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While we’re sharing old David Bowie reviews along with reissue news, it’s only been a few years since we mentioned that Bowie’s brilliant 2002 album Heathen was reissued on vinyl (David Bowie’s ‘Heathen’ album to see vinyl reissue). Well, now it seems that it’s coming back again, along with another version of Reality (2003), which was only reissued last year on vinyl, also via Music On Vinyl. According to Bowienet, this time the albums will arrive in more luxurious tri-fold sleeves. We may also have a change in audio quality. Friday Music, the boutique vinyl reissue company handling these reissues, boasts,  “mastered impeccably by Joe Reagoso (David Bowie/Jeff Beck/Deep Purple) for the first time on audiophile vinyl.” The Heathen vinyl will also be a translucent blue and the Reality disc will be clear.

The Bowie news page tantalizingly leaves us with “Stay tuned for more news regarding Friday Music releases.” Hopefully, that could mean even more desired early-period Bowie albums that were released on RCA and have been out of print on vinyl for much longer than these albums. There have been some cruel teases that never came to fruition (EMI/Capitol Vaults delays Bowie reissues… again) and random reissues in the past (Reissue of the year: Station to Station (plus exclusive edit for “Wild is the Wind” on mp3), but nothing career-spanning, so albums like the so-called Berlin trilogy would be welcome news.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in these two later-period works. Heathen stands as an alltime favorite Bowie album for this writer. So far, it’s the only one of these reissues that has a release date, slated for June 23 (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase direct through Amazon via this link). David Bowie - Heathen album artReality‘s release date remains TBA. Both albums mark a certain era for Bowie. The start of the 2000s for the rock icon hint at a creative artist very aware of being in his autumnal years. It’s a mix of self-referencing nostalgia and a new-found creativity. The two albums each featured two covers among the original Bowie compositions. “Cactus” by the Pixies and “I’ve Been Waiting For You” by Neil Young on Heathen and “Pablo Picasso” by Johnathan Richman and “Try Some, Buy Some” by George Harrison on Reality.

Heathen also did death and mortality way better than hours… (From the Archives: David Bowie’s hours…reissue on vinyl and my 1999 review). It went from self-centered to more aware of the subject’s relationship to time and place. There’s a wistful tribute to a vintage New York TV show called “The Uncle Floyd Show” (“Slip Away”) that also featured the stylophone, which Bowie made famous on “Space Oddity.” The album was capped off with the incredibly powerful “Heathen (the Rays),” which subtly referenced the fall of the Twin Towers. Then there are some of the songs that Bowie made of old ideas (“Afraid” and the outtake “Wood Jackson”) and self-covers, like the B-side “Conversation Piece.”

But the best part of Heathen were the all-new originals, featuring Bowie at his most original. There’s the creepy “I Would Be Your Slave,” with some unknowable wind instrument pulsing and whooshing below a melancholic string section and a skittish beat. Following it, Bowie references space and the Stardust Cowboy who inspired Ziggy Stardust with “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship.” There’s another skittering beat and a swooning string part, but it also features a squonking baritone sax and rubbery guitar licks.

I never reviewed the album, but I loved it, and it was great that Bowie found new energy, rebooting himself after the lackluster hours… with a never-released album of self-covers called Toy that preceded Heathen, which included some songs from the Toy sessions. I did review Reality. I was granted a preview CD of the album, about a month ahead of release. I can’t recall who I wrote it for. It may have been the “Miami New Times,” when they ran reviews in print. If not, it could have been the record collectors magazine, “Goldmine.”

David Bowie Reality album art

DAVID BOWIE

Reality

ISO/Columbia Records (CK 90576)

It has become the ultimate litmus test for David Bowie:  How good is any new release compared to his 1980 album Scary Monsters?  Anyone who has followed Bowie’s reviews will notice critics pulling out the Scary Monsters card, if not, even further back to the Eno trilogy of 1977-78: Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger.

But it’s been well over twenty years since the release of these albums, and Bowie has recorded some comparable works in the last decade alone, including 1993’s Buddha of Suburbia, 1995’s Outside, 1997’s Earthling and last year’s Heathen. Bowie’s music is certainly in a renaissance of sorts and Reality, released this past September, carries on that trend.

Producer Tony Visconti deserves some credit, proving to be a magical presence behind the boards for Bowie. He’s back for a second year straight, previously not having worked with Bowie since Scary Monsters and, prior to that, having produced Bowie’s acclaimed work with Eno in the seventies.

