short cuts

weeki wachee, back in the day (ca. 1963). from a batch of assorted Florida slides I got on eBay.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes * 1/2 *

The Brothers Quay are great at texture but lousy at narrative tension. The best part of this movie had the piano tuner’s (sorry, “The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes” – ok, ok, you’re a visionary, we know that) would-be lover expose her armpit for him to sniff. That alone should be worth two stars, so to go backwards from there something has to be terribly wrong. It looks great and I wasn’t horribly bored, but I swear She’s the Man gave me more to think about.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston ***

The documentary of an outsider musician (a label that can be patronizing, but let’s face it, that’s what he is) who became an indie-rock savant since breaking into the Austin music scene (and MTV!) in the mid-80’s. Johnston’s music can be charming in a very sloppy Jonatahan Richman kind of way. But when critics and other talking heads compare him favorably not only to Brian Wilson (okay, nutjob adult child – noted) but to Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson? Puhleeze. Let the man be who he is already. It’s not Johnston’s fault he was subjected to that kind of projection, and the story of his grass-roots rise to fame and series of mental breakdowns is fascinating and moving. But while I feel bad for his mental suffering, I can’t shake the feeling that here is a guy who, no matter how much he’s fucked up – and boy has he fucked up – has always had somebody to pick up after him. Still, worth seeing as film and pondering as life.

The Notorious Bettie Page **

Darling, more darling than a movie that includes off-screen rape and on-screen bondage has any right to be. Shouldn’t there be, you know, tension? The pornographers were so *nice*! I’m all for embracing healthy sexual attitudes and overcoming abuse and stuff, but I just don’t feel her struggle at all – I *see* it – beach … water … cross! … church – but I don’t feel it. Gretchen Mol is adorable but not especially expressive, except for cheesecake. (Maybe there’s some subversive statement about telegraphing emotion – the bondage/religion connection certainly was interesting.) Anyway, she ends up renouncing the body anyway. What are the filmmakers going for exactly if her healthy sexuality is just tossed, so to speak?


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