Friday, March 12, 2021


Meshes Of The Afternoon / Da Mystery Of Chessboxin' (Wu-Tang Clan)

One thing this ongoing series has shown is that Maya Deren is one of the most influential filmmakers within certain lanes of cinema (experimental, avant-garde, surreal, etc). She’s rubbed off on everyone from David Lynch & Jim Jarmusch to Nicolas Winding Refn & Carlos Reygadas.
But her influence doesn’t stop at just movies. Her DNA is all over the music videos of artists like Madonna, Janelle Monae and Wu-Tang Clan (music videos are essentially short films). She’s even inspired certain lanes of underground & experimental hip-hop (Busdriver, Beans, Exile, etc).
Outside of the fact that the mirror-faced grim reaper character from Meshes Of The Afternoon has become a commonplace image over the years, a lot of the photographers, directors and artists behind the music videos shown below have a background in avant-garde & experimental art where Deren is often studied, so these connections have some merit...

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Electroma (Daft Punk)

It should be noted that the type of martial arts being performed in Deren's Meditation On Violence is Wu-Tang...
Meditation On Violence / Da Mystery Of Chessboxin' (Wu-Tang Clan)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / We're All In Power (Exile)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / We're All In Power (Exile)

Exile's entire Radio album was inspired by Meshes Of The Afternoon

Beans with a subconsious/coincidental nod to Maya Deren on his more recent album covers:
Meshes Of The Afternoon / Someday This Will All Be Ash (Beans)
Meshes Of The Afternoon / Nights Without Smiles (Beans)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Tightrope (Janelle Monae)

Studies In Choreography For Camera / Justify My Love (Madonna)

Studies In Choreography For Camera / Love Will Never Do Without You (Janet Jackson)

Studies In Choreography For Camera / Love Will Never Do Without You (Janet Jackson)

Studies In Choreography For Camera / Love Will Never Do Without You (Janet Jackson)

At Land / Cherish (Madonna)

I know black & white imagery of someone running alone on the beach is pretty common, but considering this video was directed by Herb Ritts (director of both Cherish & Love Will Never Do Without You), it's safe to assume the Deren influence didn't just stop at Janet Jackson & Madonna.
Also, Chris Isaak's Wicked Game is connected to another student of Maya Deren. Not only did David Lynch direct the original video for this song, but it's also featured heavily in Lynch's Wild At Heart...
At Land / 
Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Notebook (Busdriver)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Notebook (Busdriver)

Both of these are bookended with similar visuals:
Ensemble For Somnambulists / Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel)

At Land / Hot For Teacher (Van Halen)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / THEHIDDENCHARACTER (???)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Space Is The Place (SunRa)

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Gentlemen Who Fell (Milla Jovavich)

At Land / Gentlemen Who Fell (Milla Jovavich)

Monday, March 1, 2021


John Paizs' Crime Wave (not to be confused with Sam Raimi’s Crimewave which came out around the same time) is an amazing mix of surreal humor and the deconstruction of 1950s/1960s nostalgia (noir films, pulpy crime novels, Norman Rockwell paintings, etc). It’s like an entire season of Leave It To Beaver under the creative control of Kenneth Anger. And if that doesn’t work for you, imagine a cinematic stew of everything from David Lynch & The Coen Brothers to True Stories (The Talking Heads) & the dark side of Elvis Presley’s personal life.
For those of you that are unfamiliar or visiting PINNLAND EMPIRE for the first time - I’m very much in to cinematic comparisons (both intentional & unintentional) and visual similarities. Crime Wave is all of those things and more so I was very drawn to this

John Paizs doesn’t shy away from the possibility that he may (or may not be) influential in some way...

