Fragmented Films 28th June 09

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In You The Living (Directors Suite), with its sparse washed out palette, and quirky ambiguous characters, Swedish writer/ director Roy Andersson finds those peculiar little uncomfortable moments in life and mines them for all their dark hilarious absurdity. It’s totally deadpan, kind’ve Jacques Tati without the slapstick or Samuel Becket without the wordplays. There’s a darkness to his comedy that at times ventures perilously close to an unbearable kind of hopelessness. He’s made 4 films in 37 years and You The Living is quite simply remarkable. He’s set it up as fifty scenes, sketches if you like. Some, such as the elderly man with a walker obliviously dragging his dog along by the neck are hilarious, others are poignant or downright miserable, such as the man morosely listing how his investments have failed, causing him to have to remain at work longer, all the while being straddled by a naked moaning and writhing woman.

Tokyo Gore Police (Eastern Eye) is the kind of hysterical heightened Freudian wrongness that the Japanese do best. Borrowing shamelessly from Blade Runner, Testsuo and early Cronenburg, the mutations are over the top, highly sexual and very very funny. The entire film is drenched in gore, with spurting geysers of blood, vaginas that turn into the snapping jaws of a crocodile, and mammoth membrane penises that that shoot I’m not sure what. Capping it off is the head mutant hunter, the impossibly sexy Eihi Shiina who first seduced us with her quiet innocence in Audition (Siren) and then went on to absolutely terrify us with her sadistic torture devices. Here she ruthlessly hunts and mercilessly slaughters the mutants in a futuristic ultra violent and totally ludicrous Japan. She’s is way too classy for this – and that just makes it better.

Yet there’s also a very surreal side to Japan, best exemplified by Big Man Japan (Eastern Eye), which manages to seamlessly merge Japan’s obsession with giant monsters attacking their cities, reality TV, and the absurd direct to camera mockumentary schtick of having a film crew in toe, like The Office or Man Bites Dog. The crew follows a regular loser, a dole bludging schmo, boring us with the meaningless details of his life, until we discover that he, with the assistance of a large dose of electricity transforms into a skyscraper size super hero who battles monsters. Of course he’s lazy and a coward so mostly he waits till they turn their back and dongs them on their head. These may be the only monsters you’ll ever see with comb-overs, that smell like 500 people emptying their bowels or who’s weapon is a mammoth extendable penis with an eyeball on the end. It’s truly bizarre and wrong.

The first lesson for would be filmmakers is if you’re so desperate to have a junkie in your film, maybe you should go out and meet a few. Just cruise out of Fitzroy or Carlton or wherever you creative types live and head off to Dandenong, or Lilydale. What you’ll find is that your junkies aren’t your attractive voluptuous healthy looking things with perfect teeth. They are walking skeletons, with bad skin and a not so quiet desperation who use junk to dull the pain of life. Yet healthy TV junkies aren’t all that is wrong with No Through Road (Accent Underground), which begins as Straw Dogs and ends with as much sadistic bloodletting as Tokyo Gore Police. At some point it switches gears, possibly about the time the corpse of his father’s best friend starts inexplicably talking to him and it’s all downhill from there. It’s a peculiar film with a great beginning as our main character’s well ordered solitude is disturbed when he finds an intruder in his closet. Yet it loses track, it sets up the suspense well, yet as a result the later sadistic violence feels both gratuitous and cheap, like it’s an easy out.

Finally Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot (Aztec) provides a pumping hip hop beat to the best and the brightest High School basketballers gathered together at the infamous outdoor Rucker Park in Harlem. Using this Elite 24 game as a frame, Yauch explores these young players lives, their family, friends and reputations. They’re like lambs to the slaughter, kids who have mortgaged their adolescence, living under the pressures of becoming ‘next big thing,’ before they’ve even made it to college. It’s fascinating and a little bit frightening, and this contextual information really adds to the tension of the game as you root for the down to earth ones without dominating parents or show biz attitudes, who you hope are less likely to become cocaine addicted pack rapists.

