Film screening: New Generation X film series launches Sun., Mar. 26, with “Repo Man”

After a week’s break, Best Video Film & Cultural Center kicks off a new film series on Sunday, Mar. 26. The series runs on consecutive Sundays—with the exception of April 9, which has been rented by Redscroll Records for an event—and features six films of the 1980s and early 1990s that touch on the culture and politics that informed so-called “Generation X.”

The series was the idea of BVFCC members Jennifer Griffiths and Sarah Strong. Working with BVFCC Program Director Hank Hoffman, they crafted a program that will both highly entertaining and thought provoking.

Each screening begins at 7 PM and admission is $7.

We kick off our Gen X series with “Repo Man,” the 1984 cult classic starring a young Emilio Estevez as Otto, a down-and-out punk rocker who takes a job repossessing cars after he discovers his parents have given his college tuition fund to a sleazy televangelist. Otto gets more than just a paycheck, though, when he’s drawn into a tangled web of corruption and thievery as government officials, a punk gang, and even space aliens all try to get their hands on a very special Chevy Malibu with something radioactive in its trunk. Filmed at the end of Reagan’s first term, Gen X angst themes abound, yet the film itself is plenty funny, sporting a terrific soundtrack that includes punk legendaries Iggy Pop, The Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and Suicidal Tendencies. With Harry Dean Stanton as Otto’s boss.

Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times:

“Repo Man,” which opens today at the Eighth Street Playhouse, is the real thing. It’s a sneakily rude, truly zany farce that treats its lunatic characters with a solemnity that perfectly matches the way in which they see themselves. Its a neo-Surreal, southern California fable, set in a landscape inhabited by failed punk rockers, automobile-repossession men who behave as if they were the knights errant of capitalism, some creatures from outer space, as well as a television evangelist who preaches against ”godless Communism abroad and liberal humanism at home.” At its end, there’s nothing less than an ascension to heaven in a 1964 Chevy Malibu.

View the trailer for “Repo Man”:

The schedule:

Sunday, Mar. 26: “Repo Man”
Sunday, Apr. 2: “Philadelphia”
Sunday. Apr. 16: “Blue Velvet”
Sunday, Apr. 23: “Do the Right Thing”
Sunday, Apr. 30: “Thelma and Louise”
Sunday, May 7: “My Beautiful Launderette”

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Saturday, Mar. 18. INDIE FOLK: JAMES AM DOWNES, BROOMS, GABE MORTALI

• Wednesday, Mar. 22. CLASSICAL: 4-3-2-1: A EUPHONIUM AND FRIENDS PRODUCTION

• Friday, Mar. 24. SOLO GUITAR: GLENN ROTH; SINGER-SONGWRITER: BELLE OF THE FALL

• Saturday, Mar. 25. JAZZ: : THE FAKE MUSIC ENSEMBLE PLAYS “BLACK, BROWN AND BEIGE; YELLOW, TRANS AND QUEER: MY COUNTRY ‘TIS OF THIS (A PROTEST SUITE COMPOSED BY ALLEN LOWE)

• Sunday, Mar. 26. GEN X FILM SERIES SCREENING: “REPO MAN”

• Thursday, Mar. 30. ALTERNATIVE/AMERICANA: THE WYRD BROTHERS; SINGER-SONGWRITER: JACK ROLLINS

• Friday, Mar. 31. ACOUSTIC ROCK: EDNA; SINGER-SONGWRITER: SAL PARADISE

• Sunday, Apr. 2. GEN X FILM SERIES SCREENING: “PHILADELPHIA”

• Thursday, Apr. 6. AVANT-GARDE: ELM FICTION

• Friday, Apr. 7. ROCK: GHOST RADIO, SONIA & SID

• Saturday, Apr. 8. CLASSICAL GUITAR: MAX LYMAN; AMERICAN PRIMITIVE GUITAR: ALEXANDER

• Sunday, Apr. 9. REDSCROLL RECORDS SCREENING AND MUSIC

• Thursday, Apr. 13. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

• Friday, Apr. 14. JAZZ: JOVAN ALEXANDRE

• Sunday, Apr. 16. GEN X FILM SERIES SCREENING: “BLUE VELVET”

• Wednesday, Apr. 19. FOLK ROCK: WE HAPPY FEW

• Friday, Apr. 21. ROCK ‘N” ROLL: DUST HAT

• Saturday, Apr. 22. JAZZ: ALLEN LOWE & THE FAKE MUSIC ENSEMBLE

• Sunday, Apr. 23. GEN X FILM SERIES SCREENING: “DO THE RIGHT THING”

