An intelligent Sci-Fi film adapted from an intelligent 1st book in a trilogy from a ‘New Weird Fiction‘ writer Jeff VanderMeer – Annihilation creates a world with echoes from previous Sci-Fi cinematic masterpieces.
It is a film that asks to be experienced first before engaging in an ongoing interpretation. And like all good art it opens up the viewer to many different possible meanings and layers that will certainly require multiple viewings to absorb everything that is being presented.
Mysteriously disturbing, haunting, frightening at times, yet exhilarating and ultimately profound, unfolding like a dream – it can be seen at once as a psychological, biological, existential, and metaphysical question of our existence on this planet along with other myriad life-forms. And ultimately it frames that question with regards to what is our place in this universe.
It deserves to be seen in a theater to experience the full force of its mastery. It won’t be around in theaters for long as the studio underestimated its appeal, so see it soon if you are in the U.S and Canada if you can.
Art by Matt Melanson
There is a new podcast in town, Weird Studies, hosted by Phil Ford and J.F. Martel –
As they describe it,
“Weird Studies” is a scholarly field that doesn’t and can’t exist.
The Weird is that which resists any settled explanation or frame of reference. It is the bulging file labelled “other/misc.” in our mental filing cabinet, full of supernatural entities, magical synchronicities, and occult rites. But it also appears when a work of art breaks in on our habits of perception and ordinary things become uncanny. The Weird is easiest to define as whatever lies on the further side of a line between what we can easily accept from our world and what we cannot. And it defines an attitude towards whatever lies on that side of the line: a willingness to remain suspended between explanations and abide in strangeness.”
In this episode the two connect the dots and discuss those connections and surrounding pathways into the origin of contemporary existential fear and how it manifests in recent works such as David Lynch and Mark Frosts’ ‘Twin Peaks – The Return’.
Along the way their map include signposts from Philip K. Dick, Norman Mailer, Stanley Kubrick, Carl Jung, William Burroughs, Guy Debord, H.P. Lovecraft and many others.
A fascinating and thought provoking look into the abyss, to synchronous expressions of art, and the implications for modern life as we live under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.
* Todd Haynes
“I have no doubt that whatever kinds of movies you like, seeing ‘Wonderstruck’, you will not have seen anything like it before.
It intercuts a story of one little deaf girl in 1927 who travels into New York City searching for answers, with the story of a little boy who becomes deaf in 1977, fifty years later, also on a journey.
And so the question keeps getting posed every time you intercut from black and white to color, silent film to sound film, why are these two stories sharing one movie?
When you really are excited by, motivated by the richness and strangeness of popular culture that we all share – movies, music, you realize that everything that’s great has been gotten away with and that it has sort of snuck into the conventional languages that we come to expect and that’s when our minds get percolated. That’s how we get pricked by a new experience.
And it’s also what reinvigorates the respective mediums involved. Getting away with it I think is what culture is about.”