Fragmented Frequencies 25th June 09

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So it’s that time again, where the hyper music nerds stroke their collective chins, close their eyes and celebrate with their ears, tuning into the world of sound art and experimental sonic practices. It’s Liquid Architecture‘s 10th anniversary, a festival that has collected some of the most interesting, obscure and risk taking sound artists together over the last decade. This year they’ve managed to land Asmus Tietchens, a German composer who began with tape manipulation in the 60’s though took on an industrial electronic bent thereafter. Fragmented Frequencies first and only contact with him came courtesy of the very peculiar ∂ – Menge album in the mid 90’s on Ritornell (Mille Plateaux). It was a sweet electronic concreté work with no real sense of structure, sound that felt like it was already sitting there, electronically bubbling and spluttering away and Tietchens just happened along and recorded it. Obscurely knowing one of the artists is kind’ve like a badge of honour for Liquid Architecture, though often it’s the freaks you’ve never heard of who tear your face off and explode your mind. They’ve also got Swiss based electronic improvising artist Jason Khan, US mash up pioneers The Evolution Control Committee, German soundtrack artist Thomas Koner and a bunch of Australia’s best, brightest and weirdest intense sound dudes. It’s on from the 9th to the 12th of July and includes exhibitions, performances and workshops at various venues around Melbourne. Check http://www.liquidarchitecture.org.au for more details.

The Purple Duck is one of those evil wrong dudes from Suicidal Rap Orgy, so he’s quite at home on Australia’s wrongest record label Dual Plover. His debut solo album Duckside of the Moon (geddit?) is fucking stupid and amazingly great for exactly the same reasons. It feels like a comedy album, with skits such as Cunt Dracula, who is a nasty insensitive piece of work (even for a vampire) and Sex Falcon which is about a falcon that terrifies townsfolk by penetrating them and then dropping them off a mountain two hours away. Yes we know it’s juvenile but it doesn’t stop it being funny. And it’s part of the charm of Purple Duck who uses hip hop, funk, house, indie folk, blues and electro pop, torturing them within an inch of their life and then relieving them of urine. He’s launching his opus of wrongness with fellow eccentric hip hop dudes Curse Ov Dialect, The Professional Savage, Pig+Machine, and Aoi at Bar 303 in Northcote on Saturday the 11th of July.

Fragmented Frequencies desperately misses Leeds quintet Hood like Tracey Grimshaw misses credibility. A couple of years back the Adams brothers splintered off into two solo projects, Chris formed Bracken and his brother Richard developed Declining Winter, which not surprisingly if you play together at the same time sound exactly like Hood. Declining Winter’s Goodbye Minnesota (Sensory Projects) was an understated gem, a subtle and nuanced work that tapped directly into the emotions. A download only remix album has just been released featuring the likes of The Remote Viewer and Bracken tinkering at its bones. These remixes add elements of restrained electronica to the beguiling stillness, a kind of stripped surreal lilt to the work, with El Fog’s and Part Timer’s mix taking the tunes to a whole new level. Check http://sensoryprojects.com.au/

Finally many people will tell you that Miles Davis and the 80’s are a bad mix, that he had descended into a sad kitsch parody of the forward thinking greatness that he once effortlessly exuded. That said his last album, which he never lived to hear, the jazz fusion hip hop of 1992’s Doo Bop (Warner) is a firm favourite of Fragmented Frequencies. The DVD of a German concert in 1997 however is another matter. On Miles Davis: That’s what happened (Eagle Vision), his trumpet is a dull strained whisper and the tunes are hijacked by an awful polished jazz fusion band with bullshit guitar solos. Davis barely plays, his back to the camera, wandering around preoccupied, perhaps futilely looking for his sound. You know you’re in trouble when the highlight is his version of Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time. There’s also a short featurette on Miles’ art. “I love women with carriage,” he offers to a confused German journalist. It’s the best moment on this disc.

Bob Baker Fish