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Marcel Duchamp (#110 of 2)

Poster Lab: Shame

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Poster Lab: <em>Shame</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Shame</em>

There’s minimalism, and then there’s a picture of a rumpled bed, which you are certainly intended to believe just witnessed the messy thrusting of Michael Fassbender’s sex addict, Brandon, into whichever conquest he finessed off the subway. The ultimate one sheet (aw, come on, there was no resisting that one), this decidedly unadorned beauty is going to make many billboards and building walls look alternately comfy and pathetic, and for New Yorkers who’ve seen the film, it’s going to make for quite the awkward moment when it’s the first thing viewed after stepping off the 1 train with a new date. “Have you seen that?” the date might ask, and the sudden relief that she hasn’t will wrap around you like a warm blanket.

As easy as it may be to cut this thing down for its near-Duchampian anti-artistry, it may just be the year’s most effective poster, wholly capturing the pitiful mood of the film in question, and taking on more shape and meaning as you look at it. What viewers should know is that it capitalizes on the very best shot of the film (the opening shot), which sees Brandon lying awake on this very bed, half-covered, looking so empty one might peer right through him to the linens. As the camera remains static, he gets up and opens the Venetians, shedding light on the sheets and revealing the film’s title as his daily grind (get it?) is recycled. More than offering the instant suggestion of sex, this image is all about ugly guilt, right down to the trivial, almost childish domestic no-no of failing to make the bed. Its color is as telling as anything else, as Brandon is one blue cat, and though the film isn’t as successful at establishing it, it’s clear here that his bed—or any bed, for that matter—is a hideous, odious villain.

DOC NYC 2010 Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

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DOC NYC 2010: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
DOC NYC 2010: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, is an exploration (in 3D!) of the Chauvet Caves, an area that Herzog identifies, romantically and poetically, as the place “where the modern human soul was awakened.” It would seem like a typically Herzogian grandiose description, if not for its essential accuracy: These caves contain the oldest discovered pictorial depictions to emanate from the human hand. The caves are thus an obvious symbol for the birth of human creativity, for the development of the uniquely human urge to document one’s world and to communicate about it. For an artist like Herzog, this is an irresistible conceit. At one point in this film, a scientist remarks that the difference between the Neanderthal and the more modern, more human successor, the Paleolithic man, was precisely this flowering of creativity in carved icons, cave paintings and even crude musical instruments, like a flute carved out of ivory. Herzog’s film resulted from a rare opportunity to explore these caves, which are jealously protected and sealed off from casual inquiry; normally, only a select few scientists ever get to see the cave interior, and even then only in limited ways.