Archive for July, 2007

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The Milkyway by Luis Bunuel

The MilkyWay By Luis Bunuel
A series of scenes on religion by Bunuel. I couldn’t help, but feel watching this film how old conceptualism feels at times. Yeah everything is an object, you can manipulate it, and make meaning with the cinematic image alone (one scene features a policeman contradicting a father, hence when the law contradicts religion, religion relents), but later film makers like Greenaway, Godard, or Hartley did a much better job of making film into meaninful objects while Bunuel perhaps started the craze. Conceptualism can surprisingly shrink your means of interpretation, while previously I could have written mountains on how each film made me feel, I feel more like Bunuel just kinda missed the boat. While The Milkyway is perhaps complex at times and features an assortment of different arguements and opinions, it feels dated. The issues of religion these days don’t center on it’s validity or the work of heretics, but on how to out compete The Purpose Driven Life (and is it just me or do Californian NGO workers seem to be nearing religious rapture in volunteer work there days?). Bunuel is perhaps best taken via DVD, after all with a DVD you can pause, look up that fresco, tablaeu, or religious scripture he’s qouting from and make more sense of the scene, but The Milkyway is enjoyable regardless, I love how the characters walk through time in such a fashion that you experience 17th century duals as an ordinary part of their world, and the joke about shooting the pope is still funny today. In the end The Milkyway is engrossing and humorous film making, not Bunuel’s best, but still reminds of how far film could go before it’s conceptual entrapments became cliched. Bunuel needed words, the text, to dictate his films while the modern day artist works in forms of intelligence not expressed verbally, but perhaps best explained by neurology. By this I mean Bunuel had conscious visual metaphors and statements to make literal textual meaning, while many artists these days focus more on film for film’s sake manipulating images etc until they build a library of images and shots that express newness even if they don’t necessarily know what they mean consciouslly. We’ve moved beyond just reading films, and taken art as an exercise into what we can train ourselves to do. If that has provided us with the satisfaction of a good Godard movie, I don’t know, but the idea at least is kinda fresh.

July 30, 2007 at 12:59 pm 3 comments

Words: Gary Davis, The Brotherhood, Kingdom Come, and Fur

The Brotherhood – The Monkey That Became President

The Bortherhood, a 60/70s New Orleans funk band, have lyrics that remind of David Byrne. I can think of no other song writer who can throw weary sociologists into the mix, create metaphors of race (the monkey at the center doesn’t look to different than the other monkeys, but people call him an educated monkey becuase he can speak) they manage capture the slight colonialist impulse at the center of the education debate (Education as a means of impowerment versus Education as a means of instilling a caucasian culture) pointing out that intelligence already exists in the African-American community, just not training in the jobs needed to move up in American society, and then their story of a talking monkey becoming an American president provides a metaphor not just for the Nixon era politics they were living through, but as a means of everyday practice that should be taken by all people. Track comes from Moistworks one of my favorite blogs.

Kingdom Come by J.G. Ballard

I’m a mall drifter. I walk through them in bored moments never wealthy enough to buy anything, but eternally planning. J.G. Ballard’s latest novel however is about the psychology of shopping malls and the boredom of the suburbs. While he never characterizes anyone to explain how it feels to be one of the Metro Center’s new fascists (the novel is written in first person by an inner-city Londoner) it is one of the few books I’ve read that ends not with a provocative question, but rather with a call to action. Like the characters in Kingdom Come, Ballard seems to feel his readers need a similar purpose in their lives. I have not read Super-Cannes or any of the other parts of this story so unfortunately I lack the background in this trilogy to perhaps understand, what Ballard critiques about consumer culture, is he advocating greater productive cultures? I think of less consumerist countries like Lao or Tanzania where production is still part of the everyday life. Has consumerism lead to a widespread passivity? Does that explain the U.S.? Ballard finds shopping empty, but has consumer lead to super-consumer? Are the multiple experiences of consumerism leading to a more well informed public aware of the virtues of yoga, reading newer novels, chugging down obscure video games, downloading music from anywhere, water conscious drying machines, and other experiences of consuming? The emptiness of Ballard’s border towns (the metro centre towers over the city and sports matches fill the citizens nights) might be do to the absence of their design, during the recent Bangkok International Film Festival I spent almost 5 days wondering the Central World Mall through it’s plateau’s intended to resemble ancient plazas and Savannah shelfs. The theater’s rounded conversation centers intended to provide that airport like home-e-ness and encourage chance meeting and discussion. I ate a variant on Indian food in a gourmet grocery store, bought a toaster oven, saw several small indie films etc. The Metro Centre of Kingdom Come could almost be an exact duplicate of Central World (and the mall Ballard is describing could have been built by the same designers), but what I’m lacking is the other side, denizens of Ballard’s border town have an intrinsic hostility towards Asian immigrants, but now am I getting it. That the border towns lack life means that anyone can fill them, and in the case of Kingdom Come, Ballard is quite correct that this emptiness could very well be filled by the worst in mankind, but I can’t help but feel that his critique doesn’t quite fit with my existing notions of consumerism, it seems the novel is a tad beyond me at the moment. I haven’t quite found a perspective in which Ballard’s words seem like a sensible call to arms. I am reminded of the US and how during the election I ran into folks quite seriously quoting Bill O’Rielly, and perhaps it is here in the environment that allows such, that Ballard is centering his treaty.

Fur

Fur is essentially about Morgan Downey Jr. It however has a small role for Diane Arbus who’s harrowing life and later suicide is depicted in the form of a kinda feel good finding yourself type of thing. The problem with the film is that Arbus created art that was harrowing and her life is left as vignette of finding yourself instead of dealing with the phsycology that drove her. While it’s nice to see the obvious compassion she felt towards her subjects and the film does a good job of positioning Arbus as having been quite subversive for her time, she is juxtaposed to her husband a fifties picture perfect photographer with a love for orderly females in domestic positions, the movie doesn’t fit the products of it’s subject. We learn little about Arbus, but merely get a feeling for the struggle she must have taken in her time. It’s a nice film, Nicole Kidman does a good job playing a mousey women with an obvious panache for the bizarre and the interplay between her own desire for the cultures Lionel introduces her and what is certainly not a bad job and a loving family life depicts both worlds as having their advantages. Fur is better than many films I can think of, but it uses Arbus as a jumping point for an ordinary tale of identity instead of capturing the complexity of Arbus‘ work in film.

The Great Change in Me by The Reverend Gary Davis
What makes this song great is that Gary is relating not only to the changes in his times, but the changes in himself. Like a lot of Davis it is also about spirituality, and Davis’ great change is never specified as either religious,personal, or historical, he’s smart enough to leave the gesture unfinished, the listener in turn is drawn into a world of suggestions. Davis’ duality is exalted, not only is the world different, but Davis has emerged anew. It probably is about religious rapture, “people Iused to hate, I don’t have no more,” but it’s memorable because he simplifies the ways we move between identities into such a straightforward mater and makes the whole deal into gospel. The song seems to imply some higher moral ground too, one gets the feeling the places and people Gary used to relate to were probably sin and his newer self ain’t as into them, but it’s how he projects himself as an object of a process that makes him joyfull. Relgious revelation isn’t that different from critical theory.

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