Medianeras [2011)

Here is as close to perfect as I can imagine.

When I clicked on this film on Hulu (translated as Sidewalls), I just expected it to be another film that I would stop watching after 30 seconds.

It vaguely looked like it had Eva Green in it.

Or Natalie Portman.

Thank God it doesn’t.

Instead, it stars Pilar López de Ayala as Mariana and Javier Drolas as Martin.

Indeed, this is the second Argentine film I’ve found which borders on sheer perfection.

The other is El Crítico (which followed two years later in 2013).

It’s true.

Both these films are introspective and self-reflective.

In Medianeras, this is more subtle.

Martin carries around three Tati films in his backpack (the topmost [visible] one being Playtime).

But all of this is academic.

What is important to say is that Medianeras is a cosmic, transcendent romance for the 21st century.

The composition is taut.

The cinematography is deft.

The montage is formidable.

But equally, the writing by director Gustavo Taretto is pristine.

You can look him up.

He’s a big, bushy-bearded 53-year-old.

But I highly admire the mind which came up with this film.

And the eye which brought it to life.

Pilar López de Ayala is magical here.

So many beautiful touches of storytelling.

Sure.

Taretto owes a small debt to Jeunet’s Amélie, but it is ever so small.

Indeed, it is mostly the music (the precious, tick-tock minimalism of the harp) and a pair of sequences involving humorous litanies.

The latter is achieved through copious edits of visual images to match the speaker’s rather cumbersome list(s).

It makes sense.

Amélie was a huge hit on the international stage just ten years prior to Medianeras.

And it too was an excellent film.

So Taretto has borrowed from a source which also indicates his good taste.

But our director has gone much further than merely borrowing.

He has created his own coherent language.

There are amazing sequences with Pilar López de Ayala in her apartment as her next-door neighbor wades through Beethoven and Chopin on a hoisted piano.

It is such that Mariana’s isolated life becomes a sort of postmodern ballet.

Sans dancing.

More brooding than anything.

Playing.

But, above all, being lonely.

And that is what drives this home.

We have a lonely man.

And a lonely woman (Ornette).

And paths which cross.

It’s not just sexual tension, but philosophical tension.

We really don’t know if these two perfect lovers will ever meet.

They are so dangerously close to colliding.

Like electrons.

We want these characters to live forever.

And they do.

In that they are composed of real life foibles.

As both watch Woody Allen in the dark.

And cry.

[as I cry watching them]

And both turn up Daniel Johnston singing “True Love Will Find You in the End”.

As I live with my parents.

[as the late-Daniel Johnston lived with his]

I think.

But I do know this.

That the sidewall in Austin has said, “Hi, how are you?” for so long.

And I am stuck in San Antonio.

Probably a much shittier city than Buenos Aires.

No doubt.

But so achingly-close to my old haunts in Austin.

And I don’t know if I will ever see them again.

Because life is hard.

And my life is generally shit.

“Working” at Starbucks.

Soon enough.

Again.

Not sure.

If my fiancée is dying.

And I am weeping.

Because I can relate to Martin and Mariana.

I can’t sleep.

It is 5 a.m. and I am writing a movie review which probably no one will read.

But I am happy in a strange way.

Because I found a film that reflects my life and makes me feel like all of my romantic longings and eccentricities are not for nothing.

So thank you, Gustavo.

Amazing film!!!

 

-PD

Two Night Stand [2014)

This year has sucked.

But maybe the past sucked more.

Writing lonely movie reviews in the middle of the night.

Again.

Because antidepressants are a motherfucker to get off of.

I haven’t written like this in a long time.

Because I haven’t been lonely enough to hunt through piles of movies to find a gem.

This is a gem.

Do you know that feeling?

Has a movie ever saved your life??

Elton knows that feeling.

I bet.

Sometimes we get degrees without thinking our lives through.

Reincarnation.

Me?

I have two such degrees.

And the first one makes more sense.

Because I DO love music.

But I live in Texas.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Austin is the capital of dick as far as music goes.

It’s mediocre.

Modestly vibrant.

Business makes less sense.

I can’t get a job at a bank.

I am weird.

Like our lead character Megan.

It’s embarrassing as fuck.

To be unemployed.

When you want to work.

I want to work.

Let me tell you.

I stopped drinking.

I stopped using tobacco.

I got off of Ambien.

I got off of Xanax.

And now maybe I’m on the last part.

But it’s taken 8 months.

And my insomnia has gotten worse.

That’s a good first draft of a life.

A story that might connect.

Who knows?

It is my story.

And absolutely true.

But it will float in the ether.

Probably until the Internet ceases to exist.

I am as close as you are going to find to Herman Melville.

Or Henry Miller.

I am a film critic.

And a musician.

And a recovering drug addict.

It’s fucking embarrassing.

Maybe it helps my street cred.

Have you ever had a verbal altercation?

A really nasty conversation.

Where two sides are trying to demoralize each other.

Are you familiar with those?

There is some great acting here by Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller.

God damn.

And some great writing by Mark Hammer.

The story takes it a long way.

But having really inspired, talented actors is necessary to take it over the top.

And we shouldn’t forget director Max Nichols…who made this all fit together.

Hammer gives us “Please be a crossdresser.”

There is, in fact, a Psycho reference earlier in the film.

Part of some witty banter.

God…relationships are complicated.

And this film takes weird romance to a whole new level.

It is very inventive.

And, frankly, heartwarming.

Have you ever done something stupid in love?

Ever regretted anything?

Ever almost lost it all???

Maybe like It Happened One Night.

But hell if I know.

Because I’m a lousy film critic.

I just do it for the fun.

For the expression.

To express.

No other realm will have me.

Those who can’t, critique.

Yep.

But I’m a feisty little devil.

As Roger Moore said in For Your Eyes Only, “We’re not dead yet.”

That’s right.

Special ed forces.

Survival.

Positive mental attitude.

The Spy Who Loved Me.

And, in case of a blizzard, “shared bodily warmth”.

Stalking is a skill.

Google.

And some duct tape to fix the neighbors’ window.

Pretty bad ass.

Megan is PISSED OFF.

Great acting!

Yep.

I’ve done that.

Hundreds of songs.

Some not even listened to.

Why?

Is it because the rest of the world are morons?

Perhaps.

