The Reviews


THE REVIEWS is a lecture performance in which Michael Madsen delivers live critiques of a handful of movies that he has thought up for the occasion in front of the vast tabula rasa of the silver screen.

THE REVIEWS is a new way of making film that goes straight to the audience’s imagination. It is also a discussion of the art of the cinema as contact sport, a direct encounter between filmmaker and audience.

Its form is that of an imaginary film review programme, hosted by Madsen as he provides detailed reviews of movies that simply do not exist, but which he would regard as phenomenal if they did: films with the ability to redefine the art of the cinema.

In other words THE REVIEWS is Madsen’s idiosyncratic film poetics in the making as a public conversation about the nature of cinema and more especially its potential as a filmic space of opportunities. Here´s a review of the performance:

THE REVIEWS: Review of a filmcritic’s review of reviews of films not in existence, by Jesper Olsen, Soundvenue, 22.06.2016 (Translation Jonathan Sydenham)

“How meta can you get? Here I am, a critic, trying to review another critic’s reviews: of films that don’t exist.

What Michael Madsen presented to the audience at the Cinematheque on Tuesday night was nicely meta. I think his meta layer cake pierced the cinema ceiling as conceptual artist and filmmaker revealed that at the screening of the imaginary film ‘The Opening’ he experienced any film critic’s worst nightmare: he fell asleep. “As many of you are probably already asleep now.”

As I sat with my eyes closed, just as he had asked, and sank deeper and deeper into my imagination, carried along by his furrowed, intricate voice, his poetic, contemplative monologue and the white noise from the hypnotic sound design, I was suddenly jolted by a command resonating down the staircase of my consciousness: “Do not fall asleep!”

I might as well be just as meta and tell it like it is: I have no idea how to write about the experimental live performance ‘The Reviews’. And there is no help to be gained from my notebook, where I quickly gave up scratching my clumsy doodles eyes closed. It is a tabula rasa, just like the cinema screen behind Michael Madsen on Tuesday night.

So I begin with the part of any review that is easiest to write and which is therefore the fundamental pillar of most reviews: a summary of the plot – as far as I can recall it without notes to support me. After that I’ll need your help.

Michael Madsen makes his entrance on the right-hand staircase. The man behind the philosophical documentaries ‘Into Eternity’ and ‘The Visit’ is in a black suit and he shakes the odd hand in the audience. So far the cinema has been a mirror image of the audience, but now it is blank: a tabula rasa for us to fill with our own inner images.

He asks us to close our eyes, and then he begins to review films that don’t exist but which would be of huge significance in the history of the cinema if they did. There is both an ‘Unseen Movie’ and an ‘Unknown Movie’. The first does not start until the entire audience is asleep. The second is a documentary from the Stone Age with a running time of almost twenty-four hours. Then there’s ‘The Garden’, a portrait of gravity shot over several hundred years, showing a tree growing tall and mighty until it fades behind a veil of mist, which rapidly turns into fire and consumes the garden.

We are also given a review of the press kit for ‘The Colour of a Circle’, which is characterized by not containing any information on the plot, cast or director.

Michael Madsen went to see ‘A Film for You’ because he took the title literally. But he was not alone in the cinema. There were others who thought that it was a film just for them and only them. Michael Madsen glanced at the empty seats in the cinema and thought that ‘A Film for You’ might in fact be a film for those who did not come? Just as ‘The Reviews’ might be for the empty seats in the Cinematheque Bio Carl this Tuesday evening? For everyone who might otherwise have been sitting there?

As regards movie jargon Michael Madsen is a detailed critic par excellence. He goes into the details of key scenes, describes camera movements and use of colour with methodical thoroughness, lovingly conjures films where the centrifugal roaring sound design and the willing viewer’s senses and imagination interface. He fantasizes and philosophizes: What is film? What is film criticism? These questions are left dangling.

