Sunday, December 8, 2019

plato's cave ninety eight (being a film journal)

Bo Hu - Man in the Well - 2016
Beautifully shot short film by the Chinese novelist and film director Bo Hu, great to see this on the somewhat big screen of my apartment.

Bo Hu - An Elephant Sitting Still - 2018
My good good friend Bea recommended this highly and she was right as rain when she said it was a superb film.  Strikingly original photography with stunning depth of field and a near monochromatic / muted palette. Very nice (at times) soundtrack which really adds to the pacing of the film. Subtle and strong stories so expertly acted by this cast all making it a film to watch over and over. It is such a shame Mr. Bo Hu is no longer with us to continue his wonderful oeuvre.

Carl Franklin - Devil in a Blue Dress - 1995
Still trying to see all the Franklin films, this was a pretty solid one by him.

Jia Zhangke - Ash is the Purest White - 2018
Great film, would like to see this again as it has many layers to spend time with.

Jonathan Glazer - The Fall - 2019
Amazingly strange and beautiful short film, that you would expect from Mr. Glazer. This film really offended my pup Leviathan, who made a big stink and got angry when it was on, a sign it was a good film perhaps?

Craig Brewer - Dolemite is My Name - 2019
Great comeback film for Eddie Murphy.

Martin Scorsese - Italianamerican - 1974
I had the laserdisc of the 3 short Scorsese films while in college and would watch these 2 over and over. I had not really seen since the 90s, but found I remembered much of the details from it. As an example; whilst I do my own cooking, Catherine Scorsese's advise comes to mind (which could mean daily) where she explains she keeps a towel in her hand during cooking because she is always wiping. Perfect documentary.

Martin Scorsese - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - 1978
Such a powerful film, one that would get viewed over and over by this viewer when a youngster, and not only because of being fascinated by Mr. Prince as a character, but by Scorsese's direction which can be so graceful, like the moment when he motions the camera man with a subtle hand gesture to pan during a dialogue, something so small gives a strong impact.

Tommy Pallotta - American Prince - 2009
Revisits Mr. Prince.

Julius Onah - Luce - 2019
Strange to see Tim Roth play a bourgeoisie sort of gent.

Scott Z. Burns - The Report - 2019
Was an ok film perhaps worth watching to see Adam Driver.

Viktor Kossakovsky - Aquarela - 2018
Stunningly beautiful film about ice and water. A profound immersion into this world full of not only lushness but also tragedy as we watch with horror as trouble comes to some men racing along the ice.

Martin Brest - Beverly Hills Cop - 1984
Watched this often as a 9-10 year old, but not since then. The film is quite solid with the exception of the rot gut music which often brings down these 80s films. Bronson Pinchot is perfect as the art gallery salesmen, and wouldn't it be wonderful to experience that in a New York City gallery rather than the blank looks one gets from the models in Gagosian and the like? I like 48 Hours more but Eddie Murphy's range here as an actor is more noticeable. As a kid his SNL James Brown hot tub bit really shaped my youth, and films like Coming to America gave this youngster some good dialogue to thrown down in the high school parking lot like "If lovin' the lord is wrong, I don't want to be right."

Don Siegel - Invasion of the Body Snatchers - 1956
I love Siegel's films but for me the Philip Kaufman remake is much better. Worth seeing though.

Jamie M. Dagg - Sweet Virginia - 2017
Very attractive cinematography by Jessica Lee Gagné. Pretty good quiet film with some scenes that are completely cinematically powerful, moments you only find in life when watching a really good film. My wife kind of makes fun of me for liking Jon Bernthal, but the guy really has a strong presence in film, a mixture of classic anti-hero mixed with raw American old school machismo? not sure but he does a good job at it. The rest of the cast is solid: Christopher Abbott, Imogen Poots, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Martin Scorsese - The Irishman - 2019
Second time with this film, one of the best films seen in the last few years, just perfect. Anna Paquin's performance here is stunning on second viewing, how many performances does one see so strong with so few lines of dialogue.

Noah Baumbach - Marriage Story - 2019
Not a Baumbach enthusiast, but enjoyed the film. An online friend had recommended it and the subject matter obviously was intriguing, and honestly anything with Adam Driver is worth watching. This viewer (meaning myself) joined the many millions of Americans growing up in the 70s and 80s with parents divorcing at an early age and going through custody issues. I think the second or third film I saw in the theater was Kramer vs. Kramer, which I honestly don't remember the details of but it resonated through my childhood. Driver and Johansson gave their all in this film, both performances at moments hover perhaps pretty close to the area of ham, but the ham never gets really cooked and the innocence they bring to the film brings these performances into some area of near perfect beauty? I am thinking mainly of the scene that gets heavy in Driver's new LA apartment where there is a severe emotional breakdown. Both quite powerful actors who make this film extremely watchable and I would certainly watch it again.

Ki-young Kim - The Housemaid - 1960
At the offices of The Art of Memory we are coming up with a list of Asian films we have either sat down with and loved, watched and don't have a clear memory of, heard of and want to see or never heard of and want to see. More on that later but The Housemaid seemed like an appropriate film to watch as a sort of beginning of an informal study. Most of the films on the list are 1980s to present, with the exception of Japanese classics from the 50s-70s, yet this film has the unbelievable date of 1960 considering how cutting edge it is. Extraordinary film with levels of surrealism and early experimental cinema (Buñuel, Deren, and that rich history), class conflict and an intense fascination with desire and perversion. Strange thing about the film is on top of the just gut wrenching ending, the director tacks on some moral advise as a finale, which I assume was forced on him by studio or government. Beautiful film.

