linconnu-du-lacStranger by the Lake, the first U.S.-distributed film by French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie stands out as a strikingly confident work. His little-known filmography dates back to 1990 and includes six other feature films, so he has had experience to build on. But watching his latest film with only knowledge of his surreal earlier work, which includes a world featuring unseen creatures called ounayes, it becomes easy to see why Stranger By the Lake stands out as his breakthrough movie.

Though grounded in a recognizable, real world, the specter of the unknowable still hangs heavy over the film’s action, which is shaped by primal sexual desire and a rather kinky flirtation with mystery. It focuses on a motley crew of gay men cruising for sex along the bank of a lake over the course of a few days during summer vacation in some part of France. Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) is new to the lake. He strikes up a conversational relationship with Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), a pudgy older man, who sits on the rocks with his arms crossed but never seems to partake in any of the sexual activity. Then there’s Michel (Christophe Paou), an athletic swimmer with a bushy Magnum P.I. mustache, who Franck passionately falls for.

Franck’s interest in Michel comes across in glances, and Michel’s lover does not like the look of it, so he presses Michel to leave for a romp in the nearby woods. Franck pairs off with another man in a Batman T-shirt. After Franck and “Batman” have their fling, which includes vivid ejaculation (ramming home a reference to le petit mort), lake_promo1Franck spies Michel drowning his clingy lover. Though Franck had told Henri he had not planned to visit the lake the following day, he shows up anyway. When Henri asks Franck what changed his mind, Franck eludes the question. However, the implication is clear:  His desire for Michel has only been enhanced.

The film features plenty of nudity and sex, including, as noted, stuff some might only see in hardcore pornography (body doubles are used for these scenes). The casual nakedness and dangerous love recalls the darkly comic 1971 Brazilian film How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, about a French settler who is practically adopted by a tribe of barely-clothed cannibals, given a wife, only to be eaten. The all-consuming and visceral desire of Franck for a man who he has spied drowning his lover gives Stranger By the Lake a similar ominous, primal vibe.

Sex for these men may be casual, but it is never without its complications. It serves a purpose in loading glances and adding a certain heft to the dialogue. linconnu_du_lac2Though these men seem to be able to talk intimately about sex, they exchange many questions never entirely answered. Conversations become taboo. When a masturbating voyeur stands near a naked Franck and Michel as they talk in the bushes, Michel tells him to go away. “Can’t you see we’re talking? Come back when we’re fucking.”

Stranger By the Lake is not about the plain-sighted but what lies beneath it. These men may seem to bare all (even Michel’s psychosis is put on plain display). However, there is always the unknown psychological that informs unspoken motivations: the unconscious. Guiraudie presents the fatal drowning and Michel rising from the lake afterward to put on his clothes and walk away in one long take, all from the perspective of the trees, where Franck has hidden. It’s a brilliant metaphor for that inert but essential place in the mind inexplicably linked to the death drive. It’s Freud’s theory of Eros and Thanatos, rising up from the pool of the unconscious incarnate.

The unknowable is further enhanced by witty dialogue that heightens the notion of a narrative based on questions. When Franck and Michel have their first sexual tryst, Michel asks Franck about his lover. Franck denies having one but then asks Michel, “And what did you do with yours?” The men exchange questions that remain unanswered as often as they reveal intimate thoughts of desire or self-worth, yet there is knowledge loaded in the questions that goes beyond dramatic irony and speaks to a dark, unmentionable drive below the surface. It’s perfectly represented in an earlier, casual chat between Franck and Henri when Henri warns Franck of the alleged presence of a 15-foot long silurus (or catfish) in the lake that is never seen in the movie.

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Guiraudie maintains his focus brilliantly by staying devoted to the setting. The film never moves to any other location beyond the lake, the woods and a make-shift parking lot by a dirt road. He uses little stylization. The pacing is well controlled, never fast enough to call attention to itself or languorous enough to bore. Though the film has no extra-diegetic score, one of the first standout cinematic characteristics of Stranger By the Lake is its sound. The rustle of leaves from a wind that sends tree branches waving, the lapping of the water on the shoreline, the sound of gravel crunching below the feet of the men: this is the film’s score. It’s natural, but also heightened in its central position without any distracting music. In its own bizarre way, it adds to the film’s sinister, surreal and psychological quality. The sound of the water during Franck’s first swim in the lake adds a heft to the quality of what will be the murder weapon.

