Friday, February 27, 2004

charlize theron as aeon flux? -just read this piece on the guardian film site, which suggests theron has the part of aeon flux in a film version. curious. theron of course is currently favourite for best actress at the oscars, thanks to her role in monster. which almost got a non-showing a month or two ago, when it was only shown during the afternoon. with the publicity of the oscars though it looks like monster is set for a proper run in april. still, curious casting for aeon flux.

Title: House Of Leaves
Author: Mark Z Danielewski

House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielwiski - One night Johnny Truant gets a call from his friend. The old man upstairs has died, and he has found something he thinks Johnny will be interested in. This is how Johnny inherits Zampano's trunk - a box filled with papers, notes, scribblings, which together form the definitive critique/document on The Navidson Record.

Will Navidson was a prize winning photo-journalist, but being constantly away put a strain on his relationship with his family. So he moves to Virginia with his girlfriend and two kids, determined that they will become the perfect family. He can't let his profession go though, so he decides to make a film about his family, installing cameras around the house .

However the film that was finally released as The Navidson Record was about the house that they had moved into. It started one weekend, they had been away, and when they came back there was a doorway between the parents and kids room, which wasn't there before. bemused by this addition Navidson calls in his brother and an old friend. But before an answer can be found to this doorway's appearance another doorway appears. This time leading into an impossible hallway - leading to an impossibly large maze of cold, dark and unstable corridors and rooms.

Truant doesn't know what to make of the book which tells all about the film and analyses everything about it - especially when he can't find anyone that has even seen or heard of this film. Initially it is a curiosity, something he picks at now and then. Eventually he is sucked in though, and strange things start happening - any time he finds himself in a dark place he starts to smell something really bad, and get the feeling that there is something in the darkness which is coming for him. A sensation which seems to mirror that described by those who explored the extra spaces of that house .

House of Leaves is a layered work, which is mad and absorbing. Zampano as author of the book is the character perhaps least present, as he is concentrating on the film and the events from the house . The book is presented as non-fiction, along with accompanying foot notes and appendices. It is within these footnotes that we encounter the tangents of Truant - Zampano's notes are fleshed out by Truant, which are in turn fleshed out by the editors of the published volume. Within these notes Truant gains a tendency to start talking about himself, and sometimes about the things he has learnt about Zampano while researching the found material. At times taking up pages with his secondary narrative.

House of Leaves is wilfully difficult, forcing the reader to work, to experience. Layering up these notes, sending you off to read 40 pages of letters in an appendix. Building us up to a point of real tension with the events in the house , only to follow that with a discussion of the various articles to have commented on a gesture or comment. This is part of the experimental nature of House of Leaves, as are the visual and narrative constructions. The fonts used for the various notes are different to indicate whether they are by Zampano, Truant, or the Editors. Every time the word house appears it is a different shade/font from the rest of the text (except for one occurrence in my copy!), even if the word house appears in a different language; apparently earlier editions even had the word house printed in blue. By the same token apparently earlier editions also had sections of text which were struck through printed in red text. As well as an actual Braille plate for a quote which appears in Braille. To indicate the nature of the material Truant is dealing with, there are omissions, pages missing, damaged, erased, which he has put into the book in whatever condition he can.

Appropriately the sections exploring these extra spaces in the house are where the narrative becomes most challenging. Reflecting the anxiety of the explorers, creating a certain unease in the reader. And at it's worst threatening to lose the reader altogether - switching to columns, referring to irrelevant or non-existent footnotes, layering in lists, backwards or upside down text, pages with only a word or two on them at all. It was this kind of presentation which attracted me to House of Leaves in the first place. I found it on the shelves of a book shop - an oversized slab of a book, 700 pages, which as you flick through you can just see how messed up the book is, how much effort has gone into it's presentation and construction.

Initially I wasn't sure what to make of House of Leaves. Having come across it I did some research, even found an extract from the chapter online. All of which continued to pique my interest. Starting to read it, I suspected that it might be a slog, the density of detail, the way it gets bogged down in the analysis of every frame of film. But quickly I found myself sucked in, finding myself sitting till 4am reading it. House of Leaves is so many things; a certain perverse humour exists in the pedantic and at time self-involved and inconsistent discussions; Truant's tangents are just so different from the core, tales of drugs, sex and fucking up; then there is the slow unravelling story that is at the heart of it all, which I at least, found to be compelling and unsettling. House of Leaves I suspect is a unique work, I've certainly never seen or read any thing like it and I found it undeniably memorable.

Title: Dreamers
Cast: Michael Pitt, Loius Garrel, Eva Green, Robin Renucci, Anna Chancellor
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

The Dreamers is somehow lacking, for me it doesn't seem to satisfy on either front. A film which combines a love story with a political background. Matthew is an American student in Paris in 1968, a time of upheaval. As a film buff he is there when a key cinema is shut down by the government, which is where he hooks up with the twins Isobel and Theo. The pair are an odd couple, with the suggestion that there is something deeper to their relationship. They draw Matthew into their web, but of course this third presence in their perfect pairing creates tension. However there seems to be something naïve and bemusing about these emotional interplays. The impressions of something incestuous going on seem to ring hollow. When presented with an opportunity to have sex with the gorgeous Isobel, Matthew instead runs away, inexplicably. The proposed jealousy felt be Theo seems to amount to little more than pouts and dirty looks. As for the politics, the threesome manage to exist in a bubble, which practically denies the events they would like to claim that they were heavily involved in. The one scene where Matthew and Theo actually discuss their opposing views only reinforces the sense of naivety, and the idea that the characters aren't quite in touch with reality. But then given the obsession with film, and the part that plays in the narrative, that may well be the idea. Curiously the part of Matthew was apparently going to be played by Jake Gylenhall (Donnie Darko), but it seems the nudity was too much for him, instead the part is taken by Michael Pitt, who is no stranger to controversy, with his role in Bully. As an idea The Dreamers probably could have worked, but in the end it is somewhat disappointing.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Title: Dogville
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, James Caan
Director: Lars Von Trier

Title: All Quiet On The Orient Express
Author: Magnus Mills

It was either the day before, or the day that i saw dogville that i finished all quiet on the orient express. as a result i can't help but make comparisons between the two. all quiet on the orient express and dogville both feature strangers in small communities, where the stranger finds that they are doing jobs for the people of this community. at first it makes things go smoothly, they are accepted, they get a certain warmth and feeling of belonging as a result. but as things go on events start to twist. at least at first, it seems that people aren't being malicious, at least not in an especially intended manner. but there is something like spite, which slips in, slides in, twists things about. something which is particularly evident in dogville, which as it goes on stops pulling punches.

all quiet on the orient express is the second novel i have read by magnus mills, following three to see the king, which i particularly enjoyed. set in the lake district of england, the narrator, who remains unnamed, decides to spend an extra week at a campsite. but its the end of the season, everyone else has cleared out, and by staying on he has marked himself as different. quickly the place had changed the illusory village that has been put on view for the tourists disappears, and the locals get back to enjoying their pub, playing darts, trading jobs. the narrator is drawn in, starting with a favour for the campsite manager. before he knows it though his plans to move on have disappeared, he has been there for weeks, and thinks he is part of the community. but mills has the knack of nudging at his narrators, keeping them trying to grasp for the edge, the point where they will become in control of events again. and in the process creating a dark kind of humour from these small scale environments, which look just like reality.

meanwhile, dogville is the latest film by lars von trier, who is described consistently as an enfant terrible. coming from being one of the champions of dogme cinema, von trier takes things a step further with dogville. stripping the narrative down to its barest bones, with a result which would perhaps more expected in theatre than cinema. the cast is a handful of performers, and the action all takes place on the same set - scenery marked out in chalk lines, with a few props to aid suggestion. grace is a fugitive, gun shots in the night, and sinister black cars embrace her arrival in a small town. the town of dogville is in the rocky mountains, depression era america. grace is embraced by young tom, who encourages the town to protect her from whatever it is that pursues her. the town is reluctant to some degree, to take grace in, but with tom's encouragement she starts to do little jobs around town, trying to ingratiate herself with the residents.