• Friday, Apr. 28. BLUEGRASS: THE SLOCAN RAMBLERS (A GUITARTOWNCT CONCERT)

• Sunday, Apr. 30. GEN X FILM SERIES SCREENING: “THELMA AND LOUISE”

• Thursday, May 4. INDIE ROCK: PROCEDURE CLUB

• Friday, May 5. SINGER-SONGWRITERS IN  THE ROUND: JENNIFER DAUPHINAIS, CHRISTOPHER BOUSQUET, FRANK CRITELLI

• Saturday, May 6. CULT FILM SCREENING: TBA

• Sunday, May 7. GEN X FILM SERIES SCREENING: “MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDERETTE”

• Thursday, May 11. INDIE ROCK: ZOO FRONT

• Friday, May 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: SHAWN TAYLOR & WANDERING ROOTS (CD Release)

• Saturday, May 13. JAZZ: ALLEN LOWE & THE FAKE MUSIC ENSEMBLE

• Friday, May 19. INDIE ROCK: LA TUNDA

• Friday, June 2. JAZZ VOCAL: LINDA SATIN & JOE CARTER DUO

• Friday, June 9. ALT-COUNTRY: PAT STONE

• Friday, June 16. BLUEGRASS: MILE TWELVE (GUITARTOWNCT PRODUCTIONS)

• Friday, June 23. CHAMBER ROCK: THE TET OFFENSIVE

• Friday, Aug. 4. BLUEGRASS: HONEY DEWDROPS (GUITARTOWNCT PRODUCTIONS)

• Friday, Sept. 15. BLUEGRASS: ROB ICKES & TREY HENSLEY (GUITARTOWNCT PRODUCTIONS)

• Thursday, Nov. 16. BLUEGRASS: TIM O’BRIEN

 

Rob Harmon’s Recommendations 07/23/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picks“‘They’ tried to get her last night.”

“They? A wonderful word. And who are they? They’re the nameless ones who kill people for the great whatsit. Does it exist? Who cares? Everyone everywhere is so involved in the fruitless search for what?”

The above film dialogue may sound as though it comes from a couple of world-weary, existential characters in some contemporary, character-driven talk-fest of a thriller or drama. It isn’t.

In fact, the source is Robert Aldrich’s fantastic 1955 apocalyptic-film-noir KISS ME DEADLY and the characters voicing it are mega-macho detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) and his slinky secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper), respectively.

Even today Kiss Me Deadly crackles with youthful energy, surviving as a remarkably modern, self-aware exercise in deconstructing the paranoia and deadening conformity which characterized much of the Eisenhower era. Adapted from the novel by Mickey Spillane by A.I. Bezzerides and featuring Hammer—Spillane’s famously ham-fisted, misogynistic detective-hero—Kiss Me Deadly may be the greatest act of sabotage in the history of movies: a delightfully obtuse, impossible-to-pigeonhole exercise in subverting the expectations of an audience… a film which almost seems to undercut the very genre—detective movie/film noir—from which it springs!

Here is a film, for example, with bursts of sadistic violence interspersed between long, ponderous gaps of shambling detective work in around Los Angeles; cryptic, veiled dialogue, like that listed above as well as a lot of discussion about a sonnet by Christina Rossetti; and a brain-melting plot device and conclusion which set new standards for cinematic nihilism in the age of radioactive anxiety.

Unlike a lot of film noir there is no flashback structure here but, instead, the story involves Hammer’s quest to disentangle a dim memory, in this case that of a woman named Christina (Cloris Leachman in her feature film debut!) with a dark secret who he picks up hitchhiking by the side of the road in the opening scene. Hammer’s quest to track down the meaning of her words terminates in a sort of box, or “great whatsit”—a kind of Maltese Falcon gone nuclear—which many dangerous people are anxious to get a hold of but only the terse, strong-headed hero seems capable of retrieving in this world full of goons and nymphomaniac women.

The film’s famous denouement somehow toes the line between horror and poignancy, leaving the viewer with a mightily unique image seared upon the brain. Other memorable performances in the movie are provided by the likes of Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Wesley Addy, Gaby Rodgers, and Juano Hernandez (the African-American star of INTRUDER IN THE DUST, shown last night as part of the current Film Series in the Best Video Performance Space).

Last week I wrote about how we here at Best Video recently recovered the mother of all overdue movies and how my thinking on the role of credit in our economy then led me to Alex Cox’s quintessential 1984 sci-fi comedy REPO MAN. If you are interested in the spiritual source of that great film (as well as the wellspring and guiding force of many another avant-garde exercise in genre pastiche!)—a glowing thingamajig/MacGuffin-plot device, credits that anarchically scroll backwards, and, perhaps more so than these, a kind of overarching cynical, drained-of-all-sentiment viewpoint of the City of Angels during a time of social conformity—then look no further than this effervescent, sun-dappled, post-Atomic Age noir: also, incidentally, recently re-released by the Criterion Collection!

