Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bringing Movies Back to Broad St.

Date: July 5, 2016
To: All media for immediate release
Re: Bringing Movies Back to Broad St.
From: The Bijou Film Center

After having staged seven pop-up events (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven) and having conducted a membership drive that achieved its goal, the Bijou Film Center has parlayed its string of successes and good luck into a lease on the ground floor of 304 E. Broad St.

From here on the Bijou concept will no longer be a drawing on a napkin with no place to call home. The owner of the freshly renovated building, Matthew Bauserman, said this about the June 30th lease-signing to STYLE Weekly:
I'm so pleased to have the Bijou Film Center as a neighbor at the corner of 3rd and Broad. What James and Terry are doing is so exciting and there is no better home for them than the RVA Arts District. I couldn't ask for better than having TheatreLab, CodeVA, and the Bijou as my ground floor tenants - these folks are the real deal, who care about art, culture, education, and giving back to the community."
Since cinema pioneer Jake Wells' original Bijou opened in 1899, just five blocks to the east, the folks working to build The Bijou are delighted to have this opportunity to bring movies back to Broad Street. As soon as it's feasible The Bijou will begin showing films on a regular basis in its own location.

While it will start out with a temporary screen and folding chairs, in the fall we hope to install some of those seats that were donated to us by the owner of the building that once housed the Westhampton Theatre.

Although 304 E. Broad St. may not be where the Bijou Film Center concept will be fully realized, this starter-home seems like the perfect spot in which to incubate the non-profit film center's ambitious plan to become the hub of all things film in Richmond.

The first event in The Bijou's new space will be presented early next month. Need more information about the Bijou Film Center's history and mission?

For background go to The Bijou's website. Or its blogzine -- the Bijou Backlight. Or its Facebook page.


James Parrish: Email: jtparrish@bijoufilmcenter.org. Phone: (804) 564-3224.
Terry Rea: Email: ftrea9@gmail.com. Phone: (804) 938-7997.
Bijou Film Center, PO Box 4994, Richmond, VA, 23220. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thank you to 1708 and Candela

Sasha Waters Freyer is seen here
(me) documenting the production
of “Uncle Vanya” in 1979.
At 1708 Gallery on June 10th and June 11th the Bijou Film Center presented the Richmond premiere of "Chekhov for Children," along with two short films. "Chekhov for Children" (2010) was directed by Sasha Waters Freyer, who is the current chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's Photography and Film Department.

"Chekhov for Children" tells the story of the 1979 staging of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" by fifth- and sixth-graders in New York City. It cleverly uses a trove of unearthed student documentary videos and Super 8 films shot in that era. The two short films were: "Les Mistons" (1957) by François Truffaut and "Mouseholes" (1999) by Helen Hill. All three films presented stories seen through the eyes of children.

The Bijou's seventh pop-up event was a departure from its previous presentations, in that the same film program was presented two nights in a row. We also had beer, wine and soft drinks available for thirsty film buffs. So, in those respects it was a step toward when The Bijou will be open and operating as a cinema. It also was our first opportunity to show films to an audience in the Arts District, the neighborhood we hope to eventually establish as The Bijou's home.

The films went over quite well. After the two screenings of "Chekhov for Children" Sasha Waters Freyer (a Bijou Film Center member) was kind enough to answer questions from the audience.

Once again we benefited from help from our friends. Our thanks go out to the members and guests who attended. The folks at 1708 were generous with their space. As it happened we had originally planned to use a different room, but when that became impossible 1708 came to the rescue. And, once again, the folks at Candela Books+ Gallery chipped in to help us cover film rental expenses. Our thanks go out to both galleries.

And, speaking of spaces in the Arts District, we hope to have some good news about that topic soon, as well as news about our next event. In the meantime, here's the link to a post about the screening on June 10th written by our friend Karen Newton (a Bijou Film Center member)


Monday, June 6, 2016

Bijou Presents: 'Chekhov for Children'

Sasha Waters Freyer (photo VCU)
Filmmaker Sasha Waters Freyer (pictured left) has been the chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's Photography and Film Department since January of 2013. She directed "Chekhov for Children" (2010).

For its next Bijou Presents event the Bijou Film Center is delighted to be able to screen "Chekhov for Children," along with two short films, in a program called "Through the Eyes of Children."

The two shorts, "Les Mistons" (1957) and “Mouseholes” (1999), will be presented before the feature. The presentation will take place at 1708 Gallery in Richmond's Arts District. This will mark the Richmond theatrical premiere of "Chekhov for Children."

