Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Lost World of Tibet, BBC

A BBC documentary film produced in conjunction with the British Film Institute. The 90-minute film was broadcast on BBC Two in November 2006. The film is presented by Dan Cruickshank and features footage shot in Tibet prior to the 1950s with commentary from Tenzin Gyatso, the present 14th Dalai Lama, and other people featured. This is one of a number of BFI television series featuring footage from the BFI National Archive and produced in partnership with the BBC.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

In The Mood for Love (Chinese: 花樣年華)

Wong Kar-wai is a genius. The scenes flow and it feels like one is breathing in and then breathing out as they change. He seems to sweep us up in a moving painting that is framed by the music. Characters melt into walls and then appear again. All the while they swim in sensuality and passion. Incredible film. Just incredible.

Hong Kong, 1962. The city is tranquil and courteous, but divided between indigenous Cantonese Chinese and immigrants from mainland China. Through coincidence, Chow Mo-wan, a journalist, moves into an apartment building occupied mainly by Shanghainese at the same time as Su Li-zhen, a secretary, while their spouses are away. When Chow finds out their respective spouses are having an affair, the two of them grow closer as they commiserate, finding more and more excuses to spend time with each other.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Heaven and Earth Magic (1962) Full Film

This is a animation film by Harry Everett Smith (May 29, 1923 in Portland, Oregon – November 27, 1991 in New York City). Originally released in 1957, it was re-edited several times and the final version was released in 1962. The first part depicts the heroine's toothache consequent to the loss of a very valuable watermelon, her dentistry and transportation to heaven. Next follows an elaborate exposition of the heavenly land, in terms of Israel and Montreal. The second part depicts the return to Earth from being eaten by Max Müller on the day Edward VII dedicated the Great Sewer of London.Re-edited several times between 1957 and 1962. Sixteen millimeter, black & white, mono, initially six hours, later versions of two hours and 67 min. Extended version of Smith's No. 8. Cutout animation culled from 19th-century catalogs meant to be shown using custom-made projectors fit out with color filters (gels, wheels, etc.) and masking hand-painted glass slides to alter the projected image. Jonas Mekas gave the film—which is often regarded as Smith's major work—its title in 1964–65.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Countryman (1982)

An action/adventure film directed by Dickie Jobson. It tells the story of a Jamaican fisherman whose solitude is shattered when he rescues two Americans from the wreckage of a plane crash. The fisherman, called Countryman, is hurled into a political plot by the dangerous Colonel Sinclair. Countryman uses his knowledge of the terrain and his innate combat skills to survive.

The film was shot in Jamaica and featured a reggae soundtrack performed by Lee "Scratch" Perry, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Steel Pulse, Dennis Brown, Aswad, Toots & The Maytals & Rico Rodriguez. It was written by Jobson and produced by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and has become a cult classic.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Peter York's 'Hipster Handbook' Full BBC Documentary 2016

Eminent social commentator Peter York seeks to understand what he sees as the modern obsession with The Authentic. He speaks to crafts people and expert commentators on his journey to understand the current cultural moment. He also examines where the label of the hipster has its roots and whether it is too general a term for such a broad movement. He demonstrates through his years of marketing and advertising experience that subcultures have always been absorbed and repackaged by the mainstream. Contributors include Times deputy fashion editor Harriet Walters, the Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright, and Sir John Hegarty. Peter also travels to America to look at parallels between the UK and America.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The difference between hearing and listening | Pauline Oliveros (1932 – 2016)

Sounds carry intelligence. If you are too narrow in your awareness of sounds, you are likely to be disconnected from your environment. Ears do not listen to sounds; the brain does. Listening is a lifetime practice that depends on accumulated experiences with sound; it can be focused to detail or open to the entire field of sound. Octogenarian composer and sound art pioneer Pauline Oliveros describes the sound experiment that led her to found an institute related to Deep Listening, and develop it as a theory relevant to music, psychology, and our collective quality of life.

Pauline Oliveros died yesterday, aged 84.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove (2000)

"By the late 1950s Stanley Kubrick had become deeply concerned about the possibility of nuclear annihilation".

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (BBC)

A dire warning from the past for the people of today. Images of war are not all that we have today from the Germany of the 1930s and 40s. It was a functioning state under the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party. People did see change when they gave power to Hitler and his gang. He gave them a feeling of confidence and of hope. On the surface the submission to a one party system and a supreme dictator was given in exchange for economic prosperity and the shoring up of the lifestyle of the middle class. But the workers were exploited, unions were banned and real wages fell. Militarisation and the expulsion and destruction of anyone who did not fit or submit to the Nazi template were also parts of the deal and few people did not live in fear of what they did and said. From the account of an American living in Germany from 1934-1938 named Nora Waln (1895–1964), this documentary builds an image of a sinister society where nobody trusted anybody, other than by putting all trust and belief into the fascist state apparatus as symbolised by Adolf Hitler.