Reality moves dynamically from song to song. Bowie has written some of the catchiest tunes in ten years, like the album’s single “New Killer Star,” and truly propulsive numbers like “Looking For Water” and “Reality,” the latter sounding suspiciously similar to “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).”  Most of the tracks have odd quirks like the sputtering guitar intro of “New Killer Star,” which proves Bowie’s been listening to Radiohead and bands on the Thrill Jockey label.  There are also some plaintive moments like the creepy “The Loneliest Guy” and the jazzy “Bring Me the Disco King,” which highlights Mike Garson’s jittery piano work and seems to mimic the music of David Sylvian. With Reality, Bowie proves he’s much more than the sum of his work in the seventies and a vital source in the contemporary music scene.

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I can’t say I disagree with this review, almost 12 years later, and I must say it reads like something I would have written for the “Miami New Times,” so it probably first appeared there. I’ll leave you with a live version of “New Killer Star.”

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

IMG_20150418_005158This past weekend, Miami saw Peter Hook and the Light take the stage at Grand Central to perform the music of Joy Division. It marked the start of their Southeastern U.S. tour, which features the band playing opening act to themselves with the music of New Order before playing Joy Division’s two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer in their entirety. It was a longtime coming, seeing as the original Joy Division never made a tour of the U.S. due to the shocking suicide of the band’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, in 1980.

OK, so this incarnation only features Joy Division’s original bassist. Still, even though it was far from the original Joy Division line-up, no former member of the Manchester post-punk act could have pulled off a tribute better. Hook took vocal duties for Curtis, and his baritone was an excellent match. There was an additional bassist on stage, Jack Bates, who traded parts with the frontman, though Hook had some key moments to solo on his bass in his signature style: down low on his fret board. It worked especially well during the opening set of select New Order songs to get the crowd warmed up. Hook’s voice, however, was a poor stand-in for New Order’s singer Bernard Sumner. A drunk guy singing along in the crowd behind me sounded better.

This opening set included some prime cuts from the late ’80s New Order, including tracks from Low Life and Brotherhood. Guitarist David Potts took vocals on one song, which fit the set better (sorry, Hooky). Rounding out the band was Andy Poole on keyboards and Paul Kehoe on drums. The band was super tight, although the levels weren’t great at the start, with drums dominating over the melodies. Still, the live show was incredibly faithful. As such, none of the original IMG_20150418_004530members were missed. It was a marvelous performance that really felt like a celebration of the music. Hook ate up the adulation of the crowd, which included many who donned variations of Joy Division and New Order T-shirts. Hook showed no shame in embracing his star appeal, putting himself on display at the edge of the stage on more than one occasion to give the audience as close a view as possible of his playing key parts of many songs.

I spoke to him a few weeks earlier for an article in the Miami New Times. Speaking via phone from his second home in Mallorca, Hook explained his group has spent a longtime with the music. They have been performing much of it since 2010, when he formed The Light to pay tribute to the music of Joy Division in the band’s hometown of Manchester on the 30th anniversary of Curtis’ passing. Eventually a tour resulted, as did tours and performances of New Order’s albums, including Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies. Now comes the 35th anniversary of Curtis’ death. Peter Hook and the Light have already performed West and East Coast tours of the U.S. featuring Joy Division’s music. This current tour marks their first southern US tour.

When I spoke to Hook about his status in New Order, he was pretty blunt about the relationship: he only communicates with his former mates through lawyers. “They masquerade as New Order now, which I disagree with because they aren’t New Order. It’s like me calling myself Joy Division. That’sIMG_20150418_004207 how I look at it. I wouldn’t have the gall to do it. But I suppose that’s what happens when you bring out a group like Bad Lieutenant that flopped so badly, and then you have a massive financial recession.” The latter is a jab at Sumner trying to start a band outside of New Order with Bad Lieutenant, which released an album in 2009 that only made it to number 70 on the U.K. pop charts.

You can read more regarding his feelings about New Order as well as his reflection on Curtis in this article for the Miami New Times, which appeared in print last week. Jump through the headline below:

Peter Hook on Former Band, New Order: “What They Did to Me Was Disgusting”

We also spoke about Peter Murphy, the frontman of Bauhaus, who, when I spoke to him in 2013, had this to say about Joy Division: “Bauhaus Was the Seminal Moment in That Time; Joy Division Was Not” (click through the quote for more on that). After reading that article, Hook seemed to laugh it off. “I know him very well,” he offered. “I just read, actually, the bass player [David J] from Bauhaus’s book, and Peter, unfortunately, does not come across very well, and in that book, I must say, there does seem to be a lot of lead singer syndrome, and what he said about Joy Division in your article just simply isn’t true, is it?”

