Seeing this film many times as a student, it became a sort of standard for what was possible within the traditional narrative structure of cinema, if the concept of narrative was really pushed. With long camera takes, minimal plot, non traditional sound and acting, the structure of traditional narrative film can be quite transformed. Hearing at the time that Michael Snow was a heavy influence on Akerman while she was living in New York and making News From Home really hit me hard at the time as I was actively being transformed by Back and Forth, See You Later, Wavelength and La Région Centrale. One thing that perhaps was too subtle for a 19 year old was the way in which Delphine Seyrig's acting and movements slowly shift over the film from extremely controlled to just a little out of control and then to completely berserk by the end of the film. How Akerman pulled this off using the long form technique shows her genius and great skill as a filmmaker, and Seyrig's abilities as an actor.
6.23.2-19 - 6.27.2019
Craig Mazin - Chernobyl episodes four and fine - 2019
Great bloody show.
Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene - 2011
Directed by Sean Durkin who also did the show Southcliffe which was quite good.
Todd Field - In the Bedroom - 2001
Tom Wilkinson, Marisa Tomei, Sissy Spacek and William Mapother in this strange Maine murder film.
Nicolas Winding Refn - Too Old to Die Young - 2019
A novel idea - to use the long form format of television to basically a show be a series of long meandering shots, panning, rotating and in stasis. Very much in the tradition of the new Twin Peaks, skirting traditional Los Angeles Neo-Noir, with some distinct weirdness, but this one perhaps more in the Tarr or Tarkovsky realm with 80s pastiche music by Cliff Martinez transforming away from the strictly art house appeal.
Claire Denis - High Life - 2019
A gorgeous Stu Staples/Tindersticks soundtrack here, with some proper performances from Juliette Binoche and Robert Pattinson. Binoche's onanistic scene is pretty good.
6.29.2019 - 7.18.2019
David Kajganich, Max Borenstein, and Alexander Woo - The Terror - 2018
Read the Dan Simmons book last year, a really good read. The creature especially quite frightening and cinematic in description. The story in the show is a little less clear than the book but actually nice in its semi-abstraction, but one of those examples of how those viewing the show having read the book are getting a lot more out of it. Jared Harris is showing some extreme actorshippe here, he is one great screen presence. Soundtrack with work by the Miasmah artist Marcus Fjellström whom apparently passed away in 2017, also Lustmord, Tangerine Dream, and Ingram Marshall and his glorious Fog Tropes. The sexually charged elements of the Esquimaux women extremely subtle to non existent here which is something that added good tension in the novel.
Alec Berg and Bill Hader - Barry season one - 2018
Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery - The Loveless - 1991
Lynch fans will recognize Monty Montgomery's name not only as producer/director, but the strange cow poke in Mulholland Drive.
Jesse Peretz - Juliet, Naked - 2018
Hard to imagine the reality of an underrated indie rock star with an internet fan base, but a pleasant enough Ethan Hawke film.
Brady Corbet - Vox Lux - 2018
Seriously did not like this one, except Jude Law was good.
Ari Aster - Midsommer - 2019
I really loved this film in terms of how it was made but the plot and characters bothered me. Aster says it is a breakup film but the male has zero personality and the girl simply nags and lives her life through comfy pants although the tragedy she experiences gives reason to it. That sounds harsh but I did enjoy the film, it would have been so much better with more sophisticated characters and a tweak to the story, part of my problem with being a non-millennial perhaps is the trouble relating to the problems of entitled youth.
Martin Scorsese - Mean Streets - 1973
This film was seen probably once a month through college, nice to watch it again, I often time will say lines from it like Get out of my place, I know your face. Also, the pallet of this film is so damn beautiful in its simplicity, reds and muddy grays/blacks.
Nicolas Roeg - The Man Who Fell to Earth - 1975
Great film, darn strange with a lot of sex. Bowie's johnson clear as day in the last 3rd. Rip Torn is so darn good. Stunning music by John Phillips and Stomu Yamashta.
