Film

Cannes 2012: Day 1 - Wes Anderson’s 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Opening the festival with Moonrise Kingdom, beloved indie icon Wes Anderson’s first live action film in five years, only buoyed the camaraderie felt by Cannes attendees.


Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban
Studio: Focus Features
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-05-26 (General release)

I’d imagine the trip to Cannes isn’t the most convenient trek for even the most knowledgable resident of its parent country’s closest surrounding cities. More or less isolated along the coast of the French Riviera, the port city of Cannes transforms once a year from simply one of the more beautiful of coastal locales into a melting pot of industry and journalistic humanity gathered in the name of international cinema’s most prestigious film festival, which just so happens to take place along Europe’s most sun-kissed beach communities. With the closest airport located well enough outside it’s hill-shrouded borders, Cannes is limited to vehicular and nautical access, its narrow streets overflowing with scooters, buses, taxi cabs, and, during these two weeks in particular, thousands upon thousands of tourists and film fans.

Coming from Los Angeles made this little sojourn especially interesting, taking me from my West Coast home to Washington D.C.; from there to Geneva, Switzerland; from the land of the Swiss Alps to Nice, France; and from there, finally, to the city of Cannes, via bus. I couldn’t have slept much more than 60 minutes in the 36 straight hours that took me from Los Angeles on through to the eve of the festival proper, turning a case of jet lag into a fourth wind-summoning marathon of press lines, apartment hunting, and phone reception bereft attempts at corralling members of our extended critical community for an evening gathering upon arrival. That this all went down without much of a setback is rather miraculous, turning a place of good vibes and incredible weather into a somehow even more agreeable haven for like-minded cinema enthusiasts.

Opening the festival with Moonrise Kingdom, beloved indie icon Wes Anderson’s first live action film in five years, only buoyed the camaraderie. After a few years of more populist-leaning fare -- Up, Robin Hood, and Midnight in Paris make for a, let’s just say, wide-ranging succession of festival bows -- this move toward decidedly more niche terrain stoked curiosity for a film that, based on pre-release materials alone, could be seen as wheelhouse Wes Anderson. The results are both widely welcoming and wheelhouse Wes Anderson is a nice coup for the fest, as fans of American indie’s most twee director will likely savor the results, which are quite charming, while those resistant to some of Anderson’s more arch tendencies will be met with a series of some of his more sensitive, gentler gestures.

Perhaps sensing exhaustion in a style he all but invented and perfected, Anderson made a decisive aesthetic swerve into stop-motion animation with 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox, which, wouldn’t you know it, turned out as a typical Wes Anderson film in every aspect but genre affiliation. Still, it was a breath of fresh air after nearly a decade of vacuum sealed, heightened-reality stylistic refinement. But expecting major change from Anderson at this point is roughly equivalent to expecting McDonalds to vary in taste from country to country. His films, no matter the medium, are now a known quantity going in -- you either accept, and in some cases perhaps cherish, them for what they are, or otherwise ignore the dependable presentation. Part of the satisfaction from watching Anderson’s work is the expansive world he has created and thus far populated with unique, seemingly interrelated characters. Moonrise Kingdom manages to continue the trend while working in new wrinkles, some blatant and not quite as successful as in the past, and some more subtly and susceptible to oversight.

An admittedly slighter, less thematically heavy film than some of Anderson’s best work -- mainly Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Darjeeling Limited -- Moonrise Kingdom instead opts for the simple, relatable pleasures of love at first blush and adolescent overdetermination. Set along the coast of New England in 1965 (Moonrise represents Anderson’s first "period piece", though his contemporary characters tend to be so old fashioned in sensibility that one can hardly tell), the film documents, in typical Andersonian storybook style, the first throes of amour between 12-year-olds Sam and Suzy (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, respectively, both making their film debuts), young rebels with no friends to speak of but who together find an intense connection through letter writing (period piece!) before deciding to run away together, he from his foster parents and boy scout troop and she from her family of three brothers and eccentric parents.

Anderson cleverly reveals the extent of the youngsters' relationship as he intercuts their background with ad-hoc search party sequences comprised of the blindly violent Khaki Scouts, their Scout Master Ward (played a little self-consciously by Edward Norton, though the character is constantly trying to prove himself, turning the performance into an interesting meta exercise of sorts), and the local law authority, Captain Sharp (played with surprising deft and comic timing by Bruce Willis). This tact lends the film’s first half a swift momentum that is accentuated by Anderson’s patented panoramic scroll shots and hyper-detailed production flourishes, offsetting the deadpan dialogue (“Was he a good dog?,” Suzy asks, only to have Sam reply, “Who’s to say, but he didn’t deserve to die.”) in a way that his best sequences often do. Anderson stated in a recent interview that Moonrise Kingdom is the first film in which he set out to conjure a specific mood -- specifically, the rush of first love -- and in the sequences dedicated to the budding romance between Sam and Suzy, he finds an extension in his thematic reach, key to keeping his airtight pictures from growing monotonous.

Anderson also tries out some new actors here, adding to his normal stable of Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban. In addition to the aforementioned Norton and Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel all make appearances, and while the two ladies equip themselves nicely enough, Keitel can’t help but feel somewhat out of place. But it’s a gamble that pays off with Willis and for the most part with Norton as well; ultimately, it’s just nice to see Anderson continuing to implement new faces into his stock catalogue personas. His stock screenwriting practice of climaxing his films with miniature action set pieces, however, reaches a bit of a tiring nadir here. The characters of Suzy and Sam, and by extension the two fresh-face actors embodying them, are so charming and clever that it’s a shame he and co-writer Roman Coppola ever feel the need to leave them. But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise pleasing, effortless film. Swift, smart, and satisfying, it’s exactly the kind of movie that should kick-off a major film festival.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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