“[It’s] too easy to put symbols in service of narrative. The trick is putting narrative in service of symbols.” – J.F. Martel in a recent tweet regarding how to watch Twin Peaks
“Artists end up producing symbols, beacons that point to those vast regions of reality which psychoanalysts call the unconscious. In other words, art doesn’t belong to the conscious world. It belongs on the same plane as dreams, visions and synchronicity.” J.F. Martel
“True works of art are powerful symbolic constructs, genuine oracles that can give society access to what’s going on below the threshold of collective consciousness.” – JFM
“I learned that just beneath the surface there’s another world, and still different worlds as you dig deeper.” David Lynch
“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It’s better not to know so much about what things mean.” DL
“Because the meaning, it’s a very personal thing, and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for somebody else.” DL
“When something’s abstract, the abstractions are hard to put into words unless you’re a poet.” DL
“Cinema is a language that can say abstractions. I love stories, but I love stories that hold abstractions–that can hold abstractions. And cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in-words things.” DL
“I like things that go into hidden, mysterious places, places I want to explore that are very disturbing.” DL
“In that disturbing thing, there is sometimes tremendous poetry and truth.” DL
“As Henri Bergson says, if we could perceive reality directly, we wouldn’t need art.” JFM
“The reason we need art is that the intellect is constantly reducing reality to a conceptual order that accounts only for an infinitely small portion of what is real.” JFM
“If things get too specific, the dream stops. There are things that happen sometimes that open a door that lets you soar out and feel a bigger thing. Like when the mind gets involved in a mystery. It’s a thrilling feeling. When you talk about things, unless you’re a poet, a big thing becomes smaller.” DL
“I don’t know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense.” DL
“Symbols are signs, but signs pointing us to the unknown, perhaps unknowable aspects of reality. They call us to the dark expanses that extend infinitely on every side of the small castellated island that is the human world.” JFM
“Met on its own ground, the work of art as vector of symbols is an inexhaustible producer of meaning. Invariably, the work reveals more than its creator ever intended and more than any interpreter can fathom.” JFM
“True beauty is not pretty. It is a tear in the facade of the everyday, a sudden revelation of the forces seething beneath the surface of things.” JFM
“The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is.” DL
“I love mysteries. To fall into a mystery and its danger … everything becomes so intense in those moments. When most mysteries are solved, I feel tremendously let down.” DL
“I want things to feel solved up to a point, but there’s got to be a certain percentage left over to keep the dream going. It’s like at the end of Chinatown: The guy says, ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.’ You understand it, but you don’t understand it, and it keeps that mystery alive. That’s the most beautiful thing.” DL
“When you sleep, you don‘t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made, a world I chose and that I have complete control over.” DL
“I would love to be in that state [of a waking dream] all day long, but you have to have some quiet. The world is getting louder every year, but to sit and dream is a beautiful thing.” DL
“A lot of people assume I have very strange dreams, but I’ve only had one dream that affected a film. I don’t dream much at night. Most everything is daydreams.” DL
“I like making films because I like to go into another world. I like to get lost into another world.” DL
“My movies are film-paintings – moving portraits captured on celluloid. I’ll layer that with sound to create a unique mood — like if the Mona Lisa opened her mouth, and there would be a wind, and she’d turn back and smile. It would be strange and beautiful.” DL
“In my mind it’s so much fun to have something that has clues and is mysterious – something that is understood intuitively rather than just being spoon fed to you. That’s the beauty of cinema, and it’s hardly ever even tried. These days, most films are pretty easily understood, and so people’s minds stop working.” DL
“Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see, one chance out between two worlds, fire walk with me.” – Twin Peaks
“Cinema is the human dream, a way to understand how our trauma fits into this existential jigsaw. Perhaps the greatest way to wield cinema is as a synthesis to use stories of high personal drama to present them as a reflection of the issues that pervade all of humanity – a fusion of the personal with the universal. This is the
perfect encapsulation of the cinema of Denis Villeneuve.”
“[His] camera usage makes subjects seem inconsequential one way or another with the visual language putting them in a state of seclusion. The purpose is to show that through isolation comes helplessness and this is exactly the same notion that comes with mystery, being in the unknown. The visuals are an extension of the idea of what it is to be dwarfed by an engulfing force.”
“Why does [he] want to employ mystery in all of his movies? Because in the work of Denis Villeneuve we’re shown the fragility of the human mind when we lose sight of what we know because of our obsession for seeking the truth.”
“Villeneuve is able to exploit the drama of scenes through when and how he reveals information. We may return to a scene and see it from multiple perspectives only to realize that when we thought we had the answer, we were in fact solving the wrong mystery the whole time. We become just like [the] characters who too are looking for answers unaware that they’re not asking the right questions. Our judgment becomes clouded as soon as we become emotionally invested and Villeneuve presents us with a world that appears clear on its surface yet we soon learn our vision was always hindered by our own biases.”
“There’s a cyclical nature in the films of Denis Villeneuve. The answers to a character’s questions are often revealed to us right at the beginning of a story. Only at the end of the journey do we realize that we’ve come full-circle but its only by entering the unknown the our true selves fully emerge.”
