Social media has redefined the boundaries of artistic collaboration, and no recent movie explores this dynamic quite like Presenting Princess Shaw.
The simple but effective documentary unfolds like a long distance duet between artists who have never met; well-known Israeli video essayist Kutiman becomes inspired by the raw lyrics and soulful voice of a downtrodden New Orleans singer named Samantha Montgomery. He uses musical samples from other YouTube videos to construct a "visual symphony" around her a cappella renditions. The result is a rousing and new creation, one that questions traditional notions of authorship and expression.
Director Ido Haar follows Montgomery's struggles to find her footing in the music business. She attends open mics, performs for empty bars and auditions unsuccessfully for The Voice. Posting online confessions and melodies is her version of therapy. Sporadically, the film cuts to Tel Aviv where Kutiman silently watches these videos and begins orchestrating new arrangements. The juxtaposition between these two perceptions of reality is striking.
While Montgomery dreams of making it big, she sings primarily to survive, using music to work through past traumas and heartbreaks that still linger. The pressures of daily life make that process even harder. "It's not easy to be alone with myself," Montgomery confesses, yearning for some kind of recognition that her art matters.
When Kutiman finally debuts his mash-up video featuring Montgomery's single "Give It Up," the post goes viral almost immediately. A trip to Israel follows where the two artists perform with an orchestra to thousands of fans. It's the kind of positive acknowledgement Montgomery has been seeking all along. Yet Haar doesn't proclaim this newfound success as a fix-all for Montgomery. The final "back to reality" sequence proves that Presenting Princess Shaw, which opens Friday, June 3, works best as deconstruction of the Internet-era rags-to-riches narrative.
As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM: Documentary about pioneer DJ AM featuring interviews with countless industry insiders and colleagues that reveal the true impact he had on modern music. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, and Wednesday, June 8, at the Ultrastar Mission Valley Cinemas.
Dark Horse: A group of friends from a workingman’s club decides to breed a racehorse to take on the elite “sport of kings.”
Elstree 1976: Set around the filming of Star Wars in North London, this comedy follows the extras who had no idea they were helping create one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons in film history. Screens through Thursday, June 9, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Ma ma: This melodrama follows a woman who experiences both life’s difficulties and wonders as she is treated for breast cancer. Starring Penelope Cruz and Luis Tosar. Screens through Thursday, June 9, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Pop Star: Never Stop Never Popping: Andy Samberg stars in this satire about a dim-witted pop star who finally has to face the music. Get it?
Presenting Princess Shaw: YouTube video artist Kutiman becomes inspired by the songs of a struggling New Orleans singer and decides to make a “visual symphony.” This documentary deconstructs the boundaries of collaboration in the social media age.
Sold: A 13-year-old girl tries to escape a life of misery after she becomes a victim of human trafficking. Opens Friday, June 3, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows: Michelangelo is a party dude.
The Sacrifice: A surgeon and her husband discover some unnerving secrets after moving to the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Screens through Thursday, June 8, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Weiner: Documentary that follows disgraced ex-congressman Anthony Weiner’s New York City mayoral bid in 2013 that was tainted by new allegations of sexual misconduct.
One Time Only
Boogie Nights: Paul Thomas Anderson’s decade’s spanning masterpiece set in the San Fernando Valley porn industry. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Don’t Think Twice: Mike Birbiglia wrote, directed, and stars in this comedy about the emotional and professional pitfalls of the improv world. Co-stars Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard and Tami Sagher. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 2, at The Ken. Birbiglia will appear in person for a Q&A.
The Philadelphia Story: In this classic romantic comedy by George Cukor, a rich woman confronts her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter on the eve of her wedding to a new man. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday - Friday, June 2 to 3, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Evil Dead: Sam Raimi’s classic horror comedy stars Bruce Campbell as a man who must battle demons after attending a cabin getaway in the woods. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the Ken Cinema.
Sixteen Candles: The pivotal birthday for every teenager becomes a long series of embarrassments for one young woman. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday – Sunday, June 4 to 5, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Young Frankenstein: Mel Brooks mashes up the classic Universal horror film with this parody starring Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: A snarky teenager (Matthew Broderick) with a penchant for skipping school pulls off the ultimate staycation. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.