Another eagerly anticipated gig last night, Sonic Youth in darkest Camden…..
This was unlike your run of the mill gig as the band are actually playing their entire classic Daydream Nation album, from start to finish. This can make things a little predictible (obviously) but of course you do get to see some absolute classics – ‘Silver Rocket‘, ‘Teenage Riot‘, ‘Cross the Breeze’, ‘Eric’s Trip‘ – well, I could go on….
I’ve never been to the Roundhouse before, and my brother nearly punched me out when I enquired if it was a new venue – turns out it was the location of the Doors and Ramone’s first gig in the UK, Pink Floyd started there in the 60′s, and the likes of Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Bowie, Zepplin and others have all trod it’s stage. Oops. In my defence it has been derelict for decades and only recently been given a facelift as part of wider regeneration efforts in Camden. It’s a pretty cool venue, not too big and from my terrible photos you’ll be able to see how close I was able to get to the stage.
All things considered, they fucking rocked it. I will never get tired of seeing these pioneers attacking their instruments with drum sticks, beer cans or anything else that comes to hand if they can produce music as powerful as this – feedback never sounded so sweet. As well as the album we got one extended encore with tracks from last years highly acclaimed ‘Rather Ripped‘ album, a number from ‘Goo‘, a couple from ‘Sister‘ and a second encore where they surprisingly delivered ‘Shaking Hell‘ a track so old school it was recorded before schools were invented. It was also highly entertaining to hear shouts from the crowd in between tracks stating ‘I FUCKING LOVE YOU KIM !!’ which showed that Mrs. Thurston Moore’s still got it….
Camden’s quite enjoyably dodgy. On the way to the venue we saw a couple of dealers get chased down to Camden Lock by the old bill, and I got offered various narcotics on the way back to the Tube after the show – the only other place in London I’ve experienced this was in Brixton which coincidently is where I saw the ‘youth’ back in 1990. Before you ask I obviously politely declined, stupid dealer couldn’t break a £50 note…..
EDIT – Ah, that’s more like it – a few links from the night I was at. Enjoy, and turn it up….
Finally got out and about in my new(ish) manor today, to perform some inspections and generally have a nose around. This I guess is one of the ‘perks’ of what I do, as someone who is genuinely fascinated with the physical and cultural history of our glorious capital city I get paid to wander around looking at stuff. Sweet.
Started off on the Bow Road (you’ll have to drill in on those Google Map links, doesn’t seem to save the location but look to the left) wandered down to Whitechapel, which contains Brick Lane where I stopped to take advantage of the numerous lunchtime deals, then up to Bethnal Green, back down to Mile End and finally back to Stratford to catch the DLR back to my work offices at Blackwall.
Whew. So how does Richmond and Tower Hamlets contrast? Richmond, with its placid tree blessed streets, where the usual interaction with the residents would be with the bored bridge playing housewife’s of City executives whose grave concerns with a minuscule graffiti tag on the shop front of their local haberdashery would frequently descend into verbal abuse. Tower Hamlets in comparison is a realm shrouded in murder and crime, a boisterous melange of pastel garbed denizens, the pungent aroma of spiced dishes emanating from the shop fronts, the hubbub of a dozen languages punctuated by the roar of emergency service sirens. Quite a different experience.
Now I know what you’re thinking – that is the most overwrought and pretentious paragraph I have ever read !! That was the intention, I had such fun mentally composing that today that I thought I had to share it with you. The final photo is of the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel which you may have heard off….
So am I really going to move to this part of the world in January? A location in which I am bound to be shot, stabbed, burgled, mugged and / or sure to develop a debilitating class A substance abuse habit within weeks of arrival?
I couldn’t do any worse than my current neighbours now could I ? Seriously though, the place has a great buzz about it and as you would imagine it is a seismic shift from one of the most affluent areas in the country that I have worked in for the past year. Newham, an authority where I have worked in the past had much the same challenges so I’m no virgin to this environment workwise, let’s see where this takes the Mint….
After becoming annoyed with myself over recent months at not properly exploiting my free time and just sitting around the house I was determined to make the most of the final bank holiday weekend of the year – I think it’s fair to say mission accomplished.
