Mateo [2014)

Here is a perfect film.

After awhile, you wonder whether such will ever appear again.

To call Mattew (Mateo) Stoneman a white “mariachi” singer is somewhat misleading.

But that’s the gist of it.

The premise.

Of this documentary.

No, this isn’t the Columbian drama Mateo from about the same year.

This is Mateo, the priceless documentary directed by Aaron Naar.

Why perfect?

Why priceless?

Because it is true.

I can attest.

To the life of the musician.

Somewhere…I must have been dreaming…while watching.

But the life of a musician is really not even worth two dollars.

I know.

I know the life of a rubbish-filled room.

Sleeping on some pillows.

Or a mattress on the floor.

Bedbug man comes to spray.

Doesn’t know where to start.

I know the life of playing crap gigs.

All for the big payoff.

To leave a legacy.

I know.

Mr. Stoneman (Mateo) references Scorsese.

That’s rich.  And right.

Talking to the filmmaker.

Do we ever see him?

The man with the movie camera?

I don’t know.

But he more-or-less makes himself invisible in this pungent story.

We get Los Angeles.

Where I should be.

But I chose another path.

And yet, Mateo chose the right one.

For him.

Follow the music.

Not the money.

Follow your heart.

Play and write and sing until your heart gives out.

Until the apple juice and Subway sandwiches finally kill you.

Bukowski described it as dog food.

The life of a writer.

Or musician.

Alpo.

Post office.

But what Mateo does is scrimp and save.

Because he’s addicted to recording.

Or rather, he’s making his masterpiece.

A $350,000 album.

Self-funded.

No record label.

Fuck ’em.

This guy, Mateo, has cojones.

A white man in a brown man’s genre.

But he’s all love.

Love for the music.

And the kicker is Cuba.

Yes, dear friends…

Much of our action happens in Havana.

Over and over and over again…Mateo travels to Cuba.

To record.

It’s real.

Quantegy GP9 tape.

2″

I may be useless to most of the world, but I get this.

Reel after reel after reel.

And so it is mambo.

But so soft and subtle.

Like the bossa nova of 60s Brazil.

But Mateo succeeds in his aspiration.

And so his voice is feathery-light…like Billie Holiday on Lady in Satin.

Because Mateo Stoneman had to pay his dues.

Prison.

A thief.

Almost like François Villon.

Stealing to make music.

To afford to record.

I’ve been there.

Pawned all my best shit.

To make a record.

Nobody heard.

Or cared about.

But finally for me it came down to family.

And we get some of that too.

Matthew (Mateo) Stoneman.

From New Hampshire.

We wonder about Ernest Stoneman.

Virginia.

And we get Ernest Hemingway.

20 years in Cuba.

“Who was he?,” asks the novia.

Dead guy.

Shot himself.

Up in Ketchum.

Next to where Ezra Pound, his champion, was from.

Hailey.

These are the savant details which Stoneman, Mateo can rattle off concerning music.

And I can do the same.

But I had to diversify.

So from cornering the market in shit, I spread my tentacles into manure.

A bit too pithy a metaphor.

But just so you know.

The life of a musician.

One minute up.

Touring Japan.  Or Sweden.

Signing autographs.

Wads of money in your pocket.

Next minute down.

Catching hell from the two-bit valets.

Having to pull out the LA Times.

Look.

This is me, motherfucker.

…it ain’t easy.

Sticking to your guns.

Your dreams.

Through extreme poverty.

Duress.

But Mateo shows you what it takes.

Dream big.

You might be autistic.

You might have crippling anxiety.

You might have existential episodes…depression…woozy disorientation.

“What the fuck am I doing?!?”

So do the best of them/us.

And so if I am counted “in that number”…of saints…like Mateo…then I am happy that I have lived my life bravely and to the last drop of blood and courage.

Ars gratia artis.

But for real!

-PD

SNL Season 1 Episode 3 [1975)

From the musical smörgåsbord of episode 2 to the absolute lack of musical guests in episode 3…SNL was a work in progress.  Even the name, Saturday Night, had yet to add the “Live”.

We do, however, get some music thanks to a few unlikely candidates.  The first is host Rob Reiner.  It’s almost as if Rob were goofing on Tony Clifton (in retrospect).  Yes, a pretty decent lounge act by Reiner gives us a swing version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” with Howard Shore and his band backing up.  [Not exactly Arturo Toscanini, Studio 8H’s famous former inhabitant, but pretty competent stuff from Shore.]

