Farmlab Public Salon
Friday, April 3, 2009 @ Noon
About the Salon
The Salon Series today screens the film, "Dante's Inferno."
From the film's website: Melding the seemingly disparate traditions of apocalyptic live-action graphic novel and charming Victoria-era toy theater, Dante’s Inferno is a subversive, darkly satirical update of the original 14th century literary classic. Retold with the use of intricately hand-drawn paper puppets and miniature sets, and without the use of CGI effects, this unusual travelogue takes viewers on a tour of hell. And what we find there, looks a lot like the modern world.
Sporting a hoodie and a hang-over from the previous night’s debauchery, Dante (voiced by Dermot Mulroney) wakes to find he is lost — physically and metaphorically — in a strange part of town. He asks the first guy he sees for some help: The ancient Roman poet Virgil (voiced by James Cromwell), wearing a mullet and what looks like a brown bathrobe. Having no one else to turn to, Dante’s quickly convinced that his only means for survival is to follow Virgil voyage down, down through the depths of Hell.
The pair cross into the underworld and there Virgil shows Dante the underbelly of the Inferno, which closely resembles the decayed landscape of modern urban life. Dante and Virgil’s chronicles are set against a familiar backdrop of used car lots, strip malls, gated communities, airport security checks, and the U.S. Capitol. Here, hot tubs simmer with sinners, and the river Styx is engorged with sewage swimmers.
Also familiar is the contemporary cast of presidents, politicians, popes and pop-culture icons sentenced to eternal suffering of the most cruel and unusual kind: Heads sewn on backwards, bodies wrenched in half, never-ending blowjobs, dancing to techno for eternity, and last, but certainly not least, an inside look at Lucifer himself, from the point of view of a fondue-dunked human appetizer. Each creatively horrific penance suits the crime, and the soul who perpetrated it.
As Dante spirals through the nine circles of hell, he comes to understand the underworld’s merciless machinery of punishment, emerging a new man destined to change the course of his life. But not, of course, the brand of his beer.
About the Salon Presenter
Sandow Birk: Art Director, Writer, Producer
Raised on the beaches of Southern California and currently living and working in Los Angeles, Sandow Birk is a product of California culture. With an emphasis on social issues, frequent themes of his past work have included daily life in L.A.’s barrios, inner city violence, graffiti, various political issues, surfing, and skateboarding. His work has been shown extensively throughout the U.S. He was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellow to Rio de Janeiro for 1997. In 1999 he was awarded a Getty Fellowship for painting. Birk’s epic, pseudo-historical series of the “The Great War of the Californias”, in which Los Angeles and San Francisco wage all out war for control of the Golden State, was featured at the Laguna Art Museum in 2000. His latest project, a rewriting (with co-author Marcus Sanders) and illustrating of Dante’s The Divine Comedy set in contemporary urban America has culminated in three books, currently out from Chronicle Books: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. An exhibition of the project was organized by the San Jose Museum of Art in 2005.
Sean Meredith: Director, Writer, Producer, Editor
Born and raised in New Jersey, Sean Meredith studied film at Emerson College in Boston. His senior film won the school’s Evvy Award for Best 16mm Film. After toiling away the years as a vintage dishware expert, he has finished directing his first feature film, “Dante’s Inferno.” He directed and produced the 2003 film “In Smog and Thunder: The Great War of the Californias.” After premiering at Slamdance in 2003, the California Civil War mockumentary went on to play at twenty film festivals. It was released on DVD in 2004 and had it’s broadcast premiere in 2005.
Image courtesy Sandow Birk