Oct 242014
 

demy2

No Jacques Demy film after The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was ever quite so colorful, so pattern on pattern or beautifully contradictory visually. The intensity of feeling in the locked tight, wallpapered chambers of that film seems simultaneously sullen and vibrant. The feelings are all over the place, and the colors speak to that spill, but the patterned stripes and foliage keep trying to lock things into a sort of pulsating stasis. Catherine Deneuve, particularly, seems to cower in the frame, traumatized by the schizoid frequencies. It’s the sixties, and Victorian decor is, briefly, possessed and reanimated by psychedelia; will be, until the possibilities exhaust themselves and political upheaval revives austerity. There’s that. But the schema works as a strange metaphor for boundless feeling bubbling up through provincial decorum, too; expressing a sense of emotion pushing at the limits of skin, the pressures of adulthood closing in on youth, reality outpacing fantasy.

demy3

The furniture and art in these rooms look to have been inherited from previous generations. The colors and patterns might merely be projection, hallucinated by Deneuve, what she wants of life superimposed onto what she can reasonably expect to be given. No one makes the right decisions in the film, but the wrong decisions are the only available resources. Deneuve marries a wealthy jeweler. Her first love and the father of her child goes off to war and, learning about Deneuve’s marriage upon his return, marries a woman who arguably loves him more than he does her. The riotous colors seem to distract and confuse everyone, and they end up conducting themselves in keeping with the inherited furniture, arranging predictably.

demy4

The deployment of color and pattern speaks to the silly gorgeousness of love, not just first love or unrequited love but love in general, in all its shaky, spazzy permutations: the way it can clash with its environment, refusing to conform to common sense; the way it tends to take over like a virus, changing everything, distorting reality, then informing it; the way love is an environment, its own mental mise-en-scène; the way it embroiders consciousness with ever elaborate, ever more unlikely displacements, requiring and refusing adjustment.

9212_4

Four years later, Deneuve appeared in Buñuel‘s Belle De Jour, a far less colorful film but equally preoccupied with confinement and the psychological strategies enlisted to escape it. Deneuve is Buñuel’s furniture in that film and resists his arrangements even as she acquiesces to the suffocation of his upholstery. It feels like a sequel that wakes from the dream of the first film and tries to revive it. All the possibilities of color have been drained out of the picture, confined somewhere in the psyche. Deneuve keeps trying to break out of this vice grip – by sexual violence even, if that’s what it takes to rupture things. She keeps locking herself in rooms that have forgotten what color looks like.

umbrellasofcherbourg

Sep 112014
 

papermoon

Paper Moon, 1973

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Featuring Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal

When Addie’s mother dies, Moses Pray, a former suitor slash john shows up at the funeral. The funeral is decidedly middle of nowhere, prairie in all directions, and other than Pray, and discounting the droning preacher, only maybe two people have attended: two elderly women, probably cast locally, who’ve made Addie their charge. Moses (Ryan O’Neal) happens to be passing through and stops to pay his respects (“I know your backside is still warm,” he whispers to the coffin), but the women seize his resemblance to Addie (Tatum O’Neal, “same jawline”) and while they can’t manage to burden him with parenting the nine year old they’re able in this film populated with con artists to persuade him to drive her to her aunt’s house a few states away.

So the movie is playing on the whole It Happened One Night schema of opposites stuck in a small situation together, seeking refuge from the great wide open, rubbing each other the wrong way; referencing dust bowl iconography (the photographs of Dorothea Lange, notably), The grumpy adult child faces and curve ball verbal outlandishness of The Little Rascals, the history of road to nowhere movies and small time gangster films.

Moses cheats widows out of their deceased husbands’ money, selling them never-ordered Bibles he’s embossed with their names, after tracking their misfortunes in the obituaries. Your husband ordered this for you but I can see you’re in a bad place so I’ll just give you a refund, unless you want something to hold onto that memorializes him in death by contradicting the thoughtlessness that characterized him in life, etc. Addie turns out to be an even better con than Moses, jacking one sale up from his modest 7 bucks to 24 – so he delays the aunt situation indefinitely, and the two stay in various flops that dot the map between their designated marks. He also owes her money, and she intends to be paid back, so there’s that.