The Coen brothers...they were sent CRIME WAVE very early on by my distributors to see if they might have any suggestions for a recut of the film or whatever - John Paizs

Crime Wave / Raising Arizona

Crime Wave / Raising Arizona

What I do know is that about five years after, they came out with their own postmodern writer’s block dark comedy, which even had its own made-up movie genre, the wrestling picture. And of course I’m talking about BARTON FINK - John Paizs

Crime Wave / Barton Fink

The basic plot of Crime Wave centers around an author (Steve) in the midst of a serious writer’s block (he only gets inspiration late at night when the street light outside his room comes on). The majority of the story is told from the perspective of a young girl (Kim) whose parents rent a room to Steve while he figures out his next book idea (Kim is both very observant and also has a huge schoolgirl crush on Steve).
But the basic premise doesn’t do the film justice. There’s a serial killer dressed up as Elvis, a horny sadistic cowboy and interludes that come right out of Ren & Stimpy. Crime Wave feels like a footnote in the development of early 90’s Nickelodeon programming (Pete & Pete, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Ren & Stimpy, Rocco’s Modern Life, etc) or modern day Cartoon Network Adult Swim programming (Tim & Eric, The Shivering Truth, Joe Pera, Eric Andre, The Heart She Holler, etc). I think that’s what fascinates me most about this film. It’s filled with a ton of influences and it also went on to (possibly) influence later films in the same lane.

I came across this movie while I was in the middle of a serious Guy Maddin phase. Maddin has always been one of my favorite modern filmmakers but it only hit me recently how much I love his work. Reading everything I could about his early career eventually lead me to his fellow Winnipeg contemporary; John Paizs.

A young Guy Maddin appears in a few of Paizs’ early short films...

Maddin often shouts out Paizs in interviews so it only made sense to check out his films (Crime Wave is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and his excellent short film; The International Style is on YouTube). Turns out, I was familiar with Paizs’ work without even realizing it. He not only directed episodes of Kids In The Hall, but he also directed the 1999 sci-fi satire Top Of The Food Chain which I’d seen once over two decades ago as a teenager. That’s when it all clicked. Everything suddenly made sense. The same satirical approach in Top Of The Food Chain can be found in Crime Wave. The same voice-over narration (courtesy of a young girl) found in some of the skits in The Kids In The Hall sketches are rooted in Crime Wave...

The “It’s a fact girl” had to have been influenced by Kim in some way...

Crime Wave /
The Kids In The Hall

Steve’s fascination with the radiator in John Paizs’ Crime Wave (below) reminded me of Eraserhead (top), then I came to find out Eraserhead’s tone was kind of an inspiration for Crime Wave...

I’d always imagined that this would play at a midnight movie, kind of a cult movie and that this needed special handling. It needed to be directed at the same audiences that were going to see, for example, Lynch’s Eraserhead. That wasn’t part of the market that they had experience - John Paizs

Eraserhead /
Crime Wave

This branches off in to more possible Lynch connections with stuff like the cowboy in Mulholland Drive...

Mulholland Drive /
Crime Wave

Mulholland Drive /
Crime Wave

And Lynch’s cinematic first cousin (and Canadian hero) David Cronenberg also seems to have rubbed off on Paizs/Crime Wave

Videodrome /
Crime Wave

The similarities between Crime Wave and David Byrne’s True Stories are also undeniable...

True Stories / Crime Wave

True Stories / Crime Wave

I’m also reading from multiple sources about how much Paizs loved Kenneth Anger and how he inspired some of his work. It definitely shows...

Rabbit's Moon /
The International Style 

Scorpio Rising /
Crime Wave

Scorpio Rising /
Crime Wave

Scorpio Rising /
Crime Wave

The visual similarities extend beyond film & TV...

Other possible darker visual influences can be traced back to everything from Friedkin’s Cruising to the frustrated writer in The Shining...

The Shining /
 Crime Wave

Cruising /
 Crime Wave

I feel like this movie (along with everything else in Paizs’ filmography) was made specifically for me. I still can’t believe it took me this long to see Crime Wave but I guess it’s better later than never.
I do have to shoutout my friend David Davidson of Toronto Film Review who tried his best to get me to watch Crime Wave for the last 6 years...


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