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Bridging the Gap Follows Three of the Vienna Boys Choir as They Travel the World

In this oddly intense nonfiction film, Austrian writer-director Curt Faudon appears simply to be documenting the travels of one troupe within the 100 members of the Vienna Boys Choir, who range in age from 10 to 14.

We meet twin brothers from Singapore, who posted an audition tape online, and watch a sweetly nervous boy from Hong Kong audition right after the choir performs locally. All three are sent to Vienna, where they appear to have no trouble mastering a daunting range of classical songs. There are no bad days for the three boys or their fellow “choristers;” no stage fright, no homesickness, no rabble-rousing.

Everywhere they travel, the choir sings with the locals, from the indigenous Maori of New Zealand to a group of schoolchildren on a street corner in India. The singing is magnificent, the photography (by Stephan Mussil) absolute perfection, yet every impromptu song, and every word the kids utter in their on-camera interviews, feels staged and scripted. Promotional films being passed off as documentary is becoming a trend, but Faudon and co-writer Tina Breckwoldt up the ante by offering a God-centric, bromide-filled voiceover so overbearing that it ultimately drowns out the angelic voices the movie means to celebrate.

Bridging the Gap is gorgeous and weird.

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Jack and Jill

Al Pacino romantically pursuing a cross-dressing Adam Sandler around a medieval castle should be stunningly surreal, so it’s a not-inconsiderable failure that Jack and Jill manages only dim, desperate outrageousness instead. Credit some of that misfire to director Dennis Dugan, whose aesthetic rule of thumb remains: “The visually flatter, the better.” Yet Sandler is equally responsible for the literal and figurative flatulence of his latest, in which the star assumes the dual roles of advertising bigwig Jack and his whiny, clingy Bronx-born twin sister Jill, who comes to stay with Jack and his multicultural family in L.A. for Thanksgiving and then refuses to leave. Sandler coasts by as the mean-spirited, eye-rolling Jack and hams it up as Jill, prancing about in ugly dresses while making silly faces and speaking in the nasally voice of his Saturday Night Live Gap girl. It’s a dull drag-show routine headed nowhere until Pacino (playing a self-important version of himself) begins stalking Jill, along the way riffing on his dearth of Oscars and pretentiously pretending to speak foreign languages. His self-mockery is delivered with wild-eyed zest, though not enough to overshadow the one-noteness of the shoddy sibling-centric shenanigans, and definitely not enough to overcome Sandler’s sub-Peter Sellers schtick.

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AIDS AT 30

The 2009 Village Voice review of Dan Fishback’s last full-length play, You Will Experience Silence, gave the playwright the best compliment an emerging gay Jewish writer could ask for: “Fishback has a Kushnerian sense for the complexities of historical memory.” Two years later, historical memory continues to be a theme in Fishback’s work. His latest play, Thirtynothing, follows the writer on a journey to connect with his gay artist forefathers, most of whom died of AIDS. He undertook the project, which submerged him in archives, to mark 30th anniversary of AIDS and his own 30th birthday this year. During the run, each Sunday, Fishback will host talks with heroes of the downtown queer arts scene. This Sunday, the panel entitled “The Queer Generation Gap” welcomes the legendary drag queen Mother Flawless Sabrina.

Fri., Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 9:30 p.m. Starts: Sept. 30. Continues through Oct. 22, 2011

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The middle stretches of the summer are typically a theatrical dead zone, but the New York International Fringe Festival sees to it that we don’t have to wait it out till fall for some exciting stagecraft. This year’s lineup, the 15th annual, brings the usual mix of of-the-moment musical parodies (Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera and The Legend of Julie-Taymor, or the Musical That Killed Everybody!), solo confessionals (four-time National Monologue Champion Katie Northlich in The Panic Diaries), twisted fairy tales (Mind the Gap’s The Average-Sized Mermaid), and stuff about zombies (Zombie Wedding). And now that the Fringe provides a handy search function by interest and ethnicity on their website, the 200-odd shows are easier than ever to navigate.