Prior to her stint at VCU, Waters Freyer put in 12 years as an associate professor at the University of Iowa, where she taught in the Department of Cinema & Comparative Literature and was the director of film and video production. Her films have been exhibited in noteworthy film festival settings in the USA and abroad. For more about her a VCU podcast from Oct. 1, 2015 can be heard here.

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.
Waters Freyer's film "Chekhov for Children" is a 72-minute documentary that employs a creative license that's both unusual and quite charming. When an artist stretches to combine elements that might seem unrelated, it's always risky; sometimes it's audacious. When the resulting assemblage creates a unique harmony that is both fresh and familiar, it can outweigh sum of the parts in a way that seems magical.

About the event: On Fri., June 10 and Sat., June 11,  "Chekhov for Children," “Les Mistons” by François Truffaut and “Mouseholes” (1999) by Helen Hill will be screened at 1708 Gallery, 319 W. Broad St.. The films will start at 8:30 p.m.

Admission: The Bijou's members will be admitted free; their guests will be asked to make $5.00 donations to the film center.

From Waters Freyer's website:
Born in Brooklyn in 1968, Sasha Waters Freyer is a moving image artist who makes unsentimental films about the loss of innocence, real or imagined. Trained in photography and the documentary tradition, she fuses original and found footage in 16mm film and digital media ... "Chekhov for Children" tells the inspiring story of an ambitious undertaking – the 1979 staging on Broadway of Uncle Vanya by New York City 5th & 6th graders, directed by the celebrated writer Phillip Lopate. Using a wealth of never-before-screened student documentary videos and dramatic super 8mm films from the era, "Chekhov for Children" explores the interplay between art and life for a dozen friends across 30 years – including the filmmaker.
At the 10th Orphan Film Symposium, on Apr. 8, 2016, Waters Freyer was presented with the Helen Hill Award at the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center's Packard Theater in Culpepper. Established in 2008, by the NYU Cinema Studies and the University of South Carolina Film and Media Studies Program, the Helen Hill Award is presented every two years.

The award recognizes innovative work that is in line with Hill’s legacy of creativity and independence as a filmmaker, educator, and animator. Dan Streible, director of the symposium, said:
What interested me is that much of ['Chekhov for Children'] is built out of Super 8 films or consumer-grade videos the kids used at the time. It has an archival component to it, an orphan-y quality. The jury also thought that because it was about children, and is so arresting and engaging, it was a perfect fit for the Helen Hill Award.
Note: Beer, wine, coffee and soft drinks will be made available for purchase at 1708. Because of the way Facebook is set up we needed to create two different pages for the two nights. For more information click on the links below:  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Through the Eyes of Children press release

Photo courtesy of Sasha Waters Freyer.
Date: May 31, 2016
To: All media for immediate release
Re: A Bijou Presents screening on June 11
From: The Bijou Film Center

The next Bijou Presents event will be offered to the public on Sat., June 11, 2016. We are calling the program of three films "Through the Eyes of Children." We will be using the facilities at 1708 Gallery, 319 W. Broad Street. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m. The film program will begin at approximately 8:30 p.m.

"Chekhov for Children" (2010): Color with some black and white footage. 72 minutes. Directed by Sasha Waters Freyer. Note: The director of this award-winning documentary combines footage of a 1979 staging of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" by fifth- and sixth-graders in New York City, with videos and Super 8 films shot by children in the same era, with updated glimpses at those kids, grown up, some 30 years later. When an artist stretches to combine elements that might seem unrelated, it's always risky; sometimes it's audacious. When the resulting assemblage creates a unique harmony that is both fresh and familiar, it can outweigh sum of the parts in a way that seems magical.   

"Mouseholes" (1999): Color. 8 minutes. Directed by Helen Hill. Note: "Since I could not stop my grandfather's death, I tried to understand, through recordings of his voice, home movies and animated scenes of Heaven." -- Helen Hill.

"Les Mistons" (1957): B&W. 17 minutes. Directed by François Truffaut. Cast: Bernadette Lafont, Gérard Blain. Note: A group of five boys becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman (Lafont in her first film) who rides her bicycle around the village and sometimes to meetings with her boyfriend. Out of a mixture of curiosity and jealousy the boys stalk the lovers and make mischief to annoy them. Liberated from the restrictions of the static camera and sound stage this delightful short film helped to set the French New Wave in motion; it got Truffaut the money to make his first feature.

