Wednesday, November 30, 2005

As I Was Taking the Consecrated Host from One Catacomb to Another...

... well, of course, pagans offered to get me stoned! It's an old story, one oft-repeated (esp. by haberdashers). With apologies to De Sica, we shall now weep through the tale of the weekend...

Dreadful drive north; I-75 clogged with pilgrims. Evade miserable final miles by going cross-country up GA 42; make note to eventually visit lower Dekalb's Jazzy Boyzz Styling Salon. Good to know the Starlight Six Drive-In's still packing them in; saw 90 seconds of Zathura on the screen nearest to Moreland Aveune during an agreeably interminable red light. Seemed only kinda so-so from 300 feet. The new Search and Destroy gr*me mix made the slog more than bearable. Made it to CC's house, where veg Thai take-out was waiting. Watched Jong Sun-Woo's Lies (I'll forever link the words "hoe stick" with a different sort of labor), ostensibly Korean cinema's "White Riot" to Bad Guy's "Anarchy" (keeping in mind reversals in chronology, etc.); Jonathan Caouette's extraordinary Tarnation (which neither of us had seen, and which I was oddly prepared to loathe), and Kim Ki-Duk's 2004 B&E meditation 3-Iron. Listened to a lot of new/new-ish music, including platters by Jan Jelinek, Gosub, The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania, Radio Tarifa, Dublee, Domu vs. Stacey Pullen, Bunny Lee, Eno's latest, sadly undervalued Another Night on Earth (which, in this reporter's humble opinion, is actually quite brilliant), several others. (We tend to cram a lot of stuff into 36 hours...) Oddly, we only purchased gender-specific hoisery at Macy's, eschewing other departments' offerings.



(Mid-stem consumer realities, November 28, 2005. Nokia cam-phone snap by TS.)

Circled the new iBook G-4s at the Lenox Mall Mac shop, but decided instead on (temporary) restraint. Rated shoppers' aesthetics while parked at Starbucks... Missed Nicole Richie's book signing (!) at Barnes and Noble, preferring to nose around the DVD aisles at Borders. I bought the NC-17 version of the Inside Deep Throat doc, while Cyn plunked ducats for the latest Halliwell door stop. Earlier, Med veg for lunch, tart Turkish coffee for dessert. Hadn't had any of the latter since August, and the first sip brought back memories of Marmaris... After viewing IDT, we watched Tarnation a second time. Jonathan's frighteningly reflective testament (which he videotaped at eleven years of age) again brought chills. Can't believe I ignored it on its initial release. Indie fatigue, I guess. His Greenpoint apartment interior looks exactly like that of my friend Jocelyn's... On a semi-related note, can't get certain scenes of Architecture of Doom out of my mind. (But, that's probably a good thing.)

Odd postings yesterday to a Dave Akuma thread. "Dat Roro Kid" seemed rather at a loss to enunciate displeasure with my predilection for kicking dead horses. His/her intended coup de grace was particularly threadbare, with seven logical fallacies* (and two huh?-inducing slivers of hyperbole) shoved into the first two paragraphs:

* 1) I know you're big on the whole internet squabble thing 2) as you can't take a joke and all 3) and OBVIOUSLY take yourself way more seriously 4) than anyone else takes you. Aside from that, your past/present argument is HILARIOUS in lieu of 5) your complete delusion of grandeur, dude. 6) You'z out da loop, kid...keep it that way. I am the past, present and future. 7) I'm the greatest shit you've never even seen. I'm more of a genius than your thesaurus...

Drool is as drool does, sez I. Still, the "loop" bit started me thinking about the trillion or so circles from which I am necessarily removed.

I am so out of the Pierre Moerlen's Gong loop, for example. I am decidedly out of the loop regarding the Army's awarding of contracts for M1114 high mobility multipurpose-wheeled vehicles. I have steered clear of the watchers of Hylocharis xantusii loop, and never had much interest in being accepted into the (Hampson) Loop loop. The list extends beyond infinity. Needless to blab, the only loop I give a toss about is my own...

More Tomorrow,

TS

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Snot Bar Aside vs. Bastard Noise

For those of you too cheap to subscribe to Times Select, here's today's Frank Rich essay. As always, essential...

TS

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November 27, 2005

Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt...

By FRANK RICH



GEORGE W. BUSH is so desperate for allies that his hapless Asian tour took him to Ulan Bator, a first for an American president, so he could mingle with the yaks and give personal thanks for Mongolia's contribution of some 160 soldiers to "the coalition of the willing." Dick Cheney, whose honest-and-ethical poll number hit 29 percent in Newsweek's latest survey, is so radioactive that he vanished into his bunker for weeks at a time during the storms Katrina and Scootergate.