Guiraudie harnesses the power of his minimalist style to produce quality cinema— if you are not distracted by explicit gay sex. His sensibility is typically French, a country that has produced some of the most efficiently focused films in the world. The film’s biggest strength against this neat backdrop is its tightly packed dialogue, which is at once revealing and full of mystery. It only gets better as the film moves on when a police inspector intrudes on the men with more questions and climax with a scene of perfect, intriguing mystery. Guiraudie, who won the directing Prize of Un Certain Regard at 2013’s Cannes Film Festival, will certainly become a filmmaker to watch.

Hans Morgenstern

Stranger By the Lake runs 97 minutes, is in French with English subtitles and is unrated (it’s adult, psychologically and viscerally). It opens in South Florida area this Friday, Feb. 7, in Miami at O Cinema Wynwood and at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which provided a DVD screener for the purposes of this review. For screening dates in other parts of the U.S., visit the film’s Facebook page.

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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Day 2 of the Miami International Film Festival provided the experience I was looking forward to most about the 30th edition of this event: an intimate experience with the world of cinema. It began with a riveting discussion on the state of film criticism by some the industry’s busiest film critics in the US, and ended with two screenings at the Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami. One of the films was a world premiere, the other the latest from one of Denmark’s most vital filmmakers second only to Lars von Trier.

The day began at the Miami Beach Cinematheque where an audience of some of the more hardcore film attendees sat rapt for almost two hours, as four of the U.S.’s more influential film critics discussed their industry. They included:

David Edelstein (“New York Magazine,” NPR’s “Fresh Air” and “CBS Sunday Morning” [my favorite morning TV news show around])

Leah Rozen (“The Wrap,” “People Magazine”)

Claudia Puig (“USA Today”)

Kim Voynar (“Movie City News,” “Cinematical”).

Led by Miami’s Dan Hudak (“Hudak on Hollywood,” WLRN and chairman of the Florida Film Critics Circle), who could barely get a word in edgewise, it only took a few questions to get a variety of views from a group of people wired for discourse. Edelstein was the more contrarian of the bunch, which kept the conversation nice and dynamic. He pushed the basic tenet for anyone who wants to write film criticism: “Write and write and write and re-write and read everything.”

Critics panel at the Miami International Film Festival. Photo by Hans Morgenstern

Puig noted anyone who wants to write about film should “get a life.” Though her advice may seem condescending at face value, she elaborated on the wit loaded in her comment. Criticism is a lonely business, but it must also be a well-informed business that comes from the school of life.

Rozen illuminated Puig’s point by adding film students should consider double majoring in things outside of film school, including the social sciences like political science or anthropology (I would add psychology and literature, where my experience also stems from).

Voynar, the youngest of the group, addressed the concern of many trying their hand at this game: money. This is not a passion to follow for money, and aspiring critics need to expect to write for free. Film criticism is about a passion for an art that trumps any desire for making money. If cinema is a true wholehearted interest of any writer, money will come. But going around demanding and asking for it will get you ignored fast.

That was only the start of a discussion that enforced some of my own views on film writing, including a studious desire “to watch films analytically,” according to Rozen. All agreed what a waste of time writers are who summarize films and provide little to no insight into the craft, a rookie mistake of many aspiring film writers.

I think I most learned from Edelstein who spoke about his own struggles with finding his voice. He began by indulging in all first person, reactionary pieces to distant John Updike-like observational.  I tend toward the latter, which made me feel as though I still have something to learn. I was relieved to hear some constructive advice that proves my theory that, as a writer, one never masters writing but always strives to master it.

Finally, they defended bloggers such as I. At the end of the panel, an audience member asked a question deriding the seeming self-appointed nature of bloggers. They all agreed that though the blogosphere is full of clear amateurs who are not hard to spot, it has some voices that rival their own peers. “Some are absolutely amazing and do it for love,” one of them said.

