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Saw this film as part of the 2008 Palm Springs Film Festival. It was gratifying to see Sam Wagstaff finally revealed as, perhaps, the last great aesthetic champion of the late 20th century. While his personal and art-world public relationship with Mapplethorpe both energized and eventually demonized them both, theirs was, whether consciously or not, the most prophetic of Faustian bargains. The realms and clash of class, culture, money and infamy are as old as all stories, but here it is put in our contemporary, American, queer America, specifically, the heady days of an always-changing New York City in the 1970s. As a coda to Patricia Morrisroe's superb 1995 biography, Mapplethorpe, this film correctly posits Wagstaff as the artist's pre-eminent guide and counselor; while both men were intensely gifted, it was the man, the curator and the collector Wagstaff whom we must always cherish and remember for the dazzling, singular vision he made in his world. What bothered me about the film was as much who they spoke to as much as they DIDN'T speak to - I'm sorry, but Dominick Dunne was the Hedda Hopper/Robin Leach of the 70s New York art world, and his inclusion cheapened the film for me. Raymond Foye was Henry Geldzahler's boyfriend at a critical time in the Wagstaff/Mapplethorpe relationship, and I would have liked to have heard more from Ingrid Sischy (then editor of Artforum, now editor of Interview). And it seemed remiss not to include the art critic Klaus Kertess, who was among the most influential critics at the time, and/or Dimitri Levas, who was for a long period of time the major domo of Mapplethorpe's studio. The only dealer that was interviewed was Robert's first, the late Holly Solomon - the true commercial nature of the Wagstaff/Mapplethorpe relationship was forged through the Robert Miller Gallery and it's directors, Howard Read and John Cheim - THIS is where the true Mapplethorpe phenomenon was forged - yet there is no pursuit of this important aspect of both men and their conjoined destinies. Patti Smith, as should be wholly expected, is the living muse of both these men and our film's guide. I think that she, like many of us, is somewhat surprised to still be around - but we are. On balance, this is an excellent documentary of a very worthy subject, and poses the fundamental question: would we know either of these men if they had never known each other?
Simulcra - The Bad Old Good Old Days
Of COURSE these two guys would be 1/the first guys to actually tackle the now historical premise of the double-feature 2/bring it indoors from the outside-Akron drive-in movie where it WOULD have played if drive-ins were not out-numbered by drive-thrus; 3/to mix it up across the board not only racially but by giving us NEW vixens that even Russ Meyer would yield to. That the technical artistry utilized to make it look bad/authentic IS artistry. And while comparisons between the two features is unavoidable, Rodriguez's pastiche was absolutely as wonderfully ridiculous as Tarrantino's; "Planet Terror" is homage to what we saw; Quentin's film is where this all is GOING. Everybody has a great time - the audience, the cast (Kurt Russell is remarkable, and kudos to ALL the fine ladies who partook), and all of you who take the considerable time to go on the ride. Stupid, wonderful, gross and ridiculous fun at it's zenith. And so absolutely American it will be required viewing at ALL European film schools - Derrida, anyone?
We go backwards in time to go forward in time
Flat out AMAZING. When I had a moment to think, to make ANY level of comparison to this beautiful achievement - I realized that 300 was to this new technically auspicious century what Flash Gordon must have been to audiences of the 1930's; and then there is the epic Japanese film 'RAN', and then, of course, there is Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'. The allure of illusion, sumptuously presented. This Sparta, this Greece, is nuanced through an almost Maxfield Parrish setting of pastoral idyll, and mountains of bodies. And what bodies! - although I felt that for the Spartans three body-type versions were synchronized to supposed flesh in post-production, it really didn't matter. While I understand some would have us read into this contemporary war morality issues - I couldn't have cared less (and as for contemporary war morality issues - I care a LOT). This film brought out the wondrous boy in me, and the astounded aesthete. THAT hasn't happened in a very long time. This isn't Leslie Neilson's ('Airplane') gladiator movie. I congratulate all associated with it.
Factory Girl (2006)
We always get the artists and divas we deserve, people :)
I, too, met Andy Warhol when I was in college in NYC, in the generation that just followed the one 'depicted' in Factory Girl - and met him several other times as I participated in the New York art world of the 1980s. What this film (on paper at least) was attempting (I believe) was the notion of the modern, American, living and breathing muse of an artist. The almost ridiculously heterosexual Spaniard Picasso was the last European example for American art, and it is truly apt and amusing that in the post-Eisenhower American art world Edie would be the muse/invention of an avowedly asexual homosexual - and yes, that doesn't make sense ON PURPOSE.
We make our monsters and our heroes, and we hate it when they go beyond our purview and control.
This movie was a mess - if it had been filmed LIKE a Warhol film I (perhaps) could have stood the ridiculousness of it all.
Andy, to my mind, was the most perfect bag of dirt that the world he grew up in helped fill; and now, kids, you have Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton - need I continue??
The patina of time will do nothing for them - because NOW 15 minutes is 15 seconds, and don't you have better things to do as time increasingly makes everything moot?
The Sad Tragedy that is Truth - METH is Astounding
I just saw this movie at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where I believe it is the only film by a local director. And I believe it is in the same league as "The Thin Blue Line" and "Paris is Burning" on a myriad of levels. While built on a fairly standard documentary-film archetype, there is a lushness and, for lack of a better word, 'gloss' to the extraordinary beauty, color and composition of the film that it speaks to the intense subject matter with an ironic, knowing nod. The men who participate in this film were men of intelligence and awareness who remain men of intelligence and awareness; however, what they have learned of themselves through the loss the misery and the depravity they embraced is the hard fact that they were good people BEFORE, they just didn't believe it. And sadly, some still don't. My only concern with this truly courageous, fully-to-truth's-edge film is that the people most in need of it will NOT see it, by their choice. This director is strong and total - and he needs to be acknowledged for this extraordinary accomplishment. This film hold back nothing, and it's genius is that while a cautionary tale, it's presentation will make you KNOW why meth is an alluring, power-hungry bitch. Kudos.
We continue in spite of ourselves
I have just seen 'Forever' at the Palm Springs Film Festival, and Pere Lachaise is not only a special place in Paris, but a monumental place on Earth. This film allows us to see both the direct and indirect connections that Life and Death provide us, should we choose to see them and respect them. We are Art, but most times the relics of our corporeal selves is better represented by our stories, all informed by our incredibly particular experiences. By balancing the extraordinarily noteworthy inhabitants of Pere Lachaise with the simply extraordinary (and those of us left behind who acknowledge and respect them) 'Forever' reminds us that the democracy of death has startling and profound connections to all who live - you are alive if you feel pain, joy, inspiration, and love. And perhaps Death's best attribute given back to the living is Love.
Inland Empire (2006)
David Lynch, Misogynist and Purveyor of Self-Parody
While absolutely true to the visual tropes many of us have come to thank director David Lynch for from "Eraserhead" and"Blue Velvet" forward, "Inland Empire" is best suited to an earlier, and in a sense, more nuanced form of the art - silent films.
Lack of narrative notwithstanding, the director seems to promote the old Hollywood noir portrayal of an independent/disengaged woman reminded that she (and by extension, most other women) is still a whore, an idiot, and probably psychotic.
Laura Dern has never particularly impressed, but her 'acting' at acting here was strong and effective; nonetheless, she is Lynch's Hitchcock bitch.
This film is too much an amalgamation of previously effective Lynch signatures which, taken together, are absurdist in the least French of ways.
I saw this film at the Palm Springs Film Festival - I would estimate that even in the respectful tenor of an audience that is open to challenging films, dozens and dozens of people walked out - they had better things to do, evidently.