soon she is taken in to the town, but regardless of how much work she does, there is always a veneer or reserve. as the film progresses, the town is reminded of the threat that grace may pose, and this threat becomes a tool they use against her. as with all's quiet, things seem straight forward to start with, but it becomes clear that some are manipulating grace, taking advantage. and this is a pattern which takes hold, so that things become worse for this woman, who starts to feel trapped by events.

events in dogville attain a compelling gravity, backed up by the performances delivered by the cast of nicole kidman as grace, and paul bettany, lauren bacall, ben cazerra, stellan skarsgard, and all as the townspeople. at 2hours and 50 minutes dogville is a pretty long film, and with its entire approach it will not be for everyone - as evidenced by the fact there were more people walking out of this showing, than i have seen walk out of any film for awhile. but sticking with dogville rewards, it is a strikingly severe film.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Title: Gen X Cops II:Metal Mayhem [Tejing Xinrenlei 2]
Cast: Mark Hicks, Paul Rudd, Maggie Q, Johnnie Guy, Dirk Rommeswinkel
Director: Benny Chan

While this sequel from Jackie Chan’s production company is rife with the clichés the genre is prone to, it is also a hell of a lot more fun than many of the other films of a similar nature we would get from Hollywood. The FBI are coming to Hong Kong with a small team, a security detail for the latest robot policing tool from America. Security/police forces from around the world are meeting to show off their latest tools, the main attractions being a variety of robots, especially this American one. Unfortunately one of the main designers of the robot was a young guy from Hong Kong, who was kicked out once he was finished because of his attitude problems. Of course he wants revenge and hacks into the robot systems, hijacking it to his own ends. To make matters worse the FBI agents swan in to Hong Kong, putting the local police’s noses out of joint. Which causes a clash between several young and out of control officers, especially when one of them just happens to be an old friend of the robot designer. Which is the set up for some slap stick scenes from the local cops, as well as clichéd caricature clashes between the local and visiting officers. Which of course is marked by arguments and unwilling alliances between the two groups. Mixed in are a couple of CGI scenes of robotic action and destruction. Of note is the introductory role of Maggie Q, model turned actress, who takes on a lead in the more recent Naked Weapon, which has popped up on DVD.

Subcurrents is billed as a new annual event in Glasgow, which is designed as a focus on the interface between old school experimental music, with the ideas provided by the new school of electronics. Curated by the gushingly enthusiastic and pretentious David Keenan, who writes for The Wire, reviews Jazz for the Sunday Herald, and is the author of the recent book covering the history of Coil/NWW/C93. With mixed results, which are made perhaps particularly bemusing by the fact that the curator isn’t even in the country at the time.

The first night of the event is a focus on the Japanese artist Nobukazu Takemura, taking in the last night of a full UK tour. Apparently the only night of the three night festival to be sold out – as a result CCA:5, which is seated for the event, is rather busy – so that the group of 7 of us who have turned up for this struggle to get seats close together. Nobukazu Takemura is billed as doing an improvised lap top set first, so he takes to the stage, joined by another Japanese guy and girl – the girl seems to be in charge of the visuals, using a computer set up on the same table as Nobukazu Takemura’s laptop, the guy providing live drumming. This set probably could have been good, certainly I’ve heard a couple of Nobukazu Takemura’s albums and they have been decent. However much of this lap top set is overloaded by the drums. The live improvised drums dominate the set and become quite annoying, at least for me. The electronics of the lap top are quite lower case at times, and even when they become more audible they are abstract sounding – crackles, pops, buzzes, and the like. The two sounds just don’t mix, so that much of the audience becomes restless, increasingly chatty as the set progresses. For me I was wishing the drummer would go away, ruining what chance there was of this set working at all.

After a brief interval Nobukazu Takemura’s band took to the stage as Child’s View. I’ve heard one album by this project, which was quite a nice mix of electronics and vocals, quirky and childish, light hearted and fun. In this live setting we have Matt Lux of Isotope 217, playing double bass, and bass guitar, along with Michael Jorgenson of Wilco, playing keyboard and guitar. The drummer from the previous set, Jun Nagami, returns to play drums again, while also periodically helping out Anna Mizoguchi who plays the marimba and similar, while also providing some vocals along with main vocalist Aki Tsyuoko, who seems to also have a keyboard unit set up in front of her. Nobukazu Takemura himself has lap tops set up still, though he seems to make little use of them, instead playing guitar, and periodically joining Nagami and Mizoguchi on the marimba. Initially Child’s View suffer from the same problem as the lap top set, the drums are too high in the mix, so that for the first couple of tracks all we are really getting is the drums and vocals, with the instruments of the rest of the band disappearing somewhat into the background. as the set went on though, this became less of a problem, especially with Nagami switching to the marimba. This allowed more of the delicate and beguiling melodies to filter through. For the most part the set tended towards the playful, with at least one track from the album I am familiar with being played. However at times the set degenerated into a more abstract and random territory. Though it was clear throughout from the way that each member of the band made sure they kept track of their sheet music that the entire set was particularly scripted. Personally, while I found that Child’s View had their moments, they were on the whole a little disappointing, leaving me a little dissatisfied with the night as a whole.

On the Friday the performances where more noise orientated. Unlike the night before I met the folk that I knew who were going at the venue, timing it so that we were there for the doors opening. The staff were quite keen to make sure folk were aware of just how loud this event was going to be, by handing out ear plugs to everyone as they went in – in some countries ear plugs are readily available, here it is something of a rarity to be presented with them. Along with this we could hear staff talking about the sound checks in hushed tones. This all lead to some serious expectations. Masonna, a notorious Japanese noise performer, was given smaller billing on the ticket, so we expected him to perform first. Especially with warnings of the extremity of his set, and how as a result it would be particularly short. However Norbert Moslang, ex-Voice Crack, and Jim Sauter, ex- Borbetomagus, took to the stage first. Moslang and Sauter played quite a noisy set, and on reflection this is perhaps what the staff were talking about. Bass heavy, and filled with rumbling and distorted details, their set was enjoyable for the textures they created. Moslang playing with a table top of toys and electronic items, and magnetic fields. By contrast Sauter was playing saxophone, with a variety of mouth pieces, and a mic down the mouth of the instrument feeding into an array of distortion pedals. Their set probably went on a little too long, but I seemed to be in the minority of the people I knew by thinking it wasn’t bad.

There was then a short interval, short enough that people were not going to be let out. It had been about 8.10 when Moslang and Sauter went on stage, by the time Masonna had finished, and we had got into the bar, it was 9.10. Masonna has a reputation, and that to be honest is about all I could tell you. He is always listed up there with the likes of Merzbow, but at least with Merzbow I had heard some of his stuff before seeing him live. With Masonna I wasn’t sure what to expect, though from the festival promotion I was reading “psychedelic noise rocker”, “an explosive combination of punk performance art and electronics”, “physically demanding nature of his performances”, and “ferociously inventive”. Which is to say pure hype, the kind of hype that also surrounded the likes of Merzbow and Whitehouse when they played Instal in December. Like then it turned out Masonna was nothing more than hype, with a half dozen Marshall amps at the back of the stage, a couple of distortion pedals and a mic Masonna created noise. Clutching some kind of mic/black box thing in his hand, he waved his arms about, threw himself about the stage, and occasionally shouted “mother fuckers” into the mic in a style entirely reminiscent of Whitehouse. Like the Whitehouse gig, the people I was with seemed to think Masonna was incredibly funny, and taken on that level, he certainly did make for a bemusing performance. But when taken into context of hype, reputation, and the fact that he can only manage to play for about 5 minutes, if you were take Masonna seriously you would probably think he was pretty pathetic – I certainly came away with that conclusion.

