Monday, April 30, 2012

Robots on Fire for free, Wednesday May 2nd

Fun stuff: Robots on Fire have pieced together a trailer for their upcoming free concert on Wednesday from an apocalyptic Kinji Fukasaku film that I have yet to see (Fukasaku made several very rowdy yakuza films in the 1970's, and attained another kind of notoriety for an apparently Godawful SF film called The Green Slime, but today's cinemagoers are more familiar with his final completed feature, Battle Royale. Those wishing to expand their awareness of Fukasaku are directed to the first film in the Yakuza Papers series, usually given the ungainly English title of Battles Without Honor and Humanity; it's truly essential Japanese film fare. If Martin Scorsese had been Japanese, he would have been Kinji Fukasaku). Sax-bot Darren Williams also directs your attention to this video, which has no particular connection to Robots on Fire at all, except spiritually (or philosophically, depending on how much of an atheist you are. Cinematically, meanwhile, it kind of evokes Zabriskie Point crossed with Jackass). There will also be a Sorrow and the Pity show at a venue called the Toast Collective on Friday. Apparently I was sent a Facebook event invite for that awhile back, but thems what know me know that I have very limited use of that site - I resent how it has monopolized internet activity. Remember when people actually sent each other emails?

The Monkees Head tonight!

No, seriously: the Monkees' Head is one of the great psychedelic films of the 1960's. Not all of it ages well but the stuff that works is delirious and delightful. Plus Timothy Carey is in it! The film plays the Vancity Theatre tonight; seats are only $6. Seriously, folks, if you want to have a fun night out tonight, go see Head!

Musical freakshow dream

In the dream, I am visiting friends on Vancouver Island (not any that actually exist). They have young children, who play no particular role in the early part of the dream, which I don't really remember anyhow. When I leave for the ferry - being given a ride, non-driver that I (actually) am - they become important, however; the kids ride along, and they explain that they are going to stop at a Chapters (I think) and perform a concert with their new band. I'm expecting childish pop, but once they set up, it turns out that the "band" consists of a female dwarf in her 40's, a grotesquely obese man who appears to be in his late 50's, and the male child (who is maybe nine years old), and they're making a grotesque noisy racket with a vaguely tribal beat, a truly fucked-up music that rivals noise legends Smegma for weirdness. They perform three "songs" before being heckled down by people in the back, and then a discussion/ decompression ensues, including a possible "fourth member" of the band, a "normal-looking" guy in his 30's who apparently works as a bacteriologist. I leap to the band's defence, excitedly arguing on behalf of their obvious desire to break boundaries as to what a band looks like; the bacteriologist is somewhat disappointed that I don't focus as much on their music, so I blurt a defense of that, too, getting all het up in my enthusiasm for their reconceptualizing of what music can be. The people in back continue to heckle and express their disdain for what they'd just seen; they don't buy my arguments in the slightest. I ask them by a show of hands how many of them are Lady Gaga fans - as if such conventional tastes might explain their rejection of the band we've just seen - but only one girl timidly puts her hand up, so it explains nothing.

The band and I reconvene to some large room elsewhere with many people in it - their friends; its their headquarters, perhaps - and I start trying to explain who I am to them, that I've interviewed... who have I interviewed that they'll know? Jello Biafra? They don't really know who he is. Lemmy! I'll tell them I interviewed Lemmy! ...and they recognize that and are impressed; I convince them that I can be useful to them, and start hatching plans to write about them, to tell the world. Do they have a CD yet?

The elements that contribute to this dream are all drawn from my recent life. I've been enthusiastically catching up with the Dwarves, for one, who play the Fortune Sound Club on May 20th; I have only ever felt the need to own Blood, Guts and Pussy previously - the tour I saw them on back in the 1990's - and am delighted to discover that their other albums are also very strong and creative. They, of course, use a dwarf (Bobby Faust) on many of their album covers. Also of bearing on the bands' appearance, I'd been reading about Diane Arbus and her "freak" photos before going to bed last night. As for the journalistic elements, I've been re-activating myself as a music writer, now that classes are finished. I'd introduced myself to members of the band Damn the Eyes at a gig in Hammond the other night (since I'd written about them in the Straight awhile back). As with the band in my dream, I asked a couple of bands that played that night if they had CDs (the Jen Huangs did). There were also kids present at that gig, hence the kids in the dream; plus I've been thinking about someone I'd been seeing in Victoria, who wants to have kids. The bacteriologist may have something to do with the scientists in the films of David Cronenberg, which I have recently been revisiting. Besides having elements drawn almost entirely from identifiable sources, what's remarkable about the dream is how completely and accurately it depicts ME; while often in dreams, I am merely a cipher for the main character, with the details of my life being obscured, here, there was no question that the guy who I was in the dream was completely and utterly myself. It was odd to be so much myself in a dream, in fact. Is it odd that it was odd?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Wicker Tree: new on DVD and Blu-Ray

