Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
BACK TO BLACK
This is the perfect Friday night record. Or Sunday morning. Or really at any given moment in your life. I never, ever ever get sick of it. The first time I heard this I couldn't get over how good it was. I still can't. If you've never heard it before, don't waste another second. If you have, listen to it again. Every song, every word.. Motown for the Millennium. Amy Winehouse is younger than me. This is always disturbing to me. I love seeing pictures of her with her beehive and tight cropped stonewashed jeans and flats, those big black eyes. On the beach in St. Lucia. Don't ever change, Amy.
Amy's influences for this album were apparently The Shangri-La's and The Specials. It sounds like it. I can also hear a little bit of Tracey Emin and Nigella Lawson. Hell, Back To Black is so good that Ronnie goddamn Spector even covered it! There has not been so much pure drama in a song for at least 40 years. Amy's vocals are incredible, her voice has so much personality and so much gin and so much worldwear in it. Mark Ronson makes everything sound so crisp- a throwback, but entirely now. The songs are so well-written and the whole album is strung together (out) so perfectly. It feels so short, so concise, nothing unncessary. Songs end without warning. It's of course a shame that most people will only know Rehab. But nothing can quite come close to the real-life brilliance of her lyrics. Here are my favorites:
You shrug and it's the worst, who truly stuck the knife in first?
What kind of fuckery is this?
Nowadays you don't mean dick to me, I might let you make it up to me, who's playing Saturday?
I love you much, it's not enough, you love blow and I love puff.
I shouldn't play myself again, I should just be my own best friend, not fuck myself in the head with stupid men.
Your shadow covers me, the sky above, a blaze that only lovers see.
He gets fierce in my dreams seizing my guts, he floors me with dread.
I can't wait to hear Amy's next album. I have every confidence in it. I would love to see her record an album of duets with Peter Doherty and call it BLACKOUT/TRUE LOVE. The best beat on the whole album comes in on He Can Only Hold Her. Pure dubbed out Stax bliss. Cause what's inside her never dies.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Six films that end so perfectly, so tragically, and so romantically.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG
Flash forward to Décembre 1963. A snowy night, Esso Service Station. Christmas time. Guy is inside with his wife and son, François. Legrand plays. His wife leaves. Outside, a car pulls up. It's her, Geneviève. That glance, true love's stare. A chance meeting on a snowy night. She goes inside. She wipes her eyes while he lights a cigarette. They talk about the weather. She looks radiant. She tells Guy that her daughter Françoise is a lot like him. Are you alright? Yes, I'm fine. She steps outside, looks back for a moment, and gets into the car. He stands in the doorway. As the music swells, she drives off. His wife and son return. The camera zooms out to a shot of them all together as if nothing ever happened.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
The pouring rain can only hide Francesca's tears so much. Outside in the rain, Robert stands across the street next to his truck- he takes a few steps toward her, drenched, heartbroken, and they share one final gaze. Her husband returns and they pull out of the gas station. For a moment I didn't know where I was, and for a split second the thought crossed my mind that he really didn't want me, that it was easy to walk away. Now they are behind him at the stoplight- the longest red light in history. All that is left is a rear-view mirror and that red light that just won't change. Robert waits, Francesca grips the handle of the car door, but stops. The light changes, the sight of a left blinker is the final sign that the affair is over. The tears won't stop, thoughts run back and forth across her mind. The memory is all that can remain.
Dr. Harvey: I do love you so very much, I love you with all my heart and soul.
Laura: I want to die. If only I could die.
Dr. Harvey: If you die, you'd forget me. I want to be remembered.
