flick the switch

August 26, 2007

well it’s been a slow news week around here in blogsville. i have been magnificently negligent when it comes to keeping in touch with the real world, as it were. but my literary output is being channeled towards something arguably more relevant and constructive than this here blog. i’m in the throes of a creative writing course at monash at the moment, and i had typed up a run-down of the whole situation when the ever-benevolent netspace decided to eat my words. literally. how’s that for bad press?

basically, the class is ok, except that i’m the youngest person there by a good ten or fifteen years, and everyone except me seemed to cock their heads when the teacher mentioned raymond chandler.

i’ve been counter-balancing my life of sloth with a suitable amount of excercise. i’ve scored goals in my last three hockey matches, however yesterday the gods thought i deserved a busted finger for my troubles. a man without the use of his left index finger is like an empty bottle of beer. good for nothing. and kind of sad to look at.

the film festival finished two weeks ago. i’ve been really bad; there are literally ten films i still wanted to review. but i guess that’s not going to happen. i’ll just mention some of the more mentionable. the biggest surprise for me personally was definitely khadak.

i can safely say that i have never seen anything like this before, and it would seem the critics haven’t either. i guess technically the film is about identity, but more so it’s about emotive visuals. the movie moves from the mongolian dessert, to a coal mine, to a delapidated housing commission, and there are even extended dream sequences which literally have no bearing on the narrative itself. as an excercise in experimental film-making, khadak is off the hook. it’s definitely not the most accessible movie you will ever see, and i believe it needs to be viewed on a huge screen to be fully appreciated (the sheer scope of some of the final shots is mind-blowing). i wish i could remember more of it. suffice to say that tsetsegee byamba (i wish my name was as unpronouncable as that) has a certain ethereal beauty that lends itself really well to the movie overall. read the synopsis on the website and get back to me if you can understand any of it.

paprika was definitely my most-anticipated film of the whole event. and i wasn’t let down at all. it can probably be thought of as a vision of a dystopian not-too-distant future in which techno-age identity theft runs rampant, to extreme, utterly intrusive levels. it sometimes reminded me of a more adult version of spirited away in parts (people are going to hate me for saying that), thanks mostly to its constant shifting between, and distortion of, fantasy and reality. the animation is simply beautiful. again, its strengths lie in its lush visuals, but it also possesses an ironic self-referential streak and a creative reckless abandon which sets it apart from other feature-length anime. the nightmarish visions are unlike anything i’ve seen before, and i imagine if i were to see something like that in my dreams, i would be suitably scared shitless. two thumbs wayyyyyy up!

i also made it my business to check out some of the work of the two featured directors, namely shohei imamura (intentions of murder, aka unholy desires) and hirokazu kore-eda (distance).

the jury is still out on intentions of murder. made in 1964, it tells the story of a demure japanese housewife who is beated and raped in her own home, and the re-evaluation of her life that she makes as a result of her trauma. clocking in at 150 minutes, i can honestly say that i wasn’t bored at any stage, but i was occassionally left feeling slightly disoriented, possibly due simply to the culture/language devide. it is a confronting film, shot in pensive black and white, which challenges the ideals of suburban life, the nuclear family, gender roles and, of course, the treatment of rape in post-war japan. sadako confronts her rape as a necessary call to arms for greater independence and to escape the confines of a dishonest, broken home. she considers suicide, emancipation and submission, eventually resigning herself to her diminutive existence, although with a renewed vigour and sense of self. this is, by all accounts, probably the happiest ending the movie could provide us with, but its effect is ultimately tragic. imamura’s film makes for demanding viewing. its themes may not be immediately obvious to the casual viewer, and its imagery and structure can be exhausting, despite extended meditative sequences peppered throughout. it’s not exactly a seamless gateway into japanese cinema, but i was definitely captivated by it. a truly excellent review can be found here, in case anybody is still interested in seeing this film, haha.

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distance was definitely a more accessible film, and one that i really enjoyed. this one concerns the families of loved ones who took their own lives in the name of a suicide cult, the memories they have forged and the ever-increasing ‘distance’ (between them and their pasts) which they must come to terms with. it is about the benefits and dangers of hindsight, the painful realisations it inevitably leads to, and the unpredictable, yet totally necessary, ways we must engage with and embrace the past. while not as visually expressive as some of the other japanese movies i’ve seen, distance is better thought of as a portrait of a handful of core characters and the relationships they forge with each other. this has has inspired me to check out more of kore-eda’s films, starting with after life.

the upshot of all of this is that i’ve been able to identify some common traits in japanese films and asian cinema in general. also, i can honestly say that i have never seen a bad korean movie. fact!

i’ve definitely been sitting here at my desk for way too long tonight. four hours of sleep really knocks you on your arse like that. i still have a few more films i’d like to review, but they can wait. i brushed off the brush-off in less than a week, and despite the ending being the equivalent of a balloon suddenly deflating, i completely loved its rendering of the city of melbourne, and i’m definitely keen to check out more of shane maloney’s books. but, first things first: norwegian wood awaits. the melbourne writer’s festival is on for the next few days, although if last night was anything to go by, i won’t be attending much of it at all.