Murphy had been playing “Transmission,” a Joy Division song, live for many years. He was going to play it in Miami, but scratched it off his set list that night. Maybe my article had something to do with it. Again, Hook was amused and said there is no bad blood between them. He said, “I mean, it’s funny. I’ve known him over the years quite a lot because some of our road crew used to work for him. I’ve seen him quite a lot … He asked me on stage before that article to play ‘Transmission’ with him, when I DJed with him. He’s been playing Joy Division songs for a long time.”

Hook did relay that he met Murphy under some rather comic circumstances, having kicked him out of a Manchester club when he was a bouncer where Murphy was slated to perform with Bauhaus. You can read about that incident and more in this article on the Miami New Times Music blog:

Peter Hook on Joy Division Versus Bauhaus: “They Were a Bit Gothy Glam”

Peter Hook and the Light continue their tour in the south with a show in Atlanta tomorrow. For more tour dates, which concludes the America tour with a visit to Mexico City, visit this link. Some U.K. dates will follow after this tour.

Hans Morgenstern

All photos taken by Igor Shteyrenberg at Miami’s Grand Central, April 10, 2015.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
The filmmakers on the set of Gett. Photo by Amit Berlowitz

The filmmakers on the set of ‘Gett.’ Photo by Amit Berlowitz

It’s no small feat to create an intense drama in one room for the duration of a feature length film. But Gett:  The Trial of Viviane Amsalem stands as one of the best examples of such a drama that you will ever see (Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem shows how to make a powerful, resonant drama using one setting — a film review). In the film, the brother and sister directing and writing duo Shlomi Elkabetz and Ronit Elkabetz present a married couple in Israel who have arrived at such an impasse they can no longer communicate. The wife, Viviane, played by Ronit — who is also a major acting force in Israel, wants a divorce, but the husband (Simon Abkarian) does not. Since he is orthodox, they need to address this before a rabbinical court of three rabbis. In Israel, for devout marriages, the only way out is a ceremony called a gett. These getts have long been secretive affairs that happen behind closed doors where wives are treated as property of the husband. If the woman wants a divorce but the husband does not, the rabbis cannot grant the gett, which makes for a Kafkaesque version of divorce proceedings.

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If you have never heard about such a thing, it’s only because the subject has been taboo in Israel. Speaking via phone from Los Angeles, the brother of the filmmaking team notes that there would have been no way he and his sister could have made this movie 10 years ago, when they began a trilogy of movies in tribute to their mother. The first film, 2004’s To Take a Wifewas more autobiographical, he notes. In it, Viviane is a young woman who only dreams of divorce while trying to raise three children with an unloving husband who married her for tradition’s sake. The second film, 2008’s 7 Days follows the same family, as its familiar loveless conflict continues during the seven days of shiva after the death of a loved one. With Gett, however, they decided to write Viviane a different ending. “We call it the imaginary biography of her in the sense of what would have happened if a woman like our mother would have gone for a divorce trial in Israel,” says Elkabetz.

In their film, as noted in the still image of trailer at the end of this article, the trial lasts a long time. Still, there have been divorce trials in rabbinical courts that have lasted as much as 20 years, notes the filmmaker. Elkabetz understands reality can be stranger than fiction, so to allow the film to have more of an impact, he and his sister tried not to make their movie as extreme.ronit “One of our initial thoughts was that we were not going to take the worst case because there are horrible cases. We tried to take cases where there is no violence, there is no physical abuse. The kids are grown. Everybody left home. She’s an independent woman. She has her own salary. She wants only one thing. She just wants to be free, and we took this case and said, What happens if we put this case in the Israeli law system? Let’s see how the Israeli law system copes with that one woman who wants to be free and wants to get a divorce where the husband says, no.”

The film has since become a phenomena in the sibling’s country. It opened in Israel at the end of September 2014, and it’s still in theaters. The co-director admits that he and his sister never saw this interest coming. “It became like a political movement,” he says. “It was beautifully accepted, and it was on the news everyday in every media, in the late edition, in the state papers and on the blogs and on the Internet. The film was endorsed by ministers, by parliament members, and the most amazing thing that happened was that the chief rabbi from Israel was repeatedly asked, ‘Have you seen, Gett? Have you seen, Gett?’ His response was always, ‘I never went to the cinema, and I don’t go to the cinema, so I didn’t see Gett.’ And he was repeatedly asked and asked, and he eventually came back … and he said, ‘Listen, we have decided to screen Gett in the annual rabbinical convention this year.'”

