peter Riegert, was written and directed by Bill Forsyth. Riegert is the emissary of a Texan oilman, played by Lancaster, sent to negotiate oil drilling rights with a Scottish fishing town. But will Riegert go native?

“Local Hero” has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. From Janet Maslin’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]:

Genuine fairy tales are rare; so is film-making that is thoroughly original in an unobtrusive way. Bill Forsyth’s quirky disarming ”Local Hero” is both, and it’s also proof that Mr. Forsyth’s other feature film released here, ”Gregory’s Girl,” was more than a happy accident. The Glasgow-born Mr. Forsyth has put Scottish comedy on the map, for whatever that’s worth. He has also developed a dryly whimsical style, very close to a deadpan at times, that allows the strangest events or personages to glide by almost unnoticed. ”Local Hero” contains a mermaid, an enchanted village and a possibly magical rabbit. No undue fuss is made about any one of them.

“Local Hero” is being presented through the support of Best Video member John McNamara, a strong supporter of the Performance Space programming.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Wednesday, May 28. SYNTH POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JASON PRINCE

• Monday, June 2. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, June 4. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Thursday, June 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: KATH BLOOM & TOM HANFORD, BOP TWEEDIE

• Friday, June 6. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, June 11. LITERARY READING: ALICE MATTISON, SANDI KAHN SHELTON

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, June 13. FOLK: ROBERT MESSORE

• Wednesday, June 18. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, June 19. GARAGE POP/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK: HAPPY ENDING

• Wednesday, June 25. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Thursday, June 26. ACOUSTIC GUITAR: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, June 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Wednesday, July 9. CLASSICAL GUITAR: ORPHÉE RUSSELL

• Friday, Aug. 1. ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC: DAVID ELKIN-GINNETTI

Music: Singer-songwriters Sam Perduta, Jay Prince on Thurs., May 29, at 8 PM

Sam_Perduta_Jason_Prince_WebSinger-songwriters Sam Perduta and Jay Prince play the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, May 29. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Sam Perduta leads and writes the songs for local rock band Elison Jackson. Over the past two years, the group has played about five shows a month, and more when they have done mini-tours. Their EP “I Do Believe She Flew Out The Drainpipe,” which came out in 2012, received a rave review on CT.com from Chip McCabe as “hands down one of the best things you’ll hear out of the CT music scene this year.” The group released their new LP, “Do Not Fear To Kill A Dead Man,” in 2013 on the Telegraph Recording Company label and it garnered similar acclaim.

Jay Prince is a singer/songwriter from the New Haven area of CT. Raised on various forms of American roots music: rock and roll, southern rock, blues, and country (and later punk rock and hardcore), the template was set for what would later become his distinctive style of American folk music. Influences can, at times, be broad, but easily narrowed down to early Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Tom Waits, Elliott Smith, Willie Nelson and Leonard Cohen.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Wednesday, May 21. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, May 22. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: ILANA ZSIGMOND, SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Wednesday, May 28. SYNTH POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JASON PRINCE

• Monday, June 2. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, June 4. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Thursday, June 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: KATH BLOOM & TOM HANFORD, BOP TWEEDIE

• Friday, June 6. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, June 11. LITERARY READING: ALICE MATTISON, SANDI KAHN SHELTON

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, June 13. FOLK: ROBERT MESSORE

• Wednesday, June 18. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, June 19. GARAGE POP/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK: HAPPY ENDING

• Wednesday, June 25. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Thursday, June 26. ACOUSTIC GUITAR: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, June 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

 

Rob Harmon’s Picks 5/20/14

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksJoin us as we search this week for… Buried Treasure at Best Video!

Birth (dir. Jonathan Glazer, 2004)

“I don’t like it when people come up to me after my plays and say, ‘I really dug your message, man.’ Or, ‘I really dug your play, man, I cried.’ You know. I like it when people come up to me the next day, or a week later, and they say, ‘I saw your play. What happened?'”
– Jeff (Bill Murray), Tootsie (1982)

With the release earlier this year of Jonathan Glazer’s—one of contemporary cinema’s most prodigiously gifted stylists—latest film UNDER THE SKIN (due out on DVD in a couple of months) and a long-overdue emergence from self-imposed exile it seems as good a time as any to re-examine his last, which is already now 10 years old: the gorgeous and unclassifiable whatsit—as well as an unfairly neglected treasure—BIRTH, about a woman who comes to believe that her deceased husband has been reincarnated in the body of a young boy.

The opening sequence of Birth is a marvel of diaphanous invention: a man’s voice is heard off-camera describing to an audience his non-belief in the idea of reincarnation, which fades into a series of shots of the same man running in New York’s snowy Central Park, where he eventually stumbles to the ground and dies peacefully. These shots are accompanied by Alexandre Desplat’s distinctively ringing score—all high, piping flutes, low, puffing brass, and pounding kettledrums—while a final, silent shot depicts a baby being born.

