Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Wish me luck. I don't think I'll be writing posts while there, but perhaps I'll upload photos when I'm back.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Confronting Reality: Stories from a Sabbatical Year is a collection of seven stories I hope to put together. I have edited the first three; the rest will be completed after my Chile odyssey.
Meanwhile there's this... An audio recording of my going through each story, describing its ethos, its incidents and messages. It's 35 minutes long; I don't understand how anyone would be willing to sit through its entirety.
I split it into two parts because it was too heavy to upload as one video... The background image was originally going to be this arbitrarily chosen one, but it made the video heavier for some reason. I had to simply slap on my profile image in the end... Not that it makes any difference.
Something I was going to mention at the end of this recording, but forgot, is that I'm like that "Shakespeare actor who always plays himself." Even though I try to write broadly, about a number of subjects, it always seems the same and somewhat monotonous... This could be remedied by attending Creative Writing classes, but I'm quite stubborn about that sort of stuff... Alas.
Friday, 24 June 2011
Kieslowski films depict characters struggling in their daily life with cultural myths. Strongly evident in this trilogy, each protagonist experiences some sort of strife with the moral codes of their community; they ultimately learn to acclimatise themselves to their conflict and find strategies of solving their issues.
Blue is a film that centres itself around emotional, not political, liberty. Julie, played by the beautiful Juliette Binoche, is wife of a renowned composer. The film begins with a car crash where she is the sole survivor, surviving her husband and five-year-old daughter. She thereafter cuts herself off from the rest of the world.
The film follows her through her isolation, discovering that her husband had been unfaithful. What fortifies the film is the perennial presence of music: whenever the protagonist closes her eyes to think, there is a fadeout superimposed with lush orchestral music.
Kieslowski said that cinema is inferior to literature because of its incapacity at showing 'the inner life,' but he does find ways of ameliorating this by depicting characters' inner thoughts. Curtailing the explicitly of cinema, he nuances the level of obviousness often prevalent in film. Everything in Blue is centred around the character, so all her surroundings become detached. Kieslowski makes every common triviality - a cup of coffee, a television set, backgrounds - lose importance as she continues to banish the world around her.
The Binoche character eventually comes around to integrating herself into the world again, completing an unfinished symphony of her deceased husband and beginning a relationship with a contact. Her emotional liberty is reciprocated and resumes her activity again.
White is considered the weak link in the trilogy, but if you consider it in its own terms it is an excellent piece of film-making. It follows the misfortunes of a Pole stranded in Paris, who is abandoned by his adored wive, leaving his him as a vagabond. After a whole series of events he becomes a rich entrepreneur after having connivingly acquired an expensive spot of land.
At the time of the film's release there was a sudden explosion in suspicious dealings and investments. For instance, people like Chealsea football club owner Abrahamovich amassed a great fortune because they managed to acquire enterprises cheaply after the dissolution of the communist hierarchy. Kieslowski was clearly unsettled by this and felt the need to comment on it.
Red no doubt features the most benevolent protagonist, played by the beautiful (how many French beauties are there?) Irene Jacob. A student who does modelling for spare cash, she runs over a dog, feels guilty and returns it to its owner. Having sought him, she finds that he is rude and cold to her. This solitary man lives isolated in a small house while monitoring tapped conversations of his neighbours.
This man turns out to have been a former judge, who now seems to be displaced with the world. With the assistance of this kind model, they establish a friendship and he turns himself into the authorities.
A concurrent narrative is of a law student's fraught love relationship. Like in Double Life of Veronique Kieslowski revels in mirroring interconnected lives. This young law student is perhaps a missing link between each other's destinies; that perhaps, had they been born in the same time-frame, they may have had a relationship.
All the films are riddled with symbolism. One recurring theme in each of the film is of an old woman scavenging over to a waste disposal to trash a bottle. In the first two films the characters simply see it from a distance; in Red, as an act of solidarity and fraternity, Jacob helps the elderly woman.
Finally: I am not one to praise, nor even notice, the cinematography of a film, but here it is unavoidable. Each film is tinted with its respective colour, in addition to being accompanied by setting and props of it. Not many directors can be acclaimed for taking content and cinematography in consideration simultaneously, not separately, but Kieslowski is one of them.
An extraordinary trilogy and definitely the most impressive piece of contemporary film-making I have encountered. Strongly recommended.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
I'm going to Chile next Wednesday, so this ritual has no come to an end. I hope to practice it during my stay at university, too.
Most of the films I enjoyed enormously. The two Fellini and Godard films were excruciatingly tedious, though. I also saw many films in addition to these throughout the year. I hope to see the last film on this list, Enfant du paradis, soon.
Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
Crimes and Misdemeanours (Woody Allen)
Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen)
October (Sergei Eisenstein)
Intolerance (D. W. Griffith)
M (Fritz Lang)
Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Sunrise (F. W. Murnau)
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Robert Wiene)
8 ½ (Federico Fellini)
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock)
Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock)
The Third Man (Carol Reed)
Jules et Jim (Francois Truffaut)
Masculin Femenin (Jean-Luc Godard)
Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen)
Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen)
Stardust Memories (Woody Allen)
Le Regle de Jeu (Jean Renoir)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)
Three Colours: Blue (Kryzstof Kiesloswi)
Three Colours: White (Kryzstof Kieslowski)
Three Colours: Red (Kryzstof Kieslowski)
Gertud (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Sanjuro (Akira Kurosawa)
Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
Hidden (Michael Haneke)
Enfants du Paradis (Marcel Carne)
Monday, 20 June 2011
After the fiasco of his two Mercury albums - Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams, both released in 1974 - Beefheart was a lost cause. In vain he released two self-conscious bids at commercial success, but it fired back: not only did these pithy albums sky-rocket in the charts, it also alienated his own fan-base. It was a fan-base that had grown to appreciate him for all the eccentricities that that made him so special.