Martin Scorsese - The Last Temptation of Christ - 1988
First saw this when it came out with my mother who was on a real spiritual path, at the great Wilton Town Hall Theatre in Wilton NH. Really took my breath away. I remember owning the laser disc and watch it quite often. Nice to see again after 20+ years. Reminded me this viewing of The Sopranos when the priest jokes about Bobby D. as an alternative gangster Jesus. Also wonderful soundtrack by Peter Gabriel, and in addition the sources like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Jim Jarmusch - The Dead Don't Die - 2019
I like to see every new Jarmusch film in the theater. His new film has a good concept - a comedic "hipster" interpretation of the zombie film with Romero's Night of the Living Dead as a starting point. A slightly alternative take in the zombie film history that have highlights like 23 Days Later and not necessarily good but prominent works like The Walking Dead. The zombie film has always resonated strongly with me because we basically walk amongst the living dead, are governed by the living dead and have a dead bastard at the helm. Jarmusch is making reference to much of this with his new film both seriously and absurdly. One scene I loved was when each cop shows up at the diner to bear witness to the remains of the first kills. Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny separately walk into the same dismal scene where a sort of country muzak (as I heard it, maybe it was a respected song?) playing on the speakers. Their perceptions are all the same, cut for cut, in a way that reminding this viewer of Sam Beckett and his absurdity-repetition like that in Watt and the sucking stones from Malloy. Hearing Jarmusch's dislike of the genre in an interview shed some light on the film for me, I wonder if he had a bit more of a relationship with zombies, the film could have been more successful like his Only Lovers Left Alive. In addition, one wonders if the story would have potentially been more potent without self referencing itself via the fourth wall?
Fritz Lang - The Big Heat - 1953
I personally prefer Lang's American films Ministry of Fear and The Return of Frank James to this film but it surely is a classic worth watching a few times.
Irving Lerner - Murder by Contract - 1958
Bizarre story of a overly confident and incompetent contract killer played by Vince Edwards.
Terence Davies - The Long Day Closes - 1992
Davies' stunning portrait of a man recalling his youth reflected through the eyes of a boy surrounded by cinema, atmosphere, and a loving family filtered through post-war Britain.
Jacques Tourneur - Nightfall - 1956
Filling in gaps lately in my Noir exposure (which honestly is pretty basic). I really loved this film with Anne Bancroft and Aldo Ray giving solid natural performances lacking the ham that is common in this period, especially Bancroft who just masters some sort of non-acting actorshippe. The Criterion Channel's supplementary video for these Columbia Noir films mentions how many of these Noirs don't have the traditional femme fatale which honestly is refreshing.
Takashi Miike - Rainy Dog - 1997
Part of Miike's Black Society trilogy of which I have seen none. Solid gangster film that revolves around the relationship between a foreign mercenary, his son and a prostitute. Really great atmospheric and quiet film.
Jim Sheridan - In the Name of the Father - 1993
Great use of Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) during the riot sequence. Great film when Day-Lewis was on a roll, even though he has always been on a roll. Pete Postlethwaite in addition is one of those actors that grabs your attention with everything he is in.
6.20.2019 - 6.23.2019
Craig Mazin - Chernobyl episodes one through three - 2019
Currently going through this totally devastating and brilliant mini series on HBO with music by Hildur Guðnadóttir and stunning performances by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emily Watson, three of my favorite actors. I remember as a boy of about age 12 the disaster had a strangely shocking effect on me even though I wonder if I understood the gravity of the situation. Years later the work 4 Rooms by Jacob Kirkegaard and the photographic survey Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl by Robert Polidori resonated really strongly with me, also Ilya Kabakov's School No.6 which I saw in Marfa Texas. The complete annihilating qualities of the disaster make this series honestly hard to watch and quite depressing but so relevant today. On a side note - Jared Harris is often times considered the son of the great British actor Richard Harris. Years of watching him in films and shows such as Happiness, Benjamin Button, Mad Men and here, I believe Richard Harris should now be considered the father of Jared Harris? He is really one of the top actors working now and has made a very strong impression in the history of the moving image. I would look forward to him just even reading the phone book for 5 hours!