At one point, overnight in one of these bare bulb motel rooms, after Moses has gone to bed, Addie gets up and quietly locks herself in the bathroom with a cigar box full of mementos from her mother. In the box are pearls, postcards, and what looks like a half ounce bottle of Evening in Paris, with its classic hourglass meets urn silhouette. The very best thing about this scene – aside from the wisdom of Polly Platt’s art direction (a star of this film as much as either O’Neal); aside from the idea of such a tomboy taking an interest in such a feminine perfume; aside from all the standard implications of a scent reviving memory, conjuring the dead – is the fact that Addie, posing in front of the mirror as a distorted facsimile of her mom, douses herself in the stuff the way a man would the cheapest splash cologne, slapping it on her neck, her cheeks, and finally, for good measure, wielding the bottle like a salt shaker on each shoulder.

From this the movie cuts to the next morning, a tight shot of the front seat of the car Addie and Moses spend most of their time in, this little black box theater in which they endlessly articulate their Punch and Judy routine. Moses keeps sniffing the air, wrinkling his nose like they’ve passed an animal carcass on the side of the road. He finally figures out the stench is Addie, who seems pleased to be noticed for her perfume, her mother’s drag, satisfied to have magnetized attention this way. But she can’t command it for long: Moses opens the window over the dash, airing out the cab, and Addie’s face flatlines back into the limits of its frustrated childishness.

 Posted by on September 11, 2014
Aug 292014
 

This picture appeared on Paprika Steen‘s Instagram page 1w ago. Every once in a while, lurking and scrolling, I see a picture, like this one, and wonder what’s going on…

paprika

What’s going on? Where was this picture taken?

Paprika: At The shooting of the intro to Danish Dancing With The Stars. My legs and my dancing partner’s.

Was this before you went on stage?

Paprika: Yes, before everything.

Did anything surprise you about the experience?

Paprika: Yes. I fell down on the stage and hurt my foot because they forgot to nail the flooring down. And I was surprised how entertaining it is to me to just dance.

Obviously dance and acting are very different. What did you find they shared in terms of performance and execution?

Paprika: Performance wise it’s actually the same but the execution is different. I’m used to a lot of improv and this is all about remembering and rights and wrongs. It’s a sport not an art form. This kind of dance, I mean. This is in Danish called sports dance. So many rules. It’s very inspiring for me as the old Indie movie improv Dogme queen to try this. I wonder if I’m ever going back to acting after this. Naaah, maybe I will after all.

What were you thinking, as far as you remember, when this photo was taken?

Paprika: I thought, Damn, I have good legs for a 49 year old not dancer. And then I thought – Some will think they’re not mine.


Paprika Steen is a Danish actress and film director best known for her performances in the films FestenThe Idiots and Open Hearts. Steen was the first Danish actress since Karin Nellemose in 1994 to win both Best Actress (for Okay) and Best Supporting Actress (Open Hearts) in the same year at the Robert Festival, the Danish equivalent of the Oscars. She directed her first film, Aftermath, in 2004, followed by With Your Permission in 2007. Recently she appeared in Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On.
Aug 282014
 

I talk to Cam Archer pretty regularly, and like to think I know what he’s up to (collaborating on screenplays with Amy Belk, working on shorts he describes in detail over the phone, picturing how to make a documentary as the possibilities take shape in his mind, riding his bike, swimming in the ocean, teaching, etc.), so seeing this short yesterday, a piece I had no idea he’d worked on, was a useful reminder how little you ultimately know the people you believe you do. That was an interesting place to be watching Rickie Lee Jones and Her Horse, which pays such close attention and tries to listen so openly to its subject. I was curious how he got to a place he could observe so free from the kinds of assumptions this shows me I make routinely…

– Brian Pera

When did you film this?

This was shot in 2012 just outside of Los Angeles on 16mm color reversal film. The stock has since been discontinued, so the look is already history. I thought maybe the footage would be used in a larger piece, but then I recently discovered that it worked by itself.

How did you describe to Rickie what you wanted to do?

I had just started a new project, my first documentary, which I knew was concerned with my creative process, or my relationship to images. I was having new feelings about making images and I started to wonder if they were doing me any good. I wanted to step away from my instincts, my tendency to control images, and capture something wild. I knew there was something special between her and Ella and I wanted to see if I had the ability to be patient and collect it. Rickie understood this and invited me to the ranch where Ella resides.

horse

How long did you spend with her to collect this material?

We spent a few hours together. We shot, then I asked her some things based on what I’d seen. I left my voice in the piece because I didn’t feel like pretending that I wasn’t there, or that I didn’t have something to do with what was being captured. I had no intention of making the piece into some specific thing, so it left everything open, casual. Rickie was excited to do something she hadn’t really done before.