Friday night and after a couple of beers in Victoria I legged it over to a friend’s for an evening of serious gaming – one of the most eagerly awaited games ever made has finally arrived in Europe – Bioshock. To put this in perspective, my mate’s PC has a graphic card which costs just under a grand – it’s a beast of a machine and the ideal environment to experience the state of the art graphics in the game. Gameplay wise I was impressed – it follows the usual FPS model but each encounter feels genuinely dangerous and threatening. Most intriguing is the back story and world, apparently inspired by the philosophical discourse of Ayn Rand, set on a undersea utopia that has collapsed into ruin and degredation – somewhat different from the hordes of aliens/mutants/cyborgs you have to kill on the space station/mining colony/secret military base that is the norm for this genre.
After leisurely making my way back to Richmond I took it easy on Saturday (pacing myself you see, must be getting wise in my old age) and took in a few movies including ‘Knocked Up‘ and ‘Planet Terror‘ via the magic of the internet. The recent BBC strand of British Film Forever finally delivered an episode actually worth watching, concentrating on the UK’s contribution to the SF, Fantasy and Horror genres. This series has been absolutely awful up until now – when they’re not actively showing you the end of the movies they are examining, they also have some faux ‘matey’ voiceover which sounds like it’s escaped from the pages of ‘Loaded’ magazine. After the crime genre episode where they concentrated on films like ‘The Krays’ at the expense of genuine classics such as ‘Performance’ I’ve been hesitant to waste my time watching these, but I persisted and this weekend’s threw up some genuine oddities that I shall take a gander at. Alex Cox delivers some spirited criticism of the whole British Film Forever season here.
On the Sunday I strolled down to Brighton for a one off ‘Stick it On‘ event. With the likes of DJ Derek and Kid Carpet (who’s kind of a solo Half Man Half Biscuit for the 21st century) on the agenda it was sure to be something different. Great fun, nice eclectic mix of music, a fun crowd, nice food and reasonably priced booze – what more does a growing boy need?
After a late start on the Monday and a fast train back to London I waded through a few more movies which takes this weekend’s count to a Ozu, Dreyer, Bertolucci and a Fellini. A mixed bag, ‘The Dreamers’ was good if only for the eye candy of Eva Scott but the best was ‘Tokyo Story’ which is genuinely moving and heartfelt. It also includes the fantastic Setsuko Hara in the cast who is an actress I’ve noticed more and more in a series of immediate post war Japanese films that I’ve caught over the past year. As always she’s fantastic in this and is highly recommended if only because we share the same birthday, give or take fifty years….
EDIT – Just found this, which will only be up for a week so make sure you copy or download it now – and RIP Tony Wilson…
So, I knocked off work early on Friday. Ah, I hear you cry, the weather was nice so Minty was getting to the pub early? Um, no. Oh, well then you must have been heading to one of the beautiful London parks to soak up some sun with friends? Err.. not exactly. Well, why then? To get some photos of an underpass in Wandsworth, obviously….
Yes, I’m sad. Anyway, this is where one of the opening scenes of the legendary ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ was shot some 37 years ago, nice to see they’ve tidied the place up since eh? I’ve always had a odd relationship to this film, like any other budding movie fan growing up in the 1980′s this movie occupied an almost unique mythic status, banned as it was in the UK for reasons I won’t regurgitate here but suffice to say it’s rarity and illict status only added to it’s allure.
God bless him, my brother turned up with a dodgy US VHS copy one day which finally satisfied my curiosity and led to a small cottage industry as I churned out copies for friends and punters at my secondary college for £15 a go – Richard Branson eat your heart out. Naturally, being Kubrick it was always a work of unparalleled genius, but I always remember being a bit bored after Alex had been banged up in jail – after the sheer exhilaration, euphoria and complicity of the first half hour, the film slows down and takes on a much more satiric and metaphorical edge. Being older and wiser I can appreciate why, as like ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ the movie is striving for an almost fairy tale, fable like quality as the main protagonist re-visits the same locations, the same places he saw during the first cycle of the movie with quite different results and outcomes.