Jim Jarmusch - Down by Law - 1986
One of Mr. Jarmusch's best films, so beautifully shot by Robby Müller. Tom Waits' repetition of "Bob Frost" is wonderful, an underrated actor as is John Lurie.
Hirokazu Koreeda - Still Walking - 2008
Ozu-esque family drama in which a family passes some time exhibiting a bit of subtle but very uncomfortable family tension and dysfunction. The dysfunction can be seen clearly when the family invites the saved boy (their son passed away saving the child) each year to the house and basically showing him very mild hatred in the form of non-kindness and disrespect. Koreeda's steady actor Hiroshi Abe reminds this viewer very much of Tatsuya Nakadai from The Human Condition and many Kurosawa films, interesting guy, as is the actress Kirin Kiki who appears in many of his films. The sequence with Kirin Kiki frantically pursuing the yellow butterfly around the house thinking it is her son reincarnated was extremely touching, not only because of her actorshippe, but also the work of the dp and cameraman who so expertly follow the two around letting them go in and out of focus in a deeply satisfying way, no idea how they shot that.
Peter Brötzmann / Juhani Aaltonen / Peter Kowald / Edward Vesala - Hot Lotta
Blue Master Special / Svarte Records 1973
A post mostly revolving around Polish and Finnish Jazz. Hot Lotta finds the 2 heavies of German free jazz (Kowald and Brötzmann) with the 2 heavies of Finnish free jazz (Vesala and Aaltonen). This is one hard hitting album with much delicate textural work from Vesala and Kowald. A great contrast to the Brötzmann attack. I find Edward Vesala to be one of the most profound of the European Jazz composers/players, he seems quite underrated. Even in the ECM circle, one hardly hears his name. His albums are really quite Godly, especially Nan Madol, Satu and Lumi.
Komeda Quintet - Astigmatic Polskie Nagrania Muza 1965
Krzysztof Komeda's most beautiful album, of which this series of posts is partially named after. This album features the great Zbigniew Namysłowski on alto, Günter Lenz on bass, Rune Carlsson (a Swede) on drums, and Tomasz Stańko on trumpet. For this listener; Astigmatic is one of the just perfect jazz albums, one that is endlessly played and endlessly thought about here at the art of memory. Albums seminal to the Polish jazz scene have a mixture of familiarity with a subtle strangeness, bordering on, but not quite surreal.
Krzysztof Komeda - Knife In The Water / Two Men And A Wardrobe Doxy 2012
The band for Knife in the Water is Komeda on piano, Bernt Rosengren (a Swede) on saxophone, Leszek Dudziak (read on line this Pole currently lives in Sweden) on drums and Roman Dylag on bass.
Edward Vesala - Nan Madol ECM 1976
3 essential ECM releases - First we find possibly the best ECM release in the opinion of this listener, Vesala's Nan Madol with not only some of the most beautiful percussion work put to tape, but in addition melodies that are rich and quite queer in the Lovecraftian sense. The band features Vesala playing drums, percussion, harp, flutes, Juhani Aaltonen on saxophones, bells, flutes, voice, Sakari Kukko on flute, Seppo Paakkunainen on flute and soprano saxophone, Pentti Lahti on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, the American Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone, flute, and nagaswaram, and Elisabeth Leistola on harp. One reads of influences ranging from Japanese folk melodies to Alpine herding calls. Quite a metaphysical album which hovers between complete abstraction and traditional jazz (with a touch of world music) and presents the listener with a subtle feeling not unlike the effects of a divine ambrosiac.
