Inexplicably stumbled across this 2007 article and wasn't even googling myself. It even mentions the awful 'God' subplot cut out soon after the original cut screened at the Riverview Theater and Ruin, which 4 years later would become tonight, we stay indoors.
STUDENT JOSEPH LARSEN MAKES SECOND FEATURE FILM AT MCTC
Joseph Larsen, a second-year video student at MCTC, is not one to be discouraged by conventional wisdom on how to make films. “A feature has to be approached in a very different way than a short film,” says Santanu Chatterjee, Larsen’s Video instructor at MCTC, “and film schools generally don’t have the resources to make it possible for most students to attempt a feature.” Now in post-production (the editing and fine-tuning stages) on his second feature film, Larsen says, “I just didn’t feel that the format of a short film would work for the style of the project I had in mind.”
This project became Cosmic Dissonance, a post-apocalyptic narrative made up of long takes, no dialogue and minimal music. Working from a ten page original outline, Larsen and the cast improvised roughly half of the material used in the 75-minute film, using various Minnesota exteriors as inspiration. The finished film, which premiered at the Uptown Theatre last January, is a deceptively simple story of one young woman’s day-to-day journey through a desolate wasteland after the end of the world as we know it.
“My biggest influences on Dissonance were Tsai Ming-Liang [Goodbye Dragon Inn], Bela Tarr [Werckmeister Harmonies] and Werner Herzog [The Wild Blue Yonder, Rescue Dawn],” says Larsen. “Tsai Ming-Liang and Bela Tarr in terms of long takes and minimal dialogue, and Herzog in his use of natural landscapes and his blurring of the lines between documentary and narrative filmmaking.”
“[Dissonance] is beautiful, lyrical, poetic,” Chatterjee says. “I am amazed at Larsen’s talent. He went against my better judgment in making a feature, but I was very impressed with the finished work. No artist can truly become an artist without breaking rules and going against conventional wisdom.” Larsen says his next film, When the Sidewalk Ends, was “written on the plane ride back from Japan [where he was working on a documentary on Anime conventions], after the budget and cinematographer for my next planned project fell through.”
That project, tentatively titled Ruin, was to be a deconstruction of the slasher genre, focusing on the aftermath of the murderous rampage seen in films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, and how the survivors pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.
“When the Sidewalk Ends is similar to what I was trying to do with Ruin,” says Larsen, “because it kind of deconstructs the traditional film noir/ revenge genre. It’s set in a world where God has revealed Himself to the world, said goodbye and left forever, but it focuses more on the tedium and boredom of actually planning and taking revenge, instead of cool violence like you would see in a Hollywood revenge movie.”
“The fact that I’m shooting on video rather than film is part of the inspiration, too,” Larsen added. “Shooting video lends itself to a more realistic feel, so I’m using it to take a more realistic look at Hollywood genres.”
When the Sidewalk Ends is in the final editing stages and is scheduled to be finished by the end of September. Larsen hopes to have a screening of the film in November.
Today is the one-month anniversary of the closing of Block E 15, downtown Minneapolis' last remaining downtown movie theater. Empty poster cases and barren marquees now mark the desolate Block E landscape that represents the urban embarrassment of Hennepin Avenue. On a recent visit to Chicago, I marveled at their stunningly respectable downtown/lakeside and wondered why my city couldn't muster that much class, but maybe that was just because of the clear view of that building from Adventures in Babysitting.
I kid, of course. All of downtown Chicago is beautifully formed, with a skyline I prefer even over the towering spectacle of Hong Kong. I am also not giving Minneapolis enough credit, as Hennepin does have the Theatre Trust and I've always been quite partial to Nicollet Ave. I am just being dramatic.
But still, Hennepin. What a geographical bastard.
I suppose Block E 15 never went out of its way to help matters. Before it became a place where you would be the sole audience member in attendance, the crowds were quite awful, adding to the experience only when viewing shlocky horror films. The theater does hold a special place in my heart, however, as the place where I saw my first movie in Minneapolis. While it took a few weeks to make my way into the Uptown area (where I would fall in love with the theater of its namesake), I immediately wandered downtown to the skyways I remembered from my youth when I visited and drew a fever of 105 for reasons unknown to this day. My time came before Kerasotes and AMC took over, when Block E was under their original owner Crown, and became my easiest accessible mainstream theater.
The first film I saw there was Michael Mann's wonderful showcase of digital cinema, Collateral. I sat in the back row. I was entranced. Unfortunately, I have few other concrete memories of the place. Watching The Brothers Bloom, the opening film of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival, for free thanks to the clout that Switchblade Comb had provided. Wanting to walk out of that Korean animated monstrosity Oseam but waiting it out angrily because I didn't want to disturb the one other person in my row whose vision I'd have to cross to exit. Noticing that it was the only theater in Minneapolis to play the original After Dark Horrorfest, but not being interested enough to actually attend. Watching a ridiculously violent movie (I forget which) while a small child ran back and forth across the aisle in front of me. Leaving the theater during a movie to take a phone call (again, I forget which, and no, the ringer wasn't on) and deciding that it wasn't worth the effort to go back in and finish watching.
It was that kind of theater, if that can indeed be a description of theater type.
The last film I attended at Block E was The Chernobyl Diaries. I contemplated seeing something else right before it closed on September 23, but decided that particular film was a fitting end. The theater was one of the last remaining rental spaces in the Block E area, mirroring the emptiness of the infamous Russian town (no it doesn't, not really). And despite moving on to St. Anthony Main and Rosedale for my mainstream movie needs, I had always made sure to view the horror genre in that good ole movie palace.
Now it is gone, blending into its surrounding nothingness, and the apathy still has yet to overwhelm the melancholy.
There has been too much death this year.