Karyn Kusama - The Invitation - 2015
(partial rewatch)
Attempted to watch this last year and couldn't handle the film and turned it off. Here we go with a second try at it, considering that Kusama's film Destroyer had moments of beauty and I liked her Criterion intro to the Korean film The Housemaid. The Invitation has virtuosity in direction, stunning low-light photography, and it is generally just a well put together film. The way the film revolves around the architecture of the Hollywood Hills house and its relationship to nature, is rewarding if you are interested in that sort of thing (which I am), but I think where the problem was for this viewer that the characters for the most part are just unbearable to spend time with. An exception was when John Carroll Lynch shows up as the scumbag (a character he does well, like in Zodiac), not only bringing dread but also a touch of a touch of comedy if you grew up with him in Fargo where he mentions to his wife Marge Gunderson "You got to eat a breakfast, Marge." In The Invitation, the main female character and new boyfriend (from Game of Thrones) are just completely oppressive and honestly I can never tell if these things are intentional or if I am just a sensitive person, but my gosh when those two were on the screen I wanted to fast forward. The film ends with anther story suggested, and I think that other story would be more a film I would be interested in, perhaps Kusama will make that film at some point.

Martin Scorsese - The Departed - 2006
This Scorsese film I never liked but it was on and I sat in to give it another (3rd perhaps?) chance. Has moments here and there but really hard to identify that signature Scorsese style.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

to magnetize money and catch a roving eye

Mysteriously around 1994 I obtained the Jim O'Rourke double CD Disengage, which includes Mere and the perfectly titled A Young Person's Guide To Drowning. At that time this listener was 19 years old, new to experimental music, and putting more effort into listening than formulating the words to describe what I was listening to. I remember a random chap on the train in Boston asking me what I was listening to, me with my headphones and portable CD player spinning Disengage, coming home late at night in a cold miserable Boston evening. I said Jim O'Rourke's Young Person's Guide to Drowning and got a pretty strange look in return. "What kind of music is that?" he asked and I really had no idea how to answer. I remember saying "it could be described as a music of quiet noise", to which he replied "aren't those two two things contradictory"?  I had to think a second and agreed that possibly those words didn't belong together but in a way it was a perfect description of what I was hearing. That year was really opened up sonically by hearing Giacinto Scelsi, Aube, Merzbow, Caspar Brötzmann, The Ruins, Gastr del Sol, and Keiji Haino, many of which randomly my dorm neighbor lent me, an interesting ex-military art student who dressed like he just got back from the Gulf War. The fellow had great taste and all his CDs smelled strongly of wood, later I figured out from the storage shelf he had. Very strong memories for a now approaching middle aged listener.

Jim O'Rourke later entered my listening world when I got hooked on Andrew Chalk and Christoph Heemann's work together as Mirror, where he contributed here and there. I had not noticed in the years between that he was basically in every issue of The Wire magazine and was as close to a pop star as one could get in the experimental music scene.

And in 2019 we find Mr. O'Rourke at a creative peak with a new 4 CD set released by the French label Sonoris which over the years has issued out great release after great release including box sets of Kevin Drumm and steve roden.

The first disc in the set is perhaps one of the best things I have heard from Mr. O'Rourke. Beautifully abstracted music consisting of slowly shifting and resonating sounds which are extremely dark in nature, and offer an overwhelming feeling that can be described as being similar to the music and ambiance of a Tarkovsky film. The listener perceiving the disc is immersed in a world not unlike the driving section through Tokyo from Tarkovsky's Solaris (where I believe Mr. O'Rourke lives), or the hand motivated train in Stalker traversing the explorers into The Zone. Sound worlds crafted by Tarkovsky, Bach and Eduard Artemiev - filtered, stretched, remembered and unremembered by a truly original artist. "Unremembered" in a way where the artist's own mind manipulates sounds from his/her past onto tape with fragments that are unconsciously inspirited by what one has absorbed over the years, where transformations have been made partially by the mechanics of ones own brain, an alembic filter of experience and influence. One finds oneself within this slowly drifting world where melodies that would take a second to experience are shifted into many minutes, disrupted by extremes of sound like clamors and glitches, or scratches and blatant melodies. So perfectly moving throughout your headphones or the speakers within your physical space, shifting ones perception from here to there and back again. An ideal world the inspired listener finds oneself in, a place you would never leave if that where actually possible.

The disruptions are brilliantly heard again on disc two where the rain and drone of some darkly beautiful world are shredded into oblivion nine minutes in with a dragon-like feedback that slowly dissipates into a glowing atmosphere of place, taken over again by the rain that so soothed the listener minutes before. Later we find this field-recording-based beauty further shifted electronically like some Hafler Trio filtration devise turned not up to 11 but lower to 3 where subtleties overwhelm the foreground and situate ones mind in a labyrinthian place. Yet, memories of each section of the labyrinth are not clearly remembered and they trigger no words into ones consciousness, but dreams of emptiness are instead triggered, dreams that have no connection to a humdrum life but from perhaps another life or another dimension.

