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The Trylon’s Jim Jarmusch: No Answers Provided continues this week, with his masterful acid western, Dead Man.

Review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.

Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
–William Blake, Augeries of Innocence

Dead Man is Jim Jarmusch’s cameo studded, somewhat comical, and modern approach to the Western. Filmed in black and white with a soundtrack by Neil Young, this film is a powerful portrayal of a lost soul on the path to a final resting place. Crisp and slowly paced fade outs are a continuing delicacy throughout this feature, as well as the frequent thunderclap of gunshot that can break up the dirge-like pace.

Johnny Depp plays the main character, William Blake, a mealy-eyed everyday man that follows a Kafka-esque Wild West experience with the ghost of death looming over him. In the beginning, Blake is an unassuming accountant from Lake Erie decked out in a plaid suit with a bowtie. With his round little spectacles and John Bull Topper hat, Blake patiently sits on a train at the beginning of the film. The long side shots coming from outside train are just plain beautiful. Blake passes the time by staring, sleeping, reading, and even playing solitare. He’s heading for the end of the line, the town of Machine. He has a new job at Dickinson’s Metal Works.

The first words in the film are spoken around the five minute mark. It is the coal stained Train Fireman played by Crispin Glover with whom Blake has his first conversation. The Fireman is shown Blake’s letter of employment, to which he (Glover) replies, “I wouldn’t trust no words written down on no paper.” The Fireman also suggests that Blake is just as likely to find his own grave.

When Blake finds Dickinson’s Metal Works, he discovers, much to his dismay, that the job was given to someone else. He insists on speaking with Mr. Dickinson, and enters his office. Robert Mitchum plays John Dickinson, in the last role of his life. Dickinson is a gruff and mean (but respected) man who owns most of the town. He tells Blake, “The only job you’re gonna get here is pushing up daisies from a pine box.”

Down on his luck, Blake spends the last of his money on a bottle of alcohol and sits on the stoop outside the bar to drink it. While he is deciding his next move, a woman named Thel Russell (Mili Avital) gets thrown out of the bar and called a whore. She lays in the mud, despondent, surrounded by paper flowers she peddles for almost no money. Blake awkwardly stares at her until he thinks to get up and help her. He offers his flask and they find their way back to her place.

Later, another man, Thel’s lover, barges in the door while they’re in bed. The stranger tries to kill Blake, but Russell covers him with her body and is shot and killed. Blake shoots at the stranger several times and finally hits him, but not before getting shot himself–the bullet has hit him near the heart. Blake is able to get up, flee through the window, and steal the stranger’s horse.

Blake wakens to find a burly Native American man, named Nobody (Gary Farmer), attempting to extract the metal from around his heart. After hearing Blake’s name, Nobody becomes the helpful guide and leads Blake on a spiritual quest because Nobody thinks our hero is William Blake the poet, painter, and now killer of white men. Nobody is charismatic, eccentric and was abandoned as a child. He is such an intriguing character for Jarmusch that he is also in Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai.

Dickinson hires the three most ruthless killers he can find to hunt down Blake. It turns out that the stranger he shot was Charlie Dickinson, the powerful man’s youngest son. Blake is also accused of the murder of Charlie’s finance, Thel Russell. Dickinson made it clear he doesn’t care if Blake is dead or alive, but he wants the horse.

Dead Man continues with Blake as a wanted criminal, an outlaw who merely found himself in poor circumstances. Blake is slowly dying of his gunshot wound along with lack of food and water. He breaks out of his awkward, quiet self and transforms into a confident killer looking for answers and a place to finally rest. Before he kills a white man, he will ask innocently, “do you know my poetry?”

Caty Rent pretty much lives coffee and is obsessed with the Batman.

Dead Man screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday night at 7:00 & 9:15. Purchase tickets here.

Dead Man Official Trailer #1 – (1995) HD

pic_giant_020212_BThe Trylon is celebrating the work of comedian/writer/director Harold Ramis this weekend with two of his funniest movies–Stripes and Groundhog Day.

Review by Trylon regular Aaron Vehling.

There’s a point in Harold Ramis’ 1993 film Groundhog Day when arrogant Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) posits that the omniscience and omnipotence of God is a gift of his age: “He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”

Connors is potentially thousands of days into what seems like an infinite loop of Feb. 2, and during that time he has learned new things about himself and the world around him. He knows exactly when a waitress will drop her dishes on the floor of a restaurant, what his television news colleagues will say at the table and pretty much how everything else will shake out in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Connors knows all.

