drugs [2021)

We are finally catching up with Pauly Deathwish.

Here on his sixth album, drugs.

Good psychedelic surf start.

The romance must have seemed possible.

Christian trappings.

A great opening track.

Psychedelic Christianity.

Think of those private press releases from the ’60s and ’70s.

I’m hearing the joy and gravity of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

The breakdown of this song “An Ocean of Cough Syrup” is where it’s at.

Maybe a bit of Kevin Ayers.

Wasted innocence.

After the party.

The party at the end of the world.

Certainly song lyrics reminiscent of Wayne Coyne.

Sonic Youth.

Yummy Yummy Yummy.

Pop psych.

Monkees.

Maybe the romance has faded.

Tabloid.

Even Dire Straits.

Walk of life.

Track 2 with acrobatic chord changes.

Music school.

Straight-up Fort Leavenworth presentation.

A pop song about biological warfare, economic warfare, psychological warfare, and divide/conquer.

This is some serious shit.

Not sure whether to call Billy Bragg or Glenn Greenwald.

This is the kind of shit that wins Nobels.

So maybe we are hearing the new Dylan here.

Imagine if Thom Yorke actually had something to say.

The bends.

Lift.

Leonard Cohen.

John Cale.

Anthemic.

This dude is definitely right-wing.

I guess you could say.

Imagine if Bob Dylan was actually in the John Birch Society.

That’s what you get here.

Hey, take it or leave it.

Ezra Pound!

But this dude is all about ‘merica.

And i got no problem with it.

Climax.

Constitution of the USA.

Time’s up.

“memes at the ready”.

Information warfare taken into the realm of head music.

Songwriting.

This guy is a danger…to the lame liberal establishment.

THIS MOTHERFUCKER HAS RELEASED 7 ALBUMS THIS SUMMER!!!!!!!

Kraftwerk.

Jon Spencer.

Martin Rev dipping Copenhagen.

Ministry?

Butthole Surfers?

Dabbling.

“Latinas for Trump”.

Wow.

Track 3 is a trucker song.

Set in Switzerland.

With production like Nigel Godrich.

It’s a long track.

But enjoyable.

Drum machine and acoustic guitar.

And funky clavinet.

Jerry Reed.

Amos Moses.

Yodeling!

FUcking hell.

Haven’t heard this since Jerry Lee.

Dwight Yoakam.

Chris Isaak.

But this is the kinda shit cognizant about There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

Spaced cowboy.

Travelogue of Swiss sites from cinema history.

I have a feeling this guy would drink Klaus Schwab’s blood.

This conspiracy platter is fine listening.

Variety.

French/German.

No Italian.

Except Cortina d’Ampezzo.

No Romansch.

Motorik.

NEU! meets Gram Parsons.

Who is/was this “Swiss Alps Truck-Driving Gal”?

Cosmic funk.

Like French band Air.

Great bassline.

Dancy filler track of highest quality.

Mike Lindell needs to hear this shit.

mark_packet.

recieve_good.

What if Wayne Coyne and Dave Fridmann actually made songs that spoke to something larger?

They’ve hit it occasionally.

You gotta have Jesus in your heart.

Brian Eno first four records spun out again and again.

Cornelius.

Stereolab.

And WHAT THE FUCK?!?

Delta blues?

Country blues???

Yes, indeed.

“COVID-19 Blues”.

Like late-period Dylan.

Seriously.

If Dylan passes, this dude is next up.

I know it sounds implausible.

Communism used to be risqué.

Now the tables have turned.

Paul Joseph Watson needs to hear this shit.

The human condition.

Dr. Steve Pieczenik needs to hear this song, “COVID-19 Blues”.

This is Stax.

Muscle Shoals.

Atlantic.

Booker T.

But with that San Antonio twist.

Pauly Deathwish from the Alamo city.

Augie Meyers.

Flaco Jimenez.

Is Trump still the President? ūüėČ

When was this written?

Why that move to Bedminster?

Cabinet meeting.

A unifying song.

Like “Dixie”.

Ask Abraham Lincoln about “Dixie”.

Masked and anonymous.

QAnon line as money shot.

Sweet harmonica.

Linn drums.

Beck.

Loop.

It don’t matter.

This record rocks the Walmart parking lot.

GUITAR SOLO!

Jimmy Vaughn.

B.B. King.

Richard Manuel tickling the ivories.

Band brown album.

Call Q.

Call Mojo.

Call Uncut.

Side two for all you vinyl lovers.

“Let’s Get Creative”.

Floyd delay.

Sexy song.

J. Spaceman.

Jeff Tweedy.

Kid A.

Really special production.

Which just goes to show that anything can be done with an iPhone.

Except privacy.

Tim Cook cocksucker.

In shitty record store.

Radiohead were our Beatles.

Or their Beatles.

Now many friends have left.

You can’t say White Lives Matter.

Can someone please tell Pauly Deathwish this?

Not that he SAID it.

