Monday, 26 October 2009

Top 10 films

Recently, cinema has become one of my main passions. I'm gradually becoming more of a cinephile, but I'm still not all the way there, so this list is far from complete or definite. This list, I must make clear, is a personal selection from what I've encountered and what I've liked the most. Other directors I will be looking into this year are Ingmar Bergman, Tarkovsky, Jean Renoir, Sam Fuller, Eisenstein, Louis Malle and many, many more. I'm rather pissed off at LOVEFILM as they were extremely reliable last year, but they're not sending me the Tarkovsky movies I want to watch..... Anyway, here's the list...




Written by Joseph Stepfano and Samuel A. Taylor; Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

No matter how endlessly emulated or talked-about, you can never escape the sheer brilliance of that shower scene and the scintillating Bernard Hermann score... The neurotic protagonist is brilliant and disturbing, and Hitchcock's psychological revelations towards the end of the film are subtly suggested throughout the rest of the film.


The Producers

Written and directed by Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks insists that the horrors of the holocaust can be meliorated and alleviated through comedy and satire. He may be right, considering how downright hilarious the song-and-dance 'Springtime for Hitler' routine is. An accountant and a producer realise that they can make more money with a flop than a hit, but if backfires! The script they chose eulogizing Hitler turns out to be a monster hit! Along with The Big Lebowski and Brooks' even sillier outing Blazing Saddles, this is a film I know entirely off by heart.


The Second Heimat

Written and directed by Edgar Reitz

Recently reviewed in my blog, this film has the claim of being the longest picture ever made - clocking in at about 25 hours. But you can also digest it in its television format which is divided across 13 episodes. Set from 1960 until 1970, it follows the young musical prodigy Hermann trying to pursue a career as a composer, meeting several characters in his university studies. The film, like its predecessor, alternates from black and white to colour to achieve a lush and unprecedented artistic effect.


The Big Lebowski

Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Endlessly watchable, this film follows the life of ageing hippie Jeff 'The Dude' Lebowski who, after getting his rug soiled by some goons, embarks on Chandler-esque plot roughly ignited by the hostage of a pornographic actress by some nihilists, and so much more which is, frankly, confusing and irrelevant. But this film is meant to be confusing, and the underlying storyline is merely a pretext for the highly charismatic central characters to interact. The Coens splice everything in their signature style: Chandler, post-modernism, dream sequences and so much more. A cult classic.


Bicycle Thieves

Written by Vittorio De Sica, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi D'Amico, Gerardo Guerrieri, Oreste Biancoli and Adolfo Franci; Directed by Vittorio De Sica

One of the central films of Italian Neo-realist cinema, this a truly heart-wrenching portrait of poverty and a struggle to survive. Using amateur actors, it is greatly involving and deeply moving. It is no surprise that the Academy Awards felt compelled to award it with 'Outstanding foreign film' seven years before the existence of the category.


A Man Escaped

Written and directed by Robert Bresson

Quiet, sparse, contemplative, minimalist.... You know the ending by its title and everything else that occurs in the film, but Bresson manages to overwhelm the viewer with a magnificently restrained style... not to mention the sublime Mozart score.


Aguirre, The Wrath of God

Written and directed by Werner Herzog

Herzog's riches achievement, this is a hectic journey into the heart of darkness. Aguirre is a crazed obsessive searching for a futile, doomed quest neither he nor any of his followers are capable of obtaining. Not only is it astonishing to look at in terms of framing, but this is the most important film starring the unforgettable narcissist Klaus Kinsky.



Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Lemmy Caution enters the topsy-turvy world of Alphaville, where everything is seemingly different. The concept of the individual has been lost, and anyone speaking up is murdered in strange ways. Also, dictionaries are bibles, love is replaced by sensuality, women are bar-coded and words are replaced.... Far stranger than anything in1984. There are allusions to everything under the sun, although these can go over your head and won't hinder the enjoyment of the film. The best segments from the film are often the confrontations the protagonist has with Alpha 60, a computer which gives Borgesian monologues about time and space.

