Frank [2014)

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

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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-m√Ęch√© 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 Fran√ßois 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

Citizenfour [2014)

Four days till the US election.

OK, three.

But we must take a look at things as they seem.

And analyze what they might be.

I have always written about Edward Snowden glowingly.

But this film is an enigma.

If you know the history of film, you realize that certain filmmakers (particularly Robert Flaherty) presented staged events as if they were documentaries.

This is known as docufiction.

And if you have followed my take on the two US Presidential candidates (Johnson and Stein can suck it…though Stein has true credibility), you’ll know that my assessment of Trump and Clinton has been mainly through the lens of film.

What we (I) look for is credibility.

Having watched all three Presidential debates (in addition to extensive supplemental research), it has been a no-brainer to conclude that Hillary Clinton has ZERO credibility while Donald Trump has immense credibility.

The differentiation could not be more mark-ed.

[Docu-fiction]

But what about Edward Snowden?

Let me start off by saying that Mr. Snowden does not come off as a wholly believable whistleblower in this film.

Perhaps Laura Poitras’ inexperience as a filmmaker is to blame.

Perhaps it is indeed because Edward Snowden is no actor.

But Mr. Snowden is completely inscrutable and opaque in this documentary.

HOWEVER…

there is something about his ostensible North Carolina drawl which rings true.

And so there are two major possibilities…

  1. Edward Snowden is an extremely brave individual who succeeded in “defecting to the side of the public” (to paraphrase)
  2. Edward Snowden is a superspy

I had read of Snowden.  In studying what he had leaked, his credibility seemed beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Such a damaging agent could not possibly have been a Trojan horse operation (so I thought).

Indeed, the most believable part of this film is the last 10 minutes or so.

Sadly, my “copy” of the movie switched to a German overdub for this final segment.

Which is to say, I was more focused on images in the finale.

Every once in a while I was able to make out the beginning of a phrase from William Binney or Glenn Greenwald.

At all other times during this last portion, the German superimposed upon the English made the latter an almost palimpsest.

My German is that bad.

Entschuldigung.

But here are my reservations concerning hypothesis #1 (from above).

A).¬† Glenn Greenwald’s earliest interview after the leak was clearly shot with the skyline of Hong Kong in the background.¬† It is somewhat inconceivable that the NSA in conjunction with the CIA (and possibly the FBI or DIA) did not immediately follow Greenwald’s every move from that point forward (courtesy of operatives under the Hong Kong station chief of the CIA).

B).¬† Glenn Greenwald is a little too smooth to be believable (the same going for Snowden).¬† Greenwald’s sheer fluency in Portuguese (a bizarre choice for a second language) seems particularly suspect.¬† The credulous me wants to believe that Greenwald is simply brilliant.¬† The incredulous me sees Greenwald as just as much a CIA operative as Snowden.

Indeed, hypothesis #2 would be that Edward Snowden is in fact a CIA operative.  His complete calm at The Mira hotel in Hong Kong does not harmonize with a computer geek who just lifted the largest cache of the most top-secret files in world history.  Instead, his mannerisms almost all point to someone who has been hardened and trained at Camp Peary rather than someone who grew up so conveniently close to NSA headquarters.

Snowden is admittedly a former employee of the CIA.

But what could the purpose of such a Trojan horse exercise possibly be?

One strong possibility comes to mind.

As we learn in Dr. Strangelove, there’s no purpose in having a “doomsday machine” if the enemy doesn’t know about it.

In fact, we don’t even need cinema to illustrate this.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were demonstrations as much as they were mass-murder war crimes.

Weapons are “tested” often as much for the power of display as for the exercise of weapon efficacy.

But the world has always been a weird place.

And it is indeed possible that Edward Snowden is an idealistic, independent party in this affair.

The esteemed Dr. Steve Pieczenik (of whom I have spoken much recently) has lately called Snowden “no hero”.

I’m not exactly sure what he means by that.

Possibly Pieczenik knows the Snowden affair to positively be an intel operation.

Possibly Dr. Pieczenik (whom I respect deeply) merely sees Snowden as of no great bravery when compared to the men and women (both military and intelligence employees) who risk their lives on battlefields across the world…by direct order through the US chain of command.