Disc three begins with a noisy and almost Musique concrète obliteration of bird calls where slowly emerges a transcendental melody as mysterious and sublime as a winter light, which encourages the birds to make their presence more plain and a period of bliss is achieved. This shifts to distorted dragging-like sounds accompanied by a heavy bass Dantean movement of ground, with almost imperceptible bird screams disoriented again by a heavy shifting ground. Towards the middle of the disc we find backwards layers further situating the listener in a perceived chaos and disorder. Later on  in the recording waves of sound powerful enough to elevate and drop a ship at sea move the listener away from the chaos into what can only be described as deep sea where the the dweller Leviathan finds himself peacefully sleeping for a stretch of time before being awoken by an ending of sonic nihilism, of a high pitched variety.

Listening to this new release, I am also re-reading one of my favorite HP Lovecraft stories from The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft by Leslie S. Klinger: The Music of Erich Zann from 1921. The story has always been a great way in lending a description of certain experiences that drone music can offer a listener:

I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil.... I have delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place; and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann..... That my memory is broken, I do not wonder; for my health, physical and mental, was gravely disturbed throughout the period of my residence in the Rue d’Auseil..... But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour’s walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by anyone who had been there. I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d’Auseil.

Attempting to locate oneself within the drone described by the author Jim O'Rourke can be (beautifully) pointless, as this place is alien and beyond ones understanding. Memories of this particular world of sound, from one second to the next, are like the obliteration occuring when water is poured over a watercolor drawing. Sharp lines become warped and blurred, ghostly melodic occurrences dominate and confuse us, and attempting to understand the music of Erich Zann seems often times futile. If even for a second vision appears clear, then feedback arrives and obfuscates beyond all measure.

plato's cave ninety seven (being a film journal)

Robert Eggers - The Lighthouse - 2019
Written by Max and Robert Eggers, dialogue inspired by Melville and lighthouse keeper's journals. Starring Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, and Valeriia Karaman. Black and white photography by Jarin Blaschke, also responsible for The Witch. Music by Mark Korven and sound design by Mariusz Glabinski. Striking film that wanders in and out of worlds related to Samuel Beckett, Stanley Kubrick (2001), Ligeti, Penderecki, Alvin Curran, Ingram Marshall (Fog Tropes), Sascha Schneider, Herman Melville, John Ford, and David Lynch..... The crazy distorted and overexposed screaming of Pattinson as he enters the light, was heavy early-Lynchian (The Grandmother, Eraserhead) with bits of Twin Peaks meets Curran's Maritime Rites. Superb. Watching Defoe go in and out of focus as he shouts about his under-appreciated lobster meal was one great joy to take in.  Astonishing how Eggers can make a popular film with ingredients that are so obscure to most of the viewing audience. Very nice film.

Errol Morris - The Thin Blue Line - 1988
One of the best documentaries ever made? Did this film give birth to the Making a Murderer or podcasts like Serial?

Victor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive - 1973
Have seen this many times always on a monitor. Projecting it really emphasized the color pallet as a character in the film. This and The Quince Tree Sun (Dream of Light) are my favorite two Spanish language films, I wish there was a Criterion Blu-ray of Dream of Light.

Amy Holden Jones - Mystic Pizza - 1988
Sat next to Lili Taylor in a Brooklyn restaurant after hearing her on Maron, pretty cool. Went home and watched this film with her as I had not seen it. Matt Damon's first film. CT pizza is really pretty spectacular.

Lulu Wang - The Farewell - 2019
Didn't find this film captivating.

Alex Ross Perry - Her Smell - 2018
Reminded me very much of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love, the way that sound (avant'garde in nature) is used as a constant mood instigator or a mood-fucker to use proper film talk. Elisabeth Moss is heavy in this film, she can transform easily from one character to another. Ultimately had trouble with the film though, felt too heavy handed most of the time but worth watching for the most part.

Penny Lane - Hail Satan? - 2019
My wife came up with a big list of films from this year we had not seen so we are going through as many as we can. Interesting subject matter here for this viewer. I read Anton Lavey's holy bible when I was a kid and thought it was fascist nonsense. I understand these Satanic Temple cats distance themselves from his Social Darwinism. The head of the order Lucien Greaves is quite striking and could easily be a movie character.

Bong Joon Ho - Parasite - 2019
Memories of Murder is perhaps my favorite Korean film, just spectacular. I quite liked Mother, but not to the same level. Parasite, in terms of seeing the film once, is equally as impressive as Memories of a Murder, and one can see why Bong Joon Ho won the Palme d'or. So far, Parasite and The Irishman are this blog's list of Best films of 2019, it would be hard to choose one over the other, and I can imagine re-watching over and over both of these films. For Parasite, what one notices initially is the complete originality of the film. It is difficult to think of another similar film or other influences besides just what comes out of Bong Joon Ho's own deviant mind. I made sure to not read up on this film before seeing, so I basically knew nothing about it except that there was a Loachian commentary on class inequalities. So the ending of the film was like a kick in the face, and completely overwhelming. I think the most memorable part of the film was when Geun-se (the crazy fuck with the bloody face) ascends the stairs from the basement, grabs a knife and wreaks havoc into the backyard. His last words of "Respect" (which he also mutters earlier in the film) completely overwhelmed this viewer, the extreme gravity that comes from this actor's face and voice, was almost unlike anything I have seen in a film. There are many lower depths to this character, from fleeing loan sharks and death, to confusing the viewer as to whether he has his proper wits about him (is he in fact a half wit)? The director of photography Kyung-pyo Hong also did Burning, The Wailing, and Mother. Really stunning look to this film. The above still of throwing water on a urinating man was so bloody beautiful. How the hell did they make that shot work so well?

