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Finding Love: Madeline pushes Courtney's Hole in the bathroom at Sundance.

Film Festival Ping-Pong

Madeline gets Pushy with C. Love at Sundance as Ed gets X-ed out at Rotterdam

By Madeline Minx and Ed Crouse


[Editor's note: The following composite film festival review is best read like a ping-pong match. Rub one eye red for Madeline's text and wear black-and-blue lenses with lemon juice (and parse every other paragraph or so) to see Ed's experience! Cut up and save this limited-edition piece!]

The international film festival Rotterdam lies in prestige on the next shelf down from the Venice, Cannes or Berlin affairs. Still one of the best-kept secrets in the film world, its fest is edenic for Yanks--an oasis where English (and even American, sometimes) is obligingly spoken, where sea level arrests snowy possibilities and keeps the winds whipping against one's cheeks at temperatures like 2 degrees Celsius. Rotterdam itself is a gas, with its city rubble restacked from Nazi bombings and twistedly transfigured into giant boxy primary-colored playgrounds.

Her first night at Sundance, Madeline got dragged to a movie by a bunch of guys who practically begged her to hang out with them. It was Beat, about Joan Burroughs, a central figure of the Beat movement who never moved beyond obscurity, perhaps because she was fatally shot by her husband, William. Courtney Love played Joan. Flanked by paparazzi carrying large professional-looking video cameras, Courtney was being interviewed in the movie theater lobby before the film's debut. Madeline rushed over to capture the action with her digital camera (a JVC Cyber Cam, $876 with free tripod and bag) when a festival organizer wearing a self-important headset microphone starting yelling at her: "You better not film Courtney! A girl tried to photograph her yesterday and got her camera taken away!"

The theme of this year's festival, "No Cherry Blossoms!," rallied a Japan-centered program. Approaching Nippon from the inside out (with an extensive sampling of Kenji Fukasaku's manic Yakuza work and a burst of current Miike Takeshi's three 1999 movies) and the outside in (the Paul and Leonard Shrader-penned Movie Brat splashdown Mishima, Von Sternberg's sex-deathtrip island odyssey Anatahan), "No Cherry Blossoms!" often struck fast and hard. Miike Takeshi was madman of the hour as each of his movies--Audition, Ley Lines, and Dead or Alive--alternately suffocated, titillated and had viewers squirming in their seats. Dead or Alive's first nullifying five minutes presented, in what seemed like a thousand stroboscopic cuts, caned pudenda, rear bathroom assaults, full-length funhouse mirrors of coke, regurgitated udon atomized by a sawed-off, and lord knows what other subliminal cine-sawdust. Audition modulates, aided by a waif wielding a piano wire, from a fragile romance to an extended riff on Un Chien Andalou's bisected eye.

Madeline filmed anyway. And she didn't get busted because her Cyber Cam was compact, unnoticeable. Later, inside the theater, she was struck by how stunning Courtney looked on the screen and filmed the screen. Then she had gas and, so, had to powder. She had had a long flight and was already feeling insecure about putting her trip to Sundance on her credit card, especially that all it had boiled down to was a glimpse of a celebrity from afar, fascist festival organizers and gas.


Rotter Damned! Ed Crouse stumbles through the streets and cinemas for hot new Nipponic art.

The newest, half-illuminating truism about "Outlaw Master" Kenji Fukasaku: Every bell and whistle on new digital video cameras has its antecedents in his '60s and '70s films. Thermalize, pixellate, change the stock across the color-black & white-sepia spectrum, negative, destabililzer, freeze frame. You name it, he's there, often in a sea of surging crowds, newspaper headlines, too-matte blood, and onscreen text that'll introduce 25 characters who'll be dead in 40 minutes.

Madeline filmed herself in the bathroom stall. Then she got out of the stall and filmed herself in the mirror above the sinks. It was SO fun. And liberating too. She hadn't operated her own camera since going through that horrible AFI film school. She turned the camera to photo mode and took stills of herself: making funny faces, making sexy faces, dancing around. The salesman at Circuit City was right: she was sexy on video.

Madeline was still dancing around filming herself when Courtney Love of Hole walked into the bathroom to smoke a cigarette (those same Utah fascists wouldn't let her smoke in the lobby!). Courtney asked Madeline what she was doing and she said, "I'm making a Pushy documentary."

"Are you stalking people?"

"No," Madeline replied."I'm documenting my quest to my way to the top of the pop charts."

"Oh! Are you in a band?" Courtney said, quite enthusiastically and in a high-pitched voice.

"Yeah."

"What's it called?"

"PUSHY," said Madeline.

"What kind of music is it?" Courtney inquired.

"Poptronica."

"Fuckonica? ... Poptronica? Oh, so you don't have a drummer is what you're trying to say."

"Right," Madeline laughed, "that's actually a good way to put it."

Courtney seemed cool and totally interested in Madeline and her projects. It felt like a pajama party in the stalls. Madeline and Courtney touched on subjects including how AFI's list of the top 100 films of all times sucks and doesn't include any great films directed by women, how Sandra Bernhard's show I'm Still Here, Dammit includes a Courtney joke as well as a Madonna dig. When Madeline explained that she was also at Sundance to find a producer for her feature-length screenplay, What Do You Thinx of Madeline Minx?--about a neurotic girl who wants to sleep with Madonna and be a pop star--Courtney said it's OK for Madeline to like Madonna since Madeline is pop, but to remember that Courtney is ROCK!

Roving commando video crews, dressed in all-white jumpsuits or with their T-shirts pulled over their heads, pulled people aside and asked them to sing their favorite TV tunes. I got the tap while standing with a pal in front of a jewelry store that hawked a gem named "Colombine." Despite my attempts to hip our Dutch crew to the significance of the name, they insisted on a song. My pixels are at this moment beat-boxing The Munsters theme, moving past our ionosphere and chasing Hitler's first TV broadcast from a 1930s world's fair toward the end of the universe. This could have been a scene by San Francisco's own media scraper Craig Baldwin, who'd brought his new movie, Spectres of the Spectrum, to town. He stayed long enough to hold court, leaving the welcome residue of the ATA basement in the Rotterdam Central Hilton lobby.

When the movie finished screening, Madeline, still recovering from the excitement of having met Courtney Love, took her Cyber Cam outside and caught up with Courtney again--now smoking a cigarette with Michael Stipe. Madeline had to turn her Cyber Cam light on since it was dark out, so when Courtney told Michael about how Madeline's making a movie about Madonna and how she's in a band called Pushy, Michael responded haughtily, "You're being very pushy with that camera light." Courtney agreed: "I gave you some really good gossip in the bathroom. Now I'm trying to have a conversation." Embarrassed and defeated, Madeline walked away with her head down. She knew she had gotten too Pushy. Now, instead of being a cool poptronica chick who was creating her own reality in the bathroom at Sundance, she came off like just another desperate and star-struck follower. The parties were impossible to crash, the movies (except for Courtney's) weren't anything to write home about, and everyone was really there to ski; her trip seemed to be developing into a huge waste of time and money. But one thing made her feel like it wasn't all a waste--she definitely had a new scene for her movie.

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From the March 6, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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