If you like vampires, blood, pointy teeth, send-ups, and Dr. Freud, you're gonna clap for Therapy for a Vampire. However, if you've avoided all things undead, including every vampire movie ever made plus Bram Stoker's oeuvre, you're going to have a nice little nap while your vampire-delighted friend chortles.
Therapy for a Vampire makes fun of vampires, but you have to love them enough to laugh at them. Otherwise, you have to have elastic eyes that roll well.
Here's the concept: The year is '32, the place is somewhere near Vienna, the doctor is Sigmund Freud. He has hired an artist, Viktor Huma, to paint his dreams, that is, to illustrate his subconscious. Huma has also been painting his mistress, Lucy, but the dark-haired, bun-sporting, beige-betrousered fräulein appears on his canvas as a fantasy model with curling blonde hair and wearing a coral dress. One of Dr. Freud's new patients is an old guy, a really old count, Geza von Kozsnom. Geza has found that he has nothing left to discover, no thirst for life. Plus, his countess is a demanding woman, who dismisses his bottles of blood -- she wants her neck-piercings fresh. So the good doctor suggests that Geza hire an artist to paint her portrait, since she cannot see herself and since, as he says, he's no good at reflection.
If you get that joke, that pun, you will get Therapy for a Vampire. You will giggle every time the blustery vampire or the vain countess tries the mirror or moves real quick. You will delight in the apposition presented by the real Lucy and the fantasy Lucy. You will slap your knee at the portrayal of Sigmund Freud in his chair, taking notes fast before midnight, as the vampire lies upon the carpeted couch. Otherwise, you will take a nap on your own couch. Now playing at Landmarks' Tivoli Theatre.
Director Victor Kanefsky's documentary Art Bastard profiles contemporary, anti-establishment artist Robert "Bob" Cenedella, born in 1940. In so doing, the film offers a provocative profile of the art world, primarily because, as Bob says, "There are no words to describe my feelings. I despised it." The film's title Art Bastard is both literal and metaphoric.
Bob Cenedella learned at six years of age that Robert, Sr., his alcoholic mother's husband, was not his actual father. He was Russell Speirs, Colgate University professor, but Bob says the two of them didn't amount to one real father. Though expelled from high school (a great story), at the Art Students League of New York, Bob found his perfect teacher: George Grosz. A refugee from Nazi Germany, Grosz encouraged Bob to "think with your hand," and Bob translated New York's energy and teeming masses into paintings crowded with discord.
And yet in Bob's professional life, the art community rejected or marginalized him, not because Bob lacked talent but due to his satirical approach to icons of American culture. For example, in a response to civil rights protests, he put dogs' heads on policemen and policemen's heads on dogs. He made Nixon and LBJ dartboards. For his 1965 "Yes Art" show Bob gave out Green Stamps, mocked Warhol and pop art, and then didn't paint for ten years. But he decided "not to be a tragic figure," and in 1985 painted a Hitler orchestra conductor with audience members also sporting Hitler moustaches. And then Saatchi and Saatchi took Bob's painting of Santa Claus on a cross out of their 1988 one-man show for Cenedella. Regarding the art world's taste for mediocrity, Bob comments, "It's not what they do show but what they don't show that bothers me."
Unrepentant today, Bob asserts that when he painted the New York stock exchange in 1986, he found it nice to deal with "honest crooks rather than the kind I deal with in the art world." Director Kanefsky inserts interview footage of Bob's sister and son (among others), archival photographs and video footage sufficient to add context to Bob's vivid, colorful work. It is amply represented with Bob's own informative commentary. The music, however, is uneven, sometimes nicely interpretive and, at other times, loud and intrusive. Described as a pugnacious character, Bob is refreshing, cutting through cultural hypocrisy. Bob Cenedella brings all the drama necessary to make Art Bastard a compelling portrait. The end credits list the paintings shown in the film, identifying the artists and the museums. What a great idea! At Landmark's Tivoli Theatre.
For those of us who love the editing process in our own work and that of others, the story of Max Perkins as editor to the stars of White Male American Fiction of the Fifties is a classic. So how come Genius just does not make our editors' hearts tattoo?