But Dr. Pieczenik has also pointed out that some orders must be disobeyed.

That is part of the responsibility of defending the Constitution “against all enemies foreign and domestic”.

So we have a very interesting case here.

And it directly parallels our current election choices.

What SEEMS to be?

What is patriotism?

At what point must standard operating procedures be put aside?

What constitutes peaceful protest?

Who among us has the duty and privilege to spearhead a countercoup?

I’ve often thought to myself that I would be a horrible NSA employee because I would have a framed picture of Snowden on my desk.

Suffice it to say, I’m sure that is strictly NOT ALLOWED.

But this film makes me doubt the Snowden story.

As a further instructive detail, why does Snowden (in this film) feel so confident in his ability to withstand torture (!) as a means of coercing from him his password(s)?

Again, that does not sound like a standard ability of an “infrastructure analyst”.

Snowden does not admit in this film to ever having been a field operative.

Indeed, it almost feels like Louisiana Story or Tabu:  A Story of the South Seas when Snowden drapes a red article of cloth over his head and torso to ostensibly prevent Greenwald and Poitras from visually seeing his keystrokes.

It is overly dramatic.

These are thoughts.

No doubt, someone knows much more than me about the truth in this strange tale.

And so the film is, in turns, shockingly brilliant and daftly mediocre.

In a strange way, it is just as suspect as James Bamford’s books on the NSA (which I have long suspected were really NSA propaganda pieces).

One of the keys to propaganda and social engineering is gaining the trust of your targets.

In a large-scale psychological operation, the entire world (more or less) is the target.

Back to cinema, we need look no further than Eva Marie Saint “shooting” Cary Grant in North by Northwest.

Yes, Body of Secrets (Bamford) was damaging to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US military in general (the revelation of Operation Northwoods) while also exposing Israel as a craven “ally” (the USS Liberty “incident”).

But if we are not careful, we are taken in by these juicy bits of “truth” (in all likelihood, very much true) on our way to accepting the whole book as an accurate expos√©.

And this is what makes the world of intelligence so tricky.

Like a chess game in which you are blindsided by a brilliant move.

It takes years (perhaps decades) or an innate brilliance (perhaps both) to discern the organic from the synthetic in the shifting sands of this relativistic world of espionage.

I can only guess and gut.

 

-PD

Lumi√®re d’√©t√© [1943)

The page you requested attempted to redirect to itself, which could cause an infinite loop.

Indeed.

This is one of the finest films of all time.

And yet it is foie gras in the English-speaking world.

Fois gras.  Fat time.  temps de graisse++

Father time.  Vater.

If there can be a French kiss, then can there also be a French love?

Is that not redundant?

No, I don’t think it is.

Even if the French “invented” love.

And the fifth element…quintessential.

Weird film.

Unlike any other culture the French.

Madeleine Renaud is the spitting image of Hillary Clinton.  And just as craven.

Madeleine Robinson makes us drown in our own tears…with her Ophelia hair.

Madeleine, er…rather, Pierre Brasseur is a bastard, but a hell of an actor.

He plays on Duchamp.  Yves Klein.  And prefigures both.

√Čtant donn√©s.¬† Finished in 1966?

And begun in 1946…the year before the Black Dahlia murder.

[in exactly the same pose]

Maybe not.

But Paul Bernard is the biggest bastard of all.

A cuckoo sniper.

Remember the Beltway sniper attacks?

A quick perusal leads to only one possibility:  strategy of tension.

And look at the world news.

Remember China’s accession to the WTO in October 2001.

[before the smoke of 9/11 had cleared]

Literally.

Even the cable guys know this.

But I guy dress.

I most humbly submit the case of Mr. Tojamura.

What we have here is Opération béton 12 years early.

Work.

And love.

And so many cuckoo personages.

You must watch this film to see film language be broken so immaculately.

We would expect nothing less (nor more) from occupied France.

 

-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

Pokolenie [1955)

You think you’ve lost because you don’t know the truth.

Right now.

This very second.

But it takes a lifetime to mull and savor.

Each bit of propaganda proffered.

Yes.

I am a coward.

But honest.

Just scared.  Scared at the rustle of leaves.  Worthless in battle.

