Saturday, June 20, 2009

Andy Warhol Screen Tests with Dean & Britta

What makes the Los Angeles film festival such a unique festival has always been its knack for bringing us events that mix cool music and films. I still remember their punk-rock karaoke years ago when the festival was taking place at the Sunset plaza while other highlights included the Sex Pistol's Steve Jone's Indie 103.1 radio show live from the Ford Amphitheatre.

This year they brought us once again another exciting moment, this time blending art, music and cinema, with the screening of Andy Warhol's screen tests, supported by a live accompaniment by electro-folk duo Dean & Britta. The music of the band, with its Velvet Underground tones, provided a great experience while the screen tests featuring the likes of Lou Reed, Denis Hopper, Nico, Eddie Sedgwick among others were being shown onscreen. 13 Most Beautiful... Songs for Andy Warhol Screen Tests review

The Stoning of Soraya M

The Stoning of Soraya M (read The Stoning of Soraya M review) proved to be one of the most powerful and revolting film I have seen in a long time (and no, I'm not saying that to sound like that advertising whore for film posters that Rolling Stone's Peter Travers is).

Set in a remote Iranian village, the film tells the true story of a woman who was stoned to death after being wrongfully accused of cheating by her husband who wanted to get rid of her. Based on the eponymous bestseller, this film avoids the traps of melodrama and makes sure to not be interpreted as a critique of Islam. The Stoning of Soraya M takes on hypocrites using religion as a pretext and denounces a world where women are treated as second-rate citizens. Fueled by a documentary-like realism, this is a rought and uncompromising work, which ending is almost unbearable to watch - be warned that most of the audience had to close its eyes or was crying during the final sequence.

The film was followed by a Q&A featuring the director and the lead actress (the beautiful Shohreh Aghdashloo) and the LA film festival can also be credited for bringing a scholar who, among other things, explained that stoning wasn't part of the Koran.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jimmy Page, Jack White & Coffin Joe

Our coverage of the LA film festival 2009 started with a bang as Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and the White Stripes's Jack White were attending the screening of It Might Get Loud (read the It Might Get Loud review), a documentary focusing on the art of guitar playing of emblematic figures such as Page, White and U2's The Edge (who was busy rehearsing in Spain for the opening of U2's tour). If you're a fan of the 3 guys, which I am, you certainly will enjoy having the opportunity to spend time with these 3 icons and see them jam together. However, watching It Might Get Loud as a critic is a different kind of experience, as this film proved to be highly disapointing. To capture the essence of these musians and the creative process in general, the filmmaker posed himself as a watcher, rather than as a true director, letting his camera roll freely to follow whatever the artists are doing. As a result, It Might Get Loud is devoid of any narrative threat, wandering aimlessly and failing to bring anything of substance to the table. Listening to what Mr White had to say, there would have been several interesting points to explore, if the filmmaker would have dared to challenge the musicians; but by containing himself in the role of a witness, he unfortunatly fails in his endeavor, delivering the work of a fan rather than a real documentary.

The third entry in the Brazilian horror Coffin Joe series, Embodiment of Evil (Embodiment of evil review) brought back the thrills of exploitation cinema, with its crazy mix of sadism and nudity. While I enjoyed it, I must admit some scenes were hard to watch -- horror geeks seemed to find them amusing -- and I wouldn't recommend that film, unless you have a strong stomach or a sadistic propensity.