After this most stimulating panel (already this post is too long), it was off to a happy hour at the festival’s official hotel, the Standard. The hotel bar was filled with so many people I should have known but hardly recognized, as I have this inherit problem with names and faces and no interest in the celebrity game. I wound up chatting with Edelstein some more and Canadian actor/director Don McKellar (sheesh, just noticed he played Yevgeny Nourish in Cronenberg’s masterpiece eXistenZ). I also met Puig there who ended up being my movie date for both screenings that night. On the way to the Olympia theater in Downtown Miami, I saw her outside waiting for a van she might have missed, so I offered her a ride.

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The first movie we saw was the world premiere of the Boy Who Smells Like Fish, a film I was drawn to because I know someone who has the disease trimethylaminuria. The film, which also features McKellar, by first-time director Analeine Cal y Mayor approached the disease with a sense of humor that reached for Wes Anderson heights of quirk. Featuring Douglas Smith and Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Lenny), the film came from a sincere place, but the script, co-written by Cal y Mayor and Javier Gullón, both from Spain, was uneven and at times contrived. Kravitz gave it her sincere best, and the movie worked when it embraced its silly side most unabashedly. Conjuring up the long-lost Mexican singing “legend” Guillermo Garibai (a happy-go-lucky “most intereting man” performance by Gonzalo Vega) to give advice for the sad-sack titular boy (a passionless Smith), almost rescues the film. Hiwever, it arrives too late into the movie, which mostly dwells on the boy’s morose suffering.

Much of the cast and crew from Spain and Canada (plus actress Carrie-Anne Moss who has a part) were present for the screening. The applause was kind, but no standing ovation. Director Cal Y Mayor was forgotten at the film’s introduction by the film’s producer, Niv Fichman, and she admitted her nervousness about the film’s reception. She was sweet, and I hope the film works for her in some way, but judging from the night, the battle seems quite steep for this film to gain any attention at future screenings.

Some of the cast of the Boy Who Smells Like Fish at the Miami International Film Festival. Photo by Hans Morgenstern.

Lackluster films only serve to enhance anything that follows, and that happened during the second film of the night: Thomas Vinterberg’s the Hunt. The way cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen shot the children, so key to the film’s plot, even stood above the night’s previous film.

Vinterberg, who co-wrote the script with Tobias Lindholm  proved himself a director comfortably in tune with his craft. The film, which stars Mads Mikkelsen, who won best actor at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for his performance as Lucas, is a rather cruel play on dramatic irony. After a child’s fib goes viral among the inhabitants of Danish small town, Lucas becomes the target of a witch hunt.

As one can expect from the director who made a name for himself with the Celebration, the film becomes a brutal rollercoaster of victimization with the audiences’ sympathy clearly placed on Lucas’ shoulders. THE HUNT_Photo by Per Arnesen 3It’s a brilliant piece of emotional manipulation that will hopefully enhance one’s own awareness to rash judgments of those accused and persecuted solely based around the horror of the crime they are alleged to have committed.

The Hunt ends on an ambiguous note that encourages discussion. We wound up standing outside the Olympia with several other local cinema enthusiasts, including a pair of my colleagues in local cinema criticism: FFCC member Reuben Pereira and the Hialeah Examiner’s Steve Mesa. Despite it being a cold night in the low 50s, we stood outdoors considering the film’s theme, approach and performances for some time.

Next post: a preview of Day 3, for which I have some more interesting published preview writing to share…

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Sometimes a drama need not divert into histrionics to be moving. Las Acacias has a sublime quality that quietly charms with the most minimal of drama and sparest of cinematic techniques. With his debut, award-winning feature*, Argentine director Pablo Giorgelli presents a film that takes its time and subverts the need for heavy-handed personal conflict to create the subtlest of love stories.

