Demetri Martin comes back for more

Un­stop­pable standup has faced ad­ver­sity here be­fore

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

With the luck Demetri Martin has had in Van­cou­ver over the years, it’s a won­der he keeps com­ing back. But ad­ver­sity, they say, builds char­ac­ter.

His first visit here was in Oc­to­ber 2004 at the fledg­ling Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val. The or­ga­niz­ers had the idea to pair the in­dus­try’s best standup comics with Trailer Park Boys. That didn’t go over so well.

Martin still talks about that night. The Trailer Park Boys were at the peak of their fame and the crowd was liquored and fired up for them, rather than for a lineup of stel­lar but less well known comics.

“They went ape-shit and they were an­gry,” says Martin on the phone from his home in Los An­ge­les. “Each of us went out and just died one after the next. I’ve never been on a show like that be­fore where it was just kind of an an­gry mob. They were just fu­ri­ous.”

He laughs about it now. “All the comics back­stage were in one room all say­ing, ‘You know what? I’m not go­ing out there. This is ridicu­lous.’ And then one of the comics was like, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’ And it was like a jury turn­ing from ‘guilty’ to ‘not guilty’. Then we all did it.”

As much of a train wreck as it was, Martin will take that over a run-ofthe-mill show. “When it’s that bad,” he says, “it does be­come in­ter­est­ing. It’s kind of bet­ter than just a medi­ocre set where you just do poorly.”

His most re­cent visit to Van­cou­ver was last year. Near­ing the end of the long cross-canada Just For Laughs tour, Martin was in no mood to en­gage with rowdy pun­ters, so he walked off-stage un­til the the­atre dealt with it. But he got things back on track. As a 20-year vet­eran, he knows how to deal with all sorts of crowds.

“I’ve han­dled plenty of heck­lers,” he says. “That’s not the prob­lem. But some­times if you’re on a tour and you’re at show num­ber what­ever, you’re just like, ‘You know what? I’m just too fuck­ing tired, man. I don’t re­ally care. You want to be an ass­hole and bother ev­ery­body?’ Some­times you’re in the mood but other times you’re like, ‘Hey, you know, I have an act here. I kinda want to get through it.’ ”

Be­lieve it or not, these kinds of shows are help­ful to co­me­di­ans, he thinks. “It re­minds you just how sub­jec­tive and del­i­cate it all is. One night you can do great in this room, and peo­ple hate you in that room.”

De­spite a long and var­ied ca­reer fea­tur­ing his own TV series, numer­ous spe­cials and standup tours, a movie he wrote, starred in, and di­rected (Dean), and two books, with a third on the way this month (If It’s Not Funny It’s Art), Martin keeps his head on straight.

“I still feel like I’m kind of hov­er­ing just above anonymity,” he says.

His standup is evolv­ing from one­lin­ers to some­thing a lit­tle more open and hon­est—but not too re­veal­ing.

“I’m try­ing to get more per­sonal,” he says. “I’m try­ing to find a place that’s not just telling your life’s story.” He thinks there’s a lot of “over shar­ing” in com­edy these days. “It’s like di­ar­rhea of au­to­bi­og­ra­phy a lit­tle bit. I’ve just not been at­tracted to telling my whole story up there, but I think some­where be­tween that and do­ing jokes about bal­loons and chairs and stuff, there’s a lit­tle more wig­gle room for some­thing that’s based maybe a lit­tle bit more in emo­tion.”

Demetri Martin’s Let’s Get Awk­ward tour plays the Chan Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts on Satur­day (September 9).

DISTAFF PA­PER In a canon of reper­toire by house­hold names like Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart, Lud­wig van Beethoven, and Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach, mu­sic by fe­male clas­si­cal com­posers is rarely heard. But this Satur­day (September 9), a spe­cial Women Com­poser Con­cert will show­case their works, with all ticket sales go­ing to the Down­town East­side Women’s Cen­tre and the YWCA. Forty-two of Van­cou­ver’s orches­tral mu­si­cians will per­form pieces by Clara Schu­mann, Mad­dalena Laura Sir­men, Lili Boulanger, and Re­becca Clarke at Christ Church Cathe­dral.