Christian Petzold - Transit - 2018
Perhaps I shouldn't have put this as I didn't finish, I loved the actors and the feel of the film but couldn't get into the story and turned it off.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

plato's cave ninety six (being a film journal)

Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - Fargo - 1996
Pancake's House.

Kelly Reichardt - River of Grass - 1994

Alan J. Pakula - Klute - 1971

Elliot Geisinger - Klute in New York - 1971

Roger Vadim - Barbarella - 1968

Steven Soderbergh - The Laundromat - 2019

Jan Troell - The New Land - 1972
The sound design of this film almost could feels like it could have been done by Henning Christiansen.

Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - 2017

Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life - 2011

Jan Troell - The Emigrants - 1971
Embarrassed it took me so long to finally see these 2 films. Have had them on my best films ever made list for so long without actually seeing them. I knew they would be great though.

10.28.2019 - 11.9.2019
Vince Gilligan - Breaking Bad season two - 2009
First few episodes.

Carlton Cuse, Graham Roland - Jack Ryan season two - 2019

James Bridges - The China Syndrome - 1979
Once a year kind of film.

David Michôd - The King - 2019

Jennifer Kent - The Nightingale - 2018
A fantastic film.

Steven Soderbergh - Magic Mike - 2012

John Schlesinger - Sunday Bloody Sunday - 1971

Jonathan Lynn - My Cousin Vinny - 1992
Rewatching this getting in the Joe Pesci mode for The Irishman.

Jean-Marc Vallée - Wild - 2014

Kelly Reichardt - Old Joy - 2006

Hiroshi Teshigahara - Woman in the Dunes - 1964
Once a year type film which I can now do as I purchased the blu-ray. Perfect score by Tôru Takemitsu, and some really unique and sublime macro photography by Hiroshi Segawa.

Ken Russell - The Devils - 1971
One great film, had only seen bad VHS copy beforehand, so powerful when projected and just full of bizarre business, not unlike other 70s surrealistic films but with the kitsch level dialed way down.

David Lynch - Blue Velvet - 1986

Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Jon Nguyen - David Lynch: The Art Life - 2016

Peter Greenaway - Windows - 1975, Water Wrackets - 1975, Vertical Features Remake - 1978, Intervals - 1969
Various films on Criterion. Never got into Greenaway but gave these a go nonetheless.

Martin Rosen - The Plague Dogs - 1982
Richard Adams story.

Carlos Reygadas - Silent Light - 2007
One of the most handsome opening shots perhaps in recent years, a 4.5 minute shot of a landscape via a slowly moving camera somewhere in the transition of night and sunrise (perhaps doctored with the camera). Somehow even on a second screening the rest of the film doesn't excite in the same way but there are many great shots throughout. Kind of reminds me of Ordet somehow, fantastic cinematography by Alexis Zabe (Florida Project, Post Tenebras Lux).

Ingmar Bergman - Shame - 1968

Bong Joon-ho - Okja - 2017
Cute pig and kid relationship.

Jee-woon Kim - A Bittersweet Life - 2005
Beautiful film with one of the most intense urban action sequences I can remember, a white knuckle ride that happens about halfway through the film and then continues again in the end. Superb film.

Elia Kazan - A Face in the Crowd - 1957

Martin Scorsese - The Irishman - 2019
After reading Mr. Scorsese's New York Times essay dismissing super hero films I was really hoping his new film would overpower those films into oblivion and reinforce the idea that there is a distinct difference between films made for children or man-childs and those for adults. His new work surely did succeed there; it is a brilliant, mature, deep and highly entertaining film with so many layers it invites multiple viewings.  His best film since Goodfellas and it was really nice to see so many references to that film (the babysitter from the end showing up as Hoffa's wife for one), and references to shows like The Sopranos (Steven Van Zandt as the crooner). Such a classically told film, but mixed with a sort of cutting edge bite like the deaths of each minor character announced in bold text over each character's introduction. I got nervous when Pacino showed up that he would hoo-ha and do other bits of non-acting (like in his Salome) but he really just was great here, funny, depressing, subtle when he needed to be, and vulnerable. De Niro was beautiful throughout, especially when entering old age and later approaching death, but more than anything I was overwhelmed with Joe Pesci, perhaps one of my favorite actors. His elderly bread eating with wine was extremely moving and more so was his stealthy movements through the frame, or his face static with just so intense a look one would run in horror if in his presence. Something as simple as offering cereal to De Niro before his unspeakable deed had so much weight. Also, the score by Robbie Robertson was just brilliant, and I loved the end credits sound montage. There was a fear for this viewer that the structure of Goodfellas which was later exemplified in Casino, a structure that has much to do with the use of music, would be further seen here, but instead the film had a really fresh quality to it much to do with Robertson's music, but mostly just a clear indication that the director and editor (Thelma Schoonmaker) are true artist that are constantly changing and advancing. Also the dp Rodrigo Prieto shot one beautiful film, his previous cinematography includes Argo, Babel, Silence, Brokeback Mountain, and Amores Perros. Last thing is - I was glad to see many other heavy filmmakers come to Scorsese's defense when he questioned the qualities of Super Hero films. Their overwhelming presence in the dialogue of contemporary film enthusiasts (if they in fact are enthusiastic?) has resulted basically in someone like myself completely not wanting to talk about film with anyone outside my close circle of friends. It is about time someone with influence came along and made the point that these films that are really nothing more than the results of popcorn salesmen having wet-dreams. Wet-dreams that come from watching bad Disney films, and completely lack imagination and grit. Being inside the mind of a man-child is in these days ubiquitous, from looking at the internet, to going to work and especially interacting with the bloody smart phone. But you really ask yourself when seeing or hearing about these films; can one not even go to the cinema without being completely overwhelmed by this monoculture? The Irishman is coming from a total non-monoculture place and one really hopes it sways our contemporary culture into a more rich and mature frame of mind.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

opus mors (the act of hearing with one’s own ears)