Saturday started during the day with a panel conversation about the themes of the Subcurrent festival. With Keenan’s absence, it fell to one of his colleagues from The Wire to chair the discussion, while he had been pencilled in as a guest. The list of guests had been left open, so it was uncertain who would be on hand for the discussion. The result was that the conversation was pretty limited, being represented by Moslang and Sauter and two members of Double Leopards. So that effectively only two of the weekends acts were represented. The conversation also tended to dwell a little too heavily on improv, and perhaps unsurprisingly had a large proportion of pretension. However, given how bad this part of the weekend could have been, the results were actually not too bad.

A couple of hours later, though with three acts tonight, an hour earlier than the previous evenings, the first performance was by Space Machines. Against a kaleidoscopic back drop Maso Yamazaki (=Masonna) took to the stage with his girlfriend. With limited electronics and theremin the pair produced limited sounds. Pulsing oscillations, filtering up and down, in a particularly repetitive and unimaginative fashion. Space Machines quickly became tedious, especially knowing that with the sound palette on hand, they could have done considerably more with it. having seem Yamazaki perform under two incarnations, the question really does come up – how is this man taken seriously?

With comparisons to The Sun-Burned Hand of Man, and some of the more pretentious statements from the discussion, I was a little wary of Double Leopards. And the suggestion that the only reason they were on the bill was because one of the members played with Current 93, probably didn’t help. In the end though, the Double Leopards played quite a decent and atmospheric set. Two guys and two girls on stage, with a couple of guitars, mics, pedals, and a box of tricks, they layered together a textured and improvised sequence of sound. At times perhaps going on a little too much, but on the whole reasonably pleasing.

The festival was then concluded by Kontakt der Jünlinge, a collaboration between veteran experimental musician Asmus Tietchens and the younger Thomas Koner. Sat behind a couple of tables filled with gear, Tietchens in particular just about disappearing, the duo played big, bass heavy ambient. Their set was started by a water logged piece, a trickling atmosphere which encompassed the entire room. This was a long piece, the longest of their set, and with that and the little variation overall, it perhaps went on over long. But with the other pieces and the build towards the climax of their set Kontakt der Jünlinge were likely to have pleased most fans of dark ambient/atmospheric sound track work.

Title: It's All About Love
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, Sean Penn, Douglas Henshall
Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Its All About Love is the latest film from the director of the notorious Dogme film Festen. Festen is one of those films I have been meaning to see, but have never gotten round to, despite having heard so much about it. (In fact I actually have it on tape from when it was on TV, and do intend to get round to watching it sometime – perhaps especially now?). Its All About Love however would seem to be something of a departure, being in English, with American actors. Though one might suspect the ideas of love and relationships, and how they affect people might well be thematic commonalities?

Having seen posters that there was a new film coming with Joquin Phoenix and Clare Danes I could have told you little else about the film. My brother was in Glasgow/Edinburgh for a long weekend, during which time he caught Its All About Love. When we talked about it, he suggested that it was perhaps one of those films that not knowing what it was about would help the viewer to appreciate the film. Eliminating too many expectations. To some degree I think this is the case, knowing too much of what is going to happen is likely not the best idea.

Glancing at a review before I went to see it myself I caught the idea that the reception of Its All About Love has been mixed, mostly because of its wilful oddness. And Its All About Love is certainly an odd little film. The kind of nudges to reality, the weird little touches, hold a definite appeal for me. though like many things it can have mixed results, being odd/challenging can be a tricky line to walk. The ease with which a writer/director can cross that into self-absorbed, self-indulgence, is no doubt something we have all witnessed – though perhaps the definition of which isn’t something we all would agree on.

John has a stop over in New York, where he has just enough time to meet his wife Elena, so she can sign the divorce papers. However things quickly go off schedule, Elena apparently is far too busy to come and meet John. So her minders are dragging him out of the airport, re-arranging his onwards flights, and getting him a room for the night. From this point on there is a certain level of unease. What should have been a simple end of an affair has become more complicated. Significant glances, changes of subject, and strange events start to add up however.

While the core plot is going on, the characters are surrounded by a world going mad. Despite the fact that everything seems rational, the film is set in 2001, events clearly are not as we lived through them. These details are at times subliminal, glimpsed in the background, overheard news broadcasts. With progression though they add up, contributing a real veneer of bizarreness to events which are already just a little off centre. Visually these create some of the scenes with the highest impact in the film, and on the whole are pulled off pretty well. Better than some of the little touches used elsewhere, which are a little jarring at times.

For the most part Its All About Love is a striking and effective film, which I quite enjoyed. However it is not perfect, the ending seems to be dragged out, offering a little confusion, and perhaps an anti-climax creeps in. Along with that the repeat cameos of Sean Penn as John’s brother seem a little surplus – in real narrative terms, the film could have survived without his character. Though perhaps a little more actual interaction with John would have helped, especially given that Penn’s scenes do actually look and sound quite nice. The idea of a man who was scared of flying, but was given drugs to get over the fear is one of the most striking of the film (at least for me).

Initially I found the dialogue to be a little odd, stilted, and over deliberate. However it turned out they were acting, the characters of Phoenix (John), Danes (Elena), Penn (John’s brother) and Henshall (Elena’s brother) all being Polish. The four manage to maintain a reasonable consistency of their own, along with a certain similarity between those of the others. Whether it sounds Polish in the slightest, I couldn’t say, but its nice that they made an effort.

Yes, while I remain conflicted on the ending, Its All About Love is worth seeing.

Title: Island Of Greed [Hak Gam]
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Lichun Lee, Annie Wu, Ka Fai, Paulyn Sun
Director: Michael Mak

The island of the title is Taiwan, this Hong Kong film pitting two of it’s most well known actors against each other. Tony Leung as a triad gangster versus Andy Lau as a police man trying to stem the rising corruption caused by the triads. In fact I think the two are playing pretty similar roles in the film Infernal Affairs, which is due in UK cinemas in the next couple of weeks. However this is an older film, which I picked up cheap on DVD. The triads have so many representatives on the local government body, which allows them a certain amount of cover/protection for their activities. Leung is young and ambitious, and not afraid of stepping on toes, and with his monopoly on the islands electronic gambling he is also rich. However the triad bosses refuse to provide him with the nomination that he desires, stitching him up, so that he puts money forward, but not following up. Gambling as a serious endeavour is illegal in Taiwan, with Lau being the head of the team investigating to what degree Leung’s arcades are being used as cover. So when Leung decides to become an independent candidate, doing things his own way, even if it means Taipei erupting in chaos. Which puts Lau as prime candidate to try and bring him down, although that isn’t necessarily easy, as those within the police department who are in triad pay try and put him out of commission. With the result that Island Of Greed is about the dynamics of these two men, charismatic, and forceful within their own fields, but on a crash course of confrontation with each other.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Title: Mr. Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer
Author: Russell Hoban
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Serafina has left Jonathan, and he is gutted. After a drinking session, trying to forget his problems, he finds that he is still filled with despair. He sits down where he is, which just happens to be one of the flights of stairs in the London underground. A stranger stops and tries to work out why Jonathan is there, from which he can see death in Jonathan’s eyes. This leads to a Faustian offer, the stranger, who calls himself Mr. T Rinyo-Clacton (T for Thanatophile), offers Jonathan a million pounds and a year to spend it, at the end of which time he will come and collect Jonathan’s death.

Confused and distraught Jonathan finds that he is tending towards the ideas that seem beneficial from this strange offer. However in the cold light of day, sobered and realising that he has just had unprotected sex with a strange man, he is starting to regret his decision to sign a contract with Rinyo-Clacton. Attempting to decide where this new status leaves him with Serafina, he finds that his day to day movements are tainted and shadowed by this stranger, and quickly so are those of his estranged girlfriend.

