Tuesday, March 22, 2005
From a very talented individual who's going for everything under the sun.
More Die of Heartbreak
His characters are equipped not with obligingly suggestive childhoods or case-histories, but with a cranial jukebox of situation comedies...their dreams and dreads all mediated secondhand. They are not lost souls or dead souls. Terrible and pitiable...they are simply junk souls; quarter-pounders, with cheese. --Martin Amis
Watching Lawrence of Arabia on video is like looking at a postcard of "Guernica" that's been folded six times, tucked into the pocket of a ratty pair of jeans, and laundered for eleven hours. --Mike D'Angelo
The Istanbul Film Festival is starting up in a few weeks, which hopefully will allow me to catch up on the Asian invasion led by Memories of Murder, Nobody Knows, 3-Iron, 2046, Tropical Malady, Sympathy for Mr. Vengence along with Kings and Queen, Whisky, and The Holy Girl and others. There are tribute screenings for Polanski and Neil Jordan (not my cup of chai). There is also a "Jane Campion and Harvey Kietel Special", unfortunately and lamely titled, because it only consists of a screening of The Piano. The French hottie Emmanuelle Beart was supposed to drop by for her film The Art of Breaking Up, but cancelled due to police brutality during Women's Day protests. To which I'll respond with my nonexistent french: Sophie range la vaisselle dans le bahut (Sophie stores the china in the sideboard). Harvel Keitel will still be there though, fitting I guess for The Bad Lieutenant (Place that bet, I'm a cop!).
The great thing about this era is that you can put out an absurdly extensive list of cinematic statistics and obscure polls by heady people (or heady polls by obscure people) without getting lynched for wasting valuable resources. Apparently Mike D'Angelo noticed...and put out 60 pages of the stuff for this year, with lots of space left for marginal musings (not on the web anymore). The likes of Dogville, Eternal Sunshine, Before Sunset, Kill Bill, Hero, are up there somewhere. The voices of dissent sections are especially amusing, so I'll throw some on here.
What may be second nature in the normal world, is rebellious territory in Plato's celluloid cave. It's surprising to find that someone actually liked The Village. Don Marks remarks with a straight face that "the film comes by dread honestly." Erick Gregerson, pumping up Troy: "Jack Palance was right. A German was needed for Homer." Jim Ridley in genuine awe: "The Polar Express (IMAX 3-D) is simply one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen in a movie theater."
Veering closer to the cineaste center, Bilge Ebiri goes native:
Sure, one could easily see Distant as yet another example of the cinema of static long shots------it’s virtually impossible to read a review that doesn’t compare it to Jarmusch or Tsai, and not without some reason. But what to make then of Ceylan’s impeccable comic timing------is there a better directed humor scene this year than Mahmut switching Stalker for porn? And the comedy isn’t there merely to enliven the proceedings. Drawing attention to the follies of his characters weaves into Ceylan’s greater concerns...Distant has the entire city of Istanbul------cut in half by a massive body of water, covered in snow, ominous skies looming above. The whole city is a failed attempt to keep nature at bay, a place of suppressed emotions, foundering relations, and blurry connections. That Ceylan manages to work this theme without having to resort to surrealism is further proof of his accomplishment. An accomplishment that was, sadly, ignored by you people this year.
Having recently watched The Return, I have to side with Theo Panayides over Mike D'Angelo's 48:
TIFF, 2003. Playing the inevitable keeping-up-with-Venice game on Day 5 or thereabouts, I ask Mike di Skangelo: ‘‘So what won the Lion, do we know?’’ ‘‘Didn’t you hear?’’ he replies. ‘‘It’s some Russian movie no one’s ever heard of. They’re scheduling extra screenings.’’ Quick schedule-reshuffling and I’m watching The Return in a packed Cumberland 3 (or was it 4?), sitting next to trend-setting taste-maven Chris Stults. Have you ever had the sense of being witness to an instant classic, a film that requires no justification? Almost invariably it’s a case of mulling over, waiting for the dust to settle, but this was just there, complete in itself, honed to a diamond-hard precision. The opening scene drew me in, and everything else just followed. I looked for flaws, couldn’t find them. Maybe that younger boy pouted a tad too often; maybe the visuals tried too hard to ape Tarkovsky (and I don’t even like Tarkovsky). What did it matter when the film was so tense, so spare, so atmospheric? Oh my god, I thought, we’re watching a classic. This is like being at Cannes in the early ’60s...Seems I was the only one who’d actually liked it...My eyes blazed fire, my fists curled into balls. Andrei Zvyagintsev! I intoned, exultant. Zvyagintsev! Andrei! I drained the dregs, picked up my coat and fled into the cold Toronto night.