OPUS MORS by Jacob Kirkegaard caught my attention initially because of the relationship to Stan Brakhage's 1971 film The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes, a relationship I formed in my mind when I saw the postmortem concept of the work, but was later confirmed by Mr. Kirkegaard in a letter in terms of being an influence. It should be said that having followed Mr. Kirkegaard's work since his 2002 collaboration Soaked with Philip Jeck, everything by him warrants the utmost attention, especially if presented with such beyond lovely packaging, but the Brakhage relationship gave OPUS MORS a strong flash on my radar, and better than that initial interest, the release gave complete and utter satisfaction upon listening which is becoming more rare for this listener these days.

I first came across the Brakhage film my second year of film school, and my first exposure to his work. The influential filmmaker and teacher Saul Levine showing it warned of the content and perhaps this 19 year old kid was a bit nervous of a 32 minute film of cadavers being dissected? Yet not long after the film began a new way of seeing was initiated, and in a way a new method of interacting with not only art, but also with the world in a way that is not unlike the experiences of the great ascetics like St. Francis (this I should say is coming from a non-religious person). Looking back, part of the initial draw of Brakhage's film (one needs something initially to grab onto) was the deeply rich colors of Brakhage's photography, like a muted vividness with reds the like I had never seen (shown on a 16mm print).

Brakhage's work was initially also a bit tough for a youngster because of the lack of sound. The idea of watching film without sound was something that was "unheard" of for a neophyte like myself.  Today it is quite normal to see the opposite in the avant'garde film tradition in what could be described as music videos for sound artists where music is there to accompany pretty pictures or the pretty pictures are there to accompany pretty music. The rawness and almost asceticism of works like The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes is more of where this listener is coming from when engaging with a work like OPUS MORS. Through this exposure to asceticism, the viewer (with patience) finds themselves after a time (perhaps the unease and boredom needs a minute or two to dissipate) to be completely in a environment outside of their mind, full of lushness and perhaps slowly navigating toward a state of emptiness? Black walls lacking articulation slowly reveal complex details that are beautiful and in a way incomprehensible, not unlike Plato's Cave. And then as slowly as a subtle light reveals this magic, blackness beyond black again takes over one's vision and the memory of details reverberates through your consciousness.

Jacob Kirkeegard's OPUS MORS is very much in tune with works, often long form, that hover someplace between deep asceticism and unknown pleasures. The second LP as an example is basically field-recordings of "a full autopsy starting with opening the corpse, following the removal and slicing and cutting open all the organs and brain, to finally returning all the organs, closing and washing the corpse". There is a concentration on this disc, in Kirkegaard's words, on the "timbre" of the body. Much like Brakhage's film, with only the ears here at work (instead of the eyes) we are slowly taken from a state that is potentially quite uncomfortable as a spectator, to a meditation-like place where the subtle tone-color projecting from the LP via the speakers has almost psychedelic like qualities, strangeness in a way that relates so strongly to first hearing kosmische music or the painted light of a Brakhage film. The acoustics of the autopsy room commingling with the acoustics of my spacious living room was magical and mysterious, having a conversation that is in a way quite over my head but nice to bear witness to. The sound of my dog chewing a bone as Kirkegaard concentrates his microphone on the cleaning of the body by the medical examiner/pathologist had a very nice Cagean quality, but also intriguing as my pup Leviathan generally is uncomfortable with music I listen to but here he found himself in total peace with the sounds emanating from the speakers.

One reason in often returning to a work of art over the years (repeat listens or viewings) is upon initial exposure, the structure of the work is somewhat unclear, but the importance of its meaning is felt at some unconscious level. Over the years of interacting with works that fit this description, one finds the initial mystery of the structure to be just as beautiful as the structure that emerges or sometimes does not emerge, not unlike multiple readings of a Raymond Chandler novel with a somewhat nonsensical plot line. OPUS MORS enters your perception with about as an intense of a drone LP (I played it very loud) as one can experience. Mr. Kirkegaard explains the beginnings as "two ambient recordings made inside two morgues listens within the slow and deep tones from the facilities that keep the corpses cold." This sounds like a description of a space listening to a space, or sound worlds within sound worlds within sound worlds, not unlike his 2006 recording 4 Rooms recorded in deserted rooms inside the 'Zone of Alienation' of Chernobyl. Honestly with the number of drone recordings one can listen to in 2019, it is hard to really find a recording that speaks so clearly. It is like the experience of someone hard of hearing suddenly being able to clearly hear details. LP 1 OPUS MORTURARIUM we get into this highly articulated world of droning sounds with in sounds within sounds within sounds, where sound that can almost be described as minimalistic mud, becomes like a bathing light that gives warmth to one's experience as a listener, similar to sound healing work done by a skillful shamanic practitioner who can with such ease entice your mind into journeying to a place so clearly outside of itself with what seems like simple or even non-existent techniques.