What is most shocking about this film is the way people submitted and believed, in exchange for the feelings of security and hope for the future. Like the street conman, Hitler saw a need, approached the unsuspecting dupe, made the offer that could fulfil the need, and then took the victim for all they had (including their life in many many cases). Those that complied were ultimately plunged into an abyss of amoral violence and power. Narcissistic sociopaths should not be given highest office. This is what is happening again now in the world. If anyone tells you they have all the answers, remove yourself from their presence or them from yours. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bongwater (1997)

A very American account of what grunge life was like for many in the 1990s. This is a quirky, at times savage and well paced account of a micro-community and the loves and struggles of some of its more attractive looking members (No pun intended). Also featured is a young Jack Black, as the feral weed grower freak folk musician Devlin (singing Jesus's Ranch).

Despite the fact that this film has Andy Dick in it, who I find extremely irritating both as a character and as himself in no matter what role he plays, it has considerable merit in its portrayal of a time that paved the way for the millennial cultures of today. Queer life mixes with hippies, freaks, punks, environmental activism, artists and the confused and self-abusers.  It comes off as a moment in time when anything felt possible, except everyone was too stoned or self-absorbed to make it happen. It was a beautiful moment in cultural history. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Hypernormalisation (2016)

Adam Curtis tries to revive the Grand Narrative as a way for understanding history. Using conspiracy as a structure for truth, Curtis pieces together a large number of events in attempt to explain 'the fake world' we live in. However, he avoids many elements that do not fit in with the premise, such as the anti-globalisation movement of the 1990s and 2000s and the power of money. This is despite establishing early in the film that the power of corporations now extends to dominating politics. This idea is abandoned when the film focuses mostly on the deceptions and violence of international politics. The other major failing of this film is the reliance on the images from news and popular media, from the Internet and mobile cameras, in other words the visual regime that creates what Curtis calls 'the fake world'.

The 90s concept of 'cyberspace' is confused by Curtis with Artificial Intelligence, algorithmic capitalism and digital cultures. Surveillance and data mining are largely ignored. There is no 'fake world' -  the symbolic visual and spatial system we are creating through technology is the world we live in and also the means by which we understand this world. Whether that is a positive thing is of course very debatable. As recently as last week I read an essay by Hossein Derakhshan on how the visual dependency upon video for news is feeding the extreme ideas of the far right;

"The emerging illiterate class, hooked onto their old television sets or to their Facebook-centred mobile personal televisions (i.e. smart phones), is good news for demagogues. Look at how Donald Trump has mastered the formula of television to turn it into his free-of-charge public relations machine. His capture of the spirit of television has helped him transform all threats into opportunities, garbage into gold, and waste into energy – like a perfect incineration plant."

Curtis is part of this same visual regime and contributes to the creating of non-critical thought. He adds to this lack of critique by always introducing a sense of panic into his narrative by using such phrases as:

We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion.
the endless migrant crisis
those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed - they have no idea what to do.
chaotic events are happening
all of us in the West have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world.
Forces that politicians tried to forget are now turning on us with a vengeful fury.
Piercing though the wall of our fake world.
That one can simply turn off the computer, not take out credit cards, and instead read books and attend events seems to have alluded Curtis. At one point in the film, (around the 2 hour mark - the film is unnecessarily long), when talking about the Occupy movement, Curtis announces that it was an attempt to 'organise people without the exercise of power' -  like 150 years of Anarchist philosophy does not exist. Trying to make sense of chaos is difficult when the argument is that "We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion". Either the uncertainty and confusion are real, and therefore there is a real world, or the world is fake and therefore so is the uncertainty and confusion. Which is it? Furthermore, Curtis's obsession with the idea that Hafez al-Assad invented suicide bombing as a tactic against a more powerful enemy is not correct. Suicide bombing goes at least back to the kamikaze ('Divine Wind') pilots of Imperial Japan in World War Two, and possibly further back to the 1880s

The idea that 'the Internet had played a key role in organising the groups' is far from established. As one research site states "It is important to understand that new platforms of social media didn’t cause Arab Spring but played a role of communication that aids the revolutions in the long run." The use of the Internet for organising social change is important. But it also seems to contradict the premise that we live in a 'fake world' mediated by technology, if it can in fact bring about real change. It is amazing that the full film of 2 hours and 40 minutes never uses the word 'propaganda'. If there are journalists who seriously believe, as Curtis says, their job is to 'expose lies and assert the truth' they are not working on 90% of the newspapers that have been in circulation since Watergate.  Journalism and Public Relations are taught together at universities, they are practiced and produced on a daily bases everywhere.

The film ends on xenophobic fear, and this connects the long, at times rambling, and fear-filled history from Adam Curtis up to the point we are at now, with Trump about to assume office in the White House. What lies at the heart of this drama is not a failure of politics, as it has been the politics of the last 40 years that has been driving a globalized, neo-liberal agenda, and that seems to be perfectly on track. If the values of those neo-liberal globalists are threatened by the socialist and nationalist tendencies of Islam, or the loss of cultural identity through a decline in white middle class christian values, we can expect to see more hate, more violence and more suffering. The desire to 'change the system' and believe the contradictory and contrived rhetoric of Donald J. Trump supplies the conservative elements of the Republican Party with a new opportunity to keep the global capitalist project on track, no matter what the cost.