In Features, Issues

SUPER 8

left to right: Crispin Glover in The Beaver Trilogy; Bam-b.com; Jean Luc Godard.


1. Beaver Trilogy. Both guileless found art object and beautifully crafted pop fantasia, Beaver Trilogy is an ineffably strange compilation feature begun in 1980 but only now surfacing in film and video festivals. The film’s first section documents an encounter filmmaker Trent Harris had in 1980 with a confused teen-age Olivia Newton John impersonator in Beaver, Utah. The kid, whom Harris meets on the street, invites the filmmaker to document his act at a high school talent show. Four years later, Harris re-stages this encounter with a young Sean Penn mimicking the teen’s every tremulous lip move. And in the glorious finale, shot one year later, Harris switches from video to film to restage the event once again, this time with a flawless Crispin Glover as the star. Each "re-make" also elaborates further on the original documentary.

With distribution undoubtedly restricted due to music-rights issues, Beaver Trilogy is destined to go down as the coolest footnote to any number of careers.

2. David Holmes. His score for Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight spiced up Clooney and Lopez’s romance with a Miles-ish sonic stew, but now DJ David Holmes returns to making records with his British import Bow Down to the Exit Sign. Although Holmes, who has lived, worked and sampled extensively in New York, continually references the city, Bow Down pulls its inspiration from all over the Eastern Seaboard, mixing shout-out Philly soul with a cool Motor City vibe. ’s Sean Gullette makes a cameo appearance as Holmes remains fixated on film – he’s currently sending out a screenplay, Living Room, to producers along with the album.

3. Baise-Moi The rape-revenge movie is back! Always a queasy blend of feminist politics and the male gaze, the genre replicated itself in the 1970s and ’80s with films like Ms. 45 and Clint Eastwood’s valentine to then girlfriend Sondra Locke, Sudden Impact. But in the ’90s, a truce was seemingly called in this cinematic war between the sexes. The end of the decade, though, saw Boys Don’t Cry – a rape-revenge movie without the revenge. And now French author Virginie Despentes and porn actress Coralie Trinh Thi are scandalizing France – even as they obtain a wide release – with their critically acclaimed hit Baise-Moi (Rape Me), a down and dirty adaptation of Despentes’ underground novel. What’s next? Sandra Bullock in the Joel Schumacher remake of I Spit on Your Grave?

4. Historie(s) du cinema soundtrack. Those unable to wait to see Jean-Luc Godard’s video series Historie(s) du cinema can still listen to it. ECM is distributing a boxed set of five soundtrack CDs along with four books containing German and English translations of Godard’s ruminative text. Godard’s voiceover, snippets of film dialogue, assorted sounds from gunfire to chirping birds are blended and layered with the encyclopedic array of music, from Bach and Beethoven to Bernard Hermann and Meredith Monk. Find it at www.bn.com.

5. Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip, originally published in 1973 as a counter-culture slap to sentimental histories of small town America, is being re-issued this summer by the University of New Mexico Press to coincide with the airing of James Marsh’s film adaptation on Cinemax. Juxtaposing original found photos with newspaper accounts from turn-of-the-century Jackson County, Wisconsin, Lesy creates a satanic scrapbook, replacing sewing bees and square dances with actual cases of suicide, smallpox, madness and witchcraft.

6. www.bam-b.com Tired of one downloadable Flash in the pan after another? Then let "bam-b" – a clickable guide to rubber deer appendages, lollipop straddling waiflettes and hardcore alien propagation – renew your faith in the possibilities of web-page neo-deviance. Created by Dutch-born graphic artist Faiyaz Jafri, a former mural artist with a masters in industrial design and engineering, bam-b.com is a continuely evolving, exquisitely rendered, point-and-sick map to an alternate world – where inflatable mutant-babes develop the sort of sexy sunburn pustules only David Cronenberg might dream about and the various hoof-tips and dangle-drips of the site’s eponymous fawn lead you further and further behind the green door.

7/8. Hollywood East: Hong Kong Movies and the People Who Make Them, Stefan Hammond (Contemporary Books: Chicago); Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment, David Bordwell (Harvard University Press: Cambridge).

Although celebrated in the West, Hong Kong movie-culture today clings by its nails to exploitation niche marketing and the various shadows of Wong Kar-wai, and wonders what happened to its Better Yesterday. These two new books – one by zesty fanboy (and closet intellectual) Hammond (co-author of the seminal Sex & Zen and A Bullet in the Head, the other by zesty super-academic (and closest fanboy) Bordwell – dissect the long march to this current moment with a fascinating set of counter-sciences. Hammond’s is a joyous and patently puerile pursuit – splattered with leering over-valuations of starlets, and pertinent info on where to buy VCD’s and crunchy squid noodles in Mongkok – while Bordwell’s is a quote-rich, lavishly designed, and only semi-starched labor of love, laser-disc collecting and sabbatical-committee payback. Hammond is a Bordwell appreciator. Bordwell, on the other hand, both clearly assesses the degree to which fanboy culture helped make HK cinema an international phenomena, yet slights Hammond’s contributions. He even manages to slip this line into his volume: "The Hollywood of the East is Hollywood." Uh, Professor? Enough with your ninja stars.

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