I watched the film Love and Mercy the other night, what I would casually call “the new Brian Wilson/Beach Boys bio pic,” however much it intentionally seeks to distance itself from the stereotypical biopic (from humble origins to fame to hubris to downfall, etc.) I have to say I was very enthralled, despite my trepidations, but admittedly I am the sort of person who rides around listening to a worn CD (nothing worse than skips and stutters upon angelic voices) of Pet Sounds while trying to avoid head-on collisions on the narrow roads of Wellington (just barely missed one the other day, and my neighbour too that would have been embarrassing!) The multiple conceits of the film are to be tasteful (almost overly so, but then haven’t Brian Wilson, family, and friends gone through enough pain exacerbated by muckraking and ridicule, prior to his belated embrace by hipster/retro culture?), period accurate, and have two stars playing different eras in the life of Brian: Paul Dano (who is already—and justifiably—racking up awards) and (rather unexpectedly) John Cusack. The winsome and trim Dano reportedly gained 35 pounds to play the increasingly portly and troubled musician during his alternately manic and inspired period of the late 1960s, while the film regularly flashes forward to Cusack as 1980s Brian, while under care of the psychotherapist Eugene Landy. The formidable Paul Giamatti, enlisted to portray Landy, one of the major charlatans of 20th C therapy, is unfortunately given little to do but leer, cajole, and scream. Elizabeth Banks ably and movingly plays Melinda, the car saleswoman who became Wilson’s devoted and sympathetic partner. Cusack, moreover, is such a fine, experienced actor that his Brian is reasonably affecting, but overshadowed by Dano’s uncanny act of utterly inhabiting Wilson, or at least one’s impression of who Wilson might have been. Scenes of the creation of Wilson’s music in the studio are arresting, as are Dano’s own singing and mannerisms “as Brian.” One is again taken aback even if the story is oft told by how cruel events were to Wilson, from childhood abuse by his father Murry, ethical misconduct by Landy, and a great deal of public misunderstanding of how difficult is is to create great art, especially under the pop cultural panoptic gaze. The credits incorporate recent footage of Wilson performing the song that lends its title to the film: I was lying in my room/And the news came on TV/A lotta people out there hurtin'/And it really scares me/Love and mercy, that's what you need tonight. One gets the distinct impression that Wilson is an example of an artist who did little to be intentionally unkind to others. Perhaps that’s the moral, however ordinary it might seem: working to be kinder in an often very unkind world. Art has something to do with that, but so do many other things as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" touted as the first "Iranian Vampire Western" at the Paramount in Wellington last night, screened as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival. With an atmospheric pace, terrific black and white cinematography, and enthralling music, it carried echoes of early work of Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch, but with a definite quirky humour and hipness of its own.
In the most recent CIRCUIT podcast, Mark Amery, Thomasin Sleigh, and I discuss and read from some recent New Zealand art catalogues, including those featuring artists Kim Pieters and Shannon Te Ao and the group exhibition Cinema and Painting.
The Yes Men are one of my very favourite rather unclassifiable prankster/activist/art/interventionist collectives (whom I've written about previously) and I'm very much looking forward to watching their newest cinematic epic!
Ilam Art School at the University of Canterbury videotaped this portion of painter Simon Morris's recent artist talk in which I (along with some gallery attendees, students, and staff) hurled some questions to which Simon ably and cordially responded.
I'm travelling to Christchurch tomorrow AM before the crack of dawn to meet up with my friend painter Simon Morris, who is currently finishing a new wall painting at the art school. I've signed on to write a catalogue essay in time for the exhibition opening on Tuesday evening, and I'll be conducting a q and a with Simon on Tuesday afternoon. Pretty exciting and rather daunting, a bit like mini art crit version of the 48-hour film festival. We'll see how it goes... For more on Simon's exhibition see the gallery's website. And below I've posted a short video interview with the artist made on the occasion of Te Papa's 2012 Collecting Contemporary show.
I've been reading and savouring music critic Amanda Petrusich's terrific recent book on the crazed and determined individuals who collect 78 rpm records entitled Do Not Sell At Any Price. In the above video Petrusich shares some of her eclectic faves from her own LP collection, including Bobby Charles, Salt 'n' Pepa, and Sharon Van Etten.