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eli, eli, lema sabachthani?

Jan 18, 2009 Leave a comment

AD 2015. The world’s major cities are decimated by a terrible plague, a highly contagious virus that fills those it infects first with unbearable dread, then with overwhelming despair. A fatal disease, without cure. The Lemming Syndrome. In an isolated country mansion, two musicians – Mizui and Asuhara – live in seclusion, devoting themselves to the creation of pure sound far from the trappings of fame and success they knew in the corrupt and dangerous city. They are visited by an ageing plutocrat, his desperately sick daughter and a detective, who believes that in the music made by Mizui and Asuhara lies the seed of hope that the old man’s daughter can be saved. In the vast, changeless stillness of nature, the musicians begin to play…

A friend linked me to this video excerpt of it and, if you know my musical tastes, you will instantly understand why I wanted to watch the movie. And I’m honestly quite glad I did, as it’s a beautiful movie.

It’s not for everyone, no: not only is it riddled with large amounts of “annoying” noise/non-music, but it’s also one of those dreaded “art films” and, while it isn’t as bad as some other films (where nothing happens at. all.), it’s not exactly a hugely eventful film either, being slow-paced throughout. There’s not much in the way of a plot (but it’s not devoid of one, either), action or eye-catching performances, and there’s not even that much dialogue.

What it does have, however, is beauty. Lots of it.

The cinematography and camerawork is, simply put, beautiful. The settings and locations used in the film are beautiful enough on their own, but the scenes and the way said scenes are shot and visually constructed take it to another level. This film manages to make the sight of two men cycling down a deserted road in the middle of the day beautiful, and if that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is.

cards

And then there’s the noise music aspect of it, which is what drew me to the film in the first place. The duo of Mizui and Asuhara are musicians, alright, and one of them plays the guitar, but if you expected them to be a troubadour duo or maybe a rock band, then you’d be sorely mistaken. What they make is noise, and lots of it. Commendably good noise, too, from the harsh racket during the duo’s live performance to that piece in the video I linked to. It’s a joy to listen to, and also a joy to actually see what is being manipulated and the gear that they (ostensibly) use.

But don’t think that the music in this film is all all unlistenable noise. The score, which is comprised of more conventional music is very, very good too, particularly the beautiful piano theme that is played at various points in the film, accentuating said points and scenes brilliantly. Barring the scene in the aforementioned video and the final, extended solo, however, I would perhaps have to say that the non-noise tracks are better than the noise ones.

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If this film was simply pointless, badly-shot shots of two musicians making noise then even I wouldn’t enjoy it, but it’s so much more than that. It’s actually very well made, managing to avoid descending into a fetishistic celebration of noise—and, by extension, some sort of outsider culture within the world of music and sound—and mantaining an aura of true beauty throughout.

It is not, as I—and I’m sure many—have said, a movie for everyone. Most probably only a small cross-section of movie-watchers will enjoy this. Not many will be able to get past the noise aspect of it, and perhaps even fewer of those individuals that can will be able to look past the seeming novelty value of the whole thing, of making a movie about two noise musicians—becoming something of an 80’s punk rock film for the modern-day noise-drone-and-EAI kid in the process—and see the film for what it really is: a thing of beauty.

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Categories: the silver screen

i can’t review things for shit, honestly

Nov 26, 2008 Leave a comment

(But I’m going to try, anyway.)

I just finished watching this just now, and all I can say is, well… holy fuck. This is, by far, one of the most disturbing and downright deranged movies I’ve ever seen. And, you know what?

I love it.

It is, of course definitely for only a select few individuals.

The plot, or whatever this movie has as a lame excuse for it, makes very nearly no sense. If/once you do make sense of it, though, you realise it’s really nothing special at all (and is, by most standards, pretty crap).

But, for me, it’s not about the plot. It’s about everything else:

The proto-industrial, Einstürzende Neubauten-meets-Skinny Puppy-meets-very nearly every other industrial act of the late ’70s/early ’80s soundtrack;

The rhythmic, oftentimes hyper (“hyperkinetic,” to borrow the quote on the Tartan Asia DVD release) and very stylized camerawork;

The visual aesthetic, which, in its biomechanical, techno-organic (hooray for sounding like some sort of pretentious cyberpunk reviewer!) meeting of flesh and metal (and rust) not only recalls the terrors of H.R. Giger, but even, in admittedly what may be a slight stretch, Fritz Lang’s seminal “Metropolis,” and

The acting, which very nearly reaches pantomime levels but manages to avoid crossing that particular threshold, which, again, smacks of “Metropolis” and many of its’ contemporaries.

This is more than just a movie, to me. It’s… well, it’s art. No, it’s not art from a pure filmmaking perspective, but it is, to me, art on a visceral level… the combination of biomechanical horror, rhythmic camerawork, stomach-churning closeups of flesh, metal and rust, accompanied by that pounding, grating, harsh, almost Industrial soundtrack hammering on in the background, supporting the visuals wonderfully and adding even more to the already discomforting, disorientating visual spectacle unfolding on-screen.

