Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Class: Once

Potato & Scallion Soup
Tomato-Cucumber Salad (Šopský salát)
Beef & Guinness Guláš (Goulash) w/Buttered Noodles
Ovocné Knedliky (Czech Fruit Dumplings) w/Irish Whiskey Butter Sauce

Wow, a sold out class tonight and a lot of new people. Everything went great except the movie froze twice (first time for everything, I guess). The food turned out quite well and most hadn't seen the movie before and it's always great to watch people seeing a movie you love for the first time.

The two characters in this film form a duet and, in real life, the two main actors/performers also formed a duet, both musically and romantically. But also this film is a duet. A few years after Once was made, a documentary was done which followed the two leads, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, on tour. The latter film, The Swell Season (also the name of Hansard and Irglova's group), shows the real life couple having both gone and going through a lot of changes since they made the former. Shot in black and white, The Swell Season plays almost like a Cassavetes movie with music. And while in some ways, I suppose, it yanks the fantasy out of Once, it also reaffirms the reality that love is something precious, often fleeting, and we must suck every ounce of joy from it while we can when it lets us take a sip from its crazy straw. And if you survive the pain of heartbreak, you might be able to enjoy how nice it was and honor its impermanent nature, which is a lot of what Once is about. And that's a sort of pragmatic Valentine's thought to offer, no? So, Happy belated Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

TV Bites: The Good, The Bad, The Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈)

Grilled Pork Bulgogi Tacos w/Korean Slaw & Asian Pear/Cucumber Relish

Okay, here we are at part two of the "Good/Bad" double bill. Korean director Kim Jee-woon was inspired by Sergio Leone's classic The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (aka the part one of the double bill) to make his film.

I remember when I first saw this movie. It was during Fantastic Fest a few years ago. I sat down, the lights went down and within the first ten minutes I remember thinking, "Oh my god. This movie is amazing." But then a sudden feeling of dread came over me. "What if this is it? What if these ten minutes is all there is and the movie just goes downhill from here? There's no way it can sustain this awesomeness, can they?" But I comforted myself in the thought that at least these first ten minutes just rocked my world. But the movie completely did me in. It never went downhill and it sustained the aweseomeness throughout. As director Kim Jee-woon notes below, so many of the movies he loved growing up inform this, and apparently he and I have enjoyed a lot of the same movies. It's so rare these days to be able to just sit and let a movie not only wash over you but also carry you along on a great adventure. And while some critics panned it as too derivative or whatever, screw 'em. They tend to like movies than make your squirm or hate yourself or the world at the end - not that I don't like such things at times, but this is one of those "strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride" kind of movie. On repeated viewings it holds up and leaves me feeling like a happy 12 year old boy.

Meanwhile, while the east coast is being dumped on by another bout of winter, here in Austin it's already springtime. (And as I write that I have a sneezing fit, thanks to the springtime allergens). And, of course, springtime means one other thing here, time to get ready for South by Southwest. Hopefully, I will discover some great new films and new bands, but mostly it's an opportunity to spend time with out-of-town friends.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

TV Bites: Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l’échafaud)

Miles Davis' South Side Chicago Chili Mack

A version of this post can be found at The Criterion Collection website

Finally we arrive at the long-delayed (also procastinated) second half of the Paris, France double bill. And what a treat it is. With this movie, you get two wonderful things at the same time. First, the movie itself, but also you have one of the most wonderful soundtracks ever created for a film. Miles Davis (no relation to my new kitten) was intrigued to make an improvised recording for the film's soundtrack, but the outcome of that experiment would change not just his musical direction and influence the direction of jazz music in general. (More about this in the Background & Context section.)

And independent of the soundtrack, Elevator to the Gallows changed the cinema landscape, as well. The brilliant cinematography, the editing, the low budget simplicity of it.... The film was released merely moments before the first wave of the French New Wave films came out (though there is a lot of debate as to whether Malle was a member of this group, an honorary member, or not one at all). If Malle is not a card-carrying member of the New Wave (and he himself will argue that he isn't), he nevertheless set the stage for it and busted the doors open so that Truffaut and Goddard could saunter through. Malle's film is the bridge between the French films of the 1950's (Robert Bresson, Jean-Pierre Melville, and others) and the New Wave.

Otherwise, I hope the new year is doing you well. I just sent the Chef du Cinema book proposal out to an agent. Let's hope for the best. I'll be back shortly with the second half of the "good/bad" double bill.