Still Shell-Shocked from Fight Club

Written by Adam Heimlich on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.



I was going to follow the
Mayor–my model for social discourse–and declare this week Guggenheimy
Week, in honor of which my column, already free to the public, would salute
Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark by presenting forthcoming events in an elegant,
descending spiral.


Alas, the only spiraling
descent here will be enacted by my psyche, which has not even begun to recover
from the screening of Fight Club that skewered it last night. By the
time this appears in print the movie will be open and there will be thousands
like me, trying to work the next morning while obsessed and shell-shocked. It
might cause the most fucked-up cinematic sensation ever in this country. I can
easily imagine the film ending up banned, or at least as widely protested as
gangsta rap was back in ’92, but maybe that’s just because I’m
reeling.



Speaking of going bonkers,
starting Fri., Oct. 22, Cinema Village and Kit Parker Films presents
"The Loony Tunes Hall of Fame"–105 minutes of classic
Bugs Bunny and Merrie Melodies cartoons–plus the first episode of Road
Runner
, disturbingly prescient in its portrait of a deranged and frustrated
mail-order bomber–all in new 35-mm prints struck from the original negatives.
(10/22-11/4, 22 E. 12th St., betw. 5th Ave. & University Pl., 924-3363.)


And speaking of bonkers
cinema, Ed Halter, who writes film articles for NYPress, wants you to
know that the New York Underground Film Festival "is producing a new event
the next two weekends called the XENO International Film Festival at
BAM Rose Cinemas (30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, 718-623-2770). Since I’m
also the director of the NYUFF, I thought I’d give an exclusive lowdown
on some of my personal favorites. Most international film festivals in the U.S.
are pretty stodgy, exclusive affairs geared toward conservative tastes. XENO
is designed to focus on the more adventurous fringes of European filmmaking.



"Our Opening Night
feature, Slidin’ (10/22), is an excellent example of a film that’s
been needlessly overlooked by the myopic highbrow set. A three-part story about
sexy teens set in Vienna’s club scene, it falls somewhere between Kids
and Fast Times at Ridgemont High done up with stylish Eurocinema flash.
And all the girls and boys in it are so damn cute.


"Holland’s Ian
Kerkhof was working on digital back in 1996, when he shot his first digital
feature, Wasted. XENO is showcasing three new digital works by Kerkhof,
who’s now seeking to push the media to its most extreme visual limits.
Beyond Ultra Violence (10/24) is a warped portrait of Japanese noise
artist Merzbow that will satisfy the hardcore Other Music crowd. The drugged-out
Mondo Roxy
(10/23) is a wild subjective doc of one night at the Amsterdam
club that careens into beautiful k-hole abstractions. But the most outrageous
is Shabondama Elegy (10/30), an explicitly erotic feature shot in Japan
with adult film star Hoshino Mai. It recently won a Golden Calf at the Netherlands
Film Festival–the Dutch industry’s closest equivalent to an Oscar–and
the jurors wrote that a scene where Mai’s face is covered in fake sperm
‘left an imprint on their minds that they’ll never forget.’ Or
so Kerkhof tells me.


"While the hottest
ticket is probably going to be Secret History of European Music Video
(10/24 and 10/30)–already a minor legend among the select stoner friends
I’ve shown the tape to–jaded peeps will be no less astounded by XENO’s
retrospective of Viennese avant-garde virtuoso Martin Arnold (10/23), which
features the director in person. Arnold remixes old Hollywood films with maniacal
precision until the actors are transformed into bleating, squealing animal-machines.
The results are profound, disturbing and stunningly crafted."



And speaking of descending
spirals, this week also sees the opening of what promises to be an unbelievably
grim and morbid new play about plane crashes. Charlie Victor Romeo is
codirected by Bob Berger, creator of the Manifestations serial
play. He describes the new work as a "technothriller," with a script
"derived entirely from the ‘black box’ cockpit voice recorder
transcripts of six major airline emergencies." Sounds like it’d make
a great double feature with Fight Club, for those really determined to
hit rock bottom. (10/21-11/19 at Collective Unconscious, 145 Ludlow St.,
betw. Rivington & Stanton Sts., 254-5277, $10.)