EDITED to include mini-review, now that I've seen the film:

Jeez... I may complain about the selection of DVDs at the Zellers in Maple Ridge, but they taught me something today: they had in stock The Wicker Tree, a follow up to the cult classic The Wicker Man written and directed by the same soul as made the original, Robin Hardy. Even Christopher Lee has a bit part! Before today, I was completely unaware that this film existed. Since I wasn't prepared to invest $19.99 in it, sight unseen, I found another means of viewing it, with the understanding (between myself and the universe, but I generally keep such promises) that if it proved to be a film I'd be glad to own, I would do the right thing and buy it.

There are, indeed, very interesting things about The Wicker Tree. It at first comes across as being about the sexual contradictions that proliferate in America - which, depending on your angle, can be seen as a chastity-obsessed, purity-ring-wearing conservative backwater, or a den of sin and overt sensuality; the film makes the inspired choice of embodying both sides of the contradiction in one character, Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol), a former pop starlet - best known for her hit "Trailer Trash Love"  - turned Born Again evangelical Christian. Beth and her fiance (a "Cowboy for Christ") travel to Scotland for missionary work, where they encounter, of course, randy Pagans with beliefs of their own, who put them to the test. Its a very interesting theme to table - "sex in Christian America" versus "sex in neoPagan Europe," say - and got me excited to see how the film would proceed with its explorations, and where it might arrive. The second most inspired aspect of the film lies in the use of song - particularly a hymn about how there is "wonder-working power in the precious blood of the lamb," which is very interesting to hear through Pagan ears. One very memorable scene (mild spoiler follows) involves the villagers' reworking of this song, for their May Day festival, as a prelude to a rather bloodthirsty (but too briefly glimpsed) revel; its a minute that more than justifies the time the movie asks you to invest to get there. Finally, on the plus side, The Wicker Tree  has some lovely landscapes and sets, and is photographed with an aesthetic that, while contemporary and fresh-feeling, does bring to mind the original, pleasantly enough; given the time between the films, the differences in contexts of reception, and so forth, Hardy should be applauded for this achievement and encouraged to continue. Fans of The Wicker Man will find this follow-up well worth watching, whatever its flaws.

It does, however, HAVE flaws, and those not concerned with spoilers may wish to read further on them. I'm not sure, for one, that The Wicker Tree needed a backstory involving a nuclear accident and infertility: where such, er, elaborate elaborations are not needed to tell a story effectively, they should best be left out, that they not distract from the main point. There also comes a time in the film where it seems to drop altogether its interest in American sexual contradiction as viewed through the eyes of European Pagans; the tabled theme vanishes into thin air as the May Day celebrations get underway and our young Americans find themselves in jeopardy, which alas does kick in with a bit of a feeling of formula. In fact, I'm unclear whether the film ultimately makes any statement at all about America, beyond the odd passing jab... or if indeed it makes any statement about anything at all, since, unlike the original, it doesn't tell a particularly elegant story, and there are bits in it that seem to clutter up the landscape unnecessarily, contributing in no way to the main thrust of the film and confusing attempts to read it. A case in point would be a  moment that seems deliberately designed to evoke the Hostel franchise, which I was not at all expecting and did not really need (since I don't think the parallels between the films - both involve Americans running into trouble in Europe - cast any very interesting light on the film). Last and least, I found myself thinking at times that, as much as it was true to the spirit of the original, The Wicker Tree was a little too "soft" for the contemporary cinematic landscape; showing a male character undressing, for instance, Hardy retreats to a rear view, and is consistently tasteful and inoffensive in places where he probably could have gone much further. The original film pushed some boundaries as to what could be done onscreen - this film should have done the same, which probably would have meant going briefly hardcore now and then. It would have been much more satisfying and disturbing, as would keeping more closely to the theme of sex. The ending of the film is simply not orgiastic enough. This applies to the film's violence, too: I mean, if you're going to (spoiler!) flay someone, these days it pretty much has to be done onscreen if you want to make an impact in the world of horror (cf. the French film Martyrs).

