Friday, October 19, 2012


I'm not sure if it was posting 10 times in seven days last week or just how busy things have been while shutting down my day job at Video Verite, but you might have noticed that the blog's been fairly quiet this week.  Even without posting this week, we finally passed 30,000 hits yesterday, a small milestone for our humble, little film obsessed site, indeed.  Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read, comment, and encourage me to continue posting.

Even with all the other regular life distractions at hand, I was still able to catch a small handful of films opening this weekend at the local indie theaters.  Here now is a sampling of just a few of the many options available in PDX for the cinematically curious.

In Search of Blind Joe Death,
dir. James Cullingham

A documentary on the immensely, influential primitive folk picker John Fahey.  The film brings together a wide swath of individuals, ranging from members of Calexico to Pete Townsend to musicologists and various associates, to heap much deserved adulation at the feet of the late steel string guitarist.  Fahey's life and (especially his) music form a story worth exploring and I've often wondered why no one had made a film about him.  In Search of Blind Joe Death is a compelling view for both fervent followers and those completely unfamiliar with Fahey's legacy.

In Search of Blind Joe Death plays one-night-only at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, October 21st at 7pm.  More info available here.

Step Up to the Plate, dir. Paul Lacoste

A look inside the Bras family cooking dynasty as world famous chef Michel Bras prepares to hand the reins over to his son Sébastien.  Although high-wire acts of culinary mastery are featured throughout the film, the food actually takes a backseat to the family dynamics in the film, distinguishing it from the overcrowded foodie doc scene. 

Michel and Sébastien butt heads over both Michel's established recipes and some newer innovations that Sébastien hopes will help restaurant goers discern what it is that he brings to the table.  Director Paul Lacoste wisely keeps Sébastien a mystery to the audience until very near the end of the film, allowing for a multi-layered, slow reveal that greatly enriches the viewing experience.

Highly recommended.

Step Up to the Plate begins its run at Living Room Theaters on Friday, October 19th.  More info available here.

Bad Brains: A Band in DC, dir. Ben Logan and Mandy Stein

Washington D.C. hardcore band Bad Brains were a complete anomaly when they first emerged in the punk scene of the late 70s.  Being an all African-American punk group in a mostly white playing field was one thing, but Bad Brains was also the fastest, most technically innovative group that anyone had ever seen playing this kind of music. 

Directors Logan and Stein tell the story of the band's formative years while following them on the road during a recent, tumultuous reunion tour.  Their cameras don't stop rolling even when things get rough between the band (singer H.R. displays his notorious mental health issues for the camera, causing things to go sour near the end of the tour), adding much needed tension to a film that might otherwise just be an exercise in nostalgia.

The film features interviews with Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, The Beastie Boys, and many others who were on the scene during the band's heyday. 

Bad Brains: A Band in D.C. screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) as a part of the Reel Music Festival series on Friday, October 19th at 8:45pm.  More info available here.

Wake in Fright, dir. Ted Kotcheff

This 1971 fever dream of a film started the ball rolling for the Australian New Wave.  Detailing the downward trajectory of John, a Sydney-based schoolteacher (Gary Bond) on vacation in the Outback town of Bundanyabba (referred to as "the Yabba" by the natives he meets), the film throws our hero into a volatile mix of gambling, alcoholism, and kangaroo death unlike anything I've ever seen.  Donald Pleasence shows up about a third of the way through the picture as Doc Tydon, a drunken physician living in squalor.  Once they meet, John and Doc's paths are tied together to the bitter, marsupial-wrestling end.

Recommended for those who revel in the weirder, more disturbing side of cult cinema (probably not ideal viewing for card carrying members of PETA).

Wake in Fright begins its run at Cinema 21 on Friday, October 19th.  More info available here.

Dracula, dir. Tod Browning

As I pointed out last week, without the success of the 1931 version of Dracula, Universal Pictures might not have continued producing what are now unquestionably a series of the best monster flicks of the silver screen.  Taken on its own, though, Dracula is a masterpiece of the macabre, filled with more shadows than light and powered by an unparalleled and unforgettable performance by Bela Lugosi in the title role.

If you haven't seen the film in a while, or even if you have, there's no better time to revisit it than now while the Hollywood Theatre has a 35mm print on hand. 

Dracula plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st at 2pm.  More info available here.

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