The way things are going, it’s no stretch to consider that perhaps Connors has become a deity; at least of this particular town. Perhaps this misanthropic meteorologist, stuck on-assignment in a town he despises among people he can’t stand, is locked in purgatory. There’s another possibility: Like Siddhartha Gautama who became Buddha, he’s going through a process to toward enlightenment.

During his journey, Connors kills himself, robs, steals, messes around with women and treats people like dirt. The only consequence is that his days repeat. Death only means he wakes up again on the same day, as if nothing ever happened.

Connors faces the temptation of easy money, sex and power. He uses the repeating days to glean information that will help him get into the pants of Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), his producer and love interest who is essentially his opposite. Although the Buddha didn’t give in along his own path, Connors tries on the hedonism with only the space-time continuum to keep him in check.

At some point along the way, though, Connors finds that no amount of women or money gleaned through illicit means is worth living that same day on repeat. So he decides to try something different and embark on an effort to do good will.

Connors is given the opportunity, or maybe he creates it himself somehow, to achieve a level of interconnectedness and cosmic understanding that evades those of us on the linear timeline. Those who encounter him are in awe of the compassionate, laidback and intelligent man who seemingly knows everyone and has scores of useful talents. He is purified.

Groundhog Day, like Kingpin and Wild Things, stands in the Bill Murray canon as that period of the 90s just before Murray reaches his own enlightenment (at least in his career). The latter two aren’t starring roles, but they all represent Murray wringing out most of the remnants of simple comic fare in exchange for something more — whether that something more is tragic, ridiculous or malicious.

Rushmore would soon follow, kicking off Murray’s becoming who and what we know him as today — “Bill Murray,” the dramatic actor with comedic talent and not the comedy actor serving as a tourist in dramatic fare. This is the man who starred in Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers.  Murray graduated from Ramis comedies, whether those the late comic genius wrote or directed, like Ghostbusters, Stripes and Caddyshack, and moved onward. Perhaps Murray realized that after doing the same sort of films it was time to get out of his own cycle.

Aaron Vehling is a former journalist and current communications professional who loves the music of Johnny Jewel and the films of Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Longfellow, Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion fromThe Royal Tenenbaums.

The Harold Ramis weekend screens at the Trylon, with Stripes on Friday at 7:00, Saturday at 9:00, Sunday at 7:00–purchase tickets here; Groundhog Day screens Friday at 9:00, Saturday at 7:00, Sunday at 5:00–purchase tickets here.

 

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Our Jackie Chan Adventures series closes with the eponymous action star’s first American vehicle, Rumble in the Bronx.

Review by Trylon volunteer Thorn Chen.

Almost immediately as he gets to the Bronx, Ma Hon Keung (Jackie Chan) gets on the bad side of neighborhood motorcycle thugs and its head Tony (Marc Akerstream), who leads his followers in a go-cart. Jackie beats up some gang members for roughing up a grocery store, and things go south from there. The fact that he runs off with the gang leader’s girlfriend Nancy (Françoise Yip) does not help matters.

The neighborhood bickering—and near lethal fights between Jackie and the gang—gets overshadowed when Angelo, whose nose Jackie broke in the first fight, gets everyone accidentally mixed up in a multimillion dollar diamond heist and a criminal syndicate whose thugs wear suits, ride around in Lincoln town cars, and impersonate FBI agents. Jackie’s new girlfriend and her wheelchair-bound little brother are taken hostage, and Jackie finds himself in an epic hovercraft chase in order to get the bad guys and rescue the hostages.

That’s about all there is in terms of plot. As with most films starring Jackie Chan, Rumble in the Bronx is thin on narrative, for which it compensates with well-choreographed (and ridiculous) fight sequences, complete with the requisite props.

Jackie is, in fact, helpless without his props. Cornered in a dead end of an alleyway by the biker gang, he is almost killed as the gangsters bat empty liquor bottles his way (literally, with a baseball bat). When he goes after the gang in a used appliance store, he is golden: refrigerators, TVs, ladders, and hanging lamps all become his allies and accessories. Not to mention, the props make the brawls interesting. And there are a lot of brawls, in the typical Bronx locales—a supermarket, a parking garage, graffiti-filled alleyways, a boathouse, a beach.

