Fragmented Films October 09

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Larry Clark can be hit and miss, for every Kids or Ken Park you can get Another Day in Paradise. Yet over the years one thing has become increasingly clear. Despite his penchant for pervy shots of pre pubescent boys with their shirts off, he offers a gritty shocking kind of reality that is totally alien to Hollywood. Wassup Rockers (Accent) is a departure for Clark. There’s no drugs or explicit voyeuristic teen sex here, yet there is the kind of desperate street realism for which he has made his name. It follows a group of hispanic skaters from south central, longhaired punkers in tight jeans who fly in the face of the baggy gangster rap norm. In the directors commentary Clark speaks of finding the crew at an LA skate park then taking them to various other skate parks every saturday for the next year. Whilst there’s something concerning about a 66 year old hanging with 14 year old boys every weekend, the first half of the film, coming from their own tales possesses a realism that could never be achieved without some degree of mutual trust. These kids are playing themselves. Unfortunately the second half, where Clark takes some artistic license and re-imagines them as The Warriors meeting Paris Hilton all becomes a little too slapstick, too kitsch, feeling forced, overly cinematic and very very dubious. Yet we’re under no illusions with Clark. Even his flawed films are morally questionable enough to make them essential.

Blacklisted by Hollywood and outed as a member of the communist party, Jules Dassin subsequently relocated to Europe where he would go on to create Rififi, one of the greatest heist films ever. Yet in 1947 he was still in the US working with Burt Lancaster on the prison drama Brute Force (Directors Suite) which offers old chestnuts like stool pigeons, unbreakable but moral prisoners (Lancaster) and a sadistic warden who drives the good and noble prisoners to a suicidal escape attempt. Unfortunately though due to Oz what may have been shocking at the time now feels a little dated. Naked City (Directors Suite) is a thorough yet gripping 1948 police procedural drama. Step by step it demonstrates how to solve a crime, in the way Law and Order and CSI have since replicated. It was also one of the early films actually filmed in the streets of New York, mingling actors and real people, often filmed in a van behind a two way mirror. Night and City (Directors Suite) is one of Dassin’s great films, not in the least due to the casting of dapper sleaze-bag Richard Widmark. Filmed on the streets of 1950 London it’s a hard boiled tale of a fast talking shyster who’s shot at the big time could also be his undoing. This is what noir is all about, the spiral out of control. “Harry is an artist without art,” offers a corrupt club owner about Widmark’s slimy character and the images of Widmark frantically fleeing a London dawn will stay with you forever.

You can file Breakin (Shock) under ‘lame fad dance films,’ alongside your Dirty Dancing’s, your Lambada’s (it was forbidden for a reason), and your Fame’s. Its appeal now is that it’s dripping with kitsch youth culture cliches and features an early appearance from a groovy Jean Claude Van Damme and Ice-T. Then there’s the immortal Turbo dancing to Kraftwerk’s Tour de France which rates alongside the opening to a Touch of Evil as one of the greatest scenes cinema has to offer. Some films are meant to be forgotten, this is too much fun to allow that to happen.

Afro Samurai (Madman) was cool in a dumb hyper violent rivers of blood, spaghetti western meets insane Japanese manga kind’ve way. The melding of Eastern folklore and hip urban Afro American culture was as equally opportunistic as it was inspired. Its sequel Afro Samurai Resurrection (Madman) reeks of cash in, with Samuel L Jackson returning as the voice of Samurai, Lucy Lui and Mark Hamil as the bad guys and of course RZA (Wu Tang Clan) providing the ultra cool score. It’s easy to be seduced by style, bask in the geysers of blood and hip hop beats, yet, well there is no yet, the blood and violence is super cool, sexy as hell and a lot of fun to bask in.

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Fragmented Frequencies Oct 09

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If your curious about sound, about texture, about frequency, without the need for overtly musical elements like melody or percussion, in finding new ways to compose and construct sound, then Melbourne is the place for you this month.

Tomorrow the World is a mini experimental sound festival at the Westspace Gallery, that’s on currently and will continue until the 1st of November. Every day of the week you can trek down to Westspace to get your fill of curious and eclectic sound and media artists doing curious and eclectic things. Whether it’s a Philip Brophy or Adrian Martin slide night, improvisor Jim Denley or Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr discussing their practice before demonstrating it via performance, or Marco Cher-Gibard and Rosalind Hall’s amazing audio visual sax/msp performances that need to be seen to be believed, you’ll get your fill of experimentation and innovation here. Hell it even ends on a boat going down the Maribrynong with sound artist Philip Samartzis who will use the boat and surrounds to create a site responsive sound performance. Perhaps most interesting is the focus on children for some of the events, with Eamon Sprod and Dale Gorfinkel taking an instrument building workshop, or a couple of weeks later Sprod and Rod Cooper taking the kids for a walk down the Maribrynong. This doesn’t sound like your usual monotonous chin scratching sound festival, where underfed students fiddle earnestly with laptops to conjure up terrifying and hurtful sounds that no one really wants to hear anyway. But you never know. Check http://www.westspace.org.au for the full program.