if you’re into the idea of expanding your mind (and getting a serious dose of perspective), you should probably do two things. first, go out and read cosmos by carl sagan now. second, check out some of the benefits of recreational drug use here! honestly, the demonisation of drugs in political and media circles baffles me. it’s not like here in australia we share a common ethos – we are one of the most multicultural nations one earth and to make blanket statements that anything is in the best interests of the community overall is both politcally incorrect and personally insulting. the statistics relating to drug usage will indicate that for every billion joints passed around at a house party, there might be a handful of fatal heroin overdoses. drugs aren’t particularly dangerous if taken sensibly and with a proper amount of consideration, care and common sense. the world is an excrutiatingly beautiful place, and anything (substance or otherwise) that might help enhance your understanding or your experience of it is good in my book.

alright world, i guess that’s all i have to say for the time being. take care.

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buzz words

August 7, 2007

hello world. i actually have shockingly little to report this time around. my time has been spent volunteering at the festival, seeing movies at the festival, playing hockey or otherwise wasting time in the city. there’s something very bohemian about spending all day, every day wandering around melbourne. but there’s also something kinda primal about it. i feel like i’m scavenging in a way; mining for information that i can use as ammunition later in life. there really is something going on everywhere you care to look.

i’m pretty lucky that my city has so much pure content, but conversely it’s overwhelming just how much of it i am still yet to discover. i thought i was uncovering some hidden treasure when i took myself to the city library today (not to be confused with the state library), however i was dismayed at how many fuckin’ people were scattered about the place. literally every seat (and every desk) was occupied by some sleeping asian student. come on now, everybody knows that the place to sleep is the uni library, if, y’know, bed itself isn’t an option. i was actually kind of annoyed; i just wanted a nice quiet corner to read. there was also a nintendo lying around looking lonely, but i didn’t want to be the jerk to pick up the controller and start spinning around like a maniac. i’ve said it before: white people simply can’t play video games. it’s just not in our genetic disposition to do it right. japanese girls look so damn cute dancing about and whacking things with sticks in those bright neon arcades they’ve got over there. they even look cute standing around watching their boyfriends jump around on them. but us white folk just can’t pull it off. watch any white person trying to play wii and they invariably look epileptic. and it only gets worse as the games get more serious.

anyway.

top 10 things i’ve realised at the film festival:

  1. people who get festival passports are usually too unfit to make it worthwhile running between venues.
  2. all the volunteers like to think they’re smarter and cooler than each other.
  3. point number 2 notwithstanding, i have better taste in movies than you.
  4. people idolise andy warhol way too much, and usually in a misguided way: the name alone carries far more weight now than his art ever did.
  5. i want to be some old guy who still goes to see seniors’ sessions at ACMI between visits from my iron lung.
  6. i don’t want to be the old guy who fell asleep next to me today, though. it was really distracting, and not just a little creepy.
  7. it is rarely appropriate to applaud a movie. i mean unless the cast and crew are there, just don’t.
  8. spending up to 12 hours per day in the CBD starts getting expensive.
  9. a little bit of sexual innueno goes a long way, both on screen and off it.
  10. i am no good at crowd control, directing traffic or giving orders.

i need to get back into playing video games. there was a good stretch of at least a few months there when i would literally play at least an hour per day. go ahead, call me a geek, or a nerd, i seriously don’t care. i’m so excited about bioshock coming out, and also spore, but it looks like that one might be a while away yet.

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so i saw day watch the other night, the sequel to night watch. let’s get this out of the way right now: night watch is a way more bad-arse name for a movie than day watch. and it’s meant to be a trilogy, so what the hell are they gonna call the last one? dawn watch? sadly, the drop in quality of the name was reflected by the drop in quality of the movie itself. night watch was awesome; it was a completely fresh take on the traditional eastern european vampire folklore and really went a long way towards ‘modernising’ russia (at least in the eyes of the hollywood audience) and making foreign films infinitely more accessible through its amazing use of subtitle art. if you haven’t seen night watch yet, do it immediately, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. but day watch to me never seemed to get off the ground. the plot was incredibly weak, the new characters forgettable, and the special effects seemed recycled. the movie covered no new ground, except for it’s epic crusade-style opening, which was frustratingly the highlight of the film. i simply can’t understand how this movie could have a higher rating on rotten tomatoes than the original.

