Tuesday, April 25, 2006

some recent viewings

Firstly, I'm sorry for not updating for such a long time. I really want to make more frequent updates but I guess I'm not an ideal blogger, and lately I find myself being distracted by the unlikeliest of things (damn you, Danger Mouse!). Secondly (and this is just stating the obvious), Sigur Rós is simply amazing - live. I finally saw the band live last weekend and it was a spectacularly transporting audio-visual experience that I've been attempting to relive ever since.

Anyway, I haven't been watching many films lately, but it turns out that whatever I have seen have been mostly really good. Like João Pedro Rodrigues' O Fantasma, which silently follows the sexual (mis-)adventures of a nocturnal garbage collector, Sergio (non-professional actor, Ricardo Meneses), after he develops a lustful obsession with a swimmer. The film works up an incredible tension throughout its running time, generated by the long silences, the constant, infinite presence of the night, and mostly through Meneses' (Lee Kang-sheng-meets-Bobby Kendall-type) performance which consists of animalistic movement, violent stares, and a mixture of narcissism and desperation in coming to a defined state of masculinity. As his control over his own obsession crumbles, the film becomes almost surreal, more abstracted as it moves through a giant ellipsis into a Tropical Malady-esque nocturnal ballet where the body is metamorphosed by its desires into something along the borders of the fantastic, something less human and more animal. Except instead of the textures of a Thai jungle, here we have the deserted Lisbon streets and cityscape at night, eroticised to the supernatural.

I have been wanting to see Károly Makk's Love for a long time now, and it somehow got pushed to the backburner after its DVD release last year. Well, I finally saw it and the film more than lives up to its reputation. The narrative is built upon capturing the traces of multiple relationships in the presence of transformative externalities (invisible-but-palpable 'political tyranny' in this case), and how the absence of a man causes two women who love him deeply (his wife and his dying mother) to live a life of constant repetition and compromised pleasures. More than anything, though, the film is about the forward movement of time working towards the preservation of memory: I find Makk's presentation of the mother's memories (a flurry of rapid shots of isolated incidents from her youth) to be incredibly 'somatic' - he comes up with a rush of sensations and movements associated with a bed-ridden woman through the inserted memories, and creates a physical presence (an 'aura', if you will) through extreme close-ups of the objects of aging. Death is inevitable, but with it - in the film's hypnotically arresting and mostly wordless final minutes - there's a returning of the loved one, a rebirth of a relationship, as time slows down to allow two bodies to finally complete one other. There is no end. Just a life-affirming cyclicity.

There is also much to admire in Mario Bava's fascinating Lisa and the Devil, though I think I really need to see this mindbender at least once more. It uses the Möbius-strip approach to storytelling (ala Lost Highway), and posits a ghost who is made to relive the last few moments of her life over and over again by the Devil (played by Telly Savalas, clearly having a ball). Death, decay, and perverse carnality-slash-'morbid romanticism' reign in the mansion of the blind countess (RIP, Alida Valli) where most of the plot unfolds. There are some of Bava's most elegant camera movements on display here, along with the characteristic rapid zooms, the gothic imagery, the incredibly aggressive mise-en-scène - all adding up to a bizarre, hermetic universe which is the playground for the performers.

Finally, there are masterworks like Walerian Borowczyk's La Marge and Ritwik Ghatak's Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, which I cannot do justice to here. Perhaps some time in the future as I see more films by these two directors...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Osamu Tezuka on YouTube

Broken Down Film (1985)
Jumping (1984)
Mermaid (1964)
Memory (1964)

Some of Osamu Tezuka's experimental animated short films can be viewed at YouTube (the best ones linked above). Not an ideal way to see these films, but an argument could be made that it's the perfect way to see Broken Down Film - essentially Tex Avery by way of Duck Amuck by way of Bill Morrison - wherein a cowboy hero must fight a villain to rescue (and then attempt to seduce) a damsel in distress, if he can first fight the painted decay, scratches and impurities present in the film print. Jumping (a breathtaking series of leaps from the point of view of a character) is also pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

open mind

Czech photographer, Michal Macku: Gallery and Technique (of 'gellage'). Pretty astonishing. Imagine an entire film made with this technique! (I have no idea if that would be possible in the first place.)

Another gallery while I'm here: Adam Baer.

Monday, April 03, 2006

quick recap of recent listens

Unlike recent years, I thought I was pretty up-to-date with new music released in 2005. Hell, I even had a longish list of favourites. But it seems I'm already very behind with new stuff released so far this year. I do have some favourites from whatever little I've heard so far, though:

Aardvarck - Cult Copy
The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
B. Fleischmann - The Humbucking Coil
Amber Smith - rePRINT
The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
Espers - Espers II
The Charalambides - A Vintage Burden

A Fiery Furnaces album I can get behind whole-heartedly! Bitter Tea is a surprising and gorgeously infectious pop record, more listenable than anything they've done since their impressive debut, Gallowsbird's Bark, while pushing their experimentations with varying instrumentation into a more recognisably 'pop' soundscape. 'Waiting To Know You' is a contender for song-of-the-year already. rePRINT is also essentially pop music that has been deftly mutated by producer, (ex-Cocteau Twin) Robin Guthrie, who's presence has translated into some lovely shimmering guitars, and a darker, more melancholic sound for the Hungarian band. I'm waiting for a rainy day so I can listen to this again. Cult Copy is, quite simply, the most uplifting and endlessly 'fun' techno I've heard since Vitalic's OK Cowboy from last year. Espers II is a pretty good companion album to their The Weed Tree from last year, but still doesn't approach the rapturous psychedelia of their self-titled debut. The sparse and gentle, A Vintage Burden, is the first Charalambides album I've heard and it makes a refreshing addition to the current psychedelic folk sounds. The Humbucking Coil is somemore consistently organic and downbeat electronic music. Nothing groundbreaking, but it's been kinda really nice on the two listens so far. And I'm relieved that the new Flaming Lips does not disappoint!

And two older albums recently acquired (I'd highly recommend the collection of hypnotic, pulsating ghazals that is Shahen-Shah) :

Ravi Shankar - Transmigration Macabre
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Shahen-Shah

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