September 23rd, 2009

wolf whistle

Live-action cartoons

Got together with Jeff/hammerride this weekend for an NYC Fringe Fest encore performance of Powerhouse, a delightful and quirky theater piece about Raymond Scott, who’s most well known for his frenetic jazz music that has been used as the background for countless cartoons (and more recently, a Visa commercial), and enjoyed a rediscovery a while back thanks to John (Ren & Stimpy) Kricfalusi’s anarchic cartoons.

The play was lots of short scenes about this eccentric genius, who was constantly obsessing about and tinkering with his inventions at the expense of any personal relationships. Some incredible direction and performances by the cast, with pacing that tried to keep up with the frenetic scores, almost constantly moving the custom set pieces that transformed from desks to electronic music inventions to TV sets and held all the props. Most amazing were the dialogless screwball cartoons that were replicated by disjointed puppets, performed bunraku fashion at a breakneck pace, totally original yet faithful to Tex Avery’s and Chuck Jones’ surrealistic styles.

After dinner nearby, Jeff and I joined naylandblake in midtown at the Museum of Modern Art for a screening of Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, one of his brilliant “silent movies with sound” (and which won the Golden Palm at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film back in 1958). Unfortunately, MoMA was showing My Uncle, a dubbed, badly faded and scratched, and possibly 16mm period print from their archive, and not the remastered print done for its recent Criterion Collection DVD release. I hate it when prestigious film archives do that when far better prints are available (I also once dragged Matt/badfaggot out to the American Museum of the Moving Image for a screening of Amarcord, only to have to sit through a painfully scratched and choppy print).

All the more so because Mon Oncle, although it delightfully tweaks and rails against Modernism, was Tati’s first Technicolor film, and he embraced the technology with a delightful color palette. So don’t wait for a rare theatrical screening, go ahead and rent the Criterion DVD, you can see more detail even in the longshots in the super-sharp remastered print on a small home screen than we got in MoMA’s largest theater.

Jeff and I ended up on the roofdeck of The Eagle, sharing cigars, beers, and stories, on one of the nicest late-summer evenings of the year, perfect leather weather. The day was a great farewell to this summer with two of my most favorite buds.