Because he didn’t.

Trail of Dead.

Which makes sense.

Read this motherfucker’s bio on Spotify.

No slouch.

I happen to know some extra details which I may divulge at a later date.

Lots of training in music composition.

Multiple touches with Nadia Boulanger.

Sexy song.

T. Rex.

Bolan.

Jonny Greenwood.

Scott Pilgrim.

Edgar Wright needs to hear this shit.

No cap.

Dead ass.

Trans.

Neil Young.

Dead Man.

Thurston Moore needs to hear this shit.

Funny mention.

Watch the water.

August 20.

Rollerskate Skinny appreciation society.

St. Johnny.

Boo Radleys.

First Stereolab album.

Grandaddy.

Harvest drums.

Like it!

Like a Sonic Youth country album.

Made in a barn.

Nothing Ween about this shit.

Except for the trucker song.

Which is funny as fuck.

This dude definitely a QAnon.

“Midnight Rider”.

Paul Revere.

One if by…two…

Mercury Rev.

Suzanne Thorpe.

Applied memetics.

Oh shit.

First Eno record.

Desert island.

THIS is impressive.

Turns out to be motto of 4th Psychological Operations Group (4thPOG) at Fort Bragg.

The PSYWAR just got real.

Vietnamese ghosts amplified.

But this is Chinese.

China bio attack.

Fauci through China.

Focus on Peter Daszak and his absurd opera-singer brother.

There is going to be hell to pay.

Q-uantum of solace.

PCAPs.

Obviously, Pauly Deathwish loves the instrumentals from Bowie’s Low.

This is a constant touchstone.

Trance.

Meditative techno.

Ugh.

When the bass drops in on “Verbum Vincet ’72”.

Who was Q?

Who is Q?

Was Q a psychological operation?

From whence might it have emanated?

Roger Waters.

Hell to pay.

Criminal networks wiped off the face of the earth.

Peking opera.

Sue me.

LeBron James is a worthless cocksucker.

I think I would get along with this Pauly Deathwish guy.

8964.

We have it all…in Utah.

“Bluffdale” like Marquee Moon.

Meets chiptune.

Super Marquee Moon.

Even a bit of John Bonham.

Good drum sound.

Dubstep?

Riots worldwide.

No vaccine passports.

Here’s where BLM and MAGA come together.

Don’t vax us, man.

A unifying event.

The real racists are the totalitarian Democrats.

Am I doing this right?

Pepe Lives Matter needs to hear this shit.

Klaus Voorman bass.

Leave it in.

Smacked out of your gourd.

Phil Spector murdered by the Rona.

Lee “Scratch” producing The Clash.

People want to sleep forever.

Sleep through this global nightmare.

Gotta wake up.

But the reality is crushing.

So God gives us solace here and there.

Black ark.

Meandering.

Oar.

Moby grape.

Hal Blaine back in the barn stoned on some world-class shit.

Nodding.

Space-age.

Astral weeks.

Nick Drake.

Ending album on serious note?

“Cotton Ball Soup”.

Will the masses win?

Against the vaccine passport bastards?

Montreal.

Where’s GYBE?

No heroes can be found.

Where’s Thom Yorke?

Radiohead?

Bob Dylan?

WWIII.

iTunes.

Spotify.

-PD

zenith [2021)

Jesus and Mary Chain.

Black tar.

Caramelized sugar.

A dangerous confection.

Hit to Death in the Future Head.

Summer is here.

I hear.

Vacuum cleaner solo.

Theremin.

Race cars.

Boys peel out.

High-speed boats.

And again with the UPC scan.

Breaking up on reentry.

Serious audio fuckery.

