Saturday, January 28, 2006

Purchased today at the Victoria Value Village for a toonie: Richard Condie's The Big Snit, the absolute peak of animated comedy, in my humble opinion.
I've probably seen it a hundred times since first encountering it in art school (not in class of course, but tucked away at the back of the AV library like a dirty secret) and it still makes me laugh every time. Especially that bit about the "shaking of the eyes."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Robert Wyatt on high versus low, jazz versus pop, participants versus innovators, and Bela Bartok versus The Genius of Ray Charles:

"I thought, Genius? How could he be a genius if he's only a popular singer? Clearly a misuse of the word. I was like that. I didn't really have any argument with my Dad. I really liked my parents and I liked what they liked, the art of the 20th century, the surrealists, the dadaists and all that stuff. But with Ray Charles, it was a difficult moment because as far as I can hear, bearing in mind my caveats, Ray Charles singing a ballad, even a soppy one like "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying", is as good as Bartok's Violin Concerto or Miles Davis. I knew it was a slushy pop song, just a tune with tinkly cocktail piano, and because it had violins on it, it didn't have any jazz cred. I couldn't even work out what the words were half the time, but I thought, it's an astonishing record, absolutely beautiful. Suddenly any idea of a hierachy of art crumbled away in my mind, and as far as I was concerned, there was no intrinsically superior idiom.
...Later, when I was making music myself, it was a bit embarrassing because we (Soft Machine) weren't playing regular pop music. people said, "This is better than pop music, it is superior." Once again, I could see incipient hierarchies reemerging, like there was this need to have them.
...Even so, I hadn't yet finished with hierarchies myself. Before buying a record, which wasn't very often in those days, I went on and on subdividing jazz into participants and innovators and geniuses and not-geniuses. All right, we got geniuses here: Thelonius Monk, yes; Charlie Mingus, yeah; Charlie Parker, yeah, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, yes... Ornette Coleman, can I buy Ornette Coleman? Well, OK, for the tunes, yeah?
Of course, I was missing the main event, which was hundreds and hundreds of people playing music and having a fantastic time doing it, out of which come some people with a few diamonds. But genius is in the whole culture, fermenting away in hundreds of different ways and every participant is part of it."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Overheard being sung/screamed by a large man walking quickly past me today on the street( to the tune of "What do we do with a Drunken Sailor," sort of) :

"Ooooooooh, What do you do when you see a little rat?
Aaaaaaand what do you do when you see an old nun?

-Repeated twice. Then, (switching to the tune of "We Want the Funk,") a finale:


Monday, January 23, 2006

Nick Nolte in Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line."
Halfway through his excellent "The Conversations-Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film" Michael Ondatje suddenly hits upon something I've struggled to articulate for years:

"When films are worked on in this way (Murch's eliptical editing of Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation") they seem to give off a novelistic air. I felt the same way watching Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love," where I believe he created a "story" during the editing from a much larger canvas of possibilities that he had filmed. And in "The Conversation," we get the sense that there's a complete story behind the selection of material-it's back there in the distance. That's similiar to the kind of thickness that a novel gives off. We are not held hostage by just one certain story, or if we are, we know it is just one opinion: there are clear hints of other versions. Not many films do that."

In other words, the film is approachable from any angle you wish. It's not a narrow corridor leading to a single conclusion, it's more like a giant apartment complex with multiple entrances and exits. You can come in one door and leave by another, and this encourages multiple viewings, as there seem to be a multitude of experiences contained within the film.
A stunning example of this approach to film editing can be seen in Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line," one of the strangest, most open ended films to ever emerge from the Hollywood system. A vast array of characters compete for space over the course of it's meandering two and a half hours, none of them ever quite achieving "main character" status. Witt, the young infantryman, probably comes closest, but one senses that had the editing been slightly different, any one of the 6 or 7 most prominant characters in the cast could have ended up in the lead. Bits and pieces of their stories pop into view like teasers for alternate versions of the same film, and the result is that "The Thin Red Line" feels completely liquid, as if it could change shape at a moments notice and shoot off in a multitude of directions with any given character at the helm.
In the end, the impression this creates for the viewer is one of great depth only hinted at, like seeing the tip of an iceberg from a ship, then peering down into the cold water and realizing that the part that is showing above the waves is only the smallest part.
Like Ondatje says, "Not many films do that."