Blue Velvet

Written and directed by David Lynch

This is a film which shows the underlying darkness fervidly thriving beneath the superficial calmness and tranquility of suburbia. The gateway into this underworld is a severed ear...


2001: A Space Odyssey

Written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke; Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Astounding sets that awe the viewer as much now as they did in 1969; astounding classical music, both modern and romantic; an astounding ending which is open to interpretation; and the monolith.... This is far more than a mere science fiction movie, this is dazzling.

Runners-up: Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino; Branded to Kill by Seijun Suzuki; A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick; Citizen Kane by Orson Welles; Annie Hall by Woody Allen; The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by Luis Bunuel; Videodrome by David Cronenberg; Vivre Sa Vie by Jean-Luc Godard; Barton Fink by the Coen Brothers.


For some fucked up reason, I can't get the font I want when I list the directors for each film... It appears correctly when I type it up as a draft here, but when I post it it keeps fucking up! Frustrating....

Friday, 23 October 2009

Thoughts on psychosis


Psychosis is a culmination of a series of events, thoughts and experiences. In my case, it was also an explosion of anger, hidden feelings and despair against the rest of the world. All this culminated in an episode that came and went. People that drift into madness have often made the wrong moves in life, and they have taken the wrong decisions to get them in a bad situation. Psychosis can often stem from intense solitude; it can stem from forced and concentrated impositions of self-imposed rules. I had an underlying psychosis building up within me for years and years. I hallucinated when I was about 5 years old, affecting my perceptions of reality. After school ended at the age of 16, I slowly withdrew myself from others. By doing this, I expanded my outlook on life considerably. Consequently, these dark tendencies were brought out into the open and gradually became more and more extreme and intense. My angry outbursts became very frequent, and I developed an assortment of 'unhealthy' habits. This kept developing for about a year until I restrained myself, and then came a smorgasbord of racing thoughts and delusional beliefs culminating in my episode.

Natural distortion of reality

An episode is a natural distortion of reality, rather than one induced via chemical means. An episode, or an experience derived from schizophrenia, is often preceded by a build-up of events and issues whereas a drug 'trip' is done instantly. A person with a mental illness is often rather complex, having several layers to themselves and prone to introspection. People who take drugs, who are looking to 'distort' reality, are often merely looking for a 'good' time and a way of spending a good time - often a more refined way of going out and getting drunk. Mental illness is far from a jolly experience and, consequently, a more painful one. It is a far more different and natural distortion of reality than drug-taking. Drugs also disorientate one after having taken the drug; you become more complacent and will often be "at one with the universe". You have trouble between distinguishing what's beautiful and what's not. Mental illness is closer to one's self than "been at one with the universe". It is, therefore, a more natural distortion of reality.

Delusional thoughts

My episode's main drive was delusional thoughts. In the mind of the individual, everything he perceives is the truth. When this interior truth gets out of hand and doesn't correspond with normal, everyday life there is a clash between interior and exterior worlds... Before my episode, an assortment of delusional thoughts crossed my mind. To start off with, I thought I'd caused a controversy with my writing and that I a documentary about me and an old MSN contact had been made where we played games and tricks on one another. I thought also that by using the basis of Julio Cortázar's Rayuela, a psychologist had arranged together a whole crop of young teenagers who were confronting the education system by playing child-like games on each other on an intellectual level. These thoughts got out of hand after staying up for three days, and they got even more extreme. I thought that ininity had arrived and that I'd live forever by reading every single book on earth, and that I'd kill my English teacher with my 'terrorist novel'. This all came to me after having a conversation with my mother who rather miracolously got me to sleep through a strong dose of medication that got me to sleep after staying up for 3 nights. The day after, I wrote out all my delusional thoughts which alluled to several artists I liked as god. This day I got taken to a psychiatric ward where I thought I'd sleep for years until 2156, the year derived from the chapter where I thought I'd appeared in Cortázar's Rayuela. When I woke up in the psychiatric ward where I kept doing inexplicable, odd things and I kept having these delusional thoughts. My behaviour alarmed people so much that I got taken to an intensive care unit in Derby. I remember been driven there: I was at the back of the van, looking out into the motorway not only thinking it was 2156, but getting numerous other delusional thoughts as well. Before getting into the main part of the unit, I was locked in a 'de-escalation room', where I thought would be some sort of contact with Jorge Luis Borges. Throughout my stay in the unit and later in other wards, my delusional thoughts slowly diminished their potency.... They are very difficult to articulate.

