Sunday, 11 November 2007
Esoteric Picks #25
It's about time I got back to doing these...
Various - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto (1986)
The "beat" referenced in the title of this compilation of South African pop music doesn't have a lot to do with what many would consider to be typical African drumming. In fact, the drums are pretty low key throughout most of this collection (which actually kicks off with an a cappella tune). But make no mistake, each tune has a strong and sometimes even urgent beat mixed with the lovely melodies and great vocal work. Most of the pulse of the music stems from circular guitar patterns and insistent bass lines that pull you in and then bore into your skull. There's a feeling of joy that permeates this music and a sense of confidence every line sung. The beat goes on...
Classic English Language Film
And Soon The Darkness (1970)
Two young English girls are on a bicycle tour of France when they have an argument by the side of the road. After splitting up, one of the girls simmers down and tries to find her friend - but she's disappeared. Though this initial section of the film is quite slow and the entire story happens in the daylight of a single afternoon, it's an excellent example of how you can bring tension and dread to simple situations. Throughout the rest of the film other characters get introduced but you never quite feel at ease with any of them and this helps keep the outcome of the film in doubt right up to the end. A fine early 70s suspense film.
Recent English Language Film
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus (2006)
Director Steven Shainberg seems to have an affinity, or at least some empathy, for people whose "tastes" wander outside acceptable social norms. In his previous film "Secretary", Maggie Gyllenhaal's character found happiness in a sadomasochistic relationship. His recent effort, based around a fictional take on photographer Diane Arbus' life, again finds someone who is confined within parameters set by others - and is obviously suffocating. When she meets a boarder who is covered head to toe in hair (Robert Downey Jr.), she begins to allow her true self to come out and discovers a whole wide range of people outside the norms of society. This becomes the springboard to her art and a life led in pursuit of it.
City Of Violence (2006)
Though a bit slow at the beginning and slightly confusing with the cast of characters, this Korean film evolves into a wild cacophony of flying kicks, sticks and fists. A young detective returns to his hometown after an old friend is found dead. He reconnects with his old buddies to figure out what happened and they find out some surprising secrets about each other. I started getting into the film once we see a second flashback of the murder - this time though it ends a bit differently because of the additional information we have. The film ends with two long set piece fights involving hundreds of people attacking our main heroes and the very last scene has a terrificly simple single last word summation by one of the characters. A great deal of fun.
Circus Of Horrors (1960)
Aah, that's the stuff...While wading through a few not so great horror films in the middle of October, I came across this old British film - not a scarefest by any means, but just great entertainment in the style of Hammer. A plastic surgeon trying to break new medical ground has to flee England after some botched operations and settles in France as the director of a circus. He continues his practice by helping criminals and the fringe of society by performing reconstructive surgery on them and then having them stay on with the circus. But whenever a member of the troupe decides they want to leave the circus, it seems that yet another horrific accident befalls the show. The authorities suspect something is amiss, but just can't quite prove it...