Monday, January 1, 2018

Guy Maddin's newest, THE GREEN FOG, gives film buffs a terrific entry into the new year

A consistent delight and amazement, as well as a kind of luscious puzzle -- every frame of which you'll probably want to watch again right after you've finished it the first time -- THE GREEN FOG, a 63-minute ode to San Francisco, as seen via cinema, is the creation of a certain Guy Maddin (yes, him!) along with his Forbidden-Room collaborator, Evan Johnson, and also this time, Galen Johnson.

Mr. Maddin (shown at right) and the Misters Johnson have contrived to make an "assembled" film all about San Francisco and how it has appeared in film and on television over the decades. Although I did not read the following information about the film prior to seeing it (and I am loathe to even mention it to you now because the movie might be more fun to view without knowing this), it is also a kind of homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo, made without using a single frame of that actual film and instead using just about every other San Francisco-set movie and TV show you can name or remember.

The Green Fog is just so much fun -- at least it will be, I suspect, for movie buffs, especially Maddin fans. But it may prove the ultimate head-scratcher for the rest of the world. Still, I would not have missed it for anything.

From the likes of Rock Hudson to Sidney Poitier to Joan Crawford (above) to (I think) Roddy Piper (and then what seems like a ton of Chuck Norris); from rooftops to streets and hills to bell towers and museums (and the viewing of, yes, portraits inside them); we get such a good dose of San Francisco, with Vertigo so often coming to mind, that -- for someone like me, who grew up in Los Angeles and considered trips to that northern California metropolis a kind of re-discovery of civilization -- we're soon steeped in the city that, outside of New York, movies maybe always loved best. (Well, there's Paris, too, of course.)

All that driving! And phone calls! And portrait viewing! Plus a terrific score composed by Jacob Garchik and performed by Kronos Quartet (below). Expect scene after scene of elided moments, the dialog of which has carefully been removed so that what remains is fraught with possibility and maybe danger. This is hilarious stuff, and when, after almost a quarter hour, we finally get a tad's worth of dialog, it, too, will have you chuckling and scratching your head. (There's one scene in particular, with John Saxon, Richard Basehart and Virginia Grey, that's a knockout.)

If you love to watch actors simply looking at each other, here's your big chance. And what an array of stars are on display here. The amount of movies and TV shows used (and the brevity of each) will astound you, too. At the end we get a listing of them all, but even this is shown so quickly that you will not be able to actually read all the titles. Too bad.

In all, The Green Fog lasts 63 minutes, but this is an hour-plus, the creation and use of which you will not have experienced anywhere else. Yes, this may be Maddin's oddest work (among an oeuvre of utter oddities) but for some of us, it will resonate and delight like little else.  The Green Fog was co-commissioned by SFFILM and Stanford Live and is opening un-rated (but don't worry, I can't recall seeing any dirty parts).

The movie opens this Friday, January 5, in New York City at the IFC Center, with select screenings presented as double feature with Vertigo. Consult the IFC schedule to make sure you're getting either the single show or double feature that you want.

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