Picks for Sunday, February 12

Sunday

Jeff Tweedy at the Henry Fonda Theater

With Wilco on a brief hiatus, Jeff Tweedy must be feeling restless again. This year he’s revisiting the myriad side projects that often confound fans of his critically slobbered band: another record with his Albert Ayler–meets–Poco trio Loose Fur, another whimsical collaboration with Scott McCaughey’s Minus 5, and another back-porch jam session with alt-rock supergroup Golden Smog. Tweedy’s ever-changing set lists on this brief solo tour have thus far unveiled new tunes like “Is That the Thanks I Get?” and “The Ruling Class” as well as Smog faves, underplayed Wilcoia, Uncle Tupelo chestnuts and a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “Henry and the H Bombs,” a song he’s been doing since Wilco’s first tour in 1995. Tweedy’s band mates open both shows: drummer Glenn Kotche on Sunday night and prodigal-son guitarist Nels Cline on Monday. 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (213) 480-3232. (Matthew Duersten)

Eleni Mandell at Tangier

Eleni Mandell comes in many guises. There’s the noirish underground romantic from such early albums as Thrill and Snakebite, her languorous phrasing accented by her softly decisive acoustic-guitar strokes. Then there’s the warmly inviting down-home cowgirl of Country for True Lovers, contrasted by the late-night jazzbo captured on 2004’s smoke-filled Maybe, Yes EP. The local singer-songwriter reveled in her breezy pop side on Sex, Fashion and Money, the 2005 debut CD by the Grabs, a side project with Blondie’s Nigel Harrison and W.A.C.O.’s Steve Gregoropoulous. Miss Eleni even rocks out on occasion, as with her seductively glammed-up version of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris,” from Paris Hilton’s notorious burger-chain TV ad. At heart, though, Mandell is an unrepentantly dreamy balladeer with a gift for cinnamon-streaked, horchata-sweet melodies. Expect to meet all of these personas during this monthlong Tangier residency, where she’s backed by a full band. (Falling James)

Museum Pick: GAJIN FUJITA AND PABLO VARGAS LUGO

Genre-hoppers Gajin Fujita and Pablo Vargas Lugo are clearly in the forefront of a pan-Pacific sensibility, marrying Mexico to the Far East. Fujita, an east-Los native, weds his heredity to his environment with outsize renditions of Japanese visual pop, from ukiyo-e to anime, overlaid with bold graffiti tags. The cultures smash but don’t clash, roiling together in noisy concert, the eye-candy equivalent of koto sampling hip-hop. Mexico City–based Vargas Lugo takes a subtler approach to bridging the pond, slyly infusing an already abstracted Latin urban sensibility with a delicacy of line and image he attributes to the models of Pacific-Asian art. For all his soft-spoken deftness, though, Vargas Lugo produces works — out of concrete, music paper, outsize light boxes — as big and crisp and in-your-face as Fujita’s billboard-size paintings. There’s more here than meets the yo. At LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mon.-Tues. and Thurs., noon-8 p.m., Fri., noon-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (323) 857-6000. (Peter Frank) FILM:

TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY

Purporting to be the autobiography of a man more inclined toward discussing the difficulty of writing an autobiography than actually writing one, and who tends to reminisce about events that occurred before he was even born, Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman departs from the narrative straight and narrow early on, never to return. Momentary asides lead to parenthetical digressions that blossom into full-blown anecdotes that eventually loop back over themselves, by which time we’ve ended up somewhere entirely other than where we thought we were going. As Sterne, writing as Shandy, said of his own penchant for straying off course: “Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine — they are the life, the soul of reading, — take them out of this book for instance, — you might as well take the book along with them.” But I digress. For the matter at hand is not Tristram Shandy the book, but rather the remarkably fecund film that has been made from it — in spite of the conventional wisdom that even to attempt such an endeavor would surely prove a fool’s errand. Foolhardy British director Michael Winterbottom and his frequent screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (here collaborating under the pseudonym Martin Hardy) have responded to Sterne’s daunting fragmentation by fragmenting it all the further. What begins as a note-perfect Shandy adaptation (starring the game-faced Steve Coogan as both the title character and his father, Walter) soon gives way to a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the making of said film, complete with its own Winterbottomesque auteur (Jeremy Northam), an insecure star (Coogan again) trying to distance himself from his sitcom past, and an eager co-star (the delightful Rob Brydon) yearning for his moment in the sun. (Plus, lest I forget, a last-minute cameo — both in the movie and in the movie-within-the-movie — by Gillian Anderson.) The layering of the real and the reel is as intricate as in Adaptation or The Stunt Man, but underneath the movie’s tricky hall-of-mirrors surface lies a warm, delicate and, yes, distinctly Shandy-esque portrait of the struggle of creation, the general folly of human endeavor and the infrequency with which our lives turn out as we would have scripted them. By not even attempting to follow Sterne to the letter, Winterbottom and Boyce have triumphantly captured his impish creative spirit. (ArcLight; Monica 4-Plex)