The whole world can see that both men are on the run. Just how much so became clear in the brace of nasty broadsides each delivered this month about Iraq. Neither man engaged the national debate ignited by John Murtha about how our troops might be best redeployed in a recalibrated battle against Islamic radicalism. Neither offered a plan for "victory." Instead, both impugned their critics' patriotism and retreated into the past to defend the origins of the war. In a seasonally appropriate impersonation of the misanthropic Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life," the vice president went so far as to label critics of the administration's prewar smoke screen both "dishonest and reprehensible" and "corrupt and shameless." He sounded but one epithet away from a defibrillator.

The Washington line has it that the motivation for the Bush-Cheney rage is the need to push back against opponents who have bloodied the White House in the polls. But, Mr. Murtha notwithstanding, the Democrats are too feeble to merit that strong a response. There is more going on here than politics.

Much more: each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless. The more the president and vice president tell us that their mistakes were merely innocent byproducts of the same bad intelligence seen by everyone else in the world, the more we learn that this was not so. The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House. The real point of the Bush-Cheney verbal fisticuffs this month, like the earlier campaign to take down Joseph Wilson, is less to smite Democrats than to cover up wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe.

The cover-up is failing, however. No matter how much the president and vice president raise their decibel levels, the truth keeps roaring out. A nearly 7,000-word investigation in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times found that Mr. Bush and his aides had "issued increasingly dire warnings" about Iraq's mobile biological weapons labs long after U.S. intelligence authorities were told by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service that the principal source for these warnings, an Iraqi defector in German custody code-named Curveball, "never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so." The five senior German intelligence officials who spoke to The Times said they were aghast that such long-discredited misinformation from a suspected fabricator turned up in Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations and in the president's 2003 State of the Union address (where it shared billing with the equally bogus 16 words about Saddam's fictitious African uranium).

Right after the L.A. Times scoop, Murray Waas filled in another piece of the prewar propaganda puzzle. He reported in the nonpartisan National Journal that 10 days after 9/11, "President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."

The information was delivered in the President's Daily Brief, a C.I.A. assessment also given to the vice president and other top administration officials. Nonetheless Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney repeatedly pounded in an implicit (and at times specific) link between Saddam and Al Qaeda until Americans even started to believe that the 9/11 attacks had been carried out by Iraqis. More damning still, Mr. Waas finds that the "few credible reports" of Iraq-Al Qaeda contacts actually involved efforts by Saddam to monitor or infiltrate Islamic terrorist groups, which he regarded as adversaries of his secular regime. Thus Saddam's antipathy to Islamic radicals was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1983, when Donald Rumsfeld, then a Reagan administration emissary, embraced the dictator as a secular fascist ally in the American struggle against the theocratic fascist rulers in Iran.

What these revelations also tell us is that Mr. Bush was wrong when he said in his Veterans Day speech that more than 100 Congressional Democrats who voted for the Iraqi war resolution "had access to the same intelligence" he did. They didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief that Mr. Waas uncovered. They didn't have access to the information that German intelligence officials spoke about to The Los Angeles Times. Nor did they have access to material from a Defense Intelligence Agency report, released by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan this month, which as early as February 2002 demolished the reliability of another major source that the administration had persistently used for its false claims about Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration.

The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might "prompt uncomfortable comparisons" between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.

SOONER or later - probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations - this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administration's deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheney's apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative - like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone - have yet to be recounted in full.

No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then - witness Mr. Bush's false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheney's effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those "making a stand in Iraq." (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s.

"We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Parsing the Lard from the Larder, Pt. 1

Crashed to ESPN, awoke on the sofa at 5:15 AM. As I spiralled out of a fantastic reverie, I slowly came to the realization that the sounds which had informed the unusally fecund imagery of my dream had come from a goddamned "Ab Scissor" infomercial...

More as hallucinations warrant,

TS

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'd Much Prefer Shooting the Shooters, But That's Just Me...

Coney Island, July 2005...



Slow morning, same old stuff. Andrew should be beginning the final post-production phase of Noon today. Otherwise, another restful/restless solar tour.

Love,

TS

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Oh Dear...

Once again, the noise octogenarians have their tie-dyed panties in a knot. Really, it's all I can do to keep from collaborating with Dazza Toop on a 99-disc ode to torpor... Tired old whores' boas are too easily ruffled, and if Henny Queequeg is your assassin, well... Let's just say that Bazooka Joe will still be blown off the stage by the Swankers, and, if fate can pull the wool o'er chronology, Delta 5 will implode long before they pen the irksome "Mind Your Own Business." (Note to planet: I always hated Au Pairs, too.)