Then, the sound of the train arriving. The train that will take Dr. Harvey to Africa, away from Laura forever. With one last touch of his hand on her shoulder, Dr. Harvey walks away without looking back to the platform. Laura hopes he'll return, something must go wrong, he must change his mind. But the wheels screeched on their tracks, the whistle blew through the night air. Laura runs outside only to catch the breeze of the train leaving the station. She stops herself from death, turns, and disappears back into the station, back into a life now full of feelings of what could have been but will never be.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Bob is leaving for the airport. From his car window he sees Charlotte walking, lost in a sea of pedestrians. He calls to her, she turns around, her eyes wet. They share a hug in the middle of a crowded street, and then Bob whispers something into Charlotte's ear- something we will never know and aren't meant to. A kiss, some tears. She tries to smile. Short goodbyes, backward glances, and those heart attack Be My Baby drums. Charlotte keeps walking, turns back, and disappears into the blurred out expanses of Tokyo. Bob goes back to his car. Walking back to you is the hardest thing that I could do. Like a dream, no: better.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
The ruins of Angkor Wat. What once was now lies broken. He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch. And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.
There is a knock on Isa's door. Bahar returns. It's snowing outside, and windy. She lays down on the bed. He sits down on the floor next to her and wraps himself around her legs. Silence. He touches her hair, there is so much love in his touch. He lays his head on hers. Breathing. He lights a cigarette, looks at his watch. Still silence. Bahar sits up against the headboard with her eyes closed. A deep breath to cover up the words that won't come out. Still snowing. A music box melody. Bahar wakes up and sits on the side of the bed. Good morning. They sit at the table. Bahar talks about her dream. Beautiful meadows, and she could fly. She flew down toward a cemetery and could see her mother waving at her. This makes her smile. Isa asks her what time she has to be on set. Her face drops. Isa looks serious, he's just the same as he was before. She loves him. Again, silence. On set, more snow. His plane flies overhead going back to Istanbul. Tears in the snow, fade to white and then black. This is the end that comes after the end.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
FROM GENESIS TO EVERLASTING
Genesis, 1963: Jackie DeShannon, Needles And Pins & When You Walk In The Room- the greatest vocal performances ever put to tape and the most heartbreaking and timeless songs ever written.
Hollywood, 1966: Jack Nitzsche and Judy Henske find the end of the world and its breaking point with Road to Nowhere and Dolphins In The Sea.
Memphis, 1968: Dusty went to Memphis and never came back.. at least not until Reputation.
London, 1968: Mick Jagger records Memo From Turner and the world has never been the same since.
Deep In The Void, 1969: On Illuminations, Buffy Sainte-Marie loses her voice to synthesizers, black magic, and that endless echo.
Woodstock, 1969: John & Beverly Martyn went down to Woodstock to play with The Band when Stormbringer was born.
West Berlin, 1976-1978: Bowie, Eno, and Iggy Pop turn up in nighttime streets to face the truth in trilogy form.
Muscle Shoals, 1978: Fuck electric, Dylan found evangelism and rhythm.
Burbank, 1981: Lindsey Buckingham catches a midwinter wave and comes up with Trouble.
Nassau, 1982: On Avalon, Roxy Music discovered true romance, worlds away, and the eternal chill.
London, 1990: With Screamadelica, Primal Scream turned Madchester into a rave- timeless, unforgettable, and a stone-cold classic.
New Orleans, 1995: On Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris finally goes cosmic.
Brooklyn, 1996: Foxy Brown. Ill Na Na. Married to The Firm.
Nashville, 1996: The ultimate perfectionist, Lucinda Williams scraps everything and starts all over again. Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is as close to perfect as they come.
Cassadaga, 1997: Deserter's Songs. Mercury Rev go back to Woodstock and return with the new old Americana- catskill mansions, all those endless ends, ghost trains out of town.. wavin' goodbye, not sayin' hello.
Malibu, 1998: Courtney Love finds Hollywood glamor, palm trees on fire, new beginnings, Echo & The Bunnymen, Stevie Nicks, and the salvation of a three-minute AM pop song.
Berlin, 2001: Annette Krebs turns inward, becomes a blank sheet of white paper, and leaves the rest of the world behind for Guitar Solo.
Chicago, 2003: Electrelane, The Power Out- forever trapped in the Tower of Babel.
Austin, 2003: Charalambides battle inner demons, end times, and waves of pedal steel to finish Joy Shapes on a terrifying and unforgettable lost evening.
Los Angeles, 2005: Goodbye Nashville- Lubbock or leave it, the Dixie Chicks go punk.
