Thursday 30th March 2017,
Televisual

MEDIA UPDATE: Watching (Tribeca FF)

More watching, from Tribeca:

Katyn: I must confess my ignorance of early European history and say I wasn’t completely aware of Poland’s precarious state throughout the war and in its aftermath. So much of this movie was exciting for me only because some of it was news to me. This movie was beautifully shot and extremely well-told. World War II movies are often bogged down with weighty, plodding narratives, poor character development, and too often end with an either glorious or tragic end to the war. Katyn — the movie named for a massacre by the Soviets during the war — had neither. One of its messages seems to be that the war never ended for Poland; it s aftermath and horror lived on in the culture psychologically for decades.

Following some realist conventions, the movie’s editing did not compel the viewer forward, per se. What we saw instead where glimpses of several stories played out subtly and across time, all of which eventually came together in the story of the mass murder. The movie held back on the horror until the end, which softened the tone and prepared the viewer for the brutal finale. Artfully done. I loved it — except when I left I wanted to kill myself.

SqueezeBox!: I also enjoyed this documentary on the 1990s late night party. More than a well-made film (it was good), it is valuable as an historical document: as a story about how subcultures reacted to the Giuliani regime and his crusade against vice (though this is of course not new and has happened in most coastal cities since the dawn of cities); as a much-needed installment in the history of drag and camp (the movie addresses the prominence of rock in camp); as a way to understand the historical antecedents of New York hipster culture; as an entree into the psychology of 1990s/1980s performance art; and finally as a way to understand how New York has changed so drastically in the past twenty years, to realize what has been lost but also what has been gained. That the party ended right before September 11th and midway through the HBO series “Sex and the City,” right before the producers really turned up the dial on glamour, is significant. (That movie is coming out a month before Sex is also telling).

A friend of mine, Madison Moore, who frequented the now-gone hipster party, MisShapes, said SqueezeBox is a clear antecedent. Both parties are sex- and sexuality-inclusive, both used Don Hills as a venue, both are predominantly queer, etc. So they are similar, but MisShapes is also different: less about putting on makeup and more about realizing that all clothes are makeup, less about hard rock and more about alterna/electro/retro rock, less about sex and more about dance. SqueezeBox was still a “gay club,” MisShapes was a “dance club with a lot of gays.” MisShapes fits much easier within New York’s glam/celebrity/fashion scene: more Silmane/Dior, Commes des Garcons, etc. These are culturally significant shifts that have a lot to do with New York’s changing economy but also with its demographic and broader generational shifts.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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