Monday, October 12, 2009

I Keep You Straight, You Keep Me Straight

One evening not long ago, we were sitting in the Eastlake Zoo tavern, and noticed a poster on the wall for a 1992 film, American Heart – directed by Martin Bell, with Mary Ellen Mark (one of the all-time heroes of this blog) listed in the credits as associate producer. Now that we've seen it, it's no wonder they had the poster up – many scenes in the film were shot at the Zoo and other recognizable places around Seattle. Turns out American Heart is essentially a different, fictional angle on Streetwise, the documentary Bell made ten years earlier with Mark (his wife) and Cheryl McCall. Click to see the trailer:

You get enough of the basic storyline from that, so I will just say: if you haven't seen it, see it. It's sort of the anti-Sleepless In Seattle.

If you haven't seen Streetwise, though, you might want to see that first. Inspired by Mary Ellen Mark's photo essay on street kids in downtown Seattle, Bell and co. made a documentary film on the topic, and it ended up being nominated for an academy award. I don't think it's on DVD though, so you have to be on the hunt. Here's a little excerpt:

One thing I kind of forgot is that it seems like there are influences on My Own Private Idaho throughout Streetwise (rollerskating in the abandoned building comes to mind, in addition to larger similarities). Whether you live in Seattle or not, it's a great movie – crushingly sad, but also crushingly beautiful, in a latter-day, tightly focused Robert Frank or films-of-William Eggleston kind of way. Or Harmony Korine, for that matter. Good for a cold and/or rainy fall day.

For more info, go to and click around. If you go to the books section and scroll down to Streetwise, then click the cover, you can read all kinds of stuff about it and see some photos.

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