Monthly Archives: September 2017

Judy’s Story

You might already know Art House. You come for films or you plan to soon. You might have already heard about our Phase 2 project. But why is it all important?
There are dozens of reasons why we think you should join the Art House/Phase 2 story. But we figure, why should we do all the talking?
This is the fabulous Judy. She is a film lover, an Art House volunteer and a monthly Phase 2 donor. We love her enthusiasm and her passion for great things for Billings! Thanks Judy!

Review: ‘Menashe’

Menashe Lustig at the back as Menashe. Photo: IMDb.

The last Yiddish-language movie I remember watching was the Polish drama The Dybbuk (1937) by Michał Waszyński, so when I found out Art House was bringing Menashe (2017) to Billings, I could not help but get excited.

Set in the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, Menashe (Menashe Lustig), a widower, fights for custody over his son in a culture that believes children need both a mother and a father. Until Menashe marries again, the local rabbi declares him unfit to raise his son, who lives with Menashe’s former brother-in-law’s family. Shot almost entirely in Yiddish, a colorful Jewish language which was nearly wiped out by Holocaust, the movie explores the nature of parenthood and the clash between tradition and the love of a father for his son.

The movie has just the right amount of drama, which provides an intimate look at Menashe’s hardships, but it is also filled with the right amount of comedy; the main character has a reputation for being an irresponsible schmuck. He works at a neighborhood market where he often forgets to sweep the floor, he questions the rules of the rabbi, he associates with people from outside the Jewish community, and his low salary prevents him from paying the bills on time. Pressed from both sides of the society he lives in, the Hasidic and the secular one, Menashe is a man of faith with very few hopes.

Inspired by the lead actor’s real life, Menashe‘s authenticity is in the representation of feelings without the exacerbated use of words. He is driven by self-doubt and the struggle for his son, which fits with his contemplative personality. Nothing seems to be going right for Menashe. Since that is the reality for many people, the viewer easily connects with the main character, feeling Menashe’s overwhelming sadness as he tries to prove himself to a world that seems to see him as unfit.

Director: Joshua Weinstein

Screenplay: Alex Lipschultz, Musa Syeed, Joshua Z. Weinstein

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 1h 22m

Review: ‘Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World’

An enlightening documentary about Native Americans’ role in the evolution of contemporary music

The distortion of Link Wray’s guitar hit the American air waves in 1958 with “Rumble.” The song was one of the first tunes to use power chords, a technique that had yet to be explored by the rock and roll scene. In the summer of that year, “Rumble” became an instant success. It rose to number sixteen on the charts, despite being banned in several US radio markets under the claim the noisy, distorted sound glorified juvenile delinquency. Link Wray’s innovative use of the electric guitar ended up influencing a generation of guitarists.The distortion of Link Wray’s guitar hit the American air waves in 1958 with “Rumble.” The song was one of the first tunes to use power chords, a technique that had yet to be explored by the rock and roll scene. In the summer of that year, “Rumble” became an instant success. It rose to number sixteen on the charts, despite being banned in several US radio markets under the claim the noisy, distorted sound glorified juvenile delinquency. Link Wray’s innovative use of the electric guitar ended up influencing a generation of guitarists.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is an enlightening documentary about Native Americans’ role in the evolution of contemporary music. It tells the story of contributions made by Native American musicians to the rise of blues, rock and roll, and pop music. These musicians include Mildred Bailey, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Randy Castillo, and, of course, Link Wray. Directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, this movie presents an overlooked chapter in music history.

From the father of delta blues, Charley Patton, to one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th Century, Jimi Hendrix, this documentary provides a list of influential artists whose Native American backgrounds often lacked the due consideration by their fans and the media. For example, during  Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix wore headbands and other Native American-styled clothing. Jimi’s sister says he did it to honor his Cherokee grandmother. However, at that time, most fans saw his style as part of the tribal trend in hippie fashion.

The radio ban on Wray’s music, or the disregard for Jimi Hendrix’s Native American roots may not have been directly related to the blatant discrimination occurring in the Fifties and Sixties, but it sure resembles the time when the government outlawed music by Native Americans. Although this documentary covers many prohibitions that targeted Native American culture, Rumble triumphs by not victimizing Native Americans. It leaves viewers feeling inspired rather than sad, and with “Rumble” echoing in their heads. Dummm dummm duuuuummm.

Director: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana

Screenplay: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana

Genre: Music/Documentary

Running Time: 1h 43m

Sam’s Story

You’ve heard of Art House.  You’ve heard about our Phase 2 project.  You come for films or you plan to soon.  But why is it all important? There are dozens of reasons why we think you should join the Art House/Phase 2 story.  But we figure, why should we do all the talking?
Today we are going to hear from Sam.  He is a film lover, a downtown supporter, and an Art House donor.
Click to hear his story:

 

Review: ‘Lady Macbeth’

Florence Pugh as Katherine creates a mid-19th Century femme fatale

Lady Macbeth (2016) is set in rural north England in the mid-19th Century. The movie’s opening scene shows Katherine’s (Florence Pugh) face covered by a white wedding veil, looking back, as if glancing at the viewer. The lack of importance in Katherine’s surroundings gives her a strong sense of presence, yet it foreshadows the loneliness of her coming marital life. Prevented by her husband from leaving the house, Katherine is trapped in a suffocating environment where she is seen as a mere adornment and child-bearer. Alexander (Paul Hilton), Katherine’s much older husband, does not show any sexual interest in her. When he leaves the house for reasons unknown to Katherine, she ends up having an affair with one of the men who works on the land, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis).

Florence Pugh as Katherine in Lady Macbeth. Photo: IMDB.

Florence Pugh as Katherine in Lady Macbeth. Photo: IMDb.

The story may remind viewers of Madame Bovary, but do not fool yourself, for Lady Macbeth takes on a very different, dark course. Based on Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Russian writer Nikolai Leskov, the movie can go from quietness to turmoil in a very short period of time. Lady Macbeth‘s narrative does not rely too much on dialogue to tell Katherine’s story. The setting, lighting, and solitude around Katherine’s environment can be more expressive than words. The lack of cheerful tones in the house creates a dreary habitat, which focuses the attention on Katherine, and at the same time indicates a state of boredom. The constant silence in the house turns Katherine’s own breathing into the movie’s soundtrack, showing how suffocating her life is in that patriarchal social system.

At this point of the movie, there is no way out; the viewer is also stuck in the house with Katherine.

The way Katherine finds freedom to love Sebastian is by suppressing any compassion and taking down anyone who seems to threaten her affair. When she starts taking action, the viewer understands the reference to Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, a woman conflicted between masculinity and femininity in a time where being ruthless was seen as a male attribute. Katherine is a modern character lost in a rustic, old environment. The cinematography complies with that, adopting an approach not often used in period dramas, which brings us closer to Katherine.

The movie is William Oldroyd’s debut feature film, and Alice Birch’s debut as a screenwriter. As for the actress Florence Pugh, one thought follows the viewer around: “Who is this girl and why have I not seen her before?” Her performance as Katherine creates a dense mid-19th Century femme fatale who leads her lover – and the viewer – into deadly situations.

As the story unfolds, Katherine’s silence is replaced by the silence of a speechless audience.

Director: William Oldroyd

Screenplay: Alice Birch

Genre: Drama film

Running Time: 1h 30m