July, 2010

Depths of Inferno

inferno_image02Director Serge Bromberg meets a woman named Inès de Gonzalez in a broken, Parisian elevator. The two get to talking, and Bromberg learns that she is actually the widow of famed French director, Henri-Georges Clouzot. Over the course of their two-hour conversation, Gonzalez reveals that there is over 15 hours of existing footage from Clouzot’s notoriously unfinished film, L’Enfer, or Inferno (or Hell). One imagines a light-bulb flickering on inside Bromberg’s mind just as the elevator rattles back into operation.

It’s a scene straight out of a French thriller, maybe even one directed by Clouzot himself, who, 33 years after his death, is widely regarded as one of the great filmmakers of all time—his dark, psychological crime dramas, The Wages of Fear and Diabolique, garnering frequent comparisons to Hitchcock’s finest work. This Friday, July 30th, at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, a semi-documentary directed by Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea, will make its Los Angeles premiere.

The event marks the first time in which scenes from the disastrous, aborted film from 1964 will be widely screened to West Coast audiences, though gossip from the infamous set has remained a hot topic of debate amongst film nerds and historians for some time. The basic story is as follows:

Columbia Pictures, fresh off the relative success of Stanley Kubrick’s artsy (and blank-check budgeted) satire, Dr. Strangelove, decides to invest in another high-minded flick, this time from a commercially viable French director. Amazingly, they hand over a basically unlimited budget to one Henri-Georges Clouzot, who, despite considerable success from both critics and audiences, had been receiving harsh backlash from those rascally kids of the French New Wave. Clouzot, in turn, was eager to prove his worth. He set about devising a dark, surrealistic psycho-drama—with embedded allusions to Proust and Dante’s The Divine Comedy—about a husband’s extreme jealousy over his seductive wife. International  film star Romy Schneider was cast as the leading lady, and Serge Reggiani was to play her brooding husband. But only a couple weeks into filming— with the increasingly temperamental Clouzot employing three separate crews and over 150 technicians—Reggiani dropped out, the location of the set suffered a record-breaking heat wave, and an artificial lake (essential to the production) was forced to be drained by French authorities. At last, the entire film was shut down when Clouzot was hospitalized due to a near-fatal heart attack.

Such stories of the genius, maniacal film-director making their doomed masterwork  have been told before, and well (The Burden of Dreams, Hearts of Darkness, Lost in La Mancha, Overnight, etc.). But what Bromberg’s movie brings fresh are simply the brilliant—though limited—images from Clouzot’s failed venture. Part black-and-white, part color, the fractured scenes are so stunning and highly experimental for their time, it’s a wonder (and a relief) it was filmed before the advent of digital technology.

It’s a tragic fact that Clouzot never returned to complete L’ Enfer after his recovery, but there’s beauty to be had in the unfinished, the what-could-have-been. After all, if that elevator had not broken down, if it had completed its intended journey on that fated Parisian day when Serge Bromberg met Inès de Gonzalez, there would be no Henri-Georges Inferno—those hours upon hours of gorgeous footage left to rot in some sterile vault—and more importantly, we would be  left with one less choice of what to see this weekend at the movies.

- By Joshua Morrison

Henri-Georges Inferno opens on Friday, July 30th at the Laemmle Music Hall and the Laemmle Sunet 5. For more information, please visit www.clouzotsinferno.com, or www.flickeralley.com. A DVD release of the film is Janurary 2011 through Flicker Alley, LLC.

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deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Now is the NOW!

Picture-1Late July and we’re knee-deep in festival season. You’ve likely hit a few events from the Slamdance, the LA Film Fest, the Fringe Fest, Outfest, Comic-Con, the Middle Eastern Comedy Fest, Lilith Fair…the list goes on and on. The urge to see it all keeps us coming back, but I know, festival fatigue is strong. Hang in there, though—we’re at the home stretch. The REDCAT’s NOW Festival, which kicked off this weekend, should bring festival season to a spectacular end.

The New Original Works Festival features new dance, theater, music, and multimedia performance works by artists who are known for their often radical and unconventional approaches. While Week One (with work from Maureen Huskey and Killsonic) may have past us by, there’s still time to catch Weeks Two and Three, beginning this Thursday, July 29th.