Aug. 12-28, 2011

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Grandma Godsend

A few years ago, every limp-haired, slouchy-boot-wearing, song-writing girl on the L-train was passing the time clinking her knitting needles together and staring off into space. They were knitting in class, crocheting in bars!

The desire to be seen knitting has died down a little, but as we head into the dead of winter, those nubby wool scarves, thick and slightly irregular in pattern, are still in high demand. If you still have a granny, lucky you—they all know how to make things, and nothing pleases them more than a request. (Of course, you’ll be forced to wear it when she visits, one arm jutting out of a too-short sleeve, one reindeer’s head inquisitively crooked.) But there are other options: you could befriend a knitter, but try to get in on it before they quit (I have a blue-and-white striped scarf the size of a bedspread—a friend’s second and final creation).

Of course, you could resort to the stores for “handmade-looking” knits or splurge on super-expensive real ones. Anna Kula
makes luxuriously cuddly scarves and hats, but the grannyest ones, like her “Cluster Scarf” and “Swirl Scarf” are, at $160 and $150 respectively, out of our price range. And the fakes are sort of depressing. At Urban Outfitters there are loose, drooping scarves ($38) that are meant to look whimsical, with an ugly patterned ribbon braided through to make Xs down the center. It’s more sloppy middle schooler than wholesome grandma.

The Gap does slightly better, at least keeping the designs simple (cable-knit with fringe, on sale for $9.99), but those bright colors (stem green, raspberry rose) are a little too cute, not to mention the weird fixation on sequins. Anyway, even when they if they are wide, they’re still too thin. J. Crew wins in this category, using Merino wool and Cashmere blends to make simple, ample scarves (on sale for $29.99). At least these can be worn by people over the age of 14, but there’s something unsatisfying in those perfect, machine-made cables.

Jeannie Goldman and Jackie Atkins, the owners of Plum, a boutique on Ludlow Street, have made the humanitarian decision to share their own mothers and one grandma with us all. Their racks are filled with designs by up-and-comers like Octopi, Catherine Brule, and Fig, but the thick, speckled wool scarves (currently on sale for $45 to $75), bear a pink and white label that reads “Crafted with Care by the Granny with the Hair.” This is a loving reference to Jackie’s grandmother, Ilsa, who still sports the beehive she perfected in the 60s.

Grandma Katz moved to Washington Heights from Germany decades ago, and worked in a corset factory before becoming a banker. When she retired, she became a master crocheter. Although her works are selling in a hip boutique, she refuses to take a cut of the profits, or even let her granddaughter cover her expenses. Jeannie’s mother began knitting “out of boredom” two years ago when she was in the hospital. Her hats, in solid wool or two colors woven together in a random pattern, regularly draw compliments from strangers on the street. She also crochets scarves, which are flatter than Grandma Katz’s, with elegant, open patterns. Jackie’s mother contributes a little flair to the collection with long, thin chenille scarves that catch the light just so.

Grandma Katz taught Jackie’s mother and sister to crochet, and when Jackie was studying design at Parsons, helped her with the sewing for her projects. But Jackie never learned to knit or crochet. “I don’t even have the patience to be taught,” she said. “We’ll just leave it to the experts.”

 

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I Smell Dead People

Outside an exhibit of the dead, a ticket for which is $24.50, you will encounter the following: The Gap, a Baby Gap, a Guess store, Brookstones, The Body Shop, J. Crew, and a boldly-lettered sandwich board for the Buskers Hall of Fame. There is one entry on that board.

The attraction, “Bodies: The Exhibition,” takes up the corner of a downtown shopping plaza, a museum in a mall across from the South Street Seaport. Posters promise real human bodies.

In the distance, old ships bob in the moonlight. The Fulton Fish Market is abandoned. I notice the Heartland Brewery. On a grim, bitter Sunday night, the lights look inviting. There’s beer in there.

On the corner of the building, there’s a brass fish bolted to the fresh concrete and brick. The fish feels like a committee decision, bearing all the signs of “fish-ness” but lacking any likeness to famous fish, like cod or striped bass.

