06/23/15 10:30am

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About two thirds of the way into Patrick Brice’s orgiastic comedy, The Overnight, which opened in New York this past weekend, a very high Emily (Taylor Schilling) offers up a little wisdom a little too late to her even-more-stoned husband, Alex (Adam Scott). “I think we’ve reached that point in the evening,” she says with a glassy-eyed sense of calm, “where it’s time to go before anything crazy happens.” Having already hit the bong and swam naked with a couple they met less than 24 hours prior, the two are well past the point of no return.


05/15/15 12:00pm

L4L_Still - L-R Andie (Libby Gery), Tristan (Kyle Wiliams), Blake (Bro Estes) and Otto (Engelbert Holder) in Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn’s L FOR LEISURE. Courtesy of Special Affects Films

Once a year at the Passover Seder, tradition demands we recline while we eat and consume four glasses of wine. For the characters in L for Leisure, this is merely the daily routine. Taking languor and extraneity as its very subject, the first feature from filmmaking duo Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn (Blondes in the Jungle) unfolds over the course of the 1992-1993 academic year. But there’s very little class time involved; instead, the directors drop in and out on a group of loosely interwoven graduate students in varying states of repose. Whether chilling beachside in California, sprawled out in backyards across the East Coast, or casually leaning against a pack of ponies in the fjords of Iceland, life, it seems, is one giant chaise lounge—and there’s always a beverage within arm’s reach.

Shot on 16mm, the film’s languid tone and bright, sun-kissed aesthetic owes as much to the work of Eric Rohmer and Whit Stillman as it does to early MTV music videos, but the characters’ mannered way of speaking most closely recalls DIY king Hal Hartley circa The Unbelievable Truth. Deadpan and heady, these intellectually inclined sybarites discuss things like the “erotic hold” of post-apocalyptic fantasy and ruminate over the possibilities of an alternate universe “cellularly and molecularly.” They marvel at semantics (“Is that the word we’re using? That is so interesting”) and constantly report on their state of “mellow.”

The film is chock-full of visual landmarks and cultural references specific to the early-90s: Snapple, Rollerblades, Marky Mark’s “important” ads for boxer-briefs, Wayne’s World’s “Sha-wing.” There’s an endless supply of high-waisted Levi’s and, best of all, a spontaneous A Capella rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.” But the directors are not terribly bothered by subtle anachronisms: Mariah’s hit came out in 1995, do we care? With the aid of John Atkinson’s original synth score, L for Leisure strives toward creating impression rather than an imitation of the decade.

For all its atmospheric laziness, this is not a film about (or for) slackers, but rather thinkers; embedded directly into the easy-breezy aesthetic is quite a rigorous exploration of time and space. There’s a telling moment towards the end of movie where one of the characters discusses John Brinckerhoff Jackson’s concept of “psychedelic sports.” In the 20th century, he explains, activities whose pleasures lie simply in the sensation of moving through space—skiing, skateboarding—have replaced traditional games burdened by rules and keeping score, like tennis. The same might be said of Kalman and Horn’s style of filmmaking, which eschews all restrictive structural expectations in favor of free-flowing mood and temporality.

We reached the directors by phone in advance of the film’s theatrical run, which begins this Friday at Made in NY Media Center by IFP, to mull over their artistic conception of leisure and why the 90s resonate so strongly today. Though Lev Kalman speaks for the pair in interviews as a rule, Whitney Horn will introduce the film on multiple nights during “L for Leisure week“; other screenings will feature Q&As and “L for Leisure Lectures” on topics such as nostalgia and laziness, as well as special-guest videos and music performances.


03/24/15 9:00am
The Draper kitchen set, on display at MoMI.

When Don Draper ditches Dr. Faye Miller for his then-secretary Meaghan Calvet in the fourth season finale of Mad Men, the psychologist manages to choke back her tears and claim the last word: “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things,” she says, before slamming down the rotary receiver. But while Draper may be a man of fresh starts—it’s no spoiler at this point to reveal that the tortured ad exec’s personal reinvention forms the dramatic crux of his character—the show itself is deeply committed to a cumulative sense of temporality.