 

NEIL YOUNG:  HEART  OF GOLD   Jonathan Demme’s superb film of Neil Young’s 2005 performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium is as fervent a musical homage as was Demme’s bubbly tribute to the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense (1984). But this new concert movie is also a warm, unhurried paean to the considered pains and pleasures of middle age — as much, one senses, for the director (who shot it while taking a year off from filmmaking after The Manchurian Candidate), as for his subject. Aside from a sprinkling of the old favorites (“Four Strong Winds” — the only number the musician didn’t write himself — “Old Man” and the title song) that made many of us fall in love with Young long before our joints began to creak, Heart of Gold is far from a nostalgia trip. No big deal is made of the near-fatal brain aneurysm that spurred Young to sit down and write the melodies collected on his well-received Prairie Wind album. Still, the crisis is all there in songs about marriage (Young’s wife, Pegi, sings and plays guitar onstage with the band), his father’s dementia, what it’s like to be a “rich hippie” and his empty nest, as well as in those about 9/11, Chris Rock and the golden wheat fields depicted in backdrops specially designed for the movie (and flooded with the mellow amber light of cinematographer Ellen Kuras’ lyrical camera). Along with Bruce Springsteen, Young is our most durable troubadour of the ordinary, yet I doubt that anyone but his wry, endearingly shambling self will ever dismiss him as an old-fart rocker. As much a champion of punk as of country music, Young keeps on growing without ever pandering to his audience or abandoning the old friends he’s played with, in some cases, for 30 years. As they gather onstage, guitars in hand, for the quietly thrilling finale, Demme tracks from face to face (among them Emmylou Harris in all her precise, bony beauty) and instrument to instrument, honoring the collaborative spirit that goes into the making of a song. (ArcLight) (Ella Taylor)

Histoire(s) Du Cinema 

Arriving in the U.S. nearly a decade after its completion, Jean-Luc Godard’s monumental six-part essay film–cum–incantatory tone poem — originally conceived as JLG’s response to the 100th birthday of cinema — stands as a pivotal, summary, perhaps even climactic, work in its maker’s career, and thus in the history of film. Through a barrage of visual and musical quotations, and using some of the most complicated and evocative montage of his career, Godard addresses — passionately, sometimes pessimistically and always with his characteristic slyness — the cinema that intoxicated him as a child, that he upbraided and fetishized as an iconoclastic young critic, and that he almost single-handedly revolutionized as a filmmaker. Everything Godard considers is part of one gigantic, category-smashing continuity of ideas and images: film, art, literature, music. He can leap from 19th-century French painting and the rise of industrialism (“The 19th century, which invented every technique, also invented stupidity . . .”) to cleverly shuffled clips from his personal masters (Nicholas Ray, Jean Vigo, Von Stroheim, Griffith, Hitchcock, Dovzhenko and Robert Aldrich) and, of course, his own movies — all interleaved with Gaugins and Giottos, cheesy porno footage and newsreel images from the 20th-century atrocities that Godard accuses the cinema of being unable or unwilling to record or prevent. (For example, we see Errol Flynn, then the slogan “CAPTAIN BLOOD,” then Hitler himself — connections, connections!) Always we return from these rhythmic, free-associative digressions to the director smoking cigars in his book-filled study, intoning the chantlike, quasi-poetic aperçus that redirect and revivify his discourse. The density of JLG’s editing, his eye-opening juxtapositions of image against sound — and, through his many back-and-forth lap dissolves, of image against image and sound against sound — repeatedly amaze you with their shocking inventiveness. At one point, a Monet painting of a sylvan stream appears, then footage of German soldiers fording a similar stream in the summer of 1940, while the flickering dissolves make it seem as though the Nazis are invading Giverny itself — a staggering metaphorical violation in Godard’s eyes. There is a bracing provocation like this every other minute in Histoire(s), a film packed with astounding assertions, moments of searing poetry, and tart political analysis. It takes five hours to watch, but a lifetime may be needed to ponder and plumb its seemingly bottomless, but ultimately fathomable, depths. The superlative for once is fully warranted: masterpiece. (UCLA Film and Television Archive; Chapters 1 & 2 — Fri., Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.; Chapters 3 & 4 — Sun., Feb. 12, 7 p.m. www.cinema.ucla.edu) (John Patterson)


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