Again this year, Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest — including many flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies. Today he spotlights selections for November 9, 10 and 11: Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records, The Wild Pear Tree and Burning.
It's an understatement to say that Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey has a high level of interest in Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records.
"As soon as I saw this come across my desk, it was like, 'I don't even need to watch this. Let's schedule it,'" he acknowledges. "But I watched it, and it's great. It hits every note you want it to hit."
The Wax Trax retail outlet, at 638 East 13th Avenue, has been a Denver staple for decades. But many new arrivals to the Mile High City may not know its fascinating history or connection to the Wax Trax! Records label and store in Chicago — the focus of Industrial Accident.
Here's the trailer to the film.
According to Withey, the film's director, Julia Nash, "is the daughter of the original owner" — Jim Nash, who founded the Denver store with Dannie Flesher before selling it in 1978 and relocating to the Midwest. "They opened a store in Chicago, but it also became a record label and distributor and concert promoter."
The influence of the recordings released by the Wax Trax! imprint, most of which are generally classified as industrial music, a sub-genre that draws from punk rock, underground dance and electronic sounds and more, is underscored by a slew of artists and performers who speak in the film.
The film spoke personally to Withey. "I moved to Denver in 1987, and I spent the first couple of years here just wandering up 13th between Washington and Pearl," he recalls. "And there's a huge population of people in Denver to whom that time period is really important."
As a bonus, director Nash is scheduled to be joined at the screening by a number of notable folks with a connection to Wax Trax!, including Boulder-born Dead Kennedys leader Jello Biafra, Ministry's Al Jourgensen and Frankie Nardiello, aka Groovie Mann of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. "It's going to be a really fun screening and Q&A," Withey predicts, "and afterward, Jello's going to do a DJ session at the Lion's Lair."
As for the film, Withey says that for folks who grew up during the era, "it's like music porn."
The Wild Pear Tree Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
6:15 p.m. Saturday, November 10, 4 p.m. Sunday, November 11
This offering from Turkey will give ticket-buyers more movie minutes for their money.
"It's just over three hours long," Withey reveals, "which is pretty normal for this director," Nuri Bilge Ceylan. "His films almost always have that sort of run time. He makes wonderful, epic films."
The protagonist of The Wild Pear Tree "is a young man who has just come home from college to pursue a career in literature," he allows. "He fancies himself the next up-and-coming Turkish author. He wants to write a book, and the film follows him through his village upon his return and the musings he has with the people he encounters."
Here's the trailer for The Wild Pear Tree.
Words are of paramount importance to the fledgling writer, and that comes across on screen, Withey notes. "There are these long shots and uninterrupted stretches of dialogue that are just amazing. The young man will run into an old girlfriend, and there will be something like a ten-minute scene of them standing under a tree in the most beautiful light talking about what they've been doing."
These elements constitute "very simple stuff," he maintains, "but it's fascinating and really engaging. For example, there's a really great scene where the young man is in a book store, and he sees a Turkish author he knows and respects very much. But over the course of the scene, after he approaches him, he sort of picks apart and dissects the author's writings and explains why he's going to be better at doing it than this guy."
Withey is envious of those who'll get a chance to see the film for the first time at the Sie FilmCenter. "It was in competition at Cannes this year, but it was the very last film that played on the last day of the festival, after I left. I later watched it on my somewhat large-screen TV — and I could tell that it will be stunning on the big screen."
His bottom line: "It's the kind of slow burn that I really love."
Burning Directed by Chang-dong Lee
7:30 p.m. Sunday, November 11
Like The Wild Pear Tree, Withey feels, the Korean film Burning is another cinematic pleasure that is both personal and grand.
In his words, "It's the story of three people. One of the guys is in a flirtatious relationship with a young woman, though he'd very much like for it to be something more. But then she goes on vacation and comes back with a very obvious boyfriend."
The new arrival "is very slick," Withey says. "He's got money, he dresses very nicely, and he has a fancy car. And the three of them start hanging out together. They become a threesome clique."
Here's the Burning trailer.
The original young man is jealous of his rival, Withey concedes, "but he's willing to put up with it so he can still be around this young woman. The three of them spend all their time together, drinking and getting high in this beautiful, boozy, hazy way. It's the summer, and they have no responsibilities."
The young woman subsequently disappears, "and the latter third of the film involves the mystery of where she is — what happened and why," he adds.
The film's structure differs from that of a conventional Hollywood offering, but it's one of the things Withey likes best about Burning. "That just makes it more interesting," he says.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.