Saturday, August 29, 2009


Disco - Albert Goldman
Men And Pandas - Ramona & Desmond Morris
The Commissar Vanishes - David King (on privileged loan...)
Catwatching - Desmond Morris

Afrikan Machinery - Lukas Ligeti (CD)
Junko & Mattin - Junko & Mattin (vinyl)
Reuters - G-Park (vinyl)
Skywalker - Claudio Simonetti (vinyl)

Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears
I Sell The Dead
Face To Face
The Irony Of Fate




Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A chance conversation a couple of days ago at the awesome Anstruther Fish Bar, that most venerable of fish and chip restaurants, reawakened my love for the music of Karen Carpenter. When even the merest mention of a song title can cause a grown man to splutter over his glass of milk, his eyes welling up in emotion, you know this is music of incredible power: such to elicit meaningful responses that totally belies its common positioning within the otherwise moribund genres of MOR or easy listening.

In the BBC Arena interview special with an eightysomething Ingmar Bergman, he talked about his love of music (of which, by the way, he has impeccable taste). He pondered on the mystery of its origins, asking people along the way as part of an almost Diogenesian inquiry into its whys, yet never receiving a plausible answer. Neither do I have an answer, and my passionate feelings about these songs is a perfect reason for not having one.

The Carpenters : Love Songs (1998)

Compilations are rarely little more than lazy affairs to cash in on an artist's popularity later in their careers, or posthumously - and at their charitable best, a way of creating interest in further exploration of an artist's career. However, in the case of The Carpenters, this affectionately selected and sequenced collection makes perfect sense. Whereas their original albums were rather tepid affairs showcasing a variety of styles from inoffensive soft rock to country to pop, it was the torch songs and love songs that really stood out.

Karen Carpenter's voice is impossibly beautiful. She breathes life into her lyrics in a way that defies all reasoning, in a way that many others have tried yet all have failed - in fact, so painfully sweet and heartbreakingly pure that you have to admire Richard Carpenter's strength of resolve in not having to be constantly having to reconstitute himself from a sorry puddle of tears.

All the Carpenters' songs that I personally love are on this album, ones like
Superstar, (They Long To Be) Close To You, This Masquerade; and there are a few wonderful new discoveries too, such as the soulwrenching A Song For You. A definite criticism could be levelled at some of the fancy post-production applied to this album - it does sound as if they've been '
enhanced' a bit (in my opinion, unnecessarily), and the original version of Close To You was a minute or so longer than the one offered here.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Here in the UK, the luminous yellow reflective jacket is the new uniform of choice for the wannabe Stasi or Gestapo functionary, and other aspiring goons. Alongside the snoopers, informants, finers, interveners, and 'community police', a new squad in Aldeburgh will now also have to be decked out in said jackets in order to enforce a stringent new policy against those that would dare feed the local seagulls.

It's enough to compel you to initiating a nationwide campaign to start chumming the birds with raw meat. Resistance to the oppression begins here, with the gulls leading the way.

In the meantime, I am once again most grateful to Lorin for sending this moving anecdote:

When I was very young (five or six years old), I had two parakeets, a male and a female, who I named Biff and Plumas. They were little splashes of bright color, so, so cute in a way one can only appreciate before the age of ten or after the age of 30. I would open the cage to let them flap around the house a bit and they would return to the cage in five minutes or so. Knowing what I know now, they both would have flown away forever had they not been purchased at the most sickening of all retail spots, the 'pet store' where birds have their wings clipped to keep them seemingly domesticated but ultimately crippled and reliant on the cage.

I recall the day Plumas died. I had a ceremonial shoebox burial in my family's backyard. The strongest memory, though, was Biff's mourning. I am not abusing the word; he had an actual, visible mourning. He lingered upon the place in the cage where my mother found Plumas dead, he refused to eat anything, even sesame treats, and he heaved pained, horrible coos that sounded EXACTLY like human crying. Not a pleasant memory, by any means, but at an early age learned that a bird is capable of (and imbued with) the kind of dynamic passion that humans stupidly mislabel as 'feelings', or worse, 'a soul'.


