Fragmented Films 9th April 09

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Just so we’re clear that Import Export (Accent) is an art film, it contextualises its shocking and gratuitous moments, then acts all innocent and pretends not to enjoy them, leaving us to do its dirty work and cast judgement. Yet it still goes much further than it needs to, such as when the young Austrian drop-kick walks in on his sleazy stepfather having what he refers to as an ‘anatomy lesson,’ bending over a Ukrainian prostitute and telling her to stick her fingers in her ass – and that’s only the beginning of a scene that gets much much worse. There’s a matter of factness to the way it’s all filmed, like it’s simply a collection of events that just happened to be captured on film. It’s a grim exploration into poverty and morality from Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days), delving into those uncomfortable prejudices that we’d prefer not to think about. It’s a tale of two journeys, a young Ukrainian woman leaves her child and a career in nursing and internet porn behind for the promise of a better life as a cleaner in Austria and our aforementioned Austrian drop-kick gets a job delivering candy machines with his step father in the Ukraine. The scenes in an elderly hospital in particular are incredible, the patients are impossibly old and it’s difficult to imagine they are even acting. And maybe they’re not, as Seidl in the extra features mentions he uses non professional actors and never writes dialogue, offering what some critics have called a ‘grotesque realism,’ to the film. Despite the grimness of the economic inequality, Seidl mines unexpected moments of humor, warmth and beauty within the despair. His film is messy like life, highly stylized and beautifully crafted, though also an intensely powerful and confronting cinematic experience.

Patrick (Umbrella) is one of the seedier (read better) examples of Ozploitation, where a comatose young murderer develops the horn for his nurse and conspires to wreak havoc on any of her prospective suitors. He does this of course without moving a muscle, without blinking, just spitting occasionally. He’s evil, telekinetic, immobile and horny, a pretty special combination. He’s also not altogether subtle in letting the object of his desires know how he feels. Whilst typing a memo his nurse drifts into a daydream. She then looks back at what she’s written. ‘Patrick wants his hand job now.’ It all comes across as a b-grade Alfred Hitchcock homage (rip off), something director Richard Franklin (Psycho 2) acknowledges proudly in his commentary, and he should be proud. Patrick is a cracker.

Ministry of Fear (Directors Suite) is an incredible film noir from German expatriate Fritz Lang (Metropolis). It’s a 1944 adaptation from a Graham Greene novel that sends you on your ass immediately and has you breathlessly playing catch up from then on in. It’s equally measured and ludicrous with great performances from Ray Milland wondering why everyone is so obsessed with cake, and dapper noir sleaze-bag Dan Duryea. Lang’s Western Union (Directors Suite) however is a little less exhilarating, a by the numbers matinee Western which despite some curious point of view shots from buffalos at the beginning plays it nice and predictable for your sunday afternoon viewing.

If the sight of Ghandi attempting to bone Mary Kate Olsen isn’t disturbing enough then perhaps the fact that Sir Ben Kingsley plays a psychiatrist swapping therapy for pot may give you some insight into the disarray at the core of The Wackness (Madman). It’s self conscious American indie cool cinema with a Cameron Crowe like nostalgia for 1994, for coming of age and for troubled folks finding solace in each other. There are some genuine moments of humour and invention here and Ghandi is like we’ve never seen him before, repeatedly hilarious, totally unhinged, swallowing every drug he can find and dispensing curious advice and counseling to our dope dealing teen hero.

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Fragmented Frequencies – 1st April 09

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Possibly the greatest thing Fragmented Frequencies has ever heard ever, in the history of ever, is track five of the new Syringe Stick Up Mamma (Who Says Records/ Dual Plover) album. Whilst the rest of the album is an erratic blast of unhinged politically incorrect at times verbally abusive socially conscious hip hop, with breathless and stupidly fast rhymes over inventive, dense at times break-core beats, I Shit On Ya! takes everything to an entirely new level. It’s a level so dangerous and inventive that the air up there is so thin that few ever get there, and those that do can’t remain there for too long. It starts normal enough (or at least normal in the context of this album which anywhere else would be very very weird), with a bit of Eastern European accented ranting over industrial 4/4 beats, yet then the real ranting begins, the music stops, almost like it gives up, knowing that it can’t even begin to compete with the genius that is about to follow. Or flow. It’s a torrent of abuse for the next eight and a half minutes, a’ cappella ranting as the MC lets all those pent up grudges out, and it’s like opening the floodgates as we get swamped until we can barely breathe. ‘Cunts who are too weak to burn bridges, I shit on ya,’ ‘anyone who’s name starts with the letter a I shit on ya,’ he rails. Yet this is a far reaching totally insane and unfocussed rant so everything is fair game. You dobbed on him in kindergarten? Guess what? He remembers and shits on ya. No one is spared, even the ‘sissy’ who turned off the sound on the mic because he was spitting at the Empress the other week, or a pizza place who doesn’t put enough spinach on his pizzas. That’s right, he shits on ya. By about five minutes his flow gets scattered, he loses track, tangents away and any semblance that this was ever music, and not just a random potty mouthed unhinged lunatic is gone. What makes it so great is of course that it’s hilarious and wrong, but mostly because there’s no censorship or polish. This is not studio trickery or even rehearsal. This is straight up pure improvisation. This music is blood pouring from a wound and no one’s bothering with band aids.

Speaking of wounds, ACMI seem intent on picking the scab and reminding us of the demise of Melbourne’ s best record store a few years back. Synesthesia is a periodic experimental music and audio visual night held in Studio One up until the 18th of May. Over the coming months artists like Qua, Jean Poole and Ang Fang Quartet will be featured, though the series kicks off with colourful electro pop of Mink Engine on the 9th of April whilst the 23rd sees local AV laptop collective Outpost team up with digital messiah Robin Fox who will dust off his oscilloscope for the performance. The best thing about all these performances is that they’re free.

After being subjected to the traversty of Queens of the Stone Age you may be surprised to learn that desert rock is alive and well. The desert of course being the Sahara. Tinariwen are one of the most soulful and inspiring bands around, melding an incredible back-story with some of the most distinctive and evocative blues tinged music you will ever hear. Fragmented Frequencies can’t hear their music without being transported back to the Sahara. They’re in town playing at Hamer Hall tonight.

Of course the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is in town from the 26th of April and this year there’s some interesting internationals. Highlights include improv legend Cecil Taylor, guitarist Bill Frisell, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline (who’s doing a free improv show with Oren Ambarchi and will be interviewed in these very pages) and Ornette’s old bass player Charlie Haden. ACMI are coming to the party with a Jazz on Screen season that includes Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, the making of Charlie Haden’s recent country foray Rambling Boy, the portrait of iconic trumpeter Chet Baker in Let’s Get Lost, Jazz on A Summers Day and the excellent Mancini scored seedy noir masterpiece A Touch Of Evil, from that great man Orson Welles.