“They say this is Christmas,” that song where all the Western musicians wonder if Africans know about Santa, is playing on outdoor speakers. There’s a flabby, 100-foot holiday tree mounted in the mall’s square.

Before I brave the exhibit, I stop to observe other attempts at the human form. These are headless, wrapped in pink cotton and denim imported from Hong Kong or India. It’s the Gap, and even without the heads, they still capture an athleticism that I understand is also a goal for “Bodies”—what we look like, want to look like, should look like.

I enter the store and start taking notes. This act catches the attention of three employees, who triangulate. “Do you need help?” a manager asks, and I nod my head no, scribbling.


The exhibit takes up a series of darkened rooms filled with cadavers. “I’m a little nervous,” I admit to the ticket-taker. “Don’t be,” he says, “it’s really quite clinical.”

He tells me it’ll take me a half-hour if I hate it, two to three hours if I love it.

The first room gives off a vague, waxy smell. The first skeleton with tissue preserved is giving a thumbs-up. There are real eyeballs and ears. This is a real human body. I’m standing six inches from a dead man’s nose. I could lick his lips. I really want to leave.


The body never lies, a sign says.

The eyebrows of the dead man are arranged as if he were calmly taking a football for some extra yards. A strip of black tape is a half-hearted effort to mask the brand of the ball, Nike.

My intention to eavesdrop on the other museum-goers seems like it will be derailed by the German and French speakers, who seem to dominate the audience for the exhibit.

Dust or sweater fluff dances in the warmed, track-lighted air, the weightless, visible stuff nearing the flattened, dead lips of the preserved man in front of me. I stare at the toe nails and nuggets of each toe’s joints.


The heat blower disturbs the fat of one cadaver, who has been flayed in such a way as to reveal his muscles. He’s setting up for a jump shot. I pause to stare, my stomach tightening, and I notice that, barely perceivable, the entire dead body is listing back and forth in the hot breeze, the dead tissues warming in the bright glare, giving off the sweet smell of dead meat, fat, and bone.

Is this OK?


A blind man sits next to a gentle-looking older woman, who is describing the exhibit in tender Spanish. They sit with their hands folded in their laps, resting in these chairs in the shadows, talking in a room filled with almost 600 pounds of dead meat.


Near one of the dead men, a live one from one of the outer Boroughs is describing an injury he suffered to his Achilles tendon. His companions, three small women with dark hair and bright lips, all listen as he gestures at the dead foot. “I was walking on the beach and it snapped,” he said. “It hurts to this day.”


In a glass case the size of a dinner table, one dead man’s spinal and nervous system has been completely ripped from its natural moorings and is spread out under the harsh glow. It’s repulsive, resembling a giant, goose-grey 100-legged waterbug. This lies deep within all of us, but just this once, we’re witness to it naked and pinned.


Soon I enter a darkened room, where dozens of cases filled with fluid hold entire sections of the body’s arterial system. They resemble sea creatures, or jungle blooms, these iridescent red structures. Close up, you can see many of the systems are deteriorating. The glass cases bear the weight of no tide, but the liquid seems to move, and at the bottom are the light dustings and more significant chunks of dead veins and arterial connections. A fresh bit drifts down, glittering and fluttering.


Where is the puke bucket? It’s nearing 7 p.m., and guests are using cell phones to secure dinner reservations. One couple in neat, matching windbreakers bicker over which restaurant to visit. He resolves to leave, saying he’ll meet her at the bar. She stares at a cancerous thyroid in a glass case, nearly three times the size of the healthy organ to its rear.


The dead woman they’ve used for the fat exhibit—her body has been sliced vertically into four sections—had a polio shot some time during her life. It looks like the one on my dad’s arm, which I puzzled over as a kid. I stare at the mark on her dead hide. The sign says that underneath is half-an-inch to three inches of fat.

Someone hugged this fat woman. Someone loved the way she had dimples at the base of her spine, the way her arms sloped from her shoulders. You can see her pores, you can see the folds in her neck. At some point, they shaved her skull, leaving no stubble.