Three artists make up Week Two of NOW: Christine Marie & Ensemble, in the expressionist theater piece “Ground to Cloud,” uses projections, electric light and shadowplay to unfold a multidimensional mythology of nature and human intervention. Systems of Us, from choreographer Rae Shao-Lan Blum & composer Tashi Wada, explores the disruption and transformation of relationships in a dance collaboration that may call to mind those early experiments of Cage and Cunningham. Finally, master of Breaking and hip-hop dance innovater Raphael Xavier’s “Black Canvas” explores the body of the Breaker in relation to the stage and life.

Week Three, beginning August 5th, features theater, dance, and animation. Alexandro Segade’s “Replicant vs. Separatist” depicts Segade himself calling the shots on a live sci-fi film shoot in which two male couples navigate the murky waters of state-mandated marriage. Hana van der Kolk’s “Once More, Again, One (Solo)” uses familiar pop music as the background for her solo dance adaptation of a work originally conceived for four dancers. To close, animator Miwa Matreyek (of Cloud Eye Control) uses animation with live projection to explore fantastical worlds in “Myth and Infrastructure.”

- By Helen Kearns

Each “week” of NOW is really only a Thurs/Fri/Sat, so budget your time accordingly. If you only attend one more festival this summer, consider the power of NOW. For more information, please visit www.redcat.org, or call 213-237-2800.

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Extra! Extra! Win Tickets to Legendary Count Basie Orchestra!

count-basie-orchestra-0011Jazz remains one of the few indigenous, American art forms, in that nothing quite like it ever existed before Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton started mixing up ragtime with the blues in an early 1900’s city called New Orleans. And to understand the history of jazz, as well as its incredible influence on our culture, is to understand the history of America and American music from slavery on up. Simply put, no artist you listen to today could exist without jazz. Which is why the genre makes its sudden flares of resurgence from time to time, and why you can still walk into most hip coffee shops around the city—notably, the Downbeat Café on Alvarado—and find a slick laptop-er or two subconsciously tapping their heels to the likes of Duke Ellington or Count Basie.

This Wednesday, July 28th at 8:00 PM at the Hollywood Bowl, jazz proves its not dead with the internationally renowned Count Basie Orchestra—still going after eighty years. Known for popularizing the Kansas City-style of big band jazz, as well as initiating some of the greatest artists in history (including Billy Holiday, Jo Jones, and Charlie Parker), Basie, himself, passed away in 1984, but his band plays on under different direction and with a regenerating cast of musicians. The current Orchestra doesn’t strictly adhere to its Kansas City roots (i.e. rhythmic riffs under improvised solos), but instead incoporates more of the East coast, neo-classisist style of big band jazz, with complex arrangements by director Bill Hughes.

That’s not to say, however, that such Count classics as “One O’Clock Jump” or “April in Paris” won’t be bouncing through the Bowl on Wednesday—along with the Dave Holland Big Band, the Dave Douglas Big Band, and yes, maybe you. Due to the overwhelming response of our last giveaways, FineArtsLA.com is once again raffling off two tickets to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Count Basie Orchestra live at 8:00 PM. Just enter your first and last name into the form below, as well as your e-mail address, and you are automatically entered into the running to win not just Wednesday night’s tickets, but also the next three FineArtsLA.com giveaways. So brush up on your two-step, and dust off those dancing shoes; even if you don’t win our contest, you can still buy tickets here.

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Panoramic Views: A Moving Story

union_theatre_facade1I’m about to move neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I realize this information is of interest to very few people, and even then, of very little interest. But for the past two years, I’ve lived in the USC area, about two blocks away from the historic Union Theatre—also known at the Velaslavasay Panorama—and I’ve never once stepped inside. I’ve tried. When I first moved in and took my inaugral expedition around the hood, I couldn’t help but gravitate toward the building. It’s vastly out-of-place, an artifact from another era dropped in-between a bodega and some low-rent housing (and in fact, it is from another era: it was built sometime in the 1910’s and operated for many years as a venue of multiple uses, including a playhouse, a silent-film theatre, and a meeting hall for the Tile Layers Union Local #18). When I tried to enter beneath the grand, old-fashioned marquee, however, it was closed. Ever since, it’s just been that mysterious buidling (sometimes aglow) that I drive by nearly every day, and have yet to go in—either because it’s closed or I have no reason. And now I’m about to move.

