A look at two very different films — Lizzie and Icepick to the Moon 

Passion Projects

click to enlarge Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart shine in Lizzie - COURTESY ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
  • Courtesy Roadside Attractions
  • Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart shine in Lizzie

Lizzie

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one" or so the nursery rhyme about the infamous young woman goes. A rhyme that has yielded a musical, a play, a book, a Lifetime movie/TV series starring Christina Ricci, and most notably, the terrific 1975 TV movie starring Bewitched's Elizabeth McGovern, Borden's real-life sixth cousin once removed.

Lizzie, a long gestating passion project for its star/producer Chloe Sevigny, is the latest take on the notorious legend. To this day a lot of theories are floated about why it all happened, particularly since Borden's trial ended with an acquittal. Was it justified? Was Mr. Borden a sexual predator that abused his daughter? Was Lizzie in a fugue state when she committed the murders? Since Mr. Borden was reviled by a few people in town, is it possible someone else had something to do with it all? Rather than focus solely on the contentious relationship between spinster Borden and her parents — a cold father (Jamey Sheridan) and despised stepmother (Fiona Shaw) — this version takes a more feminist turn choosing to posit a different theory that was proposed in mystery author Ed McBain's 1984 book, Lizzie, that she may have had a blossoming relationship with the family's live-in maid, Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) which ultimately played a hand in the violence.

At the beginning of the film, we're introduced to the Borden family. And as in previous versions, it ain't a happy home. Father Borden is the textbook definition of a horrible human, taking distinct pleasure in bending everyone to his will — particularly the women in his life. Previous takes on Lizzie and her mystique portrayed her as a woman driven to the point of murderous rage. While Craig William Macneill's film does present her as she descends down a bleak path, it chooses to give her more strength than that. From the outset we see a Lizzie who is intelligent and headstrong, unwilling to settle for her father's horrid behavior. When she isn't breaking ladylike convention by going to a theater by herself, she's challenging the veracity of her sleazy uncle's drafting of Mr. Borden's will.

All this is to say that the film doesn't cast Lizzie as merely a fragile victim. She's methodical and aware of her actions in this account of the bewitching legend. While there are points in the film where the snail's pace threatens to derail the proceedings, there are enough treats in the film to make it worth seeing — most notably, Noah Greenberg's cinematography and the performances. Kristen Stewart's take on Bridget as a woman mired in repressed, controlled suffering is impressive while Sevigny's Lizzie is openly defiant of those that attempt to control her. Come for the legend, stay for Sevigny and Stewart.

Lizzie Starts Sept. 28 at The Terrace.

click to enlarge Fred Lane's music is batshit insane —and that's exactly why we love it - COURTESY SKIZZ CYZYK
  • Courtesy Skizz Cyzyk
  • Fred Lane's music is batshit insane —and that's exactly why we love it

Icepick to the Moon

Here in Charleston, there are some artists not interested in being relegated to working in one genre, in fact almost instinctively running in the opposite direction of the trends that are running towards them. Examples include such artists as Clint Fore, Philip Estes, and former Mt. Pleasantian Kevin Taylor, a musician/artist who could equally admire all musical forms while playing music that defied genre labels.

I mention those three artists because they consistently came to mind while watching Skizz Cyzyk's passion project Icepick to the Moon, a documentary dedicated to the bizarre artistry of Rev. Fred Lane from Tuscaloosa, Ala. While rarely having moved beyond the early '80s college radio circuit, those who followed him became obsessed with him. I feel OK with saying Fred Lane's music is a wee bit batshit insane, particularly when one of your more popular songs belts: "I'm a happy, sappy, son-of-a-gun; Livin' in a rubber room." I had never heard his music before this documentary but, being a fan of madcap artists like Captain Beefheart, Spike Jones, and Weird Al Yankovic, I was quickly charmed by his work.

Talking heads, including the late Colonel Bruce Hampton and Brian Teasley of Man Or Astro-man?, describe him as "insane," "Elvis On Vitamin L," "Demon Frank Sinatra," and "the Dada Duke Ellington" while twisted lyrics from subversive songs like "The French Toast Man" play. In the pre-interwebs era, you primarily got your music knowledge from a local zine or maybe Rolling Stone, so tracking down information about a singer whose onstage persona wore goggle glasses, boxer shorts, a tuxedo coat, a slick goatee, and a creepy smile was minimal at best. Rev. Fred Lane, a carefully crafted character created by Tim R. Reed, had only two albums and those were filled with intentional bullshit (including covers from nonexistent albums) meant to keep audiences in the dark.

As the film continues, we learn how a med student's webpage begat the search for Lane's true identity. The journey chronicles his involvement with the Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue in 1975, a show mounted by Raudelunas, a group of artists in Tuscaloosa, to Reed's brief but unforgettable on stage stints as his alter ego, to his current occupation making whirligigs to sell on the arts and crafts show circuit. Interviews with friends, co-conspirators, and fans paint Reed as willfully obscure and even a little frightening in a fun Halloween season way. Interviews with Reed himself, reveal the once described "cultural attack vehicle" as a lovable musical gremlin who takes joy in creating madcap art that mischievously subverted the mainstream.

Some music documentaries take us through the journey of a famous name that add up to little more than visual Cliff Notes. Serving as an unmasking of a little known legend, an introduction to those who've never heard of him, and possibly creating new fans, Cyzyk's film succeeds on all three fronts.

Icepick to the Moon shows at The Tin Roof Sun. Sept. 30, 7-9 p.m.

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