September 28, 2010

Der Wire

Having finally caught up, years too late, with the disappointing/over-rated The Lives of Others -- a GDR melodrama in which the Stasi spy, his Stasi boss, the heroic playwright, the playwright's girlfriend and the man from the Party all behave (and even look) exactly as you would expect -- I can only endorse this Zizek review. I also think that, surely inadvertently, writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck captures something about this German "ostalgie'', or nostalgia for the east: his GDR is a vanished, sealed-off, parallel world, with the melancholic appeal of a dated science-fiction modernist vision of the future, and surprisingly little seems to be at stake. It's an unreal place, without real loss. In the film's early scenes at least, I felt like I wanted to live there. Which means that Zizek is also right to say that it doesn't convey the harshness of the regime.
To put it quite brutally, while Ostalgie is widely practiced in today's Germany without causing ethical problems, one (for the time being, at least) cannot imagine publicly practicing a Nazi nostalgia: “Good Bye Hitler” instead of “Good Bye Lenin.” Doesn't this bear witness to the fact that we are still aware of the emancipatory potential in Communism, which, distorted and thwarted as it was, was thoroughly missing in Fascism?

September 27, 2010

Recommending #2

This, largely for track four. Such great anguish. Somewhere in Wade Churton's long oral history of Scorched Earth Policy is a comment about Christchurch seriousness against Dunedin sunniness, early-to-mid 1980s. Odd, thought Scorched Earth and Victor Dimisich's Peter Stapleton, given the gothic-ness of Dunedin.
Image taken from this excellent resource.

September 24, 2010

The world turned upside down

Pascal was the shock of my life. I was fifteen. I was on a class trip to Germany, my first trip abroad, and strangely I had brought the Pensées of Pascal. I was terrified by this passage: “Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition.” I think it affected me so deeply because I was raised by my grandparents. Suddenly I realized that they were going to die and probably soon. That’s when I discovered death.
-- Michel Houellebecq,
interviewed in The Paris Review.

September 14, 2010

The first Wicker Man still I ever saw

What are you finding as you watch these old horror movies that were inaccessible to you 40 years ago? You find out that they were crap, anyway – the stills were the best things about them. Actually, there are very few Hammer movies that don’t have a great moment. And B horror movie fanaticism is all about great moments. Those wonderful, luminous moments that make up for 80 minutes of stodgy dialogue and bad performances and so forth. I forgive a lot more in horror movies than in any other genre, just for the flashes of brilliance that are like your nightmares come to life. -- Chris Knox, interviewed in 2004.

September 3, 2010

Recommending #1

1. Bill Gosden on Kathy Dudding: "The tragic vision of Asylum Pieces seems bound to endure long past the season of mourning and celebration that began so suddenly for all of us here at the Festival in May. The insistent sadness of this film would have been just as hard to bear if Kathy had lived to make another dozen."
2. Daniel Crooks' Pan No 2 (one step forwards, one frame backwards) (2008) is now in the collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery. That is a still above. Time is sliced, slowed, distorted, refreshed. Among other things, destroyed.

3. The gospel according to Matt Hunt. What if William Blake met Colin McCahon in a Petone thrift shop? The Christian visionary is always the most uncomfortable figure to accomodate: "You should try to be in my head." Before Sunday (Ready to Roll, City Gallery, Wellington), he was unknown to me. Now I know he means it, but what do his dealer-gallery buyers make of it?

4. Discographies on Twitter. An entire band's oeuvre (studio albums only) in 140 characters or less. Example:
Pink Floyd: 1 "I'm here"; 2 "I'm not here"; 3-7 whoosh!; 8 ch-ching!; 9 "He's not here..."; 10-12 "...and it sucks"; 13-14 "We're not here."

5. The sheer fecundity of Found Objects. Hauntology? As the apocryphal judge said of pornography, I'm not sure how to define it but I know it when I see it. This is a fine introduction.

6. The end of Point Omega, Don DeLillo. "Sometimes a wind comes before the rain and sends birds sailing past the window, spirit birds that ride the night, stranger than dreams."