Edward Vesala - Satu ECM 1977
Second comes Satu with the magnificent Vesala on drums, the smooth Pole Tomasz Stańko on trumpet, Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet. On sax we have Juhani Aaltonen, the Norwegian Knut Riisnaes and the Pole Tomasz Szukalski. Also Rolf Malm on bass clarinet, Torbjørn Sunde on trombone, Palle Danielsson on double-bass, and the extremely lush and gritty guitarist Terje Rypdal getting Rypdalian with his Strat, overdrive, delay, wah wah, compression, and Marshall amp. Many of these tunes share the quality of an unfathomable melodic purity we find with Charles Mingus.
Edward Vesala - Lumi ECM 1987
Approaching a big band quality with some extraordinary players giving the recording a classic ECM sound, like Iro Haarla on harp. The last track Together is co-written with Tomasz Stańko, Raoul Björkenheim's guitar work here over Vesala's drums hovers in-between atonality and lush-infused noise and is bewilderingly beautiful.
Zbigniew Namysłowski - Winobranie Polskie Nagrania Muza 1973
Recently visited the WFMU record fair and the first booth I hit was that of a lawyer from Philadelphia who had a plethora of Polish jazz. Many of these came from his collection. On this Namysłowski recording we find a heavy in the Pole canon; Namysłowski's 1973 masterpiece featuring his work on alto saxophone, cello, and piano. Paweł Jarzębski is on bass, Kazimierz Jonkisz on drums, Tomasz Szukalski on tenor, and Stanisław Cieślak on trombone, and percussion. The first side has some almost witch-oriented female vocals, transforming the modal feel of the album into something approaching the surreal. The side ends like a Polish wedding spinning chaotically into the oblivion. With much of these Polish albums, it is hard not to think of the great write Bruno Schulz and the ambiance he creates with simplicity.
Zbigniew Namysłowski Quintet - Kujaviak Goes Funky Polskie Nagrania Muza 1975
Smooth Polish melodies filtered through some 70s funk with Namysłowski on alto. One can surely hear a Komeda influence in Namysłowski's writing which is pleasantly augmented with some good steady groove bass from Paweł Jarzębski and Mileseque electric piano by Wojciech Karolak. Additionally we have Tomasz Szukalski on soprano and tenor and Czesław Bartkowski on drums.
The Włodzimierz Nahorny Trio - Heart Polskie Nagrania Muza 1968
The multi-instrumentalist Włodzimierz Nahorny plays piano and alto saxophone on his classic free jazz album from 1968 with Jacek Ostaszewski on bass and Sergiusz Perkowski on drums. Essential album for those interested in European jazz and late 60s jazz. Moments of near aural stacis shift into explosive bits of hard bop transitioning into free jazz throughout this album. Side two's Przy Kasie / At The Cashier pairs Nahorny's alto with bird twitters. Great stuff, any album with bird tweets is top of the shelf.
Janusz Muniak Quintet - Question Mark Polskie Nagrania Muza 1978
(two copies in collection, both covers above)
Smooth jazz from Mr. Muniak and his quintet. Muniak on tenor and soprano, Andrzej Dechnik on bass, Jerzy Bezucha on drums, Paweł Perliński on piano and electric piano (side two he gets pretty magical) and some guitar shredding by Marek Bliziński. Seing these guys in some smoke-filled club in Warsaw drunk on Wódka in
the 1970s must have been quite an experience.
Tomasz Stańko Quintet - Music For K Polskie Nagrania Muza 1970
Janusz Muniak and Zbigniew Seifert on sax, Bronisław Suchanek on bass and Janusz Stefański on drums. One of Stańko's best.
Tomasz Stańko - Balladyna ECM 1976
ECM release with Tomasz Szukalski on tenor and soprano saxophone, Dave Holland on bass, and Edward Vesala on drums. I believe named after Juliusz Słowacki's 1834 Romantic novel of the same name.