Last words: it matters not. None of it. Go about your routines. Lick those lathe cuts until each lil' imprecise run-off groove is a fetid salival basin... Stick it to the man, alterna-consumers! Rebel against the backlash to the rebellion you're (only just sorta successfully) aping! How much is that Death Faces/Purulent mashup DVD-R? Three groans for SPK!!!!!

(Noise adherents comprise the softest target imaginable... I don't derive pleasure from tweaking the blind and infirm... Okay, maybe a little! But I don't get all tingly like I used to ca. '80. This fucking maturity thing is fouling my ire! Has anyone seen my United Daries edition AARP card? My vintage Seditionaries prototype adult nappy? Hello.... What's this? Gary Glitter arrested again, this time in Vietnam? Fucking PERV!!! He is awsome! Where the fuck is Peter Sotos when a song demands to be written! Dead Machines collab beckons!!!)

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More importantly, recently orb'd Volker Schlöndorff's mordant first feature, the 1966 Nazi allegory Young Törless. It's somber, well-wrought, uncluttered, unsentimental. It deserves your attention.



Here's an excerpt from Timothy Corrigan's essay on the film. Vidcaps follow...

The appearance of Young Törless in 1966 signaled not only the debut of Volker Schlöndorff as a major international filmmaker but also the beginnings of what would become known as the New German Cinema, one of the most important film movements of the twentieth century. Through the early 1960s, Schlöndorff had apprenticed in France (where he’d been educated as a teenager) with several of the major figures in the French New Wave, including Louis Malle, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Pierre Melville. This connection would be a crucial springboard for Schlöndorff’s career, since it provided him with an early training in the stylistics and politics of an alternative cinema, while at the same time making him aware of his own country’s lack of an active national cinema. Appropriately, the first of the numerous international awards for Young Törless—NantesMax Ophüls Prize—came from the country where he got his start.

Surrounding and suffusing Young Törless is an oblique but profound dialogue between modern Germany and its twentieth-century heritage. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Germany boasted one of the most dynamic and influential cinemas in the world, located most famously in the power and presence of Ufa Studios, which provided the creative space for directors such as Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst. The massive loss and trauma that Nazi Germany bequeathed the nation after World War II, however, resulted, in the 1950s, largely in a cinema of “rubble films” (topical postwar works set in a destroyed Germany), heimatfilm (escapist tales of love and family set in the countryside), and Hollywood imports. On February 28, 1962, at the Eighth West German Short Film Festival, a group of twenty-six filmmakers and critics publicly acknowledged these historical ruins and the absence of a cultural home for a modern German cinema when they presented the Oberhausen Manifesto, a document often credited with announcing the start of the New German Cinema, crystallized in its powerfully rhetorical admission and demand: “The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new.” Several years later, Young Törless would become, for many, one of the first and most convincing responses to this famous call to arms, as it paved the way for a multitude of other films that, in very different manners, would investigate the terms of the present by uncovering the losses, repressions, and denials of the German past. While the realistic style of Young Törless appears more traditional than the more radical experiments of other New German filmmakers who followed (such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog), Young Törless stands out as a remarkably subtle and chilling depiction of a psychological and social history that modern Germany, until then, had often sought to deny.

Based on Robert Musil’s 1906 novel The Confusions of Young Törless, Schlöndorff’s debut film was also the first of his literary adaptations—which would become his hallmark, including Coup de Grâce (1976), from Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel; his celebrated film of Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum in 1979; the Proust adaptation Swann in Love (1983); and a U.S. production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1985). A longtime admirer of Musil’s work, Schlöndorff negotiated for a considerable period to obtain the rights for the novel, which were controlled by Otto Rosenthal and sought also by Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti. Schlöndorff ultimately succeeded, and his producer, Franz Seitz, purchased the rights for 20,000 marks in the fall of 1965. Yet Schlöndorff and co-scriptwriter Herbert Asmodi needed to work carefully and creatively to translate Musil’s complex stream-of-consciousness narrative into a more direct and commercially viable film, an approach that would allow Young Törless to reach large audiences both in Germany and abroad. Focused on clearly embodied characters and strong performances (most notably that of Mathieu Carrière as Törless), Young Törless develops a conventional, straightforward narrative and realistic cinematographic style. What is most remarkable about its achievement, however, is that within these traditional terms, the film creates a highly complex ethical and historical meditation, whose implications extend well beyond Musil’s original story.



(Mathieu Carrière, as the title character.)

