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The death knell for death metal

Rage, sorrow, repeat

Saigon Metalhood: In which the past, present, and future of Vietnamese metal are given their due.
Saigon Metalhood: In which the past, present, and future of Vietnamese metal are given their due.

This week, we’ve got metalheads, handmaids, and a tour of New York you don’t want to take.

Saigon Metalhood (2020)

Video:

Saigon Metalhood trailer

Three generations of musicians representing the past, present, and future of Vietnamese metal are given their due in this probing, good-natured documentary from the talented team of Sean Lambe and William Snyder (Faces You Forget: Nights Out in Saigon). In light of the country’s war-worn past, it stands to reason that the thrashing aggression of metal would be a perfect fit, but few in Vietnam are familiar with the genre. It was the government that sounded the death knell for death metal, hence the lack of awareness. (And the best tagline of 2020 goes to: “The only thing worse than being hated is being ignored.”) Trung Thanh first picked up a guitar at age 16, not long after American soldiers introduced rock to the Republic. Now age 60, limited by a lack of concert venues, Thanh makes ends meet by teaching and playing at weddings. Fresh out of rehab at 31, grindcore virtuoso Trung Loki, long absent from the scene due to a mean meth addiction, is lucky to draw a smattering of fans to his hometown reunion show. And even before the film found a distributor, the Legacy Agency, a performance collective headed up by Hysterical Buffalo bassist Vu Nguyen, had disbanded. All three have one thing in common: they were perpetually ahead of their times in a country determined to remain musically backwards. Always the first to applaud an unmotivated scream (I love you, John Rambo) or a raspy howl to punctuate a joke (I miss you, Sam Kinison), metal vocals have always struck this listener’s ears as would the din of an Osterizer pulverizing a chunk of granite. That said, there’s enough performance footage to remind me why I have no affinity for the style, but not so much that I’m tempted to put a shoe through my flatscreen. And while I may not admire the end result, only a fool could shunt the level of ardor that went into telling this story. Find it at Vimeo on Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/saigonmetalhood

The Other Lamb (2020)

Video:

The Other Lamb trailer

From inside a waterfall, we watch the female torso lyrically writhe to the depths of the sea. Seen from a distance, the womens’ cyan and mauve garments stand out, glowing against their overcast surroundings. Though they’re cut off from civilization, the presence of a mobile home establishes early on that this isn’t a dystopian fantasy. The handmaidens flock around their Shepherd (Michiel Huisman), a present-day polygamist with wives and daughters to spare. It’s the only life these women know, and Shepherd wouldn’t want it any other way. They’re infatuated by their provocative savior, and he sweet talks his minions in much the same way a pimp would his stable. Still, it’s just a matter of time until fear overshadows desire among the ranks, starting with Selah (Raffey Cassidy) the rebellious “daughter.” Trees bend at the weight of her despair, but it isn’t long before Selah gets her groove back. A visitor from the “outside world” pays a midnight call, and the bubblegum flashers atop his squad car attract Selah’s attention as the officer informs the squatting Shepherd that it’s time he moves his bevy to greener pastures. And it’s here that Shepherd’s cruel streak comes to light. Is there a sin that is worse than all the others? When life’s course robs one of his flock of her youthful beauty, it’s time for Shephard to step in and separate wheat from chaff. Once the plot is set in motion, it doesn’t take a genius to know in which direction filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska plans on herding her audience; the only surprise comes when Shepherd’s comeuppance is dispatched with a surprising sparsity of gore. Now playing at a home theatre near you.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

Video:

Never Rarely Sometimes Always trailer

A paean to pro-choice from a director named Hittman. Pardon my chuckle. August (Sidney Flanigan) opens the picture from her school talent show, singing “He’s got the power of love over me,” a lyric that applies to just about everyone with whom the girl comes in contact. But it’s hard for the 17-year-old to enjoy a celebratory post-show dinner when, unbeknownst to her family, the father of her unborn child is seated catty-corner at another table, flashing childish sexual gestures in her direction. In Pennsylvania, young women under the age of 18 must have their parents consent before a termination of pregnancy can be performed. The camera cradling August’s head as she turns away from the Ultrasound confirms that she is indeed “abortion-minded.” It’s clear which side of the aisle filmmaker Eliza Hittman (Beach Rats) stands in this issue-driven message picture: unlike their warm and compassionate counterparts at the big-city offices of Planned Parenthood, the workers at the Crisis Pregnancy Center are clinical automatons, programmed to dissuade August with propagandistic scare videos. (For all the services the Crisis Pregnancy Center provides, August just as easily could have purchased an EPK at Walgreens.) Joined by Syklar (Talia Ryder) — her cousin, best friend, and coworker — she embarks on a three day journey of despair. Every male figure the pair come in contact with — father, boss, customers, classmates — is a jerk, save one: a nerd in shining armor they meet en route who conveniently steps in and saves the day. Without Skylar and Jasper (Théodore Pellerin) to guide her, the pigeon wouldn’t have known which bus to catch. If ever a film should have 86’d the teen romance angle, it’s this one. Now playing On Demand.