How long have you and Rickie known each other and what about her made you want to see her this way?

I met Rickie through David Tibet (CURRENT 93) in 2007. I approached her about playing Sissy Spacek’s neighbor in this film I was trying to get made at the time called PULL. The project never came together, but I knew after meeting Rickie for the film that I wanted to work with her regardless. She has this ability of sounding simultaneously wise and exhausted about everything. I love it. I’ve only ever felt one of those things. I’ve always admired Rickie’s music, but I didn’t want to try and make a music video because it seemed too easy. In 2010, I had Rickie narrate my film SHIT YEAR, a lot of which she improvised, brilliantly. I’d seen Rickie taking care of Ella during one of our recording sessions for the film and it was a relationship I had no idea if I would be any good at, which interested me, and years later led to this film. I wanted to understand what she got out of it, but I also wanted to give a sense of what it might be like to have a casual conversation with her about something she’s not known for, or something she hadn’t had any intention of documenting.

horse2

What went into the sound design? I know you go out and record things. What kind of ambiance were you hoping for?

Lately, I’ve been working a lot by myself, and using a lot of natural recordings. I used to create a lot of sounds, but now I just wait for them. The sounds in this piece are probably from all over California. It’s mellow, isn’t it? The wind almost sounds like it’s patiently reminding itself how to sound like wind. I like that.

The tone of the short is so nice, like you’re privy to her inner thoughts. It feels really intimate and quiet and lucid and it makes me wonder how you feel about the noise we’re living in right now. There’s such an intentional pace, and I guess that patience feels like a peaceful but emphatic resistance to me.

It is a quiet piece. I spend a lot of time alone. I walk, I bike, I swim… Even when you’re exercising, concentrating on some physical task, your mind goes to this quiet, helpful place. The piece feels a little like that. I try to keep away from the noise. It all looks the same to me anyway.

Jul 172014
 

bennett

[An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her Instagram photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film therein]

The actor is really big in Japan. In America, he’s merely tall.

The director saw him during a trip overseas. Alone in his hotel room, watching TV in a language he could neither speak nor make heads or tails of, he saw a commercial for Maxwell House.

Inexplicably, the actor was served fresh coffee at a stop light. A butler approached the car and handed it to him through the open window. They exchanged smiles and did what looked like a high five.

(Must have been a cultural thing?)

The problem of casting: the guy is tall. So very tall. Very few actors are this tall. He’s like a skyscraper and in the audition footage various teeniny people appear to be shouting up to his observation deck from the ground floor. The actor stooped to hear them, providing this unconscious courtesy as if apologizing for his height.

The director pulled him aside.

I chose you because you look like you. You are making yourself not look like you by this thing you’re doing. I’m sure the actors appreciate it but I can tell you the audience likes the Empire State building in large part because it is way up there and they are way down here and this discrepancy speaks to something in their soul or their gut or whatever.

Imagine the Empire State building as a four story walk-up.

The actor was like, Am I stooping??

He was most certainly stooping.

Yeah, see, you’re not a walk-up. You can hear God’s stomach grumbling up where you are.

So there was that, and once that was resolved, everything kicked into gear.

What they did was they changed the script. They changed the story. What the director realized was – who needs to see anyone else, when you’re looking at the Empire State building?

Investors needed to see someone else. Investors wanted tits, specifically. Who goes to see a movie about the Empire State building, they laughed (with their sharp shiny teeth showing).

(The director didn’t bring up Andy Warhol.)

The movie now involves voyeurism. So it is the director looking at the Empire State building, admiring its – what? – majesty? Beauty? Vertiginous solitude?

What’s vertiginous? said the investors, hiding their teeth.

The movie is about looking at the Empire State building and seeing everything it sees. The movie is about that architecture and the phenomena of distance.

The Empire State building is out on a boat for reasons which are never fully explained. A murder was committed on land, and the boat has been taken to as a hideout. It’s the boat and the Empire State building out in the middle of nowhere.

At first, the Empire State building is at peace on the boat. For once no one is clambering to get up to the observation deck.

But there are binoculars in a compartment under the steering wheel (does a boat have a glove compartment?) and when the Empire State building finds these he becomes obsessed with their telescopic potential.

The tag line of the poster: “It’s lonely at the top.”

So much going on over there on the coast. So many little dramas and intrigues. Sub plots ensue. A vacationing family of four are constantly arguing – it gets heated – and violence erupts.

