by Jim Ridley
For years, hardcore Nashville moviegoers have lamented the lack of a microcinema filling a missing niche in the city's big-screen offerings: experimental film, avant-garde features and beyond-obscure repertory titles. Now comes word that James Cathcart, a Scene contributor and one of the city's most dogged and devoted cinephiles, will be curating a monthly film series at Third Man Records co-sponsored by The Belcourt.
If the first night's programming indicates what to expect, the series dubbed The Light And Sound Machine is a monster. It launches Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Third Man performance space, 623 7th Ave. S., with the Nashville premiere of Bad Fever, a 2012 feature that announced its writer-director Dustin Guy Defa as a talent to watch. Here's Richard Brody in The New Yorker:
Dustin Guy Defa’s second feature, about a desperately aspiring standup comedian in Salt Lake City, makes “The King of Comedy” seem like a comedy. The young protagonist, Eddie, works days on a tree-cutting crew to support his ungrateful invalid mother. Not only is Eddie not funny, he’s also lonely, naïve, wounded, vulnerable, and perhaps even mentally ill. His standup style is indistinguishable from his ordinary manner: he’s both logorrheic and deeply inhibited, and Kentucker Audley (who is also a director) incarnates him with fury and anguish, unleashing torrents of inwardly spiralling, overly deferential language that seem to vanish into his collar.
Both Defa and Audley — a rising star from Memphis who's part of the whole Lena Dunham-Greta Gerwig-Joe Swanberg-Mark Duplass-Andrew Bujalski indie-cinema axis — will attend the screening. (Check out more on Audley in this excellent profile by the Memphis Commercial Appeal's John Beifuss, one of the sharpest film writers in the South.) Also on the bill is "The Black Balloon," a short parody of the French classic The Red Balloon by Ben and Joshua Safdie (Daddy Longlegs).
Upcoming programs look just as promising. Future offerings include the Nashville premiere of The Unspeakable Act, the 2012 sibling drama by revered critic turned filmmaker Dan Sallitt — watch for an appearance by former Middle Tennessean and current New Yorker Sunita Mani — and Kidlat Tahimik's legendary 1977 Phillippine magical-realist "transcultural meditation" Perfumed Nightmare.
The screenings will take place on digital and 16mm, which will expand its offerings greatly, and Cathcart says that even though slots are extremely limited, he'll welcome submissions from local filmmakers. Tickets are $10 and available here. Below, the press release from Third Man and Cathcart:
THIRD MAN RECORDS AND BELCOURT THEATRE TEAM UP TO PRESENT
NEW FILM SERIES
Two of Nashville’s Most Beloved Institutions Join Forces to Offer Cutting-Edge Mix of
New and Repertory Cinema
As the perpetually evolving landscape of media production and distribution continues to offer new opportunities for creator and consumer alike, certain aspects of how we experience and appreciate art tend to fall by the wayside. Among the most glaring examples is the notion of cinema as a communal phenomenon - of the theater as a public meeting space to indulge in acts of group-fantasy. As the market for new productions - large and small - becomes increasingly oriented to an era of digital distribution and on-demand home viewing, we lose the richness of discourse associated with sharing an emotional experience with strangers in a darkened room. The collective gasp at a third-act twist; embracing your date in a moment of fright; the heated post-film debate in the theater lobby - these are the sort of exchanges that risk endangered-status as the archetypical cinematic venue moves from the screening room to the living room.
It is with this in mind that Third Man Records has partnered with the Southeast’s flagship arthouse cinema, The Belcourt Theatre, to announce The Light And Sound Machine, a monthly film series to take place on the third Thursday of each month at Third Man’s performance space in downtown Nashville. Screenings are curated and hosted by filmmaker and critic James Cathcart, whose goal is to provide a venue for marginalized cinema, past and present, unlike any other in our city. Focusing on micro-budget productions by emerging directors, groundbreaking experimental film from all eras, and rarely screened repertory classics, each program promises a trove of curiosities for the adventurous film-goer. Presented digitally and on 16mm, the initial season’s eclectic offerings range from Dan Sallitt’s controversial yet tender 2012 feature THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, to Kidlat Tahimik’s transcultural meditation PERFUMED NIGHTMARE (1977.)
The Light And Sound Machine’s inaugural exhibition will take place February 21st at 7pm, and will feature the bleak anti-comedy BAD FEVER (Dustin Guy Defa, 2012), preceded by the Safdie Bros.’ THE BLACK BALLOON (2012), an acerbic re-imagining of Albert Lamorisse’s classic LE BALLON ROUGE. Admission is $10. Both the director, Dustin Guy Defa, and lead actor, Kentucker Audley, of Bad Fever will be in attendance.
Though programming space is very limited, feature and short film submissions are welcome. Contact: email@example.com for additional information.
A nod to the character based inquiries into the American condition that were the hallmark of 1970's filmmaking, Dustin Guy Defa's BAD FEVER introduces Eddie (Kentucker Audley), a psychologically fractured loner with delusions of a future in standup comedy. All but anonymous in his daily existence, he disappears into himself as seamlessly as he does into the film's rust-laden vistas of middle-America. His monotonous trajectory aches for intervention, which comes in the form of Irene (Eleonore Hendricks), a wayward drifter with a camcorder who subsides by sharing kinky vignettes of herself with an unseen benefactor. As their aimless lives intertwine, they inadvertently become fixtures to each other's menageries of desperation.
The Black Balloon
An acerbic re-imagining of Albert Lamorisse’s classic children's film LE BALLON ROUGE, Josh and Benny Safdie's THE BLACK BALLOON resets Lamorisse's traversing non-narrative to modern day New York, where a dislocated (or escaped?), solitary black balloon wanders the city - temporarily interrupting the lives of the everyday city dwellers it meets along the way, including an as-himself appearance by author and raconteur Larry "Ratso" Sloman. Tempered by the music of progressive rock mainstays Gong, THE BLACK BALLOON is both an ode to city life and the interconnected nature of contemporary existence.