Hoban presents his lead with a real quandary and builds a rickety platform beneath him, from the top life looks more fragile than ever. Many of Hoban’s regular characteristics and narrative sequences come to play in the course of this novel. The casual pop references from Portishead to Pelleas, the travels through the London underground to the London museums. Along with the sudden trips abroad, seeking something emblematic from the characters past, and how that ties into their presents. At the core of Hoban’s work their tends to be the idea of a relationship, mixing those which are new with those which have shaped personalities – in this case the life shaping relationship and the new one are both the past and future of Jonathan and Serafina. Together they were soul mates, in Paris they shared a dream. But Jonathan’s indiscretions have split them up, and while the fateful intervention of Rinyo-Clacton has forced them back together the journey is one of whether this will end them forever or somehow, impossibly bring them back together. At the same time there is the classic quandary of the money versus death, it is updated, and twisted by the ideas of unprotected sex, and the question of AIDs that goes with that.

As usual Hoban presents a combination of humour and darkness. There is a certain tongue in cheek to his writing style, to the characters, especially ones like the no-bullshit-psychic present here. But there is also the element of broken relationships, of the undertones of death. With Mr. Rinyo-Clacton, Hoban has created a particularly malevolent character, there is something particularly malign to this man, even with the suggestions that there might be something weak to the man himself, he remains this dark threat throughout. The knowledge that there is no way the period of time of this book will cover a year also adds to the tension, the bargain of money for death must come to a head with in the space of a weak or two that this book takes place in, which adds an emphasis to those aspects controlled by time. Once again Russell Hoban does not disappoint.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Title: Life Is Cheap... But Toilet Paper Is Expensive
Cast: Cheng Wan Kin, Cora Miao, Victor Wong
Director: Wayne Wang

While it is a great title for a film, Life is Cheap…Toilet Paper is Expensive is in fact a little disappointing. Another one of those films which is described in the advertising one way, but which turns out to be another. Described as “in turns shocking, hilarious, surreal, foul-mouthed, hyper-kinetic thriller, an unforgettable postcard from Hong-Kong”, from which the postcard comment is perhaps the only accurate statement, summing up the static nature of the film.

Wayne Want is, I gather, an american-chinese director, responsible for the films Dim Sum and Joy Luck Club, with this being a more experimental outing. The film was made in 1989, pre-handover Hong-Kong. An american-chinese travels to Hong Kong from San Francisco as a courier, delivering a suit case, which he is handcuffed to, to some triad big boss. However the big boss doesn’t seem to be available, and everyone the courier meets provides him with a different story. As the film goes on it becomes clear that someone is messing with the courier, that there is some big picture which he doesn’t know about, but is certainly going to become involved in.

All of that sets up the premise for the proposed hyper-kinetic thriller. However the delivery of the film is as a series of set pieces, each character the courier meets delivering a monologue to the camera, as though it was a solo theatre performance. Between these soliloquies the film is linked together by the narration of the courier. With the result that the delivery of the film is pretty laid back, perhaps even lacklustre. Especially when a lot of the dialogue is more about a character snap shot of people in Hong Kong, rather than actually plot related. As the film goes on there is some development, some rare scenes where characters actually do things which are plot related, but those do little to resolve the problems.

In some ways I can see how the techniques put into play with Life Is Cheap could have worked. But really only in a different context, for me this never really lives up to the potential of either style or plot.

The image of a woman dressed in yellow with her hair in curious plaits twisted in a spiral has installed itself in my head after the epileptic fit with the arrogance of someone who squats in an empty flat. Tokyo could be the city in view behind the woman, they could be the lights of Shinjuku.

…and then a very bad film about people in a hospital who cry, one of those American films that they make to see if they can win an Oscar and there’s a very famous actor whom I don’t remember ever having seen who plays the part of a seventy-year-old man but who is in fact only nineteen. Hollywood stars love taking on these impossible challenges but then there are very few of them who can manage to tie up their shoe laces and utter a simple line like ‘give me another beer’ without it sounding wooden.

tokyo doesn't love us anymore - ray loriga - i'm currently reading this spanish novel, chemical salesman and his descent as he indulges too much in the chemical he is selling....

Title: Durian Durian [Liulian Piao Piao]
Cast: Hailu Qin, Wai-Fan Mak, Xiao Ming Biao, Wai Yiu Yung
Director: Fruit Chan

Blurbs are a funny thing, and the inaccuracy which comes with them sometimes is something which I might go as far as describing as being a pet hate. A blurb is necessary – a quick paragraph or two on the back of a book, or in a brochure for a cinema, or whatever – enough to give you a quick summary of what it is about, with no spoilers – much more valuable than a couple of quote which tell you nothing.

In this year’s Chinese film festival in Glasgow there have been a couple of discrepancies in the brochure which haven’t borne true in the actual films. From that I think the worst example of this is the description of Fruit Chang’s Durian Durian. The description talks of a young girl’s account of her father’s daily attempts to sell cigarettes and wine to raise money for the family. But that only covers about the first 10 minutes of the film, and doesn’t even mention the characters that really make up the core of the narrative. Which isn’t really a big deal, but the film is actually about a woman who spends time in Hong Kong as a prostitute – something quite different.

Durian Durian should have been the second film by Fruit Chan in this season, but for some reason the first, Little Cheung was pulled. Which is a pity, Chan being one of the few directors in the season I had prior knowledge of, his film Made In Hong Kong having shown a couple of times in the past. Chan, I think, could be said to have a very raw style, something which delivers powerful results. Compare Durian Durian to something like Millennium Mambo, which also showed in this season, there the direction was too heavy, the scenes at times too contrived, while with Chan the characters and their emotions are more important than an image. With the result that his work is more striking and more sensitive.

Durian Durian is set primarily in Hong Kong, though the time frame isn’t entirely clear, we are presented with a city which is affluent. As such it is a shining light for the mainland Chinese, who would rather be there than their own towns. We are given two characters, two girls, both who have three month permits to be in Hong Kong. Fan is very young, and her family is determined to stay in Hong Kong no matter what, so they hide out in immigrant areas, wary of the police, while her one legged father struggles to raise money, and her mother works all the hours she can in a restaurant, bringing home any scraps of food that she can. Qin is 21, and like so many other main land girls, she has come to Hong Kong to prostitute herself. Trying to make as much money as she can in the 3 months she is allowed to stay. Of course it turns out the two girls stay in the same area, so while the first part of the film concentrates on Fan, washing dishes in the street, looking after her younger sister, and the like, we see Qin walk past, with her local pimp, a couple of times. This leads to a conversation or two between the two girls, which then allows for the film to flip to Qin as a lead.

The delivery of Qin’s life is a curious one, concentrating more on the mundane nature of the job, rather than the sex. During the day she sits around her one bedroom in a boarding house, waiting for phone calls – by night she sits in a restaurant which has been taken over by the gang, the local guys run the business, taking calls from clients from bath houses, while the girls sit together chatting and eating between assignments. Qin tells how at her peak she did 38 men in one day as casually as she complains about the mess all the showers she is taking are making of her feet.

The biggest contrast, and next stage of the film, comes when Qin returns home to a town in the north of China. She is entirely transformed, on the sweltering streets of Hong Kong she is continually putting on make up, she has long black hair, and is always wearing skimpy little dresses for the clients. Back home she gets her hair cut, and with that it becomes just how clear Qin really is, we see past this sassy street girl, and see this young girl with a family. In her home town she is in a snowy region, with the result that she is always wearing heavy coats, and adorable ear muffs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no one from her home town knows what she was doing. With the result that they are all delighted and amazed at the amount of money she has made she is reluctant to discuss when she is going back, even more so when one of her aunts suggests that she take her cousin with her next time.

As for the title of the film, a durian is a large fruit, which makes several appearances throughout the film, and is apparently foul smelling. Which is certainly something that can’t be said of the film, not a stinker at all, in fact one of my absolute highlights for the season!