Repression of thoughts

An episde can often emerge from repression of thoughts. There are many disturbing parts of our nature that we do not want to acknowledge, and these often surface out in the episode. Many niggling worries we may have during our childhood may surface again and haunt us. The fact that I had an hallucination at a young age shows how something can be ingrained deep within the subconscious and emerge more than a decade later.

Racing thoughts

In the three nights I stayed up, my thoughts were racing constantly. They prompted me to walk in all directions of the house, constantly thinking over and over and over. When thoughts are bombard at you at this speed, it is diffcult to keep control and this results in the culmination I mentioned before.

Loss of control

Psychosis is characterised by how little control the person has over his actions. Consequently, there is a loss of time too. Like dreams and LSD hallucinations, one doesn't seem to be within a discerinble beginning, middle or end. I had no idea of the dates or the month for the first couple of weeks I was in the intensive care unit. One can often find onself acting with no real motive, and one can find oneself screaming or acting out strange behaviour without any conscious self-awareness.

Outer appearance

A lot of deception and ignorance about mental illness stems from the outer appearance of a person victim of the illness. Before been transferred to a psychiatric ward to Chesterfield I was placed in one in Derby, and I found that the patients were often left to their own resources and ignored. These people were, it seemed to me, worse off than in the intensive care unit, a place where the level of attention is far more intense and concentrated. Most psychiatrists are often so filled with prejudices that they will apply mentally ill people with a label due to their outer appearance, and they will take for granted the underlying personality of the individual. Mentally ill people can often seem threatening, but people choose to ignore what kind of sheer incredible workings go on in the inside of the mind that is far more interesting than the workings of the mind of the vast amount of the rest of the population.

The Aftermath No. 1: Psychiatric wards/Intensive care units

After an episode, a person will often inevitably find themselves in a ward or, worse, an intensive care unit. Often, these places can seem as an expansion of one's own imagination - as if it's part of the episode itself. Sooner or later, this is shattered and you must come face to face with reality. An intensive care unit, in particular, is extremely hard work; you spend every single minute craving for some sort of space - it's restrictive as hell. Yet at the same time, you develop a strange kind of affinity for it and attempt to adapt to new, constraining environments.

The aftermath No. 2: Medication

While I was at the intensive care unit, I consumed a lot of medication which caused me to shake, slur my speech, avoid concentration (I couldn't read at all while I was at the unit), and I couldn't get erections. The doctors have all told me that they did a fantastic job, but I think that the reason for why I sorted myself out was a conscious decision to start and look at things logically. After getting discharged, I was prescribed with olanzapine which made me life considerably more mundane... In a way, two years after my episode, I find that I've got to fight against this medication in order to obtain greater things. With these meds I found my creativity wane, I often felt drowsy and found it difficult to stay up at nights.

Encounters with idiosyncratic people

Before I found myself at the wards, I felt a great deal of contempt against the rest of the world... This contempt could often veer towards misanthropy. However, when entering the wards I found an assortment of idiosyncratic people. It was enlightening to come across people who thought in their own peculiar way... I remember the fat black man who stank of shit, Dennis, keeping an eye on me and conjuring up remarks charged with wisdom... When getting discharged, I was disappointed by the mentality of other people...

A good or bad experience?

I think it was a good experience to have had an episode, as it expanded my outlook considerably: it both expanded my outlook considerably, acquainted myself with a variety of thoughts and exposed me to visions no-one else has seen. The bad experiences are these 'aftermaths' and consequences of an episode. Ultimately, all psychotic episodes are singular so it is an incredible privilege to have come across visions and perception no-one has seen or known about.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The mechanisms of reality

Often people stumble across experiences which are perplexing - they doesn't seem to correspond, fit together or make any kind of logical sense. One often has metaphysical experiences which defy our ordinary, every-day expectations; one can never find a solution as to how these things occur; one often dismisses these experiences as 'coincidental'. I think that all this is part of the mechanisms of reality, and they don't have an explanation (like many people who dabble in shallow new-age philosophies seem to think) which can bring everything to a conclusion and keep us satisfied. We can only speculate.

