Monday, March 1, 2021

CRIME WAVE



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...




Friday, February 26, 2021

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA: EPISODE 157 CHARLES BURNETT RETURNS...


We’re honored to call legendary filmmaker Charles Burnett a RETURNING guest.

On the latest episode of Zebras we delve in to his seldom discussed late 90’s television period (NightJohn & Selma Lord Selma specifically), which also happens to coincide with black history month (this episode also aligns with the 25th anniversary of the release of NightJohn).

But Black history month or not, this is a timeless episode with plenty of replay value well beyond February.
Listen as we discuss everything from the importance of education & the distribution of information to the unsung careers of everyone from Bill Cobb to Clifton Powell.

Did you know Charles Burnett recently spoke with one of the most critically acclaimed active filmmakers working right now? Listen to find out who.

Click here or the image above to go to the episode...

Friday, February 19, 2021

THE SCHOOL OF CHANTAL AKERMAN: ENTRANCE

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance


Safe, Swallow, Silent Light and a handful of other indie/arthouse favorites are often listed as films influenced by Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman...
But outside of this blog and my own personal twitter feed, I seldom see the underrated slow burn horror masterpiece Entrance mentioned alongside the aforementioned films. And it should be...


Comparisons to Akerman, and Jeanne Dielman... are undeniable. We’ve been on record also citing the Dardenne brothers as huge influences. Both resonated as a mode of production style and atmosphere for us. 
Jeanne Dielman.../Lorna's Silence/Entrance
It focused in particular on a fascination with the day-to-day lived experience that was enigmatic on its own. There’s a certain vitality in watching someone carry out the well-practiced, work, chores, etc. When we were shooting Entrance, we would constantly encounter some sort of hiccup (construction crew showing up down the street to pour cement all day while we shot, the garage across the street burning and having a big tarp thrown over it in-between shoot days, rain, traffic, all of it), and Dallas [Hallam] would just keep saying; “Let it in. We gotta let life in instead of fighting it if we’re going to make this movie.” - Patrick Horvath, co-director of Entrance


Not only do both films share some of the same shots (with similar context), but the pacing is similar and both movies are quietly/sneakily depressive stories from the perspective of lonely/isolated women.

So as a follow-up to my recent post about Akerman’s subconscious influence on Joe Pera (click here), here’s a handful of visual comparisons between Jeanne Dielman... and Entrance.

Enjoy...



Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... / Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance

Jeanne Dielman... /
Entrance


Monday, February 15, 2021

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 155: SHAKA KING/JUDAS and the BLACK MESSIAH

Director Shaka King returns to Zebras to talk about his highly anticipated sophomore feature; Judas and the Black Messiah (if you’ve been paying attention to any recent entertainment news then you know it’s one of the most talked about films of the last few months).

At the time of this episode’s airing, Judas and the Black Messiah will be on HBOmax, and select theaters (be safe people).

Listen as we delve in to topics concerning the nuance of pulling off regional accents to the lasting impact that Fred Hampton made in such a short period of time.

Shaka is a not only a friend of the show but also a friend of ours in real life (if you aren’t familiar with his pre-Judas filmography we highly suggest you get familiar, and there are some links provided to some of them included here). In true Zebras fashion we also talk about everything from current rap music favs & and Scott’s film score work to memories of the last time we were all together in one place prior to Covid.

Click the image (courtesy of Saskia Khan) to go to the episode. Enjoy...


Also, make sure to DM me on twitter @PINNLAND_EMPIRE to purchase the final remaining Zebras t-shirts...



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

DOC'S KINGDOM



The most intriguing aspect about Doc’s Kingdom is it's timeless, borderline sci-fi ambiance. Part of the reason it feels so timeless is because the majority of the film takes place in a part of the world that time has forgotten (a regional of Portugal). The movie was made in the late 1980's but it could just as easily be 1960 or 2020. It’s almost like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Not exactly but kind of. The architecture in Doc's Kingdom doesn't look dated and there aren’t any cars or other obvious artifacts to give away the time period. The clothes worn by the actors are basic white t-shirts, simple blazers, button down shirts and khaki pants. These are clothes that could be worn at any point in time. Even the music - a progressive mixture of electronic, live instrumentation and light sampling - makes it even more difficult to pinpoint a specific year. 
All of these elements combine to form a really cool fever dream of a movie.

Stalker /
Doc's Kingdom

Stalker /
Doc's Kingdom

Stalker /
Doc's Kingdom

Stalker /
Doc's Kingdom


In addition to Tarkovsky, there also appears to be a clear Bresson reference later on in the film...

