I have began to fill in gaps of the discography of some of my favorite bands. So that means acquiring The National's 2005 release Alligator, which is more brooding angst from Matt Beringer and company. My favorite tracks are "The Secret Meaning," "Karen," "All The Wine," and "The Geese if Beverly Road."
Another album that I missed was Kentucky-based My Morning Jacket's 2003 album It Still Moves. Jim James and company have made another rootsy, country-influenced rock record that precedes great albums that have become favorites like Evil Urges, Z, and Orbital. The standouts for me are "Mahgeetah," "Dancefloors," and "One Big Holiday."
I also missed out on Elvis Costello's second collaboration with producer T-Bone Burnett on 2009's Sacred, Profane, and Sugarcane. Their first collaboration, 1986's King of America, is one of my favorite Costello albums of all-time.This time, the outing is more hit and miss for me. My top tracks are: the new arrangement on "Complicated Shadows," "Sulphur to Sugarcane," and "Changing Partners."
I recently got a copy of Jean-Luc Goddard's film Contempt, which has the acclaimed German director Fritz Lang in a prominent role. I figured it was time to see one of his films and M (1931) was a film that I have read good things about, so I thought I would start there. I must say it was a revelation. It was lang's first sound film and it has a master-like sophistication in cinematography, editing and story execution. It has the great Peter Lorre as the child murderer and ragtag cast of supporting actors who bring alive the underworld of 1930s Berlin. The film is credited as the first serial murder film and the first police procedural. But it is more than that, crime thriller that also features a heist-like sequence, when the criminal gang traps the murderer in a building. They systematically search it for the murderer using their unique skills for breaking into offices and storage spaces in search for their man. After they catch their man, it becomes a problem film in that there is a discussion of capital punishment among the accused and his captors. It is truly a classic cinematic masterpiece.
I was looking for a gyoza place that no longer exists on the south side of Nakano station and stumbled across Gen. It is a healthy alternative that serves genmai rice. I went with the cheese tonkatsu (pork cutlet) lunch set for the reasonable price of ¥850.
I've had Please Kill Me: the Uncensored History of Punk (1996) on my shelf for a while and after the recent death of Lou Reed and after having recently read Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids, it seemed like the time was right to read it. Some people might say Lou Reed punk rock? But I think it's right to include the early proto punk bands like the Velvet Underground, MC5, The New York Dolls, and Iggy and the Stooges, since direct links to the scene that was to follow started there. It also shows how all the early CBGB bands (Television, Richard Hell and the Voivods, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads among others) were started and those that sprung up in other places like Cleveland with The Dead Boys and over the sea in England. So all of these connections told mostly in chronological order was informative. However, this history comes across as more gossipy than other histories of punk that I have read with remembrances from groupies and girlfriends. This approached resulted in a demystification of some of my rock heroes who come off as arrogant, selfish, and self-destructive fuck ups. There are much too many stories of drug use and effort expended to score drugs--what a boring existence. It seems amazing that any music got written at all.
Assassination (1964) may be Masahiro Shinoda's masterpiece. It is the story of the Meiji restoration and chronicles the moral and social breakdown preceding the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868). Regent Naosuke Ii, has been assassinated for suspected collaborating with the foreigners from the “four black ships” determined to open Japan to the West. Ii’s strategy, in reality, was to enact a period of trade with the foreigners to afford Japan time to prepare its defences against them. Assassination explores the meaning surrounding the Meiji Restoration of 1868. This involves a character study of one exceptional ronin (disenfranchised samurai), an exceptional scholar and swordsman named Kiyokawa Hachiro (Tanbata Tetsuro) from a humble background. Kiyokawa has operated a fencing school, attracting disciples because of his great skill and no less than by the force of his personality. A man gifted in intrigue, he is referred to as “mysterious.” Kiyokawa is befriended in Shinoda’s fictional film by a hero of the Restoration, the dissident Tosa samurai Sakamoto Ryoma (Sada Keiji). The story of intrigue is somewhat confusing (however, much less so than Shinoda's Samurai Spy). The period sets, typically memorable score by Toru Takemaitsu, and dynamic cinematography standout in this masterful production. Some memorable scenes include: the scene where a hand-held camera reflects the unsteady gait of Kiyokawa, now alcoholic, he frequents brothels. A prostitute stops him on the street, to return the straw hat he had left behind. The only sound audible is that of his geta. A scene at the “Peony” is shot entirely from Kiyokawa’s point of view, the viewer doesn't see him at all. His voice is heard as he calls a prostitute “Oren!”(his former lover killed in his defense). Shinoda zooms ironically in to a freeze frame of Kiyokawa’s sword, now useless to him. Then a rare dissolve transports the spectator to the final scene, also filmed with a shaky hand-held camera. A quick tilt down to Kiyokawa’s feet collides with Shinoda’s use of slow motion as Kiyokawa falls. Blood splashes onto the assassin Sasaki’s face as for the final time Shinoda uses the image of blood splashing to embody the cruel and senseless violence that led to the restoration of the Emperor Meiji.
This is one of two Thai rrestaurants in Nakano that serve lunch and both staff Thai chefs, but I have to say this was disappointing. They are serving food for the Japanese palate i.e. with less spice than usual and don't provide condiments. I had to ask for a side of chilis.
I've been an Elmore Leonard fan for a while, but I waited to read Road Dogs (2009) after learning that there was a character from his earlier novel La Brava (the fact that there was also a character from Out of Sight-Jack Foley didn't bother me since the film version is one of my favorite films). I decided to read La Brava first, and found out that Cundo Rey, the Cuban go go dancer from LaBrava survived the three shots to his chest in the previous novel. Leonard creates great characters, interesting dialogue, and unpredictable plots and this is yet another example of these strengths.
I came across a few references to the New Wave film classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) directed by Jacques Demy and felt the desire to see what it was about. 1964 was also the year it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes (it was also nominated for five Oscars). It was surprising for me on two levels, one I had no idea it was musical and two, once I realized that it was a musical I expected a more conventional storyline. That is I didn't expect a bittersweet mediation on love, loss, and life in a musical. That seems very progressive to me. The film is full of spectacular color and visual motifs and introduces the incandescent Catherine Deneve. It seems that Demy had somewhat of an uneven career and it doesn't look like there are any other essential films that I need to see after researching a bit about him.