Las Acacias follows Rubén (Germán de Silva), a truck driver hauling tree trunks from the jungles of Paraguay to Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires. After the film spends 10 minutes with no dialogue following Rubén driving alone in his truck, sipping mate and stopping at a truck stop to wash his armpits and face, he meets someone who will throw a loop into his usual route. On this fateful day, he is to transport a relative of his boss’ housekeeper, Jacinta (Hebe Duarte), and she has brought along her 8-month old baby, Anahí (Nayra Calle Mamani). “Is the baby yours?” Rubén asks, casually puffing on a cigarette when Jacinta approaches with the baby in her arms.

“Yes, she’s my daughter,” she says.

“Fernando didn’t mention a baby,” Rubén says, taking another drag on his cigarette.

“I told Mr. Fernando I was travelling with my daughter.”

Their exchange is casual, as if someone forgot some little detail in the deal. Maybe Rubén missed the mention of the baby or Fernando forgot to tell him about the baby or Jacinta did not specify to Fernando her daughter was an infant. The tension that arises feels slight and real. During the road trip, Rubén often glances over at the baby as she stares back with a smile that seems to melt the perpetually frowning man. The infant’s fresh, round face and large curious eyes present a dichotomy to his gray stubble and wrinkles. When he took his bath in the sink earlier, a huge scar from his left shoulder down his back reveals Rubén as a man with a painful past. We don’t have to know what happened, but as the film unfolds, his personal scars will also casually arise.

Giorgelli, who also wrote the film’s screenplay with Salvador Roselli, is not concerned with revealing mysterious pasts. Instead, he indulges in the sustained, but pregnant moments of quiet. When Anahí begins to fuss after Rubén takes a couple of puffs from a cigarette at the start of their drive, he tosses the cig out of the window. “Gracias,” says the mother who never asked him not to smoke to begin with. However, Anahí will not stop crying, and he gets quietly annoyed when Jacinta has to repeat “She’s hungry,” and they must stop for a warm bottle of milk. After a cut to the interior of the restaurant, they sit in silence, as Anahí suckles on the bottle. Time passes only through the cuts in the film and switches to different, sustained, straight-ahead angles. Jacinta never apologizes for any perceived inconvenience. When she disappears with the baby to the bathroom, Rubén asks the girl at the restaurant’s counter if she sells bus tickets. After Jacinta re-emerges from the bathroom, he drops the bus conversation. It is one of only a few moments of discrete tension that arises in the film.

Though the film is spare in its dialogue, its brisk, 85-minute pace never drags. María Astrauskas edits the film with a discreet rhythm that never betrays the passage of time but never allows the camera to linger so much to detract from mundane images of the dusty road. The actors remain mostly silently, exchanging glances loaded with genuine interest. Giorgelli knows how to harness the power of the child’s innocence in the purest of forms, maintaining distant long shots from Rubén’s perspective, avoiding any quick, indulgent close-ups. The child behaves as a child does, allowing the viewer to contemplate the sublime innocence of that child. For most of the film, the sun infuses a beautiful orange glow over the proceedings. Though the truck and its stops along the way are often dusty and worn, the film never seems to present a decrepit atmosphere of the lower class. The scenery never appears dirty, but earthy and real. The two actors have the appearance of down-to-earth people and never exude stagey, over-dressed sex appeal or appear out of place.

The film also has no music whatsoever, within the action or outside of it as mood modification (what film people know as both diegetic and extra-diegetic music). If there is any musicality on the soundtrack, it comes from the truck’s engine. The vehicle’s rumble phases through tonal shifts as Rubén maneuvers through the gears. The sound of the truck engine and the shifting of the transmission offers the only score to the action, and it suits the mood of this travelogue through South America’s spare countryside as well as anything else could have— maybe even better.

As the film progresses, little morsels of information come out between the travelers, as the child provides the objectification of innocence. Though she says nothing, and is probably minimally directed, she embodies the purity of how all human beings begin, open to everything and caring for nothing except food and company. Neither ideologies nor existentialist explications have a place in this truck cab. The only mystery that arises is the bond that forms so unquestionably between the truck driver and the young mother and her child. It grows at a gradual pace, from the purest of places, like the subtle flower that inspired the film’s title. Las Acacias has only the slightest of tension but remains full of the most minimal of soulful understanding.