Saturday, August 15, 2009


A bumper collection to negotiate this time around.

Orphan (*****)
super high quality popcorn horror that's polarised the critics right down the middle - there's the odd cheeseball moment here and there, and I suspect the producers made a couple of minor interventions, but it'd be churlish to give this anything less than 5 stars for so much it does with such wickedly brilliant glee: in particular, its extremely subversive perspective of children and their relationships with adults; Isabelle Fuhrman is incredible as Esther, so badass a character that you find yourself shamelessly rooting for her from the moment she arrives on the screen right to the very end

Antichrist (**)
Lars Von Trier's homage to Tarkovsky, disappointingly, is a failure; Gainsbourg is hopelessly out of her depth as an actress, where even LVT is incapable of provoking her into anything more than to some amateurishly mechanical histrionics, meanwhile Defoe desperately vogues at the directors in the audience to once again take his arthouse credentials seriously; the film's Stalker/Mirror flourishes come across as third-rate David Lynch, and the arty sound design and fancy visual filters seem forced, thus incongruent; and don't get me started on the cheeseball religious symbology and references in the dialogues; this is the first film in Von Trier's illustrious career that I've reacted disfavourably towards, and I can only think that his otherwise likeable arrogance got the better of him in the belief that he could operate outside his usual domain of cinematic expertise and excellence

Général Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait (****)
amazing close portrait of Idi Amin, never anything but compellingly alpha (as well as bonkers), he remains the antithesis of the stereotypically stunted dwarven chip-on-the-shoulder tyrant

En Passion (*****)
a classic masterpiece by the genius that is Bergman

From The Life Of The Marionettes (*****)
Bergman mindfucks you again, and you keep coming back for more - some of the dialogues in Marionettes are memorably, and deliciously, depressing

A Bittersweet Life (**)
what starts out full of depth, a superb cast, visual style, and the promise of transcending the staid genre of stupidass gangster movies, ultimately descends into a vacuous farce in the final act, precisely what you hoped it wouldn't be

Tempo Di Viaggio (****)
as a documentary, as enigmatic as Nostalghia itself

Last House On Dead End Street (*****)
a masterpiece of the genre, and one of remarkable originality and artistic expression; it'd be more useful to compare this with Buñuel or Godard than any Wes Craven trash; we can only dream that the original 3 hour Cuckoo Clocks Of Hell (much better title anyway) might one day resurface

Tokyo Sonata (**)
non-Japanese critics are falling over themselves to present this as a poignant drama study into contemporary social alienation in Japan, a country ever exotic in their eyes - in my own opinion, it's a slow plodding heavy-handed soap opera of very little real substance and an extraordinarily contrived third act

Possession (1981) (*)
I really don't understand some of the eulogies bandied about for a feature-length film that plays like an interminable short - Adjani is little better but Sam Neill's relentlessly ham performance, albeit with a crass dialogue, is truly embarrassing in what is a hokey lo-budget horror; I'll stick to Bergman for tortured relationship dramas, thank you very much - the best thing you can say is that Heinrich has great taste in art

The Human Contract (**)
an erotic drama with good intentions, one loosely based on the moral of the Frankenstein tale; sadly, director Pinkett Smith has the real emotional drama and pathos arrive way too late in the proceedings and thus the film fails to make the meaningful impact it could have

The Cranes Are Flying (*****)
simple tale told devastatingly effectively - the cinematography is way ahead of its time (1957), the movie is filled with incredibly memorable and meaningful moments, and there isn't a single character that you don't care about in one way or another; the gorgeous Tatyana Samojlova would have made her great-uncle Stanislavski proud with her deeply affectional performance (should also be said that the Criterion print is, as we'd expect, outstanding)