The debate in Israel has been intense to change matters. The result of that screening can be read in this short article: “Rabbis cry gewalt after watching Israeli film ‘Gett.'” To sum it up, the rabbis at least acknowledged they have an image problem on their hands. Elkabetz says since no cameras have ever been allowed to document a gett, and they are not open to the public, he and his sister interviewed people who have been through one. But the drama in their film is a fiction based on characters they have followed for 10 years.

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Some may wonder how can a nearly two-hour film in one room, with nearly the same characters, ever offer a tightly paced drama. “I don’t want to be pretentious and say we always know what we are doing,” offers Elkabetz. “I don’t want to say I have a key to make it happen, but we knew that the story is very radical, and we knew that we are facing a sort of a mission to make it happen from second to second.”

He notes that dialogue was important but not so much what is said as what the characters do not say. “We were very attentive to what is happening around us on the set and in the script,” he says. “We were trying to listen very carefully to what the characters are saying, but even more to what they’re not saying because our main character doesn’t talk in this film.”

Visual presentation was also important. As these characters are trying to defend different points of view, the filmmakers came to a smart decision in how to present them visually in the space. “Our first important decision was not to take a master shot in this film,” reveals Elkabetz. “We didn’t take a director’s shot, which describes the whole picture. We said we’re only going to place the camera where the characters are sitting, meaning we’re only going to see what somebody sees, so the whole film is basically shot from the different points of views from the characters in the court, meaning you’reElisha always in a subjective place and you change your stance from one minute to another or one second to another, and by that we hope that we will have the ability to stretch the room because the minute you change the point of view, you change your opinion, and we change the whole atmosphere, and we change the whole essence of one moment, adding to it many different complexities and adding a sort of tension. The tension between the characters could be transferred from what they see and how we think they are interpreting what they are experiencing.”

The key to capturing the drama of varying perspectives, especially those in an intimate life together like a marriage, is subjectivity, not objectivity. “We hope by eliminating objectivity, we create a more truthful, a more suspenseful moment for each one of the characters and eventually for the whole situation,” notes Elkabetz.

The filmmaker adds that he and his sister had doubts they could pull this off, but they allowed that to challenge them. “We went into this film with a lot of good fear, I would say, because we had all these questions like would it be possible to stay in this room for an hour and a half and could we hold the story and still engage people, and if they’re not engaged, we can’t make them think about it.”

He again brings up the importance of subjectivity, not only in the characters of the film, but also acknowledging that every audience member in a movie house brings their own baggage to Gett 2a film. There is always a subjective view outside, looking in. “We can’t make them be involved,” says Elkabetz of the audience. “We want people to be intellectual about it, and we want people to be emotional about it. We want the cinema to turn into a court where each one of the spectators that are coming to the cinema are taking a stand from a very internal point of view, so in general that was our idea for the shoot.”

Putting the film together in editing was another element. Early in the shooting process, the sibling filmmakers knew they had to test out their approach in the editing room. “What we did was we shot three days in the manner that we wanted to shoot, and we went into the editing room, and we edited one scene to see if the method of shooting that we want to do is working, and we were very pleased with what we saw. We didn’t understand completely what we saw, but it worked. It was suspenseful, and it was personal, and it was global, and it was public.”

In the end, they also had an array of perspectives to put together in a certain way, which was its own challenge. “We shot over 110 hours, and the film has over 1,300 cuts,” he says. “Just in the span of over seven days we shot 40 hours, and we have 60 cuts in the film, so there is this thing that we had to discover ever day when we came to the set and we really tried to pay attention to. I mean, we loved what we saw, and we hoped that it would work as a whole, also. I think it’s hard for every filmmaker. You have an idea, but the final results is almost a mystery, so combining everything together to see how it works as a whole is something that nobody has the answers for, of course. If we did, all films would be amazing and great, but the question is investigating the moment and pinpointing the crucial moments for certain circumstances.”

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Even when watching this film alone at home, in preparation for an introduction of the movie during the Miami Jewish Film Festival, this writer could tell there were moments that the subjectivity of the audience had been so powerfully harnessed, that you could feel the moments when the audience might react to the images. Elkabetz admits he and his sister knew they created a potent film, but they could have never anticipated the reaction they witnessed at Cannes when the film premiered at the director’s fortnight. He says people were shouting at the screen. “In the moment when they are asking Elisha, ‘Are you going to give her a divorce?’ not only in the end, but throughout the film, people are saying, ‘Yeah, give it to her, give it to her!’”