Be­cause is one of his­tory’s most beloved movie mu­si­cals, it’s easy to for­get that the sto­ries and songs of the von Trapp fam­ily first ap­peared on the Broad­way stage. Now, a new live pro­duc­tion of Rodgers and Ham­mer­stein’s clas­sic is tour­ing North Amer­ica, stop­ping at the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre from Tues­day through next Sun­day (September 12 to 17). The pro­duc­tion is di­rected by Matt Lenz, build­ing off of ear­lier work by Tony Award–win­ner Jack O’brien. Tick­ets are now on sale for this spe­cial chance to watch the hills come alive—live!

The Sound of Mu­sic


Star­ring Thaneth Warakul­nukroh. In Thai, with English sub­ti­tles. Rat­ing un­avail­able

Road-trip movies tend to be en­joy­able from 2

a trav­el­ogue point of view, no mat­ter where they’re com­ing from. Or go­ing. And when the jour­ney takes you down the lit­tle-seen back roads of ru­ral Thai­land, it’s bound to get in­ter­est­ing— even more so when there’s an ele­phant in­volved.

Here, the costar­ring pachy­derm is called Pop­eye, pre­sum­ably be­cause the movie’s hu­man hero, seen in flash­back to his ru­ral child­hood, watched the old Sailor Man (in a car­toon called “Wild Ele­phinks”, since you asked) with other vil­lage kids. Now played by goa­teed Thaneth Warakul­nukroh—a vet­eran rock mu­si­cian in his first act­ing job—mid­dle-aged ar­chi­tect Thana is be­ing pushed out of his job by young go-get­ters.

One crummy day, Thana spies a mis­treated ele­phant on a Bangkok side street and rec­og­nizes his old rice-paddy play­mate. He im­pul­sively buys the beast, which doesn’t ex­actly en­dear him to his al­ready dis­dain­ful wife (Pen­pak Sirikul, re­cently seen in The Hang­over Part II). With­out even pack­ing a trunk, the de­jected Thana de­cides to take Pop­eye—the ti­tle spelling was no doubt a le­gal­is­tic choice—back to his home province.

Lack­ing any size-large trans­port, he de­cides to walk hun­dreds of miles, af­ford­ing him chances to en­counter many colour­ful char­ac­ters. These in­clude a long­haired drifter liv­ing in an aban­doned gas sta­tion, a bat­tered trans woman (cast stand­out Yukon­torn Sukki­jja), a cou­ple of bum­bling cops who pro­vide an un­wanted es­cort, and a Bud­dhist monk who takes Visa when some un­ex­pected ser­vices are re­quired.

The pi­caresque tale won this year’s screen­play award at Sun­dance for Sin­ga­porean writer-direc­tor Kirsten Tan, who stud­ied at NYU and pre­vi­ously gar­nered many prizes for her ex­cel­lent shorts. Hon­estly, though, the script is the weak­est link here. The founder­ing mar­riage is de­picted so sketchily, it’s hard to grasp the full ex­tent of Thana’s dilemma. His re­la­tion­ship with Pop­eye (played by the trip­pily named Bong) and their con­nec­tion to his rugged old un­cle (Narong Pong­pab), who stayed in the coun­try­side, re­main rather cryptic.

This doesn’t mat­ter much, how­ever, be­cause the con­stantly vary­ing scenes, buoyed by Matthew James Kelly’s spaghetti-east­ern gui­tar score, are so en­ter­tain­ing. What looks like whole­some fam­ily fairy tale throws a num­ber of sur­pris­ingly edgy curve­balls as it heads down the trop­i­cal high­way. As in life, you never know who’s pass­ing through and who you’ll bump into again. And strong to the fin­ish, Pop Aye is one com­pan­ion you’ll never for­get. > KEN EIS­NER SWAG­GER A doc­u­men­tary by Olivier Babi­net. In French, with English sub­ti­tles. Rat­ing un­avail­able

