Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

MMC! is happily celebrating this Canada Day with Wavelength (1967), Michael Snow’s legendary experimental film. Essentially a slow 45-minute zoom through an empty Canal Street industrial loft (save for four brief sequences of human presence), Snow has called the film “a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings and aesthetic ideas.” Notwithstanding the appearances of its few human beings (including experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton and art and film critic Amy Taubin), Snow aimed to create “a definitive statement of pure Film space and time, a balancing of ‘illusion’ and ‘fact,’ all about seeing.” The camera is Wavelength’s true subject and its presence is always foregrounded thanks to the intervention of gels, superimpositions, and other visual effects and the intensifying sound of a sine-wave increasing the speed of its repetition. The artificial mechanism of Snow’s reproduction is never lost, but the slow progress of the camera, the static space of the room, and the drone of the sine-wave creates an experience that is both tedious and anxious, however the effect is also meditative, providing the spectator with room to consider Wavelength’s tensions between outside and inside, permanence and impermanence, and the space between ourselves and the cinematic apparatus. This “diary of a room” is hailed as the definitive “structural film,” an experimental mode typified by a fixed camera position, a flicker effect, loop printing, and rephotography, and it has become a canonical work of avant-garde cinema, with its initial screening in 1967 being hailed by experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas as “a landmark event in cinema.”

For those without the patience for Wavelength, there is WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time) (Michael Snow, 2003) which cuts the film into three equal portions and then superimposes them, creating a new film experience in the process (although one that is likely most rewarding having first seen the original).

Clapping Music (Peter van der Ham, 2005)

In anticipation of our next proposal for a Criterion treatment, MMC! thought it might preview that upcoming discussion with an oddly related short – Peter van der Ham’s Clapping Music (2005). The film performs Steve Reich’s minimalist score “Clapping Music” through a scene from John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967) where Angie Dickinson flails away at an impassive Lee Marvin, hitting him 1,344 times before crumpling at his feet. The effect of the short is fascinatingly hypnotic and it offers a kind of weird portrait of cinematic chauvinism in its exaggerated futility.

And so, if you like van der Ham’s Clapping Music, Point Blank, and novel editing choices, you should love MMC!’s next imagined Criterion edition! (Maybe I’ve said too much?)

Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2008)

SHUT UP OR DIE!

Shock jock Grant Mazzy has been kicked off the airwaves and now works the only job he can get as the host of CLSY’s early morning radio show broadcast from the basement of a church in the small Canadian town of Pontypool. What begins as another mundane day of school bus cancellations quickly turns deadly when bizarre reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and committing brutal acts of violence. Before long, Mazzy and CLSY’s small staff find themselves trapped in the station and struggling with the reality of a deadly virus being spread through language. Does Mazzy stay on the air in hopes of informing the public and saving himself or is he providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world?

Based on Tony Burgess’ 1995 novel Pontypool Changes Everything and inspired by Orson Welles’s 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, Pontypool blends George Romero and David Cronenberg with Noam Chomsky and Richard Dawkins and creates a zombie apocalypse unlike any other.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Feature-length audio commentary with director Bruce McDonald and writer Tony Burgess
  • Original radio drama with optional slideshow of on-set photos taken by Caitlin Cronenberg
  • A New Arrangement for Life, a new interview with McDonald and Burgess looking back on Pontypool
  • Johnny Deadeyes and Lisa the Killer, a new interview with actors Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle
  • Infected Words, a new video appreciation by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Siege Mentality, horror film scholars Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West on the Canadianness of Pontypool
  • Watching Night of the Living Dead, Canadian artist Dave Dyment’s 2018 reproduction of George Romero’s 1968 horror classic using clips taken from film and television that include footage from Night of the Living Dead
  • Two short films by Britt Randle: Dada Dum (2007) and Eve (2001)
  • Original theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Tim Robey

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A Fair(y) Use Tale (Eric Faden, 2007)

This year’s “Top Film Discoveries” list is still four months away but certain themes are already revealing themselves. In many ways, 2019 is MMC!‘s year of collage and found footage as it includes wonderful city symphonies like Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (Walter Ruttmann, 1927) and Études sur Paris (André Sauvage, 1928), Luigi Cozzi’s 1977 psychedelic remix of Godzilla (aka Cozzilla), and the activist work of Craig Baldwin. Our next two Criterion Collection proposals will celebrate the art of appropriation and so we set that table with this informative review of copyright principles prepared by Bucknell University Professor Eric Faden. Be careful not to take the existence of A Fair(y) Use Tale (2007) as a statement on its legality as Disney never challenged Bucknell’s use of its content. Take this instead as evidence that the only thing that trumps the Mouse House’s enforcement of copyright is its care not to establish a disadvantageous legal precedent.

Josie and the Pussycats (Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, 2001)

Designed for the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favorites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.

LONG TAILS AND EARS FOR HATS!

Re-discover the Pussycats, Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook), Melody (Tara Reid), and Val (Rosario Dawson), three small-town musicians with big dreams but little future! The chance of a lifetime arrives out of the blue when Wyatt (Alan Cumming) of MegaRecords signs them to an awesome recording contract without even hearing them play. Suddenly, Josie and the Pussycats are living life in the fast lane with sold-out concerts, chartered jets, a number one single, and global stardom. Their good fortune comes at price however and the Pussycats soon discover that they’re being used by their record label’s maniacal CEO Fiona (Parker Posey) to control the youth of America. Featuring a hit soundtrack of pop-punk songs and purr-fectly hilarious performances, Josie and the Pussycats is a modern cult classic about friendship, rock music, and capitalist conspiracies.

Special Features:

  • NEW HD Film Transfer
  • NEW “Back To Riverdale” With Directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont and Stars Rachael Lee Cook, Rosario Dawson, and Tara Reid
  • NEW “Here and Meow” With Singer Kay Hanley
  • NEW “In Through The Backdoor” With Actors Seth Green, Donald Faison, and Breckin Meyer
  • Audio Commentary With Directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont and Producer Marc Platt
  • Backstage Pass
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Josie and the Pussycats “3 Small Words” Music Video
  • Dujour “Backdoor Lover” and “Dujour Around The World” Music Videos
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Notes

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My Chattanooga Top Ten!

The 2019 Chattanooga Film Festival is now done and dusted and its winners have been announced. Giovana Olmos won the Student Filmmaker Award for Sweet Tooth, Dylan Meyer took the prize for Best Short with Rock Bottom, Andi Morrow’s Pusher the Movie won for Tennessee Filmmaker, Bethany Brooke Anderson won Best Feature for Burning Kentucky, and the Audience Prize went to Billy Senese’s The Dead Center. Senese’s film, shot in Nashville, was the only award-winner that I saw and it was an enjoyable horror experience, featuring an ancient evil unexpectedly held in a hospital’s psychiatric ward and a frustrated doctor forced to face this unexpected threat. The filmmaker’s own experiences with mental illness obviously inform The Dead Center and the film finds legitimate scares in the friction between its institutional setting and its supernatural menace. Still, the movie fails to make the most of its concept by remaining too vague in its characters and its monster, missing opportunities to ratchet up its stakes and bring its audience even closer to The Dead Center‘s dark core. I would encourage horror fans to check out The Dead Center but MMC! had favourites of its own and the best of the best were found in the “CFFeatures” section.

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