You won’t see a bewitched princess, rosy-cheeked and slumbering away in a castle to await her prince in Julia Leigh’s “Sleeping Beauty.” Instead, Leigh’s chilling arthouse film presents the heroine as Lucy (Emily Browning), a college student strapped for cash. Lucy works a variety of odd jobs, one of which requires — slightly like the fable — that she be put to sleep. Except that Lucy is willingly drugged for a private erotic club, and those wealthy, geriatric men aren’t climbing into her bed to give her true love’s kiss.
In her debut film, Australian novelist/director Julia Leigh delivers an original, cryptic vision that’s far removed from fairy tales told by the likes of the Brothers Grimm or Disney. Shot in a gorgeous palette of sea greens and blues awash in cold light, the film is pervasively clinical as it follows Lucy around her random occupations. There is little background explanation as Lucy works at a cafe, makes copies at an office, subjects herself to invasive medical experiments and does some freelance prostitution at a bar. She is mostly alone and detached, apart from when she visits a depressed recluse named Birdmann (Ewen Leslie), who enjoys his cereal doused in vodka. Such odd details sometimes come across as black comedy, but are brief respites from the largely bleak and opaque events of Lucy’s life.
There are lots of enigmas to pick apart in this story, and one of the most intriguing is Lucy herself. Emily Browning, endowed with alabaster skin and thick, strawberry blonde locks, is an ethereal presence who holds together the film’s exceedingly slow pacing. While Browning starred in the recent action film “Sucker Punch,” one only needs to see the children’s film “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” to see that she was luminous onscreen even as a teenager. In “Sleeping Beauty,” Browning’s blank-faced passivity breaks into raw emotion in rare moments, giving the film’s almost too cryptic plot an absorbing center.
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Image: San Francisco Film Society/Courtesy
Deanne Chen/Staff Writer
A garbage facility may sound like a terribly unattractive place to visit — let alone as a subject of artistic scrutiny. Yet this past Friday at a recycling and disposal center, Recology San Francisco, the unique Artist in Residence exhibition turned the notion of waste as useless or ugly on its head. Like the circular movement of the recycling services at Recology SF, local artists the program supports are given priority to sift through the vast piles of junk and reclaim trash into works of art.
The exhibitions of artwork by Donna Anderson Kam, Terry Berlier and student artist Ethan Estess were a diverse range from the surreal (Estess’s mannequin with a backpack overflowing with coffee lid tentacles) to the delicately beautiful (Kam’s rainbow pastel drawings). Overall, the exhibitions were thought-provoking examinations on the environmental impact of waste from a microcosmic level.
While dialogue on green sustainability is nothing new — we all hear from scientists and news op-eds on how reckless human consumption ravages Earth’s ecosystems — what’s striking about the Recology SF art exhibit is its intimate approach to garbage. Formed by everyday knick-knacks, the art highlights the disposable nature of all that we own. The result is a rare feat of connecting individual actions to larger social responsibility without feeling forced — an aesthetic reminder that the mountains of trash in dumps are simply made of objects left by each and every one of us.
Deanne Chen/Arts Staff Writer
Image: Carlie Baker/Staff
by Deanne Chen/Arts Staff Writer
Out of the Scandinavian woodlands comes a true-blue American country album from Swedish sister singer-songwriters First Aid Kit. The young Johanna and Klara Soderberg hail from Stockholm, but recorded their sophomore effort, The Lion’s Roar, in Omaha, Nebraska. The change of scenery marks not a stylistic departure, but a richer exploration of the duo’s roots in American folk music.
It began three years ago, when the Soderbergs — then teenage fans of Fleet Foxes — uploaded their cover of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” to YouTube. What began as a fan video became a hit and the start of a career, due to the Soderbergs’ emotionally-arresting vocals.
On The Lion’s Roar, First Aid Kit’s strength continues to be their remarkably self-assured voices in close harmony. Whereas their debut, The Big Black & the Blue, was charming in its own humble way, First Aid Kit blossoms into a more lush sound by focusing on the deep traditions of ’60s and ’70’s country music on the new album.