Laurie Anderson is a pioneering performing and recording artist, musician, composer, writer, painter, sculptor and more. Perhaps you think of her as the widow of Lou Reed of the legendary Velvet Underground.
Or perhaps you remember her groundbreaking “O Superman,” the No. 2 song on the U.K. singles charts in 1981? Its distinctive “ha ha ha ha” single note vocal opening led the way in popularizing the vocorder, which alters the voice by breaking it up and reconstructing it, making a whole new sound.
Anderson’s in town for the premiere of her new film, “Heart of a Dog.” She’ll be at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A., on Nov. 6-7, taking audience questions at the 7:30 p.m. screening and introducing the 9:55 p.m. screening both nights.
This is definitely indie and even experimental, though not to the extreme, compared to someone like Matthew Barney. This poetic musing on many things is most certainly “an art film” — in the best sense.
It begins with a meditation on communication with dogs, with her own beloved rat terrier Lulabelle as the subject. But like life itself there isn’t a linear flow, and the film meanders through the meaningful, the hilarious and the alarming.
A philosophical and spiritual examination, it’s part memoir, part musing on the nature of death, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, remembrance of her mother, shocking and life-shaping incidents from her childhood, all woven together in a seamless carpet ride, with a few turbulent interruptions for reality, featuring images of the post-9/11 surveillance all around us.
We are transported along an ever-moving series of images, through various veils and water washed backgrounds, accompanied by Anderson’s narration and her sometimes background, sometimes foreground score.
Her words flash across the screen at an uneven pace. We flash to a dreamscape, some artsy, flowing animations, juxtaposed against a reality check showing the massive interior of a data processing center in Utah.
We even get to see Lulabelle playing piano in performance. For real. At a charity concert for animal welfare.
For details on the film, which only runs for a week at The Nuart, and Anderson’s live appearances, visit http://www.landmarktheatres.com/los-angeles/nuart-theatre.
The art pollinator
The name Guggenheim conjures images of Frank Lloyd Wright’s New York landmark, white spiral architectural art palace, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum. It’s hard to imagine that with her name, Peggy Guggenheim had to make her own way in life.
But she did, and she did so by creating a singular name for herself and cutting a wide swath through the modern art world of the 20th century.
Known as “the wayward Guggenheim,” or as she said, the black sheep of her family, her eponymous museum “The Peggy Guggenheim Collection” is a former palace on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, where she lived.
“Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” is a new film directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who also made the acclaimed documentary “The Eye Has to Travel” about her grandmother-in-law, fashion icon Diana Vreeland.
Biographies, autobiographies, many articles and magazine pieces have been written about Peggy Guggenheim. But the framework for this film are her final, taped interviews with authorized biographer Jacqueline Bogard Weld, previously lost for years. Immordino, after optioning Weld’s book and interviewing her in her home, actually discovered the recordings in shoeboxes in Weld’s basement.
Peggy’s own voice is the springboard for this film. She knew from a young age that she was a rule-breaker, and couldn’t wait to break away from her traditional, New York high society family. She married, not well and more than once, but started coming into her own when she moved to Paris in the 1920s, where she ran in Dada and Surrealist circles.
Marcel Duchamp was a mentor, and helped her develop her eye. She befriended artists as well as collecting their work, eventually opening a gallery in London at which she showcased an encyclopedic list of future-famous artists.
She was also a fearless sexual adventurer, who wrote about her many exploits with an A-list of artists and writers (Samuel Beckett, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst to name a few), a shocking revelation in its time. But tragedy followed her, including the death of her father on The Titanic, her sister throwing her children off a roof and the suicide of her own daughter.
Art was the only place where this awkward, not overly attractive, eccentric, grand and fearless, self-made woman could feel at home. “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” will be playing at The Nuart on the corner of Santa Monica and Sawtelle boulevards beginning Nov. 13.
Imagine you’ve studied hard, done all the work, passed your exams, and all you need to do is wait till you’re called to take the stand as a triumphant public defender. But decades pass and the call never comes. And when it does, the case is unwinnable.
That’s the premise of the “The Dock Brief,” by John Mortimer, he of “Rumpole of the Bailey” fame. It’s a tight, well-performed brisk two-character study onstage at Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, a bustling haven of theatrical activity.
Set in a prison meeting room, Frank Collison is Morgenhall, the bewildered barrister, who tries out every fantasy defense he can muster, but loses his voice when he needs it most.
Wesley Mann is the prisoner Fowle (many a bird joke ensues), the indefensible defendant, who has unrepentantly and undeniably killed his wife.
British accents and manners abound, and it wraps up neatly with a surprise comic twist.
“The Dock Brief” runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Nov. 15. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 705 1/2 Venice Blvd., in Venice. For more information, call (310) 822-8392 or visit www.PacificResidentTheatre.com.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various publications.