When pursued by dumb, fearless slabs of meat.

The brave wear white.

Purely afraid.

We have no real dream to comb out.

And you say we’re not in a real war.

But we are playing chess with Lucifer, age-old.

And so now I apologize to Bobby Fischer.

If you can get to that.

Because he started multiple games.  At random.  In progress.

Textbook tells one way.  And wake up early works well.

But weird candlelight attic window can’t be replicated.

The most valuable aberration.

For now I have created language.

And I no longer need you.

Your wars have ceased in importance.

Because I can implode your machines.  Which you rely on so heavily.

Andrzej Wajda a third time.

Tadeusz ŇĀomnicki was a Daniel Craig orphan here.

And you think left better off a poem.

Why shoehorn Cahiers?

We can all do it for the sake of a Urszula ModrzyŇĄska.

Curls to comb out like Marx’s beard.

And our Jewish comrades.

It’s no joke.

Keep the beat, Tadeusz Janczar.  Neu!  Neu!  Neu!

Like Klaus Dinger.  Single-minded.  Double-footed.  Almost an arm to spare.

You will see Roman Polanski act.

And scream.

Like Beavis.

Ah!  Ah!  Ah!

No Butt-Head doth stem the bathos.

Dodoism, now and forever!!!!!!

 

-PD

The Life of Adam [2015)

Back again with another installment from the talented Independent Media Solidarity group.

This is a sort of follow-up to We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook (which I previously reviewed).

Our producers are Peter Klein (famously described by Lenny Pozner [ostensibly a grieving parent] as “Evil” [sic]), TNN (presumably TyrannyNewsNetwork [a YouTube “handle”]), and MrStosh (previously identified by his [?] YT handle MrStosh314 in the aforementioned film).

Our narrators are SwanSong (another YouTube handle [whose voice sounds strikingly like that of David Knight from infowars.com]), Insanemedia (the name of the site Swan Song edits…another YouTube name?), and the previously mentioned producers (minus Klein).

I have to admit…

The first time I heard Steve Shine’s opening song (about Adam Lanza) I wasn’t overly impressed.

But it has grown on me.

It employs echo delay rather effectively.

But let’s clear the air.

Just what is it to which this film’s title refers?

It is, if I am not mistaken, a bit of police radio activity from Dec. 14, 2012 which sounds like the phrase “end the life of Adam”.

I have been familiar with that thread of inquiry for awhile.

I initially didn’t put much stock into those elusive words.

It’s almost like something you’d hear on a ghost-hunting program.

But it makes some sense…

Was it a garbled phrase?

A twisted transmission?

Or did some official from some U.S. government agency (FEMA?) actually utter the words “end the life of Adam”?

Because, you see, within the Sandy Hook research “community” (hey, if our 16 intel agencies can be a community, then fuck off!) it is not firmly established whether Adam Lanza even existed.

This emaciated superhuman of murderous efficiency seems to be a prime candidate for fictional personage.

In the opening credits of our film, you can also see a graphic symbolizing the theory that Adam Lanza (who may have only existed in a handful of photographs) was actually his brother Ryan Lanza at an earlier age.

To simplify (Mr. Ockham), there was no Adam.

There was only Ryan.

And to borrow a phase from another brave bunch of auteurs (aside from this IMS crew), it is quite possible (perhaps even probable) that “nobody died at Sandy Hook”.

The consensus from Dr. Fetzer and others seems to be that it was a drill which was passed off as the real thing.

I have not had the pleasure of reading Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, but the fact that Amazon.com, Inc. banned the book (after it had done brisk sales for about a month) while continuing to sell Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is really a case of the world having been turned on its head (to paraphrase Guy Debord).

But we press on…

The story of Adam Lanza seems to be about more than just gun control.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that the primary purpose of the event was to take another Fabian socialist baby-step towards disarming the American public, but there’s a little more to it.

IMS do a great job of highlighting this.

Adam Lanza is Tim McVeigh updated for 2012.

It had been about 17 years.

It was time for another unbelievable domestic terrorist to emerge.

Now, I’m no expert on the OKC bombing, but from what I’ve seen it looks like McVeigh was a patsy in the mold of Oswald.

