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Fraser Film Series features two films in October

by Jeff Arduino

The Fraser Valley Film Series is pleased to announce two exciting upcoming events in the month of October. The series will screen its regularly scheduled monthly film Thursday, Oct. 11, featuring John Carpenter’s 1988 satirical sci-fi thriller, “They Live.” Then, the following Thursday, the Fraser Valley Film Series partners with the Grand County Blues Society for a special presentation of the grassroots documentary “Before the Music Dies” (2006).

Following on the heels of September’s screening of “A Face in the Crowd” (1957), “They Live” continues to examine the persuasive power of television. While Elia Kazan critiqued the cult of celebrity by following the rise and fall of Andy Griffith’s knowing hayseed, Carpenter turns his eye to the subliminal power behind media images. “They Live” follows professional wrestler Roddy “Rowdy” Piper in his film debut as a construction worker who stumbles upon an alien conspiracy to control Americans through television.

Carpenter paints a portrait of Regan-era America as a consumer obsessed, a culture of decadence promulgated by television. Despite its overtly political leanings, the film was a moderate financial success upon its release but has since gained a cult status for its almost absurdist view of the late 1980s. Moments of the film are laughable, including several unforgettably bad ad-libs by non-actor Piper, yet Carpenter maintains a taught pace combined with enough satire to maintain a semblance of suspended disbelief. This is a film worth watching if for no other reason than it is bold enough to say, tongue firmly in cheek or not, that yuppie Reganites were really evil aliens from another world bent on distracting Americans to their greed through infomercials and sitcoms.

In contrast to the didactic fiction of “They Live” is the unpolished realism of “Before the Music Dies.” However, both films share the same underdog spirit of exposing perceived corruption and greed through guerilla tactics. “B4MD” is a sobering take on the current ills of the music industry but it could have just as easily been produced 50 years earlier during the payola scandal that plagued early rock and roll. The basic premise of the film is that the music industry is just that, an industry with a goal of selling product rather than nurturing creativity and art.

The sentiments are not exactly original but the delivery is fresh. The film relies primarily on first-person interviews that allow rock stars to critique the system that made them successful with only a hint of post-modern irony. In addition to that there are some exceptional live performances from Dave Matthews Band, Erykah Badu and the North Mississippi All Stars. The pacing here is exceptional as the more monotonous talking head interviews are bolstered by the immediacy of the music itself. Thankfully, “B4MD” does more than just talk about music.

However, the film’s one flaw may be lack of focus. The subject matter shifts from the broad to the minute at breakneck speed. The filmmakers take on the giant conglomerate Clear Channel and simultaneously follow the marginal success of incendiary bluesman Doyle Bramhall. While the scale may swing drastically, the tone stays the same; unless control of the music rests in the hands of the artists all will suffer the consequences even, as perhaps the film’s boldest statement suggests, the shareholders.

October promises to be another exciting month for film at the Fraser Valley Library. The public is invited to see two exciting and challenging films and to join in conversation after the screenings. Popcorn and light refreshments are served during the features. The Fraser Film Series hosts a feature regularly the second Thursday of every month at the Fraser Valley Library.


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