Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The New Parkway, The Believer, The Rumpus and Samsara

This is a potpourri post; many different topics.

As we head into Veteran's Day or Armistice Day Weekend, I have too many film choices.  I would like to see the Natalie Wood series at the Castro Theater this weekend - 8 of her films from Friday to Monday.  I've always thought Natalie Wood was incredibly sexy.

Also running from Friday to Sunday is the San Francisco Film Society's Cinema By the Bay series at the Viz.  The series features 7 programs; several of which interest me.

The Victoria Theater is featuring three nights of films in November.  On the 9th, 17th and 27th, the San Francisco Cult and Psychotronic Film Society is screening films; double features each day.  The lineup is:
The Warriors and Slaughter in San Francisco (November 9), Viva and The Frightened Woman (November 17) and Cannibal: The Musical! and Parents (November 27).

Finally, the 2013 San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (DocFest) kicks off tomorrow night for 2 weeks at the Roxie and Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.

I haven't decided what to see this weekend.  I have not committed to any of the screenings; i.e. I have not purchased tickets or passes to any of the events.


The New Parkway Theater has announced it is opening on November 30.  I'm not sure if its official name is the New Parkway.  Somewhere I read it was going to be called the Uptown Parkway.  It has not announced films or admission prices but has hire Will "The Thrill" Viharo to be its publicist.

I know The Fezzed One from his Thrillville traveling road show of B films.  Viharo perfected his Thrillville show at the original Parkway Theater in Oakland where he was a programmer.  After the Parkway folded in 2009 so Viharo (and his wife Monica "the Tiki Goddess" Cortes Viharo) took their show to various movie theaters each month.  I saw them at the 4 Star and their final road show at the Roxie in June 2010.  Since then, Thrillville (rechristened Forbidden Thrills) has found a permanent home at the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda.

Viharo has started a blog counting down the days until the New Parkway opens.  It's been interesting for me to read as he reminisces about the Original Parkway.  I never went to the Parkway so I get the feeling I missed out on something special.


Viharo, by the way, is an author of "gonzo pulp."  I've been meaning to read one of his books but haven't gotten around to it.  Here is a link to his webpage listing his works.

I've been reading quite a bit.  In addition to the Kurosawa/Mifune book I mentioned last time, I have subscribed to The Believer. which is not quite a literary journal but nonetheless book reviews, author interviews and original poems feature prominently.  I find the non-fiction essays to be fascinating.  The first issue I received printed American Isolato which hooked me.  The Believer is affiliated with McSweeney's which is affiliated with 826 Valencia which is few blocks from the Roxie.  I look forward to receiving The Believer each month.

In the most recent issue, there was an advertisement for The Rumpus.  From their website:

At The Rumpus, we’ve got essays, reviews, interviews, advice, music, film and poetry—along with some kick-ass comics. We know how easy it is to find pop culture on the Internet, so we’re here to give you something more challenging, to show you how beautiful things are when you step off the beaten path. The Rumpus is a place where people come to be themselves through their writing, to tell their stories or speak their minds in the most artful and authentic way they know how, and to invite each of you, as readers, commenters or future contributors, to do the same. What we have in common is a passion for fantastic writing that’s brave, passionate and true (and sometimes very, very funny).

The ad was promoting Letters in the Mail.  For $5 per month, I will receive "Almost every week, three to four times a month...a letter, in the mail."  As a boy, I remember reading about "Men of Letters" who had great wit and exchanged bon mots and discussed weighty matters.  Three men whose letters have been published are Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx and George Bernard Shaw.

As I looked at the Rumpus website, I noticed the Editor-in-Chief is Stephen Elliott who I am familiar with as the director of About Cherry which I saw at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival.  As I read more, I noticed he also shared a screenwriting credit on the film...with Lorelei Lee!  That would be the same Lorelei Lee who charmed me with her articulate words and soothing voice at the Femina Potens event at the YBCA in September.  It seemed like too much coincidence between the YBCA event, About Cherry, The Believer, etc. so I took the bait and signed up for Letters.

I found approximately one half of Lee's Rumpus letter posted on the internet.


Did I see any films?  I guess should talk about one since I'm so far behind.

Samsara; directed by Ron Fricke; (2012) - Official Website

I saw the film at Landmark Embarcadero.

Samsara has no dialog and little in the way of plot.  It films landscapes, cityscapes, people, animals, etc. The imagery can be stunning.  Two of my favorite scenes were probably meant to be critical of modern life although I found them strangely poetic.  In one scene, an office worker in a suit and tie begins to slather mud on his face like an African bushman.  I suppose it was meant to show the similarities between the two but the music and the actors manic movements were like modern dance...except I enjoyed it.

The other scene I liked had a certain balletic movement to it.  It showed the movement of pig (or maybe cow) carcasses in a sleek and modern abattoir (I've been waiting years to use that word).  The synchronized and sequential movements of the workers was like an industrial ballet.  It made my engineer's heart swoon to see the men working with crisp movement and little wasted effort.  I'm sure the director was drawing a parallel to the mind-deadening work and the dead livestock the men process but I guess I saw what I wanted to see.

Frankly, the film was pretentious.  Without words or plot, the film was a melange of images which did not resonate with me.  Perhaps I am too small minded to be open to all that was implied in the film or perhaps I am too conservative and closed minded in what I expect from a film.  Regardless, the film was a series of striking images which was left open to a nice coffee table book.  That's my tagline for Samsara - a coffee table book brought to the big screen.  It was impressive for what it was but ultimately superficial and limited by its genre and style.

There was a woman taking cell phone videos of the screen during the film.  I complained to the staff.  Some staff members sat in the audience during most of the screening...and the woman refrained.  As soon as the staff member left (within minutes), she started filming again.  I was very distracted by this; it may have lessened my appreciation and understanding of Samsara.

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