A visit to one of the most dan­ger­ous Paris 2

sub­urbs is full of hope­ful sur­prises in Swag­ger, which lives up to its name by let­ting 11 teens talk about what they’ve ac­com­plished and what they hope to do with their open pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Vet­eran mu­sic-video direc­tor Olivier Babi­net brings his own vis­ual swag to this lov­ingly shot doc, which fol­lows its sub­jects at school, on city streets, and in and around the huge projects of Aul­nay-sous-bois. Pop­u­lated by mostly poor African and Arab im­mi­grants and their in­creas­ingly as­sim­i­lated chil­dren, this out­post has been home to ri­ots, po­lice ac­tions, and crime movies in the past decade.

Pre­sum­ably, places like this are why Trump’s friend “Jim” doesn’t go to Paris any­more. But Babi­net, who spent two years gain­ing the trust of lo­cals be­fore film­ing, takes drug deal­ers and turf wars as a given, in­stead fo­cus­ing on kids who’ve made peace with their sur­round­ings. Only one, an ex­tremely shy and pos­si­bly trau­ma­tized teen named Ais­satou, stands alone dur­ing re­cess and halt­ingly ex­presses gen­eral anx­i­ety. The rest ex­hibit ease with peers of all back­grounds and speak ge­nially about their plans. A fas­tid­i­ously coiffed fel­low called Regis plans to be a fash­ion stylist, and we be­lieve him. Paul, the only im­mi­grant from In­dia, wears a natty dark suit every day and plays drums in a church group.

Babi­net takes his sub­jects on stylis­tic flights of fancy, stag­ing a ro­botic dance num­ber in a weld­ing class and hav­ing Paul lip-synch down school hall­ways to a ’50s rock­a­billy num­ber. Other se­quences uti­lize mul­ti­ple drones and sat­u­rated colours to swoon­ing, dream­like ef­fect. The ap­proach can get a bit pre­cious, as when the direc­tor in­ter­cuts thought­ful but un­re­lated re­ac­tion shots from other kids while one teen is talk­ing.

Still, the 85-minute movie mostly lets the sub­jects be their en­gag­ing, some­times wild-card selves, as with the youngest in­ter­vie­wee, a wiseeyed, black-haired Arab girl named Naila, who re­calls two trips to Dis­ney­land Paris, but she didn’t like them, be­cause she later pic­tured Mickey Mouse grow­ing huge and go­ing on a Godzilla-like de­struc­tion spree, joined by an army of blond Bar­bies. “Be­cause they’re all the same,” she says, with one eye­brow up. > KEN EIS­NER TULIP FEVER Star­ring Ali­cia Vikan­der. Rated 14A

This glossy pe­riod piece, set in 1630s Am­s­ter­dam, 2 was orig­i­nally slated to star Keira Knight­ley and Jude Law, as di­rected by Shake­speare in Love’s John Mad­den and adapted by its screen­writer, Tom Stop­pard. Law and Knight­ley went on to make the over­looked Anna Karen­ina, also from Stop­pard. In the end, the Czech-born play­wright was paired with nov­el­ist Deb­o­rah Mog­gach, who also wrote The Best Ex­otic Marigold Ho­tel, and adapted her own 2000 book here.

This pedi­gree guar­an­tees lit­tle, as proved by the fin­ished Fever, shot three years ago and shelved un­til now. Di­rected by Justin Chad­wick (The Other Bo­leyn Girl) and re­port­edly re­cut sev­eral times, this isn’t a to­tal mess, and the cast is at­trac­tive. Fresh off her Ex Machina break­through, Swe­den’s Ali­cia Vikan­der landed the lead, as Sophia, an or­phan “res­cued” by an older mer­chant. Christoph Waltz’s sat­ur­nine Cor­nelis Sand­voort is a born cynic whose pi­ous self­ish­ness doesn’t pre­vent him from get­ting most of the best lines.