Adam Lanza seems to be a whole new level of government duplicity:  a virtual killer.

Sandy Hook seems to be a “kinder, gentler” form of state-sponsored (you read right) terror.

My guess is that some of our leaders in the U.S. fancy themselves to be quite humane now that they’ve marginally figured out how to kill without killing.

All they wanted were the effects.

“Never let a good tragedy go to waste.”¬† –Rahm Emanuel?

If true, this would be a new systemic trend.

It goes along laughably with the “pinpoint precision” of drone attacks.

We know that is not true.

Ask the residents in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Or I might have it all wrong…

Because the truth is on CNN, right?

Remember Desert Storm?

Ooohhh…Ahhhhh…

Cameras on bombs.

Look, ma!¬† We’re killing the “right” people.

Yay!!!

Look how humane war has become ūüôā

The Gulf War…1990/1991.

An in-and-out burger war.

“Kinder, gentler” bombing.

At least it was marginally “prudent” (though completely duplicitous).

You can take the Hill & Knowlton campaign…Kuwaiti babies ripped from incubators.

[As witnessed by the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S….who (she) was not in Kuwait…and was not advertised for who she really was…because she was acting…in front of the U.S. Congress…in a public relations campaign to shore up public sentiment that war (the Gulf War) was necessary.]

But you can also dig deep…into the State Department…and know that Saddam was given a promise that we would not interfere if he invaded Kuwait.

Whoops…¬† Sounds like a cynical stratagem FOR WAR to me.

Just itching to get their war on (as the inimitable Wayne Madsen says)…

So back to Adam Lanza.

No.  Wait a minute.

Let’s not forget the United States bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (1999).

In eight years (since our techno-war, our “smart bomb” Gulf War) we hadn’t learned how to read a map.¬† Fucking ridiculous!

We “see” Adam Lanza from the back.¬† Playing Dance Dance Revolution (not to be confused with East Germany…the other white DDR).

“Adam Lanza” with his Beatle haircut.

So what is this “other” agenda to which I referred?

Other than gun control.

It is that WEIRD = BAD.

If someone is shy or out of the ordinary, then they are your next shoot-’em-up rampage candidate.

Who benefits?

Cui bono?

The system.  The spectacle (to again reference Guy Debord).

If you don’t look the part.

If you aren’t in style.

God forbid you’re as dorky as Napoleon Dynamite.

Then everyone should fear you.

You are a virus.  A stain.

What did they focus on?

Autism.

The purported acts of Adam Lanza have nothing to do with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

But that was one of the insidious messages which the DUMB public was to receive.

Yet some are not buying it.

Even if I was a proponent of gun control (which I am not…rather, quite the opposite), I wouldn’t feel good about the hollow (ineffective) victory achieved by the national security state through Sandy Hook.

It’s worse than Realpolitik.¬† It’s the consummation of our simulation culture.

We should get around to dragging Baudrillard into this at some point.

So, you ask:¬† who’s fighting for you?

Well, in addition to Independent Media Solidarity, there is Sheila Matthews of ablechild.org.¬† You can hear her story in The Life of Adam about the quest to make Lanza’s psychiatric treatment history public.

It’s not public.

Almost nothing about this weird Sandy Hook case is public.

It’s all secret.

It’s all in line with the limits of reality.

If the reality was that it was merely a drill (passed off as real) to sway public opinion, then it would have the limits of reality placed upon it.

The fraud could only be as convincing as its budget (and the devious professionalism of those running this operation).

The unnecessary secrecy is in line with the potential truth.  There are no pictures of the crime scene because there was no crime scene.

Rather, the crime scene was the scene of a far different crime.

The crime was fraud, not murder.

I can’t help bringing up Anderson Cooper again…because his whole role in this shenanigan is really revolting.

It is no stretch of the imagination to say that he and CNN are responsible for an extremely articulate, tenured professor losing his job.

That is the misfortune of Dr. James Tracy.

You will hear his story in The Life of Adam.

You’ll see the fumbling, bumbling police Sgt. Paul Vance (who threatens people like me for spreading rumors).¬† This is the same authority who couldn’t make up his mind where the supposed shooter (Lanza) shot himself.¬† Was it in the hall?¬† Room 10?¬† There’s a difference.¬† How could you forget that?¬† It’s fresh on your mind.