Why these three movies? The thread that runs through them is that each offers us a view of life, essentially through the eyes of children. Before children have fully grasped what society expects them to notice and classify, they sometimes see what may be invisible to adults. 

This presentation will move the Bijou Film Center closer to what is envisioned to be its nature, once we have completed the one-off phase of our development and landed in our permanent location. Our plan is to consistently invite those who get it to take in cinematic experiences they will not find the likes of anywhere else in Richmond. Have a beer, or a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee. Have a bite to eat. Share the whole experience with people who enjoy watching good movies together, because they get it -- they know it makes a difference. 

By the way, this will be the Richmond premiere of "Chekhov for Children."

Admission: Bijou Film Center members will get in free and a $5.00 donation will be accepted from non-members. Note: The same three films will be presented the night before, Fri., June 10, to members only with admission free. Seating will be limited to 70 people on both nights.

Background on the Filmmakers:

Sasha Waters Freyer is currently the chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's Photography and Film Department. More information about her can be seen here;

Helen Hill was born in Columbia, SC, where she began making animated films as a child. She was educated at Harvard, taught filmmaking in Nova Scotia and was murdered in the nightmarish aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2007. More about Hill can be seen here.

François Truffaut is perhaps the best known/most celebrated director of what became known as the French New Wave of the 1960s. Among others his feature films included: "The 400 Blows," "Jules and Jim," "Fahrenheit 451," "Small Change" and "Day for Night." More about Truffaut can be seen here. 

The Bijou's Mission: The centerpiece of the Bijou Film Center we envision will be a small independent cinema -- a little art house theater that will strive to present the best of first-run independent and imported films available. They will be sandwiched between short runs of selected classics. Live music will occasionally be presented. In a small adjoining café/coffeehouse we will serve sandwiches, soups, salads, bagels, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine and so forth. 

We hope to soon (very soon!) sign a lease on a temporary space in which to experiment and further develop the concept. This will allow us to offer regular programs in the same space. Compared to what we've done so far, this event's atmosphere and programming style, sans folding chairs, should more closely resemble what's envisioned for operations in our permanent space. Beyond the exhibition of our gourmet film fare, we hope to be a friend to those interested in the preserving of old films and the making of new films.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Last Chance to Be an Original ... tick, tick, tick

The blissful irony of a roomful of Grouchos drinking a
toast to “membership.” Photo by Katey Knox.

When somebody says, "Timing is everything," it's usually hard to disagree. So here's a tip: the chance to be an "original" member of the Bijou Film Center will expire at the end of the day.

Tomorrow will be too late to receive the "original" designation. Oh, it won't be too late to become a member. Either way a membership still costs $50. But the deadline for the "originals" is the end of April 20, 2016. Click here to join.

Background: When the Bijou Film Center launched its first membership drive on March 3, 2016, a goal was set -- 360 members in 45 days.

The goal was reached on the last day. At the party staged at Hardywood (5 p.m to 9 p.m.), Bijou co-founder James Parrish announced at approximately 7:30 p.m. that we had reached, even passed, the 360 goal. The scent of success was in the air as the Green Hearts played their set before a roomful of seemingly happy members. The party itself was planned as a celebration and it worked out in a dramatic fashion.

The difference between an original and those who will become members after today probably won't matter to most people. Every member of the Bijou Film Center matters and will hopefully feel appreciated. But to those who want to get an "original member" T-shirt or mug, it's the key.

Those two particular membership gifts of appreciation, either one or the other, will only go to those who have signed up by the end of today. Similar T-shirts and mugs will be available soon, for sale online, but they will not have "original member" printed on them.

At Hardywood we had a good turnout and it seemed that in general everything went over well enough. Thanks to all who helped make it happen, as well as the many attendees. Another post about what went on at the party on April 16th will soon follow.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lone Hamburger

Hardywood's Kerry Anderson and Becky Morrison
standing beneath the last of The Bijou's
Hamburgers on display.
When you arrive at The Bijou's Leap of Faith party at Hardywood on Saturday (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) you may notice the Hamburger hanging on the outside front wall. "Hamburger" is the name we put on the object seen looming over Kerry and Becky in the photo to the left.

That Hamburger is the last of them still installed and on display. The other panels in the series of 12 were on view at various sites around town in early November. They were created to help promote the premiere of Rick Alverson's feature-length film, "Entertainment" (2015) at The Byrd. The screening and after-party were Bijou Presents events.

