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Friday, October third, 2014

🦋 12 Gates to the City

I've been really looking forward for a while to the release of the new Gary Davis documentary, Harlem Street Singer. Saw it last night with old Xyris friend Ed and was not in the least disappointed -- indeed quite the contrary. I am here to tell you about a movie that should not be missed -- if you either (a) dig folk music or (b) think you would like to dig folk music, you ought to see this movie.

Gary Davis might be my very favorite guitar player -- and nicely, Harlem Street Singer provides plenty of commentary from guitarists that bears out this favoriting :) -- perhaps the nicest thing about this movie is the footage -- of Davis playing and singing and preaching and teaching, and also some great concert footage of bands he influenced, including Hot Tuna and the Dead. There are also interviews with guitarists he taught and influenced, including with Bob Weir and Jorma, and a monologue by Woody Mann. Mann is also the producer.

Let me leave you with "12 Gates to the City." This is that miraculous beast, the song that every version of it, is fantastic. In the movie Mann and singer Bob Sims performed a version of it that opened my eyes all over again -- check out this couple of different performances of Davis' tune (or Davis' arrangement of a trad. tune? Not entirely sure)(Hmm, and this seems like it would be a good tune for learning) -- and then watch this movie!

posted afternoon of October third, 2014: 1 response
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Sunday, January 6th, 2013

🦋 Let's watch

Patrick Mccue and Tobias Wiesner's ataptation of Golem XIV, by Stanislaus Lem. (full screen recommended, and headphones, and volume.)

When you came into being, you found yourself with a mind you did not choose.

posted evening of January 6th, 2013: 1 response

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

🦋 El día en que nací yo, como dice la canción

Here is (I think) the song that the opening credits of Cría Cuervos make reference to -- El día que nací yo, by Carlos Cano.

posted afternoon of July 4th, 2012: Respond
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Saturday, June 16th, 2012

🦋 Getting the conversation started

A couple of observations at semi-random about Saura's Cría Cuervos, in the interests of jump-starting the discussion that Richard and Stu are leading on the weekend of July 6 -- a few things that have been running through my head while watching it.

I am imagining an alternate but parallel reality in which this film is an animated feature rather than live-action, and the artist who created it is Edward Gorey. I'm not sure how to illustrate this, quite,* but Saura's world and Gorey's seem to have quite a bit in common both visually and thematically.

I dig the theme song, "Porque te vas" by Jeanette (and see also this cover, by Pato Fu), while thinking that some of its appeal for me lies in its foreignness, that if it were an American song I might well find it bland and unlistenable.

Am I wrong in thinking Geraldine Chaplin played several parts? Looking at the Criterion page... It only lists her as playing Ana's mother ('s ghost); but I thought that she was also playing the character of Ana herself as an adult, in soliloquies and voice-overs.

The movie's title, "Bring up ravens" (or perhaps "Raise ravens" is better, or even "Keep ravens"?) comes from the proverb "Cría cuervos, y te sacarán los ojos"-- "Raise ravens, and they will pluck out your eyes." Thinking of Ana and her sisters as "ravens," as malevolent, is not quite clicking for me. Perhaps it will work better to think of this expression as showing how the adults in the film are thinking of the kids, rather than as a statement about the reality of the film. A parallel English-language construction might be to title the movie "Sharper than a serpent's tooth." One other thing, is this about ravens perhaps what was being signified by the plate full of chicken feet that was in the refrigerator every time Ana opened it?

Having the pet guinea pig die near the end of the film seemed a bit like overkill -- that whole scene (and the burial, natch) could have been chopped from the movie without losing much, I think. (It makes Roni into more of a narrative device, a Chekhovian gun, than a full character, which is how I had been seeing him earlier in the movie.)

Speaking of scenes, the one about 15 minutes in, where Ana sees herself jumping, has got to rank pretty high on the index of emotionally overwhelming scenes in movies. Her character made me think a bit of Oskar in The Tin Drum. (Come to think of it, another movie for which parallel-universe Gorey might well be a good pick as animator.) Ana Torrent's other movies are going right onto my Netflix queue, starting with El espíritu de la colmena.

*And yet it seems to me that the interaction between the young Ana and Nicolas in the beginning of the trailer makes as good an illustration of that as anything.