Drozd.

Maybe because I’m so captivating.

Self-harm tattoos.

Reliving childhood trauma.

I’m still working.

Hollywood can go to hell.

I’m still here.

I came out the other side.

[more or less]

I almost blacked out there in the middle*

I guess there is a connection to Austin.

But not me.

Down here living in bumfuck San Antonio.

Sitting on my luggage.

With my Stetson.

Done been run over by a stagecoach.

Horses.

And manure in the air.

Yeah.

I was in Brooklyn when this film was shot.

But I had no idea it was being shot.

Back when I was a professional musician.

It’s true.

And sad.

But I’m still here.

Rotten Tomatoes can kiss my ass.

I don’t need anybody to tell me what’s good.

I waded through a ton of crap tonight to find Two Night Stand.

It is a fine movie.

Inspired.

Clever.

It will last.

Fuck everybody else.

 

-PD

Bound by Flesh [2012)

I never know.

What I’m getting into.

These movies.

In the hopper.

And then spit out by a sort of roulette.

That I forget.

Anything I might have known.

And mostly I don’t want to know.

I just want to “pull the trigger” on these films.

Give it a try.

Try to watch it.

And boy did I find a doozy.  A masterpiece.  A truly special film.

Bound by Flesh is a documentary currently streaming in the U.S. on Netflix.

It was directed by Leslie Zemeckis.

Wife of Robert Zemeckis.

Now.

There are a couple of things which slayed me concerning this film.

First, is San Antonio.

My town.

The boring shithole in which I live.

A place so lifeless, so meaningless…that one must comb through the relics hoping for some shard of redemption.

Yes, Robert Johnson recorded here.

But he also recorded in Dallas.

And that was it.

So we have that half distinction.

And Pola Negri lived here.

We are very honored by that.

And Wings was made here.  The first film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

But none of these things helps me to get up in the morning (or the middle of the day).

The 15-or-so years I lived in Austin, I had the legend of Sterling Morrison to give me hope.

Guitarist with The Velvet Underground.

Doctorate in medieval literature from UT-Austin.

And the Hole In The Wall was my sort of Mecca…because Sterling had played there.

But San Antonio has been an unmagical destination of return.

These past five (?) years.

But I say with utmost honesty…with absolute sincerity.

The story of Daisy and Violet Hilton has helped me.

These Siamese twins.

So beautiful!

I mean, really:  the two most beautiful girls you’ve ever seen.

And so The Smashing Pumpkins start to make sense.

That time at the Sunken Gardens Theater.

When I was but 17.

And they were touring Siamese Dream.

And my ballet classmate magically pirouetted out on stage.

“How the hell did you get up there?,” we asked her on Monday morning.

It was all magical.

The venue.

The Sunken Gardens.

But now it makes sense.

Siamese Dream.

Daisy and Violet (hereafter to be reversed) lived in San Antonio.

Their (by all accounts) evil manager Myer Myers (what a fucked up name!) built a huge mansion on Vance Jackson (that’s a street here) with the money he skimmed (or ladled) from his cash cows.

The freaks.

Violet and Daisy.

One of the best films I’ve seen in the past years is Violet & Daisy.

With my favorite working actress (Saoirse Ronan) and the very-fine Alexis Bledel.

So we shall go with that.

Violet and Daisy.

Indeed, all throughout this documentary, a prominent curator from the Witte Museum (our old, yet newly-renovated…reopening repository here in San Antonio) gives her articulate insights into the life of Violet and Daisy.

[that curator, incidentally, is the excellent Amy Fulkerson]

Ok…so the twins lived in San Antonio.

Great.

But what else?

Well, it was their route.

Talk about circuitous.

Born in Brighton, England.

Home of Nick Cave.

Hell, home of Jonny Aitken (hi Jonny!) last time I checked.

Interestingly, the twins next big locale change was to Australia.

Which is to say, their life was like Nick Cave in reverse.

And Cave would certainly gravitate to this sort of story.

Dark.

Freak shows.

Carnival midway.

Vaudeville.

[and the death of minstrelsy…{think Emmett Miller}]

Burlesque.

[and the death of vaudeville]

Drive-ins.

Hell…Violet and Daisy were in Freaks by Tod Browning!

Yeah, the guy who directed Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.

But as with many show business stories, this one turns sad.

And yet…as Ms. Fulkerson makes clear, the Hilton twins never gave up.

They had an indomitable spirit.

It may be cheesy to reference, but it reminds me of one of U2’s finest songs (off the very-fine War album).

“Two Hearts Beat As One”

Sure…Violet and Daisy didn’t stay in San Antonio.

They eventually moved on to New York.

And finally to Charlotte and environs.

But their story is so damned inspiring!

And to think that they graced my town 🙂

That they had their trial in 1931 (?) down at the red brick courthouse.

That Myer Myers got what was coming to him.

Which brings us to a parallel point.

To something I haven’t covered in a LONG time.

Pizzagate.

Or Pedogate.

Most of all, the John Podesta scandal which WikiLeaks unearthed.

First, I’d like to salute all the people who turned out in D.C. on the 25th to advocate for missing children.

We’re talking kidnapped, trafficked, raped, killed children.

And there is a very disturbing “video” of which I was just made aware today thanks to the ever-vigilant reporter David Seaman.

Said video is more sound than image, but it is purported to be a recording of John Podesta beating a child at Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C. at a Heaving Breathing show.

Heavy Breathing is one of the bizarre bands (including Sex Stains) which played at this “family” venue run by James Alefantis.

Simply put:  John Podesta’s cryptographically verifiable emails on WikiLeaks seem to point to him being AT BEST a pedophile, and at worst a violent child molester possibly involved in Satanic ritual sacrifice of children.

I’m not making this shit up.

Go read the emails for yourself.

Do some research.

It is the freakiest shit on the planet.

Look at it too long, and you want to vomit (while beating the crap out of Podesta).

That’s level one.

The emails.

Level two is/are the tentacles.

It involves Hillary.

Why was Hillary seemingly covering for Laura Silsby in Haiti?

In other words, why was the Secretary of State (Clinton) interceding for an American woman who had been convicted of child trafficking in Haiti?

You can read the story.

Likewise, certain of these Clinton emails are on WikiLeaks.

There are the “after ‘wheels-up'” statements.

