Friday, 22 June 2012

El Perro Del Mar - Innocence is Sense

Those Swedes just make too much weird and wonderful noise. El Perro Del Mar is Sarah Assbring and she's now taken the darker path with her music. Strange hat, creepy hotel room and some stylised camera shots reminding me of Bowie's Ashes to Ashes video, although that could simply be the application of thick blusher on alabaster skin circa 1980.

Towards the end, the layered instrumentation brings forth Tales of Musical Unexpected. Weird dancing in flame fakery reminds me of a strange children's annual of unexplained phenomenon my brother had that used to scare me, particularly a spontaneous combustion photograph comprising a charred slipper *shudder*. Bonkers, sorry innovative daaaahlings.

Her vocals are distorted and other worldly but it all amounts to something quite memorable and catchy and Knife-esque (yes them again) in its art pop sensibility.  Have a listen above, the album Pale Fire is out soon and Innocence is Sense already promises more haunting beepy noises to come.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sigur Ros: Varuo

I’m running a little behind again, the  Sigur Ros album 'Valtari' was out at the end of May but thankfully this beautiful noise arrived in my peripheral when I needed it most.  After a stressful week, and now with most of that lifted, this track matched everything perfectly. Music plays a big part. Ranging from the everyday incidental to the most moving with huge significance; it is the quiet, the excitement, the anticipation, the desperate and at its most superficial and light, equally as important.

Mostly music reminds me of something specifically; a time or a person. What Sigur Ros do is remind me of a feeling, a place internally and hard to explain. Rarely do not understanding any words bother me, the music makes it unimportant in this instance; all in Icelandic, beauty in gobbledigook.

The video is heavily coded and ethereal. I love it. I’ve shared my love of Sigur Ros with friends, most notably one said I find it hard to listen Jonsi’s voice, it makes me want to cry’. Yes. The other said. ‘Everything’s suddenly gone a bit Coldplay’ (I did poke that person in the eye of course) Listen and decide for yourself. I equally love the mystery film experiment going on with the tiny figures coming out of the rock to transcend to another realm. And the codes.

Heavenly and grounding simultaneously, this track just lifts everything. I was similarly overwhelmed reviewing Sigur Ros front man Jonsi’s album ‘Go, especially after seeing him live, too amazing to even make a silly joke about and that’s serious. Gorgeousness.

Get the album here. You will be overwhelmed from Overwhelmsville. If you’re not, I can’t be your friend *wink*

The Tree of Life- written and directed by Terrence Malick

So what on earth was all that about? There will be small spoilers in this review but I wouldn’t worry as they may help to decode what is a bewildering narrativeEpic in all its proportions, Malick used possibly every cinematic trick in the book, fearlessly experimental yet clichéd in places, much too long, a huge soundtrack to keep those awake that really aren’t interesting in the big question; existence. I think it’s a film you will either love or hate but definitely make you think, whether it’s profound preoccupation or ‘what a load of dross’.

This film is an existential wandering through everything from the beginnings of the universe through to the love and demise of one too young to be lost and the main character, Jack, trying to makes sense of life and death.   The Tree of Life comes with oceans of imagery, biblical references and good old-fashioned angst ridden deciphering of the meaning of life.

I watched this, strangely enough, unknowingly in early labour with my daughter, seems pretty apt looking back. It might also mean I go off track a bit attempting to analyse this one, I’m comforted by being in good company in this ‘going off on one’ with Malik himself who seems prone to wander from the path most taken at points in this work, most notably, the point where I thought I might have sat on the remote control and flicked over to ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ by accident. You do honestly sit wondering if you’re in some drug-induced daze where an Attenborough may pop up at any moment.

The film opens with a quote from the Book of Job and tussles of nature over grace. An angelic light (perhaps) offers a guiding hand as it cuts to idealistic scenes of nature and a beautiful home receiving bad news. The mother (Jessica Chastain) seems to symbolise grace and the father (Brad Pitt) nature while the story tells that of Jack, a meditation on his memories and issues within this theological/existential/spiritual dilemma. Sean Penn plays ‘Jack’, looking back on his childhood and the long ago premature death of his brother who in heat, he proclaims to miss every day.

We are thrown back to 1950s small town America and see through Jack’s younger eyes (Hunter McCracken) the dynamic of his family; a nurturing mother and brusque overly strict father. The mother sees goodness and joy everywhere and the father wants to prepare his sons for life’s cruelties amongst scenes of a childhood friend drowning and one being disfigured by burns, the beginnings of Jack’s rebellion smouldering into his adolescence. Confusingly shot scenes of this include an incident with a nightdress that ends up thrown into the river, water being the major symbol throughout, I suppose as the ultimate in beginnings. It is hard to know whether this film lies compatibly with creationism or Darwinism at times.