Celebrated by A. Scott Berg in the masterful biography, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, Perkins played a significant part in moving the novels of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe to the bookstores. Genius looks at the roles played by Perkins and the genius Thomas Wolfe. Perkins saw promise under the mounds of purple prose that formed Wolfe's draft of O Lost, which they retitled Look Homeward, Angel. Perkins followed up the recommendation of set designer Aline Bernstein, Wolfe's mistress, to read the work-in-progress. He reads the first line with Wolfe's voice-over: "A stone, a leaf, an unfound door."
Genius follows Perkins' unstinting work on that book as he and Wolfe develop a father/son relationship, to the detriment of his life at home with his wife and five daughters and of Wolfe's love affair. It would be hard enough to make a scintillating film of the editing process, and as his first directorial effort, actor Michael Grandage barely succeeds.
The film, set in 1929, looks right due to Mark Digby's art production, but it never feels right. Maybe that's because most of the cast is British, save for Laura Linney, who tries, as Louise Perkins. Colin Firth, who lived in St. Louis in the fifth grade, plays the ever-hatted Perkins and Jude Law plays the wordy Wolfe, who lived in St. Louis with his mother, who ran a boarding house during the 1904 World's Fair. Nicole Kidman is solid as Bernstein; Guy Pearce and Dominic West make cameos as Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Genius is a work of admiration and curiosity, but it is simply not a work of genius, so that's regrettable.
At the center of the most engaging character-driven documentaries must be a unique, remarkable individual, and Giuseppe Marinoni certainly qualifies. Director Tony Girardin's Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame captures Marinoni in all his passionate, cantankerous, and eccentric complexity. This 75-year-old Canadian set out to break the hour world record for cycling in his age group, a Herculean feat.
A former Italian cycling champion, Marinoni stayed in Montreal after a 1965 race brought him there, though he arrived with one pair of pants, a bike and two racing jerseys. Odd jobs eventually led Marinoni to find his profession--crafting and building bicycle frames, over 30,000 by count to date, masterpieces for which he enjoys cult status in the bicycle world. A bike he made in the 70s for one of Canada's best cyclists, Jocelyn Lovell, is the one Marinoni will use to attempt to surpass Eddie Merckx's 1972 record. Merckx said it was the hardest race he's ever done and would never try it again. Marinoni takes the formidable challenge.
For director/producer/editor and cinematographer Girardin, this documentary is clearly a labor of love, a film he's tried to convince Marinoni to let him make for years. Counting down from 60 days before the velodrome event, Girardin skillfully tells Giuseppi's life story through archival photographs, interviews with cyclists and admirers, mushroom hunting forays, and time watching Marinoni work, all the while building tension and suspense. The film is beautifully shot with unobtrusive music adding a complementary backdrop to quieter scenes, especially those once Giuseppe returns to his Italian home town for the time trial. The relationship that develops between Girardin and his subject recommends this cinematic experience by itself.
With voiceover English narration, in French and a bit of Italian with English subtitles. Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame screens at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10 at 8:00 p.m. each evening. For more information, call 314-968-7487 or visit the Webster Film Series website.
Some films and some art exhibits present an idea more impressive in the abstract than in the actual experience, and that describes my reaction to Tom Sachs' A Space Program. Sachs, as the Control Flight Director, his engineers and collaborators decide to land two women on Mars--through animation, models and simulated activity--all for a patient theater audience.
The film stems from Sachs' 2012 New York project Space Program 2.0: MARS, which may have offered a more entertaining immersion. As it exists on film, it meanders through a selection of eclectic music, a video game, familiar mission control audio interjected throughout the film, and an occasionally interesting commentary on the makeup and value of necessary materials: steel, Tyvek, plywood, etc.
As though the mission itself veered off course, "A Space Program" digresses in the last half hour of its 72 minutes. The astronauts curse each other, an IBM commercial's narration accompanies simplistic animation and television footage as the voiceover commentary introduces a meta-layer evaluating human communication challenges. I must warn audiences that some of the footage is disturbing as a human heart and brain are cut in half with a power saw in close-ups before further digression to the benefits of the tea ceremony.
The editing does keep the pace brisk, and occasional playfulness offers some amusing perspective on our familiar NASA ventures--the drama, the radioed messages, and the alternating somber and ecstatic moments. But writers Sachs and Van Neistat never dig deep enough to honor the experience nor do they distance themselves in ways that artistically recontextualize it. I'll pass on this trip to Mars.
A Space Program screens at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, July 1 through Sunday, July 3 at 8:00 p.m. each evening.