post-tenebras-lux-posterPost Tenebras Lux, the fourth film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas demands a relaxed, open mind well aware of the boundaries of cinema and in search of something fresh. The cinephile with an adventurous taste looking for something new in the forms of narrative structure and framing will leave a film like this invigorated. Those looking for something traditional will only feel frustrated, however. But resist and miss a vital message about the class divisions that seem to perpetuate themselves via the mind-numbing escapism most filmmakers are comfortable to exploit for profit and cheap thrills.

Post Tenebras Lux (Latin for “After the darkness, light,” a term lifted out of the Book of Job) is a slippery affair that oozes a vibrant, vital energy looking to obliterate the confines of cinematic narrative for high impact of a social message that seems to trouble the filmmaker to the core of his being. He puts his own lifestyle at the center of culpability by placing his own progeny in the film as the main characters’ children. post-tenebras-lux702As you watch the main character Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) try to mingle with the working class while indulging in bourgeois life, which includes a sex adventure to France with his quietly suffering wife Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo), one has to wonder how much of this is autobiographical, at least on the level of conscience. The abstract manner of this film speaks to the filmmaker’s own frustration with the hypocritical idea of it, for ultimately, how can an art film truly speak to the concerns of the other, much less the subaltern.

Illustrating the futile divisions in class systems, Reygadas, who also wrote the screenplay, juxtaposes vignettes of a small town in the lush forest landscape of Central Mexico, bookended by a children’s rugby match in the U.K. post_tenebras_lux_3Consider the Jungian principal of synchronicity, and the narrative conceit should feel easier to accept, as both settings will illuminate the other in an incongruent but impactful manner. For the most part, the film follows an upper-class family that remains as humanly flawed as the rest of town’s denizens in the lower classes, yet social constructs result in an impenetrable division, despite Juan’s efforts to socialize and mix with those under his employ or simply living in the same area. It all comes to a head in a violent encounter as banal and distant as Reygadas dares to conceive.

The film opens with an evocative if startling exterior scene at dusk. A little girl Eleazar (Eleazar Reygadas) stomps through a muddy meadow as a pack of dogs run back and forth around her, harassing a herd of cows, some of which attempt to copulate. The child, who must be about 3 years of age, is monosyllabic, uttering words like “dog” and “cow” and what will soon be revealed as the names of her immediate family. Post-Tenebras-Lux-Cannes-ImageShe sloshes around, fascinated by the mushy ground, as the dogs zip around her and nip at the agitated cows. The sky looms dark with gray clouds pregnant with rain and rumbling electricity. The opening scene carries on long enough, in what seems a single take, to turn from dusk to pitch black and only the sound of animals and the child’s startlingly playful voice resonate from a darkness broken up by flashes of lightning.

Scene 2: Enter the devil. The presence of evil is revealed in the family’s home. The glowing red thing, with no features but its silhouette and testicles hanging and swaying like a pendulum, creeps through the family’s fancy home, carrying a toolbox and bathing the walls in a red glow. The thing takes its time to establish itself. It feels as long as the opening scene, inviting the viewer to wonder.FOTO-DIABLO-5 When the little boy of the house, Rut (Rut Reygadas), awakes, he stares at the figure with a sort of curiosity that implies he might be dreaming it but also an awareness that such visions can wholly come to children as rather real (read: traumatic). The scene may feel long, but it allows for it to creep under the skin, so it might echo and illuminate the following scenes that range from violence to animals, subjugation of men and the environment and degradation of love. This is not any easy film to experience, and there are many lengthy, quiet scenes similar in length that range from startling to mundane. But there are also chatty scenes that illustrate Reygadas’ concern also has a sense of humor.