Better have a look at your FEMA script one more time…

Of particular interest is the story of Sabrina Phillips.

I must admit that her line of inquiry sometimes loses me.  In other words, she is deeper into this than me.

But I really respect what she is trying to do.

Dig up the truth.  Damn it!

Not only does television suck (sorry all you network addicts), but the news is blatantly fake.

Anderson Cooper needs to march right back to Langley and demand better acting lessons.

As James Mason said, perhaps the “Actors Studio”.

You are no Cary Grant, Mr. Cooper.¬† You’re no Murrow.

You’re nothing.¬† You’re just a well-dressed sellout.

The Internet will reveal your grave error in getting Tracy fired.

You’re no journalist.¬† You’re no better than the “evil empire” over at Fox News.

You know that.  Deep down inside.

You are truly a gigantic nothing.

There’s no Edelman to PR you out of this one.

You lose.  Your network loses.  CNN is not your network.  Seems pure CIA to me.

Ok, mini-diatribe over.

I hope you will take the time to watch The Life of Adam and its equally-brilliant predecessor We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook.

The sad fact is that conspiracies are ruling our lives.¬† We can ignore them, but they are the main political tool of the 21st century.¬† They get somewhat more sophisticated each time, but they are still false flags…still just kids with their hands in the cookie jar pointing at an uninvolved sibling.

 

-PD

Mr. Arkadin [1955)

I am a bad film critic.

A good, bad film critic.

Because this is one of those films which requires a certain attention to detail.

Get the damn title right.

So what is it?

I have just watched the British version…we’ll call it (adhering to common practice) Confidential Report.

I had seen this once before.

To me it was always Mr. Arkadin.¬† I didn’t realize the level of controversy surrounding this film’s numerous versions.

But let me point something out.¬† All of the versions are within a few minutes of each other.¬† Sure, some are in Spanish.¬† That makes a difference.¬† But at a certain point it is splitting hairs.¬† Either you’ve seen this thing or you haven’t.

I can understand the legalistic approach to film preservation when it comes to this picture.

If the whole thing isn’t presented as a flashback, I can see how the composition might be negatively affected.

But who cares?¬† Bogdanovich?¬† Sure…I care too.

And so let’s get around to why one should even care in the first place.

This is a magnificent movie!

I didn’t really think so the first time I saw it.

It’s possible to see this film and be caught in a The Big Sleep haze.

So maybe it does depend on the version.

Maybe the film isn’t supposed to be confusing.

Yet, there’s something nice (pleasant) about being confused.

If this was a universal maxim, I would walk around with a smile on my face perpetually.

But the confusion here is a rare sort.

When I first saw Mr. Arkadin I mainly “retained” (absorbed?) only its mood.

Something was happening.  Orson Welles was a shadowy character.

There wasn’t a sense of continuity.

But here’s another possibility.

This film needs (deserves) to be seen more than once.

The action moves fast.

Weird things are afoot.

The whole film is a sort of riddle.

And the symbolism is as stinky-strong as Roquefort.

Wikipedia might lead you to Basil Zaharoff, but my mind was wandering more towards George Soros and/or Rupert Murdoch.

Even Jeff Bezos…these guys who feel compelled to protect their corporate empires by buying the Wall Street Journal (or Washington Post).

We make fun of Kissinger because he got the Nobel Peace Prize.

We make fun of Obama for the same reason.

Neither deserved it.  [the prize]

It is as repugnant as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

But really, we are dumb.

We Lumpenproletariat.

Lumpy Gravy.

We lump together Kissinger with Brzezinski.  And then we throw Soros in for good measure.

And to top it all off, we place Murdoch like a cherry atop the mystère.

There is no mystery.

Bouvard and Pécuchet are aghast.

Maybe he was born in Muńüla.

Perhaps he died in Monte Carlo.

Methods.  Experiments.

This is the dossier on Mr. Arkadin.

You are paying to have yourself spied on.

Whether you like it or not.

Because, with all you have been through, you can’t even remember your real identity.

Oh yes…the tired trope of super-soldier pap and shows like Blindspot.