But then we get to James Alefantis.

This motherfucker…

No, actually…if he was fucking mothers that would be somewhat socially acceptable.

Be it appears that his establishment IS INDEED integral to unraveling the pedogate ring.

To sum up, it appears that American “elites” (both Democrat and Republican) have a certain predilection for little boys and girls.

Some of the elites are also heavily immersed in occult practices.

Hillary is one of these.

Larry Nichols confirmed that Bill Clinton told him specifically of Hillary’s monthly jaunts to California to participate in a witches’ coven.

As I’ve mentioned before, Hillary would not have been playing second fiddle at such events.

And if that seems farfetched, we can point to the Bohemian Club (aka Bohemian Grove) [also in California] and their yearly opening ceremony called “the Cremation of Care”…at which they perform a “mock” sacrifice of an infant in the shadows of a giant (40 ft-tall?) statue of Moloch.

This is the meeting that has drawn (and continues to draw) the likes of Kissinger, Ted Turner, Reagan, Nixon…and so many more “elites”.

But let’s back up one level.

James Alefantis is a “bad (or sick)” person.

Ok, I couldn’t help it.

More accurately, he’s a sick, sick person.

His Instagram was archived.

And, as David Seaman correctly points out, it fetishizes the sale and abuse of children.

[this is where Violet and Daisy come back in…because they had no one truly looking out for them]

But let’s move laterally for a moment.

The sickest of the bunch might just be Tony Podesta, John’s brother.

This guy’s art collection is like a pedophile’s dream.

But also a Satanist’s dream.

The art that Tony Podesta (and his former wife Heather) collected (and presumably still collect) is some sick fucking shit!

So when you start to tie all this stuff together, John Podesta’s coded (not encrypted) messages made public by WikiLeaks start to take on a very ominous tone indeed.

But the video I alluded to can be found with a simple Google search of “John Podesta Skippy video”.

Yes, even the woeful Huffington Post (I refuse to italicize that crap publication) wrote about John Podesta’s bizarre alter ego years ago:  Skippy.

As stated, to my eyes, the video shows very little.

But the sound is of the utmost importance.

Unfortunately, with my highly-trained ear (I advanced a year in ear training classes in one day of university) I am not hearing what other researchers are hearing.

HOWEVER, it seems that someone is fucking with John Podesta.

And I can’t help thinking that is, in general, a good thing.

In other words, someone has “the goods” on Podesta.

The video, incidentally, ostensibly has a child (a horrifying sound…like Lou Reed’s Berlin to the nth degree) begging “John” and (not-quite-alternately) “Skippy” to stop the beating.

I will say this.

I do believe it to be a genuine article.

But in my honesty, I do not hear the words “John” nor “Skippy” at any point.

Yet, I believe it is John Podesta beating a child.

And I believe the general outline of pizzagate/pedogate to be true.

And so, dear friends, we owe it to children to remain vigilant.

Sexual abuse ruins lives.

It is very likely that Podesta (and his brother) himself (themselves) was (were) abused.

It doesn’t excuse their actions.

But it goes a certain distance in explaining them.

However, the occult (which has a direct tie-in to Marina Abramovic…again, verified in WikiLeaks emails) aspect is really hard to fathom.

It’s so bad that I don’t want to fathom it.

But we can’t ignore it.

We can’t be afraid.

We can’t just roll over and die.

I’d rather be wrong about Podesta than for a single child to suffer rape or torture or death at the hands of sadistic monsters.

So there you have it.

That’s how a Pauly Deathwish review goes.

Buy the ticket.  Take the ride.

As Hunter S. Thompson said.

I will tell you when a film sucks.

And I will tell you when a film is great.

And I will also tell you when something in the world is fucked up.

The nightly news and the morning paper won’t say “fucked up”.

And, somehow, that explains why they are truth-neutered.

But I ain’t got nothin’ to lose.

My life sucks.

And my life is beautiful.

But I’m down here at the bottom.

On the killing floor, as Howlin’ Wolf sang.

The abattoir blues, as Nick Cave sang.

I ain’t so deluded as to think that lying will get me a better life.

I’m sick of lies.

I’m too old to care.

Go ahead, kill me.

It doesn’t matter.

I’ve got no career for you to ruin.

And I understand the high bar for libel of public figures.

So go ahead, John Podesta:  keep comparing us to Sandy Hook truthers.

Yes, by the way, Sandy Hook was fake.

But you’re not weaseling out of this one.

You’re caught.

So let that Raskolnikov guilt sink in.

A thousand times worse than death.

You are a sick, sick person.

I hope I’m wrong.

But I don’t fucking think so.

-PD

تاکسی‎‎ [2015)

[JAFAR PANAHI’S TAXI (2015)]

This must be “Axis of Evil” week here at paulydeathwish.com 🙂

As I have stated recently to a friend.

George W. Bush was the worst President the United States has ever seen.

And Barack Obama was probably the second-worst.

So what does that make me?

Democrat?

Republican?

Libertarian?

Let’s get to that question (if you even care to know) by a circuitous route, shall we?

First, we must again praise the people of Iran.

It was long ago that I saw my first Iranian film.

Taste of Cherry.

طعم گيلاس…‎‎

[Ta’m-e gīlās…]

It was such a profound experience.

There I was.

In a movie theater in Austin.

And I couldn’t have given a shit about cinema.

But I was there.

For some reason.

God only knows why.

And I saw a movie which in many ways changed my life.

[but it took many years to sink in]

Even so, I came to regard the name of its director (Abbas Kiarostami) with a sort of awe.

Yet, I doubted.

[as we all well should]

And so I said to the cinema gods, “Let Kiarostami perform his miracle again…if he be so brilliant!”

And he did.

I was supposed to be watching Life, and Nothing More…

But I made a mistake.

Because my French is so bad.

[you know, Kiarostami died in Paris last year (may God rest his soul)]

I needed 1991, but I chose 1990.

And it was another miracle.

Close-Up.

I don’t know.

Is it…

کلوزآپ ?

Or…

نمای نزدیک ?

[“Klūzāp”?  Or “nemā-ye nazdīk”?]

Because the unfailing Google Translate (now the second-most popular “tr” search after “Trump” [as “translate”]) tells me that both terms mean “close-up”.

But who can translate Trump?