This sound healing effect is also strongly present in disc 3 OPUS CREMATIO where mechanical drones vibrate so powerfully in my listening space that time is something no longer until it is disrupted by a quick transition to shoveling and static. Side B situates the listener in a wavering back and forth place somewhere between pulsing static and a warm drone where a nonphysical sense of emptiness and lack of presence is so beautifully perceived.

Concluding this deeply thought out and composed structure of the four LPs we find the last LP OPUS PUTESCO made up of of two tracks - decomposition internal & decomposition external, recorded at a forensic study facility with measurement microphones placed above decomposing corpses, and vibration sensors placed within the corpses. Rain and flies merge with what could be described as sounds never experienced. The listening pleasures that come from the level of artistry and skill of this LP is like a bit of cake that comes after a perfect meal. Not unlike the master field recorders and composers Yannick Dauby and Chris Watson, the construction of this final LP is like imagining a conductor guiding a large orchestra through a blissful score where the violins are flies, the percussion drops of rain, and the bass is decomposition. The lushness of the sounds discovered by Mr. Kirkegaard really boggles the mind here, like being temporarily in the mind of someone who truly hears and sees the world in a way that you know you are not capable of.

Here we are in Mid November and this release is clearly the best of 2019 for this listener. This site is really not about music/sound reviews, but here are some words that attempt to convey the feelings and emotions that Mr. Kirkegaard's set fires up within me, and why it will be amongst my favorites in the years to follow and constantly spinning and spinning on the player and traversing the walls of my memory.

*blog title suggestion in a letter by Jacob Kirkegaard

Friday, October 18, 2019

plato's cave ninety five (being a film journal)

Joe Talbot - The Last Black Man in San Francisco - 2019
The construction of this film was a tad jarring much of the time but successful in the way that it portrays a dying (or dead) city and lovingly documents the atmosphere of an eccentric old house with an apocryphal history. Quite a unique film that works most of the time.

Howard Deutch - Pretty in Pink - 1986
No thank you to John Hughes and his crew of melon farming Leviathan deniers, I just came by to see some Harry Dean Stanton.

Carol Reed - The Third Man - 1949
Endlessly dense film with many layers to investigate over repeat viewings. Joseph Cotton as an anti high-falutin writer of genre fiction is one of the great film characters, engaging in some humorous discussions with Sgt. Paine (Bernard Lee) and Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White). Also a superb role for one of England's finest actors, Trevor Howard. Carol Reed's opening narration also endlessly fascinates, and one can obsess on his subtleties in diction.

Bennett Miller - Moneyball - 2011
Another example of how one can hate sports and men who go about sports, but love films about sport, sports and the men who go about these activities.

Ric Roman Waugh - Shot Caller - 2017
Very good film on second viewing. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has great screen presence and is a fine actor.

Amy Heckerling - Fast Times At Ridgemont High - 1982
Once a year kind of film with a great cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Sean Penn, Ray Walston, and Robert Romanus, who plays one of the great screen sleaze-bags. For this viewer a character like Damone is what makes this a film that works on numerous levels and the Velveeta sleazes in a Hughes film reasons to not bother with them. I remember I first started listening to Led Zeppelin's Kashmir after seeing this film.

Alan Metter - Back to School - 1986
A film I enjoyed as a middle schooler, hadn't seen since then, has some good jokes.

John G. Avildsen - Joe - 1970
Second time watching this and for the most part I can do without the majority of the film but I really love when Joe (Peter Boyle) and Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick) move their focus to the village and get into some real strange hippy business and even what Boyle calls an Or-gee. Films showing an outside view of beat and hippy culture can be really fantastic, like A Bucket of Blood. Photography is nice and dark too, and red, like someone accidentally put a red filter in there or developed the film wrong.

Antoine Fuqua - Equalizer 2 - 2018
Not a film I liked much but any Denzel film I will watch.

Jordan Peele - Us - 2019
If I am honest with myself, I didn't care for this film. Had some moments though, like Elisabeth Moss' deranged performance.

Vince Gilligan - El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie - 2019

Vince Gilligan - Breaking Bad season one - 2008
I am no television scholar but perhaps the contemporary wave of cinematic television started with The Sopranos (1999-2007), The Wire (2002-2008) and Breaking Bad (2008-2013), all children of Twin Peaks (1990-1991). Maybe some viewers wouldn't agree or have no interest in the relationship between cinema and television, but for someone like myself growing up watching and being irritated by the majority of television in the 70s, 80s and 90s, these 4 great shows separated the shite of The Cosbys and Beverly Hills 90210 from the long form cinematic experiences that had layers of poetry, literature and were often times on the level of fine art. Breaking Bad was in a way so engaging because the trajectory of Walter White could not be expressed in a 2 hour film, his madness needed flowering or unflowering over many hours, where the experience would be full of nuances. Another initial observation of Breaking Bad was that a viewer coming to this show with a love of experimental music, field recordings, sound design and drone music, would find the sound/music here not much different than what he/she was hearing when listening to artists like Akira Rabelais or BJ Nilsen. The sound work interacts with the picture in a nice Bressonian manner, and gets into the world of abstraction with the activity (pleasure) of hearing sound that is full of texture and ethereality warping reality quite severely. The followup film El Camino I found to be a really strong sequel to this great masterwork and Aaron Paul is as excellent as always. Planning on watching again soon and the rest of the seasons of Breaking Bad.

Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain - 2005
Superb Ang Lee film. Reading the short story recently, one can see the script by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana is a virtuosic expansion of a work that excels at brevity, there is even a book on it. And of course, Heath bloody Ledger!!!