And from this right into kung fu.  Peter Sellers on Bowie’s Low.  Trance.  But really what we have here is excellent counterpoint.  Lunatic Harness.  Polyrhythms.  Album breaks down soon.  Fast.  Abruptly.  Mental block regarding Wuhan origin.  Harmonic outline you would never find in China.  Terry Riley.  A Rainbow in Curved Air.  Eno.  Visconti.  And the others involved.  A beauty that inspired Philip Glass.  This is what we have.  Low and heroes.  Symphonies.  Glass.  Riley.  Minimalism.  Album called zenith.  Track two already hits “Nadir”.  What’s the arc here?  Arc-en-ciel?  Arkansas?  Immediately pensive.  Very unnerving.  Pop rock track.  Into existential oblivion.  Abrupt modulation.  Uncomfortable.  Eccentric.  Was there a thought process behind this?  Commerce ruins everything.  Imperfect masterpieces.  The rules of the game.  Radiohead.  Joseph Arthur?  Sparklehorse.  The Magnetic Fields.  Gay baritone.  Sad sack confessional poetry in the world of Berryman’s Dream Songs.  Brian Jonestown Massacre.  The Verve.  Strung out in heaven.  J. Spaceman shooting up while praying.  Don’t knock it…  Drug addiction is real.  Mental problems are real.  Here we are.  2020 fucked us up.  And now we wait for the next shoe to drop.  Smashing Pumpkins.  “Silver Fuck”?  Into Sonny Rollins?  Epstein.  Gene Ammons.  Hard to tell it’s (not) real.  Which parts?  Yes.  No.  Fooling the ear with Dave Fridmann.  A totally schizophrenic record so far.  Here we go!  “Belgian Lace, Pale Black Mascara…”  This is more like it.  Rollerskate Skinny.  Martin Rev.  Lots of counterpoint here.  Fux me up.  Disney xylophones.  Internal rhyme-sanity.  Dylan puking up brilliance.  Always Roger Waters with the bass.  Always The Wall.  Pompeii.  Hail to the Thief.  Again and again.  Trying to break new ground.  And it does.  Yerself is Steam.  Album starts to make sense after five tracks.  1 & 5.  This is not bullshit.  I don’t know about the jazz.  I don’t know about the monotonous instrumentals.  Absolutely “Car Wash Hair”.  Suzanne Thorpe would be proud.  Seems to be talking about tits.  A good ride.  Drum machine chugging away.  Can still have a good groove.  Wild Acoustic Chamber Orchestra.  W.A.C.O.  Woodwinds and glockenspiel.  Boces.  What the fuck is this shit?  O.K. computer.  Sounds like some QAnon stuff.  I feel Carlos Santana coming on.  This is what Assange jams out to.  Lots of plays at Fort Meade.  Salsa.  James Brown.  Puerto Rican funk.  As AOC goes to jail.  Serious national security issues for lyrics.  Fictional charges?  Tracers everywhere.  This theory involves an actual conspiracy.  Criminal conspiracy outlined.  By players.  Event 201.  Short circuit.  Johnny 5 is alive.  Legalistic funk.  QAnon wet dream.  FISAgate.  “Spy Gate”.  Somebody send this to Sean Hannity.  Obamagate.  Where is John Durham?  Ryan Dark White knows the truth about Rosenstein.  How many coup attempts by the Left?  Back to Billy Corgan.  Ok, so we have an Alex Jones connection.  Early-’90s goodness.  Butch Vig.  Dream pop.  James Iha.  Bet this guy knows the real story about the Standard Hotel(s).  Great lyrics!  Must be some inside jokes here.  But HOLY FUCK!  He nailed the “Holes” trumpet solo.  Deserter’s Songs.  God damn it.  How did they do this?  The liner notes say Pauly Deathwish has also produced all four of these albums.  Kind of a Jimmy Page thing going on.  Great drum sound.  Yo La Tengo.  “Mayonnaise”.  Siamese Dream.  Benjamin Britten reference?  Slick!  So this guy basically had a music education on par with Jack Nitzsche.  And then went for scumbag rockroll like Phil Spector.  Gotta respect this weird marriage.  This fascination with grunge.  Dinge.  And the facility to clean it up like a chandelier.  Very fucking impressive.  No record label.  Kinda sounds like no funding.  No budget.  The Delgados.  Hate.  The Great Eastern.  More Spiritualized telephony.  The Wall.  Which is to say, Bob Erzin.  And as dark as Berlin.  Which is to say, Bob Ezrin.  Neil Young vibe.  Tonight’s the Night.  Some dark-ass shit.  Nick Kent, where y@t?  IV Thieves.  Coulda done this.  What if Chris “Frenchie” Smith had produced this?  This kid like a protege.  I hear the moniker (stage name) was bestowed by Frenchie Smith.  Strings good.  Eastern European orchestra.  Must have cost a small fortune.  Arcade Fire.  French cinema.  Romantic-era harmony.  But pierced.  Sophisticated.  Absolutely Floyd.  “In The Flesh”.  Last track on Harvest.  Words between the lines.  The promise of the ’60s went to shit in the ’70s.  Where’s QAnon?  Where’s Nakasone?  Where’s CYBERCOM?  Keith Alexander on Amazon board.  Velvet Underground feeding back.  Les Rallizes Denudes.  Primal Scream.  “Swastika Eyes”.  ADAT.  DAT machine.  Sampling.  Stereolab.  Back to another standout track.  “Chaconne”.  Will Smith in the summertime.  Some slick shit.  Messiaen.  Jonny Greenwood.  Lyrics world-class.  All those sand paintings.  Write and destroy.  Suicide girls.  Thom Yorke’s brain doesn’t have this facility.  He’s a great stylist.  Definitely an homage.  And to Godard.  Snow white and psycho.  Heavy shit for Laetitia Sadier and Tim Gane to check out.  Not far from Faust IV.  So sweet.  John Paul Jones.  Ramble on.  Charlotte Gainsbourg.  Keren Ann.  Last track noisy as fuck.  Lo-fi.  Tom Waits.  Sticks together.  Some sad shit.  Music from Big Pink.  Mournful trombone(s).  John Simon.  “Bird on a Wire”.  They don’t make records like this anymore.  David Bowie not dead.  Great phrasing.  Sinatra.  Mark Linkous.  It’s a Wonderful Life.  Believable bass.  Upright citizen.  Bayou curious.  Noise floor drops out.  Some perverse humor here.  An “album”.  It is.  Ten songs.  Ten different directions.  Some tracks stick together.  Like a deck of cards shuffled.  Lots of variety.  Circus peanuts.  The orange ones.  Pure sugar.  Chewy.  Strange texture.  Lots of melancholy here.  What’s this bloke so sad about?  Tell Thurston Moore.  You gotta hear this shit.  Pauly Deathwish’s 4th album (this summer!).  Is this guy trying to set a Guinness record or something?  And he already has a 5th one out.  Christ!