Despite many grand shots outdoors, Reygadas subverts the landscape with the use of a beveled lens that refracts the edges of the image leading to a doubling or sometimes quadrupling of the frame’s edge, creating an invisible if suffocating border around the people he has focused his camera on.Post-Tenebras-Lux This is not some indulgent, random use of experimental lensing. There is a symbolic relevance to the flourish. Post Tenebras Lux is a darkly poetic wake-up call about people who have lost their humanity and could very well continue to lose it should they allow themselves to succumb to complacent entitlement. It’s as harsh an experience as the recent class-concerned Paradise: Love, another exclusive screening revealing the brave programming that continues at the Miami Beach Cinematheque (My review: Film Review: ‘Paradise: Love’ peels away layers perpetuated by Disney gloss of post-colonial times). However, whereas Paradise: Love found potency in its raw delivery of frank exchanges between two different worlds of people, Post Tenebras Lux takes a more abstract approach. The narrative frequently jumps around with seemingly disconnected scenes that demand an open mind by the audience prepared for an interpretive experience. Post-Tenebras-LuxTo understand, however, might mean you will have to look at something that you might not like to see, be they scenes that shock on-screen or conversations that demand inference from a social standpoint of the same hypocrisy Reygadas seems to struggle with. It does not have to feel negative, and he offers hope at the end.

Post Tenebras Lux won Reygadas the best director award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It is a brilliantly structured work that encapsulates earthy characters, startling scenes of suspense and inventive cinematic techniques not seen in his prior work. It stands as one of this year’s truly transcendent films. The director seems very aware of breaking down and recreating the rules of cinema for such an experience to hit the audience. With Post Tenebras Lux, Reygadas shows a daring vision to experiment that echoes beyond panache and into consciousness that may aggravate some but never undermines its grander, insightful message that ultimately overshadows any idea of pretentiousness.

Hans Morgenstern

Post Tenebras Lux runs 115 minutes, is in Spanish with English subtitles and is not rated (this is in no way for kids, however). It opened in South Florida at this year’s Miami International Film Festival, during which an early version of this review first ran. Post Tenebras Lux begins a limited engagement at the Miami Beach Cinematheque on Friday, May 31. I have been asked by the Cinematheque to introduce the film on opening night, Friday, and the following Saturday night, so be there for either of those screenings and say hi and learn a little more about this movie.

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

This post continues my conversation with Mike Garson, which took place May 4, 2004. I sat down with him backstage at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, in a small, isolated dressing room set up with just his Yamaha Motif. He told me he always liked to practice for a couple of hours before hitting the stage. In a few hours he was to join David Bowie and his band on stage, during the Reality Tour’s stop in Miami. But, as detailed, earlier (Mike Garson talks about ‘David Bowie Variations’: an Indie Ethos exclusive, From the Archives: Mike Garson on working with David Bowie (Part 1 of 5), From the Archives: Mike Garson on working with David Bowie, the later years (Part 2 of 5), From the Archives: Mike Garson goes from jazz to Bowie (Part 3 of 5)), that show would be cancelled.

Still, in my 20 years of interviewing musicians, my conversation with Mike was one of the more memorable I have had with an artist of such talent and experience. I was delighted to have encountered a musician whose roots not only went back to the heyday of the glam rock era of the seventies, but even further to the roots of the experimental New York free jazz scene, and none of it had seemed to have gone to his head. He spoke of his apprehension of playing with jazz men of such greatness as Bill Evans, and offered patient insight into his memories of working with Bowie, probably his most famous collaborator.

In this part of our conversation we go a little deeper into Garson’s own ideas of his approach to the piano. It’s an intimate conversation that reveals an interesting and humble mentality to man’s place in music. This continues directly from the last post…

Hans Morgenstern: You mention how the improvisation just comes out of you. It must really take an unself-conscious sort of mindset.

