Einsturzende Neubauten – Palace 19 Feb 2013 – Review in Inpress

Tonight there’s clearly a dress code: black on black, with a preference for an exposed Einsturzende Neubauten tattoo on an appendage if possible. The Palace is near capacity and the stage looks like the best junk shop ever with all kinds of strange industrial paraphernalia crammed among conventional instrumentation. It’s a young child’s toy box writ large, and it can’t help but build expectations.

http://themusic.com.au/reviews/reviews-live/2013/02/21/einsturzende-neubauten-palace-theatre-bob-baker-fish/

Fragmented Films Feb 13 (2)

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Mathieu Kassovitz’s second feature 1995’s Le Haine (The Hate) was a circuit breaker. A gritty account of racism, class violence and police brutality in the Parisian suburbs, it was a firebomb straight to the heart of French cinema and indeed French society.  Here was a new voice, one that existed in the fringes, courting controversy and exposing a Paris simmering ethnic tensions, economic disparity and hopeless youth.

Winning best director at Cannes that year, Kassovitz couldn’t cash in his indie cred quick enough, entering the mainstream via a series of popular yet forgettable action thrillers, and acting in films as diverse as Amelie, The Fifth Element and Spielberg’s Munich.

Yet his most recent film Rebellion (Eagle), which he co wrote, directed and starred in, demonstrates that the fire still burns. Or at the very least after decades of stumbling around in the commercial wilderness, he’s remembered how to rub two sticks together.

“One Cesar nomination. F*ck French cinema. F*ck you and your shit movies,” he Twitted recently responding to only one nomination in best adapted screenplay category. “I don’t care about the Cesars. I never did. I’m just shocked by the lack of interest.” Imagine if he’d been totally ignored.

He’s also reported as offering “I butt f*ck French cinema.”  Though given I don’t know the French word for butt f*ck, this remains unsubstantiated. For the record though, yes he attended after this tirade, and no, surprisingly he didn’t win an award.

You can however understand his frustration because Rebellion is a return to form. Kassovitz stars as specialist negotiator called in to New Caledonia in 1988 when separatist rebels take 30 Gendarmes hostage. His role is complicated firstly by the thuggish war hungry behaviour of the French army and then the ongoing presidential elections between Mitterrand and Chirac back in France. It’s a fascinating delicately nuanced situation he finds himself in, attempting to appease multiple sides and multiple levels of government and bureaucracy to avoid bloodshed.  There hasn’t been a film this scathing of the politics of colonialism since Italian Gillo Ponotverco’s incredible1969 epic Burn, which starred Marlon Brando and demonstrated that the real war wasn’t on the ground, but in the halls of power. Yet where Brando had blind allegiance to the crown, Kassovitz asks some hard questions of his negotiator.

This isn’t a Hollywood film. Kassovitz’s negotiator is no hero. He doesn’t have all the answers. He makes mistakes, doesn’t know who to trust and as the walls close in he despairs. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the remarkably shot battle sequence.  There are no heroics here, they’re pinned down by enemy fire, barely moving and the negotiator has his head in his hands, frustrated, not coping, devastated by the situation.

Kassovitz’s talent has always been readily apparent and it’s on show here, with a backwards-masking beginning that’s really the end, and really creative shot selection. It’s just a shame he’s been wasting it for so long. Whether it was vanity or simply an out of control cocaine addiction, it’s good that the worst is behind him and he’s back making intelligent boundary pushing films again. Because if there’s one thing cinema loves, it’s a comeback.

The Funkees – Dancing Time: The Best Of Eastern Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973 -77 (Soundway/Fuse)

The Funkees Dancing Time Bob Baker Fish

Aside from having the best name in the business, and looking like the coolest cats ever, The Funkees were an Eastern Nigerian Afro rock band in the early ‘70s. They’ve previously appeared on a couple of Soundway’s excellent Nigeria Special compilations, so it’s really interesting to delve a little deeper into their oeuvre and hear more of the material. The story is that they began during the Nigerian civil war in the early ‘70s as a cover band, playing for the army’s 12th Brigade before eventually relocating to the UK, splitting up in ‘77 amid much acrimony, with the lead guitarist jumping ship to popular Afro pop band Osibisa.

What we’ve got here are the best of their two albums and a number of their incredibly rare 7” recordings. The Funkees were true to their name – there’s no political grandstanding or social commentary, this is pure Afro funk designed to get your arse on the dance floor. With driving percussion over which keys and guitars duel, the vocals, mostly in language, are often coated in heavy reverb, like Akula Owu Onyeara, which clocks in at seven-plus minutes and features a totally over the top organ solo during an extended instrumental breakdown. The band also adopt elements of psych rock. One instrumental track is called Acid Rock, while on Point Of No Return they sing in English and sound a little like a funkier take on Iron Butterfly, albeit with insistent, almost tribal percussion. It’s a remarkable fusion and it’s one of many on this collection.

Some of the recordings are a little raw, with bloated bass and shrill organ, yet that’s their sound, and it works. Each track is killer. It’s Afro funk heaven and you can’t go wrong.

 

Fragmented Films Feb 13

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Cabin fever on film has always been fertile ground for filmmakers keen on demonstrating mans unique ability for self-destruction when left to his own devices. A unique subset of this gruelling world is the sole man in space scenario that has almost become a genre into itself, a shipwrecked survivor for the 21st century. Usually of course they’ve bumped off the rest of the crew to get in that position. Or at the very least the computer has.

Space works so well in films like Moon, Solaris (yes even Soderbergh’s), and Sunshine due to the contrast between the limitless expanse of space that is so inaccessible yet full of possibilities, and the limited expanse of the pod/ spaceship/ space station that is vulnerable man’s only means of experiencing this final frontier. Love (Shock) poses a simple question. What happens if the only human connection that man has (via radio feed with those back in mission control on earth) is severed?

The answer of course is not good things. For one the cabin fever becomes more apparent. The distractions don’t work anymore and all thoughts turn inwards. That’s rarely a good thing. Particularly in cinema, a form obsessed with stupendously radical character arcs in the space of two and a half hours.

You can tell that the solo man in space genre hasn’t gone unnoticed by cinematographer turned director William Eubank in his debut feature Love (Shock). It’s a strange and beautiful, somewhat elusive tale. In fact it’s the perfect low budget first film. A limited set and one actor, it couldn’t be better, aside from the fact that Eubank successfully manages to merge in a similarly obtuse civil war tale amidst the solitude. The links are tenuous, but this isn’t a film about narrative development.  They made it on the smell of an oily rag, funded entirely from the band Angels & Airwaves, an offshoot of Blink 182 who provide the rich electro rock sheen of the score. Aside from a wilfully obtuse ending that exists self consciously between 2001 A Space Odyssey and Solaris, without the rigour and resonance of either, Love is a well crafted tone poem, an overwhelming audio and visual feast for the senses that ponders whether a life lived alone is truly a life at all.

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Directors Suite) is a slow hypnotic immensely beautiful film from Cannes darling Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys). Set over the course of one night, the golden hues of stark headlights against the bleak blackness of the night are startlingly beautiful, making it clear we’re in the presence of a real master. The film follows a murder suspect, police, prosecutor and doctor as they attempt to locate a body in hills of the Anatolian desert.  The problem is the suspect was drunk when the murder took place and can’t remember where he left the body. As the night wears on and tempers fray, motivations cloud, and strange interconnections begin to appear. It’s the most beguiling existential police procedural film you’ll ever see.