If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

It’s, to use a lame example, the visual equivalent of an early Einstürzende Neubauten concert. Or perhaps a New Blockaders album. Or both. At the same time.

Categories: the silver screen

woman in the dunes

Sep 13, 2008 2 comments

I finally sat down and watched Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1964 film Woman in the Dunes and, my god, was it brilliant.

It really is a wonderful, wonderful movie; beautifully directed, filmed and photographed in black and white, with some very haunting and moving cinematography, from the brilliant shots of the shifting, almost-alive sand to abstract, disorientating close-up views during certain segments of dialogue to the detail captured in skin, facial hair and anywhere else that the sand gets to. Wonderful cinematorgaphy, no doubt.

The story is simple; in fact, there’s almost nothing to it. A man, a scientist, is collecting insects in a Japanese village when he is forced to stay the night in the village due to missing the final bus. The villagers lead him to a rope ladder, which leads down into a large pit with a house inside. That night, he sees the woman shovelling sand, which is then hauled up out of the pit by the villagers. The next day, the ladder is gone.

The woman tells him: “If we stop shovelling, the house will get buried. If we get buried, the house next door is in danger.” She also later informs him that the villagers sell the too-salty sand to construction companies under the table, at a cut-rate price. Ridiculous concept on paper, I know, but you know what? Not once during the time I was watching the movie did that thought cross my mind. The fact is that the movie looks and feels realistic and not even the improbably-steep walls of the pit can detract from that.

He tries to escape, but soon begins to accept the situation (triggered, perhaps, in part by a certain event I shall not mention, just in case someone decides to call me out for spoiling the thing) and soon the movie shifts from a portrayal of desperation (on part of the man) and the oppressive situation the two of them are in (basically, forced to shovel sand night in, night out, for what?) towards the tense, strangely erotic sense of physical attraction between the two of them, handled in a way that modern directors can’t seem to equal.

In the end, he gets a chance to escape, but decides not to.

Some will scoff at the seeming lack of plot, but the movie isn’t about the plot. It isn’t about the sand, either. It’s about, to quote what Roger Ebert said in his essay about this very film, “life.” And it handles that topic exceedingly well.

The performances by both Eji Okada and Kyoko Kishida in the lead roles are, without a doubt, wonderful: managing to capture everything from the desperation of a trapped and thirsty man towards the aforementioned eroticism without once seeming like they’re acting it out for the camera.

I will have to admit, though, that yes, the film does drag a bit on occasion, and that it is quite slow-paced and will probably be boring to some, but you know what? It doesn’t detract from the movie at all.

The movie is a wonderfully bleak, haunting, beautiful and almost existentialist (it occasionally brings to mind some of Albert Camus’ works) look at life and the relationship between a man and a woman. It is perhaps a bit odd, I will admit, but since when was “odd” a bad thing? “Odd,” to me, is a good thing.

A mighty good thing indeed.

Categories: the silver screen

i had a lesbian midwife who gave birth to my mother, while i was born through my mother’s womb

Sep 11, 2008 3 comments

In between bouts of feeling quite unwell and somehow managing to actually help my mother with some of her kuih-making chores, I managed to sit down and watch Harmony Korine’s 1997 film, Gummo, today.

It’s not really a “movie” in the commonly-accepted, mainstream sense; rather, it’s more of a collection of disturbing, unsettling and uneasy vignettes looking at the lives of the bizzare inhabitants of the town of Xenia, Ohio. And, if this movie is anything to go by, then I sure as hell do not want to be living there. The settings, most of which are messy, dirty and oh-so “white trash” don’t help one bit either, and they add even more to the already disturbing and unsettling quality of the movie.

I really liked the usage of home movie-esque shots (particularly in the introduction), which really add a lot to the whole unsettling, backwater, close-to-home feeling of some scenes (including one in which a group of white trash talk about cat torture and their dislike of “niggers.”). I also really liked the usage of repeated yellowish and blurred still shots of the two “main characters,” Solomon (played by Jacob Reynolds) and Tummler (played by Nick Sutton), primarily on an aesthetic level.

Speaking of “yellowish,” a review on Facebook said the film had “disgusting hues,” and, while, to me, that statement doesn’t make any sort of sense whatsoever (“disgusting hues?” what? the mind boggles), it does bring me to the fact that the lighting in this film (apparently provided by fluorescent lights instead of your average studio/movie lighting) is quite good and heightens the surreal feeling of the movie even more, giving it a pretty haunting, occasionally yellowish and also very home video-like feel, particularly the fact that it looks like it was shot in available indoor lighting, as most home videos (or, at least the ones I’ve recorded/seen) are. And that really enhances that “close-to-home,” almost realistic feeling I mentioned earlier.

Great music, too. There’s something about having raw-as-fuck black metal playing while your main characters are whipping the body of a dead cat that just . . . works. And using Roy Orbison’s “Crying” over the final sequences of the film (having been mentioned in the dialogue of the film earlier) was a great choice, seeing as how the song, to me at least, seemed to fit those aforementioned final scenes so wonderfully well.

