Shooting Myself in the Mirror: The Obsessive Cinema of Alan Zweig

Shooting Myself in the Mirror: The Films of Alan Zweig
Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:00PM & 9:00PM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 9:00PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 7:30PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Note: All screenings are different and all screenings are introduced by Alan Zweig

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:00PM
Alan Zweig’s Vinyl

Not since the film Crumb has there been such a deeply funny and honest portrait of obsession – in this case, about collecting records. Featuring everyone from Guy Maddin, Geoff Pevere, Harvey Pekar, and Don Mckellar. Five years in the making, the film features unforgettable interviews with over 100 record collectors including record store clerks, DJ’s, Elvis fanatics, hot jazz collectors, a guy with half a million records crowded into a two bedroom apartment, a guy who memorized the playlist of every K-TEL record ever made, and a guy who took 4 years to clean and play every one of his records in alphabetical order.

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 9:00PM
Alan Zweig’s Vinyl: The Alternative Take

Never before seen, Cinematheque presents the world premiere of Vinyl: the Alternate Take which director Zweig says is essentially scenes and outtakes not included in the legendary original film about obsessive record collectors. The film includes former Winnipeg producer Greg Klymkiw and Guy Maddin going for a winter picnic in a Gimli cemetery, interviews with directors Guy Maddin, Bruce McDonald and Atom Egoyan as well as the late comic legend Harvey Pekar and his wife. There are more scenes from some of the favorite characters from the film, including the late Chris Probert and the so-called “K-TEL Guy”. Using only previously unused footage, The Alternate Take is an attempt to make a version of the film Vinyl which is actually about record collecting this time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 9:00PM
Alan Zweig’s I, Curmudgeon

Zweig says he has been labelled a curmudgeon ever since his late 20’s. Tired of the phrase, he decided to embark on a journey to seek out and interview other curmudgeons. He asked a variety of others – men and women, young and middle aged, what they thought of their negativity. The result is a sometimes hilarious, often thought provoking, look at folks who are tired of today’s “it’s all good” smiley face world which expects people to all like the same things. Featuring a superb cast of naysayers including Andy Rooney (60 Minutes), Scott Thompson (The Kids in The Hall) and the late Harvey Pekar (American Splendor).

Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 7:30PM
Alan Zweig’s Lovable

Zweig created a personal film about why it is so hard to find love in today’s world. Through intimate, heartfelt and often hilarious interviews with a series of smart and attractive single women, he explores their yearnings and the difficulty of finding and sustaining relationships. Zweig explores his female subjects as kindred spirits, sharing their vulnerability and openness.

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From The Manitoban February 8, 2011

Diaristic documentaries
Director Alan Zweig comes to town

From Feb. 11-13, the Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque will be hosting Alan Zweig, one of Canada’s greatest documentary filmmakers, with a retrospective of some of his best works. Cinematheque is not alone in highlighting his films this year; both Hot Docs and TVO are organizing retrospectives.

The director, who won a Gemini award last year for his riveting and emotionally intense doc on ex-convicts, A Hard Name, will be screening three films that work together as a trilogy. All three, Vinyl; I, Curmudgeon and Lovable revolve around Zweig diaristically examining his own obsessions by interviewing others who share them.

All of these films have played in the city before, and he’s shot segments of them here as well. “On that level I’m happy,” says Zweig. “All of these films have shown at Cinematheque, or been partly shot in Winnipeg, but I’ve never been there with them.”

“I’m a little worried about the turnout. I first went to Winnipeg in ’95 in the winter, with [producer] Greg Klymkiw. The first night all of his friends came out. The next night he called them and nobody would come out.”

A special feature of the series will be an alternate version of Vinyl, screened for the first time ever. The original films centres around hardcore record collectors, but the film is more interested in the compulsion to obsess over collecting than the actual intricacies of the craft. “It came from when I thought I would release a DVD of the film,” Zweig explains. “My editor and I sat down for a week and cut this together. There was a lot of material that had to be cut, that I kind of missed.” Included in this cut are extended interviews with Atom Egoyan, Bruce McDonald, Harvey Pekar and Guy Maddin, “in a cemetery in Gimli.”

