Updated and extended preview of the trashy rock n roll noir I'm working on... I'm hoping to finish the first chapter by the end of the summer, stay tuned...
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
I’ve been busy on my comic (which takes ages by the way, I’ll upload a new extended sequence soon) but really I wanted to write a review of the new Strokes record once Id gotten over first impressions, let the dust settle so to speak. Except the figurative dust won’t settle – Comedown Machine may just be the Strokes best record.
That accolade is usually reserved, of course, for their era-defining debut, Is This It – though many of the more committed* fans (*photoshopping Juliet out of Julian photos is really very freaky) would cite their second, Room on Fire, as the band’s finest. The notion goes that the New Yorkers’ sound was honed to perfection there, but I think Room on Fire marked a greater change than its credited with. For one thing, the band’s garage-rock stylings were far more machinic – less indebted to the scuffed Voidoids guitar duels of their debut, closer to the Ramones' futurist blast as applied to New Wave pop-shots. For another, following my initial disappointment on listening to their two-year awaited sophomore set, I found myself increasingly drawn to it on those downer morning-after hours that happened to fall upon me in the months after its release, and it occurred to me that the Strokes’ second record was a far more melancholy affair than the first. Is This It was mostly all kicks and confusion, with Room on Fire Julian amped up the anxiety, adding a weariness and lamentation to his curious concoction, making it a worthy, substantial, successor – a rock album that appeals when you’re down without dragging you down - unfairly dismissed to this day as a mere repetition. I mention all this as Comedown Machine, far less depressing than the title might suggest, is in spirit, if not sound, pitched exactly between those first two records – the perfect mix of joy, kicks, darkness.
Friday, 29 March 2013
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Paul Auster is something of a legend of postmodern literature thanks to his perfect New York Trilogy. However, having not read any of his other works, and given that the screenplay for Smoke was written around the same time as The Music of Chance (1990), I was wary that this too would be mawkish, sentimental, tripe. The title didn’t help.
The opening quarter of the novel didn’t do much to allay my fears with its hackneyed phrases (‘the earth had opened around him and swallowed him up’, for example) but the cynic in me was soon won over and I guess the commercial prose of the opening was perhaps a subversive way of drawing in readers who would otherwise avoid the more ornate work of postmodernist authors like Thomas Pynchon and his own debut trilogy.
What emerges from this warmly rendered, at times terrifying, story, is an intricate treatment of the three pillars of American ideology: freedom, capitalism, religiosity. We can call them pillars in that there is a certain co-operation in the way they uphold such an ideology – the European pilgrims that were initially attracted to America due to the promise of religious freedom ended up pioneering a monetized theology in the form of the Prosperity Gospel, mega-churches and the evangelical media networks of the twentieth century – and Auster, too, builds a narrative that is dependent upon all three simultaneously.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
From a fan’s point of view, there were a number of reasons to be apprehensive about how Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained would turn out. The first, which doesn’t appear to have been addressed by many interviewers, who instead opted for lazy questions on movie violence (he’s obviously for it!), was how the flick would play without his editor Sally Menke. The Schoonmaker to his Scorsese, Menke and Tarantino were one of those perfect cinematic matches. Their joint understanding of the material made Reservoir Dogs the striking movie that it is, and she had edited every one of his movies since then. She was praised by director and actor alike for her intuitive response to the material, and it was for this that Inglourious Basterds was able to be filmed and cut simultaneously, allowing it to premier at Cannes (one reviewer remarked that Basterds may have been the first film specifically made for Cannes). Menke died two summers ago, and so Django Unchained is Tarantino’s first film without his much appreciated, vital, collaborator.
Watching Django now, I suspect that given Menke and Tarantino’s intuitive bond, a lot of the excesses of his last three movies (five if you count Kill Bill as two separate flicks, and Death Proof as independent to Grindhouse) have been stymied by new editor Fred Raskin, who perhaps is able to give the alternative view that has become increasingly vital to a talent like Tarantino’s. A talent with a million references and ideas ricocheting inside his skull like so many silver balls inside of a day-glo pinball machine, this manic knowledge of cinema has resulted in some pretty messy movies of late, where stylistic choices in everything from framing to soundtrack have ended up creating a collage effect of cool ideas, rather than the kind of tight coherently scripted movies Tarantino was first acclaimed for.
For example, in the finished movie we note that comic moments, such as King Schultz sardonic eyeing of his cart's giant model tooth has been cut, as has his comment about Django being “faster than a snowman” during the training sequence, which was apparently part of the preview footage shown at Cannes early last year. The latter training scene, chronologically, seems to me to have been inserted later into the final cut than was originally intended, given that Django has already claimed his first bounty at this point. This has the effect of exciting a part of the narrative that has already been well established in the likes of Luc Besson’s hitman movies Leon: The Professional and Nikita, while the minimising of the comic moments helps to retain the overall feel of the movie as something of a period epic. (Think, for example, of how Kurt Russell’s sly smirk to the camera before his first kill in Death Proof meant tension was exchanged for self-conscious irony.) I’m not necessarily arguing that this is all the result of Raskin’s influence – after all, Tarantino’s introductions to the deleted scenes of Pulp Fiction are among the finest pieces of advice to fiction writers in general; but this thinking in terms of moving along the narrative, of the filmic equivalent of “killing your darlings”, seems to have been abandoned by Tarantino ever since the success of Pulp.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Six in the squeeze of the frame. The first face, at the farthest left of the photo, taking a full third of the space out of necessity, was Mallory. That self-satisfied smile secured by her popularity [three-fifty “friends” to his meagre seventy], the snap had captured a truly rare moment. One in which her lips were sealed; as opposed to sucking-up to anyone other than himself, for whom she reserved only the spit-back of bile. Looking like a Moomin who’d swallowed a live grenade, a Macy’s Day balloon too ugly to be flown, she’d been planted there stationary in the hallway of the party, as obstructive as ever, barely sucking in her gut to let Kai pass. Crowded round with chicks who’d never given him any time in any case, he never did figure what he’d done to upset her, but she’d cut him out the loop, blocking his entry into conversations (and parties, too, evidently), blanking his greetings as if hers was a clique too elite for his presence. Yes, her clique was the Navy Seals; highschool blazered lunchers, all honking laughter and hand slapping inanity.
Next in the picture, and appearing through the first doorway of the hallway, was the beautiful Katya. Her brown hair fallen silken to her shoulders, over a beige cardigan quietly enforcing her librarian chic. The long skirt lifted at her legs’ crossing, she smiled small at him as he stepped uncertain into the living room; mostly bare but for the bodies, sitting, standing, smoking, chatting, hi-fi on the floor, tall lamp in the corner, sofa by the doorway on which Katya sat with an acquaintance. Kai bent a lip, swung his blue carrier bag of cider cans onto the carpet, peeled the lid of the one in his hand and took a long gulp.
Gulp. Clenched eyelids. Gulp.