Final verdict: though I am glad to have seen the film, I must make my apologies to Zellers, to Robin Hardy, and so forth: no way will I be shelling out $20 for The Wicker Tree. If I find it used for $3 someday, MAYBE I'll buy it. Still, readers are advised to cautiously check this film out, by whatever means are available these days that suit your conscience (I would recommending renting the DVD, but that's gotten very hard to do). It IS worth a watch. It is NOT essential viewing, but definitely - as others have said - it's better than that ridiculous remake...

Tonight in Maple Ridge

Funny how it goes: the two most interesting events happening in Maple Ridge this month are doubtlessly tonight's Adstock fundraiser, at 7pm at the Hammond United Church Hall, featuring the Jen Huangs and several other bands; and the Horrorshow midnight movies screening of George A. Romero's original Night of the Living Dead (actually beginning at 11:30, and taking place at the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Pitt Meadows). I'll be at both; what's odd to me is that I'll doubtlessly be the only person over 30 at either event who is not a parent of one of the people involved. The average age of attendees will likely be around 19, though I might bump that up a year or two by sheer virtue of my advanced years. I'll likely feel alternately like a loser ("he couldn't get a date") or a creep ("he must be here to fuck one of us"), but so be it - it beats another night alone in the apartment. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vote for The Creaking Planks

Everyone's favourite "jug band of the damned," the Creaking Planks, are hoping to do some cross-country train travellin' (and concomitant entertainin') this year. Vote for them to make it a reality!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RIP Amos Vogel

Because I bet a few of you have Film as a Subversive Art on your shelves - I know I do! - I should acknowledge that Amos Vogel passed this week, aged 91.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dreams of the Zombie Apocalypse

Jeez, where did that dream come from? I was dreaming that there were a group of people living inside a small fortress/ town after society had collapsed. A disease had spread turning people into dangerous half-humans - not exactly zombies, but not exactly nice, either. There were all sorts of Walking Dead-ish dramas among the population, none of which I remember. I just recall the climax of the dream - the "Season One cliffhanger ending," if you will - in which the town founder and patriarch, who may or may not have been a signifier for me, had to fight it out with one of the infected, and lost; whereupon - now infected himself, and calculating how to bring the town down - he climbed up onto the roof, made a raving infected speech, and dove headlong into the town's water supply, collected in an enormous basin. Screwed them good! Then I woke up.

Rogers and Me

I worked for two years, back in the early 1990's, at a Rogers Video in Maple Ridge, which is where - in those glory days when video stores had gigantic back catalogues of all sorts of unpredictable gems on VHS - I rented for the first time many videos of films that would prove important to me: Alex Cox's Straight to Hell, Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch, Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly... there were all sorts of movies that I discovered by diligence as a renter there long before I even took the job. Once I DID start working there, I prided myself in directing the customers - many of whom weren't content to just graze the overhyped New Arrivals wall - to these gems, or others that I thought would suit their tastes. I even manipulated my position to get a copy of Cassavetes' Love Streams (the old Canon VHS release) transferred between stores from Vancouver so I could see it any time I wanted, and recommend it to a select few, as well. I have all sorts of other memories, not many of which bear repeating - from an indignant female customer complaining about the shit-smearing scene at the start of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover to sprinting after a teenaged shoplifter through the parking lot around back to the regular experience of going through each shipment of new promotional posters so I could plunder it for gems that they would never have let me put up anyhow (I still have Straight to Hell, Day of the Dead, Down by Law, and Woman Under the Influence posters from that time). I can even remember the pain and dismay from the months when management, under orders from head office, forced us to keep in heavy rotation a promotional video for the Kevin Costner Robin Hood (even today that fucking Bryan Adams song makes me nauseous - it was the "My Heart Will Go On" of the 1990's). I made a few friends, now mostly estranged; I gossiped with the other staff about the porno renters behind their backs; I rented a few of those tapes myself; and I took a certain pleasure in keeping the store clean and the shelves in order. I even had a couple of celebrity run-ins there. I created a rental account for Colin Firth, when he was pretty much unknown in North America - especially here in the suburbs! - and lived on the outskirts of Maple Ridge with Meg Tilly. I had seen and admired one of his very early films - 1987's A Month in the Country - and commented as he left with his video that "there's a  British actor named Colin Firth," staring at him quizzically (he responded with a quick "Oh really?" and left the store hastily, never to return - which I know, because I checked his account now and then after that. I guess he preferred the relative anonymity of one of the other megastores, where doubtlessly no one else recognized him in the slightest). Even cooler for me (sorry, Mr. Firth), I met Art Bergmann for the first time at a Rogers Video when he came in with some friends; he was gracious enough to indulge me in signing our copy of Bruce McDonald's Highway 61 for me, inscribing it, "Dear Allan - Rent this sucker! Art Bergmann." (I wonder where that videotape is now...). When Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs came out and the story circulated that he'd learned about cinema as a video store geek, for me, it was my own experience at Rogers that it brought to mind. Sure, the store he worked at was cooler, but for awhile there, I really liked my job at Rogers, and learned a fair bit from it. It wasn't that bad a place for me at all.