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this one was definitely a surprise. it’s showing as a part of the ‘euro debuts’ feature at the festival this year; in case you need it explained to you, all the films in this category are made by first-time directors. yo actually reminded me quite a lot of swimming pool in its exposition: a man goes to work as the groundskeeper at a mansion in the spanish country, and gets way more than he bargained for. story-wise, it’s about hans and his paranoia, his uncertainty, his sheer confusion. he lives in the shadow of a former hans and feels an invisible pressure to either embrace it or break free, and i suppose most of the movie is about hans’ oscillation between his two identities, and the conflicts they cause each other. it was a really, really strong first effort from rafa cortés. almost the entire film is shot from the perspective of over hans’ shoulder; it’s more or less as close as cinema can get to a first-person view of events, which actually serves the dual purpose of making everything seem much simpler while at the same time a lot creepier. by the half-way mark of the film, nearly every shot is in the dark, and by the ending the daylight is actually quite jarring. without spoiling the ending, i liked the fact that they didn’t go for that typical psychological thriller easy way out; it takes no short cuts and arrives at no simple conclusions. at an hour and forty minutes it wasn’t exactly a long film, but it’s minimalistic style and relative lack of ‘action’ meant that it dragged slightly before the end, but we can definitely attribute that to the fact that we’re talking about a new director. the acting (especially alex brendemühl as hans) was especially strong.

ok well i was gonna do a third review but i’m all thinked-out at the moment. i ran my guts out at hockey training and still haven’t had any dinner to set things right again. i’m nearing the end of for whom the bell tolls so if i’m feeling particularly adventurous i might even make a comment on that once i’m done. i will say, though, that i’m actually quite enjoying it and all it’s arcane spanish phrases.

the shins tomorrow night, so fucking excited, and then paprika the day after that, so with any luck the next few days will be pretty cool.

take care, everybody.

back to the basics

August 2, 2007

what’s up! i’ve spent the last four days basically hanging out with yellowcard during their stay here in melbourne. on sunday we went to the footy (to see a rather insipid essendon somehow get up against the crows) then into melbourne central for an old-timey steak dinner. on monday night, i met the guys at their hotel, we grabbed dinner in hardware lane at some italian place before heading to pugg’s for some fiercly competitive buck hunter and more than a few james squire golden ales. am i their best customer or what? i hold annual events there and have taken celebrities there the last two times they have been in the country. i should be earning some kind of commission. last night was the gig itself; rhys and i met ryan mendez at the metro, bought coopers longnecks and got some dumplings in chinatown. we headed back to the venue – but not before more beers – got our tickets sorted, then got a surprisingly warm reception from the band members backstage. we watched the gig from the side of the stage, drinking the coronas that the band didn’t want.

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this photo was literally taken during one of their songs. after the gig, we went back to the band’s hotel and chilled in the lobby, again drinking their beers on account of the bar was closed already. if the staff cared, they didn’t seem to mind. we talked and laughed for about an hour before heading down the street to an amazingly seedy strip club. i guess we were being led by these few girls that singer ryan had met. we stayed there for many hours, getting more and more and more drunk until about 3am when somebody made the executive decision that it was time to leave. rhys, my brother and i were all so drunk that none of us can even remember saying goodbye to the guys in the band, let alone mendez himself – a sure sign of a successful night.

on paper, it was basically the best day ever for me: reading books, seeing movies, drinking nice beers, eating cheap asian food, hanging out with my good friend rhys and a guy who i have huge respect for in ryan mendez, free entry and backstage access to the gig, and literally millions of beers afterwards. the only downside to the past four days is the hit my bank account has taken.

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we talked about all kinds of things; mostly bagging out bands like good charlotte and fall out boy, of course, but i like to think there was a little bit of substance in there too. i’m not so sure i could handle that kind of life, though. there’s just too much culture i want to experience here in melbourne, such as the film festival, for instance, and the guggenheim exhibition. if i was in a touring band, i would never have the time or the means to do things like that. it’s glamorous to a point; a band is forced to eat, sleep, travel and hang out together, and without fanboys like myself to entertain them in exotic foreign places, i can imagine things would actually get kinda lonely. i mean i’m 21 and i’m already saying i couldn’t do it; these guys have been going non-stop for the last ten years. i can’t imagine not being able to just stay home some nights and read a book or chat on the phone or watch some mindless tv.

before heading to the gig, rhys and i took the opportunity to see this awesome documentary at the film festival. the cats of mirikitani is the story of jimmy, a homeless artist from new york city, and his drawings. this guy is incredible; his art, while not technically outstanding, is so unique and authentic, and created with such passion and care, i had an amazing respect for him from the moment he appeared on screen. he suffers from none of the popular misconceptions of homeless people either; this is a guy who would probably afford a place to live, but doesn’t – someone who could sell his art for modest sums of money, but doesn’t. he wants for nothing from the outside world. a true philanthropist, and despite being mistreated or simply ignored for most of his life, nothing makes jimmy happier than to create his art and share it with the world.

this is a seriously heartwarming movie; if you can manage to see it at the film fest i would definitely recommend it, because i’m not sure if the opportunity will ever come up again in this country.

i’m going to sign off now; as you might expect, i have the worst hangover ever and i can’t see it letting up. i’m going to go make myself a cup of white tea and try to read some pop philosophy and think about how awesome my week has been so far. i had made copies of the veronicas, blueline medic and the vasco era for mendez, as well as a copy of kenny, but in the midst of the madness i forgot to give them to him.

take care.