Friday, June 24, 2011

For Peter Falk.

The Angel by William Blake

I Dreamt a Dream! what can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen:
Guarded by an Angel mild;
Witless woe, was neer beguil'd!

And I wept both night and day
And he wip'd my tears away
And I wept both day and night
And hid from him my hearts delight

So he took his wings and fled:
Then the morn blush'd rosy red:
I dried my tears & armd my fears,
With ten thousand shields and spears.

Soon my Angel came again;
I was arm'd, he came in vain:
For the time of youth was fled
And grey hairs were on my head.

Thanks, Peter.

'...sensitive breeding, rich bouquet...'

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life with a star

Outsiders, especially in literature, are rarely accorded the recognition their work deserves during their lifetime.

The Czech writer, Jiri Weil was vilified for his 'cosmopolitan' narrative and characterisation; a common feature of his work, and a common criticism of writers and artists writing and being artistic in those countries formerly ideological satellites of the Soviet Union.

Weil's best work - to date only two of his works have been translated into English - concerns itself with the Nazi occupation of Prague and the unspeakable effect it has on the cities Jewish inhabitants.

'Mendelssohn is on the roof,' his last published work, was made available again earlier this month (Daunt Books). It's a marvellous read - similar to Kafka, in many ways, it quietly summarises the lives of ordinary people attempting to live through extraordinary times.

Weil's novels are about the essential dignity of humanity and about the dehumanising extents to which some people will go to extinguish it. Despite his 'outsider' status, his themes are universal: understanding, compassion and love.

Read all of his books.

Friday, June 17, 2011

She sang like she feel...

It was Ella Fitzgerald's anniversary on the 15th of June. She accomplished much of musical note (pun hugely intended) in her lifetime: as singer with Chick Webb, similarly, later with Dizzy Gillespie and throughout her rightly lauded solo career.

Her musicality showed itself at its most convivial and convincing best in the landmark Verve recordings of the 1950's. Marking a turning point in her own performing life, which she herself recognised, these 1956/7 Norman Granz produced recordings: 'Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook,' and, '...the Duke Ellington Songbook,' were enormously successful both commercially and artistically.

Ella's astonishing legacy will remain because she was able to; more than any of her contemporaries, certainly far more than anyone performing today, create an otherworld where words and music seamlessly melded into an unimpeachable, and incomparably melodious whole.

As Bing Crosby so succinctly rejoindered, 'Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all.'

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Durham town

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis recently played in Glasgow to a sell-out, hugely appreciative audience. Ably supported musically by their parents, on guitars and bass fiddle, their music is a highly addictive amalgam of Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll and almost every other musical genre you'd care to mention - hell, they may even have invented some...

Still incredibly young, they wear these diaparate musical influences on their beautifuly tailored sleeves immaculately well, without ever slipping into pastiche or irreverence. Their latest record (that's record) is a fine example of music making at its ferociously primal and incandescent best.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dog bites Man

Guardian article - Human Centipede 2

Guardian article - Teen fiction accused of being 'rife with depravity.'

Much has already been written about the BBFC's decision to ban director Tom Six's sequel to his 2010 film, 'The Human Centipede.' The adjudication aside, the decision has reignited the debates surrounding the subject of censorship in the Arts - a welcome thing as it allows complex ideas and conflicting views about gender, sex, race, violence and aspects of morality generally to be discussed openly and, and this is the hope, intelligently and in context.

The prohibition of anything certainly accomplishes one thing. It makes it news. It confers temporary, sometimes longer lasting, notoriety on the film, book, play, whatever - irrespective of how vile, trivial, banal, poorly executed it is.

Crucially, often unfortunately, the same criteria applies to works of importance -
Cronenberg's film of J G Ballard's 'Crash,' Wes Craven's 1972 'Last House on the Left,' and Russell Mulcahy's docupic 'Derek and Clive get the horn,' which was banned on its original theatrical release.

There are many more examples, across all genres, not just films, encompassing all of the means of artistic expression - see the second of the above very recent Guardian articles for more.

TB has not seen Tom Six's film. Based on reports of it it is unlikely that a review of it, good, bad or tantalisingly indifferent will ever appear on these pages - its subject matter just does not appeal. What remains crucially important however, is that if the writer of this blog WANTED to see it, WANTED to review it, WANTED to give his/her own opinion of it, however biased or (ill)informed, then they could.

The BBFC should reconsider their blanket banning decision - at the very least to allow the films flaws, virtues and more to be discussed and to foster genuine dialogue between film fans, commentators and makers.

Film4 - Banned movies

Friday, June 3, 2011

Klutz is the secret password

Miranda July's films occupy a very strange territory indeed.

'Me and You and Everyone We know,' was the best movie of 2005. Yet, encouragingly, not everyone felt this way. Some critics hated it. Some praised it just the wrong side of idolatry.

And that's what makes art - in all its disguises - fascinating, infuriating, wonderful.

Her new film 'The Future,' will be available to see/avoid from the end of July onwards.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The revolution will be televised...

The Bob Thiele produced 1970 album, 'A new black poet - Small talk at 125th and Lenox,' was the debut album of one of the most influential recording artists/poets of the last 40 years - an explosive mix of sparse instrumentation alloyed to scathing social criticism.

Gil Scott-Heron, despite his many and often protestations to the contrary, was, like contemporaries Kool Herc and The Last Poets, one of the founding fathers of Hip-Hop.

Of course, he was so much more than an inspiring originator. With Brian Jackson, Scott-Heron made wonderful music that reflected the narrative traditions of blues story-telling and inner-city living, melding this poetic, satirical, lyrical with the existing soul and jazz musical stylings that was completely theirs.

In 2010, he released his first album in over 15 years. 'I'm new here,' showed that he had lost none of his talents for musical and lyrical invention. His influence will remain immeasurable.