Fragmented Films 15th of March 09

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Within the first five minutes of Mad Dog Morgan (Umbrella), Dennis Hopper, with a deep Irish brogue cold cocks an aggressive trooper, smokes opium in the Chinese settlement, then watches as his friend’s head explodes in a racially motivated attack. Failing as a gold prospector he turns to highway robbery and terrorises wealthy landowners. When asked in the extras how he approached the role, Hopper laughs, “well, a lot of rum.” He’s playing the Australian bushranger amongst a veritable who’s who of Australian 70’s alumni like Jack Thompson, Frank Thring, Bill Hunter and David Gulpilil, who teams up with Hopper on his crime spree. The director, Phillippe Mora recalls Gulpilil going walkabout during the shooting. When asked why he said “I had to ask the kookaburras and trees about Dennis.”  “Well what did they say?” Asked Mora. “They all said that Dennis is crazy.” In fact Hopper was so consumed by the role that when shooting finished he visited Morgan’s grave, drank  a fifth of Rum and started tearing up the cemetery. Driving away he was promptly arrested by police, blood tested him, pronounced legally dead, and hauled in front of a judge who told him that not only was he forbidden to drive in Victoria, he wasn’t even permitted to be a passenger. They then put him on a plane and sent him back the the U.S. It’s a great film. Hopper plays Morgan as a tormented rock star, or perhaps as himself, a spoiled drug crazed alcoholic actor on a downward spiral towards unemployment. The extras include Mora’s audio commentary, a radio interview, and 30 mins of Mora interviewing Hopper, discussing everything from the French New Wave to Easy Rider.

 

The 1957 Oscar for best screenplay was awarded to Robert Rich for The Brave One. However he never bothered to pick it up. It’s because he didn’t write it. He was a patsy, one of many. It was written by Dalton Trumbo under a pseudonym as in 1947 he was hauled before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un American Activities Committee and refused to answer their questions or name names. He was subsequently jailed and blacklisted by Hollywood. Trumbo (Madman) documents this experience and explores how his stand affected his life, career and family, via archival interviews, telling excerpts from his films such as Pappilon and Spartacus, current day interviews with his family and friends, and most importantly his personal letters. These amazing letters are read by the likes of Liam Neeson, Donald Sutherland, Joan Allen, and David Strathairn. Witty, verbose and brutally honest, they reveal a resolute man struggling against a society hellbent on punishing him. It’s telling that Michael Douglas reads the letter where Trumbo discusses the blood on Robert Rich’s Oscar. His father Kirk’s interview is perhaps the most affecting here. Approaching 90, speech impaired, he talks of looking back on his life and reflecting on what he is most proud of: giving Trumbo a screen credit for Spartacus in 1970 and thus effectively ending the blacklist.

 

Like Animal Farm, The Crucible, or even the Bible (unless you’re from Hillsong), Lord of The Flies (Directors Suite) is an allegorical tale. This means that it shouldn’t necessarily be taken literally, that it’s a less explicit way to explore important themes or ideas that may be a little too sensitive to touch on head on. Yet on any level Peter Brook’s film is a cracker. Made for $150,000 in 1963, shot in black and white with non professional actors and crew on an island near Puerto Rico, Brooks captures a curious mix of documentary realism and stylised artifice. It feels like a uniquely psychological form of filmmaking, utilsing improvisation, an amazing amount of edits and a very articulate feel for both score and sound design. It’s a film, like William Golding’s famous book that demonstrates mankind’s perilous proximity to violence and anarchy once the artifice of law is dropped. 

 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Beyond) is one of the first horror movies ever, a German silent from 1920, it’s one of the most famous examples of the German Expressionism, with highly stylised dark and menacing sets with stark geometric shadows. It focusses on a series of murders and is clouded in mystery and the fantastic. In fact it’s so genuinely spooky that it’s surprising it hasn’t been remade with Naomi Watts.       

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Fragmented Frequencies 5th of March 09

 

Fragmented Frequencies has been thinking about musical instruments of late. It seems there’s a whole bunch of them that have been invented over the years. They have been distributed widely and that’s what everyone uses to make their music. Of course there are subtle differences in how people do it, tending to follow along genre lines, yet blurring the edges to appear a little different from the next guy/girl/monkey, but ultimately you can’t deny a strong link between Steve Vai, Thurston Moore or even John Fahey. Fragmented Frequencies question is simple: When did the invention and innovation stop? 

 Many of us are waiting for this fully formed amazing and beautiful music to fall from the sky and tear our faces off, but how likely is this if everyone’s just using bass, guitar and drums with a lead singer with great tattoos that squeals occasionally?

 To answer Fragmented Frequencies first Dorothy Dixer, the innovation hasn’t stopped, it’s been alive and well in experimental music for years. Of course experimental music has it’s own difficulties and limitations, mostly in terms of a form and structure that seem to be too rigorously adhered to, particularly in relation to improvised music. Yet it also appears to be the one place where something new, something earth shattering could appear, where market forces aren’t going to destroy something before it’s began.

 Found Sound: The experimental instrument project is a series of musical and sound events curated to feature new experimental instruments designed and built by Australian artists and musicians. They’re up to their third performance, and video excerpts from the previous 2 can be seen at www.foundsoundproject.blogspot.com/  and they’re pretty damn interesting. March 18 sees Queensland based Ross Manning who does curious things with light, has created some kind of electronic Kalimba skipping rope and lists some of the tools of his trade as upside down cake, dinosaurs, junk assembly and repurposed old technology, teaming up for the first time with iconic Melbourne instrument builder and composer Rod Cooper. Cooper makes incredible instruments with stupid names that look terrifying and wonderful at the same time, like evil bbq’s on steroids or  impossible and wonderful wind instruments. He’s also an incredibly accomplished improvisor. It’s on at Tape Projects 1/ 81 Bouverie St Carlton from 7.30pm on Wed 18th of March. Only $5.

The 15th of April sees Dylan Martorell and Nathan Gray teaming up with David Nelson in the same series.  Martorell and Gray are better known as Snawklor, a local experimental duo who have continued to do strange and wonderful things with electronics for the last 10 odd years. Their music doesn’t conform to electronic music conventions, seemingly owing more to the natural world than the insides of a computer. It’s an approach that creates an incredibly immersive alien world that is sometimes terrifying yet also quite beguiling. It’s the type of music that you experience and then at the end have no idea how it was all done, like a massive trick has been played on your senses. They’ve just released a new download only album culled from live shows, including outdoor performances (last one was at the bat colony) and art shows (both are accomplished visual artists). Also they’ve elected to allow free downloads for two previous self released albums They Live/ Moths Dissolving, which they constructed via live processing in 2005 and Dived in a Microphone (2004), their last album constructed from samples. You can find all this goodness on their site at http://www.snawklor.blogspot.com/