Ryan Wu loses himself in The Saddest Music in The World:
A tragic accident! A scheming, beautiful cripple fused with glass legs filled with beer! A goth composer in disguise! A nympho amnesiac! Or is it a amnesiac nymphomaniac? Beer dunking! Crazy Thai musicians! Mad love! Did the folks who’ve mislabeled this as ‘‘the Guy Maddin movie for people who don't like Guy Maddin’’ get this one mixed up in their heads with The Notebook?!? As delirious with movie love and as lovingly handcrafted as any Guy’s made, this gorgeous, giddy curio------shamelessly hokey, stridently earnest, stupendously witty (what the fuck am I writing?)------should score a spot on every movie nerd's top 10 list.
Victor Morton will no doubt tell him to immigrate to Canada already, but he apparently had his own concerns (his intensity towards the end makes him sound like Sontag. I never knew Catholic phraseology could sound so postmodern):
What the fuck is wrong with you people. I hope you all realize that this means I’ll have to pray even more to get you guys out of Purgatory (those lucky enough not to be elsewhere, that is). Seriously, I wish more people could have seen The Passion of the Christ innocent of having to prove their kulturkampf bona fides. ....[on Maia Morgenstern playing Mary] Just the way she digs her fingers into the ground. And her look. This is not some ethereal irenic statue at St. So-and-So’s Parish. This is the suffering co-redemptrix. And Hristo Nomov Shopov as Pilate gives a performance that looks out of key with the rest of the film------modern, unhistrionic, careful and calculated. ‘‘Realistic’’ in our terms. And Shopov’s style of acting carries the meaning------Pilate is us. Eager to wash our hands.
So when is Mike D'Angelo going to publish a collection of his group thread posts (I don't even remember how I stumbled on his site) from way back when? It'll be like The Biographical Dictionary of Film except better, with the added advantage of being fucking hilarious (the self-described "hours of amusement" is almost an understatement). After all, it should be called The Origins of The Species or something.
The extreme hype around the musical abilities of Maya "I want people to listen to me while they’re playing bingo in Swansea" Arulpragasam, the Sri Lankan Tamil UK refugee, seems to have a humorous resemblence to the mass-marketed popstar Brutha Fez in Don DeLillo's surgical Cosmopolis:
He thought his friend was impressive in repose, wearing a full beard and a white silk caftan with hood folded back and the iconic red fez on his head, stylishly tilted, and how affecting it was for the man to be lying in the spiral of his own vocal adaptations of ancient Sufi music, rapping in Punjabi and Urdu and in the black-swagger English of the Street:
Gettin' shot is easy
Tried it seven times
Now I'm just a solo poet
Workin' on my rhymes
...Then came the break dancers, in pressed jeans and sneakers...His best songs were sensational and the ones that were not good were good...the chorus became intense, driving Fez into impoverished rhythms that sounded reckless and unsustainable...here came the dervishes, turning to the faint call of a single flute...
Man gave me the news in a slanted room
And it felt like a sliver of icy truth
Felt my sad-ass soul flying out of my mouth
My gold tooth splitting down to the root
Let me be who I was
That's lost but living
He wanted the hearse pass by again, the body tilted for viewing, a digital corpse, a loop, a replication. It did not seem right that the hearse had come and gone. He wanted it to reappear at intervals , proud body open to the night, to replenish the sorrow and wonder of the crowd.
This, on the other hand, is a profile of M.I.A. by Sasha Frere-Jones:
Anyone who has trolled through bins on Canal Street for videos of kung-fu movies or reggae mix tapes will recognize M.I.A.’s first single, “Galang” (2003), as an example of actual, on-the-ground world culture: synthetic, cheap, colorful, staticky with power. The beat is shuffling and abrasive, made from what sounds like the by-products of some other, more polite song. It most resembles Jamaican dancehall patterns, but with a twist...Alongside the beat runs a distressed motif that may have been a melody before it was Xeroxed fifteen times.
“Fed’s gonna get you pull the strings on your hood / One paranoid youth blazin’ through the hood”, and a scenario that sounds far removed from Leicester Square: “They say river’s gonna run through / work is going to save you / praying you will pull through / suck a dick, he’ll help you / don’t let them get to you / if he’s got one you get two / Backstab your crew sell it out to sell you.”
And then the music stops. We are left with a queasy keyboard peal as a multitrack chorus of Mayas calls out, “Ya ya heeey, woy oy ee he hay yo.” It isn’t a pop chorus, or any sound that you’d hear on American radio, even if the station were playing, you know, world music. It’s a voice from a place where kids throw rocks at tanks, where people pull down walls with their bare hands. It could be the sound of a carnival, or a riot....
She was wearing a cotton jacket and pants, both imprinted with a pattern that you’d see on pajamas, and carried a handbag of the same fabric and pattern, with the colors inverted. Her lacquered yellow pumps looked...like a repurposed cab door. Except for the shoes, every item was made by her or her friends. “That’s just the way of living, with Sri Lankans,” she said. “You just make everything. If you want clothes, you make it. If you want a table, you make it.”
