Antemasque turned The Bowery Ballroom into their playground. Photos within.
Antemasque turned The Bowery Ballroom into their playground. Photos within.
The urban portraits of Tom Ryaboi contrast the geometric exoskeleton of the city with the organic, fragile singularity of the human form which inhabits it.
“I don’t capture moments, I capture ideas.” – Erik Johansson
Review by James McBride
When Paolo Sorrentino, director of The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), is asked about his debt to Federico Fellini, he demurs. Of course, Sorrentino says, the great master has influenced all Italian filmmakers – indeed, filmmakers everywhere – but he insists that his work is not in the same league.
But Sorrentino’s humility clearly protests too much. Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Film, The Great Beauty both echoes and updates Fellini’s central themes: the contradictions of a decadent and listless consumerist society, and the existential struggles of the individuals seeking meaning within it.
The individual in question here is Jep Gambardella, an aging socialite and journalist (in that order) who has crowned himself king of Rome’s high-flying glitterati. But the arrival of Jep’s 65th birthday shocks him into the melancholic realization that his life is slipping away: “I can’t waste any more time doing things I don’t want to do,” he muses. Much like Fellini’s cynical gossip journalist Marcello in La Dolce Vita, Jep must face the emptiness of getting everything he thinks he wanted.
The problem for Jep – a man bored by endless parties, beautiful women at his beck and call, and access to the highest echelons of influence – is that he doesn’t seem to know what he wants. The film spends its 142 minutes exploring this question in meandering, impressionistic episodes set in a gorgeous, sprawling, and perpetually twilit Rome – the city which serves as co-star and muse for Jep’s peregrinations.
As we follow Jep on his Dante-esque sojourn through the Roman underworld, the shape of his life’s great disappointments become apparent: the failure of his first love, which turned him, instead, towards shallow womanizing, and his failure as a serious writer, which left him, instead, to produce inane celebrity profiles. The “great beauty” he once sought is now nothing but an aching nostalgia, a constant recrimination of his pursuit of lesser things.
In this sense, The Great Beauty is a deeply religious film, despite its criticism of the Catholic hierarchy. While comforting institutions and ideologies – the Church, the Party, the market economy – falter, Sorrentino returns again and again to the symbolism of prayer, repentance, penance, and resurrection. Jep, like a latter day Augustine, has come to the logical endpoint of a life of indulgence, and is bewildered and mildly panicked to find it pathetic and empty.
Thus, when, in a key scene, Jep’s editor accuses him of laziness, we understand what she really means: he is afraid. Afraid of trying, and possibly failing, to be either a serious writer or a serious lover. Afraid that his entire adulthood has been an elaborate effort to avoid confronting the central questions of his life. Afraid, above all, of pursuing the great beauty that may – or, terrifyingly, may not – lay beyond the boundaries of his manic lifestyle.
Sorrentino ultimately provides us with little in the way of resolutions or reconciliations – at the film’s close, life in Rome, with all its lust, corruption, and loneliness, lurches on. Yet Jep has begun to change, and we see his unspoken determination to confront his fears before it is too late. He quietly resolves to resume his writing. Tentatively, he allows himself to again love a woman, and face her loss. Bumbling and vulnerable, he turns to a priest for spiritual direction.
If Fellini perfected the portrait of the artist at his midlife crisis, Sorrentino shows him in old age, ruled by nostalgia and shadowed by death. And in the midst of the sorrow of wasted time, hints to us the ever present possibility of rebirth.
Once A School at IPaintMyMInd Gallery @ Green Exchange saw a great turnout for some stirring imagery by Bill Healy.
Once A School: Photography by Bill Healy opens Thursday, January 30th at IPaintMyMind Gallery (Logan Square).
Daniel Macadam’s photographic screen prints provoke feeling from stillness in an uncanny, pacifying way. There’s something about the lack, the rustic subjects in their open spaces.
Christian Schmidt’s photos are all about perspective. They take raw beauty, tilt the angle, and boom.
Words by Armando Luis Alvarez
Luckily enough, I had the chance to pull aside director Randy Moore, whose first film, Escape from Tomorrow, has been making a buzz as a horrifying depiction of mass-marketed media and falsified happiness gone haywire… but did you know he started out making electronic music? Moore shares his obsession for music and the processes it took to create his debut in this brief interview.
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Can you tell us, first of all – what is “art” to you?
