Peter Greenaway’s sumptuously decadent film A Zed and Two Noughts (1986) is one that sates both the visceral and cerebral palettes. One of the main themes that Greenaway presents is his “…fascination of twinship… particularly conjoined Siamese twins.”¹ Not only do the twin brothers progressively shed their individualistic fashion traits to look more alike, but Greenaway also conspires to make the composition of select shots throughout the film look synchronized. In this particular image of a lavish, heaven-like hospital room, the left side of the frame is practically mirrored with the right side. Production designers Ben van Os and Jan Roelfs place the furnishings to reflect one another across each other with a mathematical exactness.
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Three Days and Three Nights in Marz
A proposition for a Queer Cinema elective for the MOPA program by Seanna McPherson and Ki Wight brings to mind one of the genre’s finest examples from last year called Weekend (2011). It is the sophomore feature by UK director Andrew Haigh who cut his teeth as an assistant editor on Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) and Black Hawk Down (2001) and then returned to his home base to capture this intimate Nottingham-set indie about two men who have a one-night stand and must decide how far they will allow their hearts to take them. It is in the same class of such smart, relatable and poignant modern-day romances like Medicine for Melancholy (2008) and The Myth of the American Sleepover (2011). To be more specific with the matter at hand, Weekend is as sweet as Stephen Frears’ Prick Up Your Ears (1987) is sour.
Russell (Tom Cullen), a reserved young municipal pool lifeguard, puts himself out one night at a club and runs off with Glen (Chris New), an extroverted artist who channels his personality to keep people from getting too close. He doesn’t do boyfriends or good-byes for that matter. After a night of sex, they keep finding more opportunities to hang out together. Their personalities are made to clash; yet they complement each other in ways that challenge their fears and ideals further. There is a refreshing frankness about their homosexuality that makes Russell and Glen into very specific and fully realized lovers.
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The Positively True Adventures of the Convicted Texas Widow-Murdering Mortician
Too often, people cannot believe that he – of all people! – could commit murder. They knew him! Laughed with him! Never saw it in him. That is the buzz coming from the good people of Carthage, Texas over their beloved Bernie Tiede – the real life subject of Richard Linklater’s bizarre crime story.
Teaming up again after their success in the tailor-made School of Rock (2003), Jack Black plays Bernie as though he was sprinkled in sugar. Bernie is a thoroughly spiffy and effeminate man. He is all roundness emanating a soft, optimistic voice. His mustache must tickle his lips to smile so sweetly. Working as a mortician, he tends to the deceased so they look their very best for the funeral.*
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Artwork by Akiko Stehrenberger from the Criterion booklet of Life During Wartime.
The cast of Life During Wartime (2010) from left to right:
Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens (Andy Kornbluth), Shirley Henderson (Joy Jordan), Michael Kenneth Williams (Allen), Ally Sheedy (Helen Jordan), Rich Pecci (Mark Wiener), Michael Lerner (Harvey Wiener), Allison Janney (Trish Jordan), Emma Hinz (Chloe Maplewood), Chris Marquette (Billy Maplewood), Ciarán Hinds (Bill Maplewood)
As I suspected about the new Criterion release of Life During Wartime (2011) back in May, Miss Stehrenberger has illustrated the whole gaggle of characters from the film.
The arrangement of the characters complements their relationships to each other so thoughtfully. All three of the Jordan sisters are separated from each other. Joy is torn between her husband and the ghost of her ex-boyfriend. Helen, the black sheep, who has abandoned her family, is ignored by everyone. Most dominant is Trish, positioned up front. With her steely gaze, she has a dynamic presence. Her vibrant, almost violently paint-slashed dress suggests that she has survived a battle.
Notice how both Joy and Trish’s daughter Chloe have their arms behind their backs. I find Chloe standing in front of her mother has the stance of a foot soldier. Joy and Chloe also share similar hairstyles, head shape and facial features. How ironic that Trish is on her way to raising little Joy all on her own. Remember when Chloe wondered if baby carrots feel pain? That’s the kind of thought “Sensitive Joy” might have had as a kid.
Fathers and sons are paired together on both Wiener and Maplewood fronts. The two Wieners assume the same pose. I’m going out on a limb, but I doubt Bill has his hands in his pockets like his son does. Of course, Bill is cast off to the far right. The only character in the group he talks to is his son. Andy is on the far left – he’s dead with only Joy as his last connection to the the world of the living… or is it just in her head?
For the first time, a film by Todd Solondz is getting the Criterion treatment. This is Life During Wartime (2010), one of the most exciting movies to come out last year that very few even noticed on its limited release. Now everyone has a chance to catch up with it as well as the characters from Todd Solondz’s most controversial film Happiness (1998). That’s right: Life During Wartime is Happiness 2! Now have Bill, Trish, Joy, Helen, Andy and the rest of the gang gotten along after ten years? Not surprising, they’re worse now than before.
Yes, Andy is still dead. Solondz just brings him back as a ghost to haunt his ex-girlfriend Joy. What luck Joy has!
At first glance, it appears that the designers at Criterion had their work on the DVD’s front cover handed to them. The final illustration and design of the original Life During Poster promotional poster by Akiko Stehrenberger was already at their high level of quality. All that was needed was to slap on that big C and set it to Screen. Before its theatrical release, I wrote about the process that the Life During Wartime movie poster went through to come to this.
That is until I found this on Akiko Stehrenberger’s bio:
Her illustrated poster, Life During Wartime, garnered press as well, which she recently adapted and illustrated the cast for the Criterion Collection DVD. She was deemed “Poster Girl” by Interview Magazine, and Creative Review published a 20 page zine of her illustrated movie poster work for their January 2011 Monograph series.
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