The man, named Sean, is seen only from behind and, but for one shadowy close-up, we never see his face. Instead, the viewpoint of the camera soars above him—bird-like, serene and ethereal—as though guardian angels were hovering over the proceedings, pulling invisible strings. This tour de force of an opening—five shots, running a total of three-and-a-half minutes—ably sets the table for what is to come.

Ten years on we see Sean’s widow Anna (Nicole Kidman) at his graveside. She, it turns out, has just accepted the proposal of her long-time boyfriend Joseph (Danny Huston). At a swank engagement party for the couple soon afterward Clifford and Clara (Peter Stormare and Anne Heche), Sean’s brother and sister-in-law, show up to pay their respects, but Clara ducks out suddenly when she has second-thoughts about her present, and she is watched from a distance by a mysterious young boy, also named Sean (Cameron Bright). Later, at Anna’s family’s Fifth Avenue residence, the clan has gathered together to celebrate the birthday of the matriarch, Eleanor (Lauren Bacall), when young Sean slips in the door with some party guests. He resolutely informs Anna that he is the reincarnation of her dead husband and orders her not to marry Joseph.

Anna, Joseph, and the rest of the family greet this baffling news with emotions ranging from stifled amusement to outright anger, and they soon appeal to Sean’s working class mother (Cara Seymour) to reason with him and bring this behavior to a stop. Still, as Anna’s sister prepares to have a baby of her own and the engagement begins to run off the tracks young Sean persists: He seems to know just too much about Anna’s husband to be a mere coincidence, but….

Birth is a fascinating picture, though flawed, and it invited both criticism and controversy at the time of its release due to its overly serious, funereal atmosphere and its courting of the taboo subjects of reincarnation and children’s sexuality. The film is co-written (along with Glazer and Milo Addica) by legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who, though he has worked with the likes of Godard, Forman, Wajda, Schlöndorff, and about a million other directors, is certainly best known for his collaboration with Luis Buñuel throughout the 1960’s and 70’s on pictures like BELLE DE JOUR and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE.

In fact, though Birth bears the influence of Hitchcock, Polanski (especially ROSEMARY’S BABY), and Buñuel, its closest cousin in celluloid must be Japanese director Nagisa Oshima’s outrageously surreal comedy MAX MON AMOUR (which is, unsurprisingly, co-written by Carrière), wherein Charlotte Rampling abandons her über-stable and conservative life with perfect hubby and son when she decides to take a new lover… a chimpanzee named Max! Birth may lack Oshima’s gravitas in playing the film completely, 100% straight and pushing the audience to the edge of the cliff—and sometimes over it—but, on the reverse side, it never descends into being a mere joke. This very seriousness in Birth has also preserved the film in an extraordinary way, like an insect stuck in amber: so opaque is the storyline about a woman in love with a 10-year old boy (Is it meant to be funny? Serious? Satirical? Sad?) that it gives the film a sort of crystalline quality, gaunt and saturnine, yet still breathing and alive. Far from being confusing or slight, in fact, Birth is an open book… approachable from many different directions.

The film is also well-acted. Kidman is riveting, peeling away layers of genteel social respectability to ultimately reveal a willowy and vulnerable core. Bacall, in her role as society dowager, lends the film a dash of majesty with her poise, high cheek bones, and impeccable Hollywood pedigree. Bright’s round, moon face and steady gaze is an opaque mask that gives the film its greyish, inscrutable quality: a poker face which almost never cracks. Huston is a picture of high-society conservatism, but his tailored suits and power ties disguise hidden stores of anger and rage as—with the film progressing—his character’s masculine identity and social position are increasingly compromised by events out of his control. His nuanced portrayal, as he senses that he is losing Anna to the spirit of her deceased ex-husband, is at times both hero and villain in a very challenging role.

Glazer, like other modern-day auteurs (Fincher, Michel Gondry, and Spike Jonze, to be exact) cut his teeth on the music video circuit, working with acts such as Radiohead, Massive Attack, and Jamiroquai, before making his breakthrough debut feature, SEXY BEAST (2000). Indeed, Glazer, who has made his name primarily as a visual stylist, here acquits himself beautifully in a richly textured mood piece. Glazer, who is British, deserves massive credit for giving foreground consideration to elements of social class, which are all too commonly ignored in American culture. Indications of money and position are everywhere and it is no accident that the three households depicted in the film represent distinctly different economic backgrounds.

Ten years on, Birth retains a strange and eerie beauty: by saying just enough—and no more—Glazer encloses his elegant metaphysical mystery with a lingering veil of questions and doubts.