Mike Garson: There is no ego when it’s going right. I have an ego, but it’s not usually in the way when I’m playing best, like the Lennie Tristano thing. He did a record that nobody even knows about because it sold so few, but I happened to get it in the sixties. He’s playing bass line with his left hand and improvising with his right hand. It sounded like this…

Listen to Garson’s demonstration

and jazz musicians like to take simple songs and just do theme and variation on them. You’d expect it to do that in jazz, but in Classical you don’t expect that. You’d expect it to be written out, but when I write out music I would sound like maybe secondhand Rachmaninov or Liszt or Chopin or Stravinsky, but when I was improvising, it became apparent that’s how I create, so that became my form of music, so when I realized I had the ability to get it written out through the player piano because I recorded into the Yamaha Disklavier, which is a 9-foot grand I have in the house. I put the floppy disc in, push record and then give the guy the disk and then he prints it out. I’ll look it over to see that it’s right. Then I pass it on to be played by some concert pianist. I don’t play them but that one time, but they sound like a classical piece. Like what I just did for you, a few minutes ago, that we don’t have a recording of. It’s gone. I could have recorded them in here…

[I point to the recorder].

Oh, yeah, that there, but it wasn’t that good, the classical thing today. The jazz thing was actually better, but you never know what’s actually going to be what, when and where … But to answer your question, it’s a combination of a hundred thousand hours of playing the piano since I was 7, and I’m 58, so I’ve been playing 51 years, so, if you think about it, if you can’t be good after all that time (he laughs) you’re really just in the wrong profession. That’s just on a very physical level, but musically, spiritually and emotionally it’s kind of like … (He pauses). You’re somewhat channeling. It’s like the music’s passing through you or like the notes are there, and I’m grabbing them, or they’re grabbing me. I haven’t figured it out.

I’ve heard Robert Fripp talk about that.

Has he talked about that? Any great artist will somehow or other get around to it, somehow, someway, and I know that it’s kind of like the expression: God helps those who help themselves. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve done a lot of homework, so I couldn’t do this on violin or French horn. I would sound terrible. So I have worked hard, but I know a lot of people who play the piano very well and have played as many hours, but they don’t have that freedom to just create and improvise. There is obviously some gift and some portion of me that is able to get out of my own way because I’ve never had composer’s block.

That goes back to when you were much younger, in your 20s and before Bowie invited you to play with him, you mentioned some of these jazz guys, and you were intimidated by that, basically.

I was.

So what happened to that guy? How did you break that barrier? How did he break through his fear of feeling inadequate to play with some jazz people?

I had to break through something that Vladimir Horowitz never broke through. People used to ask him, “How come you don’t compose?”

He said, “Well, my friend is Rachmaninov, who’s a genius.” I studied Chopin. You can’t beat that. I grew up with that mentality, and as long as you think that, that’s what you get, and it’s pretty logical thinking, so I had that for about half of my life. Then one day, I said, “fuck it.” I have to change my mindset, and I have to adopt a new paradigm: “Oh, I can be as good as any of my jazz heroes. I can be as good as any of my classical heroes. I can be as good as any composer but as Mike Garson.” What do I have to do to do that kind of a thing? And then I started to work toward this music that I call my Now Music, which is all this improvised classical stuff. But I do it in pop, I do it in rock. If you take the “Aladdin Sane” solo away from the rock track, it’s like the stuff that I’m playing. It would sound like …

Garson demonstrates

… So that’s where my joy lies these days, but the theory behind this way of playing, and that’s really what I do with David Bowie on those albums, and I’ve had it on my mind for 30 or 40 years, and I learned it from Lennie Tristano, the blind pianist that I was telling you about, which is he told me he felt that true jazz was really playing what you hear on the spot, in the moment. And a lot of guys play a lot of licks, and things they have memorized and worked out. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I certainly have done that, but I like the concept of trying to play what you feel in the present time, at the moment, and that’s what I’ve been developing for the last many years. It’s not much different than this conversation, in a way, you ask about this, and I start branching out, and it starts to become its own improvisation.

A lot of what I’m hearing here reminds me of what I saw on Michael Apted’s documentary, Inspirations, where he filmed you guys recording “A Small Plot of Land,” and he asked David Bowie about his creative process on the computer.

I never saw that.

You never saw that? Not even many Bowie fans know this film was released. It’s about these different artists, Lichtenstein, is another, and about the inspirations behind their art.

I’d love to see it. Was I in it?

Well, it was during the Outside sessions.

Those were great sessions.

You were on “A Small Plot of Land,” right?