Hans Morgenstern

Trailer (Note: the amount of edits in the preview below belies the quiet pacing of Las Acacias, and is not representative of the film’s true tone):

*It deservedly won the Camera d’Or for the best first feature at Cannes in 2011.

Las acacias is not rated (nothing about it should be offensive), is in Spanish with English subtitles and runs 85 min. It plays exclusively in South Florida this Friday, Nov. 9, at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which provided a DVD screener for the purposes of this review.

Update: the film returns to Miami for a short run at the Tower Theater beginning Dec. 21.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne work in a world of efficient drama. Their cinema is stripped of sentimentality yet still captures intimate moments with powerful focus that stays with a viewer long after leaving the cinema. Their spare films are experiences that stick like solid memories. You know when you have seen a Dardenne film. Characters suffer ordeals or undergo life changes that feel visceral and personal. Sometimes they are subtle (the titular character of Rosetta [1999] undergoes a glimmer of change that may or may not help her rise out of a downtrodden life in a trailer park). Other times they are more dramatic (the main character of Lorna’s Silence [2008] finds the strength and cunning to free herself from a world that could be considered modern slavery).

The Dardennes have a consistent style. Simple, sudden splices separate the scenes. There are no fades, overlaps or dissolves. Everything is shot on handheld high-definition digital cameras. There are no dramatic singular shots like swoops, zooms or close-ups. The soundtrack generally avoids non-diegetic music. When such music does appear, it stands out with potent purpose. Lighting seems natural and unfiltered. The actors have a natural style, and the Dardennes have been known to work with non-stars or non-actors. The brothers have never strayed from this style over the years. In fact, they have only perfected and fine-tuned it. The mix of these techniques effectively capture a austerity where only the drama of the situations influence the audience in an authentic and honest manner.

All the action that unfolds in a film by the Dardennes never feels superfluous. They build up the scenes with such efficiency that when the last few scenes arrive toward the end of the film, the balance of suspense fills you with anticipation. You begin to trust the Dardennes on an almost subconscious level. If a character goes off to do something seemingly banal, you know it will have to serve the story in some way. No moment is wasted in a film by this duo.

None of the Dardenne films I have seen have felt more tight and focused than the Kid With a Bike, which only now finally finds a distributor in IFC Films after sharing the 2011 Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. The film follows 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) on his quest for a father figure after his biological father (Jérémie Renier) leaves him at a boarding school. The insistent quality of this little boy is smartly established at the start of the film when he refuses to give up listening to an out-of-service message on the phone, as a school counselor pleads him to hang up the receiver.

Cyril feels kinetic, even while laying in bed. He always seems breathless. He’s a steadfast creature. When the neighborhood drug dealer Wesker (Egon Di Mateo) names him “pitbull” the name seems apt. The kid fights for his bike, his final connection to his AWOL father, with unrelenting zeal. Wesker preys on this fatherless child, inviting him to video games and soda at his apartment and soon devises a scheme that will harness this child’s peculiar energy. It’s an energy and drive familiar to many who are preyed on to enter gangs at young ages. The purpose in Cyril to impress a male figure in his life is so strong, it transcends criminal activity. He does not even care for a cut of the take from Wesker, telling him he’s only doing it for him because he told him to do it.

The boy is in deep pain, which comes out in equal parts aggression and aloofness, when it’s not focused on impressing Wesker or during the quiet bliss in the all too brief company of his actual father. On the receiving end of most of this misguided aggression is the boy’s foster mother, the hairdresser Samantha (Cécile De France). She hesitantly agrees to take Cyril in after helping the boy find his missing bike at the start of the film. He imposes himself on her, asking if she might see him on weekends. She cannot seem to help herself from saying “no.” She even helps Cyril track down his father, who only sees the boy as a burden he does not want. The film is as much about this woman’s courage to step in when the boy’s father decides to take the easy way out to “start over.”

