11 months ago

BeatRoute Magazine BC Print Edition February 2018

BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics. Currently BeatRoute’s AB edition is distributed in Calgary, Edmonton (by S*A*R*G*E), Banff and Canmore. The BC edition is distributed in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo. BeatRoute (AB) Mission PO 23045 Calgary, AB T2S 3A8 E. BeatRoute (BC) #202 – 2405 E Hastings Vancouver, BC V5K 1Y8 P. 778-888-1120


FILM ENTANGLEMENT ON FILM AND VINYL: A CONVERSATION WITH FILMMAKER JASON JAMES PAT MULLEN THIS MONTH IN FILM BRENDAN LEE A Fantastic Woman – February 2 When young waitress Marina falls in love with the much older Orlando, nothing matters but their love for one another. But with Orlando’s sudden passing, Marina is treated with vulgarity, forced to fight for her place in this world as a transgender woman. A Fantastic Woman is the Chilean entry for Best Foreign Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. Early Man – February 16 A caveman named Dug is forced to unite his tribe as they stand their historical ground against the incoming Bronze Age. Early Man is the newest Claymation comedy from visionary Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run). Voiced by Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Tom Hiddleston, the film promises to be Park’s most cracking contraption yet. Local filmmaker Jason James is willing to flip the script to honour the story in his latest outing, Entanglement. Nostalgia – February 16 “Objects, memories, items that are tangible. These are our artifacts, our scars.” This drama from Mark Pellington tells a web of stories connected over time through love, loss and the objects we share with one another. If one thing’s clear from the trailer, it’s this: tears will be shed. “I’m a total research nerd,” admits Jason James. The Vancouver filmmaker explains the process of exploring the worlds of his movies, like the new dramedy Entanglement, which opens in theatres this February. James often begins his research on Tumblr, creating micro-blogs filled with videos, songs, and images that inspire him. “It’s like a moving, shifting scrapbook where I throw thoughts and ideas,” he says. “When I’m trying to get an actor on board, I’ll write them a warm, fuzzy email and send a link to the Tumblr site.” This practice of finding nuggets of art and culture brings the characters to life and gives Entanglement a world that is offbeat and humorous, but painfully real. Entanglement stars BC native Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) as Ben, a lonely and depressed man who learns he nearly had a sister, but that his birth complicated the adoption process for his parents. When Ben finds this spiritual-sibling, Hanna (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’s Jess Weixler), their relationship inspires him to see the many lives with which he’s intimately connected. James notes that he began to understand Ben after consulting his friend, psychologist Dr. Maia Love, who diagnosed the character with schizoaffective bipolar disorder. Identifying Ben’s mental illness helps ground Entanglement in reality and contrasts the offbeat magical realism of the film. James likes to get inside the heads of prospective actors during casting. “I watch interviews with actors on late night TV and at film festivals to see who they innately are as people,” he says. “I remember watching this interview with Thomas at the Sundance Film Festival and they asked him, ‘What’s your favourite song?’ He started talking about Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘The King of Carrot Flowers,’ and he just started bawling. To me, that was Ben. He’s on the verge of a breakdown. He’s this raw, emotional dude.” Music, and our relationship with it, also inspires the aesthetic of Entanglement. “When I first read the film and created that Tumblr site,” says James, “the first word that came to mind was ‘vinyl.’ I wanted the film to feel hand-made, hand-drawn, and a little bit messy.” Entanglement’s visual design flows with underwater sequences and dreamy images that let viewers swim in Ben’s sea of selfdoubts and desires. One scene offers a trippy blink-and-you’llmiss-it effect in a bowling alley where Hanna snaps her fingers and the wall behind her, a galaxy mural of sparkling stars, ripples like a hypnotic vision. It’s the first signal for a twist that reveals 26 the extent of Ben’s illness. James turned to local crews for visual effects, since his previous films, like the rom-com That Burning Feeling, didn’t call for many. However, the crews skilled in creating visuals like spaceships and explosions for Hollywood tent-poles are like digital to vinyl’s analogue. “Their job is to make the unreal real,” James observes. “I wanted the visual effects to feel unreal and bump up against reality. I wanted them to feel childish or handmade and to create this collective consciousness of images and ideas coming out of Ben’s head.” For example, James cites some cartoon deer that Ben and Hanna spy during a drug-induced trip that recall the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon, while fireworks resemble Windows 95 screensaver fireworks: “Cheap, weird, and a little bit off-putting,” he laughs. Researching the story world extends to the city itself. James doesn’t hire location scouts and instead drives around listening to playlists inspired by the script. “Sometimes the locations will inform the story, like the bowling alley,” says James. “It really suited the film, so we rewrote a scene that was originally at a park bench into this location and then the visual effects moment came from that.” Langley dive Lee’s Chicken offers another element of local character. The fried chicken joint isn’t in the original script, but enjoys a prominent role as Ben’s go-to greasy spoon. He even takes Hanna there for a date where menu offerings of chickenfried steak bewilder her. “Jason [Filiatrault] had written this fancy hipster hot dog restaurant in Calgary into the script,” says James, who visited locations that inspired the screenplay. “It felt a bit sad, lonely, and left behind, and that spoke to what Ben was going through. We rewrote the script. We couldn’t change the sign, so we had to change some of the dialogue, like the chicken-fried steak. It was something that I found in the real world to inform the creative.” Having juggled producer, writer, and director roles on different projects, James appreciates that filmmaking is a malleable process. “When you’re making a film, you have three different scripts: the film you write, the film you shoot, and the film you edit,” he says. “And you’re constantly reworking the material along the way. The idea of finding things in the real world that inspire the process is something I love about filmmaking.” Annihilation – February 23 Alex Garland returns with his highly anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Ex Machina. Based off the novel of the same name (the first in a trilogy), a kaleidoscopic “shimmer” envelops a town’s surrounding forest, and a group of volunteer scientists journey within to search for the source of all this real-world surrealism. Annihilation stars Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac. Hannah – February 23 Charlotte Rampling embodies Hannah, a woman coping with a newfound life of loneliness and struggle when faced with her husband’s imprisonment. What’s sure to be a paralyzing character study of an older woman crushed by denial, this TIFF + Venice Film Festival selection may very well give us Rampling at her absolute, soul-crushing best. Annihilation February 2018