As with Schlöndorff’s other adaptations, Young Törless is not, then, simply a respectful recreation of a great literary work; rather, it uses the novel as a refractive lens through which to examine contemporary German history and, more exactly, the violence and psychological strain that have linked public and private life in modern Germany. Set in the gray and dreary countryside of Neudorf, Young Törless explores the fabric of society through the microcosm of an Austro-Hungarian boarding school for young men, concentrating on the psychological and moral trials of young Thomas Törless as he anxiously moves between the worlds of childhood and adulthood in his new school environment, emotional and psychological worlds distinguished most prominently by his relationships with his loving but aloof mother on the one hand and the brash and seductive local prostitute Bozena on the other.



(The astonishing, ever-ravashing Barbara Steele, as Bozena.)

At the heart of this drama, Törless becomes an “observer” of good and evil, watching his schoolmates Beineberg and Reiting take control of and abuse Basini, another mate who is not coincidentally of Jewish origin.



(Marian Seidowsky as the hapless, tragic Basini.)

Visually, Young Törless describes a gray twilight zone where ethics and subjectivity struggle, and Törless wanders tensely between the open and empty landscapes that surround the school and the tightly framed interiors that demand definitions and answers. In the end, despite his strenuous and heartfelt reflections on why “normal people can do terrible things,” he remains paralyzed as a kind of intellectual bystander, whose only assessment of the lesson learned from the violence and humiliation he has witnessed is that people must be “continually on guard.”

Although critics of the film sometimes misread Törless’s passive and intellectual response to brutality as the message of the film, there is too much dark historical irony in this drama to be denied.



(Bernd Tischer as Beineberg, the tormentor.)

Seen from Schlöndorff’s perspective in postwar Germany, this prewar tale of the Austrian upper class becomes a chilling anticipation of a culture stifled by authoritarian regimes and attitudes and secreted in the violent obsessions and weaknesses of individuals supporting those regimes. Like other films with similar boarding-school plots, such as Jean Vigo’s Zéro de Conduite (1933) and Lindsay Anderson’s if.... (1968), Young Törless investigates the social rituals that shape and repress adolescents in a rite-of-passage drama. But unlike those other two films, there is no rebellion against the institution in this German drama but instead a frighteningly stoic withdrawal.

Following the critical success of Young Törless in 1966, and with Schlöndorff as a major creative and business force, German cinema would grow over the next two decades through three stages, from short films to feature-length films with wide international appeal and success: the Young German Cinema (describing films like Young Törless that clearly announced the first wave of this latest new wave), New German Cinema (the diverse and expanding body of films made after 1971), and New German Film (referring to those films that attained international acclaim in the 1970s and early 1980s). The same year as Young Törless appeared, one of the signers of the Oberhausen Manifesto and leaders of this new cinema, Alexander Kluge, released Yesterday Girl, a film that, with a more confrontational style than Young Törless, would also argue that there is no escape from Germany’s past and that its twentieth-century history is more about continuities than discontinuities. From Young Törless through Fassbinder’s 1979 The Marriage of Maria Braun and Helma Sanders-Brahms’s 1980 Germany Pale Mother, this motif would define a diverse group of films and filmmakers who would profoundly influence world cinema, in a way that no national cinema has done since the equally symbolic end of the New German Cinema with the death of Fassbinder in 1982. As a key film in the opening act of this movement, Young Törless would announce a remarkably vibrant future for contemporary German cinema through its unnerving look at a darkened past.

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Okay, gotta jet. More hatred tomorrow.

Geben Sie mir einen Kuss,

TS

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why Bother Reading That Thing?

Because it attempts to speak truth to hoary, fucked-out ideas. (More precisely, it vomits all over them by dint of its comparative reserve.) It repudiates the idée fixe, and seeks to slash the tendons of those who stand in queue to carry water for the dead. It doesn't give a fuck about its apparent hyper-marginalization. It gave up on everyone a long time ago, but it retains a memory of a willingness to be surprised. It splits its target 99.999% of the time, but refuses to gloat. Fools and slow learners clutter paths, but it is more nimble. It spills over all.

Then, uh, it sleeps until some other dreadful shit comes along, and out come the knives. It inadvertantly stabs itself. Being so lithe and gazelle-like and all, tissues are flung without heed. (It is happier, unafraid to express its joy.) Thus, it seeds another iteration of buffoons, generating the static it eventually must deign to repulse. Futility and fecundity in one perfect fucking package.

And because it knows that you know that it's parsecs beyond. (And because Tom Smith's father's fave composer is John Phillip Sousa, it wins, forever.)

Pregnant with inertia, drunk with indecision, the universe gives birth to time...

TLASILA Blog-Bot

Friday, November 18, 2005

Don't Miss...

...this ethics op-ed from the WP.



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Yeah, blah fucking blah, Froomkin's a dork, but read it anyway, c****. You need it.

TS

"Noon" Nine Million Light Years Distant...

Or so it seems...

