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Jem Cohen – Empires of Tin

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    The Vienna International Film Festival (Viennale) takes place in October of each year. For the 2007 edition, New York filmmaker Jem Cohen was commissioned to close the festival, which he did with his program entitled Evening’s Civil Twilight In Empires Of Tin. This piece, inspired by Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetsky March, is a meditation on the decline of empires, juxtaposing images from the twilight stages of the Hapsburg empire and WWI with footage from present-day Vienna and Cohen’s hometown of Brooklyn, NY, where he traces his own visual meditations on the twilight of American empire. An impressionistic narrative is constructed through live readings from the texts of Joseph Roth, and a live musical score performed by Vic Chesnutt, members from The Silver Mt Zion, Guy Piciotto (Fugazi), and The Quavers. The music includes improvisations, wonderfully blown-out interpretations of Strauss’ “The Radetsky March”, and bracing renditions of a number of Vic Chesnutt songs. The result is a sort of agit-prop hallucination, a string of film vignettes bound by the poetry of Roth’s writing and by the sounds and songs of the live musicians.

    This 2007 film performance was recorded (audio and video) by the Viennale. Video footage of the live event was then combined with Cohen’s original film footage and edited in Vienna by Jem. The live audio was mixed at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal by some of the participating musicians. The resulting DVD is a politically charged and unique hybrid of concert and film – a document of a very special multi-media performance, and one hailed as one of the highlights of the Viennale.

    Empires Of Tin was co-released on DVD by The Viennale and Constellation. It received its premiere screening at the 2008 Viennale.


     

    TRACKLIST

    1. Sponge - CHESNUTT
    2. World War One - PICCIOTTO
    3. Distortion - CHESNUTT
    4. Der Gasn Nigun - AMAR/MOSS (SMZ)
    5. What He Is And What He Ain't - CHESNUTT
    6. Sound Collage - PICCIOTTO/GRIFFIN
    7. Coward - CHESNUTT
    8. Choir Invisible - COHEN/GRIFFIN/TOTH
    9. Wall St. Flag Improvisation - AMAR/CRAVEN (SMZ)
    10. Blanket Over The Head - CHESNUTT
    11. Brooklyn, Silesia - THE QUAVERS
    12. Rustic City Fathers - CHESNUTT

    Running time: 01:40:00



    PACKAGING NOTES

    The DVD is packaged in thick 6-panel cardstock digipack with a fold-out insert card that includes an essay by Jem Cohen.


    CREDITS

    Thierry Amar: contrebasse
    Vic Chesnutt: guitar, voice
    Eric Craven: drums
    T. Griffin: guitar, sound design
    Catherine McCrae: violin
    Efrim Menuck: guitar
    Jessica Moss: violin
    David Payant: drums
    Guy Picciotto: guitar
    Bobby Sommer: readings


    16mm film and DV footage by Jem Cohen. Live video of film performance shot by the Viennale crew. Produced by Jem Cohen and Paolo Calamita (Viennale). Video post-production by Andreas Neureiter and Golden Girls (Vienna). Audio mix and post-production at the Hotel2Tango by Thierry Amar, Efrim Menuck, Radwan Moumneh and Harris Newman.