What about the tits? the investors asked during pre-production. They needed assurance that tits would be viewed through the binoculars. Who plays the mother? How old is she? Is this a topless beach?

So it’s a topless beach. And all the arguing takes place au naturale. Concessions were made.

For the investor, it’s a movie about tits.

For the director, it’s a movie about beauty and heights which can’t and maybe shouldn’t be scaled.

[Image of Bennet Foster by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there: mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook. See also: Bennet Foster’s band Magic Kids, and his out of this world voice]

 Posted by on July 17, 2014
Jun 232014
 

LINE still3

I have incorporated flicker into a number of my short films, as a means to distress and distill found materials, and amplify moments of hysteria. Rupturing the normal illusion of motion created by 24 or 30 frames per second, flicker forces the viewer into an altered register of vision, pushing the limits of what our eyes can process. I find it has the potential to feel assaultive, soothing, and orgasmic all at once, and is most satisfying in a large theater, where the strobing light actually overwhelms the viewer’s spacial perceptions – making it possible to lose one’s bearings within both the image and the room. And I do this in editing, by masking away or coloring the film or video frames in simple patterns (i.e. two frames of black, one frame of green, two frames of image, copied and pasted forever).

My real attachment to the technique stems back to the final episode of Twin Peaks, which scarred me in all the best ways as an enthralled, terrified nine-year-old viewer in 1991. Somewhere between the collapse of the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant and the mid-2000’s, I also came to ingest a fair amount of flicker-heavy experimental cinema, and it was actually a 2006 projector performance by Bruce McClure that inspired me to throw some red and blue flicker at my then-in progress piece, Light Is Waiting. I hate to think that I have a standard arsenal of tricks, but given that heavy doses of flashing light have shown up in seven of the eleven films I’ve made since 2007, I think it’s safe to say I’ve developed a habit.

(Pictured above: A still from the short Line Describing Your Mom, and the short itself)

__________________________________________

Michael Robinson (b. 1981) is an American film, video, and collage artist whose work explores the joys and dangers of mediated experience, riding the fine line between humor and terror, nostalgia and contempt, ecstasy and hysteria. His work has shown in both solo and group shows at a variety of festivals, museums, and galleries including the 2012 Whitney Biennial, The Walker Art Center, MoMA P.S. 1, The International Film Festival Rotterdam, The New York Film Festival, The London Film Festival, REDCAT Los Angeles, The Sundance Festival, Anthology Film Archives, The Images Festival, Whitechapel Gallery, and Tate Modern. Michael was the recipient of a 2012 Creative Capital grant, a 2011-2012 Film/Video Residency Award from the Wexner Center for the Arts, a 2009 residency from The Headlands Center for the Arts, and his films have received awards from numerous festivals. He was featured as one of the ’50 best filmmakers under 50′ by Cinema Scope magazine in 2012, and listed as one of the top ten avant-garde filmmakers of the 2000’s by Film Comment magazine. Michael holds a BFA from Ithaca College, an MFA from The University of Illinois at Chicago, and his work is available from Video Data Bank and Carrie Secrist Gallery.

 Posted by on June 23, 2014
Jun 212014
 

production

 

An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film shot there

 

The woman who owns the house put signs up all over the place before the production arrived. Do not throw paper towels in the toilet bowl Do not hold flushing mechanism down indefinitely FRAGILE Do not leave this door closed you will lock our cat inside the room and she will starve we love our cat as you love yours Do not eat or drink in the house Do not Please Thank you please do not.

She has an agent in New Orleans and a long list of credits as an extra on IMDB. Had anyone bothered to look – and really who felt the need to, as much as she talked about it? – the aggregate of her characters’ names might have served as a warning sign of their own: Grumpy woman in store, Prissy mother of the bride, Indignant lady at pie sale, Tantrum thrower #2, Hot mess at Sunday picnic.

The story of the film is typical hipster stuff – inarticulate boy meets slightly more articulate girl, falls in love(??), has an argument which is more like a pregnant pause, kind of makes up – or smirks more benignly. Whatever. Events presided over by mildly snarky best friend, who would make a much better girlfriend if he weren’t a guy, rendering all this a little more unnecessary.

Everyone on the crew was a critic, which is to say they were the first to tell you, unless you were the director, that they hadn’t made it through to the end of the script. The grip didn’t read it, he said, but that didn’t deter him from arguing for the fog machine.