There are banal materialistic preoccupations touched upon but on the whole the film dances a meditation in questioning, a tranquil calm interposed with spiritual bafflement. It all ends in enlightenment, unconditional love and forgiveness. It could be a hard one to swallow for some and the biblical references can sit quietly confronting an agnostic mind throughout. Definitely one to watch again to get to grips with the spiritual pressings of Malick’s mind, it could bedevil or feel like prayer but to dismiss as merely pretension would be a pity.

*Handy hint: watch twice unless you almost died of boredom the first time.  The use of music is bloody marvellous and the acting, particularly the children, was brilliant.*

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dreams of a Life- A film by Carol Morley

Guess what…I’m probably not going to watch Prometheus even though Fassbender was a great Rochester in last year’s Jane Eyre (jump here for my review) and I may one day watch him playing a sex addict in that film called something or other with Carey ‘in absolutely everything’ Mulligan. Sorry if you landed here expecting that review. I’ve only just joined Lovefilm after a brief flirtation with Greenwich Picturehouse.

Instead I'm going to share a moment a few months back in which I watched Channel Four’s ‘Fresh Meat’, had many hilarious flashbacks to being a fresher at Uni, momentarily felt a bit old and then really thought Zawe Ashton was the best and funniest one and then stumbled upon a docufilm she was in around the same time. Are you still with me?

It was called ‘Dreams of a Life’ and based on the true story of a lady who died alone and wasn’t found for three years in a flat in North London, not a weird loner or outcast but instead an attractive, sociable person. The alluring and mysterious Joyce Vincent would probably never have been on a social network but for some strange reason, this odd film was a stark reminder of the superficiality of facebook every now and then; dilemmas of identity, superficial contacts, surprises, conflicts of personal over professional life,  reminders of birthdays and crappy jobs. Not wishing to feed the troll that is that infamous network, people that think they know you but never really will beyond some surface observation they’ve made or you’ve cooked up wanting to promote via your status update. This woman's life ended in a time before we all muddied our own up with online personas.

So Joyce’s secretive life was prior to mass cyber socialising, they must have had to scrabble about a bit to find people that really knew her (no sarcasm intended) because it was like the filmmaker Morley had raided her ‘Top Friends’. We all know they never really are your friends; they are just the ones most active that can be bothered to add that app. This just highlighted the tragedy; nobody really seemed to know Joyce or understand how she slipped through society and the welfare state, why a woman outwardly glamorous as she was, yet towards the end of her life, was a cleaner and named her bank manager as her next of kin when admitted into hospital. Not a single member of her family were interviewed and the main stay of the cinematic portrayal of Joyce’s life was an ex boyfriend that looked like he might have added her over and over again on a social network.

The film was endearingly clumsy, there were bits where you weren’t sure if it was actors or real people, accounts from minor celebs and an overwhelming sadness at outward appearance over truth. Her life appeared to be a collection of ‘moments’ hiding a lonely and troubled existence with dreams only partially made. And the big mystery was; how could someone die on their sofa, having wrapped up Christmas presents for her friends and not be found or missed for three years?

Well guess what again…I think quite easily. Because this was at the start of an era where friendship has become lazy and modern life is a testimony to loneliness and show. And significantly, she was estranged from her family. And significantly, she lived in a flat in a very transient part of London where people would easily walk past a flat, smell a decaying body and walk on. Her television was on for the entire three years; perhaps if it hadn’t been, someone may have knocked and asked why she wasn’t watching Big Brother. Who knows?

It is a blundering yet beautiful film of morose speculation which does make you think and hangs around in your mind a while after, the beauty of Joyce alongside the horror of decay on many levels, literally in her death and metaphorically in the diminishing web of social contact. If you died in a mysterious way and someone made a docufilm, who would come forward to try and piece your life together? This kept me awake for a while.

It was kind of like watching a Crimewatch reconstruction in places and instilled a need to catch up on old friends and make sure they are alive. It also might make you want to not die in a mysterious way but leave a really long letter or a smart yet devastating blog post at the very least. Nothing narcissistic to see here then.

Watch it and trust me. It will make you think and move you. Then click on 'Fresh Meat' which makes you do nothing of the sort but is brillo.

In a related televisual incident, the beebs Lip Service was also good. Kind of that 90’s thing ‘This Life’ but with lesbians. Phwoaaaaaaar (suddenly need an immature emoticon). More seriously though, it was a detailed portrayal of female dynamics and relationships and (imo)  survived the loss of two major characters.  Here's hoping BBC3 come back with another series. I think HBO may buy it and make it into more of a male fantasy at some point though which would be major pity.

*Dedicated to the lovely friend who sat through 'Dreams of a Life' and its surprisingly funny 'extras' with me and who’s having a rubbishy time right now…mwahs to you x