The fondness has persisted. Even though the job got a little ugly towards the end - we had a shoplifting problem and each and every one of us was being treated with suspicion, sometimes quite offensively - since moving back to this town, before it shut down, I spent many an hour walking the walls at that same Rogers location, bullshitting with a local metal musician who worked the counter, and searching the "previously viewed" bin for DVD gems that would have been snatched up in a minute in the city. Things had changed; since the format shift from VHS, they no longer had a rental library worth shit, with most of their shelves filled with multiple copies of the same lame Hollywood fare, like the concept of the long tail effect was completely foreign to them. But still, it was sad and inconvenient when that location - very near where I live - closed down: for a few months after that, another location across town picked up the business, but by the time I eventually broke down and started busing 20 minutes for the privilege of renting the odd title, it was only weeks away from closing, too. For a brief while, a small Mom and Pop holdout in Pitt Meadows aside, Maple Ridge was completely without a video store, and for awhile, I took to doing business with Limelight, on the way to and from UBC, who actually have a great catalogue (tho' they seem a bit overzealous with their disc buffing machine, which means that a lot of their more popular DVDs skip and stutter). I *like* the experience, like the social aspects, of renting videos off someone; I would still prefer to pick up a DVD box and read the back than read about films online; and I really rather would watch a good quality DVD over a dubious AVI off a torrent site. Plus there are still DVDs coming out, like Lars von Trier's Melancholia, that I'd rather buy PV'd for $9.99 than pay $24.99 or more for at some retail location. I mean, if I actually had to pay full price for DVDs... there aren't many I'd buy. A good price for a DVD these days is $5 - maybe as high as $15 for a boutique label or Criterion or something really, really rare or special. But any more than that, I balk. Who has feckin' $25 to spend on a DVD, when you CAN always just download whatever you want for free? The prices the industry persists in asking in no way reflect the ways the world has changed, which will sadly likely mean a hastening of the demise of the format. I see people getting more excited about buying VHS tapes from thrift stores for a quarter apiece than shopping for new videos in any of the few locations where you can still buy them - in Maple Ridge, that being London Drugs and Zellers, neither of which exactly count as bastions of culture.

Sadly, with what I believe are the last two Rogers Video locations in Vancouver now closing, the days of the Previously Viewed movie are nearly at an end. Anyone out there wanting one last shot at the experience should take time in the next day or two to go to 15th and Oak and Arbutus and Broadway, where all videos are "buy one get one free," with most stock priced at $9.99. When I made the trek on Friday, there were still copies of all sorts of recent films, from Tyrannosaur to Drive to Melancholia to Carnage to A Dangerous Method. And there were several gems to be had in the back catalogue, like (at Oak and 15th) the Dardennes' L'Enfant, The Silence of Lorna, and The Son, for example. You don't have many chances to buy films like that for $5 each these days, no matter where you shop. Videophiles might want to seize the opportunity, and soon, because I imagine the shelves will be more or less bare by Wednesday, based on what I saw (I was NOT the only one shopping - the Arbutus location was particularly picked over, even on Friday).

Goodbye, Rogers Video. You were never that good at what you did, but I was fond of you regardless. I'm sorry (but not particularly surprised) that you've been rendered obsolete. All the same, given how crappy your DVD selection was, you held out for a pretty long time, and you deserve credit for that. Thanks for the memories, and the cheap DVDs, and your occasional efforts to put the odd real movie on the shelf. Good luck in the Video Afterworld. Bye-bye.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fela Kuti's ass, plus Sleeping Sickness, White Material at the Vancity Theatre

Africa and the experience of colonialism there are topics which have always fascinated me, but I sometimes suspect I approach the continent like a blind man being given selected samplings of an elephant: there must be very important pieces to the puzzle I'm missing, because however much I try to imagine the whole, the shape that registers is very, very strange. As you might expect - a few novels by Achebe, Okri, and Ngugi aside - most of my exposure has been through cinema. I've seen, for starters, Barbet Schroeder's horrifying portrait of Idi Amin Dada, which is so frank in depicting the dictator's backwardness, anti-Semitism, neurosis and arrogance that you actually end up feeling a bit sorry for him (whether he ate his enemies or not); he appears to have trusted the filmmakers and been reasonably generous to them, such that what emerges is on par with The Red Chapel as a filmic act of betrayal. In response to the "international cut" of the film - the one that screened outside Uganda - Amin apparently "rounded up" 200 French citizens and, according to the film's Wikipedia page (linked above) "confined them to a hotel surrounded by the Ugandan army, supplying them with Schroeder's home telephone number and explaining that their release was conditional on Schroeder's acquiescence" in making cuts. You can hardly blame him.