And if you are interested in other works from this remarkably diverse and talented film-maker—from the old-school freak-outs WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) and HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964) to macho-misfit-extravaganzas like THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) and THE LONGEST YARD (1974) to lesser known treats like EMPEROR OF THE NORTH (1973) starring Lee Marvin and Hamden’s own Ernest Borgnine—they may be found in our Robert Aldrich section, located in Best Directors!

Rob Harmon’s Recommendations 07/16/13

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksRepo Man (dir. Alex Cox, 1984)

Best Video, as you well know, is a rental business, which means that customers rent our property—DVDs, Blu-Rays, and, yes, even VHS tapes—and then return them. Or, at least, that is the idea; when the contract is broken and an item is not returned we, first, benignly attempt to retrieve it (some of you *ahem* are familiar with our “courtesy” phone calls about overdue movies) and then, if that fails, we seek restitution in order to replace it. Generally, the system works well: either people get their rented items back on time or, even better, they bring it back late and pay us a fee.

Of course, things do not always run smoothly. Recently, for example, we recovered a VHS tape from a scofflaw (who shall remain nameless) that was 3,325 days—or 9 years, 1 month, and 10 days (excluding two leap days)—overdue! This particular item had been at the top of our late list for as long as I have worked at Best Video and, among staff, it was regarded as the Holy Grail—nay, the Saddam Hussein/ace of spades—of all overdue movies and I, for one, did not think that I would ever see it returned.

This incident got me to thinking about our system of free market capitalism and how much in it relies upon credit… which, of course, eventually led me to that great satire on the subject, Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, which was, incidentally, recently re-released in a gorgeous new edition by the Criterion Collection.

“Credit is a sacred trust. It’s what our free society is founded on,” proudly states veteran repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), in a movie whose DNA is wound up with the unwritten laws of frontier justice and property.  In Repo Man, released in 1984 at the height of Reaganomics, a bunch of hard-bitten Los Angeles repossession agents—somewhat like your friendly Best Video staff—are in pursuit of a rarefied object of great worth, a sort of “great whatsit,” which, in this case, is a 1964 Chevy Malibu carrying a spectacular bounty for whoever manages to bring it in.

I have seen Repo Man at least a dozen times in my life but I still cannot quite tell you what it is about.  Here is an attempt at a summary: Otto (Emilio Estevez), a self-centered young punk with a massive chip on his shoulder, is one day tricked by Bud into helping him “repossess”—or steal—a car, whose owner has defaulted on payments. In desperate need of money in order to gain some separation from his dead-end existence Otto overcomes his initial revulsion and follows Bud into this vaguely unsavory line of work. Besides the characters who populate the repo company’s office, there also the Rodriguez brothers, a persistent thorn-in-the-side for Otto and his cohorts, constantly stealing, as they do, some of the best cars on the street; some punks with guns, former friends of Otto’s, who spend most of the movie holding up stores; Otto’s girlfriend Leila (Olivia Barash) who works for an agency dedicated to revealing the existence of extraterrestrials; some mysterious government agents, including one with a metal hand, snooping around in the background; and, of course, there is the aforementioned ’64 Chevy Malibu, which has recently arrived in town from Area 51 with a mysterious, glowing something-or-other in the trunk, driven by a half-mad atomic scientist.

If all of this sounds a little wacky to you it is certainly forgivable since Repo Man is a burlesque of the highest order: the “story” here is like some sort of a slippery, anarchic mash-up of countless ideas, narratives, and genres—pureed in a blender to a hilariously disconnected (Molotov) cocktail, flung out at the height of the Reagan years (an imposingly apocalyptic moment if ever there was one!). Yet the film is less an angry howl and more of an absurdly deadpan disintegration of filmic form: the film somehow manages the almost-impossible feat of being all things at the same time, both sweet-natured, 80’s-style coming-of-age comedy and scathing satire of American capitalism, both a buddy picture, social-commentary, acerbic attack on conformity, sensitive evocation of teen angst, work-place comedy, action movie, police procedural, punk rock music video, Western, and a send-up of new-age-y, sci-fi-style transcendentalism!