Spoke with AWK a few hours ago; he was in the back of a cab, heading to the studio where he'll be recording Sightings' new album. (They'll be at it through the middle of next week.) Finally managed to connect with Mark Morg last night; we had a long confab re all you might imagine. I'll probably be flying up to NYC in December (or January) to cut guest vox on the alb. Psyched, naturally.

Mark saw Whitehouse last week; said it was kinda so-so, sometimes amusing, at moments (whenever P. Sotos opened his yap), positively dire.

(Aside: so many shitty New York bands now... The Brooklyn thing died the death long ago.)

Reports indicate T. Moore opened for WH, plying a feedback trade. Whatever floats one's boat, say I, but I'd rather be caught with an Atlanta Rhythm Section LP sticking out of my ass than stand senselessly bored at a "power electronics" gig (either as performer or onlooker). Ultra-mega-motherfucking-yawn.

Note to Giffoni Nation: Whitehouse are Maroon 5.

The composite mix of Noon (combining elements from the July and October sessions) probably won't be ready until early December. Fuck - edging too close to our Menlo Park release deadline. (February.) Not happy to be running late.

Sending beta listeners copies of v0.9c next week...

My left foot fell asleep whilst sitting on the toilet reading Nils & Ray Stevenson's Vacant. I run seven to twelve miles every goddamned day, and yet my blood turns to mortar. It's not as if I'd been hogtied and bundled into the boot of a Citroën C1... (Just had a flash of Kimberly Stewart's leg warmers.) What fucking good is flesh for anyhow? Wouldn't pure consciousness be far more efficient? The best sex is mental, after all. Who needs a body? Can exposure to an image of Steve Severin lead to peripheral vascular disease?

Smack Shire: we're scheming, and that's all I can say at this juncture. A new release has been added to the sked, but I'm not at liberty to divulge. Otherwise, Dave Philips' rarities comp Curses is in the mastering stage, and I reckon GK is prepping Nandor Nevai's I Mine the Ore and Wooden Machine Music discs... This, I know, is semi-old-ass news. For the hotter varieties of TSSR poop, keep your ears to the rail.

Only 300-plus new d+b plates to sort through! I've fallen so far behind... Goddamned avarice! From the bulge, standout polyps: Ancronix' "Hook and Bling," Dave Akuma's formidable "Code 46." Terror comes in rainblo pop shapes.

More Tomorrow,

TS

Thursday, November 17, 2005

More KiKi-D...

If you're already well-versed in Kim arcana, there's no need to read further. For those just dipping their wounds into the mecurocrome, however, we've provided the following interview, published February 2002 in Senses of Cinema...

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Interview with Kim Ki-Duk by Volker Hummel

Volker Hummel is a freelance journalist from Hamburg, Germany, and writes on literature and film. He is also author of The Vortex.

South Korean director, Kim Ki-Duk, is one of a rare kind. Having no educational background in film or the arts, a school dropout and then working in factories and serving in the army, he has become in the last 5 years one of the most celebrated directors in the international festival circuit. He finished his first feature Crocodile in 1996, about a mysterious man who collects the bodies of suicides out of Seoul's Han River. Kim's new and radical perspective on Korean society alienated many viewers but also generated a small but firm group of passionate fans. The focus on marginal people and spaces and a decidedly anti-mainstream aesthetic also marked his later films. Although, all were failures at the Korean box-office, they helped to garner Kim a cult following in Europe, where festivals continued to show his films. Birdcage Inn (1998) was the first film to attract international attention, followed by the controversial The Isle in 2000. Kim's violent exploration of the "universal war" (cf. below) between man and woman shocked audiences at the Sundance and Venice film festivals.



(Kim Ki-Duk on the set of The Isle, 2000.)

At the same time it was praised for its unique aesthetic, surreal imagery and sheer poetic beauty. Next came the directorial tour de force, Real Fiction, a film shot in 200 minutes by simultaneously running 10 motion picture cameras and 2 digital video cameras about the real or imagined killing spree of a man. Address Unknown (2001) is Kim Ki-Duk's most political film so far which traces the scars left by the Korean war of the 1950s and its contemporary reverberations on a US Army base. The latest work by South Korea's most famous director abroad is also his most successful in Korea. Bad Guy again stars Cho Jae-Hyun, who has played in five of Kim's movies and meanwhile has become a TV celebrity. At this year's Berlin International Film Festival, Bad Guy was part of the competition. Here Volker Hummel spoke with Kim Ki-Duk about his new film, Hollywood and success.

* * *

Volker Hummel: Mr Kim, you once said that the starting point for all your films is hatred. What kind of rage drives your new movie Bad Guy?