No, this movie isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’d probably be more accurate to say that this movie is for a select few, namely for those open-minded souls who don’t need easily-followable plots (or, really, any sort of proper plot whatsoever) or some sort of moral being drilled into their thick, mindless little heads in order to be able to enjoy a movie. And it, of course, helps if one is not particularly easily offended.

Conclusion? Good, if you’re looking for something outside of the normal constructs most movies (and movie-goers) find themselves trapped in. I certainly enjoyed it: cat torture, “disgusting hues,” black metal and all.

Categories: the silver screen

‘Shitsurakuen’: jôbafuku onna harakiri

Sep 1, 2008 Leave a comment


Is this a movie? Why, yes, of course. It is, after all, a moving picture. And that’s the basic definition of “movie,” isn’t it?

What it’s not, however, is in any way entertaining. It’s not something you watch to pass the time, it’s not something you watch to enjoy (unless you, for some reason, enjoy this stuff). Why? Because it’s a harakiri film. Sadly, there’s no Wikipedia entry for the term “harakiri film,” but unless you’re dumb (which is probably the reason you’re reading this blog?), it’d be painfully obvious as to what is meant by the combination of the terms “harakiri” (“ceremonial suicide by ripping open the abdomen with a dagger or knife: formerly practiced in Japan by members of the warrior class when disgraced or sentenced to death.”) and “film.” Yes, you guessed it: movies about people disemboweling themselves.

To me, this film is the slow, somewhat masturbatory arthouse film taken to some sort of extreme (visually and, to an extent, aurally) by one of the masters of the noise aesthetic, none other than Masami Akita (a.k.a. Merzbow) himself. It’s disturbing, gory, unsettling and confrontational. The film counterpart to Merzbow’s noise. The visual accompaniment to his aural landscapes.

However . . . no, it’s not particularly good. It’s pretty pointless (except as an exercise in, well, gore) and it’s pretty slow and, hell, it’s probably not even that gory. It is, however, still quite a handful to get through. The score (I hesitate to call it a “soundtrack,” lest idiots start to get all worked up about how it’s not actually music and shit like that), though, is actually quite good and probably the most redeeming factor of this movie, Sure, it’s not as wonderfully harsh and loud as most of Merzbow’s work, nor is it as good as some of his career highlights (Pulse Demon and 1930 come to mind) but it is pretty enjoyable and it adds quite a bit to the movie. In fact, I guess you could treat this as something of a 30-minute Merzbow music video, in which case it may actually work a bit better.

I will have to admit that the primary reason I decided to download this was because of the Merzbow connection. That, and the fact that I like my gore and somewhat enjoy obscure, confrontational and gory movies. But mostly because of the Merzbow link. Perhaps dear old Masami would call me a “Merzslut.”

Boo!

Categories: music, the silver screen

love has no boundaries, nationalities or genders

Jul 20, 2008 Leave a comment


Hands down, this has to be one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen.

Stupid? Perhaps. Dumb? Most probably.

But oh God it’s such incredible fun. I mean, come on: Laser guitar picks, exploding heads, zombies, a katana hidden inside a guitar, gratuitous shots of people combing their quiffs, flame-spitting vehicles (and a flame-spitting microphone), leather jackets, a man in tight shorts and, most importantly . . . LOCK AND LOLL! Oh yeah. How could it NOT be great?

I know a few people who’d probably like it . . . if it wasn’t also gory. Sure, it’s pretty tame by my standards, but then again my standards are probably a bit out-of-whack. The gore’s kinda comedic, much like Ichi the Killer, in a sense (I laughed so fucking hard at the first of the movie’s many exploding heads), but, well, to most, gore is still gore.

Two thumbs up for sure, though. Great movie. Watch it if you can.


LOCK AND LOLL!

Categories: the silver screen

so, hellboy 2

Jul 17, 2008 Leave a comment

I watched it tonight with a few friends. I suck at reviews, so I’ll keep it simple.

Was it a bad movie? No.

Was it a great movie? No.

Was it worth gushing over? Definitely not.

Was it a decent, enjoyable action flick with had a few quality moments, some notable (and impressive) action scenes that was somewhat marred by a sub-par storyline, bland characterization and character motivations (okay, save the princess, yeah, ho hum), somewhat crappy characters (Abe served no real purpose aside from a slightly cliche “love” thing, although the scene where he and Hellboy were splitting beers was quality, and Liz, well, why the fuck didn’t she just melt the third piece earlier? See also: “brick” for an approximate representation of her emotional range and qualities) and an unavoidable feeling of “meh”-ness about it (especially in light of some glowing reviews that have appeared)? Yup yup.

Was it better than the first one? No.

Was Ron Perlman good? Now that’s a stupid question. Of course.

Do I regret paying for it? Not entirely.

Would I pay to see it again, though? Probably not.

The pasta I had at Williams afterwards, though, was A+++ WOULD EAT AGAIN. And I felt this odd feeling of “I knew this would happen” when I met Pa’an there, almost like it was one of those inevitable things. Haha. Hey ho encik Pa’an!