[ahhh…]

Perhaps only an Iranian?

Well, we would be in good hands if director Jafar Panahi was that man.

Why?

Because Mr. Panahi has made a film which is of the same rarefied air as the two Kiarostami films which I have referenced.

The work is called Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, and it is currently available on Netflix in the U.S.

No, it’s not a really trite game show.

No, it’s not some premise for an uncreative pornographer.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi ( تاکسی) pushes the limits of barebones filmmaking in much the same way that the Palestinian masterpiece 5 Broken Cameras did.

[yes, I know the latter film was an Israeli coproduction…with an Israeli co-director…‎‎but the film was very much Palestinian in its inmost heart]

What our director Mr. Panahi adds to the method (budget cinematography) is an uncertainty of reality.

Frankly, I have never seen a film quite like Jafar Panahi’s Taxi.

Is it a documentary?  Is it staged?

One thing’s for sure.

If it’s staged, the injured man and his wailing wife deserve Oscars “toot sweet”!

Truly, it is panic-inducing…

Which is not true of this film in general.

No, dear eggshell friends (if you’re out there)…don’t be afraid.

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi will only take you on a “wondrous boat ride” (so to speak) for a brief, more-or-less manageable period of time.

The rest of the film is fascinating…engrossing…painfully and gloriously perplexing.

Yes, Mr. Panahi borrows Kiarostami’s favorite device:  filming from a moving vehicle.

But so what?!?

Panahi was an assistant director to Kiarostami.

And Abbas certainly wasn’t the first to film out of a car window.

But let’s examine for a moment…

Yes, the special part of this method is that the camera is turned INWARDS.

And so we feel we are seeing Homayoun Ershadi vacillate between life and death…all over again.

Or we feel we are seeing the calm, gracious mannerisms of Mohsen Makhmalbaf transposed from motorcycle to taxicab.

But what we are seeing most of all is a director stepping in front of the camera.

Like Truffaut.

And Chaplin before him.

Godard has done it to excellent effect as well.

And Jafar Panahi is like an empty reed of meditation as he navigates an unending stream of chaos which enters his faux-taxi.

But the most poignant moments are when Hana Saeidi reminds us of the childish joy of being an auto passenger…and when the lawyer Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh addresses us…we, the watchers of cinema.

Who will watch those watching the watchers?

It’s like Juvenal in a hall of mirrors.

But Ms. Sotoudeh breaks the fourth wall and takes us to a very special place.

Prison.

And so, again, frankly:  we don’t know how Jafar Panahi’s Taxi was ever made.

Isn’t Iran one of the most intolerant countries on Earth?

Just what is going on here??

All of this Shostakovich-ean rebellion is really breathtaking when under the microscope of close viewing.

But Jafar Panahi remains stone-faced.

Like Buster Keaton.

Yet, this is largely no comedy.

This is a big “fuck you” to the government of Iran.

And yet, it is the most subtle “fuck you” ever committed to film.

Only a genius can do such things.

DSCH

etc.

Yes, dear friends.  Mr. Panahi has been banned from making films.

And yet he made one.

And then another.

And then this one.

So we salute you, Mr. Panahi.

We appreciate such in America.

To illustrate:

<–fuck you, fuck you–>, and most of all…fuck you ^

That is freedom.

It is ugly.

Messy.

But it works.

And so as a Donald Trump supporter (yes, me), I say, “bring it on, you whiny, sub-literate protesters!”

Maybe they’re right.

But it’s their right.

To protest.

And so we mix and knead.

And we need the yeast of dissent to ever grow again.

Let’s bake some goddamned bread, people!

-PD

Frank [2014)

My dear friends, it is so good to be alive 🙂

But very difficult to be sick.

I must admit, it took me two days to watch this film.

This one hit a little too close to home.

But that’s ok.

Yes, I am finally feeling better on the allergy front.

Now I am struggling with that old nemesis of mine:  nicotine.

Yep, that’s right.

Trying to kick that habit.

Whoa (woozy feeling)…

Maybe did that a little too fast 🙂

But most of all, you know, every day I struggle with anxiety.

I don’t usually address it in such naked terms.

But it is fair here to talk about this biggest of all struggles for me.

Because Frank is a film about mental illness.

You know, if you apply for a job, you might get a “questionnaire” enquiring about your health.

America is very “democratic” and “fair” in hiring processes, but still these questionnaires persist.

And I suppose the last round of jobs I applied for (merely two) opened my eyes to the reality of my situation a bit.

Looking down the list of “conditions”, I realized I must (to be honest) check two boxes.

[Though the questionnaire was “voluntary”]

So I have “anxiety disorder” (big time!) and asthma (not so bad, but it can pop up).

So wow…I thought…man, these are listed as “disabilities” (if I remember correctly).

While some people might celebrate a disability condition, for me it’s not really cause for cheering.

But then I thought, “Wait…are these really disabilities?”

Well, I’m not going to give a medical/legal ruling on that (because, frankly [no pun intended] I don’t know).

But I know one thing:  anxiety can be totally debilitating.

I’ve had a really hard time readjusting to “life” after two and a half years of intense graduate studies.

I graduated about a month ago.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum…

My body just kinda shut down…gradually…in different ways.

That momentum which had carried me across the finish line evaporated.

And so life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries.

Anxiety is a bitch!

When I have nothing to realistically worry about, I find something.

If there is something from which worry can be derived, I will find it.

And it will drive me nuts.

At a certain point, one has to laugh at the ridiculousness of such an impulse.

[It’s not something I can very well control, you understand.]

And that brings us to our film Frank.

Frank is a fucked up guy.

Imagine the Jack in the Box guy from the commercials with the big fake head.

And then have that guy lead a rock band.

Yeah…

This film really defies all description.

So we have to dig a bit to really delineate what is going on in this masterful film.

First of all, this film has caused me to create a new category in my global survey of cinema for a country which I love (for a multitude of reasons):  Ireland.

Yes, Frank is an Irish film.

Funny enough, no one in the film has an Irish accent.

[Which begs the question, “Is it really an Irish film?”]

But I’m calling it an Irish film because I really admire the balls it took Lenny Abrahamson to make this picture.

Our director, Mr. Abrahamson, was born in Dublin in 1966.

Ok, it’s Irish (at least as far as “auteur theory” goes).