Kim Ki-Duk: I used the word "hatred" in a larger context, and I really don't think you should take that word out of context. The kind of hatred I was talking about was not a specific one, directed against one thing or person. Instead it is the kind of feeling that I get as I live my life and see things that I do not understand. That's why I make movies: I see something which I do not understand and then I make a film in order to comprehend it. So maybe it's better to talk about a misunderstanding that I have instead of hatred.



(Cho Jae-Hyun, titular Bad Guy.)

VH: What was it that you tried to find out about the world through Bad Guy?

KKD: The question that I was trying to ask is, why is it that though everyone is born the same, with equal rights and equal qualities, we are divided and categorized as we grow older. Why are we judged according to our looks and appearances? Why does it become important if we are good looking or ugly, if we have money or not? According to these standards, which are imposed after we are born and grown up, we become divided into ranks and social classes that don't get along with each other. I wanted to ask if it's really impossible for these classes to get along and for their worlds to merge.

VH: Did you find an answer to your question?

KKD: My answer is that human beings must respect each other, regardless of class, appearance or money. That would be my answer, but my intention in making the movie was to confront the audience with the question. I'm sure everyone will find their own answer.

VH: As often in your films, the main protagonist of Bad Guy, the pimp Hang-gi (played by Cho Jae-Hyun), is a silent figure, unable to communicate or express himself. His only language seems to be violence. What is the reason for this silence?

KKD: The reason that in my movies there are people who do not talk is because something deeply wounded them. They had their trust in other human beings destroyed because of promises that were not kept. They were told things like "I love you", and the person who said it did not really mean it. Because of these disappointments they lost their faith and trust and stopped talking altogether. The violence that they turn to, I prefer to call a kind of body language. I would like to think of it as more of a physical expression rather than just negative violence. The scars and wounds which mark my figures are the signs of experiences which young people go through, in an age when they can not really respond to outside traumas. They cannot protect themselves against physical abuse, for example from their parents, or verbal abuse or when they see their parents fight. Or when you walk in the street and someone beats you up. When those kinds of things happen, you are helpless and you cannot do anything about it. These experiences remain as scars for those people. I personally had experiences like these. For instance, in the past, some kids who were younger than me but physically stronger beat me up. I could not defend myself. Also, in the marines, because some of the soldiers were in a higher rank they beat me up for no logical reason. In the process of having gone through experiences like this I ask myself, why does this have to be? These questions stayed with me until I became a director and now I express how I think and feel about these things.

VH: Would you describe your films as autobiographical?

KKD: In the case of Bad Guy I first have to say that I really don't like people like Hang-gi, but there was an incident when I met somebody who worked in the red light district. He beat me up for no reason, and at the time I hated that man. In that situation I did not understand him at all, but I wanted to try and do so. Through this movie I tried to probe into the character's psyche to find out what makes him do these things.

VH: What about the rumours that Hollywood wants to do a remake of Bad Guy with you as director?

KKD: I would like to make a Hollywood version of Bad Guy using American actors like, for example, Brad Pitt. But that is my own personal wish; no one from Hollywood has contacted me yet.

VH: Don't you think your very personal and violent aesthetics would collide with the Hollywood system?

KKD: On the outside it looks as if there is a strict code to which Hollywood movies conform, but I think in reality it is not like that. They do express what they want to express, but not in a direct way. So it looks as if they are inside their boundaries but they are not. That's why I want to work there, to use their method to subvert it. But if it's possible I would also like to make a French version of Bad Guy, in a French way. But I wonder where you heard about this idea of a Hollywood remake. It was actually something that I was only joking about with people in the sales team.

VH: I read about it in an article on the 2001 Pusan Film Festival.

KKD: I think the information came from my distributors. The overseas department asked me depending on whether it was possible, would I consider doing it? And I said yes.

VH: The only Hollywood movie which I can now think of as concerning itself with similar topics as Bad Guy, i.e. men who use their bodies to express themselves, is Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999). Do you see any similarities?

KKD: Unfortunately I have not seen Fight Club. From what I've heard about it, I would think it's closer to my film Real Fiction, a movie that was shot in only three hours and 20 minutes. It's about a man who goes out to kill all the people that he hates – but in the end it's shown that his killing spree was only a dream. A little bit like American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000).

VH: You describe your films as "semi-abstract". What does this mean?

KKD: My concept of semi-abstract movie making is about doing more then just presenting reality. To the world as we see it, I try to add our thoughts and feelings.

VH: Before turning to film you worked as a painter. The Isle (2000) especially seems more concerned with surreal imagery and less with narrative. In Bad Guy, the paintings of Egon Schiele play a certain role.

KKD: I spent two years as a painter on the beaches of Montpellier in France. I didn't have any official exhibitions or anything; I just painted by myself and exhibited my work on the streets. I also had some street-exhibitions in Munich, Germany, where I got to know the work of Egon Schiele. The reason I chose his paintings [i.e. their reproductions in a book] in Bad Guy is because at first glance they look vulgar and appear to deal with obscene subjects. But if you actually look at them closely, they are very honest. They show images of people who are wrapped up in desire. Originally I liked Gustav Klimt more, but as I looked more and more at Schieles work, I moved on to him.

VH: Schiele very often painted whores and "fallen women", similar to the female figures in The Isle, Address Unknown (2001) and Bad Guy. What fascinates you about women who, in one way or another, are forced so sell their bodies?

KKD: I think of women as being on a higher level than men. They have something to offer that men always need, that they will even pay for. Most people will probably disagree with me, but the way I think about it, the relationship between men and women is itself a kind of prostitution, even if no money does change hands. When trouble occurs between men and women it generates the energy that makes the world go round. It's a universal conflict, but in a way it also reflects cultural differences. In the case of Europe I think that it's been quite a while since things have been stable, there has been little trouble between the sexes. So if you look at European movies, they reflect this status quo, they are more low-key. Asian movies are much more volatile and violent because the conflict between males and females is still very strong.

VH: Has there been as much feminist outrage about Bad Guy as there has been about your previous films?

KKD: Yes, definitely. 90% of the female critics gave a negative review about the movie. But if you look at the audience of the film, 80% of the people who came to see it were women. If you look at all the specialists and critics, they mostly viewed the film in a negative way but the general audience is very receptive to it. They understand it. If you think of my film as Kim Ki-Duk creating the misfortune of the woman it depicts, then that's very dangerous. But if you think of it as the depiction of a problem that already existed in society than you cannot really hate Bad Guy.

VH: In Korea, Bad Guy is your most successful film to date. Do you consider economic success as an artistic failure?

KKD: The success of the film is because of the main actor, Cho Jae-Hyun. He suddenly became famous because he was in a TV series which became very popular in Korea. So it's not all my fault.

© Volker Hummel, February 2002

See also

The Pusan International Film Festival - Mature and Independent by Stephen Teo

Endnotes:

Egon Schiele, Austrian painter, born 12 June 1890, died 31 October 1918. His style was influenced by the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler and far-eastern Art. Taking his cue from Gustav Klimt, who combined the figurative with Art Nouveau ornaments, Schiele painted mainly portraits and nudes in an ornamental and graphic style.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In 2001, Kim Ki-Duk Most Certainly Was God...

Quick Sunday-Monday recap: hung with neue squeez-let CC in ATL, drinking down loads of vid. On the 13th, the DVD action comprised Georges Franju's immortal, indelible Les Yeux sans Visage and Sergio Martino's earnestly blatant Your Vice Is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key.

Before hunkering down, C suggested Ethiopian. The eats weren't as good as others I've enjoyed (DC's Blue Nile is still tops in my book), with appetizers way bland and veg main courses somewhat samey. Too many fat suburban fucktards in the joint to boot. I've already forgotten the name of the place, but that's probably for the best.

Monday evening found us at the Tara, queueing for G. Clooney's well-helmed Good Night and Good Luck. Post-vidbarn, we peeped Jean-Pierre Melville's sweet (tho period-paced) '67 procedural Le Samourai (just issued by Criterion) and Korean cranioclast Kim Ki-Duk's UNBELIEVABLY FUCKING AMAZING 2001 whore-thug melo-tragedy Bad Guy. I'd previously absorbed a few of Kim's films, but this was my first time through BG. (Cyn's too.) We were in heaven...



More on KK-D in this forum soon soon soon. It's soooo great to get this excited about a filmmaker again. (If you've not yet viewed Bad Guy, GO NOW and RETRIEVE.)

Pre-cine, Vietnamese vegetarian lunch, and a trip to one of the city's international farmer's markets. CC opted for kimchee, and I snagged a hamper-sized bag of wasabi peas. Then we tricked all the workers into signing themselves into prostitution...

I've been promising music updates for the last few postings, and will probably get around to writing one tomorrow.

Hail Satan,

TS

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Jukebox Jury Deadlocked

Bleary-eyed again; an indecent night's rest for the millionth consecutive day. As I rub the grit out of my hot pink orbs, a realization: I've not blabbed ponderously re current playlists in an age.

