Not Fade Away (2012) Film Director : David Chase


On a train, Keith and Mick chat about the blues and the Rolling Stones are born. Douglas and Joe chat in front of a New Jersey music store, and a band is born: as Douglas’s sister tells us, it’s one of many that don’t make it. We follow Douglas from high school (1963-64), when he sees himself as a loser, into the band, playing drums and singing backup – then as the front man. There are tensions, a breakup, an audition in front of a major player, and decisions. Douglas pursues Grace, a country-club gal with hip sensibilities who believes in him. There’s also his father, working class, wanting Douglas to apply himself as he watches his own life fill with regrets. (Imdb)

The time is the mid-1960s, on the cusp of the Summer of Love. The place, suburban New Jersey. The music, 100 percent pure rock and roll. For his feature filmmaking debut, The Sopranos creator David Chase has crafted a wise, tender and richly atmospheric portrait of a group of friends trying to do what so many awkward suburban kids of the time dreamed of doing: form their own rock band. –NYFF


Review: ‘Not Fade Away’ Is a Small Coming-of-Age Story Ruined by Its Own Ambition

Movie Reviews By Daniel Walber on December 18, 2012 

Editor’s note: David Chase’s feature debut hits theaters this week, so please feel free to rock out with this New York Film Festival review, originally published on October 7, 2012.

Into a quiet moment between lovers, toward the end of his new film David Chase injects Plato. Introspective college student Grace Dietz (Bella Heathcote) turns to her aspiring musician boyfriend and quotes: “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.” The line could read as an epigraph, the inspiration and core theme of the work. Yet, paradoxically, Not Fade Away rocks the boat significantly less than the 1960′s themselves, or even other movies that look back on this tumultuous period in the life of the nation. Rather, it plays like a form of American “heritage cinema,” to borrow a term from the Brits, fantasizing about a time gone by while carefully avoiding any of its real tensions.

At core, Not Fade Away is a simple coming-of-age story. Douglas (John Magaro) is a skinny white kid in suburban New Jersey who, more than anything else, wants to play music. He’s a drummer with an excellent singing voice, and soon he finds himself in a band. They play covers of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at local parties and dances but dream bigger. As he gets older, the band goes through the typical trials and tribulations: fights over love, fights over integrity, the loss of members, and on and on. And, of course, he is simultaneously going through a youthful love affair with Grace.

Much of this is pretty old hat. Even his family dynamic plays like something we’ve seen before. There’s the warm-hearted but quiet little sister, the overbearing and anxious mother, and the hard-working disciplinarian father (here played by James Gandolfini, who starred for Chase previously on the TV series The Sopranos). Yet throughout this potentially tired narrative, Magaro keeps things interesting. If Not Fade Away succeeds at all, it is because of its naturalistic and sympathetic lead performance. Douglas is an excellent stand-in for the audience, crucial in a film that doesn’t seem too interested in giving much depth to the rest of its cast.

The women in particular are left without much to do, even Grace, ostensibly the female lead of the film. Her personal goals are hinted at, occasionally even discussed, but for the most part she exists in the script primarily to encourage Douglas and give him someone to talk to outside of the band. There’s a telling moment when they are both older, in a courtyard of her college. She asks him, point blank, whether he only values her for her looks. It’s as if she has finally been given depth, perhaps inspired by a discovery of 1960s Feminism. Yet by the end of the film one wonders if even Chase himself is only using this actress for her beauty, centering her gorgeous face in symbolic shots on the beach without giving her anything at all to say.

Chase also seems more interested in flirting with the real social problems of the ‘60s in lieu of actually showing them or relating them to his characters. Sometimes this comes across as genuine and subtle, best articulated in Douglas’s problematic relationship with the military. He harps on the war in Vietnam yet clearly doesn’t understand it, mostly just using his objection to violence as a way to get to his father and various figures of authority. In these moments Not Fade Away is aware of its small scope and embraces it.

However, it doesn’t always work that way. The brief moments of lip service to the Civil Rights Movement, Feminism, and Gay Liberation are all unnecessary, and feel more like obligatory shout-outs to social change than actual interest in the topics. The closest thing to the actual revolutionary movements of the decade is through Grace’s older sister, Joy (Dominique McElliogott). She took part in Freedom Summer, lives in Greenwich Village and hangs out with all sorts of “unsavory” characters. Yet she’s also mentally ill and easily written off as unstable. The very real conflicts, from those happening in the Deep South to those occurring just over the river in New York City, are rendered far-off concerns that only the strange take seriously.

It is not the responsibility of Not Fade Away to articulate the ups and downs of one of the nation’s most complicated decades. It is at its best when it knows this, looking closely at the life of its protagonist and his love of music. Yet when it tries to confront anything larger it runs into problems. Whether that ambition is in the relationships between band members or the impact of the great social unrest of the ‘60s, it falls flat. And, in a way, perhaps that belies the film’s very understanding of the music it so loves. This is the decade in which American popular music became political and took an active role in the struggles of the time. Not Fade Away would rather just dance. And not think about what it all means.




More Than Honey (2012) Documentary Film. Director : Markus Imhoof


Man is the antagonist. Most beekeepers love their animals but caught in economic necessity they have to demand peak performance. That applies for the charming Austrian queen breeder Heidrun Singer as well as to the American beekeeper John Miller, who sends his 15.000 colonies all over the continent, following the bloom of economic plants. Beebroker John Traynor pulls the strings. He negotiates between farmers, beekeepers and the global market – which rules over plant, men, animal and machine alike.