Andrew Dominik - Killing Them Softly - 2012
This is one hell of a film that I love to watch over and over. Purchased the book Cogan's Trade (1974) by George V. Higgins many years ago but have yet to read. He also wrote The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) which was made into another raw Boston crime film. There were quite a few memorable indie films from around 2012, there was a certain feeling in the air that is exceedingly attractive. Some other films include (and many with a touch of the 1970s about them):
  • The Place Beyond the Pines (also with Ben Mendelsohn)
  • Animal Kingdom (also with Ben Mendelsohn)
  • Starred Up (also with Ben Mendelsohn)
  • The Drop (also with James Gandolfini)
  • God's Pocket (with a memorable role by Richard Jenkins)
  • Out of the Furnace (also with Sam Shepard)
  • Mud (also with Sam Shepard)
  • The Grey
  • Rampart
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Under the Skin
  • Margaret
  • Shame
  • Prisoners
  • Enemy
  • The Hunt

Anthony Mann - Raw Deal - 1948
More of a fan of Mann's westerns, had not seen in a while, has some great moments, John Alton was really one of the great photographers.

Alfred Hitchcock - The Birds - 1963
One of the best Hitchcock films for this viewer. For many years hardly a week would go by without playing a film by old Hitchcock and if possible a read from Truffaut's Hitchcock/Truffaut (still have to see the Kent Jones film). Moving to SF at age 21 the city was very much under the influence of films like Vertigo and The Birds. These were the heaviest of the heavies for a young San Francisco wine drinking Robert Musil reading Jay DeFeo worshipping potato eater:

  • The Wrong Man (Jesus what a film)
  • Vertigo
  • Rear Window
  • North by Northwest
  • Shadow of a Doubt
  • Lifeboat
  • Rebecca (also by Daphne du Maurier)
  • The Lady Vanishes
  • Strangers on a Train
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The 39 Steps
  • Notorious
  • Saboteur

Alfred Hitchock - Shadow of a Doubt - 1943
Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn engage in some good frank talk on Inee (Indian arrow poison) and other matters of killing, crime and the like. Strange undercurrents of incest, closeted homosexuality and other business discouraged in 1940s America. Near perfect film, sometimes as a viewer one can get sick of the Mid-Atlantic accent to be honest.

Philip Kaufman - Invasion of the Body Snatchers - 1978
Very strange brief cameo of Robert Duvall playing a priest up to no good.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

plato's cave ninety four (being a film journal)

Quentin Tarantino - Jackie Brown - 1997
Tarantino's classic film.

S. Craig Zahler - Bone Tomahawk - 2015
Equally strange on a second viewing. Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins and the film a reason to watch a second time.

Alexander Payne - Sideways - 2004
Slightly embarrassed how many times I have watched this film. Suffering vague Bay Area depression from time to time I would watch this for the comedy. Always like buddy films and this surely a good one.

Robert Benton - Twilight - 1998
Paul Newman as a private dick.

Federico Fellini - - 1963
Watched this with my wife who hadn't seen it. Interesting seeing the opening shot a week later in Falling Down. Very nice extremes of black and whites.

Ida Lupino - The Hitch-Hiker - 1953
Lovely film, dark as Hellfire, high contrast photography, no MF wishy washy grays.

Stan Lathan - Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones - 2019

Penelope Spheeris - The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years - 1988

Sebastián Lelio - Gloria Bell - 2018
Another solid film from Mr. Lelio, I dig this guy's style. Especially the abstract photography in the dance club, and unique colors only digital photography can give you. Quite a film.

Stephen Frears - My Beautiful Laundrette - 1985
Great film.

Jang Hoon - A Taxi Driver - 2017

Steve Wang - Drive - 1997

James Gray - We Own the Night - 2007

Kim Ki-duk - 3-Iron - 2004

Ivo van Hove - National Theatre Live: All About Eve - 2019
Theatre at BAM live via HD video. Gillian Anderson top notch as always.

Antoine Fuqua - Training Day - 2001

Shane Carruth - Upstream Color - 2013
Could not really remember why I was not taken by this film, but on rewatch I believe it to be the jarring editing that is a tad hard to connect with. Certainly a solidly made film but can't get into it.

Andrei Tarkovsky - Stalker - 1979
One of those films that made this viewer become a solid film junkie. The number of nights I have spent looking for a vein trying to get that original high I got when I watched Stalker as a teenager i cannot count.

Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married - 2008

John Schlesinger - Marathon Man - 1976
One of the very good conspiracy-political films of the 70s, which I like very much.

Martin Scorsese - The King of Comedy - 1982
Had not seen in a while, seemed a little flat this viewing.

Joel Schumacher - Falling Down - 1993
Another I had not seen in a while, one of the really great portraits of Los Angeles. Came out the year I graduated high school, I am surprised I didn't move to LA after seeing this, had a strong effect on me after growing up around the slightly dull East Coast light.

Nancy Buirski - By Sidney Lumet - 2015

Takashi Makino - cinéma concret - 2015
Takashi Makino - On Generation and Corruption - 2017
Takashi Makino - The Picture from Darkness - 2016

Roger Donaldson - Species - 1995
I live two blocks from Michelle Williams. I will have to mention to her I saw the film next time I walk my dog by her house.

