Archive for June, 2009

Temposphere, KFAI 06/27/09

June 27, 2009


I pitched in for Luke Andrews tonight. I try not to repeat myself too much when I do these shows, but new cuts by Peaches and Black Blondie demanded to be played again. Also heard: new tracks by Kylie Auldist and Caetano Veloso and a mix of classic and contemporary including Eddie Kendricks, Scott Walker, Grace Jones, Dennis Brown, Zuco 103, Buika and Michael Jackson. You can stream the show for two weeks at the KFAI site here; playlist is availble by just clicking through here or there.

(image is from Spy Vibe)


20 Shots: Mr. Thank You (1936)

June 26, 2009


“You’re either on the bus or off the bus.” – Ken Kesey

After suffering through about an hour of a recent award winning monstrosity the other night, it’s a tonic to think of my recent viewing of Mr. Thank You, a modest little Chekovian charmer (part of a new Eclipse collection of Hiroshi Shimizu films) that gently pulls you into its world rather than pounding you over the head with it.

Lives intersect on the bus, outside the bus, through the windows of the bus and in its mirrors. On the road from the countryside to Tokyo, beloved driver Arigato-san politely thanks pedestrians (and even ducks) for yielding to his passage. He picks up passengers, drops them off, and somehow can’t avoid getting involved in their lives.

Arigato-san winds up gallantly rescuing a young geisha-to-be but I can’t help thinking he’ll be haunted by the enigmatic beauty who sits behind him wryly observing and gently mocking the other passengers on their way to Tokyo.

(This post was originally intended to be part of the Japanese Film Blogathon but tempus, as they say, fugit.)

20 Shots: Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (2006)

June 18, 2009


I’ve come to love the Walker Brother’s mid-60’s orchestral pomp-pop and especially Scott Walker’s quartet of solo albums of the late 60’s. Those records for the most part didn’t register in the US. The “Brothers”, despite being Americans, found massive success in the UK, but though they had perfect mod London haircuts and clothing, their music sounded nothing like the Stones, Kinks or Beatles. Led by Scott Engel’s hugely theatrical baritone, the Walkers’ records were lush and melodic, but “rocked” in no sense of the term. They had the benefit of Philips Records’ largesse that put them in top studios with the finest arrangers and musicians of the day. The LPs still sound massive in 2009.

Scott’s first 3 LPs all charted high in the UK but his sound grew more esoteric and less like the work of a teen idol, and quite possibly began to alienate his fan base. In a pivotal moment, his fourth and best album didn’t chart at all. Without the cushion of large sales, Walker felt pressured into putting out ill-considered, more “audience friendly” pop that he ultimately felt humiliated by. Steven Kijak’s film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man shows how Walker has essentially been on a 40 year act of penance for that time, creating music over the last two decades that is not audience friendly in the least. While the film makes a case for his recent work, it’s honest enough to include some dissenting opinions (Lulu, who adored Scott and toured with the Brothers in the 60’s is diplomatically silent but looks horrified when some of it plays, Alison Goldfrapp is of two minds, and Marc Almond comes right out and says it: “I hated Tilt.”). However one feels about it, the arc of Scott Walker’s journey is fairly unique in pop music documentaries: he’s not a burnout case at all, but completely lucid and candid about his story, and as a story that now encompasses about 50 years of music it’s truly compelling.

Temposphere, KFAI 06/13/09

June 13, 2009


I was back in Studio 4 tonight, filling in for Luke Andrews on Temposphere. It was a gorgeous spring/summer night in Minneapolis and I tried to provide a couple of hours of nice back porch music, provided you can kick back to a crazily eclectic mix from Black Blondie to Donovan to Can. We heard a great new track from Peaches, the Gainsbourg famille was represented (the lovely illustration above is by Joann Sfar who is directing the upcoming Serge biopic), and in general we careened hither and yon, devil take the hindmost. You can stream the show from your porch for the next two weeks at the KFAI site; playlist as always follows the break.


African Rhythms, KFAI 06/11/09

June 11, 2009


I sat in for Salif and Charlie today on African Rhythms. We featured cuts from many of the great African CDs that have been coming out this year (Oumou Sangare, Vieux Farka Toure (above), Amadou And Mariam, Mulatu with the Heliocentrics, Rokia Traore…) plus a couple of tracks from the forthcoming Nickodemus album. The program is available for the next two weeks as an MP3 stream at the KFAI website here. Playlist follows the break.


10 Film Books

June 9, 2009


Following a theme that originated at The Dancing Image, here are 10 books on film that continue to have a great impact, at least in this house.

Who The Devil Made It, Peter Bogdanovich
The desert island tome. By the right person in the right place at the right time. Bogdanovich had the sense to interview many of the first generation of filmmakers as they were fading from the scene in the 60’s and 70’s. Film Class 101.

The Filmgoer’s Companion, Fourth Edition, Leslie Halliwell
This book has been in the reference library seemingly forever. From the early 70’s, it’s a great catalog of movies up to that point, whether you agree with Halliwell’s pinched opinions or not. Crammed with photos that later editions cut back on. Also handy, if you must go to the books, for solving those obscure 20’s actress Will Shortz clues.

Cagney By Cagney, James Cagney
Great actor, great storyteller, great bloke.

This Is Orson Welles, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich
Another classic from Bogdo.

The Emperor And The Wolf, Stuart Galbraith IV
Phone book sized double bio of two giants, Kurosawa and Mifune.

Ingmar Bergman Directs, John Simon
One of the assigned texts from my college Bergman class (weekly screenings of The Magician – Sawdust And Tinsel – Wild Strawberries!…), still on the shelf today.

Taschen Movie Icons series
These pocket sized pictorial filmographies at $10 or less are the definition of value. In my library so far: Garbo, Grant, Welles, Dietrich, K. Hepburn, Bogart. Also essential: Taschen’s over-sized volumes of great movies by decade (I love that they even got around to Movies Of The 20s and Early Cinema, despite its limited sales potential.)

Fellini On Fellini

The Films Of Jean-Luc Godard, Ian Cameron, editor
The Praeger Film Library volumes are nice little filmographies of top directors. And, as always helps, plenty of photos.

Accidental Genius, Marshall Fine
Subtitle: How John Cassavetes Invented The American Independent Film. Grandiose? Yes, but it’s a compelling story even if you’re not a fan of Cassavetes’ films. I love his scrappy debut Shadows, but after that it’s rough going. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to admire his tenacity and courage – it’s an inspiring story.

20 Actors (encore)

June 4, 2009


Not one to leave well enough alone, and long after the train has left the station, I’ve assembled 20 more worthies for your consideration.

Lee Marvin, Ricardo Montalban, Adrien Brody, Victor McLaglen, Alain Delon, Anthony Hopkins, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, John Cassavetes, Maurice Chevalier, Michael Caine, Desi Arnaz, Basil Rathbone, Sean Connery, Harold Lloyd, Clark Gable, Gene Kelly, John Barrymore, Roscoe Arbuckle,  Gerard Depardieu.

While we’re at it may I draw your attention to:

Glenn Kenny’s great post on 10 influential film books. Love the inclusion of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (a masterpiece compilation of left-field movies), plus many others that now need to be tracked down by me.

Give Me The Good Old Days, a film blog by Louie with many incredible scans of unseen vintage photos of movies and actors both celebrated and unjustly obscure. (El Brendel? Who knew?) (Thanks where thanks are due: The Victor McLaglen crop above comes from a wealth of McLaglen shots there.)

(related posts: 20 Actors, 20 (more) Actors, 20 Actors (coda), 20 Actresses, 20 (more) Actresses, 20 Actresses (grand finale))