What more can be said about this film?  It has been said, correctly, that Repo Man is a cult film par excellence, that almost its entirety is “quotable” to an extreme, with off-the-wall dialogue and sequences galore.  But what is missing from our discussion of the film? It is perhaps this, that it is time we freed Repo Man from the basement designation of “cult movie” and recognized it for what it is: inspired madness of the highest order; a comedic balancing act which is well-acted, -written, -directed, -edited, etc.; and exactly the kind of silly, razor-sharp satire which our topsy-turvy American way of life both demands and deserves. Though the film may have its shabby edges and may have stumbled at the box office, initially – only to be later saved by word-of-mouth as well as sales of its soundtrack – it is no fluke or accident but, in fact, a great film.

So, remember this, and we would appreciate it if you got your movies back to us on time….

New Releases 04/16/13

Top Hits
Django Unchained (action, Jamie Foxx. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Django Unchained is unabashedly and self-consciously pulpy, with camera moves and musical cues that evoke both the cornfed westerns of the 1950s and their pastafied progeny of the next decade. [The title comes from a series of Italian action movies whose first star, Franco Nero, shows up here in a cameo.] It is digressive, jokey, giddily brutal and ferociously profane. But it is also a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism.” Read more…)

Future Weather (drama, Perla Haney-Jardine. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 67. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “A delicate wildflower in a garden of weeds, Lauduree, the 13-year-old protagonist of Jenny Deller’s Future Weather, has little resemblance to her relatives in a scraggly Midwestern backwater. A bright, gifted junior high school student obsessed with global warming, she lives in a trailer with her single mother, Tanya, a flouncing Daisy Mae type… This tiny, beautifully acted movie was funded in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of its mission to support films that broaden interest in science and technology.” Read more…)

The Haunting in Connecticut 2 (horror, Chad Michael Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 26.)

New Blu-Ray
Django Unchained
The Quiet Man

New Foreign
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (France/Israel, drama, Agathe Bonitzer. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Set in 2007 and unfolding over a single year, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea [based on a young-adult novel by Valérie Zenatti] is a simplistic but heartfelt engagement with war as experienced by those still growing into their opinions and allegiances.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Repo_Man_DVDRepo Man (1984, Criterion Collection edition of classic dark comedy, Emilio Estevez. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Vincent Canby’s 1984 Times review [requires log-in]: “Repo Man, the first feature to be written and directed by a bright new film maker named Alex Cox, is a most engaging reprieve from Hollywood’s general run of laid- back comedies of simulated nastiness and half-baked nonchalance. Repo Man, which opens today at the Eighth Street Playhouse, is the real thing. It’s a sneakily rude, truly zany farce that treats its lunatic characters with a solemnity that perfectly matches the way in which they see themselves. Its a neo-Surreal, southern California fable, set in a landscape inhabited by failed punk rockers, automobile-repossession men who behave as if they were the knights errant of capitalism, some creatures from outer space, as well as a television evangelist who preaches against ‘godless Communism abroad and liberal humanism at home.'” Read more…
From Dave Kehr’s New York Times review of the just-released Criterion Collection edition of Repo Man: “Mr. Cox would go on to direct the definitive punk romance Sid and Nancy [1986] and a whole series of sly, politically pointed comedies and craftily subverted genre pieces [a favorite remains Three Businessmen, a 1998 fable about the impossibility of finding an edible dinner in Liverpool]. But Repo Man, his first feature-length work, remains a cult favorite, and has now earned its place in the Criterion Collection in a deluxe edition that incorporates a raft of extras, including a hilariously desultory edited-for-television version in which the salty language has been overdubbed by bizarre non sequiturs. Smile when you call me a melon farmer, pardner.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Kumare_DVDKumaré (spirituality, impersonation. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 60. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Faith begins as an experiment and ends as an experience.’ That quotation from the Anglican priest William Ralph Inge, which begins the documentary Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet, evokes the film’s ambiguous exploration of religion, teaching and spiritual leadership. When Vikram Gandhi — the movie’s New Jersey-born director, protagonist and narrator — grows a beard and flowing hair and dons Indian robes to make a film in which he poses as a swami, you anticipate a cruel, ‘Borat’-like stunt. Cynics will expect a nasty chortle when this glib charlatan finally pulls the rug out from under his credulous followers. But the outcome is much more complicated.” Read more…)

Orchestra of Exiles (history, Holocaust, music. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 58. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Richly researched and partly told by some of today’s top-flight musicians, Orchestra of Exiles retraces the world-renowned violinist Bronislaw Huberman’s heroic feat of organizing an orchestra far from the genocidal scourge of the Nazis. While this documentary from Josh Aronson fleshes out every twist in the endeavor with a letter, a reflection or an anecdote, it lacks the storyteller’s sleight of hand that lifts a narrated chronology into something that moves.” Read more…)