Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Valerie Project


The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
October 28, 2007

Bizarre construct of film screening and live music performance, The Valerie Project is one of the most beautiful experiences I have had in a long time and if I could go back and see it every week I would die happy.

The Film:
From the moment I saw Czech film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a tyden divu, 1970), it catapulted itself up into the list of my favorite movies. It is is magical, beautiful, erotic, sad, and transformative. And, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. I flat out refuse to say anything about the plot, other than that it is about the young Valerie and a very surreal week where she realizes her family is not what they seem. In the style of horror influenced “adult” fairy-tales like Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural and The Company of Wolves, Valerie is the queen of them all. Directed by Jaromil Jires and based on surrealist Czech writer V√≠tezslav Nezval’s book of the same name, this is a one of kind, new-wave, surrealist experience. The film is available on Region 1 in a serviceable release by Facets, but it was also finally re-released in by Second Run. It comes with a much needed new digital transfer, new subtitles and a really cool booklet that includes an essay by my friend Joseph from Exhumed Films/Diabolik DVD.

The Music:
The Valerie Project’s band doesn’t really have an independent name; rather they are a collective of ten musicians from the Philadelphia area. Fronted by Greg Weeks, the members are from such Philly bands as Espers, Fern Knight, and Fursaxa. Though the musicians seem to consider themselves indie and/or folk, the Valerie soundtrack is none of these things. With strange and seemingly organic sounds, Weeks and his companions forged the music of Valerie out of cellos, flutes, harps, a variety of bells, subtle female vocals, and more conventional electric instruments. It is a beautiful soundtrack to accompany a beautiful film and I think Weeks was successful in every way with this composition. There is a touch of classical, folk, actual soundtrack style sounds and a big dollop of the surreal. The CD and double LP were released by Drag City.

The Performance:
I had seen Valerie once before at the International House in Philadelphia, but the Museum of Modern Art’s production put that screening to shame. The music was crisper, louder, and in a more acoustically appropriate venue. The print of was flown in especially from the Czech Republic and looked brand new. The only thing I can complain about is the audience. The theater was packed and many people were standing, but the New York audience was definitely not as receptive to The Valerie Project or as captivated by the film as the Philadelphia audience. Some of the people around me laughed uncomfortably during more surreal parts of the film, which I found idiotic and immature. There was also a good deal of whispering and cell phone checking. What gives, New York? There was also a crowded after party featuring free food, drinks, and music, as well as a lovely numbered print by Tracy Nakayama whose artwork graces the posters, flyers, and CDs.

I hope I get to see this again at some point!

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