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What kind of movie premieres in a strip club? Harmony Korine’s ‘Aggro Dr1ft’

Mark Olsen – Los Angeles Times (TNS)

When “Aggro Dr1ft,” the latest provocation from auteur Harmony Korine, premiered at a string of prestigious film festivals last fall, it played at the Sala Grande in Venice, the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto and Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater in New York City.

For the Los Angeles premiere of “Aggro Dr1ft” on Feb. 7, it played at Crazy Girls, a strip club just off Sunset Boulevard.

It says something about the cracked genius of Korine’s work that it feels equally suited to a conventional theatrical setting as it does to this most unconventional of venues. Crazy Girls had five large video screens flanking one wall, angled around a stage, plus two additional screens strapped to poles and three more screens attached to the ceiling. Given the reflective surfaces that covered much of the rest of the room, it at times felt like we watching a movie from inside a disco mirror ball.

The event was also an immersion into the world of EDGLRD, the Miami-based multidisciplinary multimedia company that is now the home for Korine’s creative endeavors at the crossroads of film, technology and culture. Pop-up events like this one will be happening in a handful of other cities before the film eventually makes its way to a streaming platform yet to be named. There was exclusive EDGLRD merchandise for sale: skateboard decks, hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts that will only be available at these tour events.

Filmed with thermal-vision cameras before undergoing extensive post-production treatment, “Aggro Dr1ft” has a dreamy, blissed-out feel that is jolted by spasms of violence and nightmarish intensity. To the extent the film has a story, it follows a Miami hitman (Jordi Molla) who goes about his grim business while wanting only to get back to his wife and children.

There was a second event at Crazy Girls on Feb. 8. The film was also set to screen three times over the weekend at the American Cinematheque’s venue in Los Feliz. (All five local screenings sold out quickly.) But holding the premiere in such a nontraditional space feels particularly apt, given the film’s underworld milieu, including scenes set in a strip club. With female servers in bikini tops making their way around the room and dancers doing their thing before and after the screening, the evening did feel like stepping into the world of the film.

“If you call it an immersive experience, it doesn’t get at the essence of the kind of party vibe we’re going for,” said Eric Kohn, head of film strategy and development at EDGLRD. “There’s something more lively and dynamic about doing something that’s not where people expect to see a movie. It’s going the extra mile and turning it into something much more than a movie.”

Ahead of the screening, one EDGLRD staffer admitted that they weren’t sure if people would actually sit for the screening or mill around the room with a more party-like vibe. But the audience, which organizers estimated to be around 400 people, was rapt in their chairs through the whole running time, never seeming to uncouple from the events onscreen.

As a winged demon onscreen exhorted a group of women to “Dance, bitches!” anxious titters rippled through the audience, viewers seemingly unsure whether to laugh. When rapper Travis Scott appeared for his brief role in the film, a few excited whoops sprung from the crowd.

One of the club’s dancers, who gave her name as Asia, sat down next to her pole as the movie began, dollar bills spilled around her, and watched the entire movie. As the credits rolled, she stood up to prepare to get back to work and resume her dancing. A curious onlooker asked her what she thought.

“It was different,” Asia said with a quizzical smile.

Folding chairs that had been set up around the room were hurriedly cleared away by staff. Soon the film’s composer, the DJ and producer known as AraabMuzik, began a set, keeping the woozy, disorienting vibes of the movie going. The audience crowded around the musician’s setup just in front of the stage, as people alternately took pictures and danced.

Korine, wearing a fluorescent mask that covered most of his head and face, made his way through the room. As people stopped him to talk or take pictures, he was eventually swallowed up by the crowd.

Once AraabMuzik’s set was finished, Korine came out for his own DJ set, his face covering now augmented with one of the horned 3D-printed masks that he has frequently worn while promoting “Aggro Dr1ft.” He was flanked by a number of EDGLRD compatriots, who were also wearing 3D-printed masks. Three women had ghostly makeup and blood-stained nightgowns, like the girl from “The Ring” gone to a rave. There were also men in distorted Halloween masks and ball caps brandishing colorful toy guns.

Korine would sometimes pop onto the stage to dance along and exhort the crowd, acting as his own hype man. The music’s mix of reggaeton-influenced beats, thrash guitars, hyperpop and favela funk created a chaotic soundtrack as the dancing crowd seemed to be having a great time. As the evening wore on and the attendees began to thin, those who stayed got wilder and wilder, reaching a fever pitch for a version of Rammstein’s 1997 song “Du Hast.”

“We’re too precious about the way that we talk about how movies get out in the world,” said Kohn. “You don’t see this in the fine art world, you don’t see it in the fashion world, you don’t see it in the skateboard community — all the different industries that we’re playing in. I think there’s a lot more understanding that experimentation is key to what you do. We need more of that thinking for what this art form is.”

At one point a pair of women in tight black dresses were onstage dancing against a speaker. Judging from their confident moves, they seemed to belong there. At the back of the crowd, a member of the EDGLRD event team looked over at a Crazy Girls staffer and asked, “Are those your girls?” After assessing their grinding bodies for a moment, the employee replied, “No.” They then headed off to the side of the stage to have security get the women down.

Yet not long after, both dancers were up onstage again, where they stayed and became just another unexpected part of the party.

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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