To rectify, perk up:

Digging loads of Bear Family 60s C&W comps and boxes, including Bill Monroe - Bluegrass 1959-1969, Sanford Clark - Shades, Merle Haggard - Same Train, A Different Time (excellent), and the Jimmie Driftwood Americana collection. Re BF, yesterday I scarfed their five-disc Ann-Margaret: 1961-1966 compendium. Those fucking Kraut über-completists rule above all. Sucking down the customary assortment of contempo-lectro, including Oleg Kostrow's Tartuf, Audion's Suckfish, Andi Teichmann's Wo die Wilden Kerle Wohnen EP (on Festplatten), and a gazillion new d+b plates, mixcomps, and radio sessions. (So many, in fact, that I'm backlogged two months. Pitiful, I know.) Grabbed a better rip of Jandek's October 16 set from Instal 05 in Glasgow (Mr. J. is taking the place of TLASILA at next week's Avanto Fest in Helsinki; we're gonna try to make Avanto '06 instead), tracked down Von Schlippenbach, Parker & Lovens's Live in Pisa cassette from 1981. Otherwise, the usual assortment, scads of boots (forgive me if I deign not to run through the list), everything more or less extant from Crawling Chaos, the new Kate Bush (why not?), tons of dub rarities, etc. Actually buying the odd disc now and again; picked up the hot-ass 1978 live alb from (the brilliant, largely unheralded) Radiators from Space (Alive-Alive-O!, via Chsiwick/Ace), the Charles River Valley Boys' Beatle Country bluegrass anomaly originally released through Elektra in 1966, and all but one of the six RPM "Tinmine" 70s Brit glam comps. (Boobs is fucking great, BTW.) Hmm, what else? Django Reinhardt's Concert in Bruxelles from 1948, two of the new Xenakis releases from Mode, Bertrand Burgalat's Portrait Robot, an expanded edition of Cannibal and the Headhunters' Land of 1000 Dances, the Judee Sill two-disc outtakes compilation Dreams Come True, some Wolfgang Voigt stuff I may not have already acquired (I lose track), two Sam Mangwana albums (1996's Maria Tebbo and Waka Waka, and 2000's Dino Vangu), on and on...

Must run, more later, kisses, poison darts, etc.

TS

Saturday, November 12, 2005

On Returning from Marathon...

Dad's resting quietly. He's already forgotten about yesterday's tumult, and that's probably a good thing. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to slip in and out of acuity with no warning (or recompensory souvenir). He sits with a cap on his lap, literally watching cats chasing string on some dire Animal Planet homevid revue. A decade ago he seemed a colossus. Now, he's barely here at all.

I want to reach into my gut and extract five or ten years for him, or at least quick-freeze those fucking cancers, offer some sort of respite... All I can do is love, I guess. It's a goddamned bummer.

TLASILA/Shire updates next time.

TS

Friday, November 11, 2005

Scales Not Being Flung from (Punctured) Eyes...

It's a sleepy Friday; up all fucking night Thursday. Why? Simple. Can't sleep after work. I usually wait for Colbert to take me out. (Anti-smarm smarm, however well-veiled, still strikes me as unnecessarily infused. Thus, lights are killed.) Have to be back in a few hours; the coffee isn't helping, and I'll likely be yawning.

Dad really beginning to worsen; dementia is just around the fog-girdled bend. Today he had a bit of an accident in his truck, running it off the road into a culvert. Although the F-150 was barely scuffed, my father was visibly addled. He mentioned something about retrieving a few things from his apartment in Key West (where he hasn't resided since the early 1960s), then retired to a nap.

Christ almighty.

Speaking of deities, enjoyed a long-delayed repeat viewing of Pasolini's hypnotic Oedipus Rex.

>

Another reason to be grateful for life, despite its often wretched vagaries (and the ultimately meager payoff).

(Er, existence, that is - not the film!)

The following vidcaps are presented for your edification. Sophocles' stark, unyielding tragedy has been oft-lensed (Tyrone Guthrie's 1957 version has its share of frissons, while Peter Saville's 1968 take, featuring Christopher Plummer, Lilli Palmer, and Orson Welles in the leads, is probably the most well known), but Pier Paolo's 1967 effort strikes the more resonant/dissonant tone...



(Title card.)



Franco Citti (Oedipus) rests after killing Laius and his bodyguards.



Pasolini assaying the role of a high priest of Creon. Despite the headdress, he still appears rather forlornly urban...



The stunning Silvana Mangano, who imbues the character of Jocasta with a profound air of dislocation. A jarringly odd and affecting performance...



Can't exactly give away the ending on this one. For the uninitiated, I'd suggest reading Sophocles first...

---

More Tomorrow,

TS

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another Vacation...

I've taken an alarming number of breaks from the TLASILA Blog non-grind, but as of this afternoon I have again returned. Not much to relate at the moment, though things are slowly coming to a boil at the peripheries. (Noon, TSSR releases, etc.) A more thorough update tomorrow.

TS