In other theatrical news,
editor John Strausbaugh writes: "The Tiger Lillies, the bizarre
British avant-Pigalle trio whose perversely funny songs address topics like
sordid deaths, lurid prostitution and sex with flies, have created a musical
theater staging of Der Struwwelpeter, Heinrich Hoffman’s beyond-Gorey
tales of the maimings and mayhem that befall bad little boys and girls. Translated
as Shockheaded Peter, the production features the Lillies, led
by the near-castrato caterwauling of Martyn Jacques, and a cast acting out some
of Hoffman’s most dreadful, not-so-grand Guignol stories–Harriet and
the Matches, Fidgety Philip, Flying Robert, Johnny Head-In-Air. For all its
grotesqueries and general weirdness, the touring show’s been getting surprisingly
good reviews–‘wickedly delightful,’ ‘gruesomely enjoyable,’
‘wonderfully, funnily horrid’–and as we go to press, the New
York run, at the New Victory Theater through Oct. 31, is already selling
out." (209 W. 42nd St., betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 239-6200.) The Lillies
are also in concert at P.S. 122 Mon., Oct. 25, at 8:30. (150 1st Ave.,
betw. 9th & 10th Sts., 477-5288.)


I usually ignore heavily
advance-praised first books by young products of the Ivy League and places like
the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, but the title of Victor D. Lavalle’s
slapboxing with jesus (Vintage) caught my eye–not only because of
my interest in combative themes, but because it’s taken from a Ghostface
Killah line, and he’s my favorite contemporary poet. Turns out Lavalle,
like Ghost, writes about the kinds of madness peculiar to New York ghetto kids.
He’s not immune to the sort of preciousness that infects the work of damn
near every young MFA writer–most egregiously, the contrived punctuation
schemes of the self-conscious "stylist"–but for one of them Lavalle
is surprisingly blunt. It’s the hiphop influence, probably. I wonder if
that’s enough to get him through the experience of being an exotic hot
commodity in the handjobby lit scene with his talent intact. His book is in
stores now, and Lavalle appears to read from it at the Astor Pl. Barnes &
Noble
. (10/21, 7:30 p.m.,

4 Astor Pl., betw. B’way & Lafayette St.,

420-1322, free.)



Fight Club’s
score is an appropriately tense work of instrumental hiphop by the accomplished
Dust Brothers (producers of Beck’s Odelay and the Beastie Boys’
Paul’s Boutique), now available on Restless Records. The experimental
beat-music album to buy this week, though, is the debut by Handsome Boy Modeling
School, So…How’s Your Girl? (Tommy Boy), released on Oct. 19.
HBMS is the team of Prince Paul and the Automator (sound designers for De La
Soul and Dr. Octagon, respectively), and their album features an all-star cast
of vocalists, turntablists and MCs. Rap-industry insiders have already dismissed
it as a joke (a mistake they’ve made with Prince Paul works before), but
to me So…How’s Your Girl? is as hardcore as Mobb Deep’s Murda
Muzik
–my other favorite new album of 1999. Touching on triphop, rave-pop,
industrial and rock ’n’ roll, Handsome Boy set out to demonstrate
how those genres sound when firmly grounded in hiphop’s value system. The
results expose the versions you hear on the radio as limp and forgettable by
comparison.


I also want to mention
that Group Home’s follow-up to their 1995 underground classic Livin’
Proof
is finally out, and it’s dope. Titled A Tear for the Ghetto,
it’s on indie label Replay, which apparently doesn’t have any money
for hype. So here’s some from me: The unique verbal styles of Group Home’s
Lil’ Dap and Melachi are, like that of Fight Club (the book) author
Chuck Palahnuik, powerful evidence against the importance of formal training
for writers.