Ah yes, to make stuff, there's the rub...
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Weird things have been happening of late. A re-issuing of Hitler's Mein Kampf is apparently a best seller here. Leman, an alternative cartoonist rag that doesn't shy away from featuring explicit depictions of horizontal dancing, complains that a major bookstore claiming that the cartoonist publication didn't "fit their line " and wasn't appropriate to sell in their bookstores has no qualms about selling Hitler's doctrine. It notes that when a famous model was asked if she reads any books, she answered, "Yes, I just finished Mein Kampf". Apparently, one publishing house has a campaign that is selling the book at about 3 or 4 euros. Whether this is a cause or consequence of it being a bestseller, I'm not sure. Number one on the bestseller list is a Tom Clancy-like novel called Metallic Storm which features a doomsday war between Turkey and the US. Dogu Ergil claims that its our thirst for conspiracy theories. Unrelated, he also has cogent summaries regarding the education system and nationalism.
Journalists are complaining about the new penal code which is still vague and allows people to be charged with "insulting the government". Erdogan had pressed charges against Cumhuriyet cartoonist Musa Kart for making him look like an idiot. My favorite of his cartoons is one mocking AKP's adultery-as-a-crime attempt. It features AKP MPs throwing copies of the penal code at a lying naked woman (-> stoning etc etc)
The CHP finally did something seemingly useful, perhaps motivated by the resignation of Baykal's rival Livaneli, who had said that it's rather sad when a reformist party at its roots becomes less reformist than conservative Islamists. Baykal announced that they were going to leave no question unanswered with regard to Armenian genocide claims. Of course, the rejection of the claims is seen as a forgone conclusion. The attempt here is a comprehensive rebuttal, which will not likley happen. Milliyet publishes a full page interview with Halil Berktay, who says what happened to the Armenians was clearly ethnic cleansing. A symposium on the subject is conducted, Berktay is not invited.
Paul "I didn't leave, the Democratic party left me" Wolfowitz
aka Paul "if Barham Salih is a Scoop Jackson Kurd, I consider myself a Scoop Jackson Republican" Wolfowitz
Those who don't like this guy claim that, besides Iraq, he supported the dictatorships in the Phillipines and Indonesia, that his policy of engagement with Indonesia encouraged the invasion of East Timor, and that he was too soft on dictator Suharto even after the invasion of East Timor. Those who support him claim he did pretty much the opposite. Wolfowitz is more like Kissinger if the former view is correct. Christopher Hitchens, who hates Kissinger's guts, loves Wolfowitz primarily because he holds the latter view and claims that Wolfowitz, too, doesn't like Kissinger. It was Kissinger, not Wolfowitz, who wanted Marcos to stay as dictator in the Phillipines he says. And he was known to object the US support of Saddam in the war against Iran. What also complicates the idea of Wolfowitz-as-Kissinger, is that Wolfowitz is friends with Abdurrahman Wahid aka Katak Gus Dur aka Uncle Gus, the first populist elected president after the fall Indonesia's 30-year dictator, and who also happens to be a moderate Muslim cleric. Who in turn happens to be friends with Al-Sistanti of Iraqi-Shiite fame. Hmm, looks like Wolfowitz didn't just depend on opportunistic Iraqi exile by the name of Chalabi. Looks like he was more "in touch" than some thought (Ever played that game "2 degrees from the Ayatollah"?). Some pundit on CNN just said that when people are saying that Wolfowitz has no experience with economics they forget the papers he wrote on the equation of "Economy, Growth, and Democracy" back in the day. Don't know much about that. It can go either way. Either he'll enforce American policy in the World Bank, or because of his influence in Washington he can get the US to accept World Bank initiatives ( loans vs. grants?). But maybe the biggest hint in all of this is his special lady (she's not my fucking special lady, she's my lady friend--The Big L)
Apparently, Kemal Dervis was also considered by some to be a candidate.
The Go-To Guy
After all that saber-rattling, Osman Koruturk was sent to Europe for damage control and came away with a statement from the EU along the lines of, "We share Turkey's concerns on Iraq". Surprising if only for its lack of admonition or reference to our macho grand-standing a few weeks prior. Impressed, the government sent Koruturk to head a formal delegation to northern Iraq to hang out with possible future president Talabani. After which it was reported that Talabani was considering the idea of having the deputy governor of Kirkuk be a Turkmen.
When asked why he hadn't announced a head negotiator for the EU membership talks, Erdogan responded, "What's wrong with me?" The problem with the AKP is that if they pick some guy not affiliated with the party, if it goes right the media may place most of the credit on him and if it goes wrong they'll blame it on the government. At least with their man steering the ship, if they get it right they'll at least be credited for it. Whatever they do, it may help to keep Koruturk close by.