Barcelona, that bewitching capital of Catalonia is where I have been for the past five days. Art and architecture (and alliteration) abound. Barcelona claims links to artists such as Gaudi, Miro, and Picasso along with a fiery, independent spirit of its people who found its voice during the oppressive Franco era that ran for a significant part of last century. Photos of food from La Boquiera market, which claims to be one of the best markets in the world, according to their website, to come.
It’s that time of year again when film-nerds, cinema buffs and celluloid junkies descend on Melbourne for the International Film Festival. I don’t use these titles disparagingly though, but with a tinge of jealously.For several years before work commitments, I too would line up for animations, foreign masterpieces and music documentaries. Memorable highlights include the festival’s exposure of mind-blowing directors such as Ishii Sogo and Kim Ki-Duk, and a full day’s worth of film watching that started with a documentary on backyard wrestling in the backwaters of the US, to a teenage hooker who becomes a killing machine and which culminated in the premiere of Donnie Darko some 7 hours later. An exhausting day’s viewing.
The past few years, I have only managed a couple of films each festival and yesterday was my first, that film being Takashi Miike‘s Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai.
Takashi Miike’s output is prolific. Rarely does a year go by without a film of his at the festival, usually – as is the case this year – more than one. Because of his prodigious output, some of his films miss their mark, when his films are fully realised, they are astounding, at times unhinged, pieces of cinema.
Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a remake of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 film, Hara Kiri. Set in 17th century Japan, it tells the story of a samurai, Hanshiro, who arrives at the house of a feudal lord requesting an honourable warrior’s death by seppuku; ritual suicide. The housemaster tells him of the story of Motome, also a poor samurai, who had come to the house with the same request some two months earlier. The housemaster reveals that Motome’s plea was, in fact, a hoax and that the samurais of the house cruelly insist that Motome go through with his original request.
The film is a slow burn tale of revenge. During the second act, we see the connections and the Shakespearean tragedy that befalls Hanshiro and Motome; however, it feels incredibly long and heavily underscores these tribulations. Similarly, Motome’s demise is crafted with sledgehammer-like subtlety, resulting in a brutally intense scene which will test the limits of some viewers. The themes of the film, such as the discarding of those who are trained to kill in times of peace, and that a House is greater than the individuals that populate it, have modern day contexts and these ideas are handled with a deft touch by Takashi. This is what I have come to expect from Takashi, a master’s touch with his directing ability – which has grown in recent years – to a penchant to show cruelty and violence unflinchingly, never shying away from those fringes of the human character. You leave the cinema after watching his films with an opinion, and a few images burnt into your retinas.
Last time I went to Bar Lourinha, I didn’t post up pics of the Kingfish Pancetta. Well, fear not because a return visit had me whipping out the camera and getting some shots in all its lemony oil glory. The other picture is of a special which was Burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made of mozzarella and cream, with a fig and apple salad, which was also delicious.
Winter is well and truly amongst us. Some folks seize up and become a little frosty during this time, reflecting their climes. While Melbourne isn’t as cold as our Northern (and Southern) brethren, Melbourne does get a tad bleak and chilly. We have just passed the shortest day of the year. It only gets brighter from here on in.
Some things that have kept me going…
Sounds from Vladislav Delay.
Vladislav Delay (Real name, Sasu Ripatti) comes from Finland. North Finland to be exact. He knows what cold is and it’s somewhat appropriate that I’m listening to his music to get through a winter that Finns would chortle about. His more abstract work is akin to improvisation, constantly shifting and changing. His more linear, house-driven work still has traces of abstraction. It is music that is beguiling, made by one of the leading exponents of electronic music today.
Well, the promise of going to Tickets while in Barcelona later this year. This is Ferran Adrià’s new restaurant after closing the famous home of molecular gastronomy, elBulli, last year. Molecular gastronomy is not on my list of options when it comes to eating out, especially with its associated price tag, but this looks like heaps of fun.
My local supermarket is a humble IGA. Moving in about a year ago and checking out the local shops, i was pleasantly shocked to see in their bottle shop, cans of Kirin Original Brew and Yebisu. They have restocked these brands infrequently but when they do I always manage to acquire a few cans of each. The Kirin is especially drinkable and reminds me of holidays in Japan. Brewed for good times? Absolutely.
For anyone into music, mixtapes served an invaluable purpose in the pre-internet days namely, to open up ears to new sounds. These tapes, like a rare, dusty book containing not words but sonic arcana accompanied by (sometimes) brief track and artist details and possibly original artwork; the marginalia of the mixtape. The best of these became cherished pieces of plastic and tape, holders of new aural experiences and a departure point for the discovery of a new artist who would invariably in time, become a favourite.
Nowadays, with technology and the internet, mixtapes (and I’ll still call them mixtapes just like we still might call a release a ‘record’, regardless of the format it’s released on) are easy to make and come by. In the search for new aural experiences, I find myself listening to more mixes than ever in the search for new discoveries or the ‘recontextualisation’ of the old. The mixes below have achieved that more on the latter rather than the former however, the search always continues.
Ghostfunk and Mos Dub from Max Tannone are some great mixes, the former combining Ghostface Killah’s tunes with various African artists, the latter Mos Def and reggae/dub tunes from the likes of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Big Youth. Both releases share a similar feel between both of their source materials despite differing styles, locales and timeframes. Being able to absorb these sounds and hear the links between them (not just in a sense of key and rhythm) displays some aural equivalent of a photographic memory. If you needed a further recommendation, Ghostfunk has been bootlegged onto vinyl.
Another Jay on Earth from DJ bc was played on heavy rotation (if such a verb can be used in regards to a digital sound file) for a number of weeks. Using Jay-Z’s American Gangster and Brian Eno’s Another Day on Earth as source material, this mix appeared to be the musical equivalent of getting two fighting kids and throwing them in a room and not letting them out until they become friends. DJ bc to his credit, got those scrappy kids to make up and become best buddies, so much so that listening to the Eno record without wanting to hear Jay-Z over the top of it is impossible. Likewise, American Gangster without wishing for Eno’s deep sonic textures.
The mixes from Fact have been a little hit and miss. Some folks seemed to be phoning it in, others like these two examples wanted to get synapses firing. Autechre’s mix covered everything from Mark Stewart, Detroit hip hop, Tangerine Dream and Necrophagist! Ayshay was someone unknown to me, a Senegal-born, Kuwait raised, now a native of Brooklyn, singer and producer. Beautifully haunting vocals clash with any number of beats from the scope of the electronica genre, approximations of traditional figures and rhythms are dragged from the bazaar to the dancefloor not to disrespect these older styles but realising that we have loved to dance in large numbers for aeons.
A couple of older mixtapes and releases got a revisiting during this phase. Mr Geoffrey and JD Franzke’s Get a Room is a prime example of a mix taken to a new artistic level. Field recordings combine with a range of artists; snatches of Eno, Rhythm and Sound, Gotan Project, Donnie Hathaway and Blossom Dearie to create a whimsical, wind-down record. Warp’s Blech mixtape covering the first 6 years of the long running electronic label got dug out and enjoyed all over again as this period in Warp’s history was when, to my ears, they could do no wrong.