Title: 15 [Shiwu]
Cast: Melvin Chen, Erick Chun, Melvin Lee, Vynn Soh, Shaun Tan
Director: Royston Tan

Shiwu, or 15, is the extension of a short film by Singapore director Royston Tan. From descriptions of those who have seen both it is suggested that the short is superior to the full version, though it also seems that the first section of the film is pretty much just the short itself. Like so many films/books that come from this region, there is some controversy attached to this film – which depicts the lives of a group of 15 year old gang kids.

Shiwu is an episodic film, filled with clip scenes and detailed with special effects. The first section covers two 15 year old boys, who are following up on the idea to do a rap song for the school show. They reckon that they will be able to fill it full of swearing and their teacher will get into trouble because of their actions. Hence we see them playing truant, squaring up to other gang kids, getting fake tattoos, all of which is interspersed by these sudden and random rap sequences. There is something surreal to the way these pop interludes are added, the two topless gang kids, showing off their tattoos, while they rap to the camera in a dead pan fashion, all taking place in some one’s living room as though it were a big location.

Mixed in with that section there are also suggestions of how there used to be thee of them who would hang around together, but how their was a falling out. Presumably this is as far as things went in the short, but the next, long, chunk of Shiwu follows the third guy. Like the first section it concentrates on these two 15 year old gang kids, but we watch while these ones get real tattoos, and real piercings. As we follow these two we have sections where they beat up a guy, then they get beat up, then the first guy comes to help them. Clashes between the native speaking gang members, and the posh kids who go to the English speaking schools. The rise of suicide as a trendy thing to do, and their attempt to help a friend find the best location to commit his own suicide. Random drug taking, and selling. With hints creeping in of the effects their life style has, being thrown out of family homes, getting into arguments with regular people on buses.

Already mentioned are the rap scenes, which continue into these next sections, emphasising the sporadic and dislocated nature of the film. But added to that there are all sorts of other effects, scenes running backwards with filtered colours, an animated sequence about the best methods of suicide, and fight sequences delivered as computer game re-enactments. The result is that while Shiwu has a certain disjointedness it is also memorable from the bright colours, the striking and messed up effects and its general high impact approach. With this there is a lot of humour, despite the darkness which comes in at a certain level, but there is also a gross out factor that will make sure that Shiwu remains with you – the piercing scene is quite graphic, but there is a certain scene with a condom which really stands out. In the end I can’t say how Shiwu compares to the short, which might be just as well, but personally I really enjoyed this film, and it was easily one of the highlights of the second annual Glasgow’s Chinese Overseas Film Festival.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay
by John Gimlette

The police had made a determined effort to horrify. Death was seized upon pointlessly and blankly. Each of the exhibits brought to mind not the detection of crime or the prevention of evil, but the moment of agony, the violent extinction of life. Here were the hands of a strangler, his cold grip cast in plaster. Or a little bowl of skull, hacked from the head of Gaston Gadin, who'd sliced up his parents in 1915. One whole wall had death glossily preserved in snapshots: wives dangling on ropes, blue-lipped and sleepy, throats cut; drivers sloshed around their cars; bodies pulled from fires and a decapitated baby. Perhaps worst of all was the pickling jar: six aborted foetuses clutching at each other blindly, furious at a life wasted in formaldehyde. 'The most abominable crime against humanity', said their little cardboard tombstone.

-typically after reading the extract linked to above i went into glasgow today, where i found this book for a decent price (fopp = £5), so with my pathetic and weak will i gave in to temptation and bought. hopefully it'll be an interesting and educational read...

random number - live dates

Thursday 19th of February, 13th Note, Glasgow
randomNumber + The Impossible Flower
+ DJ's: the Stare and the frog
£4, 9pm

Friday 20th of February, Subway, Cowgate, Edinburgh
randomNumber + Frog Pocket + The Sun Machine
£4, 7:30pm

i'm expected to sleep in a diving mask and false beard.
the priesthood is not what i had hoped.
--karloff's circus - steve aylett

'sometimes I wonder what the fictional people in our ads are doing when they're not in the photo or on the screen.'
--mr. rinyo-clacton's offer - russell hoban

what you don't understand, you can make mean anything
--diary - chuck palahniuk

he was twelve years old and he could knock angels up out of almost anything.
--angel passage - alan moore

'it's over there,' she said in good looking english.
--the abortion - richard brautigan

instead of t-shirts and postcards, our intrepid adventurer brought back stone vulvas, phallic fetishes, and wooden sex totems. Do you think the people at Japanese customs were getting a little tired of this guy?
"Anything to declare?"
"Well, just this seven foot stone vagina."
--hokkaido highway blues (hitch-hiking japan) - will ferguson

the city is already too cool for it's own good, and the temperature is dropping. soon it will be super cool, too cool for living tissue. the only survivors will be a race of disafected, lounge-posing, ad copy-writing, indie film watching androids.
--the savage girl - alex shakar

Monday, February 09, 2004

Title: Faust: Love of the Damned
Cast: Mark Frost, Isabel Brook, Jennifer Rope, Jeffrey Combs, Monica Van Campen, Marc Martínez, Andrew Divoff
Director: Brian Yuzna

David Quinn and Tim Vigil created a comic called Faust, which was obviously based to some degree on the Faustian saga, with an updating in the process. The comic was one of the most brutal pieces of sequential narrative that I have ever seen, in both sexual and violence terms. There followed a film adaptation, which I had spotted playing in a horror festival a couple of years ago, but had never managed to actually see. Until I found it cheap on DVD recently. While it does its best to present this brutal, demonic plot, and the sex and violence that were in the comic, it unsurprisingly is incapable of approaching that level and still getting released. In some ways there are parallels between this film version and the film of the Crow. Both featuring a man start that sees gangsters invade their home and murder their girlfriends. In this case however the man survives, to be offered a chance at revenge, which will give him demonic power in exchange for his soul. Of course he has been tricked, and has been set up as a pawn, to be a tool for occultists who plan on bringing the devil to earth. As a film Faust is perhaps to clichéd and Hollywood, the decision to make the central killer become demonic seems an excess, and an excuse to layer on make up and special effects. From the couple of issues of the comic that I have read the idea was more about madness, and how madness could turn into this kind of violence. With the move into demonic territory the script becomes plagued by one liners, and a heavy metal soundtrack. For people familiar with the comic, or fans of this kind of horror film then Faust might hold some interest – and it does have its moments as a genre film – but on the whole it can’t live up to its potential.

Title: Marion Bridge
Cast: Molly Parker, Stacy Smith, Marguerite McNeil, Ellen Page, Hollis McLaren, Emmy Alcorn
Director: Wiebke von Carolsfeld

Of the four films in this year’s North Of Hollywood showcase, the only two that really piqued my interest were Chaos And Desire and Marion Bridge. Of course one of the main factors in the appeal of Marion Bridge is the presence of Molly Parker, who is consistently strong, as well as having made some interesting career choices over the years.

Parker plays Agnes, one of three sisters, and the only one to have gotten away from small town life. However Agnes has come home, her mother is in the hospital, and as everyone in town is only too quick to tell her – being moved to the third floor means that she doesn’t have long left. From the start though Agnes is given a hard time by her two sisters, having gained something of a reputation over the years. With a history of drink and drugs Agnes has apparently hit bottom, and is desperate to get her act together, so despite her best efforts all her sisters recall are the bad times, and the way they see Agnes as having run away. So as far as everyone is concerned Agnes can do nothing right.

Which of course makes things difficult for her, especially when she wants to bring her mother home from the hospital, so they can at least spend these last days together as a family. For all the presumption that the other two sisters are pillars of the community and are good Christians of spotless reputations, it becomes clear that they are in fact appalling hypocrites. So that all the family secrets start to come out, until things come naturally to a head.