Each of the dozen wooden panels was cut to 2.67' by 4', as pictured. The spray-painted image used was fashioned after a still from the film. It depicts Greg Turkington, as Neil Hamburger, playing The Comedian, in Alverson's darkly entertaining movie that seems likely to eventually become known as a cult film. Yes, I'm talking about a man, playing a character, who then plays a role in a film.

After the screening all the Hamburgers came down. With some it took longer than others, but the one we put up at Hardywood remains. They seem to like it. And, we like seeing them like it.

To see other Hamburgers that were on display in other places, click here. Some of you will probably recognize the sites. But why Hamburgers? Why any of it, already?

For what answers to those burning questions, to learn more about why and how the Hamburgers were made -- and by whom -- click here. 

To look at The Bijou's Facebook event page for the Leap of Faith party, tomorrow (April 16th), at Hardywood, click here.

-- Photo by James Parrish

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Leap of Faith

This is the Bijou Film Center's second film produced to call attention to its membership drive and spotlight its overall quest is entitled "Bijou Film No. 2: Leap of Faith."

It went live on YouTube today. The work was done by Shane Brown and Terry Rea. We'd like to thank The Valentine for granting us permission to use their images.

And, we'd like to remind you of the ongoing membership drive and its culmination at Hardywood on April 16th. Between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. we're celebrating our success, to date. Live music. Free admission.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Press Release for the Leap of Faith party

Date: Mar. 29, 2016
To: All media for immediate release
Re: The Bijou's Leap of Faith Party
From: The Bijou Film Center

On Mar. 3, 2016, the Bijou Film Center's first membership drive was launched. Founding memberships cost $50 each. For our Leap of Faith campaign the goal is to have 360 “originals” by Apr. 16, 2016. On that Saturday The Bijou's “Leap of Faith Party” at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery will take place between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Live music and short films will be presented.

Three bands will perform live at the party on Hardywood's stage: Grass Panther; Big Boss Combo; The Green Hearts. For kids of all ages, Shane Brown will screen 8mm and 16mm short films – old comedies and cartoons – in the adjoining lobby area. The emcee will be Chuck Wrenn. DJ Carlito will be serving up tunes between acts. Admission will be free of charge.

The Bijou's Mission: The ultimate goal is to establish the Bijou Film Center in Richmond, Virginia. Its centerpiece will be a small independent cinema. That art house theater will strive to present the best of first-run independent and imported films available. They will be sandwiched between short runs of selected classics. There will also be a small adjoining café/coffeehouse. Beyond the exhibition of our gourmet film fare, we hope to be a friend to those interested in the preserving of old films and the making of new films.

Background: For more information pertaining to the Bijou Film Center please go to The Bijou's website. The Bijou's Facebook page and its Bijou Backlight blogzine are also chock-full of posts and comments.

About The Bijou's Name: Jake Wells, a former baseball player/manager for the Richmond Bluebirds, opened his original Bijou at 714 E. Broad St. in 1899. His second Bijou opened in the next block east on Broad in 1905, it was located where the Library of Virginia is now. Writing for the Richmond News Leader in 1952, George W. Rogers credited Wells with having been the “father of Richmond movie houses.”

Registration: Online membership is available at Eventbrite. Checks can be mailed to the Bijou Film Center, PO Box 4994, Richmond, VA, 23220. Membership registration will also be easy to do at the Leap of Faith Party.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bijou Film No. 1 Membership


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Membership Drive Press Release

Date: Mar. 3, 2016 
To: All media for immediate release
Re: The Bijou's Membership Drive
From: The Bijou Film Center

With five successful pop-up events under its belt, the time for the Bijou Film Center to do more than serve up attractive one-offs has come. Thus, Phase One of the building of The Bijou has been completed.

Phase Two begins on Mar, 3, 2016, with the launching of our first membership drive.

The Video: The Bijou's first fund-raising video can be seen online here. With a running time of less than two minutes, it's a teaser-style little film that encourages viewers to visit our website, where they can join the membership roll with convenience.

The Goal: Through membership fees our goal is to raise $18,000 in 45 days: Mar. 3 – April 16. To reach that goal, it will take 360 memberships, at $50 apiece. Here's why we're aiming at $18,000.

We need $12,000 for “good faith” money to secure a lease for what we see as an ideal space to house the Bijou Film Center's operations. We need to move on this or lose the chance. This would put our 100-seat theater, our small café and our offices under one roof in Richmond's Arts District. At this time, to avoid jinxing the process, we can't be more specific about the location.

We need $6,000 for a kitty set aside for staging events and acquiring equipment, both for the cinema and the café. Further down the road we will need to raise quite a bit more money for the build-out, but this start will put us in the position to take advantage of attractive opportunities that could suddenly present themselves.