As Gett went on a tour of film festivals, Elkabetz witnessed an array of reactions at different points of the movie. “People are laughing and people are reacting in various different moments,” he says. “For me, the only experience that is like it is a moment when I was a kid, when I used to go to the cinema with my dad, and people were very noisy. They speak to the screen, they speak to the characters, and it’s an experience. In my other film, 7 Days, people laughed a lot, but this film, there is something else that makes the audience really active, in many ways, so throughout the film, there’s a lot of clapping, there’s a lot of laughing. We expected the reaction, but we didn’t know the reaction was going to be … so intense.”

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You can read more of my interview with Shlomi Elkabetz in the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist” by jumping through the blog’s logo below. He talks about pulling back the curtain of these secret ceremonial divorce trials and the surprising response the film has received in his country and around the world:

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Hans Morgenstern

Gett:  The Trial of Viviane Amsalem runs 115 minutes, is in Hebrew and French with English subtitles and is not rated (nothing really offensive in its material, except some raised voices, maybe). It opens Friday, Feb. 27 in the South Florida area at O Cinema Miami Beach and the Coral Gables Art Cinema, which has also invited noted film scholar and author Annette Insdorf to introduce the film during its 6:30 p.m. screening, on Saturday, Feb. 28. It opened in U.S. theaters on Feb. 13 and is scheduled to open in many more through April. To find theater listings, click “theaters” after jumping through this link. Images in this article are all courtesy of Music Box Films, except where noted.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

O cinema grand opening

Miami’s O Cinema is once again expanding. After setting up a movie house in the artsy district of Wynwood in February of 2011, O Cinema opened another movie in Miami Shores in October of 2012. This Friday, it will take charge of a third movie house in the northern part of Miami Beach. It’s an old movie house built in 1968 and once owned by Wometco and later the Regal Group.

I sat down with O Cinema’s co-founder Kareem Tabsch, in one of the cinema house’s 304 seats, at the front of the theater. It’s a large space with a mezzanine and is fitting of the aspirations of one of several Miami-area indie art houses. Tabsch says the City of Miami Beach has long hoped to bring art and culture to an area that already has plenty of great restaurants and lies just blocks from the beach. “It’s part of a lot of things there,” Tabsch says. “They just redid the fountain up the street, on 71st, Normandy Circle, the band shell is being activated.”

Tabsch notes that when he and his business partner Vivian Marthell started O Cinema, they hoped to usher in a new era of film culture to the community. “Why we did it from the beginning, which is what we believe in, is that there are plenty of film lovers or people who want to see quality independent cinema in the city, but they don’t have the opportunity … There is a critical mass for film. o-cinema-miami-beach-opens-november-7All the arts in Miami have reached these new levels,” he says, referring to the art scene in Wynwood, the Adrienne Arsht Center, a massive theater and concert hall in Downtown Miami, and the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, among other new cultural destinations in the city that have popped up in the last decade or so. “But film was kinda held back in a sense, as far as critical mass. You had stuff going on in the ’70s and the early ’80s with Nat Chediak’s theaters in Coral Gables and the Fendelman Brothers in the Grove.”

He also brings up the ’90s, when Miami had the Alliance Theater in Miami Beach and the Absinthe House in Coral Gables, the owners of which later expanded to the Mercury in North Miami, in the early 2000s. The Mercury would only last a couple of years, and all those theaters soon shuttered. The only mainstay, as far as indie/art/world and retrospective cinema was concerned, was being programmed by the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which is now celebrating its 11th year in operation under founding director Dana Keith, who has been booking special screenings in Miami Beach since 1993. “I always give Dana at the Cinematheque props because he’s held it down for the longest,” says Tabsch.

Tabsch also notes that he has a great working relationship with Keith and neither see the new O, which is located more than 60 streets north of MBC, as competition. Tabsch brings it back to North Beach as opposed to South Beach, which has its own culture and scene. Tabsch says it’s all about giving the area its own indie cinema. He also notes that he is very aware of the demographics of the community, including the fact that there is a high concentration of Brazilian and Argentinian families in the area. “Going to the movies is something that should happen within your community,” he offers. “It’s a part of your life. It’s a part of your culture. You want to walk to your movie theater. You don’t want to drive 20 minutes away. For a very long time in Miami, all you could do was just drive. For the first time in 15 years we will be providing, 52 weeks a year, seven days a week, cultural programming in North Beach. You will be able to come and see an indie movie every day of the week, and I think that’s gonna be a huge part of the growth of the neighborhood.”

