Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Perversely, perhaps, I find myself longing for an American remake of this thing. Thomas Vinterberg's moving, harrowing tale concerns a kindly schoolteacher (Mads Mikkelsen, worthy of every award he's won) facing alienation and worse when a misunderstanding leads to accusations of pedophilia. The story's remarkably free of one-dimensional villains (or villains of any kind, really), but generates powerful tension as rumors escalate beyond the point of no return. Though a universal story to be sure, it could easily happen in the American heartland. Yet I wonder if American producers and audients would shun the movie for capturing their reflections all too well, if anyone seeing it would fess up to being capable of the kind of hysteria the movie so beautifully portrays. In the end it asks us how well any of us really know or trust our children, or those tasked with their care. Serling would have admired it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

David Lynch, THE BIG DREAM

Some thoughts on the first listen of the new David Lynch joint:

--Kind of a rough start - I was beginning to fear that the best track off the disc would be the Bob Dylan "cover". There's a slow, almost minimalist spin to the lyrics, where a tense situation grows moreso through the repetition of certain details, as Lynch's guitars (including an acoustic) and a deep, nearly subliminal synth percolate threateningly in the background. But it doesn't peak there.

--The start is admittedly uneven - the 2am invocation of "last call" doesn't really land. Lynch's music has advanced and grown intriguingly more complex, but in at least the first half his approach to the lyrics wasn't working. (More than once I consider what this would have been like as a series of instrumental sketches.) It sounds more like an album of songs than CRAZY CLOWN TIME did (whether or not CCT was such an album was never really an issue). Nice variations on his mutant blues surface later in the album, and "We Rolled Together" is pretty damn fine, despite its uncanny resemblance to The Police's "Invisible Sun".

--Holy crap, the synth washes in "the line it curves" are absolutely fucking beautiful.

--The album's a kind of transition for Lynch - it's not as consistent as CRAZY CLOWN TIME, nor quite as unsettling (though I'm not sure it really tries for the latter). There are some moments in THE BIG DREAM that transcend the previous album, though I think the next album is where shit's really going to come together.

--In the end, the process of his music doesn't seem the same as that of his films; each movie is its own complete entity, but I think music is a more amorphous entity for Lynch, a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. The albums feel more like sketchbooks than complete, unified works, and I'm pretty sure that he sees his albums and his movies in completely different terms. The albums feel like steps in an ongoing process, and though THE BIG DREAM doesn't feel like a self-contained success, its high points show Lynch fully engaged with that process. The road, the tracks, the train all figure prominently here, and Lynch is riding to the end. And even (especially!) if he can't see the final destination, the ride's well worth taking.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ken Russell!

I mentioned over on Twitter that I was more excited to celebrate Ken Russell's birthday than I was the 4th of July. And as delighted as I am to have a job where writing a celebratory post on the occasion is a duty specifically called for in my job description, I have, of course, not exhausted everything I want to say about this estimable figure.

I came in at the tail end of the main of his career - of all of his films I only ever saw WHORE during its theatrical run. I've been lucky enough to catch up with some of his work in rep screenings, and other films (LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM and particularly SALOME'S LAST DANCE, possibly my favorite cinematic adaptation of a play) were mainstays of my video watching then and now.

Though he'd had a long and provocative life and career (which only got more and more outrageous the older he got), I was still stunned and saddened by his death in November 2011. One naturally assumes that such larger-than-life folk will remain, but of course this isn't so.

Reading up on Russell prior to writing about him I clicked through to the article on "A Kitten for Hitler", a rare Internet-only film from Russell. Challenged in 2007 to make a film that he would himself want to have banned, Russell created a short, bizarre, and horribly, horribly wrong little eight-minute short. The hilariously shit CGI is only the start of it. The thing is on YouTube. Consider yourself warned.

Today with Russell firmly on my mind, I kept laughing about this movie. Marvelling at its sheer wrongness, but delighted that there's still a huge body of work to be experienced for the first time. It should hold me over until 2019, when his Richard Strauss documentary can be legally shown again.