-PD

Viskningar och rop [1972)

Cris et Chuchotements.

…et Chuchotements.

This horribly powerful film.

No light reading.

From the lips.

Fumbling big-hand thoughts.

Like Brice Parain said, inseparable from language.

We can see this fount at which Godard drank.

We can see the borrowing of von Trier.

We can see the fealty of Wes Anderson.

It is Cries and Whispers of Ingmar Bergman.

Tired, aging Bergman.

Clear as a bell.

Static shots which must be achieved through moving pictures.

Just stop moving for a moment.

And be quiet.

That microphone.

Just out of sight.

No B-movie swoop-downs.

But absolute perfection throughout.

And yet the message is dark.

No hope.

Cathartic, maybe.

Always fade to red.

And reemerge through the color spectrum.

Yellow to white light.

Four women.

Three sisters and a zaftig maid.

Someone’s crying Lord…

Come by here.  In a dream.  See their lips move.

We should love the coquette.  The redhead.  Liv Ullmann.

She should dominate us like a Renoir painting.

A madder rose cinema has known not.

But is she not a fake, Maria?

Is she not just a color palette towards which we gravitate?

What worth in the façade when the heart is empty?

It had been a long time since Summer with Monika, but Harriet Andersson was here.

And yet, it is Liv Ullmann who gets the plastic surgeon insults of the doctor (Erland Josephson).

But Harriet Andersson has enough grief with which to deal.

No no, I have gotten mixed up with all these actresses of Bergman.  And don’t even mention Ingrid!

We will come back to poor, sweet Harriet.

But we must first deal with the witch:  Ingrid Thulin.

What kind of misery makes such a witch?

A tissue of lies (reads the subtitles).

I believe Thierry Meyssan had to deal with such proclamations (though I read them in translation).

What kind of lies here, though…specifically?

Loveless marriage.

Probably even more empty than simply.

Loveless.

No creative punctuation.  No flirtatious commas or semicolons.

But simply poetry written like a telegraph dispatch.

Full stop.

Desperate.

Depression unto madness.  That is Ingrid Thulin here as Karin.

But then we must come back to our sickness.

A true physical ailment.

A patient.

Bedridden.

Patience.

It is Agnes.  Painful.  Wheezing.  Horrible.  Ghastly.

A high-water mark of art films.

Top that, motherfucker.

Jerry Lee to Chuck Berry.  Worse than an expletive.

But what brings this whole film together?  Who holds this house against her bosom?

It is none other than Kari Sylwan.

Yes, there are no important male characters within.

Georg √Örlin chews his fish like someone in the diplomatic service should.

And expects “a little consensual rape in the evening” (to quote the Nick Cave of Grinderman).

But such petty existence boils the madness.

The glass.

Shards of light.

Smeared with lunacy.

Against all this is Kari Sylwan as Anna.

The maid.

The help.

Priceless.

Humanist.

A believer.  As the sick believed more than the priest.

No real important male characters here.

But Anders Ek is the voice of reason.  The voice of poetry.  For a moment.  Touching.

Don’t touch me.

Don’t touch me.

Such damage in the world.

And Anna bears it all.

The only true hero.

Meek.

Equally tormented.

But strong.

Annas make the world go round.  Deliver the medicine.  Keep the world from splitting open.  Make sure the trains are on time.  Hugs.

The history of cinema is littered with sad brilliance.

Strewn with fictional corpses.

Troubled directors trying to come to terms with their own fears of death.

And in the end, such creations loom large because they closest resemble the art of the ancient world and the itch of the Renaissance.

Storm on!  And write all night long!!

Someone has stolen my beard, but my mustache is plenty weird.

We shall live to see Nietzsche bitch-slap Hitler.

And Tarantino will again work at a video store.  Where he belongs.  A very able clerk.  Like me.

 

-PD

ťĚíśė•śģčťÖ∑ÁČ©Ť™ě [1960)

[CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH, (1960)]

Today was a bad day.

You would be shocked (dear readers) if I asserted the opposite.

No, there is no sugarcoating it.

But that’s ok. [Ah!]

Such anxiety.  Such fear.  Such trepidation.

Ah!¬† That wasn’t so bad.