Then there's the mesmerizing footage in Michael Glawogger's Workingman's Death of a Nigerian open-air slaughterhouse where people laugh and chat and barter with each other as goats and other animals have their throats slit and bleed out into the dirt. Glawogger on the commentary talks about the contradiction the film cultivates, between the images (of a sort of "hell on earth," I believe he describes it - he lets his camera linger long on dying animals) and the normalcy with which people treat what is going on around them (which suggests that hell may not be that bad, as Glawogger puts it). Given the sanitized, desensitized denial of death and suffering that goes into the way North Americans trade in meat, you can't but marvel at the complete lack of hypocrisy of the customers, as they watch their "selections" get killed. But the pools of blood, the flies... it is very, very hard footage to watch. The happiness of the workers only deepens the cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps the most difficult-to-process image from a film dealing with Africa that I've seen, however, occurs in the Fela Kuti documentary, Music is the Weapon (that appears to be a link to the whole film). I revere Fela's music (and by the way, for Afrobeat fans, DJ Frank Gossner plays the Anza Club May 5th - more on that later, I hope), but as a white, more or less middleclass liberal, seeing this doc was an unsettling, confusing experience. For one, hearing Fela describe in fairly non-progressive terms his relationship with his multiple wives is more than a little hard to process, since it requires one to juggle liberal imperatives ("be culturally open-minded," "do not react in a way conditioned by centuries of Western racism," "reject the subjugation of women") that cannot be simultaneously honoured. That's got nothing on the moment, however - and whether this occurs in the English-language or French cut of the film I can't say, as the DVD had both - when, in describing scars from tortures he received at the hands of the government, Fela turns around for the camera and matter-of-factly ("see?") drops his drawers, so we can contemplate the scars on his ass. It's fair to describe my reaction as one of culture shock. Fela doesn't seem to do this to rudely moon the camera or to be performatively outlandish, say; there's nothing of Iggy Pop taking out his cock or the Red Hot Chilli Peppers dancing around wearing only socks (and not on their feet). No, he appears to be merely illustrating a point; he might as well have been showing a scar on his elbow. On the one hand, this is perfectly rational - why is an ass more taboo than an elbow? - but on the other, though I don't consider myself particularly hung-up or prudish, I must confess, something in the offhandedness of his gesture is truly challenging to take in. Plus now I have a close-up of Fela's ass in my head, as seen dominating my TV screen.  I'd rather just dance to his music, you know? I really don't NEED to see the scars on Fela's ass, thanks. No, Fela, it's allright, I believe you. Really. No,  please - just... Arrrgh. 

Anyhow, Fela Kuti's ass has nothing to do, thankfully, with the two films playing this weekend at the Vancity Theatre, Sleeping Sickness and White Material. I have seen the latter film in full; directed by Claire Denis and starring Isabelle Huppert, as a plantation owner facing civil unrest and a possible threat of violence, it was compelling throughout, though I must confess that the ending confused me a bit. Denis has a tendency to make films that amply profit from subsequent viewings, but that may be just a little elusive the first time through (though for those of you aware of this tendency, note that White Material is nowhere near as opaque as The Intruder). Tomorrow marks the film's Vancouver theatrical debut - fans of Isabelle Huppert in particular shouldn't miss it.

Sleeping Sickness, meanwhile - which I believe had a very positive response at a recent VIFF - begins with a suspenseful encounter between a somewhat wearied German NGO worker and his family and a border patrol as they try to cross into Cameroon without their papers being in order. Its highly compelling - the sort of beginning that immediately inspires confidence and interest. However, given the choice of continuing to watch the film on my computer tonight, as streamed "for promotional purposes only" and featuring an intrusive watermark, a stuttering picture, and a too-dark, less-than-hi-res image quality, or saving myself for the film theatrically tomorrow, I think I'm going to do the latter. It looks good enough that this is a film I want to see on screen. Admirers of Susanne Bier's In a Better World probably want to check this out (though one suspects that this film will be more morally complex, a little less heart-on-sleeve). If you'd like a more thorough review, I'll refer you to Mark Harris' in The Straight....