In a frightening similarity they all succumbed to its all embracing power. The bees are confronted with new challenges all the time, having to take on new burdens. What we mistake for nature turns out to be a contaminated agricultural wasteland. But even the paradise of the Alps offers no respite: Fred Jaggi kills bees that are not purebred – whilst the pure races die from centuries of inbreeding. The longer the film observes man and bee, the more likely it seems that this live, determined by outside forces, must end in a catastrophe…(Mubi)

After 15 years of absence, Swiss director Markus Imhoof (Das Boot ist voll) is back with a documentary that exceeds all expectations, and not only in the box office. More Than Honey [trailerfilm focus] is a deeply disturbing work, which benefits from lucid narration.

According to the words of industrial beekeeper John Miller, we could be facing “Death on an epic scale”. For the past few years, he has observed the disappearance of bees on a global scale, and his own hives are no exception. Miller does things on a grand scale, transporting his bees by truck across the United States to then set them free in huge plantations, of almonds for example. “What you hear is the sound of money,” he says happily, listening to the buzzing sound coming from a flowery landscape, almost surreal, which stretches as far as the eye can see. Nevertheless, these long trips are a great source of stress for the insects, which are not made for monocultures and suffer from the pesticides. But that is not enough to prevent Miller from pursuing his intensive breeding – despite a few pangs of conscience, he will not give up his business.

MoreThan Honey is much more than a captivating study of nature, stunning in its use of macro shots. With the meticulous skill of a detective, Markus Imhoof investigates the causes of the disappearance of bees and familiarizes the spectator with their highly complex social life. As the descendant of a family of beekeepers himself, his endeavour takes him around the world, from Europe to China, and through Australia. He there meets his daughter, who, with her husband, is carrying out research on the immune system of bees, with the hope of developing a new breed with higher chances of survival.

Like the majority of good documentaries, More Than Honey owes a great deal to its protagonists. We therefore get to know John Miller, who, while pinpointing the inherent contradictions in his own activity, still appears as likable. At the other end of the spectrum, we discover Fred Jaggi, a beekeeper from central Switzerland, who tries to preserve the purity of the local breed, and two Austrian breeders who send queen bees by post all over the world.

More Than Honey (Markus Imhoof, 2012) Switzerland, Germany, Austria

Reviewed by Lynn Montgomery. Viewed at SBIFF.

More Than Honey is more than a documentary about bees, it’s a monumental indictment about the very future of mankind.

Albert Einstein said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” Academy Award nominated Director, Markus Imhoof, has created a sensational film that everyone should see. I took so many notes during the screening that at some point I just made myself stop, because I didn’t want to miss anymore of Imhoof’s state-of-the-art-filmmaking.  He took 200 hours of film and edited it down to 90 minutes.  It is a dazzling virtuoso of “how in the world did they get that shot?!” filmmaking.

Imhoof comes from a beekeeping family. Bees are in his blood. And after seeing this movie they are in mine, too. Maybe they always were. I don’t know what that means, exactly, only that we owe our very existence to bees. I love to garden. I have a native garden that has never known insecticides. It teems with bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

I even have a chicken coop. My husband drew the line after the chicken coop. I guess you could say it was a beeline. I wanted bees. My neighbor, Gloria, who is the Ethyl to my Lucy, said she’d do bees, too. Both husbands, in other words, Ricky and Fred, said, “LUCY!” And that is why I don’t have a beehive. Of course, Lucy would have just gone out and gotten the hive, then been attacked by a stinging swarm, get allergic and swell to the size of a mama bear and apologize to Ricky for not listening to him in the first place.

That is not the way things roll on our block. Me and Ethyl will get our hives. And we’re so good that we’ll convince Fred and Ricky  it was their idea all along.

But I digress. However, there is an important point to be made with this Lucy story. Honeybees are not native to the Americas. The settlers brought them. We do have native bees. California is home to more than 1,600 species of native bees. Most are solitary in nature, don’t build hives, and don’t produce honey or wax for human consumption. But they are 200 times more efficient at pollination than honey bees! Pollinating an acre of apples requires 60,000-120,000 honey bees. That same area can be pollinated by 250-750 mason bees – the very kind of bees Lucy and Ethyl would like to keep in their backyard, eventually… soon.

More Than Honey is a call to wings. We learn that 80% of the almonds in the world are grown in California. 100% of those almonds depend on honeybees for pollination. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of honeybees are farmed in giant putrid petri dish-like hives that are packaged and transported across the country in semi trucks from the Almond orchards of California to the apple farms in Washington, to the honey-making factories in North Dakota.

It is a barbaric indentured servitude that is causing total colony collapse disorder. Not only do the living quarters and transport systems decimate the bees, they’re also subjected to deadly dousings of pesticides that lead to   parasitic varroa mites.

There are many reasons to see this film:  One, you will be outraged when the almond growers and bee farmers scratch their heads and say they don’t really know what is causing this problem; and two, you will say how did they get those absolutely breathtaking shots of bees in mid flight, shots of bees at work in the hive, Queens being born, drones dying? We are all a little immune to the wonders of nature photography. We have all seen the Discovery Channel and PBS ad infinitum.  But this is something more. Beautiful and cataclysmic. Rent it. see it. Then build a backyard hive and tell Ricky I said so.