Well for me, art is just obsession – like when I started this project, I just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop even when it kept snowballing into this larger production – and there were a lot of times when a reasonable person probably would’ve said “OK, that’s enough – let’s move on,” but I couldn’t. And I thought it would probably never see the light of day, beyond small festivals or underground screenings – but you know, I was obsessed. And so I just kept going with it.
So would you say the film itself is about obsession?
I think the film is all about obsession.
How has obsession, or the obsession of art, played a role in your life?
Well, film has always been my obsession, since high-school but I started off doing electronic music. I thought about being a film composer, so I was doing a lot of midi stuff, but when it came time to perform, I never had an orchestra available so I would just sequence stuff and get started on a computer. I felt that sitting in a dark room and listening to the music – it needed something, so I started making short, abstract music videos, just to go along with the music, basically. Just to give people something to look at. Gradually I started being complemented more on the visuals than the music, and so when it came time to think about college, I felt that I should probably focus on one more than the other. That may have been a mistake – I mean I still do music, but that’s mostly personal now.
So really, music was your first obsession? Do you look at it differently now that it’s not your main pursuit?
There was a while where I was just completely focused on writing, and I stopped doing music all together, and I think I went a little crazy. And so I finally went out and bought a used piano and just started playing, and instantly my writing got better, everything, it was like I had kind of lost my soul when I stopped.
Cool. Well, not cool, but I’m glad it came back! Tell me, when you were planning this movie, was there any consideration to logistical hurdles, like, “Oh my god, how are we going to film this at Disney?” or was it more liberating, thinking, “I don’t need to rent locations, pay insurance, etc?” What was your mindset when putting together the original story, and the limitations you might face in advance?
I wrote the script without any restraint – it was more of like a writing exercise for me – I had a lot of “personal demons” to exorcise in this one, and it was just something that I’d pick up and work on from time to time, you know, when I was stuck on something else. And when I finished it, I just put it away and immediately started working on the next script, but I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind, and it really wasn’t until I was introduced to the 5D Mark II that I really thought it might be possible to make the movie.
Were there any compromises you had to make between the no-holds-barred writing and the actual logistical approach of filming a movie in Disney World, without their knowledge?
We shot the script as it was. I felt like I had a moral right to make the movie. I wasn’t quite sure what the legality of it would be, you know, I’m not a lawyer and I didn’t want to go in to it with a legal mindset. I thought as soon as I started doing that, I would start second-guessing myself and maybe changing shots, or changing story points. And so my intention was to have one cut that was just totally pure, without any second-guessing, and that’s what we did. That’s what was screened at Sundance, and really the only thing that changed between the theatrical cut and the Sundance cut, besides just trimming down the scenes that ran long – I think it was 104 minutes at Sundance, is we added a disclaimer basically.
Something to say that this is not a Disney property?
So clearly, without saying anything negative towards Disney, as they do good things every now and then, right?
Alot of people have been saying that this film is an attack on mainstream media. Personally speaking, I have a lot of beef with the way the oligopolies, if you will, in general, have been organized for the past couple decades, and what that does to our culture. Is that a subject you actually intended to approach in the subtext of your movie?
I feel strongly about it, but for me, this wasn’t as much about going after Disney or the “empire” they are, but it was about the experience of going to Disney. It’s not a movie starring Mickey Mouse, it’s a movie about what Mickey Mouse means to the culture.
So it’s not as much an attack on entertainment in general?
Well I do think there’s a lot to be said and that we DO say about the dangers of this ubiquitous, non-stop compulsion to be entertained – or to be happy. Being happy all the time, paying to go to an artificial world that claims to sell you manufactured happiness, is kind of a strange concept. I think we should try to make our own happiness.
Sounds right to me. We’d like to thank Mr. Moore so much for this opportunity. This experience itself has been an inspiration and we wish him the best of luck with future endeavors!
Check out the film’s awesome official website at escapefromtomorrow.com.
These photos and the interview were taken at the POSTERITATI Gallery in New York City, hosted in conjunction with PDA, the distributors of the film, who have worked hard to present Moore’s work to the public, both online and in theaters, despite the potential legal issues.
Check out more great interviews on IPaintMyMind.
The Fading Nostalgia team utilizes novel visual techniques, including the use of strobe lights and colored gel lights, to throw light on abandoned or forgotten structures in unexpected ways.