I played piano.

But he was mainly focused on David.

I think conceptually,  [David is] in a similar place, philosophically, to me. Except that he’s working in pop music, in rock ‘n’ roll. He does have to go out and sing “Rebel Rebel” and some of these songs the same every night, and the band has to be tight, and the arrangements have to be tight. But, I think, when the music evolves and develops, he’s probably doing his version of what I was just doing in real-time for you. It’s not always the same thing.

That’s why I’m attracted to artists like him and you because it’s not always the same thing.

It’s not always the same thing … The thing is, Mozart and those people, Brahms, Beethoven, most of them didn’t live past 40, so I have this opportunity now, being 58 to still keep learning and absorbing things, so I’ll be around this other music that I’ve been talking about for the last 15 minutes, and I’ll be around David and this band, each person in this band is so creative and talented in their own way. The drummer, Sterling [Campbell], he’s the one who’s on “A Small Plot of Land” with me, and we improvised those sessions on Outside. David didn’t even let us tell each other what keys we were playing in. We basically played two weeks straight, four hours a day onto tape, the improvisations. They have tons of tape. Outside is just some songs that got made and put together by [co-producer Brian] Eno. Him and David would take these improvs that were all on these tapes, and then they’d hear a little hook here and a little hook there and cut it up. They would create a song like “Hearts Filthy Lesson,” which I wrote with him and the other guys. That ended up in the movie Seven. It must have been something that they heard, and then they formed it into a song. We were just improvising the way I was just doing it now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if every artist stayed at what they do, they eventually come to similar realizations regarding the creative process, the inspirational aspects, the channeling, but I think what people sometimes do is they try to jump there, and they haven’t done any basics or fundamentals, and their art sometimes doesn’t have enough substance. I don’t object to it because of the fact if anyone is creating, all the more power to them, but, personally, if you want to have some more depth, I think you have to do some more work along the way. I probably do too much work coz I studied so much, but then I had to undo all the studying to find my own voice, which is what I did between maybe 20 and 45. It’s really starting to come out, the older I get. It probably always was there, but I guess I’m refining it, at this point in my life. But you do get some wisdom as you get older just because you see so much junk go down. I’ve lost so many friends for so many different reasons, a lot of it drugs and this and that. But you start to come to realizations about things, and it affects your music and your art.

One of the words I can’t help to use in my reviews of songs of David Bowie that I hear you on is “angular.”

Oh, OK.

I’m just wondering if it’s a good word.

It is a good word. It is a good word. I don’t know how that came about. I know that sometimes I’ve had the thought if David Bowie, when I’m playing a solo for him like on “Small Plot of Land” or “Battle For Britain” or “Aladdin Sane,” I’m almost being him. I’m trying to play the piano like he would play, if he had the technique, so it might be more him than me that I’m playing at that moment because, as an artist, I also have this sort of chameleon ability to almost turn into anything that I’m around. The big joke is the last thing I hear before I go on stage might end up in the show. I was sitting at a club last week, and the club owner in Austin, Texas starts talking to me about, “Oh, we used to have these barrel house boogie-woogie players,” and I went up and sat in with a guitar player who was playing a rock show, and then I stopped the band and played some crazy like boogie-woogie piano like on steroids, very fast and crazy. But, I’d just been talking about it, so it brought it back to me. So, there’s something where I’m trying to connect myself, my spirituality, my life, my experiences and the music, using that as sort of the vehicle for how I feel.

There’s wisdom in music.

And it comes from a lot of years. Probably it might come from other lifetimes. Who knows? You know what I mean? The biggest problem for an artist, I think, who gets very good at what they do, is to stay somewhat humble and recognize that their music is a gift, and it’s coming through them. They’re offering it as a contribution to people who are listening to it, but if they get too wrapped up in themselves, sometimes the music suffers, and then they end up suffering.

A lot of it sounds like psychology, too. If you’re gonna put up the mental block, then you’re not going to be happy.

