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.