New releases 5/20/14

Top Hits
The Monuments Men (war drama, George Clooney. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 52. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Written by Mr. Clooney and his producing partner, Grant Heslov, “The Monuments Men” slices off a sliver of a great World War II story and turns it into a lightweight entertainment that doesn’t ask you to think too hard. The story’s real-life heroes were a group of curators, restorers, archivists and the like who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section, an Allied effort to protect Europe’s cultural heritage.” Read more…)

3 Days to Kill (crime action, Kevin Costner. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “By any reasonable standard, 3 Days to Kill is a terrible movie: incoherent, crudely brutal, dumbly retrograde in its geo- and gender politics. But it is also, as much because of as in spite of these failings, kind of fun. Mr. Costner does nothing he hasn’t done before: He slips into the gruff cynic-with-a-heart-of-gold persona that has been his default setting at least since Bull Durham and figures that will be enough. It almost is.” Read more…)

About Last Night (romance, Kevin Hart. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “It is now 40 years since the first performances of David Mamet’s ‘Sexual Perversity in Chicago’ and almost 30 since the play was made into a movie, starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore and directed by Edward Zwick, called About Last Night… Some things have changed [Mr. Mamet has evolved into a dyspeptic right-winger] and some have not [Mr. Lowe and Ms. Moore are still very good looking], but all in all, the thing holds up pretty well. Mr. Mamet’s title was always a bit of a misnomer — his jagged play is more interested in romantic confusion and emotional complication than in freaky bedroom matters — but his map of the crooked paths to heterosexual bliss remains useful and adaptable, even when softened and tidied up by Hollywood. The proof is in the new About Last Night, a sweet, silly, semi-raunchy Valentine’s Day confection directed by Steve Pink [Hot Tub Time Machine].” Read  more…)

Escape from Tomorrow (fantasy/horror, Roy Abramsohn. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Jim [Roy Abramsohn] is a doughy dad on a Disney vacation with a pair of cute towheaded kids and a nagging wife [Elena Schuber]. Shortly after Jim receives an unwelcome call from his boss — firing him without warning or explanation — things turn weird. The theme park that promises magic for the masses takes on a decidedly sinister cast. Is it all in Jim’s head, or does evil stalk the happiest place on earth? It’s potentially an interesting question, and Escape from Tomorrow, directed by Randy Moore, conjures, at least for a while, a convincing mood of disorientation and dread. Shooting surreptitiously in actual Disney theme parks and resorts, Mr. Moore uses off-kilter camera angles and spooky black-and-white cinematography to draw out the creepiness lurking behind the family-friendly fun.” Read more…)

Pompeii (period action, Kit Harrington. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 39. From Miriam Bale’s New York Times review: “In Paul W. S. Anderson’s last three movies, a swashbuckler and two films based on the ‘Resident Evil’ video game, he trained his camera on his wife, Milla Jovovich, in the obsessive way Josef von Sternberg once filmed Marlene Dietrich. In Pompeii, Mr. Anderson’s latest 3-D extravaganza, and his first film without Ms. Jovovich since 2008, he seems to be without visual focus.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Monuments Men
3 Days to Kill
Pompeii

New Foreign
Like Someone In Love (France/Japan, drama, Rin Takanashi. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “According to Martin Scorsese, ‘cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame, and what’s out.’ The Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami applies this axiom with particular rigor. In the first scenes of Mr. Kiarostami’s latest feature, Like Someone in Love, we are very much aware of what is not in the frame. We are in a Tokyo bar, listening to a series of conversations that involve a woman we cannot see. In due time, we will learn more about her — she is Akiko [Rin Takanashi], a university student working as a call girl — but that initial disorientation, the sense of being in Akiko’s presence without knowing her, sets the tone for this elusive, formally meticulous and surprisingly powerful movie.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Moneychangers (1976, drama, Kirk Douglas)

New British
Call the Midwife: Season 3 (drama series, Jessica Raine. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 80.)
In the Flesh: Season 1 (zombie series, Luke Newberry. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 76.)

Music: Mission Zero’s synth-pop on Wed., May 28, at 8 PM

Mission_Zero_promo_WebMission Zero plays the Best Video Performance space on Wednesday, May 28. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Growing up playing a range of musical instruments together, siblings Chenot and David crafted and honed their ability to communicate telepathically as performers. After touring the world separately and together in various bands, they decided to join forces as Mission Zero.

Intentionally forgoing traditional pop instrumentation, the duo focuses on their strong suits—powerful, sultry vocals and blistering, dynamic percussion—supported live by a unique body of synthesized sounds (lovingly referred to by the band as The Robots). The result is smart, sexy synth-pop with bite.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Wednesday, May 21. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, May 22. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: ILANA ZSIGMOND, SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Monday, May 26. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, May 28. SYNTH POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JASON PRINCE

• Monday, June 2. FILM SCREENING: “LOCAL HERO”

• Wednesday, June 4. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Thursday, June 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: KATH BLOOM & TOM HANFORD, BOP TWEEDIE

• Friday, June 6. WORLD MUSIC/FOLK: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, June 11. LITERARY READING: ALICE MATTISON, SANDI KAHN SHELTON

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Friday, June 13. FOLK: ROBERT MESSORE

• Wednesday, June 18. BRAZILIAN MUSIC: SAMBELEZA

• Thursday, June 19. GARAGE POP/PSYCHEDELIC ROCK: HAPPY ENDING

• Wednesday, June 25. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Thursday, June 26. ACOUSTIC GUITAR: PRESTER JOHN featuring SHAWN PERSINGER & DAVID MILLER

• Friday, June 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU