Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Holy Mountain


To truly understand how powerful The Holy Mountain is, you have to realize it's a comedy of acerbically embittered wit aimed directly at the heart of the western world, and ultimately a wider consciousness of compassion. It’s a film that pokes fun at ‘art cinema’- but as a friend. One that shares their struggle under the crushing weight of manufactured profundity, terrified by the masses that demand excellence at a moment notice and punish weakness with undying insults. To express what I mean, take an early scene in which a toad and lizard circus re-enacts the Spanish Conquistadors landing on Meso-American soil, sanctioning a brutal massacre of the beasts that are themselves forced into slavery for the entertainment of others. It’s a scene mortifying in its raw sincerity- both ridiculing such a comically freakish affair whilst also attempting to sew its own artistry into the seams. There is a repressed memory of hopeful creativity lost at the peak of The Holy Mountain- one that informs its story with blistering insight into the mind of its maker: Writer, director, producer, editor and actor Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Favorite Songs

1 - Wish You Were Here (" , 1975, Pink Floyd)
because it's touched the void
2 - Shine on you Crazy Diamond (Wish You Were Here, 1975, Pink Floyd)
because it's the best song ever written
3 - Echoes (Meddle, 1971, Pink Floyd)
because in the waking unknown could be terror incarnate
4 - Close to the Edge (", 1972, Yes)
because it's always ahead of you
5 - Starless (Red, 1974, King Crimson)
because it's incandescent
6 - Stargazer (Rising, 1977, Rainbow)
because it's ready to burst
7 - Supper's Ready (Foxtrot, 1972, Genesis) 
because it's Odyssean
8 - Kashmir (Physical Graffiti, 1975, Led Zeppelin)
because it will play forever
9 - A Day in the Life (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967, The Beatles)
because it does as it says
10 - Time (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973, Pink Floyd)
because the sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
11 - Welcome to the Machine (Wish You Were Here, 1975, Pink Floyd)
because there is no hope
12 - In the Court of the Crimson King (", 1969, King Crimson) 
because nobody could write this kind of music
13 - Comfortably Numb (The Wall, 1979, Pink Floyd)
because for just one track, The Wall comes crashing down
14 - Child in Time (Deep Purple in Rock, 1970, Deep Purple)
because it's rock as legend
15 - Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971, Led Zeppelin)
because it will never be bettered
16 - Firth of Fifth (Selling England by the Pound, 1973, Genesis)
because it feels like being shot through spacetime
17 - Epitaph (In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969, King Crimson) 
because dying thoughts should never be shared
18 - Achilles Last Stand (Presence, 1976, Led Zeppelin)
because Bonham was a poet
19 - 21st Century Schizoid Man (In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969, King Crimson) 
because it is the seething scream of a place and time
20 - Roundabout (Fragile, 1971, Yes)
because it's the most unlikely single ever
21 - Layla (Layla & Other Assorted Songs, 1970, Derek & the Dominoes) 
because they went with the coda
22 - 2112 (", 1976, Rush)
because it's so earnestly in love with rock
23 - High Hopes (The Division Bell, 1994, Pink Floyd)
because it's the perfect ending
24 - Burn (", 1974, Deep Purple)
because it never lets up
25 - Us and Them (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973, Pink Floyd)
because the men behind the sun are scared shitless too
26 - Pigs (three different ones) (Animals, 1977, Pink Floyd)
because it's sweltering
27 - Dogs (Animals, 1977, Pink Floyd)
because it's primal
28 - Tom Sawyer (Moving Pictures, 1982, Rush)
because in one note, a legend was born
29 - Brain Damage (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973, Pink Floyd)
because only god can comprehend what Barrett was going through
30 - The Great Gig in the Sky (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973, Pink Floyd)
because death is beautiful
31 - Black (Ten, 1991, Pearl Jam) 
because we have to find our own star
32 - Ambulance Blues (On the Beach, 1974, Neil Young)
because it weeps
33 - Freebird (", 1973, Lynyrd Skynyrd)
because it's so gleefully aware of how great it's going to be
34 - Sheep (Animals, 1977, Pink Floyd)
because it rolls on down the hills
35 - Tarkus (", 1971, Emerson Lake & Palmer)
because who doesn't want a side-long about a weaponised armadillo tank battling for the future?
36 - Cortez the Killer (Zuma, 1975, Neil Young)
because it's a promise fulfilled
37 - Karn Evil 9 (Brain Salad Surgery, 1973, Emerson Lake & Palmer)
because Keith Emerson was the Keith Emerson of keyboards.
38 - Since I've Been Loving You (Led Zeppelin III, 1970, Led Zeppelin)
because it roars
39 - Smoke on the Water (Machine Head, 1972, Deep Purple)
because it's crown king of rock riffs
40 - Hotel California (", 1976, The Eagles)
because it's a woozy summer dream
41 - Like a Rolling Stone (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965, Bob Dylan)
because the critics have a point
42 - Xanadu (Farewell to Kings, 1977, Rush)
because I don't doubt Coleridge would rock out
43 - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The White Album, 1968, The Beatles)
because Harrison was the best of them
44 - Have a Cigar (Wish You Were Here, 1975, Pink Floyd) 
because art has a price
45 - Sorrow (A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987, Pink Floyd) 
because if Momentary Lapse is throwaway pop then I'm Bo Derrick
46 - Highway Star (Machine Head, 1972, Deep Purple)
because Blackmore always got two
47 - She's Leaving Home (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967, The Beatles)
because it has no right to be famous
48 - American Pie (", 1971, Don McLean)
because McLean had no shame
49 - Learning to Fly (A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987, Pink Floyd)
because it proved everyone wrong
50 - Bat Outta Hell (", 1977, Meat Loaf)
because GONE! GONE! GONE!
51 - Ghost Town [single, 1981, The Specials)
because it remains arguably the best single of the last 40 years
52 - Strawberry Fields Forever [single, 1967, The Beatles]
because the boys made an über pop hit out of popping shit
53 - Step-On (Pills n' Thrills n' Bellyaches, 1971, The Happy Mondays)
because it might as well be laced with acid
54 - Red (", 1974, King Crimson)
because KC improvise like they've been learning all their life
55 - Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin II, 1969, Led Zeppelin)
because god bless John Henry Bonham
56 - Common People (Different Class, 1995, Pulp)
because it's still stunning
57 - Bell Bottom Blues (Layla & Other Assorted Songs, 1970, Derek & the Dominoes)
because he has humility
58 - Siberian Khatru (Close to the Edge, 1972, Yes)
because we'll never know
59 - Yesterday [single, 1965, The Beatles) 
because no-one has done it justice
60 - The Weight (Music from Big Pink, 1968, The Band)
because are we the first ones up?
61 - Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin II, 1969, Led Zeppelin)
because you need Kool-Aid
62 - Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Bat Outta Hell, 1977, Meat Loaf)
because he's so full of life
63 - I Talk to the Wind (In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969, King Crimson)
because it glides
64 - Limelight (Moving Pictures, 1982, Rush)
because they deserve it
65 - Tears in Heaven (Rush soundtrack, 1991, Eric Clapton)
because no one else should sing it
66 - Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits, 1979, Dire Straits)
because it could make a dead man sway along
67 - The House of the Rising Sun (The Animals, 1964, The Animals)
because it's tortured
68 - Kissing a Fool (Faith, 1987, George Michael)
because it gets a chance to soar
69 - Fat Old Sun (Atom Heart Mother, 1970, Pink Floyd)
because you don't always want the world in six minutes
70 - Hey Jude [single, 1968, The Beatles]
because it's still being sung
71 - Knocking on Heaven's Door (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, 1973, Bob Dylan)
because god damn Slim
72 - Baker Street (City to City, 1978, Gerry Rafferty)
because holy shit
73 - Childhood's End (Obscured by Clouds, 1972, Pink Floyd)
because Gilmour just couldn't get a word in, for better or for worse
74 - Ritual (Tales from Topographic Oceans, 1974, Yes)
because the final few notes betray a feeling little music has the maturity to face
75 - Telegraph Road (Love Over Gold, 1982, Dire Straits) 
because it crackles on a midnight walk
76 - Knights of Cydonia (Black Holes & Revelations, 2006, Muse)
because it rolls you back into the future
77 - What's Going On? (“, 1971, Marvin Gaye)
because peace is ever elusive
78 - Goodbye Stranger (Breakfast in America, 1979, Supertramp)
because he has so much love to give
79 - Dogs of War (A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987, Pink Floyd)
because lyrics be damned, that music is absolutely colossal
80 - Dance of the Dawn (Tales from Topographic Oceans, 1974, Yes)
because the world is a wondrous place
81 - One More Red Nightmare (Red, 1974, King Crimson) 
because On the Run can stuff it
82 - Nights on Broadway (Main Course, 1975, The Bee Gees)
because it moves so smoothly
83 - Temptation (The Luxury Lap, 1983, Heaven 17)
because higher and higher
84 - Carry on my Wayward Son (Leftoverture, 1978, Kansas) 
because it's just cool, yo
85 - Dancing With the Moonlit Knight (Selling England by the Pound, 1973, Genesis)
because for her merchandise he traded in his prize
86 - Up the Junction (Cool for Cats, 1979, Squeeze)
because it all falls away so fast
87 - This is how it Feels (Life, 1990, Inspiral Carpets)
because we'll never know
88 - In the Flesh? (The Wall, 1979, Pink Floyd)
because it's too early to wear thin
89 - Amoreena (Tumbleweed Connection, 1970, Elton John)
because Sal didn't deserve to die
90 - Life on Mars (Hunky Dory, 1971, David Bowie)
because it's perfectly penned
91 - Heart of the Sunrise (Fragile, 1971, Yes) 
because it sealed the deal
92 - One of These Days (Meddle, 1971, Pink Floyd) 
because Richard Wright will be missed
93 - Holy Diver (", 1983, Dio)
because Dio might have my favourite set of lungs in music
94 - Money (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973, Pink Floyd)
because of how many people so beautifully miss the point
95 - What is Life (All Things Must Pass, 1970, George Harrison)
because it's glad
96 - Bohemian Rhapsody (A Night at the Opera, 1975, Queen)
because the intro justifies Mercury's legend and then some
97 - Something (Abbey Road, 1969, The Beatles)
because Pattie Boyd was a sparkling well of inspiration
98 - Dazed & Confused (Led Zeppelin, 1968, ")
because it booms
99 - Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da (The White Album, 1968, The Beatles)        
because it couldn't be happier
100 - Awaken (Going for the One, 1978, Yes)
because it's a final fuck you to the man

Monday, 23 October 2017

Heaven's Gate


I’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to candidates for my review this month. The sequel to Ridley Scott’s landmark neo-noir in Denis Villeneuve’s tragically de-fanged Blade Runner 2049 was ripe for roasting, but I feel so exhausted by this year’s river of critical dissolution in the face of big pictures that ripping on something as unreservedly acclaimed as 49 would just be an extension of my review for Dunkirk: A disappointing step back into harmful comfort for Christopher Nolan just as Villenueve has further diluted the incendiary drive that made his Canadian productions so imposing. And it is in this climate of mostly harmless Hollywood blockbusters that I find myself reminded of the tragedy that doomed us all to this desolate expanse of plain, artless features with the occasional peppering of smart-arsed ‘auteurs’ execs nab out of the indie darlings and plug into massive projects they soon realize they were wrong about dreaming about. The dreams of these directors drive the last sparks of passion and promise in Now Hollywood and I think it’s a crying shame that the machine seems geared to grind these glowing ideals into mulch… but it was these same aspirations of complete creative control that forced the hand of survivalist cynicism for the American film industry- one that drowned a decade of movies in Über-consumerist focus before the independent movement finally began to blossom by the end of the eighties. All of this sets the cross-hairs on an inescapable question: Was Heaven’s Gate worth it? 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Their Mortal Remains

Ranking the albums of Pink Floyd has given me a fulfilling new experience with music. It’s inspired my own writing, as well as bred both distance and eventual intimacy as I struggled with objectivity and the cold, calculated stance I had first assumed in tackling music for the first time. Tackling what has very swiftly become my favorite band was no easy undertaking- but sufficed to say it’s made me want to work through Zeppelin, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Clapton, Crimson and all the others too- because looking at an artist from this perspective changed my relationship with their work with each passing day, and I’d be fascinated to see what it does to those ones too.
A lot of people I’ve spoken to spit and scream over the idea of an album not being 'Floydian' enough: That the essence of the band has to be absolute in every single second of their music… But to me for a group whose mercurial library has shifted like the sand from concept to completion with each release, I wonder if there is a Pink Floyd sound at all. Ubiquity and disassociation has fueled the fire of some of their finest work and, as we shall see, it is this astonishing flux in sound throughout the years that makes them such an intoxicating group.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Dunkirk


I’m not a patriot. The sight of British battalions finally being freed from the deadly beaches of Dunkirk does not fill me with the same fanatical vigor that has caused Land of Hope and Glory to flood the minds of so many as the credits finally begin to roll. It makes me sad, in some part, to by virtue of revoking any real national identity be forcefully excluded from these feelings: I wonder what it’s like to take pride in the industrious classics of Hollywood so confident in their statement that America is the premier nation for great film-making. I sit and pine at the sight of Englishmen and women so irrevocably moved by the struggle of their grandfathers on the bleak dunes of that windswept wasteland, peppered with the blood and bodies of the fallen and altogether soaked in the shared sentiment of absolute failure. I am, however, a human being. A moment in time as saturated with struggle as the escape from Dunkirk pulls me in far deeper than any flag riding inside me could. It touches something that transcends borders and brings us all hurtling through history towards this pivotal event horizon of victory and defeat- something that has assured the transfixed gazes of many millions as they stand there watching 400,000 men and the unconscionably brave forces that flew and sailed to save them. It is this magnitude of odds that makes Dunkirk weight so heavily upon me, because it has not only failed to touch my mind- but my heart too.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Ugetsu Monogatari & Sansho the Bailiff


Of all my cinematic regrets, few measure up to the bitterness I feel in being utterly detached from the filmography of Keji Mizoguchi. Revered as perhaps Japan’s finest master, that title often bearing a sentiment that undermines the ‘over-stylisation’ of Akira Kurosawa in favor of a more disciplined cinematic method- I have failed to find the Greatness in a single one of his films. From main-body classics like The Life of Oharu, Story of the Late Chrysanthemums, 47 Ronin, Street of Shame and many others, I am left lost as to his supposed genius. In a last-ditch effort to grasp the inspiring work of Kenji Mizoguchi, I re-watched his masterpieces. 1953’s Ugetsu Monogatari and ‘54’s Sansho the Bailiff. I saw both for the first time about 3 years ago, the former gentling nestling a place among the latter end of my Favorite movies for its freshness. Ugetsu was one of the very first Japanese movies I ever saw, along with Rashomon, and its magical elements enamored me beyond any bluntness in technique at that time. On the other hand, the hotly anticipated Sansho the Bailiff washed away after 2 hours with only regret in its wake. A film that in theory I should absolutely adore felt devoid of life and ultimately unengaging to the point of tedium.

The question underlying this story of cinematic disappointment is: Has there been a change? Growing personally and critically, do Ugetsu and Sansho click with me now in a way they never could years ago. Is it still too soon, or is this tantalizing event horizon of realization I so desperately aspire to never coming to pass? We shall see…

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A Separation


The enticing morality play of a husband and wife, Simin and Nader, whom cause the miscarriage of their hired carer and struggle to balance it among a neat little collective of contemporary dramas, A Separation is my first Asghar Farhadi film and will undoubtedly be far from my last; If only because I expect the promise of this man's greatness repaid. As it stands, my first outing with Farhadi rewarded me with a dull, dragging piece of work that I failed to engage with in any way. Jumping into the drama of Simin and Nader, as the opening scene swiftly dives into a heated divorce meeting- only serves to establish their situation and told me very little about the people they were. Farhadi seemed satisfied with that though, as few moments in the remaining 2 hours of screen-time lent any more light on their personalities bar what the plot demanded they say and do. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Theo Angelopoulos


Theodorous Angelopoulos' was a cinema of singular moments. His work is quiet, unassuming, tragic and human- not in every moment exciting but always engaging. Where Tarkovsky's films are worldly and Bergman's are human- Angelopoulos' are both; and what's more they manage to tread that fatally fine line between tragedy and comedy with a charming warmth a lot of European cinema simply fails to capture for someone native to that part of the world. 

What also fascinates me about the man's strong 13-film body of work is his distinct playfulness. A lot of people associate breaking the fourth wall with contemporary directors, for which they can be labelled anything from stylish and creative to infantile and irritating. Its been done back as far as The Great Train Robbery in 1903 and famously at the end of The 400 Blows in 1959- but who could have guessed that a frighteningly niche Greek 'art-house' director infamous for laborious long takes and even longer running-times would so consistently and ingeniously decide to shatter the fourth wall- appealing directly to his audience in a far more subtle and subdued way than modern examples seem to prove possible. Its a method that really has to be seen to be appreciated so if you do decide to dive into the man's work keep an eye out for his ever-evolving visual sense of humor. 

At the same time, Angel ranks amidst the likes of David Lynch and Luis Buñuel as one of the screen's finest surrealists. Where this artist differs from his collages, however, is that his style is so understated that many of the strange moments in his movies are able to feel almost entirely organic- truer to the original principle of the surreal than either aforementioned director. Your reading of a scene as normal or ever so slightly bizarre speaks of the effective nuance Angelopoulos is able to fill his images with and makes for a cavalcade of delightfully "surreal?" scenes. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Sight & Sound 2012's 250


As of January this year, I vowed to finish off Sight & Sound’s 2012 list of the “Top 250 Films Ever Made”. Today I did- finally watching the last episode of Berlin Alexanderplatz.

For those looking to skim through this selection for only the titles most worthy of their attention- I’ve separated the choices down into the good, the bad and the essential offbeat movies. Enjoy.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Travelling Players


Legendary Grecian director Theo Angelopoulos’ The Travelling Players (O Thiassos in its native tongue) is the slice-of-life story of a troupe of travelling musicians on the road around their country from 1939 to 1952. It runs at a whopping 3 hours and 42 minutes and is comprised solely of long takes- all that time spent in just eighty shots. Yet despite this intimidating length and particular style Angelopoulos’ film forges an incomparably compelling visual language through careful shifts of the camera and a near constant flow of movement in both cinematography and action which keeps the eye constantly engaged without ever becoming tiresome. The absence of narrative could also be a problem however, as you shall discover, its endless arsenal of masterful scenes prevent that from ever becoming an issue…

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

70s Reviews: The Godfather Part I + II


In art, there is nothing more vile or regrettable than dispassion. We can fuel the fires of both love and hate as easily as Harry Powell can brand them on his fingers but notice there is no third hand. We can neither throttle or caress the middle ground because it escapes us. It taunts us: Every movie ever made has adoring fans, vehement critics and those who are simply indifferent about it, longing to find a natural avenue into either camp. I’ve seen The Godfather Part I & II three times now; this most recent one yesterday on the big screen in its original 35mm print; in the hopes of finally reversing my distaste for director Francis Ford Coppola’s endlessly acclaimed works. The result…?