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November 12, 2007

Denver International Film Festival - Art, Design and Color

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Faces of a Fig Tree/Ichijiku no Kao
Kaori Momoi - 2006
Agora 35 mm Film

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The Cool School
Morgan Neville -2007
Arthouse Pictures 35mm Film

Sometimes it happens that you can see a couple of films more or less at random, and in some ways they compliment each other. While The Cool School was specifically about painting and the visual arts in Los Angeles, Faces of a Fig Tree was very much film as visual art. One could argue that Momoi, like the L.A. artists have looked towards ways of expressing themselves that are not based on traditional narrative devices.

Momoi demonstrates with a debut film she both wrote and directed that she can be as stylized as relative youngsters like Katsuhito Ishii or an old vet like Seijun Suzuki. Art director Takeo Kimura worked several times with Suzuki, and may have had a hand in the intense use of color throughout the film. Some of the images, such as an overhead shot of a dinner table, become interesting simply as abstract compositions. What Momoi's film is actually about I can't say because all I remember are a string of strange images, more of a dream of family life more disorderly than presented in a film by Ozu.

The Cool School is a documentary primarily about the artists assocatiated with the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. The film is part of a planned trilogy about Los Angeles. Some of Neville's stylistic tacts include photographing much of the film in black and white with the lit edge of a cigarette glowing red, or having colored streaks swish in and out of the frame. Older footage from home movies is mixed in with the artists, critics and collectors sitting around talking. One of the most startling, and hilarious, bits of older footage is that of the funeral for Ed Kienholz. There are some funny and sad stories about these artists, working and living in a town that had little appreciation for what was going on until it was almost too late.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 12, 2007 08:03 AM