New York City, 2005: Beth Orton rounds up a brand new band- Jim O'Rourke and Tim Barnes for the devastating Comfort Of Strangers.
Reykjavik, 2006: Björk saves nothing but the human voice for Medúlla.
Dorset, 2006: PJ Harvey in grief, in death, in White Chalk hills that rot her bones.
Paris, 2006: Jarvis, Charlotte, and Air: 5:55 during the day, Darkel at night.
The Everlasting, 2009: Charlotte finds her eternal darkness in L.A. and leaves nothing but IRM behind.
Monday, January 25, 2010
HAUNTED BY WATERS
Interview Magazine, April 2006
I love reading interviews. The best ones I've read are almost always from Interview magazine- go figure. The one that I think of a lot and has never quite left my local memory is from April 2006 between Jessica Lange and Ann Roth. At the time I was most interested in Jessica because she was married to Sam Shepard who I was crazy about at the time. After reading this interview I started watching some of her films and learning more about her. My favorite performance by her is in Wim Wender's impossible not to love and visually gorgeous Don't Come Knocking. She won a Best Actress Academy award for Blue Sky and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Tootsie. I've only attached the end of the interview, but this is the part that stayed with me. I went out to buy A River Runs Through It the very next day.
AR: So, what else? Were you a cheerleader growing up?
JL: Oh, dear God, no. I never fit in anywhere, Ann, and I'm telling you the truth. I try to go back and think, Okay now, where was it that you belonged? And I can't. I never felt like I belonged in Minnesota when I was growing up there. That's why I was out the door as soon as I turned 18. The only place I've ever felt was really my home is my cabin up north. Do you know that last line from A River Runs Through If?- I am haunted by waters. There's something in the water up there that connects me to that place. But there's also this sense of isolation and loneliness about it that I've never been able to shake.
AR: Do you dislike that feeling?JL: I don't mind it- I mean, I've lived with it my whole life.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Hiro Ballroom, NYC
23 January 2010
An absolute dream come true for me. Charlotte, in the flesh, like a skeleton, could it really be the same person I've listened to over and over and over and watched on screen so many times? Standing four feet away? The show was amazing with an excellent song selection and by far the most emotional and emotionally draining performance I've ever seen. Her music uncovers desire and strength in me and is so personal to me- unlike anything else I have ever known. Her eyes were wet, black eyeliner circles around them, with a seriousness that rarely broke. Sadness was the overall feeling of the show with a really deep pain uncovered, exposed, and garish. The band was excellent, her guitarist played so raw and so loud in moments that were so unexpected. The high point for me was when she did my favorite, La Collectionneuse. The room was dark with slow circular lights and it sounded even more jaded, more broken, more dangerous, and more uneasy than the original. The only time our eyes met was when she had just started Dylan's Just Like A Woman. A moment I will never forget. The obvious crowd favorite was when she did her father's Sorry Angel. The French portion of the audience sang along word for word. It sounded perfect.
I like to think she was Balenciaga head-to-toe which she most likely was. I kept trying to figure out what it was she had written on her left hand in pen, like an 11 year old girl. She looked amazing. I've never seen anyone so small in my whole life. A writer said recently of her that she resembles a young Patti Smith, which at first sounded crazy to me, but last night I found myself thinking the exact same thing. It's strange how much her look has changed over just the last few years. Think back to The Science Of Sleep where she still seemed like a little girl. Tonight she was older, all adult. Every song seemed very emotional for her and deep. She needed those words and sang every line with nothing but truth. She played a lone snare drum from time to time, but near the end of the final song of the encore, Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes, she played with such conviction and such disarray that I can't even describe it properly. This was Charlotte deeper than Antichrist, playing her heart out and turning herself inside out, guts, pain, hurt, disillusion, and everything. Antichrist the musical? That would be putting it lightly. The show was much heavier than that.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Fleetwood Mac ruled the world for a decade or so from the mid-'70's to the mid-'80's. To this day few can touch the majesty of Stevie, Lindsey, Christine, John, and Mick. Powerhouses don't come much stronger than this. Here are their ten best:
1. STORMS – Never have I been a blue calm sea, I have always been a storm..
A dream like no other, one that keeps dreaming and never wakes up. This song is full of shivers, cobwebs, glowing orbs, deep sleep, and distant waves. Like a ghost on your mind, behind your back, floating just beneath the ceiling. I don't know of anything better than this.