Right, and that’s the question you brought up 25 minutes ago regarding the ego and the self being out of the way and all that. I mean, I’ve written tons of songs, like “Letting Go,” is the name of one song, and “Selflessness,” because you’re always trying to figure out how to get away from your humanness because all our humanness sometimes tends to hold us all back. The way you’re creating the art, you sort of want the art to be a little purer, so you’re trying to be a servant to the music, and it’s hard to be a servant to the music when people are clapping for you every night and signing autographs all day long and praising you. You need to acknowledge the compliment from the person who is saying that is sincere, so you want to give them time of their communication, but if you let it go to your head, which is what happens to most artists, it’s the beginning of the end. Consequently, all the guys who ruin themselves, blow themselves off or die or get nuts or get perverted or crazy, it’s just the whole story, so that’s the challenge. I don’t think the challenge is practicing or keeping up my chops. The challenge is how not to get destroyed by the fame.

I totally think of Kurt Cobain and what happened with him, you know?

Right, yeah. The funniest thing is I never worked with him, but the fact that I worked with Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins a few years. I toured with Nine Inch Nails and I recorded with them the Fragile album with Trent Reznor.

Brilliant album.

It’s a great album. But it’s always struck me that those kind of people gravitated to me. Obviously, they liked my music, but beyond that, there must have been something they wanted that was a part of me that they felt maybe could enhance their life. For example, I never used drugs, and I’ve been married for 36 years. I have two kids, two grandchildren. In other words, I’m not a normal musician in that way, and I’m probably proud of it in a lot ways because it feels more honest. I think people do all those other things just to keep themselves alive. They’re trying to keep their mind from haunting them and possessing them, so they’re trying to move it out of the way with drinking or with drugs.

The real thing is to embrace that. It’s like the shadow Carl Jung talks about.

It’s exactly that, and a lot of people are not willing to go through the pain of that, so they cover it up, and then it manifests itself in another form, and it just keeps getting them, until they confront it. Sooner or later they decide to get it together, or they just fade away or die or whatever. Certain artists have been lucky enough to sort of come through it.

Going back to your angular style: how do you choose the notes you play? Because they seem to be a bit off, but they work.

I think if there was a lot of music that had not been written I’d play more unangular (laughs). If things like this hadn’t been written…

A Garson demo of “unangular” playing

… If those things weren’t done, I might have been the one to choose to do that, but since so much has been done, I was probably looking to find a voice that had a new contribution, so you have all that classical and baroque and romantic music in the 1600s to the 1900s, so by the time I started creating in the sixties and the seventies and eighties, there was this thing of avant-garde music, and contemporary classical music and atonal music, so I heard a lot of that. I didn’t love it, but I found a way to use it in David’s music and some other people’s music that seemed to fit. I think because rebellious artists and people like us we’re always looking to sort of go against the grain a little bit, and I think people appreciate that type of originality. But it wasn’t really calculated, when it came about because I was doing it when I was 14, 15, 16 and 17. It’s just that nobody knew it. There were no records.

You mean you were playing like that?

There were parts of me that fooled around with that. If I look at some of my earlier classical pieces that I used to write by hand, they were out there … I think I’m also subject to the times that I’m in. As artists, we actually follow the waves of what’s going on in the world, so if bombs are going off and atom bombs and hydrogen bombs are going off, music isn’t always going to be very tonal. It’s going to start having some dissonance and angularity.  That’s part of what’s going on in life.

I’m thinking about the futurists, in the 1920s. The real creation of the avant-garde came about at the turn of the century, and they were all about: destruction will create the new art.

That fits into that. I’m not too much later than that. Forty years later. You know what I mean? And a lot of those people didn’t fully complete their missions or whatever.

I think after all these manifestos came out about how we must destroy the libraries and museums to create the new art, World War I came about and all their friends, famous poets and painters died, and the movement sort of lost its thrust. It came about in Russia and Italy (and some France).