MUSIC REVIEWS FRIGS Basic Behaviour Arts & Crafts Even when they were still Dirty Frigs, Toronto quartet FRIGS stood out amongst a crowded field of chorus-pedal-loving, grunge-indebted post punk bands from the nation’s biggest city. Led by frontwoman Bria Salmena, the band built their name off a raucous live show and two solid EPs (a self-titled EP Dirty Frigs and 2016’s Slush EP after changing their name). Now, after signing with the stalwart indie label Arts & Crafts, the band return with their proper debut Basic Behaviour. Like their previous EPs, the album was produced over a 16-month period in the band’s home studio, with supplementary production at Union Sound Company in Toronto. The result is an album that has flourishes of experimentalism without losing any of its urgency. On songs like the opener “Doghead,” brittle guitar tones chime with chorus while effects washes and drones swell underneath. Even on the most straightforward tracks, something in the background is always lurking in the swampy exterior. Much of Basic Behaviour is slow-tempo, shambling along in its gothic atmospheres, but when the band speeds up it’s all the more noticeable. “Talking Pictures,” for instance, is a motorik dirge that encapsulates much of what makes FRIGS so compelling: skronky, tightly-wound guitars, propulsive drums and a vocal performance from Salmena that oscillates between quiet speaksinging and blood-curdling wails. Here, and on much of the album, Salmena reminds of Kim Gordon. Her poetic delivery is rarely melodic, instead serving as a gravel texture that anchors the rest of the band. This is especially true on “Solid State,” a song that could serve as the sister record to Sonic Youth’s “Tunic (Song for Karen),” complete with a droning guitar outro that feels pulled directly out of the band’s late-‘80s heyday. The comparisons to Sonic Youth don’t just stop at the band’s sonic identity, but in their ability to craft a singular mood throughout the album. Basic Behaviour is a bleak, distressing listen for most of its runtime, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever a slog. Songs never overstay their welcome and as much of the album feels dour and minor-key, songs like “Gemini” offer brief moments of relative levity. It’s a synth-heavy ballad that wouldn’t feel completely out of place on Angel Olsen’s recent output. Of course, “Gemini” is followed up by the album’s centrepiece “I” and “II,” the two tracks that find the band at their most outright post punk. The latter song sounds like a Savages track with Johnny Marr filling in on guitar. It’s a possessed stomp that sees the band at their least optimistic. “This is shit / Just admit it / Just admit it / This is shit,” Salmena repeats in her most dissatisfied on the album. “Trashyard,” a song that’s been floating around the internet since 2016, feels like a ‘60s psychedelic tune sent through a Oujia board and come back through the other side. Like much else on the album, it’s been reworked and perfected into a meticulous, seven-minute trudge through murky atmospheres. It feels like a Preoccupations song in a benzo haze, ending with Salmena reaching her vocal apex, no longer annunciating anything, instead offering full-throated guttural shouts. As the last song on the album, it’s as if FRIGS have finally arrived at the destination they’ve been working towards the past five years. As with the rest of Basic Behaviour, it’s a well-earned victory lap that builds off the band’s previous output to arrive with a compelling conclusion. • Jamie McNamara • Illustration by Sofia Elidrissi February 2018 27

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