June 13, 2006

You Can't Take the Art House Out of Cinecultist

With the Cinecultist in full summer blockbuster movie binge mode, loyal readers who dig our art house coverage may be worried that our Pavlovian response to the flashy opening weekends may have rotted our brain. Not to worry, CC's still making time for the indie, the foreign and the academic strands of our movie fandom. Case in point the following three recent flicks:

- Funny Ha Ha (DVD rental). We can't quite recall why this ended up in the Netflix queue but needless to say we liked it's low fi, rom com charm. Starring Kate Dollenmayer as Marnie, it's about a slightly disaffected 24-year-old who's graduated from college but is feeling a little lost. She drinks too much, has a dumb temp job and has a thing for her friend Alex (Christian Rudder) who may or may not be single. Jeez, that sounds all to familiar to CC from our own salad days. This is one of those movies where very little happens, yet the smallest gesture or look between these very "real" characters communicates so much about their experience. Andrew Bujalski, we await the rest of your career with eager anticipation.

- Peacock (closing film at Brooklyn International Film Festival). Programmed by those crazy kids at Subway Cinema to close out BiFF and as an entry in their own festival (screening June 22 at 8:30 pm), it's a 2 plus hour movie about a family struggling through the Cultural Revolution. This may sound like snooze city but CC found ourselves quite engaged by this elegantly shot film which reminded us a bit of Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, though without the jokes. While we're still a bit baffled by what the appearance in the final scene of the titular peacock actually represents, we enjoyed the vignettes about each of the three siblings.

- Dead Birds (MoMA's To Save And Protect Festival). A few weekends ago, our friend Adriane shot us an email asking if we'd like to see a documentary at MoMA later that day. Only thing was, it was a 1964 ethnographic film about the Papuans in West New Guinea by Robert Gardner. Sometimes it's a good idea to just say yes to such a strange movie request, without any preconceived notions or expectations and this time was no different. Somehow Gardner was able to capture this ancient and seemingly untouched society on film, as the subjects deal with the continuing warfare between tribes and the customs associated with community and religion. Seeing a movie like this that's about a world so remote from our own makes us rethink all of our cultural assumptions of normality. If an anthropologist looked in our our lives from a different world would our beliefs and rituals seem as alien? While the god-like voice of Gardner's narration is a bit too omniscient for comfort at points, the fact that he's able to get that close to real fighting with spears is beyond impressive.

Posted by karen at June 13, 2006 11:30 PM