But don’t breathe relief too soon.¬† [Sigh…]

We’re surrounded by morons.¬† Condescending illiterates.

A fistful of assholes.

Yes, that Japanese up there indeed does not read Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Things fall apart.  Shit happens.  Sometimes, the shit hits the fan.

That is the story of Nagisa Oshima’s Cruel Story of Youth.

Seishun Zankoku Monogatari…that’s what it says.

Kinda like Ugetsu Mongatari (which I reviewed some time back).

ÁČ©Ť™ě

Epic.

And it is.  More or less.

The story of Mako and Kiyoshi.

No magical powers here.  This is like the Japanese version of À bout de souffle.

If we don’t understand French (and we don’t), then we really shouldn’t be fooling around with Japanese.

That is my 2 cents…me, and the royal we.

Inseparable.

Mako and Kiyoshi.

Will they survive this cruel world?

Perhaps they must be cruel themselves to survive it?

And perhaps only Kiyoshi (cool as Jean-Paul Belmondo) is cruel?

Mako is no Jean Seberg.

She might be a coquette, but she’s not une d√©gueulasse.

Our film followed on the heels of Godard’s Breathless by a mere four months.

And what about Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless”?

It preceded Godard’s film by two years (1958).

Any one else out of breath???

How about those Japanese protestors?

They weren’t keen on the Anpo treaty.

[Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan]

Yeah, a mere 15 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki…and Japan was a beaten nation.

Doubly beaten.

Because they joined hands with their brethren (us) who had so recently vaporized them.

And so no wonder people were protesting.

But we don’t see protests in movies.

Not real protests.  Not anymore.

In fact, Japan does not even exist for the U.S. anymore.

Japan is like a house cat.

Domesticated.

Japan protests nothing.

Their economy slides with ours.

They are between a rock and a hard place.

Seemingly forever.

It is a geopolitical fault-line.

In the film we see South Koreans protesting.

This ended long ago (for us brainwashed viewers in the West).

Only the Chinese protest.

Tiananmen Square.  1989.

And CNN had a bird’s-eye view of tank man.

A bit too perfect.

But yes:  every nation protests.

Except the well-behaved Japanese and South Koreans.

But what about these recent tremors?

Okinawa.

As recently as February of this year.

Just what is going on?

Anpo is that famously robust treaty…in effect longer than anything since the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

I am reminded of my most erudite friend’s knowing focus on the war which these treaties (a series in 1648) ended.

Thirty years.

It was a bad day for Mako.  Rape.

The valiant rapist.

What?

It is like Dostoyevsky.

Stick around and the plot thickens.

Buked and scorned by Yuki (the sister).

Youth…how cruel it is to be taken.

And then our lovers reenact The Kid with no windows (but plenty of stones).

But I’m most sad for Horio.

It’s the old man in me.

Finally the reification gets to be too much for Mako.

And a tear rolls down her cheek.  In her sleep.

Busy signal.¬† Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Twenty years.

A cement mixer.

Is she?¬† No.¬† It can’t end like that!

“This ain’t prostitution…IT’S EXTORTION! (tortion)! (torsion)!”

They call them the diamond dogs.

Oshima with a shadow play.

Kiyoshi holds Mako in the foreground.

Aki implores Yuki in the background.

[And for subtitlers everywhere, please think before you use the phrase “for old time’s sake” in a Japanese film.]

In her polka dot dress with the leeks peeking from the grocery sack.

Blammo!

The futility of youth.

The grimy uncertainty…the shifting sands.

The idealism made to lick the city sidewalk.

The valiant rapist saint.

INRI.

Ecce homo.

And Mako, fragile, with a bloody cheek.

 

-PD

SNL Season 1 Episode 20 [1976)

Good lord this is a bad episode…

It just goes to show that sometimes talent (detouring the proverb) is only skin-deep.

Flesh-deep.

Something of that sort.

Yes, of course Dyan Cannon was beautiful.

I loved her in Revenge of the Pink Panther.

But she’s really horrible at the semi-improvisational comedy which drives Saturday Night Live.

Fortunately, the musical guest is pretty fantastic.

Leon Russell and his wife Mary were both excellent.  They do a couple of duets during the show.

Ms. McCreary (Mary’s maiden name) had been a backing singer in Little Sister (the¬†background vocalists for Sly & the Family Stone).

As great as McCreary is here (she’s superb!), Leon Russell is really a revelation.

There’s only one white singer I’ve ever seen get that crazy James Brown raspiness right on high notes and that’s Roky Erickson.

But Leon Russell gets it right here…in a big way!

There’s also a swagger to Russell’s presence (even though he is only ever shown seated at a piano) which seems like a¬†throwback to the great Jerry Lee Lewis.

And so maybe that’s the lesson.

Leon Russell, with his yellow/grey teeth and his crusty beard, has aged better than Dyan Cannon.

It’s called talent.

Russell sounds a million years old in 1976 (and he’s still alive).