The Bijou's Mission: The ultimate goal is to establish the Bijou Film Center in Richmond, Virginia. Its centerpiece will be a small independent cinema. That art house theater will strive to present the best of first-run independent and imported films available. They will be sandwiched between short runs of selected classics. Beyond the exhibition of our gourmet film fare, we hope to be a friend to those interested in the preserving of old films and the making of new films.

The day The Bijou opens for business, its founders and staff will raise their glasses to wish their venture good luck. That informal ceremony will take place in The Bijou's small adjoining café/coffeehouse, which will regularly serve sandwiches, soups, salads, bagels, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine and so forth.

Background: For more information pertaining to the Bijou Film Center please go to The Bijou's website. The Bijou's Facebook page and its Bijou Backlight blogzine are also chock-full of posts and comments. For more background about our overall concept and our well received pop-up events check out the articles below:

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Cinema Plan Taps Into Downtown's Potential" (Sept. 11, 2014).
Richmond Magazine: "A Gem of an Idea" (February, 2015)
Style Weekly: Best Pick: Music, Movies & Magic at Hardywood Craft Brewery"
Style Weekly: "Best Hope for an Art Theatre" (May 27, 2015)
Commonwealth Times: "'Entertainment' and Quenching Richmond's Thirst for Arthouse"
I Could Go On and On (Karen Newton's blog): What's the Difference?" (Nov. 9, 2015)

Time to Celebrate: The members' party to celebrate reaching our $18,000 fund-raising goal will take place on April 16, 2016, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. This will be our second springtime live music show at Hardywood. More details about that event will follow as soon as they are available.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

'Taxi Driver' turns 40

Travis at the wheel of his taxi.
by F.T. Rea

In 1976 the USA was getting over what many observers then saw as its worst foreign policy mistake, ever -- the Vietnam War. The Watergate scandal that had brought down a president, Richard Nixon, was in the rear-view mirror.

As the nation averted its collective eye from those concerns, to celebrate its 200th anniversary with gaudy nostalgic celebrations, punk rock was starting to gain traction. It was also the year Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, "Taxi Driver,"  was released.

In 2011 I penned a piece about "Taxi Driver" for the James River Film Journal to promote its screening, as part of the 18th annual James River Film Festival. 
Through the taxi’s windshield Travis [Bickle], as played by Robert De Niro, drinks in the filth he sees on the streets. It begins to focus his anger. His revulsion with the paved-over, neon-lit world outside his cab’s yellow skin mixes with a pitiful romantic disappointment to make for seriously bad medicine. De Niro’s unforgettable portrayal of haunted Travis, the alienated Vietnam War veteran — slowly giving in to his madness — was something to see in 1976. Thirty-five years later it still is. Yes, “Taxi Driver” is as ‘70s as it gets.
Click here to read "'Taxi Driver' at 35."

To read an article about what films most influenced Scorsese in creating his vision for "Taxi Driver" click here to read "'Taxi Driver' 40th anniversary: five films that influenced Scorsese’s masterpiece" at BFI Film Forever.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Hamburger Caper

by F.T. Rea

With 2015 in the rear-view mirror, there were some nice highlight moments associated with the four Bijou Presents events staged during the year. (To see the press releases for those events click on the numbered links -- 1, 2, 3, 4). However, the group-effort that went into creating the Hamburgers, as described below, tops my list of Bijou-related highlights. 

On Fri., Sept. 11, James Parrish and I went to the Lamplighter coffee shop on Morris St., near VCU, for a meeting with Rick Alverson. The purpose of the get-together was to discuss the pre-premiere* screening of "Entertainment" (2015) at The Byrd scheduled for Nov. 8. More specifically, we needed to talk about how to promote The Bijou's then-upcoming fundraising event. During the conversation that ensued the Hamburger Caper was born.

"Entertainment" is the fourth feature-length film Alverson has directed. Having seen the movie, by way of a screener supplied by the distributor, James and I already knew that promoting it as an easy-to-like laugh riot, suitable for a broad audience, would be a mistake. But the promotional material available -- poster and ad images -- for the movie didn't seem to have enough pizzazz to grab the attention of the artsy crowd that might like such a film for a one-off event. Since The Bijou's budget for promotion wouldn't allow for us to make a splash with conventional advertising, we needed a bright idea.