2. DREAMS – I keep my visions to myself..
Really, the drums say it all- not like a heartbeat, stronger. Freedom never sounded so claustrophobic or so eerie. Pedal steel so spry, so misty, so sunset, it’ll eat your heart right out. Confessions.
3. GYPSY – Lightning strikes maybe once, maybe twice.. I have no fear, only love..
Last chances, long-armed lace, and pure gothic mystery.
4. CRYSTAL – Drove me through the mountains.. to the sea...
Starts out like clouds and gets caught in the undertow, that slow magic sea sprawl. I can't help but imagine someplace like The Neverending Story or Avalon everytime I hear this. Total fantasy and oblivion.
5. SARA – You’re the poet in my heart..
This song is so smooth and easy, it just radiates. There's those drums again. The most amazing sound in the world. Lost in love.
6. PLANETS OF THE UNIVERSE – Take your leave, take your leave...
A song about disappearing, fading away, interhuman magnetism, and interplanetary disconnect.
7. SEVEN WONDERS - I'll never live to match the beauty again..
Moments forever fleeting, goldmines, and finding your own way to the ends of the earth.
8. OVER & OVER - All you have to do is speak out my name, and I would come running anyway..
Christine's greatest vocal, so cool and so soulful. A real slow-burner of disbelief.
9. NEVER GOING BACK AGAIN - You don't know what it means to win..
This song completely captures the feelings of the Rumours era for me. Where they've been, where they are, where they're going.
10. SISTERS OF THE MOON - Intense silence, her black robes trailing..
A love song, an obsession, a letter to the night..
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
New York, United States
The city seemed to be fast asleep this weekend. Winter paused, the streets were empty. Visited some old favorites and a few new ones. Here are a few places worth checking out:
1. RICK OWENS - 250 HUDSON ST
Little did I know that the goth/industrial club I was looking for all weekend was actually Rick Owens. I was speechless when I went into this place. It is easily the most amazing shop I've ever been in. The clothes were beyond compare, so dark and so ethereal and so evil. I would have bought one of everything without question. The black woodshop chairs looked like guillotines to me, the walls were a perfect dirty white. Everything from floor to ceiling was just right. Split second feeling, seconds too late..
2. HOSPITAL PRODUCTIONS - 60 EAST 3RD ST
Haven't been to this place since they moved up from the basement. I must admit I miss climbing down the ladder to get here, though. Always an amazing selection, a wall of tapes so high you can't even see the top. Starstruck as always over seeing Dominick there. Could have picked up a lot but just left with Symphony For A Genocide. Best record shop in the city these days.
3. ITO EN - 822 MADISON AVE
Finally found the Ito En flagship store after years of meaning to make it this way. Amazing selection, great packaging, really helpful/friendly staff. Limited myself to three teas: Keiseki Hojicha, Osmanthus Oolong, & Organic Mao Jian. Prices beyond reasonable.
4. BALTHAZAR - 80 SPRING ST
To die for setting- antiqued mirrors, wood, orange accents, high-tied staff. As Gwyneth said, a real Parisian brasserie. You can't go wrong.
5. OPENING CEREMONY - 35 HOWARD ST
One of the absolute best one-stop retailers- a perfect selection that seems to change every time I go there. The Rodarte was front and center- great t-shirts and the men's sweaters are pretty crazy. Love looking at the Chloë stuff they still had left if only to see her name. A part of my heart broke slightly at turning my back to the perfect Band blazer.
6. OTTO - 1 FIFTH AVE
Batali's pizzeria- endless wine list, really great pizza. At first I wanted to do the one with fennel, but I wanted something simple so had the Marinara which had really spicy chiles on it which was unexpected but really really good. Do not leave without getting the Olive Oil Coppetta, which is olive oil gelato, lime curd, concord grape sorbet, blood oranges, and fennel brittle.