John Belushi tops Reiner with an impersonation of Joe Cocker.  It’s really pretty outstanding!

Also in the musical, or dance, category are The Lockers (as in poppin’ and lockin’).  Formed in part by Toni Basil (who would go on to have a hit with “Mickey” in 1982), The Lockers bring that inimitable breakdancing which one might witness (even to this day) on subway cars in New York City.  It really is an astounding art!

And finally, the musical stand-ins are rounded out by one of my heroes Andy Kaufman doing a lip-sync of a very difficult, dialogue-peppered “Pop Goes the Weasel” recording (Roud Folk Song Index number 5249).

Though she appears only a small amount, Penny Marshall adds to the night’s fun festivities (she was Reiner’s wife).

“The Bees,” a running gag through the first three shows, finally score some points as Belushi gives a soliloquy while his slinky antennae list to and fro.  Quite a genius juxtaposition!

We must remember that Al Franken was one of the original writers.

“The Land of Gorch” Muppet sketches continue (a bit I quite like).

But the real highlight of this episode is Albert Brooks’ film on heart surgery (as much as I hate to admit it).  Brooks’ first two contributions to this series were painfully lackluster, but then he pulls the rabbit out of the hat with quite a jaw-dropping bit of humor.

All in all, these episodes are a joy to watch.  What an American treasure!

 

-PD

 

 

El espíritu de la colmena [1973)

I have wanted to bring my readers this film for some time.

Therefore, it is an honor to review The Spirit of the Beehive for you.

I first saw this film by chance one night on TCM long ago.

I don’t remember the exact chain of events, but it was either right before seeing this or right after seeing this that I found out I was going to Spain (the country of provenance of this film).

The opportunity to visit Spain was a miracle (as have been all my travels).  Never did I think I would see La Sagrada Família.  Never did I dream of seeing the Guggenheim in Bilbao.  These things were too much to dream.  But they happened.

And this film is the quintessence of that miracle experience.

Two little girls.  Ana and Isabel.

The sonic motif throughout this film is the name “Isabel” whispered by her younger sister Ana.

It is an entreaty.  A putting faith in someone.

Please tell me why this, and why that.

Few films have matched the magic of this one.  If you are a fan of Cinema Paradiso, this film will show you where that template originated.

Before the great Giuseppe Tornatore, there was the equally great Víctor Erice (auteur of the film under consideration).

There is a magic here which is akin to Amélie and also Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  It is a naïveté befitting of Erik Satie…a wonderment which is rarely expressed effectively in film.

For more modern viewers, the best parallel might perhaps be Beasts of the Southern Wild (on the soundtrack of which I had the honor to perform with my old band).

And so there you have it.

Bees, bees everywhere.  Like Mercury Rev…”Chasing a Bee Inside a Jar”…and “Syringe Mouth” (‘here you come dripping from the hive’).

The hum.  The drone.  Like a subway screeching through the turns in a New York subway tunnel.  And the honeycomb.  Like DNA.

I should add.  A certain sadness.  Like a tawny port.

It was only fitting that this film was kicked to the curb for me, the poor-man’s Henri Langlois, to find at this particular time.

And so I too whisper the name Isabel.  Isabel with your hair pulled back behind your ears.  Don’t be cruel.

 

-PD

Un film comme les autres [1968)

I took the road less-traveled.

And then I cheated

But there is no cheating this.

A film adrift in the cosmos.

My grasp of French is not good.  Watching this film is not the same as ordering a sandwich at Subway in rural Quebec–and I am not very good at that (to put it mildly).

This film is saturated with revolutionary philosophy, theory, literary allusions.

Fortunately for me there were subtitles available…in Italian.

My grasp of Italian is non-existent.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  I can get the general gist by way of Spanish similarities.

My grasp of Spanish is poor.

Wow.  What a quandary!

What am I even doing watching this film?!?

Well…because Jean-Luc Godard is my favorite director.

This film, however, might be rightly considered the official starting point of his years in the collaborative collective known as the Dziga-Vertov Group.

But any way you cut it:  this is a difficult film.

What are my own thoughts about it?

It is an exercise in minimalism.  It’s like Hitchcock’s Rope minus a plot.

But something has replaced plot.  That something is context.

As I watched this it became clear that the May ’68 events in Paris were the essential detail about which a viewer must have knowledge to understand this film (especially if said viewer is fluent in neither French nor Italian).