A few years in, and still no ba­bies. But at least Corny can brag about bag­ging this young beauty via a Rem­brand­tian por­trait, cour­tesy of up-and­com­ing painter Jan Van Loos. Here, Dane De­haan looks like a young Leonardo Di­caprio, so we know where trou­ble will be com­ing from.

Par­al­lel to this Dutch three­some is the tale of Sand­voort’s maid and cook (and only ser­vant?), Maria (The Riot Club’s Hol­l­i­day Grainger), who also nar­rates events spo­rad­i­cally, in the man­ner of a mar­ket-tested ex­pos­i­tory de­vice. She’s in love with swash­buck­ling fish­mon­ger Willem (Jack O’con­nell), and the maid’s furtive af­fair is steamier than that of her mis­tress—de­spite some no­table nu­dity in the fore­ground story. But Vikan­der is a some­what chilly pres­ence, and can’t do much with a char­ac­ter de­fined by lit­tle more than want­ing to es­cape her hus­band.

More in­ter­est­ing is the trade in tulip bulbs that Willem pur­sues, with the ma­nia for that re­cently ap­pro­pri­ated flower cre­at­ing an in­vest­ment bub­ble when the Dutch trad­ing em­pire was at its peak. The film is shot in mostly dour nat­u­ral light, em­pha­siz­ing the rich­ness of flo­ral colour and of a painter’s ex­pen­sive pal­ette. But it also keeps it from be­ing very much fun.

There’s forced frenzy to the tulip-swap­ping scenes, at an ale­house-brothel fea­tur­ing young Cara Delev­ingne, years be­fore she was paired with De­haan in the re­cent flop Va­le­rian and the City of a Thou­sand Plan­ets. Else­where, there are slap­stick comic scenes with Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis, as the painter’s weirdly un­re­li­able buddy. In the Loop’s Tom Hol­lan­der plays an amus­ingly sleazy pro­tog­y­ne­col­o­gist. And na­tional trea­sure Judi Dench is a tulip-grow­ing con­vent head who takes an in­ex­pli­ca­ble shine to the lovelorn artist. Some bright bits poke up, but all told, this Tulip tries to get too many things go­ing, and uses too much fer­til­izer to do it. > KEN EIS­NER

ac­tion leg­end Sammo Hung is be­hind the wheel of Wil­son Yip’s crime thriller Para­dox, while VIFF Vi­sion­ar­ies in­vites us to a con­ver­sa­tion with Bong Joon Ho when the su­per­star South Korean direc­tor brings his Net­flix hit Okja to Van­cou­ver for a spe­cial (and rare) big-screen pre­sen­ta­tion.

Thrill seek­ers and mid­night-movie buffs find them­selves well-served once again by VIFF’S Al­tered States series. Greg Zglin­ski’s tale of dop­pel­gängers in the Swiss Alps, An­i­mals, should sat­isfy any­one still hun­gry for an­other shot of caf­feine in the wake of Twin Peaks. Mean­while, Justin Ben­son and Aaron Moor­head re­turn after their su­per-buzzy 2014 hor­ror­ro­mance, Spring, with Ufo-deathcult flick The End­less.

Doc­u­men­taries about leg­endary record exec Clive Davis and Van­cou­ver-born art star Richard Ham­ble­ton ap­pear among the of­fer­ings in VIFF’S M/A/D stream (short for Mu­sic, Art, and De­sign), along with the fi­nal trans­mis­sion from late great Ab­bas Kiarostami, 24 Frames. In yet an­other spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion, M/A/D brings the Kronos Quar­tet to Van­cou­ver to per­form along­side Guy Maddin’s Ver­tigo

riff, The Green Fog (di­rected with Evan and Galen John­son).

That big dose of Cana­di­ana crosses over into the equally strong True North pro­gram, head­lined by Stephen

Vet­eran Thai rock mu­si­cian Thaneth Warakul­nukroh works hard to keep up with his four-legged, scene-steal­ing costar Bong in direc­tor Kirsten Tan’s Pop Aye.

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