So what?

There’s something about Ireland which I get from the eccentrics.

James Joyce was the master of them all.

I will read Finnegans Wake till my dying day and still glory in the fact that I have no REAL idea what it’s truly about 🙂

But this film, Frank, takes us to a place I know very well:  rock and roll.

And more specifically:  indie rock.

It is a “genre” which attracts the most far-out individuals in the world.

And I must say, there were several times in this film where I could feel the spirit of one of my favorite bands of all time.

An Irish group.

Rollerskate Skinny.

Our director is 50.  I’m 40.

Maybe our frames of reference are different.

Youngsters might think Animal Collective or even the arduous process which produced Arcade Fire’s tortured Reflektor.

But Frank makes me think of that early-90s noise-pop wave which was spearheaded by bands like (my favorite group ever) Mercury Rev and Rollerskate Skinny.

When I see Frank, I see David Baker.

But I know my history.

I’ve studied weirdos all my life.

So I also see David Thomas of Pere Ubu.

And of course Don van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart).

Frank is certainly a film which the “Pitchfork generation” should be able to get behind.

I’ve had dinner with Roky Erickson.

I’ve seen what Frank is groping for.

Yes, it’s that madness which made Syd Barrett great.

But such madness comes with a price.

We can listen to that first Pink Floyd album (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)…songs like “Lucifer Sam” where Barrett is brilliant.

And we can trace that brilliance to his solo album The Madcap Laughs…songs like “No Good Trying”.

But to be SO fucked up…to be SO far out…it ain’t fun.

I’ve heard about Roky Erickson’s time at the Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane.

It’s not a pretty picture.

But let’s talk about this damn film 🙂

It had me hooked once I caught faint traces of those first two Mercury Rev albums (Yerself is Steam and Boces) in the sounds I was hearing emanating from Soronprfbs.

Yes, Soronprfbs.

The perfect name to describe the obtuse band at the center of our story.

Here’s a band so weird, they don’t even know how to pronounce their own name (when they show up at SXSW).

[But I’m getting ahead of myself]

First, I was wrong about Irish accents.

Indeed, Frank is such a bizarre film that one soon forgets that Domhnall Gleeson is speaking in one for the entirety 🙂

Gleeson is in the right place at the right time.

It’s happened to me.

I once got a MySpace message (remember those days?) and spent the next four years in a Cajun punk rock band.

It can happen.

Those were the best years of my life.

But it’s HARD!

Taking a van back and forth (and back and forth) across the country.

Flying (I hate flying) to awesome, bizarre locales.

For someone with bad anxiety, these aren’t easy tasks.

And we see that in the character of Frank.

As I said, Frank has problems.

Somehow, Gleeson joins Frank’s band Soronprfbs.

And the rest is a whipsaw of insanity.

No, Frank is not a relaxing watch, but it is hilarious!

And very meaningful!!

Soronprfbs, as a band, is a shambles.

[not to be confused with Babyshambles]

There were several times when I caught glimpses of the weirdness that is another of my most favorite bands:  The Homosexuals.

But, this film can hardly be reviewed properly without talking about The Residents.

Soronprfbs are mythic (if only in their own minds).

Their fame, however, grows.

And with fame, stage fright.

It happens to even the most grounded individuals (like Robbie Robertson).

But nothing fits the bill quite like Mercury Rev.

Soronprfbs are apt to have fights on stage.

Perhaps one member tries to gouge another’s eye out on a transatlantic flight.

That kind of stuff.

Sure, Oasis have had mid-air spats about blueberry scones.

And maybe The Sex Pistols only played to twelve people (or whatever) at their first show.

But Soronprfbs, for me, is that band which would hang electric guitars from the ceiling and let them feed back for the entirety of a show.

Which is to say, Mercury Rev.

But let me pull in the younger folks.

Think, for example, The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Fights onstage.

Obvious mental problems.

Or is it just a put-on?

And let’s go back…

The Doors.

Jim Morrison being totally whacked out of his gourd onstage.

But no, Soronprfbs is weirder…and far more obscure.

Think, for instance, Alan Vega leading Suicide in a performance at CBGB’s.

The writers of our film (Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan) will probably know everything I’m talking about [were they to ever read this].

Because they (or at least one of them…Ronson?) know the mechanism which attracts so many of us to BANDS.

[“those funny little plans/that never work quite right”]

That mechanism is mystery.

But in this case, it is the mystery of reclusive eccentricity.

Put simply, madness.

[not to be confused with the band Madness]

So Ronson and Straughan even include the perfect musical instrument to act as a talisman for their tale:  the theremin.

And they even get the character’s name right:  Clara.

[after theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore]

The theremin has a long history in eccentric rock and roll.

Indeed, late in Frank when we see our dejected main character sleeping in his bathrobe at the French Quarter Inn (a fleabag motel), his sartorial sense evokes Brian Wilson’s rough years.

Yes, the theremin goes back to at least “Good Vibrations” and the zaniness which was The Beach Boys’ album Smile.

But the theremin has come to embody the obtuse and pretentious in rock and roll.

And so it is no wonder that bands such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion picked up on this wooziest of all instruments.

Which brings us finally to a salient point.

Frank includes at least one star:

Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal plays stone-cold bitch Clara:  Frank’s girlfriend.

[remember, Frank is the guy with the papier-mâché head…and he never takes it off…ever]

Gyllenhaal’s character is unlikable in just about every way imaginable.

And it makes me appreciate her acting.

Indeed, God bless Ms. Gyllenhaal for taking this film role.

It’s a lot like Charlotte Gainsbourg’s role in Misunderstood (2014) and makes me appreciate the dramatic tension of Gainsbourg’s role more than I initially did.

Which is to say, Gyllenhaal is very much the villain of Frank.

A bit like a dominatrix version of June Chadwick in This Is Spinal Tap.

Which is to further say, Gyllenhaal is playing off her typecast from Secretary of being one bad bitch.

And she pulls it off.

But Gyllenhaal is the least important element of Frank.

It would ruin things to tell you just how Michael Fassbender figures into this film, but let’s just say he’s indispensable.

[Fassbender, by the way, is half-Irish (his mother being born in County Antrim)]

A lot of our action happens in what could pass for Tarbox Road Studios.