The conversation at the coffeehouse meandered pleasantly. When Rick and I started talking about hand-painted roadside billboards in Los Angeles the spark appeared. After finding out from Rick that they were still being done, I started yammering about how cool they looked back in the '70s, when I last visited LA. Rick interjected something like, "We ought to make the posters for the show look like Banksy's spray-painted graffiti."


Immediately, I told Rick I loved the idea and wanted to do it. While I'm not sure he believed me, the three of us happily brainstormed about it. Rick, James and I all liked the idea of using a variation of the image of the comedian in the film that appeared on the 1-sheet. We also talked about details about the film's star, Gregg Turkington, performing live, as Neil Hamburger, at the after-party at the New York Deli.

Later on, James and I kicked around the possibilities of how we might pull it off by making a series of Banksy-esque posters that would be displayed outdoors. How many to make? How big? Materials? Soon I suggested Chuck Wrenn ought to be in on making the Hamburgers. James agreed and said he wanted to bring in Ed Trask, too. Eventually, we decided to try to make the project to fabricate the Hamburgers into an art-making, beer-drinking happening.

We found both Chuck and Ed to be enthusiastic about lending their hands. Thus, after talking it over with other members of Team Bijou, we decided the posters should be painted on king-sized wooden panels. No movie title. No explanation (which had been Rick's original suggestion). Only the date of the screening -- 11/8/15. We optimistically assumed we could talk several friends with businesses on popular thoroughfares to allow us to hang the Hamburgers (as we came to call the painted panels) on outside walls facing traffic.

Trask brought in Big Secret to cut the stencils for the job. Chuck helped me pick out the material and he cut the panels to size (2.67' by 4'). We applied coats of white, somewhat-waterproofing prima to them (Herschel Stratego helped). Before the stencils were cut Ed, James, Chuck and I discussed at length how to achieve the look we wanted.

A team of six artists was assembled on Oct. 7 to do the spray-painting work in the basement of Anchor Studios at 1 E. Broad St; they were Shane Brown, Michael Harl, James, Terry (me), Ed and Chuck. All of did some painting. Ed did the most. We made Hamburgers in two sizes since Big Secret made large and small stencils for us. A day later, I cut the stencil for the date and added it to each panel over the image of the comedian.

The photos of the Hamburger-making scenes accompanying this piece were shot by Shane Brown and James Parrish. The image of the completed Hamburger at the bottom of this post was shot by yours truly. Click here to see how the finished products looked posted at various sites.

Why call it a caper?

It's more fun that way.

* The Bijou's screening of "Entertainment" was before the film had its theatrical first-run begin in New York City on Nov. 13, 2015. Our thanks for that special booking go out to Rick Alverson and the distributor of his film, Magnolia Pictures.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cooking Up the Hamburgers

By F.T. Rea 

Maybe you saw one or more of the Bijou's Hamburgers while they were installed at various locations around town. The photo above of what we came to call a "Hamburger" was taken with my iPad on Oct. 8, 2015. It was shot in the basement of Anchor Studios' space at 1 E. Broad St. That's where a crew of artists combined to create it and the 11 others in the series. The Hamburger Crew's roster included Shane Brown, Michael Harl, James Parrish, Ed Trask, Chuck Wrenn and me -- the art director.

The Hamburgers that were subsequently put on public display in mid- to late-October were made using a stencil that was furnished by Big Secret. The images were made with spray-paint. Each one-eighth-inch panel measured approximately 4' by 2.66'.

One of the first Hamburgers to go on display was at Balliceaux.
In simple terms the Hamburger concept was the centerpiece of a teaser campaign to promote the Bijou Presents event that put Rick Alverson's new film, "Entertainment," on the big screen at The Byrd on Nov. 8. The pre-premiere's after-party was staged at the New York Deli, where Neil Hamburger headlined a live comedy showcase hosted by Herschel Stratego.

A thirsty Hamburger at Hardywood. 
Smaller versions of the Hamburger image (without the date at the top) were made using another stencil. They appeared in various locations around town, as well. The one seen below is posing for its picture in a Dixie Donuts display case.

How the Hamburgers came to be cooked up and served makes for a good story that will be posted soon. So what you've just consumed is yet another teaser. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Five Film Favorites: French Films

by F.T. Rea

From 'Breathless'

My trips to France have been vicarious: words written by others, pictures created by others. For the most part, what I know -- or think I know -- about France has been gathered and presented to me by filmmakers. Moreover, a good part of what I know -- or think I know -- about good movies has been shaped by countless hours spent watching French films.

Like many baby boomers who grew up loving movies, once I discovered foreign films the French New Wave films exerted a big influence on me. So, for me, the memories of Paris that were stirred up by the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, weren't based on times I actually spent there, soaking up the milieu.