We almost buy it.

It goes a long way.

But it falls short.

Too few comma splices.

Yes, too few.

I will, be, here with Pynchon.  Is not a comma splice.

This is approaching the time in which firemen SET fires.  Bradbury.  Truffaut.

And among the contraband is Tropic of Cancer.

Yes, my heart rends a bit.  As I reach out.

Julie Christie…the rumors are true.

A shamus hired by a murderer.

Belgrade.¬† Z√ľrich.

Orson Welles is painting a portrait of Europe.

Corruption.

A song for Europe.

Mother of pearl.

They say Rothschild came in.

Always came in.  But with a nice glass of Lafite.

ONI was sniffing around.  They were the first.  Good old chaps!

War profiteering runs all through the story of Basil Zaharoff.

And Orson Welles borrows this story artfully.

As when Patricia Medina is drunk on the yacht.

All through the film.  Those expressionist camera angles.  Vertov.  Ruttman.

But with the wine…more sinister.¬† As Arkadin is lucid.¬† Listening.¬† Gathering intelligence.

DYB.

We need a new generation of jet fighters.¬† Though the last generation never saw action in a real war.¬† Hasn’t been a real war since WWII.¬† Profiteers are restricted in their movements.

The Spanish Empire finally collapsed because of this corruption.  Will it happen in the exact same manner to the United States?

The parallels are more similar than Rome.

It is too much.  The shoddiness of these machines.  I must stop here.

 

-PD

 

 

Mulholland Dr. [2001)

How not to start a symphony.  With a rest.  #5 (7)j j-j o ^ (7)j j-j o

Beethoven started with a pause.  A pause, in this case, is unheard.  Felt.

No hay banda.

Il y a n’est pas d’orchestre.

I wish I was more confident in my French memory.

The Spanish is simpler.

[silencio]

It could be Roberto Benigni in La vita è bella reeling off a priceless punchline.

[silencio]

It could be John Cage forcing us to listen in 4’33”.

Painfully good.  A perfect film.  Mulholland Drive.  Dr. Mulholland.

I’ve either gained you or lost you by this point.

Dr. Benway.

You will excuse the word virus at work.

Perhaps the word bacteria predates Burroughs.

Always a cut-up in class.

And those classy suits.

It’s a talent to be weird, though Charles Mingus would argue otherwise.

A talent to be simple.

You have to stay with me like Lord Buckley or Lester Bangs.

I got yer Oxford comma right here.

, and don’t I know it!

She takes Hayworth’s name from Gilda.

Rita.

Laura Elena Harring.¬† Laura Harring if you’re into the whole brevity thing.¬† Concision of expression.¬† Bthvn.

If you really wanna impress the familia, it’s Laura Elena Mart√≠nez Herring.¬† Miss USA 1985.¬† Just missed 1984.

Or well, Wilbur…

Mr. Ed.¬† Paging Mr….

Herring.  Pink.  She is a living Modigliani onscreen for a brief moment on a couch.  A stippled nipple in deep focus.

But this is not her film.  She is a MacGuffin in heels.

No.¬† This is Naomi Watts’ film.¬† Boy is it ever!

But let us pop this balloon before it goes all Vivre sa vie on us.

Is this the best Amer-ican film ever made?  Probably.

Dog Star Man has a steep mountain to climb without a soundtrack to blow Sisyphus to his zenith.

F for Fake is to American cinema what Histoire(s) du cinema is to the French pantheon.

The only real challenger, then, might be Gummo.

But let us return to Maestro Lynch.¬† David Lynch.¬† Montana Dave.¬† The Cowboy…

This is, to reiterate, a perfect film.  Such creations do not come along often.

As such, we should savor each morsel of finesse embodied in this feast for eyes and mind.

And don’t forget the ears.¬† Badalamenti.¬† Badda bing, badda boom.

What would Chico Marx have made of this film???

Who cares…¬† It’s Chico stuffed into a dough ball suitcase with $50k and Groucho and Harpo mashed up

with even a good portion of Zeppo as Little Mr. Sunshine in Naomi Watts’ first character Betty Elms.

Nightmare on Elms’ street.

Mulholland Dr.