Indeed, there is a lot of Wayne Coyne in the character of Frank as well.

But the sounds are closer to those which Mercury Rev conjured at SUNY-Buffalo for their debut album.

Likewise, the seclusion which goes into making the great Soronprfbs album reminds me of the ramshackle (yet bucolic) process which led to my favorite album of all time:  Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs.

As alluded to earlier, Soronprfbs eventually make their way to my old stomping grounds:  the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

I was a bit wistful seeing the Ritz Theater (now an Alamo Drafthouse) on 6th Street in one shot.

Indeed, I remember playing an “unplugged”, solo gig there back when it was still a cavernous, multilevel, piece-of-shit music venue (pool hall).

Funny enough, a lot of the tension in Frank revolves around that old chestnut of a band “selling out”.

Perhaps the funniest scene in the movie is when Frank presents his “most likable music ever” in the motel room.

Which is to say, this movie may not appeal to everyone.

But if you’re a rock musician (especially a weirdo like me), you’ve gotta see this.

There are a couple of scenes which make the whole thing worthwhile.

It’s funny that Soronprfbs bassist François Civil bears a striking resemblance to Dave Fridmann circa-1991.

[just another detail which cemented the genius of this film for me]

But there are other seeming references in this film.

A bit of Stereolab (with all the Moogy wonder).

The stilted “artfulness” of Blonde Redhead.

And even the bollocks, pulseless blech of Low.

Yes, Soronprfbs and their “side projects” seem to catch just about every hue in the indie rock kaleidoscope.

Director Abrahamson (and writers Ronson and Straughan) do a nice job of converting Domhnall Gleeson’s internal monologue into a social media thread which runs through this movie.

Gleeson is on Twitter, YouTube, a blog, etc.

But the funniest is the beginning…and it is the hook which reeled me in.

To hear Gleeson’s musical mind attempt to craft quirky pop songs out of mundane details of his Irish town is a real knee-slapper.

Because, as they say, IT’S SO TRUE!

So if you’ve ever written songs, witness in the first five minutes of this film the real torture it is to make lemonade out of a lemon life.

Be forewarned (or enticed):  Frank is WAY OUT THERE!

Some elements of this film are so non sequitur that they were a bit hard for my weakened, nicotine-craving immune system to handle.

In the end, this is a sad story.

But with joy, pain.

There is great joy in Frank.

Sometimes we realize we’re not in Kansas anymore…

and it’s a rough patch.

The Technicolor of life can be too much to handle.

But take courage, dear friends…

Like Gong’s great song “Rational Anthem”…from that hard-to-find Magick Brother…their debut.

[Get on that, Spotify]

Miracles can happen.

And, to quote Albert Ayler, “music is the healing force of the universe”.

-PD

Cochochi [2009)

Long ago.

When I went to Spain.

I was amazed to find.

Not everyone speaks Spanish.

Primarily.

In Catalunya, with Barcelona, they speak Catalan.

In the Basque Country, with Bilbao, they speak the fascinating Euskara (or Basque language).

And in Galicia, where clothing giant Inditex (Zara) is located, they speak Galego (or Galician).

[Even Google Translate recognizes Galician now.]

And that’s all in Spain!

But how was I to know this?

Being a boy from Texas.

Well, I did my research…

Let me tell you:  it’s not easy finding a Basque language guide here.

Even in a diverse city such as Austin!

But now I am in San Antonio.

And here we have another Mexican film.

But it’s not in Spanish.

Yes, Mexico is linguistically rich too.

This film is in Tarahumara.

Yes.

That’s a language.

Spoken by about 85,000 people.

AND…it’s one of 63 “national languages” of Mexico!!

Other sources count 69 languages in the country (including Spanish).

Tarahumara is one of four languages in Mexico which fall under the Taracahita branch of Uto-Aztecan languages.

And when you watch this wonderful film (currently available on Netflix in the U.S.), you will see the distinctive, beautiful faces of the child actors who carry on this “Aztec” heritage.

But don’t be confused.

The Uto-Aztecan languages stretch as far north as Idaho (Uto, as in Ute language, as in Utah).

And as far south as El Salvador.

But suffice it to say.

Even Mexicans might be hard-pressed to understand the dialogue of Cochochi.

Thank God for subtitles!

Our film is directed by Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán.

And they do a fantastic job.

The film is sparse.

Quiet.

The child actors evoke the magic of Víctor Erice’s masterpiece El espíritu de la colmena.

And while Cochochi seems to emanate from another planet (kind of like that “Martian” language Basque…[or, for that matter, Welsh]), there are faint glimmers of cinematic quotation here and there.

Perhaps a sudden splash of color…some sunflowers…in an otherwise bleak, earth-tone color palette…à la Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry.

Or even the delicacy of time passing…perhaps what Deleuze meant by the “time-image” all those years ago…but what I instinctively associate with Ingmar Bergman–that eerie silence which characterizes nature in its most remote regions.

The Rarámuri people depicted in this film (our Tarahumara speakers) live (in this case) in the state of Chihuahua.

Northwestern Mexico.

[The Rarámuri people are also found in the states of Durango and Sonora]

Our actors have the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains as their backdrop.

Places like Copper Canyon.

But this is no Bogart film.

Each and every movement and bit of dialogue which our directors elicit from their players is an act of loving capture.

Priceless moments which convey a multitude of new thoughts to those unfamiliar with the Rarámuri people.

Our main actors play themselves in the movie.

Yes, in much the way you would expect Robert Flaherty to make a film.

But keep in mind that the French title of Blue is the Warmest Color is La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2.

As in Adèle Exarchopoulos.

As in, the actress (Exarchopoulos) was playing a character which bore her name:  Adèle.

[at least her first name]

But the stars of our film are two young actors who don’t even have Spanish Wikipedia pages.

Luis Antonio Lerma Torres plays Tony (short for Antonio).

His full name is utilized for that of his character.

Tony is great in this film.

But the real star is Evaristo Corpus Lerma Torres.

Evaristo gives a performance which is unforgettable.

Quiet.  Understated.  Real.

But don’t be fooled…

These two film brothers (real life as well?) need each other.

Their personalities play off one another.

To call this a road film would be slightly inaccurate.

There aren’t really roads here.

At least with paving.