Here are some links to a fine documentary made on the film’s re-release back in (I think) 2000 which can fill in some of the details for you. Amongst many other Kubrick pictures, the HD DVD release of the film promises some mouth watering extras such as a commentary from Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman – whoever he may be. The question is, do I buy a Blue Ray Drive for my Mac or go crazy and get myself a sleek new Playstation 3? Decisions…decisions…
After hiding from the sun like some portly vampire, I actually made it out and about this weekend, finally completing a visit to the V&A museum in Knightsbridge which is a venue I’ve been meaning to revisit since I moved to London some seven years ago. Whilst at college I attended the V&A and caught a memorable Bill Viola exhibition which I enjoyed, shame it’s taken me so long to give the permanent exhibitions in the museum my attention. The most impressive pieces I stumbled across were the Raphael cartoons as they are erected, in sequence, in a massive chamber at the heart of the museum. Even a committed atheist like myself was captivated.
I popped into Harrods after the V&A for a bit of window shopping, leaving the place only £3.50 lighter of pocket after picking up the new Stephen King paperback – that my friends is self control. Despite his not writing a decent book in many years (and don’t get me started on the absolutely dreadful conclusion to his epic Dark Tower series, which we Kingophiles have been following for some twenty years) I still can’t resist a new release. On a slight tangent, here is one of my favourite scenes from the second best Stephen King film adaptation – I’m not going to insult you by identifying the first. I’ve always loved this scene, but can’t quite articulate why – it certainly takes on a new dimension given Sheen’s portrayal of Jed Bartlett through seven seasons of ‘The West Wing’.
A short film that I remember seeing during a visit to the Bradford Film Musem. Makes you feel all insignificant doesn’t it?
I’ve finally ploughed through all of the Guardians ‘1000 Movies You Must See Before You Die‘ and can finally reveal (drum roll please) that I’ve caught 732 and missed 268 – 73% is a pretty good pass rate in my book. Most of the stuff I’ve missed seem to be Asian or Iranian in origin, so I suspect a limited release in the UK is to blame. That’s my excuse anyway.
One for you budding David Bailey’s out there – Some terrific and influential photographs. A warning though, some of them are pretty explicit and disturbing so NSFW.
Jonathan Miller can come across as a pretentious, aloof snooty fuck – much like myself – but his recent series on the history of atheism is great viewing. Food for thought. Finally, this is terrific – and I claim my £10 when we see this technique adopted in the next Michael Gondry film…
I was prompted to delve into the back catalogue of Paul Schrader – who in recent years has developed into one of my favourite all time directors – due to the aforementioned screening of the ‘The Walker‘ followed by the usual Q&A at the NFT. What I like about Schrader is the examination of conflicted (either by religion, sex or violence or combination of all three) deeply flawed male characters – a reflection one suspects of his own religious upbringing and teenage experiences. He tells a great story about how he was actually forbidden to see films and certainly had no TV in the house such was the strictures imposed on him by his family environment. The first time he actually saw a movie it was almost like a biblical revelation, he was absolutely terrified (he was 17) but once the panic subsided he knew he was obsessed. He was back at the pictures the next day.
Hardcore – Schrader remakes ‘The Searchers‘ (again) with this one, as a religious George C. Scott seeks his runaway daughter in the porn underworld of 1979 Los Angeles. This is a somewhat erratic film, which is hardly surprising given the prodigious volumes of coke that Schrader and no doubt most of the crew were ingesting at the time. It starts with the muted pastoral and strictly Calvinist environment of Grand Rapids in Michigan, and then as the story shifts to the LA underworld the palate and framing starts to become increasingly gaudy and lurid, as does George C Scott’s demeanour as he descends into a metaphoric hell of sleaze and sin. Some scenes work very well (George and the hooker Season Hubley discussing their world views – Scott explains his religion, Hubley expresses her ‘free love’ hippy sensibilities – ‘Jeez, we’re both fucked’ concludes Hubley) but some are almost embarrassingly bad, particularly Scott’s overacting when first exposed to a porno that his daughter is ‘starring’ in. However, strong support from the likes of Peter Boyle and a great early cameo from cult favourite Tracey Walter (the heir apparent to Elisha Cook Jr.) make this explicit picture a strong contender for the best of the four.
