Saturday, May 28, 2016

from the archives: U2 3D

(It's always fun hanging out with local cinephiles. Along with the great company and conversation there's usually at least one epiphany of a shared affinity, and it's usually for something one would never expect. So quite a delight to chat today with Brian Darr, the proprietor of the indispensable Hell on Frisco Bay, and discover that he was as fond of U2 3D as I was. This never-since-re-screened concert film is a pretty terrific experience - as Brian later reported on Twitter, "I'm really not much of a fan of the band. But that movie made me one for 2 hours." I dug thru my pre-HOS blog over on LiveJournal (IT STILL LIVES) and unearthed my own comments on the movie, which I pasted, unedited, below.)

So there's a heroic moment (in this huge movie that's full of them) in which the band perform "Miss Sarajevo", a lovely cut (and really the only saleable single) from their PASSENGERS album with Brian Eno. As performed by the band in the film, the song loses none of its power - its quest for even a single moment of innocence and hope in a war-torn world remains as potent as ever, even as the strife in Sarajevo has faded into history.

But there's a bit about two-thirds through the song on the album, which has been all about build, where it really takes flight, where it breaks with tentativity and ambiguity and finally embraces the light and joy that the rest of the song has so desperately sought. At this point guest vocalist Luciano Pavarotti takes over the vocal from Bono and just sends the whole track soaring, and the listener with it.

So in the film we're getting to this point, and it's still just the four members of the band at this point. Bono's vocal line continues to the bridge, and I'm wondering if some guest vocalist is going to pop in to hit Pavarotti's part...

...and Bono crouches down, his body language more modest than we're used to from him but still declaring, unambiguously, I fucking have this, and he launches right into the Pavarotti line without missing a beat. The performance of "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" earlier in the set offered a potent reminder that Bono's the descendant of tenors, and here in "Miss Sarajevo" he takes his place in the lineage carved by his father, filling the role of Pavarotti, giving voice to a dream of the world, and knocking the song out of the arena.

(George Michael covered "Miss Sarajevo" on his album SONGS FROM THE LAST CENTURY. Despite the fact that the song needs something at the Pavarotti bridge, Michael just simply stopped singing, and left that crucial moment as an instrumental bridge. You know what, fuck George Michael.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


There are many ways for a movie to haunt us. Fewer ways, perhaps, for a movie to haunt itself.

Mike's Murder, a mid-80s work by James Bridges, finds itself thus haunted. It's a rarely-screened semi-obscurity, not often discussed even in passionate conversations about the neo-noirs of the 80s. The thing is weirdly paced, tracking L.A. banker Betty (Debra Winger) into a drearily sunlit L.A. underground in search of more information about her murdered lover. But I had a clue that this thing would probably not rush toward its destination, having read that the movie has been tinkered with by its studio. Bridges, it seemed, had intended the movie to flow in reverse chronological order, only to have the studio insist on the movie's scenes being recut into a more conventional forward chronology.

Was I better off not knowing about this? It certainly was distracting trying to imagine the scenes unfolding in Bridges intended order, trying to reverse engineer a flow from each scene to the one before. And even though one understands that this is a foolish mission at best something about this other movie, this mirror movie, helps Mike's Murder linger even longer than it would have.

As is, though, the movie does land as a moody if unusually sedate noir romance. Mike remains present even after his mysterious death, with photographs taking on a ghostly life of their own. Betty herself is often framed in mirrors as she proceeds on her quest, enhancing a feeling of crossing over into a dreamy, not-quite-real liminal zone. Her search takes her into many unusual milieu, from the decadent but earthy home of a gay music producer (Paul Winfield, award-worthy) to a conceptual art party that throws Betty from one screen to another.

But haunted it remains. By the movie it was intended to be, so that the opening scene of the movie seems palpably overlaid with its devastating final cut. By the music of Joe Jackson, which survives solely on radios playing throughout Betty's L.A. By the evening's co-hit, Laura, Otto Preminger's noir romance about a detective similarly haunted by the murder victim he's investigating. (Both movies abound with queer characters, though the two other men lusting after Laura are coded as gay - closeted heterosexuals? What about Laura brings these men out of themselves?) And like any good haunted site it continually folds in on itself, leaving one unable to unsee it, turning over its various versions in one's head for hours after. Fascinated. Obsessed. In a word, haunted.