Cannon just wasn’t cut out to be on SNL.

We can’t have it all.

She might have looked like a Barbie doll (and gotten plenty of attention for it), but her contribution to SNL is sadly best forgotten.

That’s the way it goes.

Russell might have looked like he just climbed out of a trash dumpster, but his take on American music is timeless and indispensable.

 

-PD

M [1931)

Perhaps we pay too much attention to the story.

We all love a good story.

But the mark of the genius filmmaker may be found in their method of narrative.  The art of how they tell their stories.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t thrilled to return to this Fritz Lang masterpiece, but I’m glad I did.

It is very much how I feel about Hitchcock’s Psycho.¬† It is a wonderful film, but it’s not something I want to throw on once a week during the course of kicking back.

M, like Psycho, is a supremely tense film.¬† Nowadays, when we think of Hitchcock, we might reflect on his tastefulness.¬† Think about it (says Jerry Lee).¬† In Hitchcock’s day (a long, productive “day”), things which are now shown with impunity were positively disallowed for a Hollywood filmmaker.¬† Blood and guts…no.¬† Hitchcock was forced to artfully suggest.

The strictures guiding Fritz Lang (29 years earlier) were even more conservative.  But even so, M is a genuinely terrifying movie.

Terrifying films are rarely relaxing.  They are not meant to be.

But as I had seen this one before, I was able to focus more on the method employed by Lang.  The truth is, M is a masterpiece.  It really is the treatment of a brute subject (murder) with incredible subtlety.

What is most radical about M is its counterintuitive take on crime.

Within this film, crime is divided into capital and noncapital offenses.

In M, a band of criminals exists which seeks to put a serial killer out of business.  It may seem a strange turn of phrase, but this killer is bad for the business of other criminals (mainly thieves and such).

A town in terrorized.¬† The police regularly raid establishments. ¬†You must have your “papers” with you at all times.

And so those who survive on crime are so desperate as to adopt (temporarily) the same goal as the police:  catch the killer.

It is not giving much away to tell you that Peter Lorre is the killer.¬† This is not a whodunit.¬† It’s a “what’s gonna happen”.¬† That I will leave to your viewing pleasure.

While I am on the subject of Lorre, let me just say that this is one of the finest, weirdest performances in cinema history.  The final scene is one of absolutely raw nerves.  Lorre is not the cute, vaguely-foreign character he would become in The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca.  Lorre is stark-raving mad.

His attacks of psychosis are chilling to observe.¬† But really, it is his final outburst which tops any bit of lunacy I’ve ever seen filmed.

Today there would likely be plenty of actors ready to play such a macabre role, but in 1931 this was a potential death wish.

That Lorre put his soul into it tells us something important about him.¬† First, he was capable of being more than a “sidekick” (as he was in the previously-mentioned Bogart films).¬† Second, he was dedicated to the art of acting.¬† Lorre was not “mailing it in”.¬† Playing such a role can’t be particularly healthy for one’s mental state.

But there’s a further thing.¬† His final monologue is filled with such angst.¬† Let us consider the year:¬† 1931.¬† In the midst of the Great Depression.

But also we must consider the country:¬† Germany.¬† These were the waning years of the Weimar Republic.¬† Three important dates would end this democratic republic:¬† Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor (Jan. 30, 1933), 9/11 the Reichstag fire (Feb. 27, 1933), and the Enabling Act (Mar. 23, 1933).

The era of M (1931) was the era of Heinrich Br√ľning’s “deflationary” monetary policy as German Chancellor.¬† I put deflationary in quotation marks because Wikipedia’s current description might better be termed contractionary monetary policy.

As Wikipedia would tell it, Br√ľning was essentially instating fiscal austerity (that hot-button term of recent times) concomitantly with the aforementioned monetary approach.¬† This was, of course, the failure which paved the way for Adolf Hitler to take control of Germany.

And so we find that the historian Webster Tarpley is right when he refers to certain modern-day policy makers as austerity “ghouls”.¬† Either conservative/fascist leaders across the globe have no grasp of history, or they are looking forward with anticipation to the next Hitler or Mussolini.

It should be noted that Tarpley is coming from a socialist perspective rooted in the Democratic Party of FDR.  His opposition, therefore, would likely brand him as liberal/communist and through slippery-slope logic see the policies he espouses as paving the way for the next Stalin or Mao.

And so goes the political circus…ad nauseam.

Returning to film, we must at least consider this situation in Germany.  The country was still paying war reparations from WWI (though this was becoming impossible because of the internal economic woes).

What is perhaps most astonishing is how much Peter Lorre’s character prefigures the Hitler caricature which has come down to us from history.

War-based societies have a compulsion to kill.¬† Germany found out the hard way that this is not a healthy default.¬† Sadly, today’s Germany has not checked the most warmongering modern country on Earth (the United States) enough to make any difference.

