Monday, April 13, 2020

41. Dawson City: Frozen Time


EDITOR'S NOTE: It took a global pandemic to bring this blog back. I know the president said, “the cure can’t be worse than the disease,” but I was bored. I’m sorry. The movie: Dawson City: Frozen Time (Bill Morrison, 2016)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: Kanopy.

The recommender: Micah Lubens.

Micah's rationale: Longtime readers of the blog will recall that for my last appearance, I picked a truly awful movie. Jauja was an inscrutable movie that I hated. And I was ready to punish you again this time around. I almost picked Goodbye to Language (from Wikipedia: a "2014 French-Swiss 3D experimental narrative essay film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard") to punish you for 71 agonizing minutes. But instead, I went a different route. I picked a movie that I truly loved, that almost no one I know has seen, and I've found myself hard pressed to drum up much interest in seeing it. But oh boy did I love this film. The score is haunting and beautiful and the story is masterfully told. I really do hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

My familiarity with this movie: I had never heard of this movie until Ol’ Highbrow Lubens recommended it, which means that, apart from Lubo’s rave of a rationale, I’m flying blind here. I wouldn’t put it past the man to hit me with the ol' bait and switch. But it’s a documentary, and documentaries, unlike Jauja, usually have, like, stuff that happens in them. I am cautiously optimistic.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “The history of Dawson City, the gold rush town that had a historical treasure of forgotten silent films buried in permafrost for decades until 1978.”

What I thought of the movie: GOOD PICK BY LUBO. NO BAIT AND SWITCH. This was a fascinating doc, v historical and moody and with great music. And it centers around the history of films. I Love Films!

The film tells the story of Dawson City, located deep in the Yukon Territory, from its heyday as a Klondike Gold Rush boomtown to the struggles for its continued existence after the gold rush (huge Neil Young ref). At its heights, Dawson City seems like a fun place to live, full of people who would go on to fame and success later in their lives (including FRED TRUMP, who began the Trump family fortune during the gold rush; where’s a good avalanche when you need one!). There were also apparently tons of casinos, which is always good. But once everyone left and the casinos closed their doors, some people stuck around, even though it was, as you’d expect, v cold. But Canadians will live anywhere, it seems, even if every building in the town seemingly catches fire every five minutes. This documentary had more fires than Little Fires Everywhere, which we are currently watching, no spoilers pls.

The beauty of the film lies in its use of the old silent movie footage that was discovered in Dawson City in 1978. For most of its run time, the film has no voiceover narration; we learn about the history of the town through subtitles, which evoke the silent films that the doc pays homage to. And director Bill Morrison expertly uses footage from the old silents to complement the historical story that the film is telling, which is a v cool way to incorporate all of this random old footage. And the score is as good as Micah said: v v eerie and Yukon-like.

I have not seen a ton of old silent movies, but perhaps my favorite part of the doc was seeing all of this old footage, along with the titles of the films they came from. (It should also be noted that, along with the films, they found rare footage of the 1919 World Series, featuring the BLACK SOX SCANDAL. Say it ain’t so, Joe!) These films had some wild titles, folks. Here’s a selection: Chicken Casey; His Madonna; A Trip Through Palestine (oooh controversial); What is the Use of Repinning (???); It Happened to Adele (great name for any Adele album); The Mysterious Mrs. M (mystery #1: what does M stand for? Micah?), and my personal favorite, Giuseppe’s Good Fortune. AYYYYYYY AUGURI GIUSEPPE. BUONA FORTUNA. 

The doc can be a bit slow at times; it certainly requires your full attention, what with its lack of voiceover narration. But honestly, what the hell are you doing right now? You’re reading this! I cannot imagine being so bored as to read this, even during a goddamned quarantine. So definitely give this film a look, folks. You’ll get far more from it than you will here. 

Am I happy I took Micah’s recommendation? It was Gianni’s Good Fortune.

What’s next?

UPDATE: Young Alec Johnson comes through with Tommy Wiseau's cult classic, The Room. And you thought the coronavirus was bad!

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