Posts Tagged ‘ cable car ’

The Garden

GARDEN_IMG3Just arrived: a new documentary from Oscilloscope, The Garden, about the headline-making fight between a group of South Central Los Angeles community gardeners and some back-room-dealing city hall officials who tried to take the gardeners’ land away. The garden was originally given over to the community as a sort of concession following the Rodney King Riots, and over the next ten years grew into a thriving community-run garden — fourteen acres in all — serving a primarily Latino-American population.  The story would have been interesting enough just viewed through prism of the locavore movement gaining popularity through the country right now; but unexpectedly (for me, at least) this is a particularly gripping true-life tale, with a half-dozen unexpected plot twists and a number of nefarious, quietly corrupt political figures who play the role of heartless, self-serving bamboozlers to a T. Honestly, the straight-up evil nature of some of these guys is like something out of a cautionary, near-future science fiction book, and is a sobering reminder of the havoc that corrupt, conniving local figureheads can still wreak, even in the age of information. It all makes for exciting cinema, as tension boils over in the movie’s final act in a scene that eerily echoes the King riots played out at the beginning of the film.

And on a side note: What is the deal with Oscilloscope? Where did they come from? Why are they so awesome? Near as I can tell, Oscilloscope Laboratories was created by the Beastie Boys, but I have no idea what (if any) their involvement in the film side of things may be. Either way, this little production company has spun out a starling number of quality stuff in a very short period of time, many of them small, intrepid documentaries in the vein of The Garden. Among them: Flow, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Unmistaken Child, and No Impact Man (which just recently completed its theatrical run at the Cable Car). They also gave a home to Wendy And Lucy, which I’ve written up previously on this blog. And their cache of upcoming films looks just as promising as everything we’ve seen so far. So who are these guys? Where are they getting the cash to put this stuff out? And where and how are they finding these films?

Advertisements

Three Films By Kelly Reichardt

kelly-reichardtOne of only a handful or so of legitimately independent American directors working today whose films are distributed and seen beyond the realm of film festivals and New York City, Kelly Reichardt (who, according to Wikipedia, is still holding down a day job teaching at Bard college) makes small, minimalist films about cash-strapped, transient people struggling for a sense of place and purpose in contemporary America. None of her films are startlingly original in terms of camera work or content, but Reichardt is really a superbly careful storyteller, and she has an exacting eye for the crucial, sudden turns of plot and character that drive these kinds of tales. Acme carries three of her titles, all of which are worth checking out —

riverofgrasscoverRiver Of Grass: Her debut, and actually the most stylistically adventurous of the three reviewed here, it’s essentially a crime/noir-cum-existentialist-roadtrip, wherein a young mother of two goes on the run from the law — while simultaneously fleeing the ennui of her new motherhood. The main character, Cozy (played by Lisa Bowman), narrates throughout, musing on boredom, fear of growing old, the ‘why’ of existence, etc. And while it wears its influences on its sleeve (Jarmusch, Godard) this is still a pretty cool little film, with solid performances from its two main leads, and loads of beautiful, vaguely eerie photography of the Florida Everglades.

OldJoy_DVDOld Joy: For what it’s worth, this is one of Acme’s more popular titles. Kind of amazing, right? I mean, here you have an 80 minute film about two old friends who go on a camping trip, get a little lost, and go home. That’s pretty much it. Very little in the way of dramatic tension. The most it can claim in terms of pedigree is that Yo La Tengo scored the soundtrack, and Will Oldham stars. Not exactly a sure fire recipe for indie-film success. And yet people rent this movie all the time. And this is where – for those of us who are interested in these sorts of things – Reichardt’s work becomes a kind of case study for the current state of independent cinema in America. My theory is that this is one of those films that lots of people who are interested in cinema have heard about — either through word-of-mouth, online forums, or film columns — but that almost no one got to see because the distributor just didn’t have the cash to really get it out there (I do recall it playing at The Cable Car for a week or two). If you’re at all interested in Reichardt, this is probably the best place to start. And make sure you stick with it to the end — the film’s coda is its most dramatic moment, frightening and beautifully shot.

wendy_and_lucyWendy And Lucy: Remains to be seen if this will prove to be Reichardt’s breakout film. It was certainly written up more than any of her previous work, and deservedly so — it’s (probably) the best thing she’s done so far. Based on a short story by Jonathan Raymond, it tells the story of a temporarily homeless woman who gets stuck in a small railroad town (as with Old Joy, this one is set somewhere in the Northwest) while trying to make her way up to Alaska. Two things, in my mind, raised the bar on this one. Reichardt gets legitimately great turns from all her actors — Michelle Williams won high praise for her role as the lead (she continues to prove a versatile, able actor), and Will Oldham, Wally Dalton and Larry Fessenden all turn in visceral, if brief, performances. And tonally, it’s a triumph: there’s a constantly looming sense of ruin, with the main character Wendy teetering perilously close outright financial and emotional collapse as a series of mishaps keep her stuck in this one small town. The character, in many ways, feels like a more clearly drawn version of Oldham’s Kurt from Old Joy — both characters are wandering and disillusioned, but Raymond’s story puts more pressure on Wendy, forcing her further and further from her comfort zone. One hopes this film is evidence of a further maturation of Reichardt’s style; American cinema is fairly starved for this kind of filmmaking right now — or anyway, even if those films are out there, we’re not seeing them.