Rumble was the first of Jackie’s films to break into the U.S. market, and this significant fact shows in its narrative geography. Title credits pasted over a plane flying against the sunset cuts to the airport, where Jackie gets a ride from his uncle. On their way across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan (taking a very inefficient route from JFK airport to the Bronx), Jackie marvels at the downtown Manhattan skyline; his uncle says, “This is Manhattan. I could only dream of having a market here… my market is in the Bronx.”

Hence the film’s stand in the inter-borough rivalry, where Jackie puts aside his differences with the biker thugs from the Bronx in order to fight the suit-and-tie mafia, with its leader “White Tiger,” obviously more at home in Manhattan. After all, Jackie Chan and Kung Fu cinema fit in better with the racially diverse biker gangs of the Bronx than the town car driving diamond dealers. All this doesn’t prevent gems of moralizing dialogue, like when Jackie tells the gang (after he has beaten them up): “don’t you know you’re the scum of society?”

Thorn Chen is from New York, now in Minneapolis pursuing a PhD at the U, where he studies Chinese cinema, reads continental philosophy, and scrounges for funds to support his coffee addiction. 

Rumble in the Bronx screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

Rumble in the Bronx – Theatrical Trailer

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The Trylon’s celebrated 5th Anniversary Silent Film Festival has been a rousing success, and it closes this weekend with the man who started it all: Buster Keaton. Five years ago we presented a month of sold-out Keaton shows to inaugurate the Trylon, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Come enjoy Go West, Keaton’s western masterpiece, with live accompaniment by Rats and People MN. This a hilarious send up of a genre that, by 1925, was already in need of a good ribbing!

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

No spoilers here, I refuse to tell you why or how Buster Keaton goes West. But soon after he does so the following occurs:

Unexpectedly, our hero ends up on a cattle ranch, a fish out of water. Hes poor. Hungry. Trying to fit in.

While out trying to help the other workers, a cow limps past him. He approaches it cautiously, still not used to this place, or its people, or these animals. Mustering a bit of courage, he pats her head. At rest, or in his company, she seems content.

So he grabs her bum leg and sees a rock has lodged in her hoof. He removes it, making it a point to show her the cause of her pain before dropping it to the ground. All better now.

A second passes. Keaton glances down at their feet, at this rock that now rests on the ground. No. That wont do. As cow looks on, he snatches up the rock up and digs a small hole. Then quickly buries it as best as hes able, ensuring no harm will come to her ever again.

Its disarmingly thoughtful, and so damned sweet, and just one of the many reasons I was so taken with this film. Id never witnessed Keatons wonderful attention to detail and timing, but I now understand why this film from 1924 remains fresh and funny.

For neophytes like myself, its testament to Keatons talent as actor and director, and to his alarmingly wonderful attention to detail and timing.

No wonder this film from 1924 remains so funny and engaging.

Though tiny keychain-gunplay never hurts either…

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

Go West screens Friday and Saturday at 7:00 and 9:30; Sunday at 5:00 and 7:30. Purchase tickets here.

buster keaton go west 1925 busy street scene

chan-drunken-masterOur wonderful Jackie Chan Adventures series continues with what some consider his greatest movie, The Legend of Drunken Master!

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

The Legend of Drunken Master is exactly five things:

1. Its the best kung fu movie ever made.

2. Its so damned good, it transcends its own genre, being one of the best films ever made, period. (Doubts? Know my mother and Time magazine both back me up here.)

3. Its Jackie Chans Citizen Kane (Yuen Woo-ping being Chans Herman J. Mankiewicz).

4. Its the story of how you never knew how much you wanted to see a man with a spear fight a man with a sword underneath a train, until you see exactly that. And you realize its the BEST thing. And THEN you realize that fight took place while our Drunken Legend was sober. Who knows what hes capable of when he starts to drink. (And he then very quickly starts to drink.)

5. Its showing at the Trylon!

 What more do you need to know? An amazing film. Not to be missed.

Ben Schmidt is a writer: strong of beard, smooth of voice.

The Legend of Drunken Master screens Monday and Tuesday at the Trylon at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.

Jackie Chan | The Legend of Drunken Master [1994] | Trailer