Though the Kid With a Bike is the Dardennes’ tightest film, I have not seen them ever compromise their style for a pat ending. Though the boy seems to find some kind of peace at the film’s end, the Dardennes do not hold back throwing a monkey wrench into the story with a powerful finale that leaves the viewer wondering. The open-endedness of their films is also key to their style defined by their lo-fi cinematic style. The rawness of their movies seek to capture the sensation of true-life experience. Just as life goes on after one completes a phase in growth (however big or small that experience might feel), thus it goes on after the final fade to black in a Dardenne film. Just as you never know what might happen next with every moment in life, you never get luxuriated with the promise of a tidy ending in a Dardenne film. Life goes on and who knows what is next? Bring on another Dardenne film.

Hans Morgenstern

The Kid With a Bike is not rated, runs 87 min. and is in French with English subtitles. It opens in Miami Beach Friday, Apr. 6, at 6:45 p.m., at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which hosted a preview screening for the purposes of this review. It will play a series of dates as part of the theater’s on-going series “Les Freres Dardennes.” The series also includes one-night-only screenings of the above mentioned Rosetta (Thursday, March 29, at 8 p.m.) and L’Enfant, which also stars Jérémie Renier (Thursday, April 5, at 8 p.m.). The Kid With a Bike also opens in the Miami area at the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema, Friday, Apr. 6, at 7 p.m. and to the north, in Broward County, at the Cinema Paradiso, also on Apr. 6, but at 6 p.m.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

It has been almost 20 years since an original, hand-colored print was discovered of George Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon). It took more than half that time to repair the film for screening purposes. Part of that time was just waiting for the technology to catch up to the needs required for the destroyed nitrate print. A good place to see the state of disrepair the film was found in can be found at the Technicolor Film Foundation. The restoration was deservedly painstaking. Considered the first science-fiction film in movie history, this 16-minute short from 1902 is one of the most famous of the early silent films. Original hand-colored films in those days were rare, as well. To find one made of one of the most iconic silent films in history, almost a hundred years later, marked a jackpot find.

Le Voyage dans la Lune‘s rebirth is now being celebrated with special screenings at art houses across the US. It already began visiting big screens in South Florida beginning in Broward County, at the Cinema Paradiso, where it premiered on March 3. It will appear in Miami-Dade, finally, at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, starting March 23, as part of the European Film Festival in Miami 2012. This new restoration had its world premiere at Cannes, last year.

Big for music fans, as this is a silent film, is a new score by France’s most internationally successful contemporary music duos: Air. The union might seem odd, at first, but Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel have always had a penchant for the retro, even though one might argue that even the most vintage of instruments the duo routinely incorporates could be considered modern compared to the 110-year-old film they have now scored.

Though the synth-heavy duo do not shy away from modern implements like reverbing electric guitar, sparkling organs and even ominous mellotron, there is also timpani, strings, harpsichord and even a few plucks of a banjo, which may just have well been instruments used at the turn of the 20th century. It’s all on display on this new, dynamic score that they not only fashioned for the film but also jumped off from to create songs inspired by the movie. Air mix it all together for an evocative work as good as anything in their discography. The soundtrack therefore doubles as the duo’s eighth album since their debut in 1998. Victoria Legrand, the dreamy, hushed voice of Baltimore-based Beach House, takes lead vocals on “Seven Stars.” It’s a funny coincidence that she happens to be a niece of the famed French composer Michel Legrand. His songs appeared in Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and he won an Oscar® for his work on Yentl.

This new music for Le Voyage dans la Lune fits fine in both Air’s discography, continuing its more accessible sound from their last full-length, Love 2, and to hear it accompanied by the fantastical imagery that inspired it on the big screen is a must for fans of Air. The band remains consistent, proving they know how to handle a score, just as they did with Sophia Coppola’s debut film, the Virgin Suicides.

A vinyl version is due out on April 2, and though available as an import-only, at a steeper price than usual, it should sound worthwhile. Just like Air’s last album, Love 2, it will come on heavy 180 gram vinyl in a gatefold sleeve produced by the boutique vinyl EMI subsidiary the Vinyl Factory. There is also a limited edition box set (only 300 manufactured for worldwide distribution) on higher quality 45 rpm 12-inch records that includes a signed art print by the duo. But all versions of the album include the newly restored color version of Le Voyage dans la Lune on an all-region coded DVD, which also features music exclusive to the score and not featured on the album.