He is less thorough when it comes to the plots, but that probably has something with the films themselves. They are volatile, fickle, like fog that turns into fire, or a waterfall that flows into a river of ash. Every framework is demolished, every wall brought down, the film and the imagination united and set free.

Finally he sings a lullaby, Per Guldbrandsen’s text ‘Whither’, in a soft, fragile voice, and tells us thanks for coming and for closing our eyes. It’s half an hour early, and no one leaves the room. Everyone thinks it is part of the illusion. “Well, I am off now,” he says finally, giving the audience a perplexed look.

So that’s the end of my plot summary. This is where I need your help, dear reader. Help me fill my tabula rasa. The rest of this review does not exist. I cannot write it. But perhaps we can imagine it together?

It is a review that transcends the descriptive analysis of plot and film language and opens and expands the work reviewed in an existential meditation on the essence of (film) art, creation and imagination, indeed the ontology of human thought.

It demonstrates with rhetorical elegance and admirable historical and theoretical overview that the film medium holds a huge untapped potential because we have uncritically adopted the cinematic alphabet of earlier generations, and therefore we need someone like Michael Madsen who deconstructs the language of the cinema.

It seizes Michael Madsen’s philosophical questions and reflects with great insight on the way movies are made in the interface with a subject who creates the meaning of a film with his impulses, idiosyncrasies and sensibilities.

What is imagination, what is cinema, and what is it that happens when the two hold hands? The review has answers to such huge questions.

You may be thinking that this sounds like a very bombastic review, but actually it is not. It is namely exceptionally well written, much better than this text and much less sentimental, full of original metaphors and sweeping phrases. And it possesses a self-irony reminiscent of the twinkle in Michael Madsen’s eye, enabling it to think big without sounding pompous.

It is possibly the best review never written”.

Source: anmeldelse-af-film-der-ikke-findes-206298

In other words, THE REVIEWS, as a ongoing string of invented films, which explore key scenes, colour schemes, dialogue, themes, camera movements, sound design, acting technique, director’s statements and justifications – all fictitious, but unmade movies such as ”Technically Sweet”, ”Napoleon” og ”Hoffmaniana” by Antonioni, Kubrick and Tarkovsky, Madsen’s cinematic idols, will also be reviewed. Music, stills, film sequences and sound design, glimpses of fake movies created for the occasion, may also be part of the THE REVIEWS format.

THE REVIEWS will shamelessly exploit the comforting, womb- like darkness of the auditorium to create the ultimate production value through Madsen’s verbal ability to fire the audience’s imaginations and challenge accepted conventions on narrative, theme, plot, and dramaturgy. THE REVIEWS aims to get to the essence of the cinema, that which lies beyond the confines of the silver screen: the visions the movie-goer sees inside his head. Madsen will actively challenge these as he turns the cinema auditorium inside out.

With THE REVIEWS Madsen insists on a continuing debate about cinema, with the audience as part of each performance, and spiting the passage of time: THE REVIEWS will continually review new imaginary movies and relentlessly exploit this suspension of every cinematic law. In the very first programme, for example, he will critique a fantastic documentary shot in the Stone Age.

THE REVIEWS will hence provide a cinematic open source, a generous encyclopaedia of ideas for movies anybody is free to draw on, contest, or steal from. Madsen’s fictitious film clips will amass into a single whole, an overlapping cinematic abstraction that will aspire to become a parallel history of the cinema.

In the Q&A forming part of and concluding each performance audiences can challenge the images and fragmentary narratives Madsen’s fabulation involuntarily will have created in their minds, although by doing so they will risk wanton spoilers as regards the way the movies end.

THE REVIEWS is NOT a masterclass with its considered review of achievements already completed and acknowledged, but in itself, its form and its content a dynamic conversation with the audience on what the cinema could also be.

THE REVIEWS is part of the cycle of thinking about film including his ”WORKSHOP FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA FOR A FILM” 

Live sounddesign by Øivind Weingaarde.

Anywhere, with our without a silverscreen