The United States has, for a long time now, been breathing…seething for a war.¬† The “masters of war” are all wearing suits.¬† Only suits want to go to war.¬† A true warrior does not want war.¬† Only those who will go unscathed actively invite war.

But there is an insanity in suits.¬† A compulsion.¬† Don’t let the suit fool you.¬† A suit is, for us grown-ups, the equivalent of a piece of candy…or an apple…or a balloon for a child.¬† A suit advocating war is saying, “Keep your eyes on my suit.¬† I know best.¬† Trust in me.¬† Look at my impressive degree.”

The suits like places such as Raven Rock Mountain.¬† The suits won’t be on the battlefield.¬† And don’t let the 10% who actually fought in a war fool you:¬† they were in non-combat operations.¬† Their daddies made sure of it.

So keep your eyes open for the M of American cinema.¬† Who is the next fascist to take the stage?¬† Hitler had a Charlie Chaplin moustache.¬† How dangerous could he be?¬† Trump has a ginger comb-over.¬† Surely he’s harmless, right?

 

-PD

 

Aaltra [2004)

Everything happens for a goddamned reason.  I wanted to type.  So I did.

It leaves me uneasy.¬† It’s the start of a faux writer.

But it fits this film.  If ever a film was accursed (like the archetypal poète maudit), then it is this immortal piece of cinema.

Long ago…in a messy room not so far away…I took a gamble on this Belgian film.¬† Because it was Belgian.

Belgium.

What is Belgium?¬† It’s not France.¬† It’s not Netherlands.¬† For the world of art, it exists as a sort of other Switzerland.

(At least that’s how I had it in my mind.)

I think of the great César Franck.  The great Symphony in D minor.

And I think of Ren√© Magritte.¬† [particularly L’Assassin menac√©]

And so I jumped into this film as blindly as anyone.

What I could not have predicted was the sheer perfection which followed upon rolling tape.

There is strictly zero plot outlined on Wikipedia for this film.

Thus, you needs must only remember two names:¬† Gustave de Kervern and Beno√ģt Del√©pine.

These two directors blessed the world with a film equal to any of the nouvelle vague triumphs (not least because they chose to shoot in grainy black and white).

These two writers concocted a story which only Louis-Ferdinand Céline could have dreamt up.

And finally, these two actors (the same two gentlemen) schooled thespians the world over on how drama should be approached in the 21st century.

We must trust the images.

There are two handicapped spaces for rent, but a veteran from the Belgian Congo pushes them aside.

“Bwana, bwana”…like he’s in his Popemobile.

When you have lost the function of your legs, a bottle of rum is not begrudged.

The tide is high.¬† Now that we’ve fallen asleep.

Two heads bobbing in the water.  Wheelchairs in wet sand.

But it is sad as anything.  Two grown men.  A level of breakdown sobbing which is painful to watch.

Why me?

I can’t believe this.

The gags in this sob story (juxtaposition intended) modulate ad nauseam like Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” sung in Finnish.

Ah, Finland…

From Belgium to Finland.

Beware of pity (warned Stephan Zweig).

Maybe it’s best just to suck on the tailpipe of your Motocross dreams in Brazil.

Two crippled chaps on their way home.  Ambulance blues.  Drivers stop at a pub to shoot the shit (out in the agricultural boonies).  Two extra pints grasped at intervals by disembodied, transient hands.

Have you ever been cold and hungry?

Think about it (Jerry Lee implores).  Next time you see a beggar.  They may have the most unbelievable backstory imaginable.

Because people are nice and charitable (on average) for a maximum of about 10 minutes (if at all).  Usually nothing.

Must be a drug addict.¬† Doesn’t really need that wheelchair.¬† Probably got it at Homeless-Props-Are-Us.

When you’ve just been fired and you come home to find your wife fucking another man.¬† And he doesn’t even stop.

When you live in a barn and cook your miserable meals on a hotplate.

I’ve slept on that cot.¬† That’s why this film might be unbearable (and absolutely necessary).

Did I mention that this is a comedy?

Two blokes paralyzed and the doctor a paragon of efficiency (drumming for reflexes as they lay ridiculously side-by-side on parallel provincial hospital beds).

Meet me in my office in 30 minutes or you’re fired.

Nothing is more awkward.  Crammed in the same room to convalesce.  Enemies whose childish fight has left them forever outcasts.

Adding insult…(mugged…no money…no IDs…no passports)…to injury.

Bloody jawdropping genius.

-PD

Sweet Toronto [1971)

Symptomatic of the times.  Now.  Then.

Read the news and it’s just about enough to depress you.¬† If you’re not already cynical.

But here comes a boy and a little girl…trying to change the whole wide world.

Isolation.

If you find this film, it likely won’t be under its original title Sweet Toronto.

My copy says John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto.

Which shows you how much Shout! Factory thought of the director D.A. Pennebaker.

The changed the title of his fuckin’ film!

Sure, they tacked on a poignant interview with Yoko to the front end, but other than that it seems unchanged.