Many of the short stories Julio Cortázar wrote are based around a character seeing 'fisulas': fissures. These could be seen as cracks - new gateways - that lead us to new perceptions which can't be normally obtained in everyday waking-life. You don't have to be a 'deep thinker' to have these experiences - you can be anyone. Our reality is structured in such a incomprehensible way that many differing aspects clash, resulting in these fleeting distortions of reality or 'fissures'.

I read Julio Cortázar's novel Rayuela (known in english as Hopscotch) in its sequential order rather than in the other order. Because I didn't read the book in this order I missed out on a substantial part of the book entitled 'de otros lados' ('from other sides'). I still haven't read this part of the book completely, but once I was having a brief glance at this section of the book and encountered this:
Sera cuestión de tiempo. Pero me siento bien, se acabaron los problemas con la portera. Nadietrae correspondencia, ni siquera la de Nueva Zelandia, con sus estampillas tan bonitas. Cuando se ha publicado un libro que nace muerto, el único resultado es un correo pequeno perofiel. La senora de Nueva Zelandia, el muchacho de Sheffield. Francmasoneria delicada, voluptuosidad de ser tan pocos que participan de una adventura. Pero ahora, realmente...
Here an obscure argentinian writer residing in Paris explains his correspondence with the few people that write to him, and one of them is a 'muchacho de Sheffield.' I read this novel when I was 16 ('muchaco' means 'young man'), and I resided in Sheffield. Not only is this a coincidence in itself, but Cortázar often stressed that he always had some sort of contact with the reader. What is most remarkable is how Cortázar, to my knowledge, knew nothing about England or English geography. My 'inclusion' in this book was one of several factors that led to my psychotic episode (it led to several delusional beliefs which I won't go into detail now).

Truly exhilarating experiences can occur with how the world works, and there are often many clashes of individual actions that result in a peculiar experience. One doesn't have to be in a disoriented state of mind in order for this to happen; it can happen fleetingly or during a elongated space of time without chemical use or mental illness.

When I was taken to a psychiatric ward, a person who looked like Paul Auster came to the room with a woman who looked like Paul Auster's wife. I am 100% certain this wasn't a hallucination. He gave me a pill of lorazipam and said something I can't remember. Whatever he said, I'm sure it would have summed up the general gist of this blog post so succinctly.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Review #5

The Second Heimat; Written and directed by Edgar Reitz

Heimat is a film that spans from 1919 until 1984, separated into 11 episodes and running for over 15 hours. This film shows how the rural town of Schabbach develops over these decades; it starts from the end of the first world war and ends with the death of the principal protagonist, Maria, who predominates in the film. The Second Heimat starts from 1960 and ends in 1970, and it shows how Maria's son, Hermann, takes a vow to leave the town forever. He leaves for Munich, and he confidently asserts that he will become a composer. He therefore leaves behind his 'heimat' for a new one. This second film is subdivided into 13 episodes and runs for a total of 25 hours. It is the longest film to be commercially shown in its entirety.

The Second Heimat is not a sequel. 'Heimat' is a very significant word in German culture meaning 'homeland'. The fact that Herman pursues a new homeland is indicative of how this isn't a continuation but, rather, a beginning of something new. Its subtitle is 'A Chronicle of a Generation.' Whereas Heimat is a historical chronicle, we could see as The Second Heimat as more overtly ficticious and, as well, more personal and intimate. Edgar Reitz himself studied film during the 1960s, and wrote a manifesto along with other students in search of broadening cinematic language.