Marion Bridge is not a cheerful film, and as the true reasons behind bids for self-destruction and self-delusion become clear so does the darkness that lies at the heart of some families. With death at the centre of this reunion and decay at every level it is fair to say that Marion Bridge is a little depressing. The performances are strong, particularly between Agnes and her older sister Theresa, with spot on casting meaning that the two look similar enough that they could believably be sisters.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Title: Millennium Mambo [Qianxi Manbo]
Cast: Qi Shu, Jack Kao, Chun-hao Tuan, Yi-Hsuan Chen, Jun Takeuchi, Chen-er Niu
Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou

Millennium Mambo is a lot sparser than it really should be to succeed as a narrative. Too many lingering shots of nothing are given, no substitute for actually giving us an explanation for the behaviour of the characters past the leads narration. Contrasting that there are some nice visuals, and there is clearly some potential within the big picture, but for me, Millennium Mambo doesn’t quite pull it off.

The story is strangely a woman looking back ten years to how things were for her when she was younger. But that puts the time at the year 2001, when the new millennium was still just new. An idea which seems perhaps a little curious, while just saying this is what happened to her in 2001 might have made more sense. The narrative wanders about, rambling and sprawling, at times jumping wilfully and without reason. But essentially the linear form is that Vicky has been with boyfriend Hao-Hao for a number of years. She met him when she was in school, and he made her miss her last exam. Which is just the start of a list of why Hao-Hao is a complete shit. Trying to avoid national service he starves himself, but also uses speed to excess. The result is that he is incredibly paranoid and possessive of Vicky, with several scenes where she returns to the flat, only for him to sniff her all over, to go through her handbag, to check her phone for calls. On the whole Hao-Hao treats Vicky badly, and she knows it, so that she keeps walking out on him. But he will always track her down and for some reason they will get back together. The reasons for this are not very evident, which is one of the big failings in the plot – why does Vicky keep going back – the best she comes up with is that it is like she is hypnotised.

Continuing Hao-Hao’s list of inadequacies, he never does any work, so they never have any money. He likes to pretend he is a DJ, playing around with his decks in his room, and partying all the time. As a result Vicky ends up working in a hostess bar, there is some ambiguity as to what she actually does here, but certainly some of the girls give lap dances. It is here she meets Jack, which creates a second relationship for her, but again in this area lies too much ambiguity. She describes him as a good friend, a best buddy, and there is no real evidence of anything more between them, even when she finally leaves Hao-Hao and moves in with Jack. Of course Vicky isn’t perfect herself, and that is most evident when she is with Jack. Her time with Hao-Hao has driven her to drink, and while she appeared independent and unimpressed with him, she appears much more clingy and pathetic with Jack. There must also be something about her choices, as there is something clearly dodgy about Jack, as though the scene of him sitting in a sauna covered in tattoos, with other men with very similar tattoos isn’t enough, he eventually has to disappear. So while it is never clearly said, the idea that Jack is involved in crime, perhaps a member of the triads, is one of the few areas where the subtext actually comes across in an effective manner.

Which isn’t to say that Millennium Mambo is a total loss, there is potential for something really nice in here. There are some strong scenes – like the opening scene of Vicky walking along a tunnel, or early on in the club, or when she takes a trip to Hokkaido and plays in the snow with friends. Those kind of scenes demonstrate the director/cinematographers skill, if they concentrate on more of that kind of thing in future then their work should become a lot stronger – eliminating linger shots of buildings or objects, that while they are attempting to be artistic (one assumes), are instead just filler.

Title: All Tomorrows Parties
Cast: Yong Won-cho, Diao Yi-nan, Wei Wei Zhao
Director:Nelson Yu Lik-wai

All Tomorrow’s Parties is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film set in continental Asia. The director Yu Lik Wai who was present at the showing explained how he had come across this very industrial, and decrepit city in the area between China and inner Mongolia that struck him as being the perfect setting for a low budget sci-fi film. From there he came up with All Tomorrow’s Parties, where the west has collapsed due to some catastrophe and war rages across Asia. In the formerly Chinese zone a cult group have taken over, combining politics and religion, putting resisters in re-education camps. Clearly this creates a certain perspective on the history of China and the notorious regimes of re-education and propaganda that held sway there for so long. In fact this film was made out-with the officially approved avenues of the Chinese film system, having to seek funding and support outside the country.

The film starts with two brothers, who have wandered off from their work farm only to be captured by militia. Their punishment is that they are sent to one of the main re-education camps, where live is hard and restricted. However they are not there long before we see the first signs that the regime is starting to crumble. One day all the guards/management of the camp all disappear, and while initially confused the inmates quickly realise this means that they are free to leave. One of the brothers has befriended a young woman and her son, and they travel to the nearest city, a barren and rough industrial scene, where they take over an abandoned flat and have to scrounge for supplies to survive. With this it becomes clear that even though they are now free it is still a post apocalyptic country, the regime haven’t entirely lost control, though there is an increasing presence of soldiers from the former Korean zone.

On the whole all tomorrow’s parties is grim and grey. The characters find everything to be a struggle, and even though there are moments of magic for them (like the first time they manage to get soap after getting free), they can only argue and fight and struggle to survive. The film is shot with digital techniques, which affect the colouration and grimy feel of the picture. Unfortunately, in this case, the tint was too green, the director felt, having been unable to provide a film print as yet, we watched a digital projection. However the news is that All Tomorrow’s Parties has been picked up for distribution, so a more balanced print of the film should be doing the rounds some time in the near future.

Title: Floating Life
Cast: Annette Shun Wah, Annie Yip, Anthony Wong, Edwin Pang, Cecilia Fong Sing Lee, Toby Wong, Toby Chan, Julian Pulvermacher, Bruce Poon
Director: Clara Law

Other than the films In The Mood For Love and Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress, the only director who has work showing in this season of Chinese films who I had seen anything by in the past was Fruit Chan. The director of the memorable made in Hong Kong had a couple of films billed to appear in this season, however for some reason his first Little Cheung was pulled, and replaced by Floating Life.

Floating Life is another film by director Clara Law, so that it seems strange that the first two films in the Chinese film season I catch are both set in Australia. However unlike The Goddess Of 1967, Floating Life has more of a Chinese theme, and is a sprawling thing. With floating life I am reminded of the scene in happy together by Wong War Wai, where two Chinese characters in Argentina discuss how many Chinese people there really are and just how wide spread in a global sense they are. That sentiment seems to be one of the major ideas at the core of floating life, in fact even being part of the title one could assume.

Hong Kong has been part of the British empire, or at least what remains of it, but is due to be returned to the Chinese. With this the Chan family have decided it is time to leave Hong Kong. The family has five children, the two oldest daughters have already left – one having a family in Germany, the other in Australia. Along with their two youngest sons the family decide to move to Australia to join the second daughter. Though the film is split into chapters, covering time in Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, and flashing back to the past, before wrapping things up in a final forward looking piece.

Things do not go entirely as planned in Australia, second daughter Bing has become neurotic. Which initially provides a sense of humour, warnings of attack dogs, killer bees, snakes, spiders, the sun – Bing warns her family of the grim horrors that lurk outside, even in the back door step of Australia. Gradually this becomes a problem for the family – they suddenly can’t light incense to pay tribute to their ancestors thanks to the fire risk, they can’t eat what they would normally eat due to the fat content. It starts to feel like they are prisoners.

This leads to confrontation, especially when first daughter arrives for a visit from Germany. The parents gaining some ability to be free once number one son finally resolves what he is going to do and sells the parental home for the family in Hong Kong. All along the way though we see the different situations of the family members, and how this affects their sense of identity. From light-hearted beginnings Floating Life becomes quite heavy. The number one son is forced by events to face up to the fragility of his fun loving life style and how this really shakes him up. In his thread the particularly striking scenes are the digging up of his ancestors to place their bones in an urn, and how this contrasts with the side effects of his own life. For the oldest daughter the most striking scene is the realisation that she has no home, no identity, feeling that as some one from Hong Kong she is not proper Chinese – speaking Cantonese rather than mandarin, coming from an island that is about to lose it’s own identity, and living in Germany where she can never be German. But it is the resolution of relationships with second daughter that really bring everything to light and force understanding and survival.