Western Australian Matt Roesner has released a couple of really interesting, quite minimal electronic albums that tread the boundary between sound and music on both Room40 and Apestaartje, though his latest is a 12-inch on UK label 12×50. He’s coming to Melbourne along with Perth shoe-gazers The Ghost of 29 Megacycles, a dreamy heavily reverbed Windy and Carl meets My Bloody Valentine three piece, who’s album Love Via Paper Planes (Sound and Fury) is due anytime. What’s more TGO29M guitarist Greg Taw will play live with Roesner, offering some drum textures and guitar drones alongside Roesner’s laptop and guitars. They’re playing Horse bizarre on the 22nd of Oct, the 23rd at Glitch Bar, and the Tote on the 24th all with different local supports.

Over the last decade or so Australian born French resident percussionist Will Guthrie has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to move between jazz, rock and quite musical realms into more experimental directions using contact microphones and junk to create these incredibly articulate musique concrete sound pieces. It’s pretty clear that the guy can play almost anything. Spike-S is a 7-inch on Norwegian label Pica Disk. And it’s mental, The first side is an all out assault of kick-ass pedal to the metal kit drumming. He pummels those bastards under a noisy drony mess of raw searing noise and it feels good. Meanwhile side b becomes much more tinkery and electro acoustic, focussing more on space, a kind’ve cut and paste reworking using elements of side A. It’s inspiring stuff. Check out http://www.picadisk.com for more details.

Keeping the French/ Australian relationship going French sound artist Cedric Peyronnet (Toy Bizarre) is releasing a 3-inch cd a month over a 12 month period, each with a new 12 minute piece composition. And crazily enough they’re all based on reports made to him by an Australian about a 1 metre square patch of the Atherton Gardens. So for example “Fog, drift, quiet, a lone red vine leaf floats…falls, flurry and plummet from the golden ash,” gets us an incredibly visceral almost glacial sound piece, with bird chirping behind a sharp metallic and quite thin oscillating drone. It’s incredible work. Each disc is limited to 50. Check http://www.k216.ingeos.org for more.

Finally Fragmented Frequencies can’t go past a Sabbatical night at the Empress, Glass, Drums and Piano. It’s Lucas Abela (evil glass blowing dude), Sean Baxter (Bucketrider) and Paul Grabowsky (Melbourne jazz alumni). It sounds absolutely wild and I have no idea what to expect. It’s on the 7th of November. Also performing are James Rushford and Joe Talia, a duo who earlier in the year released the curious electro acoustic music concrete Palisades (Sabbatical). Check http://www.myspace.com/sbbtcl for more details.

Bob Baker Fish

Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner)

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From Soft Bulletin onwards they kept up the mantra that the more experimental their techniques the more pop their sounds, almost like they were throwing up their hands and apologising for falling into line. Yet the soundtrack to last years Christmas on Mars feature seems to have irrevocably altered the band and returned them to their haphazard playful and at times noisy roots. This album is a world away from the comfortable calculated (read boring) pop of Do You Realize. It’s a dark psychedlic trip. It’s experimental and atmospheric, but most of all it’s sprawling, self indulgent and uncontained, with the songs taking a back seat behind the band’s flights of sonic fancy. That’s not to say it’s not musical, it’s just that it’s a little bit mental and messed up in the inspired beautiful way that Flaming Lips used to do it, albeit with better production values. We’re talking 18 tracks here, 70 odd minutes and it tangents around madly in a way that steadfastedly refuses coherance. Initially it’s dense and overwhelming, the structures don’t makes sense, the sounds are weird, some distorted, others just plain wrong, yet after a while you give in to their world and it all starts to make a messed up kind of sense. MGMT appear, as does Karen O making sound effects on the endearing nursery rhyme I Can Be a Frog, but the breadth of this album just can’t be ignored. Gone is the trippy uplifting confetti, the dancing animal suits, the beach balls and in return we’re left with this dark psychedlic trauma, a weird slightly playful paranoia, and a feeling that the band is back and anything is possible.

This album is audacious. You can’t shake the notion that they didn’t have to do this, yet in their 26th year as a band they have crafted the most vital, exploratory and artistic vision of their career.

Bob Baker Fish