Great minds think alike.¬† Cannes premier of this film May 16, 2001.¬† Radiohead’s Amnesiac album?¬† June 5, 2001.

Rita.  Camille.  Diane Selwyn.

Kryptos.  Jim Sanborn.  Mengenlehreuhr.

Set theory.

(0,2,3,5)  Le Sacre du printemps.

Spitting espresso into a napkin, strikes fear in the hearts of the most hardened capitalists.

Fear.

The Flower That Drank the Moon.  Not a real film.

The Big Sleep.  She.  H. Rider Haggard.  Angel-A.

Finnegans, upon waking, diapasoned Wachet auf.

Just call me Death.  Everyone else does.

We don’t stop here.

We push on.  Like Gene Wilder on a magical fucking river of chocolate.

You can’t split the existential atom any further.¬† Kubrick tried in 2001.¬† And now Lynch had arrived at the same year.

If you open a MacGuffin, you will find nothing.

I have a bag full of money and I can’t remember my name.¬† That is Hollywood.

This is the girl.

And the gun.

24x per second.

Truth before the big lie even sprouted wings.¬† L’Effroyable imposture.¬† V√©rit√©s et Mensonges.

It’s like the old Edison tone tests.¬† Hit the lights.¬† Who’s playing?¬† The phonograph or the violinist?

Like looking at L.A. through Roy Orbison’s glasses.¬† A blur…a haze.

No one has split the literary atom any further than Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

[…]

Those three little dots.

The rhythm of speech.  From Modest Mussorgsky to Harry Partch.

Boris Godunov was lousy so we had to shave his armpits.

We would have never gotten to know each other so well, Boris and I.  Henry.  Mr. Bones.

Yeah, I keep on sloggin’ and get diminishing marginal returns.

Just a fancy way of saying less and less.  Nothing (more or less).

And then nothing turns itself inside out.

Naomi Watts goes from gee swell to Valerie Solanas.

The key.  CERN.  When they rev it up.

What does it open?

Möbius (stripped bare by his bachelorettes), even

[The Large Hadron Collider]

Mimesis.  Die a Jesus.

Greatest goal in life?

To achieve immortality and then die.

J. Hoberman.  J. Mascis.  J. Spaceman.

Putrefaction is merely Der Untergang des Abendlandes.  The decline of the evening lands.

Rises east, sets The West.

Civility.

L’Usine de rêves.

That killer blonde that we all want.  From Kim Novak to Daniel Craig.

Monty Montgomery.  Hope you only see him once more.

Good v. Bad, 410 U.S. 113 (2001)

The abortion of Newtonian physics.

Twice.

Thrice.

Michael J. Anderson as Larry Silverstein.

We don’t stop here.

This is the girl.

Maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.

And we watched the building collapse.

That would be the shadow government.

An accident is a terrible event‚ÄĒnotice the location of the accident.

Who gives a key, and why?

-PD

ťáĆŤ¶čŚÖęÁ䨚ľĚ [1983)

[LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI (1983)]

Woof.  I really got my years mixed up.  Not by much, but a few years in technological terms is quite meaningful nowadays.  And it started really exploding in the 80s.

In some respects we have Japan to thank.  And while we might think strictly of Atari when remembering the techno 80s there were other advances outside of home entertainment.

But yes.  I thought I was watching a movie from 1979.  I misread the box.

I missed the fine print (Made on Mars).

We have previously seen Sonny Chiba as an ass-kicking karate expert, but here the name of the game is swordplay.

Yet that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Really, this film makes my recent proclamation of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as being a weird film almost completely meaningless.

THIS is a weird film!

It is weird even when it’s not weird, and when it’s actually weird?¬† This is some far-out David Icke kind of stuff.

But first a word about the atrocious title.

For all I know there may actually be a story of seven samurai in Japanese history, but the reference (and plot) to eight samurai is to Kurosawa what 14 Minute Abs would be to 15 Minute Abs.¬† Put differently, “If you liked The Seven Samurai, then you’ll LOVE The Eight Samurai.”¬† Or, “Purchase admission to Seven Samurai and receive an additional samurai at no extra cost.”

But wait…there’s more!