Of course, the Bresson retrospective continues this weekend at the Cinematheque, as well, and if I make it to the city for any of these films I may just trot from Sleeping Sickness to see Four Nights of a Dreamer. Seems like another good weekend for Vancouver cinephiles, anyhow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

RIP Levon Helm

The passing of Dick Clark does not particularly move me, nor that of Men at Work's Greg Ham. No disrespect intended - but like the Butthole Surfers say, "Strangers Die Everyday."

I did not personally know Levon Helm, either, but his vocal delivery (he was surely one of the great drummer-singers) and his occasional acting performances always pleased me. Here's the Martin Scorsese-lensed clip from The Last Waltz of Helm with The Band singing "Up on Cripple Creek." Respect to those who knew him; Helm passed away today, at age 71, of cancer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Have a Happy Record Store Day!

Vancougar by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Last year, I wrote a rather lengthy piece on Record Store Day - AKA the Most Expensive Holiday Ever - mostly focusing on Neptoon Records. This year, if I were writing a similarly long piece, I would spend the time on Scratch Records, whose Interurban in-store features free performances by thirteen bands, including both Vancougar and Von Bingen - two very different bands, but both highly enjoyable (the truth is, I don't think I know any of the bands at the Neptoon, Zulu, or Red Cat in-stores). If I end up daring to bring my thinning wallet into a record store this year, I think it's going to be Scratch.

Though if I'm feeling really daring I might get my Behemoth vinyl signed at Scrape Records. Hopefully the band won't be in makeup yet. That would be kind of scary.

Oh, and I have a Dwarves record set aside at Audiopile.


However: ambition is not my watchword on the blog at this moment. I've just survived writing four essays, and have a life to get back to (I'm sure I left it around here somewhere). So this year, this is all we get. Have a Happy Record Store Day, Vancouver!

For more information about the Scratch Records In-Store, their Facebook page for the event is here. Official Record Store Day special releases are listed here. Start salivating.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Delightfully obscure Cronenberg t-shirt

I've laboured long these last few days to produce a paper revisiting, and attempting to answer, the objections critic Robin Wood had to the early commercial features of David Cronenberg. Somehow not only did I lose sleep, strain my eyes, and plunge so deep into my text that I can no longer fairly evaluate it - so I feel like I'm handing in a Big Pile of Shit - but I managed to give myself a persistent low-level charley horse in my left calf, by means in no way clear to me. I also missed the Bresson screenings this evening (fuck!). The good news (besides the fact that I am now at least done all my essays): I found a t-shirt online (pictured) that references Cronenberg's first underground feature, Stereo (viewable online here; it is a film that has always fascinated me, but which I have by choice only seen twice). The seller on eBay who has it is known as Oldskoolhooligans and their store can be found here.

It will be interesting to see what reactions I get walking around in this t-shirt in public. I suspect it will be frequently misunderstood.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

L'Argent tonight and tomorrow

I have not yet seen Robert Bresson's L'Argent, and - though I have the DVD - at this point am saving myself up to check it out tomorrow, presuming I make it past the final hurdle in my Escape from Essay Hell (this evening's entertainment). Seems a very exciting premise for a film, following, I gather, a forged 500 Franc note ("and the contagion of evil it spreads," as the Cinematheque program puts it) as it is passed around; presumably the film contains a critique of capitalism, though from as austere and serious-minded filmmaker as Bresson, the indictments might go much deeper. Paired tonight with his challenge to mythmaking, Lancelot du Lac, and tomorrow with an adaptation of Dostoevsky that is not so easy to see, Une Femme Douce. This is a rare cinematic opportunity, to see Bresson's cinema screened; those of you who are not yet fascinated by this filmmaker may find that after this weekend - if you take a chance - you are.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mack and Maddin