American Gigolo‘ - I winced whilst loading this into the DVD player as I suspected it’s design and soundtrack (Moroder) could have dated quite badly – but this still holds up. Its one of those rarities – a decent Richard Gere film. It’s early 80′s LA, and Gere is a spiritually devoid narcissistic high class male hooker, servicing the wealthly and bored wives of California’s business and political elite. After one trick, Gere finds himself framed for the murder of a senator’s wife, and begins to develop a deeper relationship with one of his clients. This film kick-started a whole visual style and ideology that infected the 1980′s, from advertising to photography to TV (you can see Miami Vice all over this for example) and the film certainly encapsulates that cold, surface only yuppie nightmare that I grew up in, although Peterborough wasn’t quite as glamorous as Beverley Hills. Like the other movies in Schrader’s ‘night-worker’ quartet the plot is pretty irrelevant, and soon fades into the background as Julian’s stumbles toward his final redemption. Good stuff.
‘Affliction‘ – This is the film that really cemented Schrader’s skills as a director for me. James Coburn and Nick Nolte give career defining performances in this examination of men and violence, cruelty and inheritance in the chilly inhospitable winter wastes of New Hampshire. This is a criminally underrated film and is so beautifully crafted and performed – it’s certainly my favourite Schrader film. Nolte is an aging Sheriff whose relationships are turning increasingly sour – his ex-wife hates him, his daughter distrusts him and he is generally seen as an incompetent failure by his peers and colleagues. A shooting accident in the wilds leads Nolte to suspect a cover up which gives him a new impetuous in life, however not everyone wants him delving into what appears to be a simple accident….
‘The Comfort of Strangers‘ - I was a big fan of this film when I first saw it in the early 1990′s, but haven’t seen it since. All I really remembered was Venice, Christopher Walken in a white suit and a shocking act of violence – a scene no less affecting fifteen years later. This psychosexual drama concerns Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett holidaying in Venice in an attempt to resurrect their failing relationship. With a score by Angelo Badalamenti, a script by Harold Pinter, photography by the great Dante Spinotti and a cast including Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren as a mirror couple who befriend Everett and Richardson for some hidden purpose how could this fail? It’s very atmospheric, and Venice has never looked more beguiling. As for Walken, well let’s just say that if you look up the definition of the word ‘creepy’ in the Oxford English Dictionary there’s a picture of him in this movie….
Honourable mention should also go to a little gem called ‘Rolling Thunder‘ that Schrader wrote as one of his first assignments back in the late 70′s. This is an absolute joyous B-Movie revenge film where Vietnam Vet William Devane wrecks terrible vengeance on the hippies and junkheads who kill his family and cut off his hand shortly after he’s back after a harrowing tour of duty in ‘nam. If you didn’t know that Tarantino’s production company is named after this picture then get thee to a Transformers movie blog and never darken my bandwidth again….
One of the hottest weekends of the year so naturally yours truly spends a couple of days indoors watching the final dozen episodes of ‘The Sopranos‘. There will be major spoilers in this post so go away if you’re a fan and haven’t caught the finale to this televisual masterpiece.
Like many, I was initially a little confused by the final scene, but my suspcions as to why David Chase decided to cut to black so abruptly seem to be shared by others – Tony gets clipped. Perhaps. This analysis has been doing the rounds, and David Chase has remained mostly silent on the ending, in an effort to maintain the ambiguity. The uproar was huge in the states, with spoonfed dullards expecting a bloodbath which really is not what the show was ever about. It reminds me of the ending of ‘Hill Street Blues’ – more of a life goes on vibe as oppossed to the awful finish of ‘Twin Peaks’ which seemed to want to shoehorn in as many twists and absurd events which jarred completely with the previous tone of the series. Well, apart from the absurd stuff, obviously.
That said, the scene where Phil Leotardo got his well deserved fate was virtuoso Sopranos – that scheming fuck got what he deserved. Frank Vincent has always been a great mob guy on screen and the classic shinebox scene remains a favourite. Also nice to see my favourite character, Paulie, made it through to the end unharmed.
Finally, here is a funny seven minute refresher which takes you up to the last 7 or 8 episodes. That should save you about 75 hours of your life.
Despite a hellish bout of flu that has kept me off work for the past few days, I dragged myself along to the NFT on Monday for a screening of Schrader’s new movie ‘The Walker‘ followed by the obligatory interview (by Mark Kermode) and Q&A session. I’m a huge fan of Schrader’s movies, both written and directed, so nothing less than a mild bout of cancer would have kept me away. I don’t think the fellow patrons I was sneezing and coughing over were as keen, but that’s life.