The director said no to the fog machine and it’s a real testament to either the grip’s arrogance or his stupidity that he tried to use it anyway. The director was in the bathroom. Do not use the towels use the paper napkins PLEASE. The fire alarm went off and because the woman who owns the house was in the shower – Do not come in! – where she couldn’t hear it – Knock loudly PLEASE – the fire truck was dispatched. Cost to production: 100 dollars.

The day the production finished shooting at the house the woman emailed something like 150 photos showing damages to the property. Infinitesimal scratches to the wood floor, blink and miss it stain on the carpet No Food In The Bedrooms PLEASE, slight wallpaper rip on the switch plate.

Tear the whole house down, the director muttered. Clearly it’s ruined. Rebuild it from scratch. The insurance agent assigned to the production told the director he’d experienced quite a few Koo Koo Bananas in his time. This woman took the cake and ate it.

Six months after production wrapped the woman who owns the house was awarded an insurance settlement of 10 thousand dollars – over twice the amount paid to the highest profile member of the cast, three times the cost of catering – making this a most expensive use of a free location.

The actor playing the hipster lead fucked a production assistant in the front yard of the woman who owns the house. This behind a bush no bigger than a pretty revealing bathing suit. He might have given the wardrobe guy crabs by the pool three days later. Please DO NOT lean sit or stand on the deck chairs thank you.

The crabs might also have come from the line producer, who spent a lot of time talking about communicable diseases and more than a little time flirting with at least ten other people, extras cast in a party scene, all of whom seemed exceptionally conversant in the signs and symptoms of gonorrhea.

Extras Do Not please do not under any circumstances enter the living room or the dining room or the bedrooms to the left rear of the house thank you. Damage to right rear bedroom: path worn on carpet from door to vicinity of king size bed.

The director yelled at the DP over whether or not to use a Dana Dolly for what seemed to the director like every other shot. The language of the ubiquitous signs posted by the woman who owned the house took over the thoughts and speech of everyone involved with the production, eventually, each conversation filled with the punitive ring of Do Not.

Later an attempt was made to counteract this kind of thinking by adding the spirit of Please, muddling things further. The signs won. The woman of the house ultimately felt vindicated, the much maligned diarrhea of signs she generated proven not just annoying but prophetic. Under every kind thought, a Do Not, gussied up by a feeble please.

The director said later he was trying to make a film people would watch because so many films are so unwatched by so many people. There is a great widespread problem of not watching and the film it was hoped would serve as a corrective to this affliction. The director’s strategy veered between total (if inarticulate) candor in the script and scenes of people not having sex but being nude in places where the possibility of sex seemed imminent or recently exhausted.

It was decided, consciously or unconsciously, that a dearth of male nudity has done very little to contribute to the phenomenon of not watching. Thus the actress playing the lead remained generally unclothed.

Because she wanted to seem like one of the guys, drawing attention away from her vanity, she continued to decline the terry cloth robe offered to her between takes. The crew later concurred that she really did seem like one of the guys, with the addition of breasts and a vagina.

Walking naked down to the first floor (nude descending a staircase) she tripped over a half finished styrofoam cup of coffee and so she is dressed in more of the film than originally intended, not to preserve her modesty, because after all modesty is not watched misspelled, but to conceal the cast on her left leg and the burn mark on her abdomen.

A picture of the resulting stain was among those submitted by the woman who owns the house for insurance purposes. In the meantime, three more signs were posted. Do not loiter on or around the stairs PLEASE please please no food or drink in the house including coffee someone has been injured and burned people please.

Later the director told anyone who would listen (in addition to a problem of not watching there is inarguably a hand in hand problem of not listening) that the failure of the film to be watched had everything to do with that fall from the stairs, a fall still called a descent so as to minimize the incident for liability purposes.

The still photographer and the caterer were probably the most interesting people on set. Did anyone else see the suitability of the balcony for enacting scenes from Romeo and Juliet, substituting Shakespeare’s scenes with choice dialogue from the film? This the still photographer and the caterer did in pidgin Spanish with Russian accents. The video went viral.

(Image by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there:mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook)

 Posted by on June 21, 2014
Jun 132014
 

waiting

An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film shot there

12  EXT. OFFICE BUILDING – MORNING

Billy was raised Bill but friends, and others who hear them, call him Billy. He’s never bothered to express his disdain for the nickname, mostly because he has so few friends, so few of whom actually truly know him, that the familiarity of Billy (the affection in it?) registers as some sort of balm, even as it seems like they’re all talking to someone else who isn’t him.