A stint in Zappa's band followed, until the bearded musical polymath agreed to fund his next album. This album, sadly, has yet to see the light of day.
Beefheart's contractual situation was always wrangled - conflicting papers from different record companies claimed his ownership. Most decisively, Zappa sued his own manager and, in that complicated legal process, prevented the release of the album.
This is a huge shame. If the album had seen the light of day it would have announced Beefheart's comeback with aplomb. Beefheart, throughout the seventies, had been making compromises. Due to the obtuseness of his music, it was always clear that it could never reach wide audiences. Failure after failure followed until Van Vliet realised that all he needed to do was do what he did - and do it well.
The only way to hear the album is through bootlegs, meaning that the mixing is not as it should be and that the sound isn't crystal clear. There are good copies available, though: the one I stumbled across in Soulseek is fine.
Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) is wrongly regarded as a re-recording of this album. Only five of this album's tracks appear on it, and anyone has taken the time to seek out a copy of the original BCP will realise that it is a different kettle of fish altogether. Ten of the twelve album tracks would be re-worked in his three subsequent releases: Shiny Beast, Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow.
The music in the album returns to the unbridled wildness of his earlier days, though it still has a little more cohesion. It is far less frenetic than the controlled mayhem in Trout Mask: the guitars sound angular and the complex signature drumming is there, but it doesn't rocket ahead so fast rapidly and anxiously. The drumming in Trout Mask, though it may not seem so at first, was centred around the other instruments. This is also the case here: the scraps of music are held together by the arhythmical drumming, though it is more paced and relaxed.
The opener 'Bat Chain Puller' was centred around a drum rhythm: the windshield wipers in Don's car. And the rhythm sounds just like that. Drabber than the version on 'Shiny Beast', it is a funky and foot-tapping in a strange Beefheart sort of way (my dad once put this on thinking that he had an African music cd on the player and he started dancing to it - which he never does - completely unaware that it was Beefheart!).
The lyrics are back to free-association and weirdness. While Beefheart's voice by this point was gravelly and cracked, he couldn't really sing as he used to, but he delivers it methodically and humorously. "Bat Chain" he deadpans. "Bat Chain Puller," he continues, before vociferating "BAAAAAAAAAAT CHAAAAAAAAIN PULLER." Again he draws from rural and wildlife imagery, the subject of his expressionist oil paintings, to flesh out these non-sensical - though hilariously entertaining - lyrics.
'Seam Cooked Sam' is a song with very complex guitar lines, which coalesce and intertwine atonally. Beefheart 'reads out' a surreal poem. This intriguing oddity never resurfaced in any of the later re-recordings.
'Harry Irene' is far superior to the Shiny Beast version. It's mainly the timbre of the keyboards that make this one special, ironically sounding like a lounge combo. The good thing like a track like this is its levity: something good to be placed amongst an abundance of complexity and difficulty.
There is a return to 'spoken word' tracks on this album. Two are featured on the album. 'Poop Hatch' is a little repetitive, not helped by Beefheart's tired delivery that a critic remarked sounded as if he were reading from an extensive shopping list. The closing track 'Apes-Ma' is full of his characteristic humour, clocking in at 40 seconds. "Your cage isn't getting any bigger, Apes-Ma."
And then there's two instrumentals. 'Flavour Bud Living', here played by the drummer and musical arranger John French, is substantially different on this version. It is played far more quietly and contemplatively, in contrast to the more accelerated and Oriental-tinged version rendered by Gary Lucas on Doc. The lovely guitar and piano duet 'A Carrot is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond', a very melodic and cohesive piece, is exactly like the version that appeared on Doc.
The 'Brickbats' version that appeared on Doc is much better because here the cacophonous sax is mixed far too loud, obscuring all the stimulating musical activity. Every time I put BCP on and this comes on, I root for the skip button.
There are two rollicking blues-rock tracks which, by Beefheart standards, are fairly orthodox... yet still far from normal. 'Floppy Boot Stomp' and 'Carson City' they are played with more vigour and bite than in the Shiny Beast versions, though Beefheart's delivery on the BCP tracks are below par.
By far, the album's highlights are the tracks 'Odd Jobs' and 'The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole'. They sound like what would have happened if Stravinsky had been persuaded to write a rock song. Both clocking in at over five minutes, which for Beefheart is long, they are meticulously crafted and superbly rendered. The lyrics are memorable as well, the former track describing the absence of a charismatic tramp and the latter a tongue-in-cheek Beefhearterian allegory. These two songs are the best tracks from Beefheart's late period material.
The Zappa family trust own the rights to the tapes, yet they continue to abstain from its release... Hopefully if more laudatory reviews and write-ups like this appear on the internet they may get their finger out... Release the fucker!
Friday, 17 June 2011
Friday, 10 June 2011
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Sunday, 5 June 2011
Can't say this will boost the meagre amount of comments I receive... A very vain decision indeed.
Friday, 3 June 2011
Audio of my effusive recommendatory praise for the Argentinean writer Antonio Di Benedetto.
I make quite a few slips and grammatical mistakes during the recording. For instance I say 'economic' instead of 'economical' and there's quite a lot of verbal repetition. It's oral language, not written, so there are bound to be some inconsistencies.
Hear my voice in all its glory.