Fortunately, I have one last chance. This weekend, starting on Friday, but running on Saturdays as well, for five weeks only, the Velaslavasay Panorama opens its doors at 8:00 PM to present the unique and aptly located live performance of The Grand Moving Mirror of California. What is it? Good question. It’s a series of moving painted scenes, which encircle the theatre like a long scroll being rolled out around the audience, and depict the journeys of early American settlers attempting to reach California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Using live narration taken from an actual 19th century script, along with musical accompaniment and radio-play sound-effects, the show celebrates and revives a 130-year-old mode of entertainment that simply shouldn’t be missed.

Not bad for my last weekend in the neighborhood.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more information about the Union Theatre, the Panorama, or panoramas in general, please visit www.panoramaonview.org, or call 213-746-2166.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Downtown, Installation, Mixed media, Music, Musical Theatre, Neighborhoods, Old School, Painting, Performance No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Tickets to Planet Earth With LA Phil at Hollywood Bowl

Bactrian camels, Arctic wolves, Pakistani snow leopards, oceanic whitetip sharks, and one coat-tailed conductor; that’s a lot to pack in anywhere, even the Hollywood Bowl. But this Friday and Saturday at the legendary amphitheatre, the LA Philharmonic will perform live musical accompaniment to selected footage from the spectacular BBC television series Planet Earth. Conducted by none other than the shows’ composer himself, George Fenton, the orchestra promises to match the stunning high-defition footage, as projected onto the Bowl’s big screen.Planet Earth, which first premiered on the BBC in 2006, and was re-broadcast in the U.S. in 2007, compiles extraordinary, cinematic scenes of nature from all over the world, in eleven different habitats. It’s probably the best reality show you’ll ever see, if only because it’s completely devoid of humans. Yet, the series is without a doubt a distinctly human feat, and would be half as exciting were it not for the power of a fully human, orchestral score.And yes, Fine Arts LA has two tickets to give away to hear this score performed live by the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl this Friday, July 23rd at 8:30 PM, alongside footage from BBC’s Planet Earth. George Fenton conducts, you and your date cuddle up, while the entire audience is transported to the places far beyond even Hollywood’s imagination. Just write in your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below, and you can be eligible to receive these Planet Earth passes, as well as the next three ticket giveaways we do. Safe travels.

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Life After Happiness

Lately, the long-revered tradition of the sequel in cinema has been replaced by the newer concept of the reboot (Batman, Star Trek, Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Hulk, etc.) Audiences are expected to consume a re-told story and/or  character as if it were entirely fresh, to toss aside their old memories of earlier versions and accept this one anew. This approach has obvious creative advantages for the filmmakers—they can be free to make what they please without bowing to their predecessors—and financial advantages to studios, as a reboot can attract both old fans and ignorant newbies.

But what happens to the identities of these characters? Are old Batmans, Hulks, Freddies, and Spocks all sitting in a metaphysical room somewhere, dressed in decomposing costumes, wondering what happened to their existential selves? Or do they haunt these supposed reboots, subconsciously altering the viewing experience like a painting painted over?

Todd Solondz’s latest feautre, Life During Wartime, a quasi-sequel to his 1998 film, Happiness, explores this idea—along with a lot of other ideas—using his patented mix of shockingly dark humor and bubble-gum tragedy. Both movies ran in succession at the Egyptian Theatre on Sunday, July 18th, where Solondz, himself, talked afterwards.

Solondz is probably best known for his first big movie, Welcome to the Dollhouse, a hilarious and honest depiction of suburban adolescence, with unembellished perspectives on rape and kidnapping. He only further established his reputation as a moral shock-artist with his other films Happiness, Storytelling, and Palindromes. Despite having vastly different plots, all these movies are kind of connected. They all utilize superb, ensemble casts; are photographed in a bright, colorful style; frequently address rape or sexual deviations; and are all incredibly—at times, uncomfortably—funny. One wouldn’t be surprised to see a character from Storytelling walk into a scene from Palindromes and fit in perfectly.

Still, a sequel from Solondz seems the last thing he would ever do, let alone to Happiness—the story of a very dysfunctional family, the Jordans, each trying to define their own version of the titular emotion with often tragic results. But Life During Wartime immediately answers any questions of why or how in the first scene. The characters of Joy and Allen, originally played by Jane Adams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, are instead played by Shirley Henderson and Michael K. Williams. Not only are these actors physically different from their former incarnations, but they also bring different societal associations—which Solondz gladly exploits (Williams, for instance, is best known for his role as the gay gangster Omar on HBO’s The Wire, and his character’s dialogue in this movie subtly reflects Omar’s biography conjoined with that of Allen).