These up-coming theatrical presentations will also feature something exclusive: the documentary film the Extraordinary Voyage by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lang, which spends just over an hour examining the history of this film’s restoration and impact on early impact on cinema. I have not seen this yet, but, according to Miami Beach Cinematheque’s website, it features interviews with Tom Hanks, Michel Gondry, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Michel Hazanavicus. It reportedly covers everything from the original film’s 1902 production to the rediscovery of the hand-colored nitrate print in 1993, and the premiere of the restoration on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.

But the real treat will be the chance to see the 16-minute short on the big screen. Méliès practically invented the film narrative with this film using complex sets and costumes. He incorporated special effects like stop motion, and even the dissolves between cuts are credited as his invention. There is no arguing that this film deserves care and preservation. Martin Scorsese laid it out passionately in the subtext of his most recent film, Hugo, which featured Méliès as a character (played by Ben Kingsley). For me, the most amazing aspect of Hugo, were the recreations of the famous sets for Le Voyage dans la Lune, and even performances of the scenes, which unfolded in 3-D on the big screen. It was a surreal, mind-blowing delight that I had not expected to see, as the media was so busy hyping the fact that Hugo marked Scorses’s first 3-D family film.

The word “dream factory” was co-opted by Hollywood long after Méliès knew the power of cinema. In Hugo, Méliès tells the young hero of the film, “If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from, you look around… this is where they’re made.” On his deathbed, he famously told Henri Langlois and Georges Franju, “Laugh, my friends. Laugh with me, laugh for me, because I dream your dreams.” (Henri Langlois, First Citizen of Cinema, p. 41). If I had to choose between the idealistic Méliès over the corporate machine of Hollywood, I would hand it to Méliès as the true pioneer of the dream machine now well-known as the movie projector.

Hans Morgenstern

The newly restored hand-colored version of Le Voyage dans la Lune and The Extraordinary Voyage will screen in high-definition digital projection, Friday night (March 23), at 7 p.m. , at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. It will play every following night through Monday night (March 26th), at 7 p.m. each night. For other screening dates throughout the year, see Air’s official homepage on Astralwerks Records.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I recently spread out my blogging to Beached Miami. I had been in awe of their brave, expansive coverage of the city I have been calling home since I was but 5 years of age. I wanted in on this. So I took some of my talents to Beached, giving them my ramblings on the visionary director Terrence Malick (they trimmed it back respectfully), as the Miami Beach Cinematheque starts a retrospective of sorts tomorrow on the philosopher turned filmmaker. Here’s a direct link to the piece:

‘Early Malick’ offers low light, high vision

Those who usually expect to see my film writing here can click the link above for this latest piece previewing MBC’s ongoing Great Directors Series, which continues with “Early Malick.” You see, before the Tree of Life’s Brad Pitt, there were other hunky actors in the gorgeous frames of Malick, like Martin Sheen in Badlands (1973) and Richard Gere in Days of Heaven (1978). Of course that’s sarcasm, as Malick is less about offering up star vehicles and more about wringing out the most art possible film has to offer. While doing so, he trusts the audience to open its mind to the possibilities of a message beyond language, embedded in an aesthetic that is pure cinema and deserves to be celebrated. MBC offers its own tribute to Malick’s work in the wake of the arrival of his newest film, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

MBC will host special one-night only screenings for each of Makick’s first two films this week and next, beginning tomorrow night. Badlands screens first, Thursday, July 14, at 8 p.m. Next Thursday, July 21, also at 8 p.m, the series continues with Days of Heaven. UPDATE: Due to popular interest, Days of Heaven‘s screening (on high-def Blu-Ray, incidentally) has been extended: Friday, July 22 at 8:50 p.m., Saturday, July 23 at 5 p.m. and 8:50 p.m.

In the meantime, I plan to keep offering more exclusive Miami-oriented film and music events via Beached Miami, so check their blog out.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)