You can read more of my conversation with Tabsch and plans for the new theater in this week’s “Miami New Times,” out on newsstands now or on-line at the weekly paper’s art and culture blog Cultist. Jump through the banner below to access it:

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Hans Morgenstern

The opening night screening of Birdman is already sold out, but the film will play there until Nov. 13 (Update: due to technical issues the O Cinema premiere of Birdman was postponed. It now opens Friday, Nov. 21, and the cinema is honoring tickets from Nov. 7 for any Birdman screening at O Cinema Miami Beach). For screening details, visit here. Then, the theater will host The Theory of Everything (details). Read my review of Birdman here: ‘Birdman’ lampoons Hollywood with humorous, hyper-real, hero-hating satire. I loved that movie.

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

1407364921It’s not always another person that can get between two lovers. In his first English-language film, Norwegian director Erik Poppe finds inspiration by looking to his own experiences and the dissolution of his marriage during a time when he was a war photographer. With 1,000 Times Good Night he presents a woman who is so caught up in her work she will risk not only her life, but her place as a mother to follow her ideology. There’s an empowerment of gender in his choice to explore his story through a woman’s perspective, but it also never softens the sacrifice involved, and Poppe delivers the point in a nerve-racking opening scene with hardly any dialogue, as a good photographer-turned-filmmaker would.

Juliette Binoche plays Rebecca, who has somehow found a way to photograph the ritual of a female suicide bomber as she heads out to detonate herself. The film’s title alludes to the explosive-laden vest and the ritual, but also reflects on Rebecca’s personal notion of martyrdom for her own ideology, though she prefers not to recognize it. When her zeal to get as close to the explosion as possible starts to clash with her conscience, she inevitably gets hurt. Though she survives, physical wounds reverberate to emotional difficulties that affect her entire family, which includes two daughters — one a child, the other a teenager — and a husband, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

The film plays with the dynamic between husband and wife as if another lover has come between them. After Rebecca’s husband Marcus takes her home from the hospital, there’s a tension of something profoundly unmentionable between them. The two are almost on entirely different wavelengths about what has happened, and they dare not speak about it. That the movie shows this with hardly any dialogue, speaks to the performances and Poppe’s eye for showing a story rather than relying on heavy-handed exposition.

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The film takes its time to follow a neat story arc that ends with a significant pay-off that will hopefully lead to some growth for this woman, but it will not come without sacrifice. These people have issues, and they keep them inside for some time. The film appropriately has to spend some time in tense silence for much of the early part of the film so that it might allow the audience to appreciate and contemplate a genuine tension between the couple. It will then earn the confrontation between the two when one of them finally finds the courage to say something about the ever-widening gulf between them.

Coster-Waldau and Binoche rivet the film with strong performances. The actors deliver in both silence and the inevitable explosion of their repressed feelings. When Marcus confronts Rebecca about how her work has detrimental effects on the family, Binoche transmits the pain and shame of having been trapped between her family and a passion for her work as if she had been caught in an infidelity. It’s a brilliant moment that reveals the silent precision of Binoche’s acting chops. Throughout the movie, Binoche never seems lost in some haze of ambiguity. This is a woman of convictions, and she carries that burden heavily.

The film has a conscience, but it also explores the flip side, which is the pain of sacrifice one makes for ideals, and it’s complex impact on loved ones. There’s a moment when Rebecca schools her elder daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) on the problems in Africa, the role of corporations in those problems, including a lack of human rights and the news business’ interest in celebrity photographs over her war journalism. Steph has an admiration for her mother informed by her love for not only a mother but also a hero standing up for human rights. But that love will be put to the test at a refugee camp in Kenya, which a colleague tells Rebecca is completely safe for her to bring her daughter to.

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This refugee camp is the site of another intense sequence of danger when marauding rebels come in with AK-47s blasting. Rebecca cannot seem to contain her impulsiveness to get shots of the conflict, despite leaving her tearful daughter to enter the melee. It might seem illogical for a parent to do that, but Binoche is so good at capturing the passion of this woman she genuinely sells her as someone who can hardly control her addiction to adrenaline. It almost seems like a reflex for the woman, as not even the worried tears of her daughter can sway her from her job.

The film could have easily drowned itself in over-the-top melodrama, but it never does thanks to the carefully modulated acting of Binoche and the patient, deliberate construction of the story by Poppe and his co-writers. 1,000 Times Good Night does not glamorize the photographer. It presents her as a torn person who never seems whole without her camera and conflict but still understands her place as a mother. Poppe’s personal experience informs this complex character profoundly, and because he once was that person, he understands an end point will come. Whether a family can survive this force in their life is never fully resolved, but he builds toward a finale that shows there may be a wake-up call coming for this woman, and it relies on much of the film’s painstakingly constructed drama.