†This suggests what might be a fun game, imagining which artist would animate which various live-action movies... Ghostbusters (perhaps cheating, this movie is very nearly animated already) suggests maybe, I don't know, Miyazaki? And Treasure of the Sierra Madre would of course go to Warner Bros. -- I think indeed that this may have already happened... Can very easily picture Bugs saying to Elmer, "Eh... We don't need no stinkin' badges, Doc!"

‡And looking at imdb, I am feeling amazed that this title has never yet been used for a movie...

posted evening of June 16th, 2012: 1 response

Saturday, March third, 2012

🦋 Better a good dinner than a fine coat.

Let's watch the Threepenny Opera -- online in its entirety in Criterion Films' restoration, with subtitles that can be turned on or off via the "CC" button at the bottom of the frame:

You're welcome. (And thanks for bringing this to my attention, Allan!)

posted morning of March third, 2012: Respond
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Saturday, February 18th, 2012

🦋 Herzog's Bone Yard (a little east of Stockton)

Nearly everyone in this town of fewer than 2,000 people some 95-miles east of San Francisco has a story about the two men, who were known as wild partiers and methamphetamine users.

“It’s freaky when you realize you knew someone like that,” said Jennifer Brown, 57, a bartender from nearby Clements.

Mr. Shermantine and Mr. Herzog were regulars at several of the local bars, including the Linden Inn, owned by John Vanderheiden.

“I heard him boasting about how he killed a guy just to kill him,” said Mr. Vanderheiden, who said he shrugged off Mr. Herzog’s stories as barroom bragging until 1998, when his 25-year-old daughter, Cyndi, disappeared after a night out with the men.

It is difficult to picture reading this story without wondering whether Herzog has started working on his documentary. Only icing on the cake that one of the murderers is named Herzog.

posted evening of February 18th, 2012: 2 responses
➳ More posts about Werner Herzog

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

🦋 Pounding out chords of a fearful symmetry*

Watching The Artist with Ellen and Sylvia last night I was reminded of what a powerful instrument a movie soundtrack is. What a beautful movie! I recommend it for the acting (including Uggie the dog, who is replacing Asta in my affections), for the direction, for the dancing, but maybe most of all for the soundtrack. (I loved that when the movies started featuring sound, the soundtrack featured Pennies from Heaven, as sung by Rose Murphy.) At points the movie was best understood as a soundtrack delivery vehicle.

Update: ...And apparently the soundtrack generated a little controversy of its own...

* (cf. Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book.)

posted afternoon of January 22nd, 2012: Respond
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Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

🦋 Let's Watch

"The Dark of the Moon"...

You're welcome! (Thanks for the link, Kevin!)

posted afternoon of October 23rd, 2011: Respond

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

🦋 Road Trip

Ellen and I watched The Stone Raft (2002) tonight. A good, solid movie and a faithful adaptation of the book. It did not give me the sense of being in the presence of genius, as the book did; but then it also did not take weeks to watch. There is a lot of beauty in the movie and I would certainly recommend it. This book was half road trip/buddy story/love story, half weird unresolvable meandering about the metaphysical/​metahistorical status of Spain and Portugal; the team that turned it into a movie made the wise choice to focus on the more filmable aspects of the book. And the dog! What a sweet dog!

posted evening of October 8th, 2011: Respond
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Sunday, May 15th, 2011

🦋 Journalistic Memoir

I picked up Krakauer's Into the Wild at the South Orange Public Library's annual sale yesterday, and read it last night and today. It is a great read, hard to put down: it takes you into McCandless' world and into various historical frames with remarkable clarity. I have always admired Krakauer as a journalist; what he is doing here is not so much journalism as memoir -- he is examining himself through the lens of the research he did into McCandless' life and death. I wrote at the time I saw the movie that I found it sappy and that I expected the sappy qualities were Penn's additions to the story rather than Krakauer's writing. But they're not, or not precisely -- the book is an exercise in romanticization. What keeps it from being sappy is Krakauer's clarity about what he is doing in writing the book, about why he is romanticizing McCandless' life. The reflexive element of Krakauer's authorial voice was missing from the movie, so the problem was not additions by Penn but rather omission. Anyways: I found myself crying on the last pages of the book, and it came as something of a surprise how emotionally invested in the story, in the author's voice, I had become.

Another beautiful thing about the book which was (as best I can recall) missing from the movie, is the epigraphs. Every chapter is headed with excerpts from the books McCandless was reading at the end of his life, and from other books Krakauer finds relevant to the case. His judgement is superb.

posted afternoon of May 15th, 2011: 2 responses
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