Monday, April 14, 2008
I'm not rushing to the Ziegfeld to see this new Stones concert movie even if the newest song they played is from Tattoo You and the repertoire goes as far back as 1965's "I'm Free." I recently had the pleasure, however, to see a truly golden moment in their career, the 1973 behind the scenes concert movie Cocksucker Blues, directed by genius photographer and beat collaborator Robert Frank. The Stones themselves were not happy with Frank's candid, elliptical snapshot and forbade him to show the film. Ensuing legal action only granted Frank the right to screen the film five times a year and he has to be present. That doesn't stop copies getting around to Stones fans of course. Frank manges to capture the ennui that comes with being 'the world's greatest rock and roll band' as well as sensational moments such as groupies and roadies getting wild on a plane, folks shooting up, nodding off, Bianca Jagger and Tina Turner domineering the frame, and Mick and Keith hanging out in a juke joint, the one moment they seem slightly happy. Speaking of happy, there's a great sequence where Stevie Wonder plays "Uptight" with the Stones joining in that segues to another scene where the band listens to the single of "Happy" for the first time, which then segues into them playing "Happy" live and then back to the room again. Really cool.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Anthony Steffen stars in this third rate spaghetti western from 1967, unearthed from Wild East Productions. Of course third rate in an exploitation film is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary this entry in the 60's Euro-Western boom is extra gritty and mean-spirited. It's derivative in a way that satisfies those genre trope obsessions: lots of action, sleazy moments, amorality and fetishization of the genre itself that are easily and happilly recognizable. This is perhaps most evident in the appropriately rustic production design. The look of the Mexican bandits is particularly effective here, even if the melodramatic elements are played up to a screaming pitch, with all the baddies chewing scenery as they wreak havoc with sinister laughter worthy of Ming the Merciless (or at least as evil as Dr. Klahn from A Fistful of Yen). Eduardo Fajardo stands out as the stereotypically villainous Mexican, Colonel Ferreres. Ferreres gets a great kick out of chiding one of his henchmen, calling him 'muchachita.' Later said henchmen retorts back calling Ferreres Colonel de mierda. The plot is a throwaway: Dastardly Mexican 'soldiers' are dominating a small border town. They are after a shipment of gold or some such treasure. A mysterious gambler, who also happens to be a gentleman, comes to town and messes up their plans. Here's the key point that makes the film thrid rate: the hero is completely bad ass and on the side of the law AND sympathetic to the victims of cruelty. The great conceit of Leone's protagonists was that they were anti-heroes who seemed to care less about feelings. The so called man with no name as well as Mortimer, maintained a super cool-demeanor and were more interested in personal gain or revenge than simply human interest. A superman, one-dimensional do-gooder, such as Gentleman Killer renders the action more comic book-like. Nevertheless it's an enjoyable ride. There are moments reminiscent of the great Django - GK helps and is rescued by a prostitute, he swings around balconies and so forth, and in the third act he is the victim of some crippling torture from the baddies. Alex Cox spoke to me about the whole traumatized prostitute/hero angle, which is straight out of Django. But while in Django the hero is practically maimed, here they borrow a plot device from another great spaghetti, Requiescant: he gets blind drunk. The Mexicans force feed him 2 1/2 bottles of booze in about 30 seconds time. Still, this doesn't prevent him from escaping in an almost acrobatic fashion. I did like the way the film ended, which was a fun twist on a cliche.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Ego's comment on the Dynamite Openings and Knockout Endings post served as a reminder of Sword of Doom, one of the greatest samurai movies ever, which also happens to have an incredible, knockout ending. It is probably the best version of the oft-filmed novel (originally serialized in the newspaper) Dai-Bosatsu Toge (The Great Buddha Pass), about a ronin with daunting, superhuman sword skills who also happens to be evil incarnate. Mr. Evil Badass is not without enough of a moral compass to know just how rotten he is however, allowing director Kihachi Okamoto to explore severe existential dread. Tatsuya Nakadai is incredible as the antihero. This summer there will be a Nakadai retrospective at Japan Society and Film Forum at which Nakadai will make an appearance.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Is that an esoteric band name or am I just out of the loop? Is it one of those tribal chants assimilated into New Orleans r & b or is it some small hamlet in Long Island or Florida? Cococoma is a great contemporary garage punk band from Chicago. They manage to channel those great 60's punk sounds without being simply neo/revival, but instead blend a pastiche of sounds with enough pop sensibility and punk attack to keep it fresh and exciting. Granted that pastiche comes from a specific niche. I hear resemblances of sounds in the vocals and the parts of songs, references remain on the tip of your tongue as you feel like it's comfortably familiar but fresh at the same time. The band was started by a husband and wife, the former on drums and vox and the latter slashing furious on guitar. And for added measure they've got a great keyboard player who manages to integrate both rhytmic dynamics as well as a few slightly melodic twists as well. Check out the cool composure of 'Premonition,' which retains raw charm yet boasts clever structure and catchy hooks. They have some raw singles and an excellent album on Goner Records.