Note: Read my interview with Coster-Waldau on this movie, working with Binoche and his personal investment in his character here:

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau talks about bringing personal experience to his role in ‘1,000 Times Good Night’

Hans Morgenstern

1,000 Times Good Night runs 117 minutes and is not rated (contains violence and language). It opened in South Florida this past Friday at the Bill Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables and the Tower Theater in Miami. It’s opening across the U.S. right now. To see other play dates across the nation, visit this link. Film Movement provided a screener link for the purpose of this review.

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

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau i Tusen ganger god natt

It requires a subtle sort of acting to pull off the complex dynamic between the husband and wife at the center of the new film 1,000 Times Goodnight. But Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Juliette Binoche rise to the task, riveting the film with performances that allow silence to speak volumes and outbursts to inform their profound baggage of unresolved issues. Binoche plays Rebecca, a war photographer motivated by a righteousness that leaves little room for her family, which also includes two daughters. Coster-Waldau is the weary father and husband, Marcus, reluctantly supporting her choice of career. His concerns for her safety and her perfunctory performance as a mother is upended when she barely survives a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that she was chronicling for the “New York Times.”

I spoke with Coster-Waldau via phone, while he was on break from shooting Season Five of “Game of Thrones” (he plays the “Kingslayer” Jaime Lannister) in Seville, Spain. For a 15-minute chat we had a chance to go pretty deep, so this article actually expands on an article I wrote for the art and culture blog “Cultist” operated by the “Miami New Times,” which you can read by jumping through the blog’s logo below:

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I was offered to ask him one “Game of Thrones” question, but what I really wanted to do was go deep into how he made this relationship so real and sympathetic. Between the director’s restrained tone, which allows the actors to say more about their feelings when they are not talking, and the dynamic performances, the carefully constructed dramatic arc of the film is an analysis of a relationship held together by fraying threads. When I asked the Danish actor about how he approached Marcus’ feelings for his wife, he notes a Catch 22 in their relationship. “I think they stopped, a long time ago, to communicate about the things that are the most important to them,” he says of Rebecca and Marcus, “and then, with her, it’s easier not to talk about what she’s doing, where she’s going, what the job was that day. It’s easier for him not to hear about it because it would make him more worried maybe. But it’s also, I think, at the very core of why they no longer can be together because they’ve lost the ability to be a couple, to communicate and all that.”

The film is actually based on the real life experiences of the film’s director, Erik Poppe. What is interesting about what he does with this movie is that he only presents a couple of intense scenes of action involving Rebecca, which inevitably resonate back home. Though both moments are adrenaline-fueled scenes of compelling action, Poppe is more interested on the effects of those instances of violence and trauma on the family of the photographer. In his director’s statement, he admits that, during his own chronicling of war zones, his relationship suffered. “I had a strong relationship with the woman whom I shared my life with, but it couldn’t sustain the choices I’d made,” he says.

This marks the most personal film by the Norwegian director, and he was quite open with the cast about that. Coster-Waldau says though the scenarios were up-dated for today’s headlines (Poppe was in Cambodia in the early ‘80s, among other places), the repercussions of Poppe’s career choice, including a zealous righteousness to affect some good in conflict zones for the innocents, had vivid effects back home. “He’s had to deal with those exact conflicts with his wife, where he would be in these situations where he could die and wouldn’t be able to call home for weeks, and it takes a toll,” states the actor. “It’s really tough on the people who are left behind, and sometimes you’re so driven and you’re so focused that you kind of forget. You forget, or you kind of push it aside because you have to.”

One thousand Times Goodnight

That passion and focus, a sort of entrance to a zone that calls for a vision sometimes blinded by an intensity for the work that excludes the family, can be quite traumatic to those outside that area of ego. Back to Poppe’s director’s statement, he even says, “my ego was bigger than my love [for my wife].”

Binoche channels that potently in her character. In one scene, Marcus confronts her about her work and she reacts as if she was caught in an infidelity. “She’s also quite passionate. She can’t help herself,” notes Coster-Waldau. “Yes, there’s the whole — which is very important — that she wants to make the world aware of these horrendous things that go on in these horrible places. There is also that thing that happens that it’s really her passion. It’s those moments when she’s doing her job that she can lose herself a hundred percent because she’s quite good at that, and in a way that’s what she does, she gets in there and she gets the shot. When she removes that part of herself, she removes part of the essence of who she is. Clearly, it’s worth it. It’s worth it that she got it out, and she took these pictures that no one else would take, and it has positive change for these kids or these families or refugees, but at the same time there is also negative consequences for not only her own relationships with her family but also for her kids. They suffer, and if that worked objectively, you’d say, yes, it’s for the better, but for those two kids and her husband, it’s not.”