– Lewis Bond
Lewis Bond’s video essay on David Lynch may offer some insight into this work, especially timely with the return of Twin Peaks to television.
“I believe in an unspoken ceremony that occurs when we watch movies. If an audience is to truly offer themselves to cinema, an acknowledgment must be made on
behalf of the observer to momentarily
sacrifice their psychological and emotional bonds so that they be manipulated and molded by the artist. The viewer must then accept that as art is incapable of capturing one’s own
subjective experience, it can never
fulfill all the questions of the individual. Art’s preoccupation with
secrecy can feast on the deepest parts
of you but its mysteries can also
energize something profound within. I suppose cinema’s true affliction as well as its triumph is that its answers are often destined to remain unknown and nowhere is this more truthful than in the work of David Lynch.”
“Lynch submits a series of breaches to what we accept is our reality in the hope that we recognize that what we perceive is only a fraction of what we see and it’s exactly why Lynch intentionally misguides our perceptions through offering plots that embrace a subconscious manner of storytelling. Our expectations so often go unfulfilled in his movies because he shows that we expect so much from life yet know so little.”
– Lewis Bond
“For me, to understand Lars Von Trier, is to accept that art is never meant to be completely understood. But we should rejoice in that. There are infinite possibilities yet to be touched upon and filmmakers like Lars Von Trier have the tenacity to explore where others deemed dangerous. Existing through unorthodox methods, Von Trier shows us that art has no limitations. To break its boundaries is what it means to be a true artist.”
– Lewis Bond
The following excerpts are from an interview with Jim Jarmusch published in Film Comment on the eve of Paterson’s wide release in theaters.
“Frank O’Hara wrote this very beautiful manifesto called “Personism” in which he says: “Don’t write poetry to the world. Write poetry to one other person. Write a love note to someone you love, or write a little poetic letter to someone you know.” So that’s been really inspiring to me and I’ve tried to make films that are not shouting out from the mountaintop to all of the world, but more like little letters out to someone I care for.”
“…the auteur thing is nonsense. Film is so collaborative, and especially in my case, because I have artistic control over the film. That means I choose the people I collaborate with—we’re making the film together. I use “a film by [Jim Jarmusch]” in the credits to protect my ability to choose my collaborators in this world of financing and using other people’s money. But we’re collaborating all the time, so the film is evolving each day we scout, and then each day we shoot, and then if we rehearse, whatever that might mean, it’s just changing, changing, changing.”
“I’m a self-proclaimed dilettante, and it’s not negative to me, because I’m interested in so many things, from 17th-century English music, to mushroom identification, to various varieties of ferns, to all kinds of stuff. How can I, in one lifetime—I could be like Adam and Eve in Only Lovers, I wouldn’t be a dilettante, because they actually know. He knows how to build a generator, and she knows the Latin identification of everything. But I’m a dilettante because I don’t have enough time. And there are too many incredible things that I get attracted to, and so my head’s always spinning around. But that’s okay. Being a dilettante is helpful if you make films, because films have all these other forms in them.”
“My thing is dilettantism, amateurism—I believe that I’m an amateur, because amateur means you do something for the love of a form, and professional means you do it for your job, you get paid, and nothing against that!—and variations. That’s my holy trinity lately of what my defining priorities are: being a dilettante, being an amateur, and appreciating variations in all expression. Because I love variations. To me, it’s the most beautiful form, to accept that all things are really variations on other things.”
Please read the entire interview here.
Two years ago, for the very first time, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics invited filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis into their monasteries to witness their practice and the essence of their mindful living.
Filming in the depths of winter in their monastery in France, they also traveled on the road with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastics to Europe and North America; capturing their journey from Vancouver to Mississippi, New York, Washington, San Diego and London.
Through intimate interviews and observational filming, “Walk With Me – On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh”, offers a rare insight into monastic life and the deeply personal reasons why Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns decided to leave their families and follow in his footsteps.
Honest and heart-warming, ‘Walk With Me’ touches on the universal themes of belonging, love, loss, hope and death; relevant for not just Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns but for us all.