Director Kenji Fukasaku really had a dodgy band of art directors/set designers to work with.¬† It’s not that they don’t have the chops…it’s their taste which we question.¬† And the music supervisor should absolutely be made to sit in the corner and listen to John O’Banion for all eternity.

Plain and simple:  this film is as cheesy as a Velveeta milkshake.  Indeed.  Bottoms up.

And yet, for all of that maudlin naivete it still passes muster as not only a watchable film but (dare I say?) a good film.¬† Not great, good…

Why?  Mostly the acting.  Yes, amidst this candy store of sugary-sweet special effects and fantasy costumes there are moments of real, inspired acting with actual technical proficiency.

Hiroko Yakushimaru is really pretty good as the princess (always has to be a princess in these kinds of stories).

Hiroyuki Sanada plays what for perceptive Western audiences would be the Han Solo character (though Solo’s precedent is almost certainly in the older, classic samurai films).

Sadly, Sonny Chiba doesn’t really get a chance to shine here.¬† There are all sorts of ridiculous hand-weapon battles, but not much in the way of empty-fist war ballet.

As with the ubiquitous princess, we also have lots of crystals…glowing crystals.

If it seems I’m making fun of this film, that’s because I am.¬† But the truth is that I really liked it.

Would I watch it again?  Sober?  Probably not.

But am I disappointed to have sat through it?  Absolutely not.  It was entertaining and, in its own way, touchingly artful.

One last note.  Mari Natsuki is one bad bitch.  Ever wanted to see a smoking-hot undead person (reptilian?) bathe in a pool of blood before lasciviously kissing her grown son?  Me neither.  But I saw it.  And in some strange way my life is richer for having had that experience.  Happy viewing!

-PD

The Ring [1927)

In the movies.  What happens?  Life is lived for us.  We live vicariously.  And so, does this art/entertainment mirror life?  Yes and no.  It is a continuum.

With Alfred Hitchcock we know to expect the unexpected.  His career was built on bold stories and breakthrough storytelling.  Yet, this is a silent film.  1927.  Early Hitchcock.

This was not the mature filmmaker who would subvert expectations to thrill audiences by sneaking up on them.  This is a much more traditional film.

Indeed, it is (believe it or not) a sports film.  The sport?  Boxing.  Hence the title.  But Hitchcock was ever the astute bringer of details so we might well expect that the title will have, at the least, a double meaning.

What is truly Hitchcockean is the psychological thriller aspect of this film.¬† This is mostly embodied in the character of “One Round” Jack Sanders (Carl Brisson).

The plot then is driven by motives of redemption, revenge (of a sort), and vindication.  It would make sense that a sporting story should have as its ostensible goal a victory for the hero.

It should be noted that, despite the relatively mundane silent film trappings, this is actually an incredibly odd story.¬† The elevator pitch would go something like this…boxer’s wife obsessed with another boxer.¬† Yes, obsessed.¬† Like, pictures on the piano…staring dreamily at glossy portraits.¬† A very weird premise.¬† You’ll have to see the film to know just how Lillian Hall-Davis becomes enthralled with Bob Corby (Ian Hunter).¬† It should also be noted that Hitchcock (or some clueless front-office dork) managed to credit Lillian Hall-Davis as playing the character of (wait for it) Lillian Hall-Davis.

It is a weird birth-of-film aspect.¬† In fact, the copy of the film I have is off center to the left…such that the character names at the beginning of the film (not what we are used to nowadays with end credits) are cut off by the encroaching margin of a misaligned aspect ratio.¬† But the point is that when Ms. Hall-Davis makes her entrance in the film, there is an intertitle (and it was this to which I referred) which explicitly says “The Girl” and lower “Lillian Hall-Davis.”¬† It is as if Brecht (or Artaud) somehow got a hold of the film and decided to engage in a bit of narrative fuckery.

As for Ian Hunter (who actually has a full character name:¬† Bob Corby), we must remember the date (1927) and do our best to put Mott the Hoople out of our heads.¬† Likewise, I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t mention the immense talents of Gordon Harker (who plays Jack’s trainer).

While this film seems hundred of years removed from North by Northwest (for example), it is another integral glimpse into the mind of perhaps the greatest director of them all.

-PD