Right. The history of art is fascinating. David really knows about all that stuff, an expert. I spent all my time practicing that I actually missed out on studying on a lot of things that I wished I knew, but I learned it through just being it, but I actually didn’t read it historically, which a lot of people are very well read about those things. I was just so obsessed with the piano. Like David’s such a natural voice and singer, and he just comes up and sings. You don’t hear him practicing. I was practicing eight hours a day and all that stuff, and then I’d do a gig for six hours, so the day would go by very fast, and that happened all through my teens and 20s.

* * *

This is continued from Part 3: From the Archives: Mike Garson goes from jazz to Bowie (Part 3 of 5)

This archival interview series continues here: From the Archives: Rounding up Mike Garson, his Now Music, visual art and a bit more Bowie (Part 5 of 5)

Hans Morgenstern

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

Armadillo, a war documentary by Danish filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen, works on many levels. He spent six months with a platoon of Danish troops:  From the point when they tell family and loved ones they were heading to Afghanistan to their return home. With all that material, he packed together a tightly edited movie of a little over an hour and a half that unfolds like the narrative of a Hollywood war movie while also stirring up many questions.

Apparently a huge hit in its native Denmark (see this article in “the Guardian”), Armadillo offered a rare embedded look at operations in and out of a UK and Danish controlled base bordering a farming village in Helmand Province and near a stronghold of the Taliban. The film unfolds in a cinéma vérité style with no outside narrator, beyond title cards denoting the months during which events occur and some supers noting names, locations and defining a few terms.

Besides capturing the routine doldrums of a tour in Afghanistan for Danish troops, the documentary also captures moments of sudden violence using shaky handheld cameras typical of Hollywood battle scenes and quick edits between the director’s camera and his cinematographer, as well as helmet cams on several troops. Everyone is represented here: the young troops, the officers leading them, the translators, the villagers. The only characters who remain a mystery are the Taliban. They only appear as distant images or dead bodies. At one point they are presented as spooks, as one soldier warns Taliban fighters are not to be underestimated as many are also former mujahideen who fought Russian soldiers during the eighties’ expansion of the Soviet Union and have no fear of taking on 20 troops with four men.

In their few scenes, the villagers are shown as strong, frustrated, tolerant, cynical and sometimes sinister, as one soldier notes, the Taliban could easily hide among them. Meanwhile, certain troops are developed as characters. There is a soft-spoken soldier on his first visit to Afghanistan after volunteering for combat in hopes of going to the passive station of Kosovo. Then there is the tattoo-emblazoned, gung-ho soldier excited for a firefight. Their platoon leader comes across as a fearless man devoted to a military career. After he suffers a skull fracture from an IED, he returns to the base to show “you can’t get rid of me that easy.”  There are many other distinct characters of note, and all are efficiently established with short bits of dialogue edited from months of footage Metz recorded as an embedded journalist. It serves the story arc of the picture well, but points out the problems of the supposed objectivity of journalists.

Toward the end of the movie, this “objectivity” hits home hard, when the platoon’s leader brings up an incident never shown in the movie that may be construed as a war crime. He gathers the men and scolds one among them who supposedly shared with their parents that some troops “liquidated wounded people and piled up the dead to take pictures of ourselves as heroes” (which is also the focus of the UK article linked above). Here comes the movie’s transcendent moment into the fog of war, as this “incident” never appears in the movie, except for some hints that the possibility might exist that this could have occurred.

During the end of the firefight that culminated with the deaths of several Taliban in a ditch after one soldier lobbed a grenade at them, the Danes start disarming the corpses. As a soldier approaches the scene of death, which seems to be the only direct combat the platoon experiences during their tour, he says, “This is surreal.” One jokes as he disarms the limp, flimsy, shredded corpses, revealing a sort of gallows humor that seems to help him cope with the encounter of the brutal reality of such a violent scene of death. During debriefing the jokes continue. One soldier said he found the enemy combatants moaning and on top of each other and “liquidated them as humanely as possible.” Another soldier even admits to unloading 30 to 40 bullets into one of the wounded.