They sawed her in half, and then sawed each section in half again. Mercifully, they sawed off her face, too. That way, as we consider her fatness, there’s no face to confront, just her round thighs and chubby ankles.

“I’m eating salads from now on,” says a trim, tall woman in tapered jeans and a green turtleneck. Her husband nods up and down, inches from the fat woman’s squat, dead knees.

In the next room, we learn more about the health of one dead man. He had high blood pressure, which created a persistent lack of oxygen.


In the guest books available for comment in the final room, I read every word that’s been written. Children seem to favor the dead babies exhibit, a room proceeded by a sign that warns, “Please pause a moment and consider if you wish to enter.” A Chinese woman writes that it’s “so weird” for her to see dead people from her country. An NYU professor references Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson,” which depicts the “never-satisfied desire of the western gaze to consume the body.” Nurses are grateful for the precision. Doctors say it’s better than Gross Anatomy. High school kids say it’s fun stoned. Tourists say it ruins the appetite. Teachers say it’s too expensive, that the sponsor should consider special discounts.

In all the literature—neat anatomy books and the glossy exhibit brochure—though, there’s no effort I can find to account for where the bodies came from.


This exhibit is expensive, but it’s also a rare and powerful privilege, an interaction with the dead not to be taken lightly. Growing up, I used to hold my breath every time we drove by a cemetery. I helped a friend bury his dead snake. I cried with my sister when we ran over a family of raccoons.

But tonight, it’s a lonely, vacant feeling. By 9 p.m., the place is nearly empty. The complimentary coat check is now staffed by the ticket-taker who calmed my nerves at the outset.

“Did you like it? ” he asks, licking his lips. He’s a large man, with waxy skin and a light haze of sweat on his brow. He invites me to McDonald’s, but I decline.

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Cheap Cashmere for Boring Fatties

When you think of Japanese fashion, the image that comes to mind is probably more Rainbow Bright or deconstructed future-wear than an off-white cashmere v-neck or a pair of straight-leg navy corduroys. But the country’s biggest retailer, Uniqlo, has opened a holiday shop in Soho (after a trial-run at the Vice store and three successful openings in New Jersey) and all the hype turns out to have been about the most basic basics imaginable.

The store is most often compared to The Gap, but it seems that that chain—for better or worse—chases trends much more than Uniqlo, which is more like a cross between American Apparel (natural fibers, enduring style) and Old Navy (wide appeal, low prices). In fact, the practical but uninspired approach reminds me of the Gap of my youth, where, every September, one would spend a few torturous hours with one’s mom, picking out T-shirts in eight different colors to be worn throughout the next school year. Similarly, at Uniqlo, like American Apparel, there are few designs, but each cardigan is replicated in a wide range of colors (and almost no patterns) to fill an entire wall. As is often the case, the men’s items get richer, more sophisticated hues, like chocolate brown, than the women’s, which are flatter and preppier (think “melon”).

Boring as the shopping experience may be, the company’s mission—or one of them—is a commendable one: To bring cashmere to the masses. As their catalogue says, “Those who wear cashmere should not be the only ones who wear cashmere”. Indeed. The 100 percent cashmere sweaters at Uniqlo are about $89, while at upscale boutiques, similar tops can easily cost twice as much. The masses may not deserve the softest version of this luxurious knit, but they can console themselves by remembering what a great deal they got.

For a hopeless boyfriend, a no-frills dad, or a conservative dresser of any age, Uniqlo is an easy stop for holiday shopping. The prices alone will be a relief if you have made the mistake of battling the crowds in Soho. But make sure to buy a size smaller than your loved one would normally wear—it seems the Japanese think we’re fat.

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Denim Dilemma

On Monday morning, a friend called with a breathless news bulletin: “Designer denim is over!” he announced. In truth, it was an epiphany, or maybe nothing more than wishful thinking. It would seem that anything as demented as $400 jeans would have to crash and burn pretty fast, but let’s not jinx it. The shelf life of this insanity has already surpassed our expectations.