You don’t know how long he’s been living in Omaha, or whether he was even born here, but he seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t waste too much time in a town where people knew what he was doing or looked like, say, ten years ago.

He’s smoking outside this building while a woman across the street pushes a shopping cart five feet this way, five feet that. She has a wig on. There’s a dog in the shopping cart and the dog wears a wig too. This woman is talking to this dog. Billy’s behind a column where he can’t be seen, so he watches the two pretty openly – the woman seems to think she’s in an argument – until a guy wearing the same white scrubs Billy has on approaches, asking him for a cigarette.

Billy lights it for him and looks at his own cigarette, wondering how much longer he could reasonably be expected to stand out here and talk. The guy settles into a stance that says You and I are hanging out here, This is a moment.

Guy: I’m so hungover.

Billy: Yeah…

Guy: I told this girl I didn’t want to see her again but she shows up at ten and I’m like… And she had this really good wine. I’m not gay or anything but it was fruity and I don’t normally like wine because it’s so…dry? Or whatever. This was like, not dry? Really fruity. I guess that sounds gay. It’s not like I have to have sweet drinks, with little straws in them. I’m basically a beer guy. I keep my pinky pretty firm on the glass.

Billy: She’s your girlfriend?

Guy: We fooled around.

Billy: Last night?

Guy: (nods) And a couple times before. I feel like she was out at Target after the first time, registering for our wedding. You can feel it when they’re like that, right? Like they go to Target for soap and stuff and they see a frying pan on the way over and they’re like, This is what we will cook our breakfast on, me and The Guy.

Billy: Yeah…

Guy: You’re usually afternoon, I thought. What are you doing here so early?

Billy: I traded shifts with Angela.

Guy: I’m so hungover, man. Like, can I even find a vein today? I don’t know.

Billy: Are you still drunk?

Guy: Possibly. Do I smell like it?

Billy: I can’t smell you.

Guy: You’re not very close, though.

Billy stares at the guy.

Guy: I’m not gay or anything, but I’ll be closer to the patients than I am to you, you know?

Billy: Yeah. I don’t smell anything. The wind’s blowing you over here and I’m not getting anything.

Guy: Do you drink?

Billy: Sometimes.

Guy: Cause I said I was hungover and you went, Yeah, like you are too.

Billy: I’m not hungover.

Guy: You’re really quiet. I didn’t realize you were so quiet. I heard you’re leaving.

Billy: Who told you that?

Guy: Moving to…Africa?

Billy: Alaska. I guess my cigarette’s done.

Billy and the guy stare at the butt.

Guy: You should light another one. It’s not even ten to seven yet.

Billy: I’m not finished with this one.

Guy: You just said you were done.

Billy: I mean, it’s still lit, though.

Guy: I’d smoke another one if I had a pack.

Billy: Are you… Do you mean you want one?

Guy: Oh. Sure. If you’re offering, man.

Billy removes the pack from his pocket and extends it to the guy, who takes another cigarette.

Guy: You’re not going to have one?

Billy stares at the pack. He goes to take one and has this little thing for a second where the unfinished cigarette is still in his other hand and it’s like he’s stupid and can’t figure out what to do without a third hand. The guy acts like this happens to him all the time. He reaches over, takes another cigarette, and waits for Billy to stub the butt out against the column. He hands Billy the other cigarette and Billy lights it.

Guy: She has tattoos and a piercing down there.

Billy: Angela?

Guy: The girl from last night. Are you high, or you’re just…quiet?

Billy: I’m not high.

Guy: It’s way too complicated down there. Not generally, you know? I know what I’m doing. I don’t need a road map. But it’s like, aargh, way too much going on.

Billy: The girl from last night…

Guy: (nods) What are you doing in Alaska? Do you know anybody there?

Billy: I got a job on a boat.

Guy: You’re leaving benefits for a job on a boat? Do they have benefits? How much does it pay?

Billy tries to think which question he will answer if it turns out he’ll have to pick one.

Guy: Just want to get away?

Billy: A friend died a few months ago.

Guy: In Alaska?

Billy: Here. A couple of blocks away.

Guy: Hit by a car, you mean, or…?

Billy: She was in her apartment.

Guy: Wow. That’s… Okay. I don’t know what to say. Were you guys close?

Billy: She was a friend of mine, yeah.

Guy: Wow…

The two stand there, smoking. Billy watches the woman across the street, who has switched wigs with the dog in the shopping cart and is retracing her steps over and over along the sidewalk. She doesn’t even turn around. She just walks backwards – and starts over again.

