I was saving my latest edition of the 33 1/3 series, Loveless recorded by My Bloody Valentine and written by Mike McGonigal, for my flight to Bangkok because I had the feeling that it would be an entertaining read. It was another good discussion of a classic album, one, that I have to admit, I didn’t know until many years after it was released. I was aware of the whole shoe gazer scene going on in college, but finances were tight so I wasn't venturing out to buy just anything, so I never go the album, but I remember there was a lot of buzz about this album when it came out in 1991. I guess I finally decided to get he album after getting the Lost in Translation soundtrack, which was selected by Kevin Shields the former mastermind behind the band and the album. The soundtrack had one of the cuts from the album, “Sometimes.” I also enjoyed the Kevin Shields penned songs, of which there were 4. This album is an aural masterwork. It seems like layers upon layers of sound were sculpted around lush melodies. The standout tracks for me are “Soon,” “Come In Alone,” and “When You Sleep.” It is one of those timeless albums-it will never sound dated. The big story was that it was a masterwork that basically killed the band. It took several years to completely and they never recorded a follow up. I guess if I had a criticism of the book, it would be that I would have liked more specific information about the context in which the album was produced and the direct influence on popular music. I guess it was well known that they were never as big in America as they were in England. Overall, it was an interesting and informative look at the album. Let’s hope Kevin Shields feels inspired to continue creating music for prosperity.
Well my friend Jason happens to be in Thailand and I seem to have found myself with some unused frequent flyer miles and no work until April, so I thought I’d join him. We decided to visit, Koh Chang, the second largest island just of the southwestern coast of Thailand. We’ll get there on March 1st and return on March 6th, the next day I fly back to Japan. I'm going to bring my computer and try to update with posts about the trip.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth deserves the Best Foreign Film Academy Award nomination, and, had I seen it earlier, it would have been one of my top 10 films of 2006. It is something of a children’s fairytale story, but told in the context of the brutality of the Spanish Civil War. It took me a little while to get into the story but once inside it is quite compelling as a young girl arrives at countryside post with her mother, pregnant with child from her new fascist and sadistic Republican Commander husband. It is as if this girls’ only way of coping with a frightening stepfather and brutal reality is through the escapism of children’s fairytales. The imaginary creatures are frightening and creepy. But the reality of the Civil War is just as brutal if not more frightening than the girl’s imagination, as they torture and kill without impunity to teach the rebels a lesson. It is an unusual combination of reality and traditional fairytale storytelling that is effective and emotionally resonant. It is a heartfelt and memorable, it is one of those movies that stay with you after viewing due to the power of the imagery and unique aspects of the narrative.
Shoehei Imamura has a retrospective showing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Rose Theaters thsi month. I have long been interested in seeing more of his films ever since I came across a lively discussion of his themes and motifs. To date I have only seen The Insect Woman (the still above is from that film), but I would enjoy purusing his filmography, too bad I don't live in New York. Terrance Rafferty discusses the esteemed auteur's work in the NY Times:
THE great Japanese director Shohei Imamura died last year after nearly 80 years of living and of watching people and nearly 50 years of filming them, and there’s no indication that anything they did ever shocked him, even a little. He once told an interviewer, “I’m interested in people: strong, greedy, humorous, deceitful people who are very human in the qualities and their failings.” And the 20 films on view in “Pimps, Prostitutes, and Pigs: Shohei Imamura’s Japan,” a monthlong retrospective beginning Friday at the BAM Rose Cinemas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, display a pretty spectacular variety of human qualities — mostly failings. It’s a compendium of barbarities, both primitive and thoroughly modern, a vision of life reduced to its brutal basics: violence is constant; sex is urgent, sloppy and profoundly unromantic; and the struggle to survive makes men and women appallingly creative in inventing ways to mistreat one another.
Mr. Imamura’s movies are often funny, usually beautiful, and always — surprisingly — rather sweet-natured. His composure, in the face of so much terrible behavior, is genuinely touching.
This quality is not, however, to be confused with the serenity and formal rigor of older-generation masters like Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu (on three of whose pictures Mr. Imamura labored, unhappily, as an assistant). When Mr. Imamura hit his stride as a director, with the 1961 gangster farce “Pigs and Battleships,” it was immediately clear that tea ceremonies, polite bows and anxieties about the marriage prospects of proper young women would not loom large in his repertory, and that the moods and rhythms of his films would probably never be described as contemplative.
Sofia Coppola burst into the film scene with the impressive debut The Virgin Suicides and followed it up with an Oscar nominated Best Screenplay for the equally impressive Lost In Translation. So I was eagerly anticipating her third film, Marie Antoinette. Even the trailer showed great promise; it was like a music video with accompaniment from New Order’s brilliant “Age Of Consent.” Unfortunately, most of the film plays like a music video; I wasn’t invested in any of the characters, who seemed to be beside the point with all the distracting costumes, set pieces, food, and retro new wave soundtrack. The story also seemd to be beside the point. It also seemed very modern mainly due to the dialogue-I don’t see how you can project another era without some accents or formalized dialogue. To be charitable, I think it’s an ambitious failure, she took a risk to try something different from what she had made before, but the end result is probably less than she had originally conceived. It is an exercise of style over substance that doesn't feel right-something is missing from the mix.
I have to say this article from Slate didn't change my mind that Little Miss Sunshine was totally over-rated, but it also pointed out another precious indie film that annoy me have annoyed a large audience; Garden State. However, I did like the Royal Tennanbaums, but I thought Wes Anderson's last film, The Life of Steve Zissou, was unbearbly precious and over-rated:
In Cuckooland, people with whom you might otherwise identify get away with things that they would normally never even attempt. For example, it is pretty inconceivable that a smart, sensitive, quirky girl like Olive (Abigail Breslin)—whose ambition of winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageant is what starts her family on their fateful road trip—would be drawn to beauty pageants in the first place, or that her smart, sensitive mother (Toni Collette) would allow her to compete in them, or that her cynical, adoring, protective grandfather (Alan Arkin) would go along, too. And it is pretty inconceivable that the usual indie-plex audience would look sympathetically on these indulgences. They are not the beauty-pageant demographic. Except that, well, Uncle Frank, who anyway is gay, has just slit his wrists. And older brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), who fancies himself a Nietzschean, has taken a vow of silence. And dad Richard (Greg Kinnear) is trying to market a patently moronic motivational shtick.
There's an interesting travel article on the city of Matsue in the southeastern part of Honshu, whic is the former home of author Lafcadio Hearn, who was famous for collecting Japanese folk tales for prosperity:
For many Japanese, Mr. Hearn’s appeal lies in the glimpses he offered of an older, more mystical Japan lost during the country’s hectic plunge into Western-style industrialization and nation building. His books are treasured here as a trove of legends and folk tales that otherwise might have vanished because no Japanese had bothered to record them.
Shanti is a fairly new Indian restaraunt in Otsuka that I occasionally frequent, since this is where my gym (Gold's Gym North) is located. It has a nice bright atmosphere and reasonable lunch set specials under ¥1000. The curry of the day was a tasty fusion mix of chicken and daikon (Japanese radish)-see below.