Takashi Makino - Emaki/Light - 2011
Takashi Makino - Still in Cosmos - 2009
Takashi Makino - At the Horizon - 2018
Takashi Makino - Origin of the Dreams - 2015

Takashi Makino - EVE - 2002
Takashi Makino - Space Noise - 2015
Takashi Makino - Memento Stella - 2019
Three nights at Anthology Film Archive of Mr. Makino's work, starting with an early 16mm film EVE, and ending with his new 60 minute opus Memento Stella. Purely transcendental works beyond description, one can talk about the methods of constructions but these films are just pure experience, an immersion in the sublime. I found myself as a young man so transfixed by experimental film, but over the years felt quite alienated from it, which especially made these works resonate so strongly. Also these films in a way take a piss on the concept of film's superiority over digital; a trend I notice in the avant'garde and photography worlds. One wonders if an obsession for only celluloid is a bit fetishistic? And leaves little room for the idea that a true artist is someone that can conjure a sort of magic onto the screen (or the canvas or the speakers), and that the method they go about getting this magic to manifest itself is really not that important.

James William Guercio - Electra Glide in Blue - 1973
One strange film with Robert Blake giving a bizarrely uncomfortable performance.

Walter Hill - 48 Hrs. - 1982
Once a year type of film. Really great soundtrack and ambiance, the honky bar scene never gets old.

Chad Stahelski - John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum - 2019
More effective on the big screen but this is def a solid one. I love watching Wick limp around like an old man the entire film, he does a great job at getting that broken gait to explode into pure violence and mayhem.

Carl Schenkel - The Mighty Quinn - 1989
Wanted to see some Schenkel films after Mindhunter season two.

Clint Eastwood - The Mule - 2018
Good anti-cell phone film, made me laugh a few times.

Greg Mottola - Superbad - 2007
Funny film.

Jonathan Demme - Philadelphia - 1993

Greg Mottola - Adventureland - 2009
I have yet to see Mottola's film The Daytrippers, which seems to be one of those hidden gems from the 1990s, this and Superbad pretty good. Very good soundtrack.

9.18.2019 - 9.25.2019
David Milch & Michael Mann - Luck - 2011-12
Felt like re-immersing myself into the world of the low-lifes of this show, particularly the crew played by Kevin Dunn (also in the first season of True Detective), Ritchie Coster, Jason Gedrick, Ian Hart and Richard Kind (most memorable in A Serious Man). It has that nice sort of Robert Altman quality where you can't totally understand what is happening much of the time. On a second viewing, I find large sections of the show hard to watch, partially seeing the depressing lives of these horses and additionally knowing that there were some deaths involved, but non-the-less this series is fully engaging and has some great moments.

Ethan Hawke - Blaze - 2018
Finally seeing this film which I enjoyed very much. Some stunningly beautiful photography by Steve Cosens.

Sydney Pollack - Three Days of the Condor - 1975
Another one of those 70s conspiracy thrillers...  perhaps not one of the best but certainly with some good moments like the beginning killings that are quite gripping in their randomness.

Martin Scorsese - Raging Bull - 1980
Just one of those great films worthy of a once a year revisit. I remember freshman year in film school seeing this in class on a 16mm print and before it started some older cats sitting in the theater ranking Scorsese films and putting this one first, and I realized I had some work to do as I had only seen Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and Last Temptation of Christ, perhaps Goodfellas. His early films especially the two docs Italianamerican and American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince were films that this young film enthusiast studied very closely. After over 25 years of rewatching this film I would agree with those youngsters that it is certainly his most powerful film, not just because of the novel explorations of the possibilities of photography, camera speeds and editing, but also the comedy/tragedy/fragility/angst of the film is so palpable and makes the viewer in a way uncomfortable even though it is just such a pleasure to watch. Just a perfect film.

Martin Scorsese - Taxi Driver - 1976
Another perfect film by Scorsese.

David Fincher - Gone Girl - 2014
Has some pretty good moments. Carrie Coon's performance is really strong, the subtitles of it escaped me the first couple of times but were very clear this viewing. She is one of the great actors working now. I love the Trent Reznor soundtrack as well.

9.24.2019 - 9.26.2019
Lisa Cholodenko, Michael Dinner - Unbelievable 2019
Really powerful show of this true life serial bastard. Beautifully done, and in a way unique as it is a sort of female buddy cop show in some ways.

Michael Ritchie - Downhill Racer - 1969
Didn't have a clear memory of this film, was not totally taken by it but the skiing parts nice on the eyes.

Ted Demme - Blow 2001

Ava DuVernay - When They See Us - 2019
Hell of a show. Want to watch a second time as it is very subtle. Tragic.   Seeing the real life guys at the Emmy Awards made me want to watch.

9.29.2019 - 10.5.2019
Jane Campion, Garth Davis - Top of the Lake - 2013
Preparing for season two with a rewatch. Some great directing, photography and actorshippe. Landscape photography up there with Lord of the Rings and even Thomas Joshua Cooper.

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story - 2016

Budd Boetticher - Buchanan Rides Alone - 1958

Jim Jarmusch - Gimme Danger - 2016

Joe Berlinger - Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile - 2019
Ted Bundy biopic film, not so good.

Joe Berlinger - Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes - 2019
Much better than the biopic. Impressive avant'garde editing of 70s footage emphasizing the horror of Bundy's deeds and the general unease of the decade.

Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja - Aniara - 2018
Based on the 1956 science fiction poem written by the Swede Harry Martinson. Quite abstract, a little lame at times, but with some pleasant visuals.