Underlining the sense of identity the film takes place in multiple countries and languages. Starting in Hong Kong in Cantonese, moving to Australia and English, then flashing over to Germany and German, then back to Hong Kong and Cantonese, before returning to Australia. Within this there are also several scenes where we witness the continuing themes of identity and immigration. The first scene, a noodle bar, where Papa Chan discusses his move to Australia, with the owner who, will soon move to Canada. The eldest son’s encounter with a girl who has been living in Canada since she was a child, and has only returned to Hong Kong for the first time now. Then, again, Papa Chan’s meeting up with an old friend in the city, where trying to track whether old friends are still alive, or whether they are in Seattle or Vancouver or Sydney or the old country makes up much of the conversation. Floating Life is an emotive film, filled with little scenes like these, which build together to provide a detailed bigger picture.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Title: The Goddess of 1967
Cast: Rose Byrne, Rikiya Kurokawa, Nicholas Hope, Elise McCredie, Tim Richards, Bree Beadman, Satya Gumbert, Tina Bursill
Director: Clara Law

The first film I caught in the second annual Glasgow Chinese film festival was the goddess of 1967 by director Clara Law, who was present to discuss the film after the screening. What struck me as curious when I first read about Goddess was that the film is set in Australia and is about a Japanese man. However the connection for this festival is that Clara Law was born and raised in Hong Kong, before moving to Australia.

The Goddess Of 1967 is a curious and striking film, quirky and highly stylised. The goddess of the title is a car, a Citroen DS, which was nicknamed the goddess. No doubt as is typical of these kind of things, the car was one of the last things to fall into place with the story, which is funny given how central it is to the narrative. On the surface the film is put forward as being the story of a Japanese man, an obsessive collector – his house is filled with reptiles, and he is also willing to fly all the way to Australia and pay thousands to get hold of this particular car. However it becomes clear that this is just another episode in the live of the car, and the family who have owned it since it was new.

On arriving in Australia the man is devastated to find that the man who he has been dealing with has killed himself and his wife. But that isn’t the end. A young blind woman claims that she can take him to who really owned the car. So they set off on a road trip, into the Australian outback. Along the way we start to flash back, first through the life of the girl, then her mother, then her grandmother, all of whom were in possession of this car at some point. While there is initially a certain light heartedness to the film, the joy of driving, interspersed with data on the car, it becomes clear from these flash backs that there is a dark past. One filled with abuse and tragedy, which has shaped and haunted this young girl her entire life.

Visually goddess is striking, setting up the initial contrasts of hyper-industrialised Tokyo against the sparse outback. Tokyo is filled with towering structures, thundering trains and squealing sounds, exaggerated and noise heavy. While the outback is more peaceful, open and filled with colour. In terms of colour the car has been cranked up, it becomes this fantastic object – glowing pink body warm provides a vibrancy accentuated by the palpable blue interiors. A number of the driving scenes are done against a blue screen, allowing for an even greater contrast to be established, the colours of the outside world are washed out, with this external reality becoming an abstract and distant thing at times. Keeping with the sense of exaggeration and colour, the girl’s hair is a bright and unnatural red, something which holds even through the flashbacks of when we see her as a child.

Goddess is strong on visual terms, but the way the narrative unfolds as well also has an impact. As does the interaction between the characters, played by Rikiya Kurokawa and Rose Byrne, the cryptic relationship and motivations that build up between the two of them. The only real criticism I have of the film is the climax, when the girl returns home at last the build up of the scene becomes perhaps excessive. So that the whole film faces the danger of really losing it here, thankfully Law manages to weave her way through this minefield she has created and pull off the closure.

Title: Strange Planet
Cast: Claudia Karvan, Naomi Watts, Alice Garner, Hugo Weaving
Director: Emma-Kate Croghan

the film strange planet isn't actually that strange at all, rather it is a somewhat predictable and uninspired rom-com. Billed in the newspaper as being a comedy, this Australian piece was quite lacking on the comedy front. Covering the time period of a year, the film starts with three girls and three guys celebrating new year. It then follows the two groups of friends on the ups and downs till the next new year. Along the way there are chance meetings between members of the two groups, but those kind of random events taken a certain clichéd nature in themselves. Only aiding in the knowledge that there is an inevitability to the fact that there will be a real meeting between the two groups at some point.

The three girls conveniently cover the spectrum, the business like and ambitious brunette, the unlucky in love blonde, and the ditzy new age red-head. The guys aren't as easily identifiable, though there is the charmer, the loser and the guy who looked like it was all going to work out for till his fiancé dumped him. Along the way there are drugs, one night stands, abortions, near rapes, sleeping ones way up the work ladder, dating agencies, and erm, just about everything they could think of to throw into the mix. And the results are average.

Most notable in terms of names are Naomi Watt, who appears to have taken off recently, and Hugo Weaving, who provides one of the rare memorable moments when he turns up at a Halloween party as Dracula.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

n & b research digest update

The reunited Notchnoi Prospekt will perform in Vienna today, on Friday 30th of January, fifteen years after the group's previous concert there, which was also their first visit outside the Soviet Union. The lineup is the same as it was then: Alexei Borisov, Ivan Sokolovsky, Dmitri Kutergin and Sergei Pavlov. The venue is Clubräume of Secession. The programme also includes DJ'ing by Pomassl and others, videos by Roman Anikoushin, and more.

Other live performances:

5.2. Alexei Borisov at Club Transmediale festival, Berlin.

14.2. Volga (Alexei Borisov, Angela Manoukyan, Roman Lebedev) in the Kiasma Theatre, Helsinki.

21.-23.3. Alexei Borisov at Budu Art festival, Tomsk.

Alexei Borisov's third solo CD "Polished Surface of a Table" is out now on Moscow's Electroshock label.
More info:
Mail order: Groove

"Madam I'm Adam", 2-CD compilation by Pekka Airaksinen, released in conjunction with Avanto Helsinki Media Art Festival in November 2003, is now available internationally. The compilation was produced by N&B Research Digest for Helsinki's Love Records. "Madam I'm Adam" collects 11 Airaksinen tracks from 1968-2003: three by The Sperm (one of them previously unreleased), one by Gandhi-Freud, two by Ajraxin and four released under his own name. The second disc of the double set is comprised of remixes of the same 11 tracks. The remix artists are Nurse With Wound, Mira Calix, Simon Wickham-Smith, Curd Duca, Philipp Quehenberger, Es, Tuomo Ilari Puranen & T.A. Kaukolampi, Tyrone D.C. Washington, Notchnoi Prospekt, Anton Nikkilä and Pekka Airaksinen himself.
More info:
Distribution and mail order:
Mail order:

"Xenoglossia", the first CD by Alexei Borisov + KK. Null has also just been released. The label is Moscow's Insofar Vapour Bulk.
More info:
Mail order:

Due out soon: new CD called "Forbidden Beat" by F.R.U.I.T.S. on the Austrian Laton label and Musique Concrete Ensemble's "Dissolution Tapes", a remix CD by an international lineup of artists featuring Alexei Borisov and Anton Nikkilä, to be released on the US label Zeromoon.
More info:
Reviews, links to interviews and MP3 samples:

hymen records update
new releases on hymen records:

a ph.d. candidate in environmental politics at toronto’s york university, rich
oddie revels in the interplay between politics, theory, and music, and plies all
three into the fabric of his new album for hymen, circuitbreaking. hymen will
release two versions: the full-length cd will include 10 tracks, where the
arrangement consists of thematic, melody-driven pieces punctuated by precision
experimental electronics that range in timbre from the textural calamities of
akira rabelais and autopoieses’ noise patterns to the tone-pulse configurations
of ryoji ikeda and carsten nicolai’s microtonal minimalism. titled “circuit
I-V,” these almost interstitial pieces buffer stark, techno-infused tracks like
“signal to noise,” which with its riveting electro overtones and ceaseless crisp
bass pulses brashly acknowledges its debt to the detroit underground.
“simulacra” and “simulacrum” share strong ties to laptop glitch and rhythmic
noise, both spinning around a shared sequence of unchan!
ging tone sounds and downtempo industrial beats. and if one track on
circuitbreaking wears its political orientation on its sleeve, it’s “critical
mass,” a martial beat pattern with jeering crowd noise that’s equal parts berlin
techno and “join in the chant” by nitzer ebb. as full of musical variety as it
is, circuitbreaking nevertheless succeeds in conveying a singular conceptual
theme, one which lies at the heart of people’s connections with one another.
hymen encourages you to perform your own circuitbreaking wherever and whenever
the need arises.