In fact, every character from Happiness is played by a different actor in this film, and due to the added fact that time has gone by in the world of these characters, Solondz allows himself to take certain liberties with his own creations. Bill Maplewood, the one-time yuppy pedophile of the original, is now a soul-less ghost of an ex-con. Trish, his former wife, is now a vehement Zionist in love with an older Jew. Billy Maplewood, their son, assumes the greatest transformation: from curious and oblivious ten-year-old to fully-grown college student, all-to-aware of his father’s sexual proclivities.

But Life During Wartime’s centerpiece is actually a character who didn’t even exist yet in Happiness. It’s Timmy, the 12-year-old Bar Mitzvah boy, also the son of Bill and Trish, though completely ignorant of the family’s true history. Timmy wants to become a man, and indeed he does thorughout the course of the movie, but not without first coming to terms with the sins of his father. Essentially, it’s the concept of forgiving and forgetting, which happens to be the subject of Timmy’s Bar Mitzvah speech, as well as the central theme of the film.

When Solondz eloquently addressed the audience after the screening on Sunday, he ended the discussion by talking about how it’s so easy to demonize certain people in life, whether they be a pedophile or Osama Bin Laden. And that sympathy, or forgiveness, is different than simply seeing someone as human. It’s the same with sequels, or reboots. It’s somewhat easy to forget the original (or not know it at all), but it’s not as easy to recognize the old movie as a vital part in the creation of the new, that both exist in context to one another.

- By Joshua Morrison

Life During Wartime opens in limited theatres on July 23rd. For more information, please visit www.wercwerkworks.com/projects/lifeduringwartime.

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Rohmer’s Moral Flirtations

DRKnight66: Inception comes out today!

RollinWitNolan40: Oh man, it’s gonna be so sweet.

DRKnight66: It’s gonna be like The Dark Knight meets Memento meets awesome!

RollinWitNolan40: Are you taking your girlfriend?

DRKnight66: What girlfriend?

RollinWitNolan40: Oh yeah I forgot. Jenni dumped you after you bought that fully-outfitted Batman morotcycle.

DRKnight66: Still don’t regret the purchase.

RollinWitNolan40: Yeah, screw girls. Emily doesn’t even wanna see Inception. I mean, come on…

Sure, Inception does look cool. But let’s face it: if you’re looking to really impress a girl (or guy), get to know them on an intimate level, there’s better date movies out there than some half-cocked, Joseph Campbell-ian, Matrix mash-up with a stoner philosophy major’s view of the world. In fact, if you’re trying to instill that subtle sense of intellectual, yet sexy flirtation into a budding relationship, that essential, fuckable French-ness, you can’t do much better than Eric Rohmer.

The one-time critic and writer for the French New Wave became best known for his series of films known at the “Six Moral Tales.” But these movies are, at their core, anything but moral. They instead dissect the sub-textual and sub-sexual complexities inherent in male-female relationships—often allowing two actors to discuss mathematical theories at great length—until the primal, erotic tension bubbles to the immediate surface. Rohmer is more than partly influential in the emergence of the “mumblecore” movement, but where many of those movies tend to float in a likable though detached uncertainty, his films are like finely cut incisions into the layers of romantic attraction.

Two of Rohmer’s most famous “Moral Tales,” My Night At Maud’s and Claire’s Knee, as well as a short-film of the series, “The Bakery Girl of Monceau,” are playing for a one-time-only triple-feature at the Aero Theatre this Friday, July 16th at 7:30 PM. My Night at Maud’s, absolutely one of the sexiest movies I’ve ever seen, tells the story of Jean-Louis and his enveloping fascination with a divorcee named Maud, a seductive though prudish woman he spent a night with in deep conversation. Claire’s Knee also explores quiet male obsession, but goes the Lolita route, and follows newly-engaged Jean-Claude as he fixates upon the sight of a young girl’s bare knee. Both films restrain themselves from any graphic sexuality, but opt instead for the Kundera-version of flirtation: “…a behavior leading another to believe that sexual intimacy is possible, while preventing that possibility from becoming a certainty. In other words, flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without a guarantee.”