Hermann is a musical prodigy in his town of Shabbach. Scornfully leaving his small town aside, he leaves for Munich to study music and become a composer. In the conservatory he falls in love with a cellist called Clarissa, but he often starts relationships with other women instead. In the conservatory he meets a very tragic character from Chile, Juan, who is a incredibly talented polymath who won't be allowed into the conservatory on the grounds that his music 'folklore'. Throughout the 13 episodes we are introduced to a wide array of characters Hermann meets who aren't solely musicians but also filmmakers, a philosopher and a science student. Although Hermann remains as the central protagonist throughout the film, each episode is allocated with the name of a character and the episode is roughly based around the character. As the film delves into these characters and their lives, in the background a whole historical and political life races by as the tumultuous '60s comes to fruition. Hermann eventually marries another woman, but his desire for Clarissa never wanes and they are estranged and kept apart for a substantial part of the film. He eventually succeeds with his aspirations to be a composer, even acquiring his own electronic studio permitting him to create musique concrete music. The film can be quite solemn and sombre, with several tragic deaths.

The first episode is stunning, and it immediately lures the viewer into the film. I was only 15-years-old, but BBC 4 was on with the first episode of the film and I was completely hooked with the necessity of seeing the rest. I saw the first Heimat series, and then viewed the rest of this film every summer's day of 2005. The first episode is immaculately shot, alternating between black and white and colour, and accompanied by spectacular music. This all enhances the sense of discovery Hermann goes through when going into the conservatory.

The film is shot in black and white during day time, and it is then presented in colour for the scenes shot in night time. This is evocative of the emotions present in the film, and once more heightens the sense of discovery the characters subject themselves to at night time, as it is this when they are the most exploratory and curious. The result of this alternation is a highly successful artistic result.

One of the most important aspects of the film is the discovery of the avant-garde. In the first episode we see Hermann wandering into a room where he witnesses a performance of an avant-garde chamber piece. I had just discovered Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring around this time, so it was incredibly enlightening to discover this film, prompting me to look for more modern music. While it's not entirely necessary to have a profound knowledge or love for this music in order to enjoy the film, an appreciation of this type of music is key to view the film.

One of the great things about this film is that these are all real musicians. They are genuine musicians first, actors second. It's an incredible privilege to be able to see them improvise or play fully-notated music amidst dialogue which is interspersed among all this.

As this is a second heimat, there is a great level of insecurity in the second home one encounters in adult life. Hermann experiences an overwhelming desire to return to his original childhood home towards the end of the film. This second home is a place which brings out a whole scope of human emotions and intellectual, erudite contemplations.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The remote edges #6

Taking these photographs is starting to hinder the enjoyment I get from these walks... I miss being able to wander along happily without any preoccupations... I may postpone this regular temporarily because the weather may prevent me from visiting these places.... we'll see.

This wood is situated at the start of a ginormous valley... It is quite big. After 3-odd years of visiting it I know my way around it, so I shall try as hard as I can to give a precise record of what's here.

Friday, 2 October 2009

My state of mind #6

September began with the necessity of having to attend my second year of college. As always, I am the most solitary person there; I walk alone in the corridors feeling tense and nervous as the rest of the students converse happily.... Anyway, I have started A2 and I can say, with certainty, that it is far more demanding than the previous year because there is basically more to the subjects... I got AAB for my AS results, but I am going to put in a lot more effort this year... I'm already behind in quite a bit in a lot of the subjects... This is going to be a very difficult fucking year as I have the 3 tough A2 subjects, AS Spanish at a different college and piano lessons... Thankfully, they won't let me do GCSE Maths as my skills in this subject are so very poor, but I will have a stab at trying to obtain the qualification in my year off... As an example of how busy I am, I spend a total of 12 hours in lessons on a Tuesday! - from 9AM till 9PM... I arrive home exhausted...

Last month I posted that I was worried that I might go deaf because of the deterioration of my hearing and the musical event of Kayo Dot... It was a real coincidence that they went to Lancaster of all places, which is where my mother's side of the family lives, and that they came on a weekend! The venue was a really small pub... I arrived early and I was told that most of the band members had been stopped at the airport and weren't allowed through, but Tobi (the guitarist and composer) and Mia (the violinist) were going to perform a set of the quieter moments in their music... This was extremely convenient as it became apparent that my ear-drums wouldn't burst! There were 3 support acts to start off with, but I didn't go up to see them because I was afraid of my ears getting damaged... So I stayed downstairs to read Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception. I went upstairs to catch the end of the 3rd support act, and then Kayo Dot came on......... It was a luxurious privilege to be there.. There were only about 50 people, so it was really intimate... The set was, for the most part, completely improvised. Doug said that "quiet music is where it's at", so he would have more than enjoyed to have been there. The two lovers were augmented by a drummer from the audience and a band-member who is a clarinet/piano player. Mia is astonishingly beautiful, and the music was incredibly sparse, often veering towards sounding like a Morton Feldman composition. Most of it was so beautiful that it defied definition... I now rank it as #3 on my list of best gigs.

