King Corn

King Corn is a documentary about 2 guys that move to Iowa to grow an acre of corn. With today’s agro-tech, the actual farming takes just a few minutes. The bulk of it is their interviews and exploration of the food chain from seed to cobs to cattle to what we get in stores and restaurants. Highlights include some fun stop-motion animated interludes, their really funny interview with a PR flack at a high fructose corn syrup factory (and their attempts to make HFCS at home), and the generally straight-shooting commentary from the local Iowans.
Here’s the trailer for King Corn, and an Boing Boing interview with Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, the filmmakers.

Frans Masereel in Film

As I continue the Frans Masereel Appreciation Week Festival, here’s an animated film adaptation of L’Idee. Berthold Bartosch had Frans Masereel’s help on the film for some of the two years he spent working on it. The end result is almost a half-hour long, and though it starts a bit slowly, there are some legitimately cool effects considering the crude tools available in 1930.
A couple other bonus points: the movie was scored by Arthur Honegger (who’s best known for Pacific 231), and the soundtrack features an ondes martenot—possibly the first-ever use of an electronic instrument in film.

According to that first link, Bright Lights After Dark, Masereel’s work in Die Stadt (my brief review of Die Stadt) was also a big influence on Walter Ruttmann‘s hour-long silent film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Gro?üstadt. More about Die Sinfonie at Wikipedia and shorter clips available on YouTube.


I watched Koyaanisqatsi this weekend. It’s got a lot of cool footage and overall it was worth watching. But part of the problem with the message (that we live a “crazy life,” a “life out of balance”) is that it’s so dependent on the soundtrack.
A lot of it made me think of those time-lapse videos I saw on kids TV when I was little. Seeing a factory in fast motion was cool, not cause for worry. I was glad I found this Koyaanisqatsi: Redux which matches a portion of the film to a goofy, upbeat soundtrack, and contrasts it with a more dramatic string arrangement in the middle (musical transitions are around the 2-minute and 4-minute marks). I like parts of Philip Glass‘ original soundtrack for the film, and I think it’s kind of spooky-cool how the soundtrack can direct your response to what you’re seeing. But it’s too much of an emotional shortcut.

There are a lot of excerpts from the film on YouTube, like the original trailer, the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe public housing in St. Louis, scenes from New York, and the famous closing scene that reprises the opening.