Reminds us of another director who got shafted making a music documentary:  Jean-Luc Godard.

What is most widely available today as Sympathy for the Devil was originally to be called One Plus One.

The producers tacked on the title song to the end of the film (playing over largely inconsequential footage…at least initially) and retitled the sucker.

Godard allegedly punched the producer in the face after the premier…but I digress.

Why should you watch this film under consideration?

There’s a couple good reasons.

The first is Bo Diddley.¬† Sure, it’s only one song, but it sets the stage (literally) for what follows.

Pennebaker uses Diddley’s music to usher in the motorcade of John Lennon and entourage.

And when we really get to watch Bo, he’s dancin’ and jivin’ and (by the way) doing a nice job of not stepping on his guitar cable.

It’s a long, jammy, droned-out piece:¬† “Bo Diddley.”¬† That’s right, the song is titled “Bo Diddley” by (who else?) Bo Diddley.

If you close your eyes you just might think you’re listening to The Velvet Underground.¬† That won’t be the last time in the night for which those words are applicable.

Pennebaker keeps the train a’ rollin’ with a complete change of pace:¬† Jerry Lee Lewis.

Again, it’s only one song, but the director builds the excitement of anticipation for the headliner.

Lewis…smoking his cigar…gold rings and jewelry on that pumpin’ right hand…up high on the piano…and occasionally a brown patent-leather ankle book (Beatle boot?) makes it’s way up to the top register to heel a little tone cluster of exclamation.

At this point, Shout! Factory (perhaps at the behest of Chuck Berry?) makes a decision to cut Chuck’s song.

And so we roll into Little Richard.¬† Again, we can imagine…Prince, Michael Jackson…we are seeing the entire history of rock and roll compressed into 70 (?) minutes…from Jerry Lee singing a song made most famous by Elvis all the way to the headliner who will take us to far out, groovy places which may or may not still exist.

Little Richard has the most cracker-jack band.¬† A couple of sax players…really tight.

And so after three fantastic performers in a row–three originators of rock and roll, we get the rag-tag Plastic Ono Band.

John starts ’em off nice and slow…reverent…”Blue Suede Shoes,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” and “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy” before the curve ball of “Yer Blues”…

So lonely…wanna die…ain’t dead already…know reason why.

Klaus Voormann hits a steaming helping of wrong notes throughout the early part of the set as bass player, but that’s why we love him, right?¬† Reminds me of those bum notes which they left in (didn’t edit out) on John’s first solo album titled (what else?) Plastic Ono Band.¬† But we also love Klaus because he drew the cover to The Beatles Revolver album.

But what Klaus lacks in precision is made up for by Eric Clapton on lead guitar.¬† Clapton with his beard…denim jacket…a generally pensive look on his face the whole time which seems to read, “What the fuck am I doing here?¬† Can’t believe I’m doing this.”¬† Clapton never glares at Ono (at least not in the shots we receive through the miracle of montage), but one can’t help thinking that a musician of Eric’s caliber might have been perplexed (to say the least) regarding Yoko’s musical contributions to the night’s proceedings.

[Alan White is, of course, great on drums.]

And so we slink into “Cold Turkey”…premiered this very night in 1969.¬† The rendition is like Booker T. & the MGs…very cool and groovy…laid back.

But most of all…about this film…John Lennon in a white suit…huge beard…long hair…little circular glasses.¬† His presence…

Remember, this concert was about four months after the Montreal bed-in.

And so the band launch into “Give Peace a Chance.”

And it’s still the most revolutionary statement possible.

Musicians are the only ones who have ever done anything worthwhile…

Truth be told, the rendition of “Give Peace a Chance” is a little lackluster.

“And now Yoko’s going to do her thing all over you”

With those words (or something close to that effect), John takes us into the final act of this opera.

And it is powerful.

Yes, these grungy musicians actually succeed in making time stop.

Yoko wails like a woman on the sea lamenting her lost child.

For all the naysayers, Ono actually did have a good sense of pitch.¬† It’s just that pitch (as the Western ear defines it…narrowly) is not her predominant concern (apparently).

It’s like the Damo Suzuki years of the German band Can…including their two Krautrock masterpieces Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi.¬† The same criticism that Ono gets for her far-out howling is rarely leveled at Suzuki.¬† Listeners of Can know that they are getting into an experimental vehicle when they plop a Can album on the turntable.

This, arguably, makes Ono even more revolutionary.¬† To go from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “John, John (Let’s Hope for Peace)” is truly high art.¬† The conceptual mind-fuck is equal to anything John or Alice Coltrane ever pulled-off.

And so it is that the night ends on a most bizarre note…a drone…three instruments perched against amplifiers feeding back…as if one is watching…and you will know us by the Trail of Dead.

You’ve gotta see it.¬† Either it speaks to you or it doesn’t.¬† For me, there are few more poignant ways to remember the radical genius that was John Lennon than watching a document like this.

-PD