‘The Walker‘ is a character study of Carter Page III, a contemporary Washington based escort (of the non-sexual variety) to the jaded and disaffected trophy wives of the power elite. He serves as mentor and priest, gossip and sister whilst plagued by his own insecurities over the shadow of his legendary father who was a political heavyweight. Naturally, he was was repulsed by his son’s homosexual status yet Carter still feels the need to seek his approval, even many years after his death. Woody Harrelson is a revelation in this, a quite different role than he normally takes on. It works hard to establish a murky world of vague intrigue, and you feel for Carter as his friends fall away after he is implicated in the murder of a businessman whom it appears has been having an affair with a senators wife.
Overall though for me, it didn’t quite top the heights of either ‘Light Sleeper‘ or of course ‘Taxi Driver‘ (hey, what could?) but it does serve as a fitting finale to this sequence of films where Schrader examines the outcasts of society. The opening third is the best but then it does seem to drift off and lose focus somewhat, with a downbeat finale which while entirely fitting with the story, left me shrugging my shoulders. I don’t think I was really in the mood given my illness, so a second viewing will be in order once it gets a DVD release.
The subsequent interview however made up for my slight disappointment. Schrader was exceptionally eloquent, frequently funny and told some good anecdotes from the bizarre world of Hollywood and his independent status within it. Schrader has frequently likened this to his earlier ‘American Gigolo’, the similarities between plot are apparent, and are used in both cases to hang a character study on a slim and unimportant narrative – who this guy is is important, not specifically what happens to him. Schrader explained in the interview that this is the same man who was driving that cab in his twenties, was the hustling narissist in his 30′s, was suffering a mid-life crisis as a dealer in his forties, and now finds himself in a moral conundrum in his fifties.
He got the biggest laugh when explaining how Woody got the role, which was really due to many of the other leading actors feeling uncomfortable about playing a gay man. ‘John Travolta turned it down’, explains Schrader, then with a raised eyebrow ’….and so did Kevin Spacey’ <Big Laugh> ‘…..and so did Tom Cruise’ <Huge Laugh>. He also had a lovely comment on how he still stays in touch with Scorsese and De Niro, they still make every effort to have dinner at least once a month, their hectic schedules permitting. And what do they talk about during these meals? ‘After 35 years, we pretty much just still talk about movies’. Superb. The usual transcript isn’t on the Guardian website yet, I’ll link to it when it goes up.
We’ll next see Woody in the eagerly anticipated new Coen film ‘No Country for Old Men‘ which I hear is a return to form, after the misfire of ‘Intolerable Cruelty’ (which I thought still had it’s moments) and ‘The Ladykillers’ (please join me in the hunt to track down and burn every negative of this abortion) I can’t wait….
So, the loss of the ‘alchemist of intimacy‘ also leaves the global film community in mourning. Another legendary comedy director, Antonioni concerned himself with the sterility of modern life, the alienation that contemporary culture engenders at all levels of society and like many of his peers and predecessors, a criticism of the bourgeois (what is it with middle class guilt eh?) in a more subtle mode than say Bunuel ever attempted.
I must confess I have only seen a handful of Antonioni’s films, most of which are his english language pictures such as ‘Blow-Up’, the aforementioned ‘Zabriskie Point’ and ‘The Passenger’ but I did catch the first of his legendary Italian trilogy ‘L’Aventura‘ at a NFT season a couple of years ago. I’m no expert, but I did detect in his work a unique skill for staging his characters in locations and environments that reflect their psyche, their emotional condition – a technique that admirers like Michael Mann has adopted for his crime epics. Here is the legendary six minute closing shot to ‘The Passenger‘ which is a kind of spoiler, but his films are so fractured and open to individual interpretation I think I can get away with it. It’s the film I’ve enjoyed the most of the few I’ve seen, although I shall make efforts to track down ‘L’Notte’ and L’Eclipse’. The sequence that had the most impact on me was this (and I’m quite surprised to see it up on youtube) which won’t make a lot of sense out of context, but I think is subtly affecting nonetheless.
Speaking of death, no-one seemed to notice the loss of the great cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs a week or so ago, more’s the pity. He’s one of those names who frequently crops up in the credits of the movie brats, even if the twilight of his career did result in him working on some pretty atrocious projects. Still, he still shot ‘Easy Rider’, ‘Shampoo’ and ‘Five Easy Pieces’ so his footnote in cinema history is secured.