Adrian Mack has a lengthy, relaxed and HIGHLY engaging Guy Maddin piece in this week's Straight... or is it online only?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Now that I've finally decided to get rid of that last Internet Explorer upgrade, which completely fucked up my internet surfing experience, I'v been forced to take a Blogger upgrade, which won't work properly on my version of Internet Explorer (my preferred browser) at all - all the icons for posting photos, using italics, and so forth are half-hidden and there are vast blank spaces on the page that presumably are supposed to have something in them. Even more annoying, instead of going DIRECTLY to the blogger dashboard, which previously had all the tools I needed in one place for easy access, I have TWO intermediate pages to now surf past, one where I'm forced to choose my blog, and another that shows me "Google News" (which, no offense, I couldn't give less of a fuck about) and gives me stats for my blog (page views and so forth) that I neither want nor need (I was already monitoring these quite happily via Sitemeter without Blogger's help, thank you). I used to be able to go directly from my blogface to the dashboard, where I could IMMEDIATELY edit posts I'd written. No longer. Of course, this is being done in the name of making the program "easier to use" - yeah, right. Plus I don't LIKE Google Chrome, which is what they're trying to unsubtly coerce me to use (ie, "if you are having problems, try Google Chrome"); I tried both it and Firefox in my browser frustrations and discovered that I'm quite happy with the previous version of IE, just like I was TOTALLY happy with the old version of Blogger (and the version before that, for that matter)! Dammit, this is frustrating... do people at Google not have more IMPORTANT things to do than force bloggers to reconfigure how we surf the internet and/or use their program? Do they REALLY BELIEVE their new Blogger interface is "new and improved?" Don't blog much, do they? Grr.

I mean, don't get me wrong, Blogger's great, and I'm most appreciative, but...

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

My Genesis P-Orridge fandom sorta peaks with Psychic TV's "The Orchids" - a great, great song (and all you Brian Jonestown Massacre fans out there ('specially if you're named Bev) probably want to check out "Godstar." Still, if I lived in Vancouver, tonight, this is the movie I'd be going to see.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Funky's listings, plus Dayglos tonight!

If I lived in Vancouver, I would go see The Dayglo Abortions, Zuckuss, and the Likely Rads tonight at Funky Winkerbeans. I do not live in Vancouver, have no money, and am exhausted from three days in essay hell (from which I have now emerged); there is no way in hell I am making this trip. Rather, come 7pm, I will be watching Wheel of Fortune with my Mom, which I am just fine with, really. For those of you who are not so engaged, please consider:


















The most horrific newspaper story I have ever read

Oh, sweet Jesus. I mean, good thing she was found, but - this has got to be the most horrific newspaper story ever. Seriously.

Queer Dream

Grr. Having laboured over the last few days on a paper in part on The Crying Game, I have just awakened from a dream in which I was sucking some guy's cock. Lovingly, no less. Go away, gay dream: my life is complex enough at the moment.

Part of the dream also involved a Hungarian movie, which seems to have a bearing on Hugo the Hippo (more on that film soon), but did not survive the trauma of waking up.

Back to the essay...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Stress, stress, stress - plus Engrish t-shirt

Jesus. Was I talking about relief, just the other day? I must have been taking a breather between assignments. I've been wrestling with another essay all day and am presently experiencing all the symptoms of anxiety I can handle - frequent trips to the washroom, a general sense of agitation, a dry mouth, panicky "I can't do it" thoughts. It's going to have to carry over til tomorrow, too - here's hoping that my stress levels don't completely destroy my chances of sleep, because I'm going to need it.

Meantime, there's an unbelievably weird t-shirt posted today on If I'd seen this while I was in Japan, I probably would've had to buy it for someone (preferably not myself).

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Tyrannosaur plays theatrically!

I blogged below about how Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur is coming out on DVD, but only just now discovered that it's playing at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Relief, respite, relaxation

A sort of relief has set in: even if I have three papers left to write for my classes, I will only have to commute to UBC twice in the month of April, and then only to hand things in; after that, I'm done. No more waking up at 6:30 to shower and catch the West Coast Express, no more blocking out the noise and smell of my perfumed and cologned fellow commuters chattering about their mortgages, no more 8:45AM lineups at Waterfront Station for the 44 B-Line bus... These are good things. I may apply again for the Film Studies MA program in 2013 (depending on where life sees me then), but just in case, I'm allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of freedom that the end of semester (and the beginning of spring) have brought...

...when I'm not hunched over my computer writing essays, that is. Two of them are due this Tuesday. I think I may still take today off - I've been hammering away for the last few days on this United Red Army paper and need to unwind a bit. Here's where a girlfriend would come in handy.

Tyrannosaur on DVD

One of my favourite films from last year, Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur is now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

...and the winner is Cooking With Poo!