“I wanted the audience to be able to look back at the pilot and feel a sense of: ‘look how young we were then!’” creator Mathew Weiner said during an onstage conversation at the Museum of the Moving Image on Friday. Heading into the second half of the show’s seventh and final season, it’s difficult to avoid a sense of ownership over the characters’ memories and experiences, to look back over the years (1960-1969) and wonder where the time has gone.

Fans of the series will be pleased to find the clock standing still at MoMI’s newly installed exhibition, Mathew Weiner’s Mad Men.


03/19/15 10:00am


The cinema of Lisandro Alonso has always privileged the journey over the destinationhis films tend to feature silent and solitary travellers traversing harsh and desolate landscapes, frequently to no avail. But with Jauja, his fifth and latest film, which opens in New York on Friday, the Argentine director ups the ante of his creative M.O. by obliterating the concept of finality altogether. Named for the town of ancient legend that no man has ever been able to reach, Juaja unfolds in a world removed from the pesky restrictions of time and space.

Casting a professional actor for the first time, Alonso uses a stoic Viggo Mortensen as Gunnar Dinesen, a Danish captain stationed in Patagonia at the end of the 19th century. There are a host of deprived and depraved men lusting after his his 15-year-old daughter Ingeborg  (Viilbjørk Malling Agger), and when she absconds with a young soldier in the middle of the night, Dinesen rides off into a strikingly hyperreal sunrise in desperate pursuit.

Jauja’s minimal dialogue makes it the chattiest film in Alonso’s oeuvre, following a script collaboration with the poet Fabián Casas, but the real alchemy here is the result of the director’s pairing with cinematographer Timo Salminen (best known for lensing Aki Kaurismäki’s work). The square frame, presented in the 1.33 Academy ratio, imposes an unyielding visual border onto an otherwise borderless world, so that movement itself—whether within or beyond the picture’s edges—becomes the film’s primary source of drama. Inspired by the sudden death of the filmmaker’s close friend in the Philippines, Jauja draws heavily on classic Western iconography to create an endlessly hypnotic work about the search for something that’s already long vanished.

We  spoke with the affable Lisandro Alonso from his home in Buenos Aires to talk about everything from the productivity of language barriers to the hidden philosophy of Mad Max 2.


02/01/15 2:02pm

james white


When we first meet James White, the titular character in Josh Mond’s directorial debut, the reek of his intoxication is almost detectable through the screen. The camera stays tight on the face of James—played by a hirsute Christopher Abbott—as he winds his way through a booming after-hours club, boozy sweat dripping from his every pore. But make no mistake: this is not just another tale of aimless post-adolescent indulgence. Having previously produced the work of Borderline Films’s Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Antonio Campos (Simon Killer), Mond is the third member of the New York film coalition to step forward as director—and his film is the most personal of the bunch. Inspired by Mond’s own story, James White takes a deep dive into loss and the manifestations of grief.

That first night’s bender is put into harsh perspective when James stumbles out of the bar and into his estranged father’s Shiva, but the real upset comes when he learns his mother’s cancer has returned and he virtually moves into her Upper West Side apartment to become her primary caregiver. The film’s intensity hinges on Abbott’s blazing central performance: no matter how wasted his character gets, the actor’s tortured eyes always manage to convey the depths of his inner demons. Cynthia Nixon is tremendous as James’ ailing mother and the crux of the drama, but equally (if not more) moving is the take-a-bullet bond between James and his best friend cum brother, played to great avail by musician Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi). Informed by his own experience of caring for his dying mother, writer-director Mond has created a propulsive force of a film with an emotional core that’s as raw as an open wound.

We sat down with filmmaker Josh Mond at the Sundance Film Festival, where James White has since picked up the Audience Award in the NEXT section, to talk about his up close and personal film and the inner workings of the Borderline brotherhood.