The other aspect which occupied my mind during the viewing (as my brain was blowing gaskets from hearing French and “reading” Italian simultaneously) was the “strategy of tension” connected to the false-flag terror attacks (Operation Gladio) in Italy in the 1970s and 80s.

Mai ’68.

General strikes.  de Gaulle.  Latin Quarter.  Situationist International.  Nanterre.  Sorbonne.

Rive Gauche.  Molotov cocktails.  Agents provocateurs?

Daniel Cohn-Bendit.  Nantes.  Nanterre. (WESTXLAYERTWO)

Renault.  Billancourt.  Paris Commune.  1871.

Sous les pavés, la plage!

“Ne travaillez jamais”  –Guy Debord (1953)

Graffito.  Graffiti.

Wikipedia leaves out the Debord quote, but the article is generally good.

Title:  May 1968 events in France

I should however mention that Godard’s exclusion from the cinema portion at the bottom of the article is eye-popping.

So be forewarned:  if you want to know the truth you will have to dig deeper.

BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION

1q84.

IT WAS TOTALLY INVISIBLE HOWS THAT POSSIBLE ? THEY USED THE EARTHS MAGNETIC FIELD X THE INFORMATION WAS GATHERED AND TRANSMITTED UNDERGRUUND TO AN UNKNOWN LOCATION X DOES LANGLEY KNOW ABOUT THIS ? THEY SHOULD ITS BURIED OUT THERE SOMEWHERE X WHO KNOWS THE EXACT LOCATION ? ONLY WW THIS WAS HIS LAST MESSAGE X THIRTY EIGHT DEGREES FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES SIX POINT FIVE SECONDS NORTH SEVENTY SEVEN DEGREES EIGHT MINUTES FORTY FOUR SECONDS WEST X LAYER TWO

strategia della tensione

SLOWLY DESPARATLY SLOWLY THE REMAINS OF PASSAGE DEBRIS THAT ENCUMBERED THE LOWER PART OF THE DOORWAY WAS REMOVED WITH TREMBLING HANDS I MADE A TINY BREACH IN THE UPPER LEFT HAND CORNER AND THEN WIDENING THE HOLE A LITTLE I INSERTED THE CANDLE AND PEERED IN THE HOT AIR ESCAPING FROM THE CHAMBER CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER BUT PRESENTLY DETAILS OF THE ROOM WITHIN EMERGED FROM THE MIST X CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING Q ?

Anni di piombo

Fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, false-flag terrorists (sounding familiar?)

If you live in the USA it should.  Same goes for UK.  And Canada.  And France.  And Norway.  Ad nauseam.

But the initial testing was in Italy.  One might also mention Greece and Turkey.

Piazza Fontana.  Aldo Moro.  Henry Kissinger.  Threats.

l’Ulivo.  2000 Italian Parliamentary Commission report.  Strategy of tension was supported by United States.

On this subject Wikipedia is not very good.  It is misleading.  It is covering up for something.  Of course, I am speaking about the English version.

My initial “cheating” was looking at a translated copy of the Un Film comme les autres page on Italian Wikipedia.  The optimist in me hopes that this strange film “about nothing” (most would probably say) inspired the Italians even more than the French.  Present availability of this film might bear this out.  The pessimist in me sees some Italian opportunists out to make a buck (knowing that this film is available in no other territory).  But the subtitles support the former assertion.  If you are an English monoglot, good luck!

George H.W. Bush refused to comment.  Of course he did!  Operation Gladio.

1990.  Seems so long ago that the European Parliament had the balls to condemn NATO and the US for the terrorism of Operation Gladio.  Here Wikipedia succeeds.

Title:  Operation Gladio

That’s cause the EU doesn’t really care about its people either anymore.  Yes, we know…European Coal and Steel Community, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.

CIA director William Colby was quite candid about this whole operation in his memoirs, it seems…  No wonder he died in a “boating accident” in 1996.

On the other hand…  “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request.”   Well that’s very fucking helpful, FOIA.  Works like a charm!

I recommend Daniele Ganser’s work as well as that of Gianfranco Sanguinetti.

If you’ve made it this far, then you understand the gist of the film under review.  That’s what I tell myself.  I’m like one of those students in the weeds…trying to understand it all as the sun hits the hair of the beautiful girl in the yellow socks.  There are no faces in the summer colors…just glimpses…glints.  Memory is black and white.  Recollections of a man with a movie camera.

-PD