The Devil Probably /
Doc's Kingdom


While there is a lot of seemingly pointless meandering throughout the film, the basic plot is about a young man (Jimmy) who sets out on a journey across the world (from New York City to Portugal) to find his estranged father (Doc) after his mother passes away.
Doc’s Kingdom feels like a first cousin to Claire Denis’ L’Intrus. In L’Intrus you have the estranged father/son relationship, a similar timeless feel and the same overall disorienting tone. Both movies take us across the globe in the same way. Kind of like in a dream. Sometimes when you dream you find yourself in different surroundings every few minutes and you can’t remember how you got from one place to next. In L’Intrus, one minute we’re in the French countryside and the next minute we’re in Korea. Then we’re suddenly on a nameless Polynesian island (L’Intrus also kind of does a reverse Doc’s Kingdom in that the last half of the movie is about an aging man looking for his son). The connection between the two movies is even stronger to me as Doc’s Kingdom features Claire Denis regular Vincent Gallo as Jimmy.
We see Jimmy sitting on the stoop of his New York City apartment and the next minute he’s landed somewhere in another country. Again - this approach makes things disorienting but in a way that keeps your attention & curiosity (the entire second half of the movie feels like a noir as we watch Jimmy follow his father at night, peeks through windows, etc).
The science fiction element of the story has to do with Doc’s mysterious disease. It isn’t clear how he got it. The symptoms of this vague disease (which include “transparent skin”) allows your mind to wander (to bring it back to Claire Denis for a bit - the disease in Doc’s Kingdom is similar to the disease in Trouble Every Day in that they’re both vague with odd side effects).
Jimmy’s intentions in searching out Doc are unclear. Does he want to make peace and get to know his father? Or does he want to confront him for not being around? Early on in the film we learn that Doc’s shady criminal past is part of what brought him to Portugal.


I’m a sucker for movies like Doc’s Kingdom. Besides the score, Vincent Gallo’s presence and it’s subconscious connections to the aforementioned movies, director Robert Kramer uses spotty & somewhat intentionally unreliable voiceover narration similar to that of Terrence Malick (Kramer is more of a political filmmaker so he doesn't strike me as the kind of person to intentionally reference other directors, but the similarities are still there).

I don’t want to call something I just watched a masterpiece but this is an excellent film that I’ll be revisiting very soon.

Monday, February 1, 2021

THE SCHOOL OF CHANTAL AKERMAN: JOE PERA TALKS WITH YOU


Jeanne Dielmann /
Joe Pera Talks With You

 

When I have a favorite television show I go through various stages. First it’s the initial viewing. Then I go back and watch it again. The third time is to see if I missed any of the details or small moments. After that I just have it on in the background as I’m doing something else because I’ve become so comfortable with it. After that I move on to something else for a while. Then it’s the re-discovery period which brings about a whole new appreciation.

This has been my journey with Joe Pera Talks With You.

Over the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, adult swim played reruns of Joe Pera and I honestly forgot how perfect of a show it is.
What stood out the most during my re-watch were the visual similarities between it and the films of Chantal Akerman (mostly Jeanne Dielman... but quite a few of her other films as well).
Much like how everyone considers anything "weird" to be "Lynchian", I find myself calling anything slowly paced with long un-broken shots to be Chantal Akerman-esque. I know I need to stop doing that but in the case of Joe Pera it does make sense.

Some films are so influential that they’re injected in to the DNA of cinema to the point that some filmmakers don’t even need to see something to be influenced by it. This applies to everything from the films of Spielberg & Lucas to Fellini & Hitchcock. While Chantal Akerman isn’t exactly a household name like the aforementioned directors, her work (specifically Jeanne Dielman...) is often cited as one of the most influential films within the world of (slow) modern art house cinema. Akerman has been referenced quite a bit these days (Swallow, Joker, Mrs. America, etc), so it isn't that crazy to associate her with Joe Pera and it's brand of slow television.


Putting aside the obvious visual similarities presented in this post (coincidental or not), both Joe Pera Talks With You and Jeanne Dielman... are very hypnotic (although I will say that Akerman has close to 50 years of films under her belt that extend beyond the narrow world of just Jeanne Dielman...). The longer you stare at the shots the more you start to zone out (I made a point to use scenes/shots where the camera stays fixed in one position for an extended period of time).


Le Chambre / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Les Rendezous D'Anna /
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann /
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann /
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann /
Joe Pera Talks With You

The Golden Eighties /
 Joe Pera Talks With You

Saute Ma Ville /
Joe Pera Talks With You

Hotel Monterey / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Les Rendezvous D'Anna / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

News From Home / 
Joe Pera Talks With You

Jeanne Dielmann / 
Joe Pera Talks With You


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