architect. i went out shopping to get some noise. cd / 12" lp
architect. t-shirt
end. the sounds of disaster. 12" lp

all hymen releases are available via ant-zen mailorder-service @
wholesale information on request.


end, solarx, donna summer, hrvatski, novel23, stud
@ moscow international festival of electronic music and video art
krylya sovetov arena (wings of soviet arena), leningradskiy prospect 24a,
moscow, russia

venetian snares
@ sickness, 88 front st, brooklyn, new york
info: http://www.isolaterecords.com/eventcalendar.html

end, donna summer, nathan michel
@ tonic, nyc, u.s.a.

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SA4QE / Hoban Day 2004
forwarded from the-kraken list, yet another attempt to make people become curious and read some russell hoban.....

Dear Krakenites,

As the Kraken's anointed Mincer for SA4QE Documentation, Dave has asked
me to announce this year's event. For those of you not familiar with this, it
started in 2002 when the group was thinking of a suitable way of commemorating
Russell Hoban's birthday on 4th February (which, you'll no doubt know, is this
Wednesday). Founding Krakenista Diana Slickman proposed the following:

"I propose that we each, on February 4, write our favorite passage, of
any length, from any RH book on a piece of yellow paper, or cigarette paper, or
whatever haunts you personally, and drop it somewhere public and then walk away,
leaving chance to do the rest. I am a vehement hater of litter, so I would
recommend leaving it someplace rather than just dropping it on the ground - a
seat on the train, a table in the library, in the elevator at work, along with a
tip for your waiter, or any of a hundred thousand other places. And then we could
all send the quotes to RH, along with the time and place where they were released.
The paper should at least include the name of the book and Russell's name. Part
of me thinks it would be wonderful to leave it at that, and let the mystery of
things take it from there, let the paper find its way (or not) to some receptive (or
not) person who would then go seek out the book (or not) and become another fan (or
not). Part of me thinks it would be fine to include on the paper your e-mail or
the Kraken website address, or your home phone, or a note from you personally
about why you chose it and the occasion on which it was dropped. The more I think
about this the more excited I am about it. I like it because it is secret, and
personal, and random, and small. Of course one of us could drop a quote on the desk
of the Times literary editor, or some such, and perhaps generate a little notice.
Did I say it should be hand-written? I think it should be. It would draw more
attention, I think, that way."

This became known as the Slickman A4 Quotation Event, or SA4QE for
short. When we'd dropped our sheets of A4, we then posted the quotes, their
locations and our reasons for our choices to the Kraken for the other members to enjoy. I
then turned all this into the SA4QE website, which forms a fascinating
record of the quotes dropped by Hoban fans from literally all over the planet. (There
is a world map on the site illustrating how global the event has become.) A few
months after the site was launched, SA4QE was mentioned in the Guardian profile of
Russ, which can be read online at

Once again this year I will be putting the new quotes on the site. As
before, I will make a fresh page for any new 4Qaters (pron. "fork-you-aters", n.
pl., "participants in the annual Hoban pilgrimage known as SA4QE", from the
vb. 4Qate, "fork-you-ate", "to drop a yellow paper quote") and their choices. For
any former 4Qationists who also scatter quotes this year, I will update your
existing pages.
If you're unfamiliar with the site, do please have a look around it to
get an idea of what was done in 2002 and 2003. The site is at
www.thoughtcat.com/sa4qe and the general format for the pages is as follows:

- your name
- your location and occupation
- the quote(s) you chose
- where your quote was left
- the reasons for your choice of quote and location
- a photo of yourself with your yellow paper, or your yellow paper in
its place of rest, or a yellow-paper-inspired illustration
- anything else you'd like to add (e.g. a more detailed account of your
SA4QE day, your favourite potato pancake recipe, Rubens bottom, etc.)

I should make it clear however that any info beyond your name (or a
nom-de-fork), your chosen quote and its location is entirely voluntary. In fact it's
all voluntary, but in exchange for 4Qating on 4th February, no angry lion
will visit your home.

I generate the web pages from the quotes and other info posted to the
Kraken, so there's no need to go to any special typing or formatting efforts.
However, if you have any photos to contribute please send them to
gombert@thoughtcat.com (gombert at thoughtcat dot com).

There's only a few days to go before SA4QE2004, so, if you haven't
already chosen your quote(s), to mingle Horace and Hoban, SEIZE THE AMARYLLIS NIGHT

I remain,
Your faithful servant,
Richard Cooper
Online SA4QE Documentationist

-i'll be back with quotes on the appropriate day, chances are i'll even break into my reserve of unread hoban, after all if i'm saving it for a rainy day, its certainly pissing down outside.

millennium mambo - back in to glasgow today for the latest in the electric shadows season, whcih continues all this week, this one was hit and miss - it seemed to have more potential than the end product actually delivered, which was a pity - though i think anything i've seen in the CCA is going to be tinged by just how uncomfortable a cinema it really is.

while i was in anyway, i went shopping:

karloff's circus - steve aylett - the fourth book of aylett's accomplice series is now on the shelves, the blurb on the back claims it is the rosetta stone that will make the other three make sense, i doubt it...

the changers book 2of2: our obligation to the future - ezra claytan daniels - just picked this up at random, no sign of book 1 typically, but looks promising enough anyway.

public domain: channel zero design book - brian wood

demo 3of12 - brian wood and becky cloonan

-was surprised to come across a stray copy of public domain, i've never actually seen it before and most of wood's books remain in stock. i knew the new demo was due so was watching for that anyway.

global frequency 11of12 - warren ellis and jason pearson

two step 2of3 - warren ellis and amanda conner

-two long awaited issues, ellis' material seems to be continually getting dicked with, so that this issue of global frequency at least, has been put back a couple of times.

midnight mass: here there be monsters 1of6 - john rozum and paul lee - i rather enjoyed the first series of the mystical investigators from midnight massachusetts, differnt interior artist - paul lee instead of jesus saiz, which is a pity, but looks decent; still covers by hanuka which are pretty striking.
hellblazer:staring at the wall 4of5 - mike carey and marcello fruisin - constantine is dead, yes, again... not sure about this turn of events, perhaps the weakest material of the time i've been reading the title, and the art certainly seems to be getting lazy, but we will see how it rounds out and what follows.
the losers 8 - andy diggle and shawn matrinbrough - got mixed feelings on this series, though reading the first 7 parts all together the other night did make a difference - initial impressions that this is a twist on 100 Bullets still hold to some degree, but at least it is better reading than fables which i dropped a lot quicker.
caper 4of12 - judd winick and farel dalrymple - the last part of this story, which i believe is also the end of the run by artist dalrymple, pity - i've been really enjoying this turn of the century story of jweish mobsters.
wildcats version 3.18 - joe casey and francisco ruiz velasco - i was surprised to find i enjoyed this series when i picked it up at first, the art being a major factor - with that the last few issues have been different artists, hopefully they'll sort that out pretty soon.

waterfall 1 and 2 - ben seto - i flicked through this before and had a "i'll think about it response", back in today and thought "go on then".
wanted 1 - mark millar and jg jones as above, though i have more doubts with this one, lets see if i make it to a second issue.

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