On Sunday, an article in the Times addressed the philosophical crux of premium denim: Jeans were once rebelliously casual, becoming the “uniform” of anti-fashion in the ’50s. Today’s brands (they profiled a line from Akademiks called Prps) set their sights on the most pathetically elite victims of fashion. “The brand’s target buyer is not the person who rejects fashion but the denim supersnob: the type who studies interior stitching and other things that no one else notices.”

Is this not an exceedingly depressing thought? Denim used to exude apathetic coolness—a cowboy’s armor, a James Dean-style fuck you. At least, a pair of jeans was a unisex blank slate—made sexy, intimidating, or outrageous by the wearer. Now, denim is like everything else that sucks: a status symbol not about personal style but reflecting success in the boringest way possible. Fancy denim is not just about being rich, but being rich and having enough time and energy to be wearing the right jeans before they’re featured in the Sunday Styles.

All bitterness aside, though, who among us hasn’t succumbed to spending over $100 on jeans, at least once? Sure, there are some of you who just look good in everything, and that’s great for you. But most women who have thighs and butts, or who lack them, or are in any other way imperfectly proportioned, have come to depend on the flattering lines of well-cut pair of jeans. After a little stretch, a little hip-hugging, and a slight boot-cut to balance out those hips, it’s hard to go back to 501s, even if you’re not nearly a “denim supersnob”.

But heavily “distressed,” “whiskered,” (meaning lines behind the knees and below the hips have been lightened to fake a worn-out look) and bedazzled jeans have, for the most part, receded into fashion history. The flared legs have been reigned in to a less girly, straighter line, most of the butt-cracks have been covered, just barely. At the end of the day, the irony is that most of us want our jeans to look like they simply fit perfectly, not to be branded with a gigantic back-pocket trademark. If they fit just right, they are once again a blank slate to be embellished upon—just in an updated shape. We want the apathy, the industrial nonchalance, but we want our asses to look good, too. The immediate success of Salt Works jeans is proof enough—they look new (no pre-placed creases, thank you) but fit like they’re old, and best of all, there’s hardly a logo. The only problem is that they cost about $135.

The Gap has launched an aggressive denim campaign, giving hope to the theory that expensive jeans might soon be rendered obsolete. In commercials, the jeans have that anonymous, neutral look—they simply fit perfectly. And right now, they are on sale from $58 to $39.95. Like Joe’s jeans, they have created several lines based on body shapes: curvy, straight, original. There are subcategories, too: stretch, flare, long, ankle; and, of course, several different washes, though very straightforward.

Maybe the thinking wasn’t just wishful, after all. If brands like the Gap, Old Navy, Levi’s, etc. have been studying the designer denim madness, which is undoubtable, perhaps they can pick up a thing or two about the cut, and we will be able to brag about our jeans in a new way. We could respond to compliments by saying, “Oh, these? They were $40 at the Gap.” The effect, of course, would be that we have made the jeans look good, not the other way around.

In the dressing room at The Gap , I tried on curvy and original fit jeans (I know I’m not “straight”) in every color, length, and shape available. I looked like a middle-schooler, a frumpy mom, or, amazingly, a fat old man, in most of them. The crotches sagged, the butt was mushed, or the thighs bunched.

The day may come, but alas, it seems we’re not quite there yet.

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Free Again

The French were smitten with bebop after hearing Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1948. Their first exposure to free jazz came after a multidisciplinary African arts festival in Algiers in July 1969. The ear of the masses is the first thing any avant-garde sacrifices, but the black leaders of the new-jazz movement wanted it both ways. They claimed to be spokesmen for their people, and a year after the student riots, the French took them at their word. The avant-garde diaspora recorded for a variety of small French labels, including one provocatively called America. The original America LPs have become scarce, and late last year, as soon as an import series of 15 deluxe, limited-edition reissues was announced, there was a waiting list for them at Downtown Music Gallery. Universal subsequently imported a thousand copies of each “Free America” title for U.S. distribution.


ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO: PHASE ONE/ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO WITH FONTELLA BASS/ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO:CERTAIN BLACKS. Val Wilmer’s original English liner notes to Phase One read as if no matter where a black musician wandered in the early ’70s, his true home was the ghetto. She didn’t get it. Lester Bowie might occasionally have been “shouting motherfucker” on trumpet, but the plenty else he and his fellow Chicagoans had to say—about new compositional structures, silence and tone color, rapprochement between Africa and Europe—put them in a different orbit from New York agitproppers like Archie Shepp. Ending with an elliptical Roscoe Mitchell alto solo over a groove, Phase One‘s “Ohnedaruth” is where these diverse elements fall into place. Bass, sounding like Abbey Lincoln, dominates the one long track she’s on from the second CD, while the third is nearly ruined by the rambling Chicago Beau, a hanger-on whose place was in the audience.

PAUL BLEY: IMPROVISIE. Synthesizer isn’t the problem with this 1971 concert recording from the Netherlands, nor the way the drawn-out length of the two performances disallows Bley’s proclivity for compression. The problem is Annette Peacock’s star-tripping, electronically processed vox—the big deal she makes of being transgressive.

ANTHONY BRAXTON:DONNA LEE/ANTHONY BRAXTON: SAXOPHONE IMPROVISATIONS SERIES F. If there can be speed metal, why not speed bop? Too murderously fast for anything like Charlie Parker’s teasing blues inflections, Braxton’s “Donna Lee” is exhilarating for more than its shock value—it recaptures early bebop’s youthful dare. Even better are this quartet album’s two probing versions of “You Go to My Head,” which confirmed that his admiration for Paul Desmond and Lee Konitz was more than talk. The other Braxton is unaccompanied and a double, and on some of its slower originals he sounds like Desmond or Konitz practicing—that is, he’s isolating basic techniques of cool in a successful bid to reconcile them with all his Coltrane and Ayler. Amid much abstraction and furrowed overblowing, there’s also a charming minimalist frolick dedicated to a not-yet-famous Philip Glass.

DAVE BURRELL: AFTER LOVE. He hadn’t found himself or Jelly Roll Morton yet. But savor his wily, peripatetic solos and insistent comping, Roscoe Mitchell’s quizzically tilting alto, Alan Silva’s Ornette-like cello and violin, and a closing march we now know was a preview of things to come.

EMERGENCY: HOMAGE TO PEACE. The rarest of these reissues features two Americans (tenorist Glenn Spearman and bassist Bob Reid), two Japanese (pianist Takashi Kako and drummer Sabu Toyozumi), and a teenage French Gypsy guitarist fluent in Django Reinhardt but infatuated with Jimi Hendrix (Boulou Ferre). A ragtag bunch, with the only flash of originality coming on Toyuzumi’s chamber adaptation of the Art Ensemble’s “People in Sorrow.”

STEVE LACY: THE GAP/MAL WALDRON WITH THE STEVE LACY QUINTET. Lacy in transition, over his Monk fixation and treading uncertainly over new ground. The Gap’s “La Motte—Picquet” is cosmopolitan and individualistic, but the rest sounds like an established virtuoso trying to figure out how to play free without abandoning song form. As spare as Waldron’s piano solos could be, his playing behind Lacy and Steve Potts is busy and dense—wearying. His and Lacy’s best work together was still ahead.

ROSWELL RUDD. A 1965 radio concert from the Netherlands by the New York Art Quartet, with a Dutch bassist and a South African drummer as ringers. While the sound could be better, it’s not bad enough to muffle the Rudd-and-John Tchicai polyphony that was the group’s mark of distinction—and one of the greatest joys of ’60s free.

ARCHIE SHEPP: BLACK GIPSY. Chicago Beau barges in again but isn’t the only offender this time. Archie Shepp on soprano has none of the swagger of Archie Shepp on tenor, and what’s the point of tethering Sunny Murray to the beat? The lone saving grace is Leroy Jenkins’s sweeping violin.