Indeed, the 2011 Diagram Prize for the oddest book title went to Saiyuud Diwong's Cooking with Poo! I'm half-tempted to buy it, but some of the ingredients in Thai food are kind of distasteful and stinky - by which I mean shrimp paste, actually. And I'm not sure there's a lemongrass seller in Maple Ridge...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Damo Suzuki at the Waldorf

Damo Suzuki by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

Damo was his magnificent self the other night - though did anyone else think there was a surprising amount of Howlin' Wolf in his growling? I don't recall him ever being quite so bluesy here before. Von Bingen appeared to have songs written for Damo to perform over* - there was even one particularly striking punky/ new wavy number, which strangely made me think of Damo in the light of Peter Murphy (about as unexpected as the Howlin' Wolf comparison); it surely was not an improv** (and here's hoping that a recording was made and will see the light of day). I couldn't stick out the whole show, had to defect to catch a bus back to the 'burbs, but for a short time, I was joyously liberated (and not the only one in the decent-sized crowd who could be seen dancing). The appetizer for the show was also delightful - a screening with friends of Deadlock, which simultaneously brings to mind The Wages of Fear, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,  and El Topo, and is definitely worth seeking out.

*I'm wrong about this.
**I'm told that the whole thing was indeed improvised. That's pretty impressive - usually you can TELL when a band is improvising, but I couldn't!

Monday, April 02, 2012

New Mission of Burma song on Pitchfork

Mission of Burma is a band I revere, and their album Vs. is one of those top-10 desert island discs for me, an utter masterpiece of rock that towers above the recorded output of both their peers and devotees. I might even place it above Zen Arcade and Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat on the cultural-treasures-of-punk list; from the catalogues of Wire and the Gang of Four to Sonic Youth and Nomeansno, there are a lot of great albums on the artful and intense end of the rock spectrum, but none live up to the brilliance of Vs, in terms of individual songs or breadth of vision. I mean, click here, here, here and here, if you're not sure what I mean. I am very, very happy that the band have reactivated and are recording and touring; I am looking forward to buying their new album, Unsound, as soon as it hits the shelves this summer; I count it as a great privilege that I have seen them twice now, and hope I have the good fortune to see them a third time. Or a fourth. The only thing that would make me happier than to see Mission of Burma again rockwise would be if the Volcano Suns opened for them (or if Rocket From the Tombs came back to town and brought Cheetah Chrome - presently attempting to retire from touring - with them).

That said, to be somewhat painfully honest, I haven't loved any of MoB's new LPs. All have great moments, and I've listened to each on several occasions, hoping they will grow on me, but on each album there are songs that seem to just not quite work, or not work equally well all the way through; there will be PARTS that are great, but then parts that AREN'T so great, that sort of throw me for a loop as I try to figure out whether I'm just listening wrong.  Even the best songs don't seem to quite rank with "The Ballad of Johnny Burma" - there's an absence of ferocity, you know? And maybe a fear of simplicity - the new songs have an ambitiousness to them that would be great if it didn't result in songs that tend to elude me, leave me scratchin' my head wondering "why the hell did they do THAT?" I'm about as willing to be challenged as a rock listener can get, and fully admit that it's possible that I just haven't "gotten" their new stuff yet but it seems like if the band in their initial incarnation consistently scored ten out of ten for songwriting, the new Mission of Burma (sorry, guys!) - perhaps with the exception of Peter Prescott's excellent "The Enthusiast" - mostly seems to settle in around 8.5.

That said, there's something sexy and tough and catchy about the new tune, "Dust Devil," that might actually get it almost up to 9 (except I'm not wild about the chorus, the mere repetition of "dust devil" - it's just not as GREAT as the rest of it, y'know? That's the sorta thing I'm talkin' about, here). Still, check this stuff out - and note: the Pitchfork player cranks this out LOUD, so be prepared to adjust the volume on your computer...

Sunday, April 01, 2012

RIP Earl Scruggs, Harry Crews

(Sonic Youth side-project named for Harry Crews)

Bluegrass musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs made an early impact on me, back when my world of music was my parents' record collection - maybe a couple of dozen country albums, including Tom T. Hall, Charley Pride, Johnny Horton, and one Flatt and Scruggs album, still buried deep down there in my memories. Check out "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde," off that album. There's not much I remember from age eight, but I do recall snatches of lyrics to this song.

Also departed: Southern US novelist Harry Crews. I have owned several of his books over the years, and never have finished any of them. A Feast of Snakes and The Gospel Singer remain on my shelf, right next to Flannery O'Connor. Considering his stature it is striking to note how many of his novels remain out of print - one of them, This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven, was only ever published in a hardcover first edition, back in 1970, and has never been reprinted, to my knowledge; the cheapest copies for sale online are $125). Check out the Lydia Lunch - Kim Gordon - Sadie Mae project named for Harry Crews on Youtube...