Zweig is also doing a workshop focusing on his brand of diaristic cinema, of which he says, “I’m embarrassed, but I like doing Q&A stuff. I’m glad to do it, but it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s the kind of thing that if a friend was offered the opportunity I would be happy, but pissed that it wasn’t offered to me.”

Making full use of his time in the city, he is also hosting The Road Ended At The Beach: Part 2 on Feb. 12. Zweig was present at the founding of the renowned “Escarpment School” group of filmmakers, although as sort of an ancillary member.

Still, his short film Trip Sheet has made the cut for the retrospective. He claims it was an attempt to fit in at a school, Sheridan College, where students were expected to make experimental films. One of the founding members of the group saw it re-screened in Zweig’s living room in the recent past and “must have thought it was better than he remembered. Somebody made the connection, but mostly I’ll just gossip at the screening.”

If you’re at all interested in seeing a few of the most compelling, charming and unique films Canada has produced in recent memory, you will be at Cinematheque this weekend.

– Ryan Simmons

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From Uptown Magazine February 10, 2011

Shooting himself in the mirror
Toronto director Alan Zweig talks about his approach to documentary filmmaking

According to its director, the never-before-seen Vinyl: The Alternate Take may offer a concrete argument as to why a film was made a certain way to begin with.

“There was lots of stuff that didn’t fit in the original, even if I wished it could,” says Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig, who presents the world premiere of his new cut — made up of leftover footage from the portrait-of-obsession documentary Vinyl (2000) — tomorrow at Cinematheque as part of Shooting Myself in the Mirror, a program of the director’s work.

As Zweig explains, the new version includes stuff “that would have shut up critics who complained the original wasn’t really about record collecting.” He voices his reasons further at the beginning of the cut, employing a recurring technique in his docs: literally turning the camera on himself by pointing it into a mirror.

While it’s old hat now, Zweig explains, putting oneself in one’s own film was at one time considered taboo. “I didn’t like that you had to pretend you weren’t there,” he says.

And it’s not just that Zweig wanted to tell his personal stories. “It’s easier for me to talk about myself than it is for other people, I think,” he says.

That idea certainly fits the approach Zweig has taken in other films such as I, Curmudgeon (2004) and Lovable (2007), which also play Cinematheque this weekend.

“Most films are made with a specific concept in mind: there’s an angle that’s going to be taken, with a point the filmmaker needs you to understand,” Zweig says.

“But I’m not good at theme. My stories are really collective stories. I have nothing I feel I have to put in.”

What comes across strongly in Zweig’s films — including 2009’s A Hard Name, which includes not a single mirror shot — is a feeling of struggle. One can see he’s searching hard for meaning as the film unfolds. The mirror concept, he says, allows him to investigate things he otherwise wouldn’t know how to investigate.

“It’s enough for me to be out looking,” Zweig continues; it’s less important that he find something. Yet he also comes across as a man who’s already done a great deal of introspection — which he then turns into pointed questions, directed at his subjects.

“That’s how I’d talk even if the camera wasn’t there,” Zweig says.

Likewise, Zweig made Vinyl as if no audience would be there.

“I didn’t think anyone would see it, so I just did what I wanted to do.”

He’s not sure what audience exists for Vinyl: The Alternate Take, either.

“Really, it’s meant for people who liked the original,” he says , noting he doesn’t get invited many places.

As to why Zweig chose the ’Peg as the place to unveil the new film, he says Cinematheque was probably the only place that would show it.

“It’s possible that the people who see the film in Winnipeg will be the only people who ever see it.”

Alan Zweig will personally introduce his films included in Shooting Myself in the Mirror, screening this weekend at Cinematheque. Zweig will also introduce The Road Ended at the Beach and Other Legends: Part Two on Saturday.

– Kenton Smith

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~ by cineflyer on February 9, 2011.

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