Sunday, 3 May 2015

Dalek Extermination

Dalek still sound as relentless, claustrophobic and completely cohesive as I remember them back at the old Camber Sands ATP, sometime in 2005. Dalek seem to realise this too, as they shout out to ATP at the close of the show. The noise is metallic, harsh, but also nebulous- as if a fog of industrial material is gusting from the awkwardly gyrating geezers behind their laptops and scratching software. The rapping is a demonstrative but not hectoring delight of righteous self-respect bleak reportage. After a sequence of London concerts marred by truly vile audiences and self-defeating promoters, this was a properly revitalising heartbeat of a show.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Funny Ha Ha

It's very rare for me to walk out of a film, literally or metaphorically in the case of a DVD by simply ejecting it; by the time one of the smirking, insolent home invaders has turned to the camera and mugged a grin, I was overcome with the nasty-taste-in-the-mouth feeling I was being manipulated, and only in the service of Haneke's need to hector his audience about how dreadful their influence on movies is. A powerful "What Have I Done?" moment (such as the famous long shot at the end of Taxi Driver) takes an entire film to be in the service of, and crucially requires the audience to follow Travis because they care about him, not because they are tied up with telephone wire and lashed to him. The two anti-heroes in this film are ciphers, punchable at that, and no more watchable or dramatically compelling than animated juvenile crime statistics.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Beat Of The Tambourine

Physicality is almost always the problem with computer music: there's little as demoralising, belittling and flat-out tedious as watching a clutch of guys stare at their laptops unless something performatively diverting is also going on. So, it was a blessed relief at Cafe Oto's Intersect mini-festival when Daichi Yoshikawa picked up a tiny tambourine and proceeded to coax some very strange reverberations out of it with a contact mic, a tin can and a very careful sense of timing.

James Dunn and Chris Weaver had the same patience from sound to sound, and percussive sound palette, but didn't seem to want to hear anything they did more than once; there could have been some brilliantly off-kilter techno in there if only they  could have stomached some repetition.   

Saturday, 7 December 2013

War Is Hell

"Dirty Wars" should have been a rage-inducing festival of skulduggery and neo-imperialist arrogance. Instead, we got shot after tedious shot of the be-stubbled journalist sipping black tea in a fashionably down-at-heel cafe overlooking some war-scarred town, tapping away at his laptop and staring confusedly at a set of photos we've seen many times already, asking himself laughable cod-mystifying questions: "I found myself back in Yemen. But how could I know why?"

Serious issue; ghastly, vacant film. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Island Mentality

This is Kim Ki Duk's bizarre isolationist universe of misogynist fishermen, smalltown prostitutes and a charged, mute female Charon figure. Animals are smacked, handfuls of fishhooks are swallowed and inserted, vengeful jealousies flare out of nowhere, attempts at tendresse are trampled in a clatter of outboard engines and scooter motors. Grey rain and light fogs obscure motive and consequence.

Song Kang-Ho as Policeman

"Tell Me Something" is the story of the unforgotten crime of sexual abuse and forced termination of pregnancy in a barely teenaged daughter, followed by the brutal and surgical murder and dismemberment of a nondescript group of the woman's wannabes and ex boyfriends.

The investigating police officer (the always charismatic Han Suk-Kyu) is even at the outset an unreliable, emotionally compromised and damaged figure, who is run over, beaten up, doused in rain and sour blood, and takes the form of a hopelessly impotent yet charmed and charming male agent of authority. His superiors are a distant and incompetent set of striding suits and stern stares.
The force of the film is a blankly terrifying, vengeful female figure, Soo-Yeon, who enlists another woman in the killing of the anonymous suitors, and then disposes of her in front of the police. when she tries to take the blame for the killings, in a pseudo-denoument to the tune of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" playing in a Seoul branch of Tower Records.
By the close, several dead men have had their bodies cut up, dumped in black plastic binliners in public and inadvertently discovered (one memorably in the middle of a 2 lane highway causes an ugly pile-up), the detective is collapsed outside the murderers' house, while she is on a plane to Paris.
*The most human relationship in the film, that between detectives Cho and his avuncular sidekick Detective Oh, ends gruesomely as Cho hears Oh die on the phone at the second woman's hands; the second (and obviously tomboyishly- styled) woman is then shot by Soo Yeon at Tower Records (with the gun symbolically and superfluously  given her by Cho).

The theme of the bleakly comic botching of  a police operation is far closer to the centre of "Memories of Murder", which is powered but burdered by being based on the true story of a notorious and unsolved sequence of serial murders. The figures of the police officers (particuarly the brilliantly intransigent, lazy but conscience-stricken Song Kang-Ho) are far too embroiled in internecine bickering, territorial disputes and work-avoidance to get close enough to the dead women to have their identity jolted.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

New Worlds

Here are two very different routes to the same very distant destination. We are  big fans of Jodie Foster, as any right thinking person would be, and I thoroughly enjoyed Neil Blomkamp's "District 9" (on a very long flight 3 years ago, in just the state of disorientation and displacement that facilitates great cinematic engagement). However, Elysium, the film, suggests that to get to Elysium, the lost paradise, the essential qualities for the traveller are firstly, a mystic prediction delivered by a wise old Nun during one's childhood, and secondly, the ability to run, shout, punch and shoot for 120 minutes The film looks brilliant; the Californian cityscapes are claustrophobic and very believably decayed , but these are punctuated by far too many master-criminal-in-his-lair-surrounded-by-screens-and-lackeys scenes to conjure a consistent sense of space.
Ellen Gallagher generates a near-effortless Paradisian dimension by creating the creatures who might populate it in a ghostly, whited-out form (her Watery Ecstatic fish and deep sea creatures emerge only barely from the paper), and by hinting at it through goggle-eyed start-charts and forbiddingly seamless black rubber canvases. The Kabuki videos, which use a rhythmically unfolding Chinoiserie of aquatic characters across a cartoon seabed, manage with a loop of half-remembered gamelan music what legions of post-production digital artists failed in Elysium: to elicit the other-worldly, the clouded paradise.