ALAN SHORTER: TES ESAT. With sideman Gary Windo’s eruptive tenor setting the pace, Wayne Shorter’s fucked-up older brother—a flügelhornist whose forcefulness almost compensates for his fumbling technique—remains a phantom on the second of only two albums he recorded as a leader.

CLIFFORD THORNTON: THE PANTHER AND THE LASH. Mired in academia for years before his death in 1983, Thornton was a so-so trumpeter and had no business picking up African double-reed instruments. But he was powerful and majestic on valve trombone, bypassing J.J. Johnson and Roswell Rudd for late Coltrane. The most surprising of these reissues pairs him with an adventurous French rhythm section and gives us a rare opportunity to hear him at length.

FRANK WRIGHT: UHURU NA UMOJA. This fireballing tenor was Albert Ayler without the comic pathos or rhythmic nuance. But together here with altoist Noah Howard, pianist Bobby Few, and the game bebop drummer Art Taylor, he blows with such conviction and spirit you find yourself being carried right along with him. It’s free jazz at its most rapturous and hell-bent.

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Docked

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Independent Feature Project is hosting a film festival, underwritten by Dockers. You may have seen the attractive banners and print ads. They say “Classically” in large letters across the top and “Independent Film Festival” down the left side and across the bottom in slightly smaller letters. “Dockers Khakis” appears twice. “The Independent Feature Project” also gets credit at the top— but in lettering so tiny that, were the poster an eye chart, it would be outside the range of normal vision. Similarly small lettering is reserved for the logos of the other sponsors: Macy’s, the Independent Film Channel, and United. In short, it’s clear who the big spender is here.

But what kind of bang is Dockers hoping to get for their bucks? Consider that Dockerish word classically and the scratchy drawing of antiquated filmmaking equipment that occupies the center space of the main ad. They are meant to suggest that there’s something both retro and quintessential about independent film and, by association, about Dockers khakis. The Gap used an identical strategy in their khakis campaign a few years ago, the one that featured ’50s photos of Andy Warhol and James Dean wearing boring, baggy, beige pants. But Warhol and Dean were indeed classically American artists. In associating itself with them, the Gap suggested that it aspired to their classicism, and that by wearing its boring, baggy, beige pants, you would signal similar aspirations. American independent film, on the other hand, has too amorphous an identity to sustain a classical moment or to allow any single film to be seen as quintessential. If advertising were an honest game, Dockers would admit that it hadn’t bought into a classic but, merely into the decade’s hippest fantasy— being an indie filmmaker.

And what do moviegoers get out of Dockers’ investment? The opportunity to see 10 Amerindies— six revivals and four fresh and unreleased— in three days. The revivals include Jennie Livingston’s exuberant and, in retrospect, horribly sad documentary about the transvestite ball scene, Paris Is Burning (1990); Carl Franklin’s tense, haunting, neonoir One False Move (1991); and what’s still Hal Hartley’s best film, The Unbelievable Truth (1990).

The new films are not as compelling, although Cauleen Smith’s Drylongso (Ordinary) comes close. Smith brings a terrific sense of place and a complex understanding of character to this coming-of-age film about a black college photography major whose project is recording the men who die young in her Oakland neighborhood. The film is suspenseful despite or perhaps because of Smith’s refusal to play by Hollywood narrative conventions.

Eric Bross’s Restaurant has an intense, neurotic, sexy performance by Adrien Brody as a Hoboken bartender and aspiring playwright who only falls for black women (Lauryn Hill puts in a brief appearance as his ex, which, as an indie casting coup, is not as memorable as Susan Seidelman choosing the pre­”Like a Virgin” Madonna for one of the leads in Desperately Seeking Susan). Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen’s On the Ropes is an appealing, though conventionally made, documentary about three fledgling boxers (one of them female) and their coach. And Scott Ziehl’s Broken Vessels is a dark male-buddy picture about dissolute paramedics in L.A. It’s something like an episode of E.R.— but with lots of drugs and unlikable people— that glibly resolves into a 12-step tale from the trenches. That any of these films is being considered a classic could only be a joke, albeit not one that would make you split your pants laughing.