Instead, films I've loved have been brought to mind. Today, Nov. 14, 2015, my five favorite French feature films are as follows:

“The 400 Blows” (1959): B&W. Directed by François Truffaut. Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy. Note: This story’s deft portrayal of a brave boy’s yearning for dignity in an indifferent world kicked in the door for the New Wave’s filmmakers.

"Breathless" (1960): B&W. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg. Note: An opportunistic thief on the lam becomes irresistible to a pretty American journalism student in Paris. Uh-oh, the guy is dangerous. How long can it last?

"Day for Night" (1973): Color. Directed by François Truffaut. Cast: Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, François Truffaut. Note: An engaging look at the process of making of a movie, with the private lives of the cast and crew intermingling with the production.

"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972): Color. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Cast: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig. Note: Probably prankster Buñuel’s most accessible film, this dream within a joke, within a dream, sparkles with its dry wit.

“Lacombe, Lucien” (1974): Color. Directed by Louis Malle. Cast: Pierre Blaise, Auroe Clement, Holger Lowenadler. Note: How does a naive, nihilistic teenager in France, just looking for a way to fit in, end up running with the Nazi invaders? Hey, why not?

That list of sweet flicks includes only feature-length movies. But today I just can't resist mentioning two of my favorite short films that happen to be French:

“La Jetée” (1962): B&W. Directed by Chris Marker. Cast: Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, Jen Négroni. Note: A stunning example of how less can be way more. This short New Wave classic about memory, imagination, longing and time is unforgettable.

“The Red Balloon” (1956): Color. Directed by Albert Lamorisse. Cast: Pascal Lamorisse, Sabine Lamorisse, Georges Sellier. Note: Using little dialogue, this utterly charming 34-minute French fantasy follows a boy and his balloon friend along the streets of Paris.

From 'The Red Balloon'

To wind up, allow me to quote Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart), the protagonist in "Casablanca" (1942). Speaking to Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman), Rick says: "We'll always have Paris."


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reviews of 'Entertainment'

At The Bijou's 'pre-premiere' of 'Entertainment' at The Byrd.
Left-to-right: Terry Rea; Rick Alverson; Gregg Turkington;
James Parrish. Photo by Oz Geier.
Ed. Note: Thanks need to go our to all the volunteers and friends of The Bijou who helped to make the Nov. 8, 2015, event such a success and so much fun. More on that aspect of the story will be posted soon. The story of making the Hamburgers is in the works. 

In the meantime here are some reviews of the film, comments on the event and a few photos. More photos are on the way, too.

Photo by Oz Geier.

I Could Go On and On: 
What's the Difference?
by Karen Newton
Richmond was even cooler than usual tonight. That's because the Bijou was hosting the premiere of 'Entertainment,' former Richmonder and director Rick Alverson's latest movie, at the Byrd Theater. It was yet another well-chosen fundraiser on the Bijou Film Center's cinematic path to their own building. Any way you look at it, it was a big deal for us to get the film shown here before it premieres in New York City...

If scoring the premiere of an important up and coming director's work and exposing Richmond film fans to a true indie movie (there are no gimmes or easy answers in this one) is what the Bijou Film Center will be all about, Richmond's film-loving set ought to be wishing they were doing a fundraiser a month until they get their building.
 To read the entire review click here.

Photo by Oz Geier.
"Entertainment" Review 
by F.T. Rea

"Entertainment" (2015): Color. 110 minutes. Directed by Rick Alverson. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera.  

The film's protagonist is an abrasive comedian who hurls his absurd material at small audiences in bleak dives in forgotten towns. The laughs come more from the situations than the jokes. Between gigs the nameless comedian -- played by Gregg Turkington and billed as The Comedian -- is frequently shown as a passive observer of what sights he encounters traveling through the desert -- sights such as an airplane graveyard. 

Clearly, he is detached, but from what? Alone in cheap motel rooms, he talks to his estranged daughter on the phone. Does she exist?  

As odd as some of the characters appear to be, they feel real -- painfully real. As it mocks our expectations, "Entertainment" is a compelling odyssey. Occasionally, it's laugh-out-loud funny, but check your expectations at the door.

For viewers who've enjoyed the rather unconventional work of directors such as Robert Bresson, Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, Alverson's new flick could be about to shoulder its way onto their top ten lists. Love it, or hate it, "Entertainment" is a bona fide "art movie." 

