Soplo de Vida
Saturday April 9 and Saturday April 16, 10 pm at Spectacle: $5
Do you find yourself still watching new eppies of True Detective well into season two, ignoring the hammy dialogue and neverminding the complete void of character development that is Detective Colin Farrell? Do you often invoke the phrase, “It can’t rain all the time” with complete and utter sincerity only to be lol’d at by your friends who just don’t get it? Well, it’s likely you’re a fan of noir. It’s ok, friend, this is your safe place. But given all of the above, it’s likely you’ve had your way with the Hollywood stuff. Here’s a curveball– Soplo de Vida (“Breath of Life”) Colombian director Luis Ospina’s singular detour into noir. Too bad he only made one of these, because as it turns out, he’s rather good at it.
The screening is part of Spectacle’s Ospina series, which celebrates the director and founder of Grupo de Cali, a groundbreaking collective of filmmakers who laid the foundation of Colombian-grown cinema in the 1970s (Don’t miss the terrific Grupo de Cali shorts program, also on view at Spectacle) and sought to reframe how their country was portrayed to the outside world and to its own residents.
As for “Soplo,” the film follows the exploits of Emerson Roque Fierro, a former cop (whose existence is almost as depressing as Detective Colin Farrell’s) living in an actual roach motel, as he tries to solve the disappearance, then murder of a beautiful hooker with a heart of gold. But the film isn’t simply about raising, then burying worn-out crime noir cliches, it’s also inline with Grupo de Cali’s mission of realness. Turns out that the sex worker has an “old john with links to paramilitary death squads,” which means you, dear viewer, will be able to scratch your noir itch and brush up on Colombia’s history of political violence at the same time.
Saturday April 30, 6:15 pm and 9:15 pm at the Metrograph: $15
Cool, so I feel somewhat satisfied knowing Rainer Fassbinder and I share at least one film from our top-ten list– Luchino Visconti’s The Damned. Because Metrograph is hellbent on proving they’re the cool new kid on the block (and apparently to celebrate the impending release of the new Fassbinder documentary Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands) they’re screening Fassbinder’s top ten favorite films of all time. I don’t hate it!
Visconti’s 1969 film was rather radical for its time, and remains super twisted to this day, in its portrayal of the immediate aftermath of Weimar (i.e. 1920s) Berlin when depravity, cabarets, sex clubs, and cocaine had reigned supreme. The shift in dominant German culture was dramatic– from freewheeling to, well, Nazi.
The year is 1933, just after Hitler’s takeover and a wealthy capitalist family, the Essenbecks, have cautiously aligned themselves with the party despite protests from the patriarch. As the Nazis tighten their grip on power and people are exposed as party members, collaborators, or simply cowards, the Essenbeck family is likewise thrown into chaos as some seriously dark family secrets are exposed. The mother, Sophie, has been carrying on an affair. Martin, her son, is a party bro who cross-dresses as Marlene Dietrich– which would have been a great career if only he’d stuck with it instead of sexually assaulting his cousin, satisfying his Oedipal urges by boinking his mother, and going off to join the Nazis. Did someone say Shakespearian? Oh yeah. Even today, you’ll leave the theater with your jaw dragging the popcorn kernels off the floor.
Thursday April 7 through Tuesday April 12 at Sunshine Cinema: $14
Ugh, music biopics. I’m convinced that people only make these embarrassing things as a last-ditch effort to sweep in an Oscar before they retire from acting and become a “producer” or an “entrepreneur,” both positions that actually function as coverups for doing nothing and tossing your money just to see where it lands (or so I’m told). I’ll never stop having nightmares about that Ray Charles movie I was told was an “excellent” film. No wonder we entered the Golden Age of Television after that particularly rotten rash of musician movies in the early aughts. Walk the Line anyone? Shudder.
But if you think I’m completely batshit for thinking all this, at least hear my pleas and do not, I repeat do not go see Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker in Born to Sniff Glue or whatever it’s called. No matter what people are telling you now, you’re going to look back on this decades later and feel that you really, truly wasted your youth on believing that Ethan Hawke had anything to offer the world other than his unusually resilient hairline. Instead, if you must get your music biopic fix, go see Miles Ahead, which, yes, utilizes a really bleh pun, but that can be forgiven because Miles Davis himself was OK with doing that, and literally anything that Miles Davis did was way more than OK.
Also, Don Cheadle seems like a nice enough dude, and he told me (ahem, through NPR) that he’s spent years and years trying to get this thing off the ground and even learned to play the trumpet for the role, so let’s give him a little more credit than Ethan Hawke’s furrowed brow. Interestingly, Cheadle chose as his film focus the five year period when Miles Davis departed from music, making this not a traditional, sweeping, heroic biopic at all, but a hyper-focused look at the illusiveness of creativity and how the struggles of life can get in the way of divine, or whatever, creation.
Monday April 11, 6:30 pm at Anthology Film Archives: $10
Speaking of Visconti, here’s another chance to catch up on the filmography of one of the greatest writer/directors ever. How does one make a movie out of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, a drifting, quiet tale that seems desperately to need the privacy of words on a page over the flashiness of images on a screen? Well, you’d have to be Visconti, for one.
Thankfully for Camus fans, the film doesn’t stray far from the book, remaining true to the novel’s dryness and declining to tack on much flair. It succeeds though in transmitting this detachment to the viewer. And it’s also just nice to watch because of the presence of Anna Karina, who let’s be real is more like the queen of Tumblr pages and wedding mood boards these days than she is a real actor, so any chance to see Karina actually playing make-believe, instead of watching internet people make-believe they’ve lifted something stylistically from Karina, is welcome in my book.