Swining' like you wouldn't ba-lieve!

Spring brings birds, colours, and warmth, and the un-merry, midnight clamor of raccoon sex (which sort of sounds like a cat being beaten to death with a baseball bat), but we also get the phenomenon known as ‘overlapping film festivals’ and special screenings. This isn’t to say there’s less to see & do in the winter, but certainly in the coming months, there will be no shortage of films from every culture in every genre in and around Toronto.

Before I get into the current & upcoming crop, this past Wednesday yielded a screening at the Gendai Station of Carl Michael von Hausswold and Thomas Nordanstad’s short film Hashima, Japan 2002.

Between 1887-1974, this small Japanese island was expanded with infill to handle undersea coal mining, and house families of the miners. At its peak, about 5000 were packed on the rock which spanned about 15 acres. From afar, it’s weird structure resembling a battleship, hence its nickname ‘Battleship Island,’ although it’s also been called Gunkanjima, and Ghost Island for very obvious reasons: abandoned in 1974 when the coal supply ended, the place has been left to the elements, and during the past 30 years its been disintegrating, exposed to typhoons, winds, and the effects of saltwater.

The 2002 audio-visual art montage is available online, so for those who missed the screening and discussion, they can view the full film at Vimeo in its original form with the droning music score. (Some astute listeners may hear bits of Abigail Mead’s ‘Uhnnnn…. Uhnnnn… Wah-wah-wee-wah’ cue from Full Metal Jacket in the mix).

The half-hour version is comprised of video footage set up largely in still positions to capture the approach, a walk-through, and departure from the eerie rock, and there are several related docs on YouTube worth checking out, including the filmmakers’ related piece, Hashima,  in which former resident Dotokou revisits the isle and gives us a tour of where his family lived, and the treacherous alleys and stairwells he had to navigate, sometimes waiting until brutal wind and waves had subsided.

Another doc features a segment on the isle (watch19:09 minutes into the absurdly titled Life After People: The Bodies Left Behind) where there’s deeper discussion about how the elements have rapidly eroded the apartments that were built choc-a-block. It’s an amazing location, and I’d suggest watching the aforementioned docs in the described order to move from its mysterious allure to more factual material.

Also screened this past week is Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, a restoration of Clive Barker’s troubled production, via Mad Monster Party in North Carolina. Rue Morgue’s Ron McKenzie interviewed Mark Miller, a key figure in Barker’s Seraphim Films and the film’s restoration. It’s an engrossing piece for fans wanting to know what was found, the quality of the surviving source materials, and what was assembled and edited for the MMP screening this past March 24th.

Now then, prior to more local news, New York’s Museum of the Moving Image is screening Stanley Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), a film that succeeds in its creepiness because of a) Denny Zeitlin’s superb (and only) film score; the alien pig squeal; and c) the finale that scared the crap out of me. Note to a Toronto programmer: bring this film here. For more info on Zeitlin's score, check out the archived interview I did with CD producer / Perseverance Records bigwig Robin Esterhammer, regarding the score's CD release, and interviewing the humble composer & practicing shrink.

And in Seattle, as part of the First Annual Science Fiction Film Festival there will be a slate of 35mm and 70mm prints of Barbarella, Brazil, Clockwork Orange, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Dune, E.T., Flash Gordon, Forbidden Planet, Ghostbusters (70mm), Mad Max, Matrix, Omega Man, Planet Of The Apes, Road Warrior, Silent Running, Solaris, Soylent Green, Star Trek 2 (70mm), Terminator, Terminator 2 (70mm), Tron (70mm). A hefty chunk represent the sci-fi films I saw as a kid and would love to revisit – some for the first time on the big screen. Sadly, I have no clone to take my place at work, so I’ll mist the lot. Sigh. (Thanks to Shade Rupe for posting alerts of the above two festivities.)

Back to things local:

The Toronto Silent Film Festival runs March 29 – April 3, and features a mix of comedy, drama, and foreign classics. More details and additional links are at Torontoist.

TCM’s Road to Hollywood crosses the border and treats us with The Last Picture Show, which will screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox tonight, with director Peter Bogdanovich, and NOW’s Norm Wilner has an interview with the director. (Note: the TBL website has no mention of the screening, so check out Wilner's blog for further info.)

Still ongoing at the Lightbox are The Poetry of Precision: The Films of Robert Bresson (ending April 4); John Greyson: Impatient (ending April 5); Hollywood Classics: The Cinema Is Nicholas Ray, Part Two (ending April 3); Attack the Bloc: Cold War Science Fiction from Behind the Iron Curtain (ending April 6), and Spirited Away: The Films of Studio Ghibli (to April 13).

The Canadian Film Festival finishes today at the Royal Cinema, Cinefranco ends its run at the Lightbox tomorrow, and the Lightbox’s Bangkok Dangerous: The Cinema of Nicholas Cage has two more films before the Saturday night cult theme is replaced with the rumoured Crispin Glover salute. The remaining Cage flicks are Wener Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans March 31), and the totally bonkers / bug-eating classique Vampire’s Kiss (April 7).

Lastly, this is the last week to catch Win Wenders’ Pina in 3D, and the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar at the Lightbox. Those wanting other equally good fodder can find further fodder in NOW’s weekly tally of screenings & festivals.

Spend your money and use / abuse your time accordingly.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )


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