Sunday, February 26, 2006

CATCHBASIN No. 2—The Devil and Daniel Johnston; Unknown White Male; Night Watch

The Devil and Daniel Johnston: Randy Kennedy's piece on Daniel Johnston for the New York Times continues the legend from where the documentary concludes. The piece includes a fantastic audio slide show ("Art Of A Confessional Identity") that succinctly synopsizes Johnston's career while offering up several images of Johnston's drawings.

Image No. 7, the portrait of his father, pierces my heart. I would own it in a second if I could afford it. I feel so much for what Johnston's father has had to bear (not the least of which is Johnston causing his father to crash his plane). Johnston's portrait of his father holding a model plane with annotations of his father's military service is heart-brilliant!

Unknown White Male: This last week a dear friend of mind suffered a third stroke that has affected his memory and his ability to speak. As I've sat bedside with him at the hospital, I've thought about Unknown White Male many times, especially with regard to the respectful tenderness Doug Bruce (the subject of Unknown White Male) exhibited towards old friends who he no longer truly remembered. In a certain way Bruce knew they suffered more than him, mourning the loss of shared memories. They also worried that, since he was starting from square one and was not obligated to old allegiances, he might elect to let go of their friendship. Shared memories are a commitment to which an amnesiac is not tethered.

I was also thinking about Bruce's pursuit of photography. Before his fugue state Doug Bruce had given up a stockbroking career to become a photographer. When he returned to the classes he had previously been taking, his instructor guided him through something of a "crash course." He noted that it was interesting to observe that Bruce picked things up again swiftly and effortlessly, the knowledge was still stored somewhere deep within him; but, his sensibility had changed. Most artists, the instructor explained, are the culmination of their experiences which they express through developed sensibilities. Bruce had lost all that. What he brought to his new work was an earnest search for identity, characterized by frontal portraits of friends, as if he was staring into their eyes to see himself. The instructor mentioned that this new work was more compelling and honest than what Bruce had been doing before. One can only imagine what kind of dissonance Doug Bruce will experience should his memory return.

Night Watch: Caught a second screening with my friend Gustavo Hernandez, knowing he would particularly enjoy it, which he did, acknowledging its homage to Star Wars, The Omen, the Batmobile and The Matrix, all swirled together in a Russian cocktail of vodka and blood. The second screening held up just as well as the first. I caught more detail (that lovely yellow rose stickshift!)—details that really have no reason for being there but are lovely because they are.

It will be interesting when the dvd comes out to see how many languages will be available under the subtitles option and if they will be as inventive as the theatrical release?

Michael Hawley advises: "[I]t appears that Fox Searchlight delayed the film's US release for so long so that it could release the second part of the trilogy later this year, while the buzz is hot."

Edmund Yeo, "The Great Swifty", concurs that the subtitles in Night Watch might be the film's highlight. He writes: "The subtitles usage in this film is VERY creative, the text are faint and transparent when a character whispers, then it flares red when someone's screaming in anger, or it floats around the screen when it was a vampire's seductive call to lure her victims."

Further, IndieWIRE reports: "Not only were subtitles not a hindrance to the record-setting debut of the Russian fantasy-horror film Night Watch, they actually may have helped its box-office performance. The Fox Searchlight release, which features innovative digitalized subtitles that move around the screen, finished first on the indieWIRE Box Office Tracker (iWBOT) of per-screen averages over the four-day Presidents' Day weekend. It also had the highest three-day per-screen average—$28,995 on three screens in New York and L.A.—of any film so far this year. Its four-day average was $35,475."

Timur Bekmambetov's Moscow travel booklet for the Landmark Theatres Movienet is full of clever, tasty information perfect for the discriminating tourist:

I want a Mashen'ka!! I want a Mashen'ka!! Especially one that squeaks when squeezed AND has eight legs!

Here's the official Russian website for Day Watch, the sequel. You can view two trailers (sans subtitles) by clicking on the bottom link on the leftside navigation, the Russian word трейлерbl. The bottom link on each trailer has it in the highest quality in Quicktime (via Blake at Cinema Strikes Back).

Also via Cinema Strikes Back, Nick Holdsworth's Fangoria interview with Sergei Lukyanenko, the author of the 1998 cult fantasy novel Night Watch upon which the film is based. Lukyanenko discusses the differences between his novel and the film adaptation and jokes that "his university training as a psychiatrist helps him 'cope with critics'."

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