And while there are a couple of rusty pickup trucks which transport members of various communities around…creeping along the dirt roads (gratis, of course)…the real drama involves a horse.

Indeed, there are horses about.

Donkeys.

Sheep.

But this one horse is very important.

Because Tony and Evaristo have “borrowed” it…from their grandfather.

This is really a transcendent story of mercy and love…of patience…and of the brilliance of nature.

Animals are smart.

And miracles can be in the wise words of grandfathers…

Forgiveness.

And wonder.

-PD

Twin Peaks “The Orchid’s Curse” [1990)

6:42 a.m.

Rough sleep.

Bit of a logjam.

@ The Great Northern.

And so we learn that life doesn’t work out like on television.

Doesn’t get spun into gold as at the movies.

But we still admire when we identify.

What is the purpose for anything?

All we can control is working hard.

Max Weber.

Recessed to a cul-de-sac of the mind.

Travel alarm.

Audacious mission.

The usual humor from Harry Goaz (UT graduate).

Austin.

And Kimmy Robertson.

A melodrama fit for melodrama.

Post-modern fit for fat.  Tic-tac-toe.

Episode improves upon recitative drought.

The creepiest collection of personages this side of the Mississippi River.

Casting at gas stations.  Diners.  Truck stops.  Rest stops.

Toll booths.  Strip malls.  Turnpikes.  Donut and taco situations.

And always some French fries.

Derrida’s brisure at “doohickey”.

 

-PD

 

Vampyr [1932)

I come to you from the darkest place.

Where all hope has been extinguished.

A maze of study and revelation.

Barely a word here spoken.

Do not give me your attention.

I am not the first person.

You wander in this dream.

He comes to know the horror.

Her and her alone.

Climb climb climb from the mist of history.

Give up your secrets to the light.

Vampyr, Kryptos, Tutankhamun.

IQLUSION.  1Q84.

gravity’s rainbow.  CERN.

In a Glass Darkly.  Published in Ireland.  1872.

Sheridan Le Fanu.  Dublin.

Does Langley know about this?

Always candles.  Always lighting candles.

NYPVTT.  Berlin.

Nicolas de Gunzberg as Julian West as Allan Gray.  Got it?

MZFPK.  We’re losing time quickly.

At an even pace.

Speeding towards the hour.

As slowly as we’ve ever been.

William H. Webster.  The only person to have ever headed both the CIA and the FBI.

Courtempierre.  Loiret.

Ah!  The review…

As if waking from a dream.

Or falling back into a nightmare.

Placing one foot in front of the other.

Rena Mandel could have come straight from Nosferatu.

Like Greta Schröder.  1922.  1932.

Not flapper like Frances Dade.  Blonde on blonde.  Helen Chandler.

UFA wanted Dracula to come out first.

A strange tactic.

And then utter failure.

But Sybille Schmitz has that Nazi jawline.  Like Leni Riefenstahl.

Spoonsful of tea for a dying man.

Candles peer in through the glass.

And the camera stares upwards…at the swaying trees.

It is like Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.

To be opened after my death.

Sealed in wax thrice.

Submission is the only slow number.

Mid-tempo.  A revelation.  Talisman.

A crooked doctor.  And you’re giving blood.

They’re putting you on statins.

The drug companies will pay.  And general practitioners will have impunity whoring for big pharma.

A view to a kill.

Berlin.  Surrounded by East Germany.

Mengenlehreuhr.  Yale.

Ooga booga.

Buried alive in the blues.

Come spend a life in Texas.

With no one.

Come be abandoned in Texas.

Not even on the island.

Information warfare.

He is getting his message out desperately.

Franz Liszt as Marguerite Chopin.

No comment from Gounod.

Walpurgisnacht.

Nerval translated 1828.

Gretchen.  Margaret.  Marguerite.

Ettersberg.  Buchenwald.

We see why Godard became suspicious.

Because all but the Dutch declined Resnais’ solicitation for holocaust footage.

Inside the camps.

During the war.

By the most technologically-advanced civilization in terms of film production.

Obsessive-compulsive documenters of expenditures.

The problem with the gas chambers.

Sybille Schmitz looks like a raving lunatic.

The ecstasy of Stockholm syndrome.  A bank.  Those doe eyes and bearded hippie among the safe-deposit boxes.

The Goethe Oak at Buchenwald.  THE Goethe Oak?  George Washington slept here.

The Goethe Oak bombed by the Allies.

Now a concrete stump thanks to the DDR.

Goethe Eiche.

Janus-faced Germany.  Januskopfes Deutschland.  Sounds like a load of rubbish to me.

Schiller’s beech tree didn’t bite the dust till 2007.

Death by flour.

I’ll say it again:  Wikipedia’s masterpiece.  “List of unusual deaths”.

 

-PD

 

 

 

Masked and Anonymous [2003)

Some years ago, San Antonio (my hometown) had a cheeky ad “campaign” which struck a little too close to home…which is to say, it was perfect.

Our neighbors to the north in Austin (my home of some 15 years) have cashed in on a perceived eccentricity which that college metropolis embodies (to a greater or lesser extent):  Keep Austin Weird.

San Antonio’s riposte?  Keep San Antonio Lame.

I shit you not.

And, thus, tonight…Bob Dylan in the Alamo City…and a dream come true for me…sort of.  It took 17 years from when the album Time Out of Mind really convinced me of the man’s continued genius.  Seventeen years.  The amount of time it took Joyce to write Finnegans Wake.  At my pace it will take me as long to read Finnegans Wake.  But I digress…

It was poverty.  I was a musician.  Bob Dylan is/was/always will be my favorite living musician.  I could never afford the exorbitant ticket prices.  Tonight, luck was on my side…sort of.

The hoi polloi at tonight’s concert at the Majestic Theater disgusted me to an extreme degree.  People 30 to 45 minutes late…standing in front of me.  The incessant in and out of thirsty “fans” headed to the bar or shitter.  And to top it off, a brother/sister duo behind me who wouldn’t shut the fuck up.  Their never-ending running commentary finally snapped my patience as I turned around exasperated with a “I give up” look followed by the international pirate sign for throat-slitting.  Sure, I felt bad about it afterwards…but goddamn, I am shocked by the sporting event etiquette which greeted the true poet laureate of the United States to my fair (foul) city.