Guy: I guess it’s time to go in.

He puts out his cigarette.

Guy: See you inside?

Billy: Sure.

Guy: Don’t tell anybody I’m hungover. You can’t smell it on me?

Billy: You’ll probably just smell like smoke.

Guy: Good point, bud. You gonna finish your cigarette?

Billy: Yeah…

The guy smiles and turns to the door, enters and leaves Billy standing out with his second cigarette.

 

(Image by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there: mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook)

 Posted by on June 13, 2014
Jun 112014
 

I first encountered Dungeons & Dragons as a shadowy ritual happening upstairs, in Tony’s older brother’s bedroom. Following my eleven-year-old friend up the carpeted steps of his family home in Tierra Santa, California, down the afternoon hallway, into the dank boy cave of Larry, a long-haired teenager whose dwelling place was lit only by cracks in curtains and glowing green computer screens. Larry sat cross-legged on his bed, atop a horde of strange books and sheets of graph paper with numbers and maps scrawled all over them.  A small statuette of a red dragon on the dresser, a table sprinkled with polyhedral, transparent dice, fake gems tossed around by the older brother, whose tight pair of dark jeans he seemed to wear every day, whose brown hair was greasy, and whose face was fey. He was, I was about to learn, a Dungeon Master.

Then I saw a televangelist doing a presentation one Sunday morning so early cartoons hadn’t even started; I watched with my younger brother as a man with a mustache and curly hair, in front of a dark curtain, behind a lectern, lectured on the dangers of D&D, describing it as a satanic game leading children to devil worship and suicide. He held up the cover of the Dungeon Master’s Guide for scrutiny: a knight with a sword and his friend, a man in a blue robe – whose hair was the same style as Larry’s – stood below a glowing, red, naked, devil man wielding a giant scimitar across his muscular naked body, giant red pecs and abs and arms articulated by the artist with great precision, a loin cloth hugging the big demonic loins, the monster’s face distorted and pointy toothed, horns yellow, and in his other hand a naked blonde lady in a gold armor bikini, holding a little dagger. When my brother and I told my parents that we wanted D&D, they seemed to feel that it was a good idea for us to play it because Born-Again Christians, of which there were some in our actual neighborhood, thought it was devil worship and anything they condemned, anything that scared them, my mother and father suggested, was probably good.

My brother and I went to the game store with our mom, and she bought the books and the dice and even some lead figurines, and my brother and I set about learning the rules of the game, its mythologies and fictions culled together to form its pliable mise en scene. As the older brother, I became the Dungeon Master, but when the Sega Master System entered our home, my brother was lost to me as a player, and I was a Dungeon Master without a campaign, a lonely thing to be. And so I set about looking for people to play the game with, at first following other boys from the bus into their little rooms and their little scenarios, limited by their narrow interpretations of the game, always a search for magic weapons: swords that suck your soul, armor that cannot be penetrated, and spells to eradicate entire cities in balls of fire. (One time, on the bus, the bus driver, a chubby guy with a wispy mustache and hair like Larry’s but thinner, taught me a lesson: I told the kids that they were confronted by a “bugbear.” They said: “What is that?” I assumed they knew already and became frustrated that they hadn’t read the Monster Manual thoroughly.  The bus driver said, “You have to describe the monster. It’s like a bear with a beak, and then they will know what you are talking about. The name doesn’t matter to them. Just to you.”) Also on the bus, I found a pair of sisters who had always wanted to play but felt weird about the boys who played it. I invited them over and played D&D with them.Their characters had names like Fyrne Meadowblossom and Claire de Lune.  And so Junior High was spent in dreams based on Shakespeare and Ursual LeGuin, ElfQuest comics and Dragonriders of Pern and all the other feminine genres of fantasy of the pre-Harry Potter era.

In 9th grade, in large part thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s success with The Phantom of the Opera, I decided that Broadway Musicals would be a more productive obsession around which to orient my aspirations. After securing my position at the top of the drama club as its president in 11th Grade, I suggested ironically that we play D&D and ironically, everyone agreed. Around my parents dining room table, teen sex angst and insubordinate aggressions were worked out and worked over: most of the kids decided that their characters were aligned chaotic evil, lawful evil, chaotic neutral and true neutral – rarely, chaotic good (which is still my philosophical outlook) or (like one kid) lawful neutral (just to be weird). I had to keep the players – like the inexplicably popular dark-haired sociopath Beth who played an evil elf – from killing each other – as she did to Cesar, the cute also dark-haired sociopath,  slaying his gnomish thief in the middle of the game, which lead to wrestling in real life between the two, their lust so entertaining to me, and all the more interesting as I was, after all, the Dungeon Master who had put it into play. I would help Sean’s true neutral ranger with hints on how to find treasure, so that Sean, with the blond sideburns, sad eyes and a big nose, would be more inclined to sleep over after, and we could listen to the Smiths together in my bedroom.

