Monomania: The Vice Guide To Film

mon·o·ma·ni·a
[mon-uh-mey-nee-uh, -meyn-yuh]
-noun
 
 
1. (no longer in technical use) a psychosis characterised by thoughts confined to one idea or group of ideas.
2. an inordinate or obsessive zeal for or interest in a single thing, idea, subject, or the like.
 
 
Each week I will share with you my latest obsession. This will usually centre on little pockets of the interweb you may not come across. I'll take you down some dark alleyways, the kind you usually just briskly walk past for fear of getting mugged. Don't worry, I've got your back. Follow me...
 
 
THIS WEEK'S MONOMANIA:
 
The Vice Guide To Film...
 
Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti's latest Vice documentary series continues the massively entertaining run of gonzo journalism they and their compatriots have been developing for the last couple of years. Vice's streaming TV page VBS.TV has been going from strength to strength over the last few months and while I recommend people have a good dig around at some of the other content (the Vice Guide to Liberia, the Vice Guide to North Korea and Heavy Metal in Baghdad are particularly good places to start) I'm going to feature their Vice Guide to Film series that started up in March.
 
 
 Each episode examines a different aspect of cinema in some very interesting parts of the world. I'm going to feature my 3 favourite episodes of the series here but the others are still very much worth your time. I'm still eagerly awaiting the final episode to be put up, it is a long form interview with one of my favourite film makers, Gaspar Noe. Pretty excited about this one coming so you may hear about this series again once they launch that one!
 
 
North Korean Film Madness
 
“His favorite film is Gone with the Wind and his favorite actress is Elizabeth Taylor. He’s a film collector and bona fide cinephile, but he’s much more. He’s everything really. He’s a director, a producer, a financier, a costume maker, set designer, screenwriter, cameraman, sound engineer… and he’s also a film theorist. His masterwork on aesthetics and practice is “On the Art of Cinema” (written and published in the early 1970s). In it he gives himself the humble title, “Genius of the Cinema.” He built an extensive film studio in Pyongyang and when he couldn’t find someone to make his film he did what any self-respecting eternal leader and great president would do… he kidnapped one.”
Vice Guide to Film.
 
 
 
 This is one of my favourite episodes. Inevitably any piece about North Korea will concentrate as much on getting in there as on the actual subject at hand but one of the fun things about Vice films is the experiential quality of them. The journey Shane Smith takes before finally getting into the large film studio in Pyongyang is as crazy as you'd expect and those unfamiliar with Kim Jong Il's personal penchant for film will get a kick out of seeing clips from some of the films he has 'written' over the years.
 
 
Russian Parallel Cinema
 
Vice’s Shane Smith travels to Moscow to interview the motley cast of characters that founded Russian Parallel Cinema. We meet Gleb and Igor Aleinikov, two of Parallel Cinema’s most prolific creators; Oleg Kulik, who spent a year as a dog; Andre Silvestrov and Pavel Liabazov, founders of Alcho-Cinema; and notorious “Necro-Realist” Yevgeni Yufit.
 Vice Guide To Film
 
 
 
This is one of the most amusingly Gonzo episodes of the series. Shane Smith travels around Moscow determined to make a film with one of these film makers although more often than not he gets caught up in extended drinking sessions. He does finally shoot a scene with one of the directors although its not what anyone had expected. This episode encapsulates perfectly the line this series walks between active participation in weird niche film cultures and educating the viewer on aspects of film history that rarely step out of university theory classrooms. The highlight is watching Shane participate in the shooting of an Alcho-cinema film where drinking vodka seems more important than actually having a camera present!
Note: Only Part 1 is embedded above. Go to VBS.TV for parts 2 and 3.
 
 
Inside Iranian cinema
 
"Between their Nuclear programs and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disdain for diplomacy, Iran posses a legitimate threat to the rest of the world. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, Iranian filmmakers are among most prolific and influential in the world today. Their government’s influence over the film industry is unlike any other. In 1978, cinemas were burned to the ground after images of American decadence were shown on screen. The medium itself was outlawed until the Ayatollah Khamenei saw a film he liked, the cinemas were reopened, and the industry grew again."
 Vice Guide To Film
 
 
 
 This is another important mini-lesson in film history albeit with a threatening side plot as Shane wanders through Tehran potentially followed by Iranian spies. The climax of this episode where Shane accepts an award for Guy Maddin while being coerced into pretending to actually be Guy Maddin at the 3rd Annual Urban Film Festival in Tehran has to be seen to be believed. What's most interesting about this episode is the look at the upper class film community in Iran who seem to be extraordinarily rich and progressive, a side of Iran I bet you haven't seen before.
 
 
I can't recommend this series enough. The streaming at VBS.TV can be a bit glitchy if your internet connection isn't reasonably smooth and fast so make sure nothing else is hogging the connection while you are watching these. I'm pretty obsessed with these at the moment and I hope you guys get something out of them.