And so, Masked and Anonymous…

I rewatched it earlier today.  Such a fabulous film.  One of a kind.  Timeless.  There are no words for the cutting dissertation of Bob Dylan in his pseudonym screenwriter persona Sergei Petrov.  Larry Charles tags along as “Rene Fontaine” (cowriter) and as the cinematic auteur in charge of mise-en-scène.

I can’t really sum up how much Bob Dylan (as singer Jack Fate in this film) means to me.  That’s why it pissed me off so much as people filed out early from tonight’s concert to beat the rush…as if the Spurs were down 10 with 30 seconds remaining.  The bourgeois mass which sullied my night epitomize the artless throng which runs San Antone.  Don’t be fooled by the River Walk.  There is no life here.  Looking for the zombie apocalypse?  I can personally vouch that S.A. is chock-full of walking dead.

It is a prison.  And only a shrill voice can pierce the malaise.

In so many ways, Masked and Anonymous is a prescient film.  The flag.  North American Union.  The Midas-Judas Building.  Dr. Benway:  Psychiatrist.  And John Goodman as a thinly-veiled Albert Grossman:  Uncle Sweetheart.

Yes, the music industry is fucked.  It is a wonder that Bob Dylan gets out there every night and slogs it out.  In some ways, he is analogous to our Tim Duncan here in San Antonio (yes, our one pro sports team is truly the sole saving grace of this shithole…because they have class and are not obnoxious prima donnas).

Let’s give due to those vets who acted for the minimum recompense here:

Jeff Bridges as a slippery rock journalist.

Bruce Dern in a pithy role (powerfully acted) as Bridges’ editor.

Jessica Lange as a smoldering TV producer.

Penélope Cruz (so goddamned good in this) as a paranoid yet feather-light religious zealot.

Luke Wilson as Jack Fate’s old roadie.  [Side note:  I once walked up to Wilson in a Whole Foods and told him how much I appreciated his performance in this.  As I was wearing a white, polyester suit in the dead of Texas summer, it goes without saying that I probably shocked the shit out of poor Mr. Wilson.  He was, however, a good sport about the whole thing.]

Cheech Marin in 30 seconds (?) of pure genius…especially paired with the droll acting of Dylan.

Ed Harris as…Emmett Miller???

The list goes on and on…Chris Penn, Giovanni Ribisi (great segment on the bus), Christian Slater, Val Kilmer (slithy toves), Angela Bassett…

Of special note is Mickey Rourke as a bizarre mashup of George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales.

Somewhere between the positively fuck street of “Pay In Blood,” the agony of “Long and Wasted Years,” and the exiled ecstasy of “Autumn Leaves” Bob Dylan managed to transcend tonight at the Majestic.  Maybe he was channeling his old buddy Doug Sahm.  Nothing but a beer joint with a cloud machine.

-PD

殺人拳2 [1974)

[RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER (1974)]

There is no plot.  Given.  No love.

A darkened corner of cinema.

Haiku in reverse.  Inversion of the form.

So we shall start in a roundabout way.  Roundhouse.  Pink Floyd.  Hair.  We owe Julian Cope immensely.  Japrock.  Like Krautrock.

It was a night when I wandered into a makeshift venue in Austin.  I had hoped to see one of my favorite bands of all time (The Homosexuals), but was denied entry.  Dejected, I drifted southwest.  Perhaps it was destiny.  Flower Travellin’ Band.  What a show they put on!  Really a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

I had read Cope’s book.  Made quite an impression on me.  Tracked down many gems:  Speed, Glue & Shinki.  No commas in tags.  Les Rallizes Denudes.  Feedback mayhem!  Far East Family Band, J.A. Caesar, Masahiko Sato (Satoh), Far Out, Takehisa Kosugi, People, Blues Creation, Karuna Khyal, Kuni Kawachi, Brast Burn, Stomu Yamashta, Taj Mahal Travellers, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Kawabata Makoto, Yonin Bayashi…

I’m sure I left quite a few out.  Lots of travelling…flower, Taj Mahal…

Why do I mention all of these Japanese hippie bands?  Well, first of all they made great music!  But it is pertinent because we get visual clues in this film which pull our minds to this little known Japanese subculture of the 1970s.

I am no expert on “Japrock”…  I will leave that to Sir Cope.  But I know to pay attention when a teardrop explodes.

When we first see Don Costello (Claude Gagnon), we are made to believe he is a mute hippie beggar…beaded and fringed (and most importantly, bearded like a Tenderloin tramp).  If you want to see a short English-language Wikipedia entry, check out Monsieur Gagnon’s.  It is so pithy that it begs for elaboration on this mysterious figure.

When I first saw Gagnon in this film, I immediately thought of that great Flower Travellin’ Band album cover for Anywhere (their debut album from 1970):  a bunch of naked Japanese guys on motorcycles.  What freedom that picture conveys!  Who doesn’t want to have a group of wild friends with whom to take to the highway?  Fuck everything!  We’re free, goddamnit!!!

I was very fortunate to see FTB before their singer Joe Yamanaka died in 2011.

Return of the Street Fighter has some of that revolutionary spirit in it…even beyond Gagnon’s beard.  Take for instance Yōko Ichiji.  Her big Laurel Canyon sunglasses and bizarre schoolgirl hair never take her far from an 8-track player.

In fact, so much of Shigehiro Ozawa’s direction here has a psychedelic tilt to it such that one really sees martial arts in a whole new way.  Ozawa’s Wikipedia entry in English is two sentences long.

So let’s talk about what we can:  Sonny Chiba.  To my eyes, he had improved his acting and fighting prowess considerably by 1974 (and he was already a bad-ass to start with).  Chiba again portrays a character which might be best considered as the reverse of the Bruce Lee coin.  Lee’s obverse presence is one of mischievous valor, while Chiba is just downright mean.  But Sonny has a heroic side in these films.  That’s the point.  He’s a bad motherfucker, but you definitely want him on your side.  You don’t want to have to face off against this guy!

In many ways, Ozawa makes this a more compelling film than the original installment.  Two particularly artful and effective segments are the battle near the ski-lift and the detailing of weapons in the school (nunchaku, Okinawan sai, etc.).

In all this excitement I failed to mention Magical Power Mako (perhaps my favorite).

Now I am empty-handed and ready for karate.

-PD