The emotional struggle this brings to the family is quite vivid in 1,000 Times Good Night. For Coster-Waldau, the feelings do not seem foreign to him. He speaks with an enlightened wisdom that comes from his own experience as a family man who must balance his own passions outside of his personal life. “He loves his wife,” he notes about Marcus’ struggle to compete with her calling. “What happens early on in the movie, of course, when she gets into the explosion, is that suddenly that thing happened that he’s been living with, and that he just accepted and wanted to ignore, and of course this is a movie, so of course it’s life and death, but I think that it happens in many relationships where you change, and people change, and we don’t necessarily change together, and we change in different directions.”

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Though he is but an actor, Coster-Waldau knows some of the difficulties that arise at home when he focuses on his work, which also includes being away from his family for some time, and he brought that to his role as Marcus. “It’s all those discussions, all those conflicts that were interesting to talk about,” he says, “and then, of course, in my own life, because I also have two daughters myself. I am the one who travels most of the year doing what I do … and I could use those discussions we’ve had in this movie. In this case, in the movie, I’m the guy who’s left behind, so it was interesting.”

Again, Coster-Waldau brings up personal experience in relation to the film. “I’m a father myself,” he adds. “I have two daughters, and there’s something about that whole discussion of what does it mean to be a parent. A good parent is not necessarily a woman or a man, and can a father be as good? You would think it’s an obvious thing, but I think that a mother is more of a parent than a father in some ways, and I think I like to explore that because that’s something that’s very much a part of my life, being a father.”

Hans Morgenstern

1,000 Times Good Night runs 117 minutes and is not rated (contains violence and language). It opens in South Florida this Friday at the Bill Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables and the Tower Theater in Miami. It’s opening across the U.S. right now. To see other play dates across the nation, visit this link.

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

Tin+Machine+1990TinMachineJoefullOf course real David Bowie fans know that the 67-year-old rock icon frequently called “the chameleon of rock ‘n’ roll” has been so much more than Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke. As a Bowie fan, I felt inclined to break him down to 13 other personas (including his “just a member of the band” phase with Tin Machine, as pictured above in 1990). All longtime Bowie followers know he has made inconsistency an art form. After all, isn’t David Bowie a facade for David Robert Jones? So I threw together a listicle for the Miami New Times’s art and culture blog “Cultist” ahead of the national, one-night-only screening for David Bowie Is. You can read it and see lots of videos, by jumping through the “Cultist” banner below. I open with a Bowie anecdote few have probably heard about from director John Landis:

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I’ve had a chance to preview David Bowie Is. Though I won’t review it, suffice to say Bowie fans who have not had the chance to see the exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where it premiered last year will love it. The documentary, directed by Hamish Hamilton with Katy Mullan, does not directly focus on Bowie but on the bits of Bowie ephemera that make up the internationally acclaimed David Bowie retrospective exhibit. The directors provide some nice insight into the persona that is and was David Bowie. The film, shot during the exhibit’s last day at the V&A, connects the dots between his many reinventions through things like costumes and hand-written lyric sheets, reflective of the essence of the exhibit. It also features speeches by the curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, and celebrities like Jarvis Cocker.

Focusing on particular periods of Bowie’s 50 years of recording and performance history, the film does not dwell on the popularly known Bowie such as Ziggy or his “Let’s Dance” era, which could tire the diehards, but really examines the minute details that actually reverberate across his career. For instance, a nice amount of time is spent on a rare short film called “The Mask,” which Bowie stared in as a mime. It’s premise, about a shoplifter who steals a mask that makes him popular when he wears it and the tragic karma that befalls him, may sound familiar to those who understand the strain Bowie felt to committing to his Ziggy persona for those two years of lengthy touring in the early ’70s.

I won’t spoil anything else beyond that. Below my signature and the film’s trailer are the only screenings in Miami. The O Cinema screening has sold out, however.

Hans Morgenstern

David Bowie Is plays one night only on Sept. 23, coinciding with the exhibit’s only U.S. visit in Chicago, at many U.S. theaters. In South Florida it will play at Miami’s Tower Theater, which has two screenings, one at 7 p.m. and another at 9:15 p.m. (get tickets). The O Cinema Wynwood screening at 9:15 p.m. has already sold out. For screenings in other parts of the country, visit this link and put in your zip code.

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