7. ODIN - 199 LAFAYETTE ST
This place seems so warm and always has a hunting lodge quality about it to me. I swear there is a fireplace in there somewhere. Excellent hats and love their selection of Engineered Garments. Everything seems perfectly chosen here, nothing extra and nothing out of place.
8. IFC - 323 6TH AVE
Best marquee I've ever seen- Antichrist, Showgirls, & Pierrot Le Fou.
9. BARNEY'S - 660 MADISON AVE
I can still get lost in this place for hours, even went twice in one day. Like magic.
10. CAFE CAFE - 470 BROOME ST
The perfect place to start your day or while away the hours.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I love the idea of a double feature. Sometimes I think about how nice it would be to run my own theater. I would call it The Last Picture Show. I would only show double features. The idea of spending hours in a dark theater is so magical to me. These are what I have in mind:
Opening Night/Veronika Voss
The Anniversary/True Grit
All That Jazz/A Star Is Born
La Souffle Au Coeur/Le Petit Amour
Aguirre, The Wrath Of God/The Last Wave
Rio Bravo/Frozen River
The Purple Rose Of Cairo/Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Return To Oz/Donkey Skin
Peggy Sue Got Married/The Virgin Suicides
Johnny Guitar/Destry Rides Again
Hammett/The Man From London
That Obscure Object Of Desire/Tristana
Syndromes Of A Century/The Mourning Forest
And The Ship Sails On/The Escape Artist
Monday, January 11, 2010
The Sound of Cold Cave, Telepathe, and JJ
Cold Cave. Telepathe. JJ. These three bands are without a doubt the best of the best out there right now. Comparisons between all three can be drawn, although they are all of course like nothing else past present or future. Three bands that have everything going for them and the whole world against them.
Cold Cave has to be the strangest and most random signing for Matador since they started releasing stuff by the likes of Pole, Burger/Ink, and Two Lone Swordsmen back in the '90's. A shifting collective from Philadelphia made up of mainstay Wesley Eisold, and currently Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient and Hospital Records- the label and the shop), author Mark G. Morton, and Caralee McElroy (formerly of Xiu Xiu). Calling what they do synthpop or industrial or darkwave is to completely miss the mark on these guys. There is such a sense of time-delay/lost-in-time/uncertainty/living for today/last moments/gates of the great beyond that is really just impossible to describe. Cremations compiles a much darker and noisier side of the band, whereas Love Comes Close is melodic, lush, and even celestial. Cold Cave seem to be playing from the ruins and for the end of time, and they have this beautiful sense of terror and true dread running through each song. Total brilliance- I just can't say enough.
Telepathe are hands-down the best black cauldron girl-group of all time. The way they totally nail the whole angel/devil dichotomy is completely unbelievable. They easily have the best lyrics anywhere right now, and I'm still shocked every time I hear certain words or phrases come out of them. Telepathe come across so earnestly and seem so genuinely dedicated to their sound. Their first major release was Farewell Forest in 2006. Their sound at this point seemed to be more similar to other worldbeat Social Registry bands at that time such as Gang Gang Dance and Blood Lines. The Sinister Militia 12" found them incorporating heavier percussion and more prominent vocals. But nothing could have prepared the world for what was to come with 2008's Chrome's On It and Devil's Trident singles and the total monster that is Dance Mother. Telepathe completely shattered everything with this sound.. the truly gorgeous, heartbreaking, and evil vocals, imagery to die for, the most hard-hitting percussion since The Downward Spiral, and the most drifting and on the farthest ocean furthest from the shore guitars since The Cocteau Twins. Telepathe is one of the most exciting bands I've ever come across and a year+ on from Dance Mother, I still get weak in the knees every single time I hear them.