Although Turkington wears his familiar Neil Hamburger stand-up comic get-up, his performance in the movie isn't exactly the same as his live show. Within the film The Comedian is darker. He seems unsure and paranoid. For most of the film he's killing time between his dutiful performances. Still, we lack the context to know how crazy the protagonist was last week, or last year. He appears to be unraveling before our eyes. How much of it might be a dream is hard to tell.  

Trying to guess specifically what Alverson wanted the audience to make of the film's ambiguities might be fun for some viewers. The mysteries of "Entertainment" can and should be explored in conversations over beers, coffee, but solutions won't be easy to find.

The memories and lessons of an odyssey aren't necessarily the same thing as answers. Why, why-y should we expect movies to have answers?

Photo by Oz Geier
"Entertainment" Review 
by Peter Schilling Jr.

The opening line of Rick Alverson’s Entertainment—“How is everybody feeling?"—is certainly a good question to ask any audience member after witnessing this bizarre and challenging film. The story, such as it is, of a unnamed comedian (played by Gregg Turkington) wandering from gig to gig through the American Southwest, plays at times like some of antagonistic Antonioni films, with long, steady shots, broken at times by circular conversations and people struggling to find some meaning, or… none at all.

Though our comedian has no name in the picture, on stage he is Turkington’s alter ego, Neil Hamburger, who approaches each set like some strange throwback warped by time and distemper. Hamburger mats down his thinning hair into crazy, almost seaweed like strands across his vast forehead, sports a lousy tux, and sucks on a cocktail while cradling two others in his right arm while he grouses into the microphone in his left.

An evening with Hamburger means a night of nervous laughter and perplexed gaping, and I found myself almost doubled over in laughter from some of his jokes. He stands, clearing his throat (and how he musters up that much phlegm on cue is beyond me), before ripping into baffling jokes with lusciously vile punchlines, such as asking us why Madonna fed her child “Alpo brand dog food?” Because that’s all that comes from her breasts, apparently. From there it’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial and his penchant for blow jobs, haranguing any patron who dares walk out or raise his or her voice, or just two minutes of blowing wet raspberries. Hamburger is a master of thought-provoking discomfort, and the scenes of his stand-up comedy are brilliant.

The problem with Entertainment ultimately lies in its narrative frame. The comedian is roaming the southwest, in nameless little towns, at nameless little bars and lounges and restaurants, doing his spiel to nameless people who sit wondering why he’s there. Usually he follows a young man who wears a bowler and a clown face, and pretends to masturbate and shit in his hat. Along the way, he meets a cousin (played by John C. Reilly), gets punched by a young woman he insulted, helps deliver a baby, and calls his nameless daughter frequently and late at night.

Yes, you did read “helps deliver a baby”, and that scene, which doesn’t work for a minute, reflects Entertainment’s major problem: if you’re going to ask us to take this emotional roller coaster, then we have to feel like these people are real. In all of Alverson’s prior work, his characters were real, and so honest it hurt to watch them on screen, such was their misery, their pain, their self-deception, and, sometimes, their grace and kindness and strength. But inEntertainment, people like the comedian’s cousin are such clichés they derail the movie—Reilly’s pro-business dialogue is so rote you almost expect him to say “One word: plastics”. And to reduce a great actress like Amy Seimetz into a drunken wretch who has no dignity and can only express herself by punching our hero is ludicrous. Then there’s Dean Stockwell, who stands around in the background of one scene and has no lines. There’s simply no point to that at all.

Ultimately, though, the story is Turkington’s, and he runs with it, probing the depths of self-loathing that must attach itself to the life of any comedian, not to mention one as acerbic as him. Strip this film down to this one man, staring into a mirror, silent, turning over the night and probably his every failure in his head, and that is when Entertainment is as riveting as any movie I’ve seen.

Photo by Ric Bellizzi.
Village Voice: 
The Harrowing 'Entertainment' Puts You in the Tux of America's Worst Comic
by Alan Scherstuhl
"Like grad school or that cave in The Empire Strikes Back, what you get out of Rick Alverson's bold and desolate Entertainment depends on what you put into it. It's less a film you watch than a breakdown episode you try to get through, a bottomed-out desert lulu that manages to make its 110 minutes pass like the worst month of your life. It's slow, seamy, pained, sometimes hallucinatory, a dismal sort of fantasy camp for anyone who might like to tour the Mojave's diviest bars as a depressed and detested stand-up comic, sleeping in a car and passing out on the floors of rest-area bathrooms..."
Click here to read the entire review.

Photo by Ric Bellizzi.