The sports world offers
countless illustrations of the truism that style is something one either has
or lacks. The focus there this week will be on baseball, but on the underground
tip basketball season–rivaling hiphop as the primary showcase for urban
style in mainstream America–is gearing up. This week the Eastern Conference
Champion Knicks have two exhibition games: They play the Nets on Wednesday
at the Garden (10/20, 7:30 p.m., 7th Ave. at 32nd St., 465-MSG1, $10-$60; broadcast
on MSG), then on Saturday they’ll again face that robo-team from San Antonio
(also at 7:30, but up in Buffalo this time, again on MSG).



Has anyone else noticed
that the new slogan for Hidden Valley salad dressings (inventors of the now-canonical
flavor "ranch") is "We’re keeping it real"? That’s
really the kind of thing that makes me want to go out and get my Caucasoid face
pounded. For the moment, I’ll merely predict that in the year 2002, Coke
will publicly accuse Pepsi of "player hating." Microsoft, as the Puff
Daddy of the corporate world, should really be the first to introduce his hegemony-defending
concept to tv advertising, but out in Washington state they just have no sense


of style.



Okay, we’ve hit rock
bottom with stuff I’m interested in, so now it’s time to start spiraling
back up toward the surface. Benefits. "Walk the Walk" is the
National Kidney Foundation of New York/New Jersey’s walkathon in support
of organ and tissue donation–it offers free lunch for participants, and
the chance to win prizes including a

free trip to London. (Sun., 10/24, 11:30 a.m.–sign-in at 9 a.m.–at
the 72nd St. Bandshell in Central Park, 800-63-DONATE for info.)


On Tuesday at Roseland,
there’ll be a benefit for F.A.M.M., which is an organization dedicated
to the repeal of the judicial system’s cruelly unjust and effectively racist
mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Unfortunately, the lineup is lackluster:
Sugar Ray and Edwin McCain. I wonder why these Families Against Mandatory
Minimums aren’t working with the outlaw artists most at risk of ending
up serving such terms, instead of with pop twits about as likely to be punished
for their drug use as George W. Bush. (10/26 at 239 W. 52nd St., betw. 8th Ave.
& B’way, 777-6800, $25.)



(Organ donation and the
American culture of bullshit–notice I’m creepily still writing about
Fight Club even as I try not to.)



Here’s one completely
unrelated:

"The Art of the Cognac Cocktail Party!" Monday at Lot 61.
"Discover how versatile Cognac can be by sampling

25 delicious Cognac cocktails," demands the Cognac Bureau’s press
release. This is an invitation-only event for trade and press, but I thought
you might like to know what goes on. (10/25, 5:30 p.m., 550 W. 21st St., betw.
10th & 11th Aves., 477-9800, free with invitation.)



You know who loves Cognac
more than anyone else I know of? The Originoo Gunn Clappaz, that’s who.
Their recent album, The M-Pire Shrikez Back (Duck Down/Priority) is hot–my
only complaint is that O.G.C. comes across as obsessed with Hennessey!
They go on and on about it and–more understandably–their vehicles,
their Brooklyn neighborhood, and fighting.



But we’re not talking
about fighting anymore. So here come some outlaws who don’t throw punches.
The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry is a new compendium designed
to recapitulate postwar classic The New American Poetry: 1945-1960. Its
publication party is a massive Poetry Project reading with the woolly
headed Unbearables batting leadoff. (Fri., 10/22, 10:30 p.m.. at St. Marks Church,
131 E. 10th St. at 2nd Ave., 674-0910, $7.)


And there definitely won’t
be any fighting at the indie-rock show of the week–a performance by Wheat,
from outside of Boston, Saturday at Mercury Lounge. The music of Wheat’s
new Hope and Adams (Sugar Free) is excellent–probably better heard
in an armchair than a club, but we’ll see. Wheat exhibits a songwriting
sensibility I imagine comfortable near Neil Young’s and Yo La Tengo’s,
down at the very end of the alphabet and all. Organic yet swirly, their subtly
majestic sweep was engineered for home use by Dave Fridmann, producer of the
last Mercury Rev and the last Flaming Lips. (10/23, 217 E. Houston St., betw.
Ludlow & Essex Sts., 260-4700.)



Peace. Until next week,
keep it real like Hidden Valley.



adam@nypress.com


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