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Saigon Metalhood: In which the past, present, and future of Vietnamese metal are given their due.
Saigon Metalhood: In which the past, present, and future of Vietnamese metal are given their due.

This week, we’ve got metalheads, handmaids, and a tour of New York you don’t want to take.

Saigon Metalhood (2020)

Video:

Saigon Metalhood trailer

Three generations of musicians representing the past, present, and future of Vietnamese metal are given their due in this probing, good-natured documentary from the talented team of Sean Lambe and William Snyder (Faces You Forget: Nights Out in Saigon). In light of the country’s war-worn past, it stands to reason that the thrashing aggression of metal would be a perfect fit, but few in Vietnam are familiar with the genre. It was the government that sounded the death knell for death metal, hence the lack of awareness. (And the best tagline of 2020 goes to: “The only thing worse than being hated is being ignored.”) Trung Thanh first picked up a guitar at age 16, not long after American soldiers introduced rock to the Republic. Now age 60, limited by a lack of concert venues, Thanh makes ends meet by teaching and playing at weddings. Fresh out of rehab at 31, grindcore virtuoso Trung Loki, long absent from the scene due to a mean meth addiction, is lucky to draw a smattering of fans to his hometown reunion show. And even before the film found a distributor, the Legacy Agency, a performance collective headed up by Hysterical Buffalo bassist Vu Nguyen, had disbanded. All three have one thing in common: they were perpetually ahead of their times in a country determined to remain musically backwards. Always the first to applaud an unmotivated scream (I love you, John Rambo) or a raspy howl to punctuate a joke (I miss you, Sam Kinison), metal vocals have always struck this listener’s ears as would the din of an Osterizer pulverizing a chunk of granite. That said, there’s enough performance footage to remind me why I have no affinity for the style, but not so much that I’m tempted to put a shoe through my flatscreen. And while I may not admire the end result, only a fool could shunt the level of ardor that went into telling this story. Find it at Vimeo on Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/saigonmetalhood

The Other Lamb (2020)

Video:

The Other Lamb trailer

From inside a waterfall, we watch the female torso lyrically writhe to the depths of the sea. Seen from a distance, the womens’ cyan and mauve garments stand out, glowing against their overcast surroundings. Though they’re cut off from civilization, the presence of a mobile home establishes early on that this isn’t a dystopian fantasy. The handmaidens flock around their Shepherd (Michiel Huisman), a present-day polygamist with wives and daughters to spare. It’s the only life these women know, and Shepherd wouldn’t want it any other way. They’re infatuated by their provocative savior, and he sweet talks his minions in much the same way a pimp would his stable. Still, it’s just a matter of time until fear overshadows desire among the ranks, starting with Selah (Raffey Cassidy) the rebellious “daughter.” Trees bend at the weight of her despair, but it isn’t long before Selah gets her groove back. A visitor from the “outside world” pays a midnight call, and the bubblegum flashers atop his squad car attract Selah’s attention as the officer informs the squatting Shepherd that it’s time he moves his bevy to greener pastures. And it’s here that Shepherd’s cruel streak comes to light. Is there a sin that is worse than all the others? When life’s course robs one of his flock of her youthful beauty, it’s time for Shephard to step in and separate wheat from chaff. Once the plot is set in motion, it doesn’t take a genius to know in which direction filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska plans on herding her audience; the only surprise comes when Shepherd’s comeuppance is dispatched with a surprising sparsity of gore. Now playing at a home theatre near you.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

Video:

Never Rarely Sometimes Always trailer

A paean to pro-choice from a director named Hittman. Pardon my chuckle. August (Sidney Flanigan) opens the picture from her school talent show, singing “He’s got the power of love over me,” a lyric that applies to just about everyone with whom the girl comes in contact. But it’s hard for the 17-year-old to enjoy a celebratory post-show dinner when, unbeknownst to her family, the father of her unborn child is seated catty-corner at another table, flashing childish sexual gestures in her direction. In Pennsylvania, young women under the age of 18 must have their parents consent before a termination of pregnancy can be performed. The camera cradling August’s head as she turns away from the Ultrasound confirms that she is indeed “abortion-minded.” It’s clear which side of the aisle filmmaker Eliza Hittman (Beach Rats) stands in this issue-driven message picture: unlike their warm and compassionate counterparts at the big-city offices of Planned Parenthood, the workers at the Crisis Pregnancy Center are clinical automatons, programmed to dissuade August with propagandistic scare videos. (For all the services the Crisis Pregnancy Center provides, August just as easily could have purchased an EPK at Walgreens.) Joined by Syklar (Talia Ryder) — her cousin, best friend, and coworker — she embarks on a three day journey of despair. Every male figure the pair come in contact with — father, boss, customers, classmates — is a jerk, save one: a nerd in shining armor they meet en route who conveniently steps in and saves the day. Without Skylar and Jasper (Théodore Pellerin) to guide her, the pigeon wouldn’t have known which bus to catch. If ever a film should have 86’d the teen romance angle, it’s this one. Now playing On Demand.

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