I have seen the girl that used to go out of her way to go to my bus stop in college, but I can't speak to her... I am hopelessly in love with her... Last year I was quite upset at the thought that be able to speak to her forever, but now that she is in college that has changed... Two weeks ago I had the perfect opportunity to talk to her, but an old friend of hers appeared and they started a conversation and that was that... divine intervention? I also saw her on my way to the woods the week after that... Now, instead of catching the train which is far more comfortable and cheaper, I will catch the bus just so that I can manage to speak to her. She is also the only student in the entire college I see walking on her own.

Chile are on the brink of qualifying to the world cup, but they have slumped down a bit in the table as they drew 2-2 with Venezuela and lost to Brazil 4-2 despite been on the verge of beating them. They're 3rd place at the moment, and they have to play two very difficult propositions: Ecuador and Colombia, who are both rabidly hungry for a win. I associate the Chile team with my A-levels... I see compare my current success in education with Chile's rising success in football... I put myself in Marcelo Bielsa's shoes when I go into college everyday.

I got very good A-level results despite missing several lessons: I did it all on my own as an autodidact. I see these excellent results as a way of overcoming all the cunts that have gotten in my way... I failed all my GCSEs with a cunt English teacher who prompted me into getting a D. I'd really would like to see the look on her fucking face if she were told that I obtained an A...

I really enjoyed reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception. I really like these sorts of essays/memoirs that go all over the place and touch on a vast scope of themes... Another book of this type I read recently is Auster's The Invention of Solitude. It is a form of expression which is new to me and has opened up new possibilities for me that aren't possible to obtain in novel-format. I am currently an extremely enjoyable novel by a relatively obscure Argentinian author which is called Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto... It is an existential novel about a solitary character in 17-th century Paraguay awaiting to be shifted to Buenos Aires... I read this novel during my 2 hour, 30 minute breaks (!) and during the weekends... Sadly, I cannot devote enough time to read excessively anymore.

I saw Luchino Visconti's The Leopard............ Is this a cunt's idea of a joke? I felt like strangling myself while watching it! How this atrocious piece of cinema could be considered a classic and how it could be considered to be one of the best films of all time is beyond me.

I have, thank God, stopped wanking/fantasizing about the future and am now living in the present. The only part of the future I think about is my year off and the fact that I want to study Philosophy at uni, but I don't have a fucking clue what will happen after that... I am now focusing on writing short stories, not in fantasizing about titles for novels I would supposedly publish in the future... I won't delude myself with a 100% that I'll get published, but I will have a stab at it slowly until I reach a certain level...

My pseudonym for my fiction will now be Saimón A. King. 'Saimón' is what I'm called in Chile. I would like to have this pseudonym so that it clashes with the British 'King'. I want this pseudonym to enhance and heighten my contradictory personality and my contradictory identity. I also want it to bring together the 'british' side of me and 'chilean' part.

I got an award for 'Outstanding Progress' in college... but I was asleep in bed when they gave it out! Apparently when they read my name out everyone clapped... It wouldn't make a difference whether I'd be there or not because I am the invisible man.

The reason for why I want to study philosophy is that I want to learn devices to imbue my writing. I'd learn more from this subject than I would by studying Literature. Studying this subject as a university education would benefit both my writing as well providing a stimulus for my character.

This is going to be a very difficult year... But the way I see it is that I've got to battle my through it in order for 2 excellent and enlightening years to come up... In my year off I will start a novel/write short stories and I will walk and I will travel across Chile... After this comes my first year of university which, although highly demanding, will be incredibly enlightening and life-changing.