I suppose what I’m saying is that if you want to see a movie to g-chat about with your nerdy friend, then see Inception. But if you want to get laid, see some Eric Rohmer, and catch up with the Christopher Nolan piss-contest next weekend.

- By Joshua Morrison

Note: If you do score off of the first two “Moral Tales,” make sure to see the rest at the next night’s triple-feature, Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse and Chloe in the Afternoon, along with the short, “Suzzane’s Career.” All at the Aero Theatre, Saturday, July 7th starting at 7:30 PM. For more information, please visit www.americancinematheque.com.

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Painting With John

2010-07-08-InventionofAnimalsI first caught wind of John Lurie as the stubborn, stone-faced proto-hipster in Jim Jarmusch’s essential, second feature, Stranger Than Paradise. In this film, the life of his character, Willie, is rudely interrupted by a surprise visit from his Hungarian cousin, Eva. The magic of this oddly entrancing movie lies in Willie’s subtle—if unwilling—acceptance of his own blood.

Following many more memorable film roles, a successful music career (in addition to writing and performing for his band, The Lounge Lizards, he composed the theme for Late Night with Conan O’Brien, along with the scores to a bunch of excellent movies), and a cult TV-show—Lurie has had to deal with a much more serious life interruption. He has been  suffering the debilitating symptoms of what he believes to be advanced neurological Lyme disease. And starting about four years ago, it got to the point where he couldn’t even play music anymore.

Stuck in his room, bored and in tremendous pain, Lurie began to paint, at first to simply concentrate on something besides his symptoms. Eventually, though, he began to use paint to express his inner-self—something only music could fulfill for him before. And while the results of his efforts in no way relieved him of his physical ailments, they did attract a lot of attention, and help launch yet another artistic career.

On view until August 7th at Gallery Brown in west Los Angeles, John Lurie: The Invention of Animals shows off his latest works. With such reliably clever and stinging titles as “The Skeleton in My Closet Has Moved Back to the Garden” and “The Spirits Are Trying To Tell Me Something But It’s Really Fucking Vague,” Lurie’s paintings seem to be directly related to his condition, failed attempts at escape maybe. According to him, “I am sure having the outlet helps me in some way. I know that when I got really sick and had to stop playing music that it was an unbearable loss. I never thought that painting could come out of my soul in the same way. But I think that it does at this point.”

To me, I know I have a hard time looking at Lurie’s visual work without sensing that same stone-faced Willie somewhere in there, slowly coming to terms with the disturbing though beautiful facts of his blood.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more from John Lurie, also check out this great interview on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tanja-m-laden/speaking-with-john_b_640096.html

John Lurie: The Invention of Animals is on view until August 7th at Gallery Brown, located at 140 S. Orlando Ave. For more information, please visit www.gallerybrown.com, or call 323-651-1956.

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Low Double Standards

IMG_0346-e1279000387395In the underrated classic Los Angeles film L.A. Story, Steve Martin fails to get a reservation at L’Idiot, a fictional hot L.A. restaurant with a line out the door, ticker tape reading the income level and importance of each dinner guest, and paparazzi at entry and exit. As Martin and his dinner guest leave, paparazzi back away, screaming, “Never mind! They’re nobodies!”

At the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the opening of “Dennis Hopper: Double Standard” felt more like a cinematic tribute to Los Angeles stereotypes than a serious exhibition. Before passing away at the age of 74 due to complications from prostate cancer, Dennis Hopper had an uneven career in art, mostly dedicated to imitating his slightly older artist friends. But at the opening, it didn’t seem to matter.

The opening was much more exciting than the show itself. Curated by Julian Schnabel, the exhibition drew an eclectic crowd from all corners of the city, everyone obsessed with the scene moreso than with Hopper’s art. Wearing gowns of peacock feathers and skintight high-waisted bandage shorts, guests took pictures of people outside, pictures of themselves, and pictures inside the gallery. Waiting by the bar, a woman wearing six-inch red high heels whispered to me, “Just to let you know, Diane Keaton and Liv Tyler and the lady who used to be married to Charlie Sheen are inside. Diane Keaton! I almost peed my pants!”