Tomasz Stańko Septet - Litania - Music Of Krzysztof Komeda ECM 1997
Another completely essential ECM release. Everything perfect: lush cover photograph by Jim Bengston with a no-gray-area high contrast black and white seascape, and design by Sascha Kleis. A fine example of that quintessential ECM sound here obtained by recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug and producer Manfred Eicher. A killer band with Stańko on trumpet, the Swede Bobo Stenson on piano, Palle Danielsson on bass. Jon Christensen on drums, Komeda alumni Bernt Rosengren on tenor sax, Joakim Milder on tenor and soprano, and the heavy shredder Terje Rypdal adding often times noisy guitar.
Krzysztof Komeda - Rosemary's Baby (Music From The Motion Picture) 1968
Krzysztof Komeda - Dance of the Vampires Seriés Aphōnos 2013
2 recent printings of Polanski/Komeda collaborations.
5.19.2019 - 5.31.2019
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harry Bradbeer - Fleabagseason one and two - 2016-2019
Waller-Bridge as the memorable character Fleabag, subtly interacting with the spectator in an intimate and quite unique way. Reminded me of Louie, starting off a somewhat standard tv comedy and quickly transforming into something unexpected and intelligent, breaking the rules of traditional narrative, almost avant-garde in a way.
Niels Arden Oplev - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 2009
This film is better than I had thought it would be, I mostly enjoyed Michael Nyqvist.
Newt Arnold - Bloodsport - 1988
Great film worth many viewings.
Todd Phillips - The Hangover - 2009
I ended up falling asleep midway and the next day the film was no longer streamable... I can live with that.
5.31.2019 - 6.5.2019 GOT season six
Drew Goddard - Bad Times at the El Royale - 2018
Joon-ho Bong - Mother - 2009
Great performance by Hye-ja Kim as the mother. The Koreans make some oddly fucked up films.
Aki Kaurismäki - The Match Factory Girl - 1990
Final installment of his Proletariat Trilogy, after his Shadows in Paradise and Ariel, starring the superb Kati Outinen.
6.6.2019 - 6.14.2019 GOT season seven and eight
I must admit the reason I went through this show beyond a general interest, was because the last season got such bad press, I figured it would be pretty good. Seems when yr average Merkan says something is bad it is pretty good. The dark episode specifically got a lot of shit from people and man these folks must have no ability to comprehend a moving image because it was just a spectacular bit of film-making, uncommon and sublime, I have trouble understanding why someone invested in the show would have a problem with it? It was also a unique moment when the series went beyond the obvious LOTR influence (many shots in the series and especially the battle sequences are just blatantly taken from the great trilogy but who can blame them). This episode reminded me of Lynch's rather intense and lush episode 8 in Twin Peaks. The last two seasons were the best for this viewer, I especially liked seeing the dragon fascist meet her demise, and the battle sequences were really well put together, like the Battle of the Bastards and the Massacre at Hardhome. I would be interested in reading intelligent writing on the show's ending but in a 20 minute search was unable to find any, even surprised the NY Times had such a brain dead review.
David Mamet - Redbelt - 2008
Third or fourth time viewing, becoming one of those films that gets viewed once a year. Mamet's finest in the opinion of this viewer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance is really wonderful, beyond compare, not only in the world of martial arts films but just in contemporary cinema he is one of heaviest of the heavies.
Stuart Rosenberg - Cool Hand Luke - 1967
A film I watched a lot as a young man. So brilliant with a memorable cast (Harry Dean, Dennis Hopper, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Joy Harmon as the car wash lady and many others) and a wonderful visual style. It is a nice treat to hear the few Harry Dean songs and also Paul Newman's Plastic Jesus which was a song I listened to many times in high school covered by The Flaming Lips.
Blake Edwards - Experiment in Terror - 1962
Have always been a big fan of Edwards' Days of Wine and Roses, and I found myself a little embarrassed realizing I had never seen this SF classic film noir. What a film, dark as hell and featuring an intensely perverted performance by Ross Martin as Red Lynch. Always a pleasure to see Lee Remick as well.