Let’s take a look at another city symphony while we wait for the next MMC! proposal, specifically Francis Thompson’s wonderfully distorted tribute to life in New York City! Thompson’s short film celebrates the rhythms, geometries, and absurdities of city life through a variety of fanciful lenses, prisms, reflectors, and editing techniques (all of which Thompson was quite secretive about). Originally a painter and an art teacher, Thompson began his filmmaking career with The Evolution of the Skyscraper in 1939 and later won an Academy Award for To Be Alive! (1964). In a frequently quoted comment on the film, Aldous Huxley remarked on Thompson’s ability to escape colour photography’s tyrannical claim to verisimilitude and use the medium to further the voice of non-representational art. Huxley observed:
And then there is what may be called the Distorted Documentary a new form of visionary art, admirably exemplified by Mr. Francis Thompson’s film, NY, NY. In this very strange and beautiful picture we see the city of New York as it appears when photographed through multiplying prisms, or reflected in the backs of spoons, polished hub caps, spherical and parabolic mirrors. We still recognize houses, people, shop fronts, taxicabs, but recognize them as elements in one of those living geometries which are so characteristic of the visionary experience. The invention of this new cinematographic art seems to presage (thank heaven!) the supersession and early demise of non-representational painting. It used to be said by the non-representationalists that colored photography had reduced the old-fashioned portrait and the old-fashioned landscape to the rank of otiose absurdities. This, of course, is completely untrue. Colored photography merely records and preserves, in an easily reproducible form, the raw materials with which portraitists and landscape painters work. Used as Mr. Thompson has used it, colored cinematography does much more than merely record and preserve the raw materials of non-representational art; it actually turns out the finished product. Looking at NY, NY, I was amazed to see that virtually every pictorial device invented by the old masters of non-representational art and reproduced ad nauseam by the academicians and mannerists of the school, for the last forty years or more, makes its appearance, alive, glowing, intensely significant, in the sequences of Mr. Thompson’s film.
In anticipation of our next found footage Criterion proposal, MMC! is taking a brief and relevant tour through a favourite genre – the city symphony. We start with the unconventional example of Claude Lelouch’s C’etait un rendez-vous (1976), a thrillingly accelerated tour through Paris, from the Paris Périphérique tunnel, around the Arc de Triomphe, through red lights, up one-way streets, and across centre lines to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Lelouch’s then-girlfriend Gunilla Friden. Lelouch shot the film himself one Sunday morning in August, driving a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 with a camera mounted to its front bumper and reaching a top speed of 200 km/h, although the film’s soundtrack is dubbed to the sound of the director’s Ferrari 275GTB. The short gets much of its charge from the fact that Lelouch is obviously not driving on a closed course. In fact, Lelouch had only one assistant along the route, Élie Chouraqui, who was posted at the Rue de Rivoli with a walkie-talkie to caution Lelouch on the blind junction located on the other side of an archway. The radios failed but Lelouch thankfully had a green light.
Those looking to connect C’etait un rendez-vous with our upcoming proposal might consider the short’s unconventional approach to the city symphony, the prominence of driving, and the potentially self-destructive actions undertaken for a beautiful blonde at an old basilica.
(Believe it or not, MMC!‘s next Criterion proposals are forthcoming. In the meantime and in anticipation of our next two proposals which deal with practices in appropriation, I thought we might consider another animated treatment of media ownership and access, this time from Japan!)
In a recent piece for Locus Magazine, Cory Doctorow laments the failed promise of digital media and selective rights management. In the article, Doctorow recalls how the digital revolution promised infinite distribution, customized rights to content, and cheaper prices. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Access is limited and often temporary, pricing remains static, and choice is dictated by owners who rights seems to be held in virtual perpetuity. Doctorow’s most pithy and salient point comes near the end of his editorial – “There’s a name for societies where a small elite own property and everyone else rents that property from them: it’s called feudalism.”
With feudalism comes poachers, bringing to mind Hiroyasu Kobayashi’s wonderful animated short Cassette Girl (2015). The film, one of the best from the Japan Animator Expo series, offers a beautiful pastiche of anime tropes, including a spunky young adventuress, her giant mecha companion, and an elaborate transformation sequence with obligatory undressing. The girl and her ‘bot search for vintage content on old video cassettes, causing them to run afoul of the tyrannical media police and initiating an elaborate battle that dominates the short. What makes Cassette Girl so impressive is its spectacular embrace of hard media and actual ownership. Physical possession is not merely a means to defeat Cassette Girl‘s media police, but a transformative process that remakes the world itself in favour of its media-poaching heroes (complete with full frame parameters and minor tracking issues). If only the battlefield over DRM were truly this awe-inspiring!
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.
- 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
HE’LL TEAR APART A CITY TO SAVE HIS DAUGHTER
When a vicious psychopath mistakes the daughter of tough ex-cop Sean Boyd (James Brolin) for the daughter of a wealthy developer and kidnaps her for ransom, Boyd goes on a city-wide rampage to get her back. Fighting his way through 42nd Street porn palaces and Bronx gang territories, facing street thugs and crooked cops, Boyd’s unrelenting search through the urban decay of New York City is a pulse-pounding, action-thriller in the gritty spirit of Dog Day Afternoon and Taxi Driver.
Based on the novel by William P. McGivern (who wrote the original serial for The Big Heat) and featuring wild performances by Cliff Gorman, Dan Hedaya, Sharon Mitchell, and Mandy Patinkin, Night of the Juggler is a stunningly grimy portrait of the Big Apple at its most fetid and a relentless thrill-ride of brawls, car crashes, dog attacks, and knife-fights!
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Held Hostage, new interview with actress Abby Bluestone
- Along for the Ride, new interview with actress Julie Carmen
- At the Peep Show, new interview with actress Sharon Mitchell
- Theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by cult cinema critic Steven Puchalski
Regular readers may know that the MMC! household is pretty Godzilla crazy. Couple that with Father’s Day passing not long ago and you can guess how happy we were to discover Cressa Beer’s The Godzilla Kid (2019), a very entertaining Spaghetti Western/kaiju/father and son mash-up prepared as a bumper for the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Festival. Described by The A.V. Club‘s Randall Colburn as the “year’s best Godzilla movie,” The Godzilla Kid features a stop-motion Baby Godzilla riding a T-Rex across the frontier on a giant monster-hunt, then pulls an adorable switcheroo. Be sure to stick with the film through its credits to enjoy one last hilarious gag and check out Beer’s YouTube page for more Godzilla-inspired fun!