There was an amazing amount of controversy over this grey area that involves these scenes, as the UK article linked above notes. The film does what it can to question whether the soldiers committed a war atrocity. The “Guardian” article quotes the filmmaker as saying: “It was my intention to place the viewer in a position where he could say that it’s not even possible to know what was going on. Maybe the soldiers don’t even know themselves.” In the end, Metz indeed offers a successful testament to the false notion of objectivity among journalists embedded with troops. With these final scenes in the movie, this idea hits home hard.

During the movie, Metz also shows the troops reasoning away the possible perception of their actions. “Outsiders cannot understand,” one says. In the end, the film cannot capture the true, life-altering experience of war, but what Metz is able to capture is the sense that it is life-altering and shocking. The best you can do is sympathize with these men. There is one scene when one of the soldiers is not only literally wounded by the reality of war but also on an apparent deeper and unknowable level. With a bullet in his shoulder, this soldier’s nearly catatonic look captures it with an immense, simple look. These kids were no longer on an adventure nor playing football. It is a shock of the “real” captured on camera one rarely sees. They have entered the world of the shadow, the dark side of humanity Carl Jung defined in his studies of the mind that, according to his theories, exists in all men.

I can’t find the article, but I read somewhere that Metz said his film presents an image to some as if they are peering through a keyhole into a world one cannot experience or understand beyond that tiny window. A glimpse of the window appears in that soldier’s eyes, and one can chose to look in or not, but I would recommend one take the leap and experience Armadillo for themselves.

Armadillo won the Grand Prix Certain Regard at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and opens at 9:15 p.m. Friday night (June 3) and plays through Thursday, June 9 (Except Wednesday, June 8),  exclusively at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, who loaned me a preview screener for the purposes of this review.

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

According to “Variety,” the other day, Colin Farrell and Marion Cotillard are now officially attached to headline the cast in David Cronenberg‘s version of Cosmopolis, a novel by Don DeLillo.

There isn’t much information on the film on the Internet right now (and I have noticed many stalwart Cronenberg fan pages seem kind of stalled with information). The film is most definitely in its early development stages (“Variety” says shooting will not commence until March of 2011). From what I read about the book, it takes place a decade ago. If the story is up-dated for the current times, it could prove a timely subject.

Farrell will play the role of a young billionaire who watches his fortune slip away from the back of his limousine over the course of a day in NYC. Cotillard will play his young bride. The film sounds like it could be quite a claustrophobic experience, as it most takes place inside the vehicle. It also sounds demanding on Farrell’s capable acting skills. If it works out, it could be a fine Cronenberg experience.

The Canadian director is one of those rare filmmakers still working in the major studio system that offers a very distinct and incomparable vision through cinema. His work is well-known for its harsh explicit violence, paired with a taste for surreal horror manifested from psychological disturbances within the unconscious. Cronenberg has played with monsters, technology and many an inhuman mind to explore the power of the mind over the flesh. His early films were mostly regarded as B-movie, 70s and 80s horror fare, but grew more sophisticated with Dead Ringers (1988) at the end of the 80s, exploring the mind as the monster.

Since eXistenZ (1999), his films have become even more grounded in the real world. I think his amazing skill at handling horror and reality has only grown stronger since. He stages things in his movies with such power and looks so deep into the effects of things like murder and violence that he truly highlights the power of the cinema screen as mirror.

His last film, Eastern Promises (2007), offered a harrowing trip into the underground world of Russian gangsters in America. Before that Cronenberg received wide praise for his adaptation of the graphic novel A History of Violence (2005). Viggo Mortensen played both lead roles with award-worthy aplomb. As a matter of fact, Mortensen is currently readying to begin shooting A Dangerous Method with Cronenberg at the helm. According to the IMDB, that begins shooting this month and will precede Cosmopolis.  It is in pre-pro and will not see release until 2011. As fitting to the director of some of the most psychologically rooted movies in film history, it is based on the novel A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. Kiera Knightly us to play Spielrein and Michael Fassbender is to play Carl Jung, while Mortensen will be Sigmund Freud.

So, just wanted to share the news the Cronenberg is hard at work on new films, and next year should provide a fruitful one for fans of his original cinema.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)