Inside, Diane Keaton was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she was obscured by the giant fiberglass sculpture of a Mexican waiter looming in the entrance, which might have been a cultural symbol of fear, or stereotypes, or something. Either way, it rang hollow. Hopper began his artistic career with painting in the 1950’s. Some early abstract pieces on small canvases show promise, or at least, the promise of promise, which fades later on. Equally unsuccessful works use found objects and graffiti, including an early drawing of a woman with a mustache scribbled above her upper lip. As commentary on femininity and pop culture, it falls flat and graceless.

Hopper was most renowned as a photographer though, and the black-and-white photographs from the 1960’s are the best part of the exhibition. In one of the loveliest pictures, a young, golden Jane Fonda wears a bikini and aims a bow and arrow into the distance, full of promise. Other subjects include Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ike and Tina Turner cheerfully posing with a giant inflatable Coke bottle.

After the year 2000, however, Hopper reproduced some of these earlier photographs to billboard size, with garish results. “I kind of hate this,” said one woman, standing next to a giant black and white reproduction of Andy Warhol, who is holding a droopy iris flower and oozing self-importance. The piece seems preoccupied with itself, more like a painting in a Hollywood comedy about the L.A. art scene rather than actual art.

And after looking at the umpteenth photo of Warhol, the title of the show begins to make sense. One wonders, did Hopper’s creativity lead to his fame, or was his fame a result of his access to renowned artists and celebrities? Are the two qualities really inseparable from one another? Was Dennis Hopper’s artistic fame a double standard? After all, Hopper starred in everything from Easy Rider and Blue Velvet to “classics” like Speed and Super Mario Bros., and dabbled in all types of art, equally embraced for his creative eccentricity as he was exiled for his drug use. But Hopper’s cinematic career was more interesting than his artistic one, and as a big survey exhibition, the show sells Los Angeles short. The art scene in the city is much more complicated and intriguing than this exhibition gives it credit for, and MOCA must have access to many more talented artists.

But as the night wore on, no one at the opening seemed to care. The guests stood at tables outside, drinking from clear plastic cups, and everyone watched one woman yelling and dancing to DJ tunes by herself. A plump MOCA photographer leaned against the wall, waiting to capture the L.A. moment.

- By Cassandra McGrath

“Dennis Hopper: Double Standard” is on view at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA until September 26. For more information, please visit www.moca.org, or call 213-626-6222.

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deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Dave Hill’s Genuine Hipness

What is a hipster sense of humor? Surely it has something to do with irony—the hipster’s original sin—or at least the thin version of irony that exists in wearing a D.A.R.E. t-shirt, while smoking a cigarette outside of the Silver Lake Lounge. But even irony has lost its all-consuming flavor amongst UCB and Largo crowds. Hipster humor also has something feminine about it, non-confrontational in its satire; it’s about a style and a matter of intention more than it is the content of a joke. Absurdity is actually its most potent ingredient, a commitment to the weird, a detached joy in the randomness of things.

In a name, it’s interviewer/performer/writer/comedian Dave Hill, who will be performing his one-man show, “Dave Hill: Big In Japan,” tonight, at 9:00 PM at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Hill looks like the character of Dim from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and the pitch of his voice ranges from acid-trip-high to wallowing-drunk-low in a matter of seconds. He has become known for his fast-cut, Borat-style interviews—which have been featured on This American Life—in which he is always the main subject (Hill probably wouldn’t exist were it not for Sacha Baron Cohen, but the two differ vastly their approach). Many of his interviews are filmed on camera, and one gets the feeling he is constantly winking at the audience, but not in a mean way (a lot like Jim does when he looks toward the camera on The Office). He has an incredibly quick wit, but he doesn’t use it for harm. Carrying a misguided sense of uber-confidence, Hill seemingly wants to be friends with everybody he talks to, and thus, his undeniable charm.

He’ll walk into the red carpets of New York’s fashion week, holding a huge boom-mic with a windscreen on it, and proceed to ask an attendee what she thinks of the Kofi Annan collection. Though even this is harsh for him. More likely, he’ll take a private movement/acting class in New York City, and twirl around in tights with the male instructor, laughing with him rather than at him, creating a sense of camaraderie through shared acknowledgment of the absurd.

This is, in fact, Hill’s greatest strength: his ability to include the subject, and by extension, the audience in the creation of the joke. He is genuine, which is why it works. And why he may be one of the best examples of hipster humor out there.

For tickets more information about The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, please visit www.ucbtheatre.com, or call (323) 908-8702.

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