I played Dungeons & Dragons, a convivial, relational game form based on chance – as in the rolling of oddly shaped dice – and role-play. Nerds gravitated toward this pre-virtual RPG, asocial, awkward, but together, at our parents dining room tables, we could collectively imagine another place, ourselves another group – racially diverse band of elves, half-orcs, gnomes and dwarves – of whatever gender we chose. And it wasn’t a coincidence that these gatherings would often end in a slumber party, and that the games themselves took on a queer coloring, if repressed by adolescent anxieties and complicated by the homophobia of the Reagan Era and the beginnings of AIDS. A storyteller always, I often served as the Dungeon Master. This game is one of the origins of my own understanding of myself as a person, a queer, and this may be what I am reenacting in making the work that I now think of as art.

(Above: Shakuntala DuBois, 2012)

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Alexandro Segade is an artist based in Los Angeles who, apart from his work with the performance group My Barbarian, has presented his own performances and videos at LAXART,REDCAT and Artist Curated Projects in Los Angeles; Migrating Forms at Anthology Film Archive in New York; Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco; the 2014 Whitney Biennial; and Vox Populi in Philadelphia. His project, Replicant vs. Separatist, is a science fiction genre discussion of gay marriage, which received a grant from the Durfee Foundation in 2010. He received an Art Matters Grant in 2011 for a collaboration with artist Wu Tsang. Segade earned a BA in English from UCLA (1996) and an MFA in interdisciplinary studio art from UCLA (2009). He currently teaches performance, video, sculpture and public art at the University of Southern California and serves as performance faculty at Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts.

 Posted by on June 11, 2014
Dec 062013
 

advent

 

Thanks for participating everyone. The drawing is now closed. Winner announced tomorrow.

MYEvery year, perfumer Andy Tauer does an Advent calendar, with daily giveaways on different blogs. For perfume lovers, it’s a highly anticipated event – a chance to win soap, perfume, and other things Tauer – and each year is more exciting because Andy is pretty prolific, and there’s always something new to try.

ingrid still for ingrid dvd

Most of my friends have heard me talking about Andy, or know about our Evelyn Avenue collaboration, now three years running (my film series Woman’s Picture, his accompanying perfumes through Tableau de Parfums), but most of them aren’t acquainted firsthand with his work.

A few weeks ago, we released Ingrid, the third Tableau fragrance, which is now available through the Evelyn Avenue store and at various retailers, among them Luckyscent.com. Ingrid, like Miriam and Loretta before it, is pretty stunning, a meditation on the past from a decidedly contemporary perspective. Like Miriam and Loretta, Ingrid is a perfect fit for the character and story of the same name which inspired it. Ingrid the character has a lot going on under an impossibly poised surface, and for me the perfume captures the mood of the film (also available in our store) and of Calpernia Addams’ performance. It’s been a high point of my experience as a filmmaker collaborating with Andy, investigating together the ways scent and persona combine and influence each other, speaking across mediums through our work.

tauer_flacon_Ingrid_front_8bit-2(1)

Now that the next film in the Woman’s Picture series is finished and going out to festivals, Andy and I are talking about where to go next perfume wise in relation to that story and its characters (played by Grace Zabriskie, Amy LaVere, Lindsey Roberts, Angela Dee, and Savannah Bearden). If Dark Passage, the limited quantity scent we did for the film’s kickstarter campaign, is any indication, the collaboration will only get better as we move forward. You can see the trailer for Only Child on the Evelyn Avenue home page.

You have to smell Andy’s work to believe it, so I’m excited to participate in the Advent calendar this year; even more excited that he now has an Explorer Set, which includes three 15 ml atomizers, a great way to get to know the scents. To be eligible in the draw for a Tauer Explorer Set, please leave a comment on this post telling us what films you saw this year that really spoke to you. We’ll draw the winner through random.org the morning of Saturday, December 7.

(Pictured above: Calpernia Addams as Ingrid and Sally Stover as her mother in a still from the film “Ingrid”)

 

 

 Posted by on December 6, 2013