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Thursday, Sep 18, 2014
Troubled teens and a chronic alcoholic populate two of the Main Competition films. But James Gray's The Immigrant proves the most impressive.

The insistent sound of a ringing telephone is the first thing to be heard in Anna Kazejak’s The Word (Obietnica), which opens pretty much in medias res, thrusting the viewer right into the fraught relationship between two teenagers, Lila (Eliza Rycembel) and Janek (Mateusz Więcławek).


The significance of the sound becomes apparent as the movie progresses, since communication (and, in particular, the way in which teens communicate with each other) is one of Kazejak’s concerns in this, her second feature following 2010’s Flying Pigs. The text messages, Facebook posts and Skype chats that the characters indulge in throughout the film gain greater significance when a murder gets committed and such communications become evidence in the ensuing investigation.


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Thursday, Sep 18, 2014
Spoon's excellent live show at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield (aka Summerstage) came near the heels of their late-Summer They Want My Soul tour.

I hadn’t seen the band Spoon since last year’s Governors Ball Festival but they finally came back around to the area for a proper show at Rumsey Playfield (aka Summerstage though that City Parks Foundation series is over) in Central Park. The band are touring on the back of their latest album They Want My Soul and this performance showed the audience how consistently good they are (as our critic Matthew Fiander wrote, “This is another very good Spoon record, but it’s not the same as any other Spoon record. It is also a record that, in the ways it continues and twists the band’s sound, reminds us that Spoon put in a lot of work to find their sound.”) and how cohesive all of Spoon’s material sounds together.


The Village Voice had noted that, “Got Nuffin” roars onstage as much as it did when it was new, but what really stood out was how seamlessly the new songs have already woven their way into the set. “New York Kiss” got a huge cheer when it began, because of course/why not. “Rent I Pay,” in particular, already came off like a classic Spoon song.” And it was with “Knock Knock Knock” and “Rent I Pay” that Spoon had kicked things off on the lovely late-Summer evening. The band was in fine form throughout the night and, except for Britt Daniel, quite often in the shadows, with their silhouettes cast upon screens around the stage. Before their conclusion, Spoon performed the dark and dancey, “I Turn My Camera On”, which is one of my favorites and then included another of my favorites, “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” in their finale.


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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Love, war and other crap at the Gdynia Film Festival, Poland's largest and most prestigious showcase for its national cinema.

Founded in 1974 and now in its 39th year (two were lost to the imposition of martial law in the early ‘80s) the Gdynia Film Festival (15-20 September 2014) is the oldest and most prestigious event in the Polish film calendar, and one of the primary showcases for national cinema. (Recent winners include Agnieska Holland’s In Darkness [2012] and, last year, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida.)


The range of movies, events, exhibitions and workshops that the festival offers clearly plays a large part in that reputation, while its blissful location in the gorgeous Gdynia (the northern seaside locale that’s part of the so-called “Tri-City”, or “Trójmiasto”, alongside Gdansk and Sopot) doesn’t hurt, either. As a first-time attendee, I’ve been struck over the last couple of days by the festival’s excellent organisation and welcoming atmosphere, and by the richness of its programming which offers a sometimes overwhelming choice of things to do and see.


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Thursday, Sep 11, 2014
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist forged their third turntable project, the 'Renegades of Rhythm Tour', from their careful curating of records from Afrika Bambaataa's collection.

If you are a fan of hip-hop, you owe it to yourself to catch the ‘Renegades of Rhythm Tour’ currently making its way across the states. For this event, two renowned turntablists, DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) and Cut Chemist (Lucas MacFadden) sifted through the historic and legendary record collection of Afrika Bambaataa to create a 90-plus-minute set encompassing all of hip-hop that they are currently touring (dates below). At New York’s Irving Plaza, Bambaataa himself was present in the balcony enjoying the proceedings and perhaps watching with a bit of diligence, given the duo were working with some rare acetates, demos, originals that he has owned, and maybe even performed with, for the past few decades. In an introduction, Shadow held up a record for the audience to show them the giant chunk missing from the near the edge, yet they still planned to spin it in their set. Also on site was hip-hop photographer Joe Conzo, both working from the pit alongside the media and displaying a gallery of his own legendary pieces of hip-hop history from the ‘70s and ‘80s in New York.


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Monday, Sep 8, 2014
A tenor saxophone quartet may not be a typical configuration, but Battle Trance transcended the instrument's capability with their performance of the 42 minute odyssey Palace of Wind.

It’s easy to miss Constellation—I nearly did. The venue, tucked into a small row of brick buildings in Chicago’s North Side, has no flashy sign or major distinguishing marker on its unassuming front face. Its placement near an underpass brings to mind the phrase “hole in the wall.” But on an otherwise ordinary Sunday evening, the intimate venue, which has the layout of a chamber theatre, was given a potent dose of music, spanning a broad range of contemporary art music. Quite a lot of music filled the small space.


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