NYC Cultural Notes 10.28.12

Film Forum on Houston is playing a movie that can be briefly described as the Australian version of Deliverance. It’s called Wake in Fright, and it’s a doozy. I took a few friends who are well versed in film to see it, and they walked out muttering ‘that was weird,’ and then we all promptly went our separate ways.

Wake in Fright was directed by Ted Kotcheff in 1971. It was critically acclaimed and was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes, and then somehow the best print sat in Pittsburgh for years and was almost tossed. Luckily it was found by the director and restored.

The film’s protagonist John Grant is a buttoned-down teacher and humanities major, trying to travel from the outback to Sydney to see his girlfriend for the holidays. His trip involves a one night stay in the ‘Yabba,’ a rough-and-tumble mining town in the outback. One night quickly turns into more as Grant devolves into a giant bender complete with moronic gambling, fighting, kangaroo murder, and a unsettling homoerotic encounter.

Grant thinks he escapes the Yabba after walking through the desert and finally convincing a truck driver to let him hitch a ride to Sydney, but the driver misunderstands his plea and ends him dropping him off back in Yabba. Any attempt to escape is futile, even suicide, a scenario which appears as a joke in the beginning of the film but becomes a dark reality by the end. The film seems to be pointing at the fact that the base and violent nature of human beings is inescapable, always returning.

The New Museum has three-floor exhibition on Rosemarie Trockel, a German artist who works in a ridiculously wide range of mediums. I happened to pass by the museum Thursday night, and asked if there was discount. “How about a 100% discount,” the girl behind the counter said–sounds good to me! So yes, Thursday nights are free.

I saw a giant lobster, giant Rothkoesque pieces made of stretched yarn, and a giant couch. However, I was most impressed by the photography. This one photo titled “Bibliothek Babylon” caught me eye. I remember reading somewhere that the missing and subtle elements make something erotic. Something like that is at play here. Also, I could be totally off, but I think that there is a modern Queen of the Night theme in this image. I also just kind of like this just because it reminds me of the similarly titled story by Borges.

There is a large eye next to the Williamsburg Bridge is Brooklyn, which looks especially cool at night.

If you’re like me, and you have troubling finishing novels, I suggest you check out Melville House Books’ series The Art of the NovellaI recently picked up The Alienist by Machado de Assis at Word in Greenpoint. At 86 pages, it was brief enough to get through in a few nights of casual reading and small enough to take to a bar or restaurant. Sometimes it is just too much to cart around the hardback of The Pale King.

The Alienist is an odd little book, centered very clearly and deliberately on the question of madness, and what truly defines it. It’s also funny. The design for this series is great, and each edition comes with additional digital material that you can download easily from the Melville site.


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