JJ's biggest strength just might be their mystery. It is not a mystery like Jandek or all those dumb bands that refuse interviews and look away in photos or wear animal masks to hide their faces, but a deep mystery. A mystery that once revealed will become even more mysterious. JJ are part of Sweden's Sincerely Yours inner circle (that includes the equally staggering Memory Tapes and Tough Alliance). Their debut single My Life, My Swag/My Swag, My Life has got to be one of the finest singles ever released. The b-side is exactly what a b-side should be: the a-side turned completely upside down, inside-out and backwards, the dirt beneath the grass, like an x-ray in the dark. Their debut album Nº 2 is Balearic in nature, but so much more. If you listen casually you can hear St. Etienne, Madchester, and bits of Ibiza, but it's all done in such a bold way, there is no mistaking them for anyone else. Like the previous two bands, JJ also has a real darkness, but also a deep sadness and a sense of longing that hasn't seen the light of day since Postcard and Sarah Records. It is also the sound of discovery, of finding yourself, leaving everything behind, and embarking on a journey from home to homeless. The whole album feels like a vacation, like someplace far away and exotic, someplace you might never return from. The vocals are incredible, so full, confident, and warm, but somehow leave you feeling like you just got punched in the stomach. JJ is on tour now with The XX and has been picked up by Secretly Canadian in the US for the release of their forthcoming album, Nº 3.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Tonight's post is two of my favorite top ten lists: one from Catherine Breillat and one from Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte. I love reading about people's favorite things, especially when they involve music or film. I love the way Catherine writes about her choices- so strict, definitive, and she doesn't waste a single letter. Her latest film, Barbe Bleue, is based on the fairytale Bluebeard by Charles Perrault and is scheduled for release sometime this year.
Rodarte's descriptions are of course a lot like their clothing: gothic, romantic, and ethereal with echoes of childhood, femininity, and nature. Their new collection for Target is in stores now.
Catherine Breillat's Top 10 for the 2002 Sight & Sound Poll
1. AI NO CORRIDA
First, because I wouldn't otherwise have been able to make Romance. It made me understand that an image is not pornographic in itself, it's the way we look at it that renders it pornographic. More generally, I'd say that the image doesn't exist in itself, but is deciphered through our emotions. It is the means through which film-makers translate their ideas. This is why I make personal films, because in the end it's my signature on the film, even though others contribute to its making.
2. SAWDUST AND TINSEL
Because it's the first film I saw, and it contains all cinema. The combination of beauty and ugliness is at once fascinating and embarrassing. This ambiguity of opposites provides the poetry of the next three films.
3. BABY DOLL
4. LOST HIGHWAY
Because it's essential it exists and it's terrible to watch.
For Antonioni's inexpicable modernity.
Because even though I saw it 40 years ago, I know I must see it again and that Dreyer is perhaps the greatest.
9. LANCELOT DU LAC
There must be one Bresson.
Perfect Kiarostami, because there's no more image, no more mise en scène, just a camera and intelligence, and pure thought.
Rodarte's Top 10 for the Criterion Collection
1. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Beauty and the Beast serves as a metaphor for the artistic process, exploring the creative through mythology and the arc of the fairy tale. One must travel to dark and mysterious places in order to be saved. Diamond tears, spilled for those brief and elusive moments in life, offer a glimpse of universal clarity. This movie, in its own way, displays a sense of perfection... but it is fleeting, as if seen in a rearview mirror. Ultimately, it is an instruction manual on how to fall in love with another, with oneself, and with true beauty. Cocteau never suggests that all fairy tales end happily ever after, and maybe it is better this way.
2. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Epic. Wagnerian. A love story told in vibrant colors, sound, chinoiseries, wallpaper, and sheets of rain.
3. HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR
Hiroshima Mon Amour has possibly the best opening of any film, ever. History unfolds in a dreamlike narrative; love and passion intersect with violence, beauty, and the foreign. The notion of romantic love is blinding, intoxicating, horrifying, and breathtaking... like the afterglow of a nuclear holocaust.
4. FANNY & ALEXANDER
Bergman’s intended swan song offers amazing insight into the vision of one of the world’s greatest auteurs. Fanny and Alexander is a meditation on art, beauty, religion, and family. Personal history is both truth and fairy tale; it unfolds like a dream or a Swedish summer night where darkness never comes. In the end, Bergman asserts that one’s past has the power to both save and destroy. This idea is profoundly hopeful, and yet terribly devastating.
5. PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK
The first time I watched this film, I felt truly alone and isolated. The juxtaposition of European society and civility with the untamed landscape results in vast and expansive mystery. There is a desperation that comes from watching this film. Of course, this could only end in one way: the cannibalism of Victorian sensibilities.
6. JULES & JIM
I love the moment in French cinema this film captures: the height of the French new wave, when Truffaut honestly believed he could lead a revolution against the bourgeois establishment with a camera and impeccable taste. It is funny, however, that any truly brilliant piece of political artistry eventually becomes seen as established taste. No matter how you view the film, as a feat of aestheticism or a revolution of sorts, it is incredibly stunning and thought provoking.
7. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
This is one of our all-time favorite films. The Silence of the Lambs is a truly brilliant and uniquely American horror film. It exists as a fragile spiderweb: at the heart of this web a strange and delicate truth remains trapped, always with the hope of escape... The intimacy that develops and exists between the characters can be destroyed at any moment, and that is the true terror that propels the action. Ultimately, these fragile relationships are used to explore the most perverted aspects of the American dream: excess, greed, and violence.
This film makes me glad that we are from Northern California, raised by two dreamers, but secretly jealous that we’re not Rockefellers or Vanderbilts. Sometimes we can’t tell if we love these characters or despise them... you know, sort of like your old stuffed animals.
This movie is almost a complete inversion of Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants, where the horrors of Vichy France are made all the more terrible juxtaposed to the innocence and ideal of youth. Here, you have the violence of Mussolini and terror of Fascist Italy completely erased by the antics of a bunch of horny teenagers. This film is visually gorgeous; the scene where the peacock flies in the snow always stays in mind. What makes this film so interesting is the notion that idealized beauty is not enough—visual beauty is grounded by the humanity and sometimes fallibility of the characters.
Eric Rohmer is one of our all-time favorite directors. All of the Six Moral Tales contained in the box set are brilliant. La Collectionneuse is our favorite. It is sparse and dreamlike. Every second moves languidly; every detail revealed with warmth... Time unfolds in this film just like summer.
Friday, January 8, 2010
The right album cover is essential. It's often what draws us in or makes us pay attention to something we've never heard before. It provides the images that can summarize the meaning and the tone, the very heart, of the music's story. Can you imagine Avalon by Roxy Music without the cover? The Runaways without the photos? One of the all-time great covers was the first album by the The Durutti Column, which was made of sandpaper in order to scratch whatever record sleeves where next to it. Another great concept was Public Image Ltd.'s Metal Box which was packaged in a metal film canister. Christina Carter's releases on her own Many Breaths Press are all handmade and often come with pages of books, watercolor paintings, tissue paper, and even shreds of her diary in them. There is a long history of artists who have done significant work with album covers, among them: Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Mati Klarwein, Richard Avedon, and Annie Leibovitz, just to name a few. Several artists often work extensively for certain labels or artists. These are the best in the business:
Kim Hiorthøy for Rune Grammofon/Smalltown Supersound
Maya Miller for Heavy Tapes
Dennis Tyfus for Ultra Eczema
Peter Saville for Factory Records
The Designers Republic for Warp
Jon Wozencroft for Touch
Julian House for Ghost Box
Klas Augustsson for Häpna
Hedi Slimane for Phoenix, Gaga, etc
23 Envelope for 4AD
Now on to the covers. Two of the album covers closest to my heart are the Peter Hujar photos of Candy Darling on her deathbed as used by Antony & The Johnsons. For some reason, I just didn't feel right adding them to my list. These 22 images are everything that a great cover should be - iconic, bewildering, mystifying, and not easily forgotten.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Julie Ruin was the alias of Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill (and later Le Tigre) for a period of time starting in 1997. She released one self-titled album under this name on Kill Rock Stars. The music is sensational- keyboards, samples, bedroom soul, teenage boredom, treble-heavy guitar, and Valley Girl vocals forever lost in the '80's. Shulamith Firestone as Ray Davies. This record, well really, this whole persona was really exciting to me when she first came out and it was so mysterious. To me it was more than just music and more than just a performer, it was an identity. After the whirlwind maelstrom that was Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin is in turn warm, sweet, playful, and as DIY as any 16 year old girl's first 'zine. I remember having a hard time believing that something this cool and this exciting could be real. I swear I read the Kill Rock Stars paper catalog over and over, past the Mary Lou Lords and the Miranda Julys and the Team Dresches to make sure it was really there. The catalog description went like this: Kathleen Hanna drags the Casio up from the basement & plugs it straight into your gut: "You make me wanna go away--you make me wanna CROCHET!" The world of Julie Ruin brings to mind Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, Feminist Theory, strawberry ice cream, Lisa Frank, and Starpeace. Kathleen Hanna later guested on a track by Internal/External in 2000 called Stepping Up To The Mic. Her lyrics on this song seem to explain the creation of Julie Ruin as something of a necessity. After spending years being an icon and a spokesperson for what everyone else wanted her to be, Julie Ruin was finally just for her.
