Wednesday, October 28, 2009

F R O W N L A N D


Dear XXXXXXX

i cant believe you havent seen batman begins! i watch it every morning from 8-10. i cant get enough! when i watch it i pretend that i'm a super cool hero whom people both love and fear, and then i smile realizing that in fact that's who i am! it's invigorating. but you would do yourself good to keep away from such poor films. they will stifle your mind, your creativity, your self image, your perception of the world... they will do real harm. every bad movie or book that someone experiences is like a hammer blow to the head. look around - you'll see that i'm right. so many bashed, unrepairable skulls. have they no self respect? and i know that you sometimes watch garbage films with an eye towards irony, but i don't approve of that either. why put yourself above something? that's always been my motto. there are too many great films and books for us to waste our time on garbage. it might be too late for me xxxxxxx, but you can still save yourself.

before i forget, i wanted to recommend you something. last night i was bored so i sat down to watch a movie, david lynch's cartoon series dumbland. i soon realized it was not dumbland, but frownland. being the adventurous sort to whom rules do not apply, i pressed "play" just the same. well, this movie, frownland, is like a hammer blow to the head, but in a good way. a great way, in fact. it helped me drain out some refuse. my self image as a batman like super-cool-hero was annihilated. watching this film is like being zapped by a shrink ray and then flushed down the toilet. (since your imagination is not very powerful i will translate: it's akin to being spit on by so many people that you almost drown -- please forgive me if i've brought up painful memories!) it feels like a found artifact. "underground" in the sense that it was buried under miles of dirt, made for (and by) the mole people. you shouldn't be allowed to buy or rent this film. the director, ronald bronstein, should have burned copies to DVD and thrown them into dumpsters for the right people to find. and i do mean "the right people." this movie is not for everyone. richard hell once called bresson's le diable probablement the most punk rock movie ever made. i can see where he was coming from but i would now have to bestow that honor to frownland. i watched it twice. the second time i found it to be quite humorous and a very different experience from my first encounter. are you starting to get an idea xxxxxxx? the only films i can compare it to would be lodge kerrigan's keane or clean shaven, or maybe mike leigh's naked. or perhaps it would be helpful to say that it contains some of the best qualities of george romero's martin, though i don't care much for that film. amy taubin compared it to eraserhead. it also reminded me of taxi driver somewhat, but in terms of films about alienation, taxi driver cannot compete - it's far too safe. (not that either film can be boiled down to a single word.) anyway, none of this will give you a good idea because frownland is wholly its own thing. it is so unique, so singular in its vision that i wanted to make sure you knew to see it since i have long suspected that you are one of the mole people. oh, and i forgot to mention dore mann. it's worth seeing for his performance alone. amazing. by the time the movie was over i could see some of myself in the inarticulate, rambling keith, in particular during an argument with his roommate where i felt as if i was reliving an argument i had with one of my articulate (and demented) friends. (no, not you.) it's strange and beautiful how the movie manages to work like this, exposing the troll under our skin. anyway, that's all for now. thanks for taking the time to read this. i really appreciate it.

best,
XXXXXX
* * *

frownland Ronald Bronstein
frownland dore mann
* * *

From an interview with Ronald Bronstein:

JK: Frownland was excruciating for me to sit through at first, especially during that first 20 minutes. I was having a really tough time—and I can tolerate a lot. I can watch the slowest Iranian film where almost nothing seems to happen. I wouldn’t have bothered watching the rest if my editor hadn’t advised me to stick with it, and ultimately I’m glad I made the commitment. But plugging into Frownland is a huge challenge.

RB: It’s funny that you bring up Iranian cinema, or even the more modern equivalent of what is coming out of Asia right now, where it’s this sort of conceptualization of the quotidian. You’re watching somebody move through their apartment, making eggs in real time. But there’s something about those movies where they telegraph their intentions as art from the moment the movie begins. In a way, you feel in very safe hands. If you define yourself as an art enthusiast, you can relax into that because it is all framed under this conceptual veneer, for better or worse. I read this quote from Picasso on the back of a magazine that said good taste is the enemy of art, and feel like orientation is the enemy of art. It can help to be thrown out of your comfort zone a bit, and when a film telegraphs its intentions in a way that can be related to other movies, you can feel like you’re being enriched while at the same time being lulled into a very safe zone.

I was excited by the idea of tossing people into an experience that did not have those kinds of semaphores. Where you ask, “Was this good? Was this bad? Is this inept? Is this intentional? Is this a comedy? Is this a drama?” You’re forced to fend for yourself, in the hopes that it would make the film a more impacting experience.

Most movies that focus on outsiders, losers or misfits tend to romanticize the character in a way that coddles the sensibilities of the audience, and makes them feel more tolerant of the character than they would be in real life. They appeal to the loser in everyone, and can give little tricks to the character to make them seem sympathetic. I was actively trying to avoid that. You run across people in life who seem off. The reaction this instills in you is almost Darwinian. Anyone who has ever worked retail knows exactly what I’m talking about. The kind of person who would stop you on the street and ask for directions, before you know it, before you’ve even thought about it, you instinctively find yourself saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t live around here,” even though you know exactly where they need to go. You want to get that person out of your territorial bubble. In life you can dismiss someone like that so easily, go about your business, and not really address whether that rejection was justified. By making the viewer spend time with someone like Keith, I hoped they would find grounds for sympathy, but not coerce someone into a sympathetic point of view. I mean, this guy is totally unable to read social cues, which isn’t a saintly quality by any means. But he isn’t a bad guy. He’s more of a lost soul.

* * *

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:

"Whoever put this movie out should be ashamed of themselves. A stinky pile of rotting waste materials covered in rabid hairless rodents with a putrid liquid oozing from all orafices." -Netflix reviewer

"For viewers who like to know exactly where they stand with their characters, Frownland will be a discomfiting experience. For those who find exhilaration in work that challenges convention and reflects the sloppiness of real life, it will come as an electrocuting revelation. [...] Bronstein’s decision to embrace this aesthetic—a seemingly anachronistic decision for the digitally driven early 21st Century—results in a truly freakish tone. Combined with Paul Grimstad’s synthesized score and an absence of up-to-the-minute pop culture references, Frownland feels like a 1983 filmmaker’s vision of a rundown, futuristic New York City." -Michael Tully

"The movie's energy is so peculiar, its vision of socially maladjusted loners so scathingly funny and its creative choices so uncompromising that the result is not just memorable, but haunting... It's a horror film about everyday life in which characters who fail to recognize their own freakish aspects behave monstrously toward others." -Matt Zoller Seitz

"One of the most unusual and audacious American independent films ever made." -Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"This is personal cinema at its most uncompromising and fierce."
- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“When US independent film has become so drab, marching on Sundance to better reach Hollywood, it is high time it regained the essence it lost twenty years ago...This is the reason why Frownland is so important.” – Cahiers Du Cinema.

“There is some kind of demented brilliance at work here.”
- Scott Foundas, The Village Voice


dore mann frownland
frownland grimstad charles

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