I felt like I was in the process of continuing
Some kind of weird historical thing was overtaking me
Like I was Patsy Cline or Queen Latifah
Or somebody really important
And I realized that there was no time like now
And I didn't care if I was scared.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Pierrot Le Fou
This is Godard at his breaking point- he is ready for anything and seems to be running on fumes to get every last little bit out. He made so many films in the '60's, I still don't understand how he did it. Anna Karina and Jean Paul Belmondo are perfect in this, no one else could have played their parts, not even for a second. The new Criterion Blu-Ray is a revelation - everything is so bright and clear. I love the shadings he uses- green, blue, red screens- neon lights, Coca Cola, and of course the gorgeous Mediterranean setting. There is some anarchy in here, but it is so playful, with references to Laurel and Hardy, American pop culture and consumerism, and even a cameo by Samuel Fuller. There is so much going on in every scene, it is packed full of ideas and that urgency always comes across throughout the film. If Contempt was Cannes luxury and romance, Pierrot Le Fou is brash, witty, and bold. There are no apologies, only life. Is this Godard's best work? Maybe not, but it is probably my favorite. There is never a wasted scene or a moment of doubt, everything seems exactly as he wanted it to be, exactly as he envisioned. It certainly is two of the most joyous hours to be found in the world of cinema, and two hours which I know I will come back to again and again.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
So far out there and just plain gone is the only way to describe LaBanna Bly's work as P.A.R.A. (Pre-Atlantean Ritual Artifacts). Apparently the girlfriend of James Ferraro (The Skaters, Snake Figures Fan, Acid Eagle, Pan Dolphinic Dawn, etc), but we all know how second-hand facts are for that troupe. Her sound is a black hole, a labyrinth of the occult and black magick, made out of bells, ritualistic vox, tape junk, and noise. Touchstones for this are many, though none can quite come close: the Manson Family jams, Patty Waters on acid, Buffy Sainte-Marie circa Illuminations, Angelblood unplugged, Kenneth Anger, Satya Sai's Oath CD, Zaïmph, Yoko Ono deep in the coven, and Erica Pomerance gone death metal. P.A.R.A. channels fourth world spirits, end times, and the in-between so perfectly and makes it all sound so beautiful. It's impossible to date her music because it sound so ancient and entirely from another world. When I'm in the mood I play her CDs back to back; they really are that good. So far she has released eight albums that I know of:
Pentacles Of Life
They normally come a few at a time from New Age Discs and can be found at Volcanic Tongue, Eclipse, etc. I can't think of anyone else quite like her and she's always on my shortlist of people I can't wait to hear what's next from. Perhaps she is best explained by what's written on the back of the Pentacles of Life album:
I burn my past disasters by blood filled candle light, I arise from the smoldering cave a new self. I embody the eternal goddess. I invoke my emerald eyed black jaguar to unfold my magical duties. I devote myself to craft and conjure what shall come. I dive into my darkness mastering the art of shapeshifting. The world is my pendulum.