Thursday, August 25, 2011

Behind the Rising Sun.


Whilst waiting for a greatly anticipated epic voyage back to the country of my ancestors, I decided to check out a few videos on youtube. You know, cuz thats how I keep in touch with my culture nowadays.

On the brighter side of things, Tokyo Zeplin deals with a wide spectrum of cultural issues which are seldom touched or talked about. Japan certainly has a very stereotyped image providing ground for rampant prejudices, but behind the Geishas and the bustling streets of Shinjuku lies another culture, one that has imminent problems with underpopulation, loneliness, weird sex, gaijin racism and soaplands. wtf is a Soapland? well click here to find out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thank God for Coltrane

From Love Supreme - one of my favourite Jazz albums ever.

Some helpful information for you males:


羅生門

I was just on time arriving at the small cinema just around the corner from the famous Panthéon where this film was showing. It was a minor, though slightly annoying because there were no trailers or anything I could rely on as a time buffer, I like to be comfortably seated and in the mindset before watching a film.
The most important thing I needed to know was that I was watching a masterpiece by Japanese cinematic giant Akira Kurosawa. This alone was enough to tell me that the film was going to take me to medieval Japan, that it was going to be in black and white, and that there would be an important emphasis on the use of cinematic sound in order to accentuate plot action (I admit having seen Seven Samurai gave me a basic understanding of Kurosawa's style).
As expected the film takes place in 11th century Japan, the opening credits accompanied by pounding drums and the audience is told that the story is set underneath the old abandoned gatehead of Rasho.
It is pouring down with rain and the three narrators of the story (a woodcutter, a buddhist monk and a peasant) have taken refuge under the old gate while waiting for it to clear. They are talking about a horrifying incident that has happened recently in a forest nearby. The woodcutter says that he could stand the three people no longer, to which the other two interlocuters ask whom he is referring to. The film flashes back as the woodcutter recountsthe incident. He was looking for wood in the forest and suddenly comes across a woman's hat, a rope, and further on, the corpse of a man. This discovery is marked with tension in the music which was until then was mounting (pounding drums, uneasy strings), and then surmounted by a bursting crescendo juxtaposed with a shot of the wide horrified eyes of the woodcutter & the forearms of the dead body which seem to be frantically reaching out to him (the body is undoubtedly offscreen to increase the effect of mystery and suspense). The peasant then runs frantically through the woods to notify local authorities. The screen then slides to another scene, marking the period of transition. We then see the woodcutter sat on the ground testifying of what he had witnessed facing a tribunal which we don't see.


The question begged here is why all these key elements are off screen. Its hard to imagine that its because of a lack of special effects or actors, so I concluded that perhaps its is an implication that the judges and the rest of the questioners are faceless because the characters are actually talking directly to the audience to plead their case.


At this point, the monk recalls seeing both the murdered man (who turns out to be a samurai) and the woman (his wife) to whom the hat belongs. He talks about how he was on his way to a neighbouring town when he crossed paths with the couple, the man leading a horse upon which a veiled woman was mounted.


The bandit interjects, laughing as psychopaths do with a devilish grin (brilliantly played by Toshihiro Mifune, a renowned Japanese actor who also played in Seven Samurai). He says he also crossed paths with the couple, also tells his version of events. nd caught a glimpse of the woman's face through the veil. He immediately wanted her and lured the couple off course, supposedly to show them where he buried some swords he had pillaged from a nearby grave that he attempts to sell to the husband. Caught in a trap, he then creeps up behind the samurai and ties him up. He then lures the wife to the scene and, upon seeing her husband captive, she furiously lunges at the bandit, attempting to stab him with a small dagger she has on her, but finally succumbs to him. The bandit then rapes the wife infront of her husband.


As the film unfolds, we hear the stories from the different protagonists of what ensued who all bear witness of their own versions of events, which do not add up. After the bandit, we hear the story of the distressed wife, that of the dead husband through a medium ( a wonderfully erratic scene as the medium runs in circles chanting encompassed by an endless cloudy sky), and finally the woodcutter again, who claims to know what really happened.


The narration is occasionally interrupted by a flash forward to the three characters under the gate. The buddhist monk is a philosopher, he talks poetically and is jeered by the more callous peasant who says he has no need for his sermons. At first I didn't regard the monk's dialogue to be of any importance, but it became increasingly apparent throughout the film that he was Kurosawa's mouthpiece, the only honest character of the whole plot and declares his loss of faith in humanity, the characters bearing witness are obviously lying to serve their own ends. I found this point particularly interesting because seeing the obvious naive personalities of the husband and wife, the audience is almost lead to think that they are innocent in the whole situation and the bandit is to blame


The film climaxes towards the end, when  the characters under the gate discover an abandoned baby covered in clothes adorned with charms to protect it.As the monk takes the baby in his arms, the peasant rushes to grab the clothing. The woodcutter accuses him of being cold hearted and stealing from the baby, to which the peasant bitterly retorts, asking him what happened to the woman's dagger. The woodcutter remains silent, and the peasant concludes that he stole it, going on to say that the lying witnesses, and the woodcutter himself illustrate the innate selfishness of human nature, and that it is a prerequisite for survival. He then runs off while the woodcutter hangs his head in shame. The woodcutter then reaches out to the monk holding the baby who seizes it away from him and asks what he thinks he is doing. The woodcutter then sobs and offers to take care of it, and the monk is touched, feeling ashamed of his distrust and apologises, followed by an apology from the woodcutter. It is interesting to note that this mutual apology is custom in Japanese behaviour; I am sorry, no it is I who should be sorry for so and so reason; But here there seems to be a deep sincerity that reaches further than mere conversational politeness. It is the apology of a disillusioned sceptic who has found a reason to trust again.


Overall the film was alot more than I had anticipated. Yes, I had undoubtedly expected a historic portrayal of Japan, but Kurosawa pleasantly surprised me because the film turned out to be of more substance than I thought, and I had certainly not expected to be confronted with a philosophical narrative (later referred to in German philosopher, Heidegger's works) let alone one as deep as the subject of trust.


Although widely imitated, I also understand the significance of Rashomon in it's pioneering narrative. It is one that forces you to watch the film in full as the plot slowly unravels, there is a sense of uncertainty that makes you want to watch it until the end. It is not until then that you understand that it is in fact not the actual course of events that is really relevant, but how it is told, and what we can learn from it, and in this case, what is demonstrated about human nature.


It also goes unmentioned that I was also impressed by the effective score and sound in this film, which greatly demonstrates the influence that silent film has had on the director. It not only accompanies the scenes, but greatly heightens the emotion conveyed by image to the viewer.


"Cinematic sound is never merely accompaniment, never merely what the sound machine caught while you took the scene. Real sound does not merely add to images, it multiplies it".


Kurosawa also effectively uses natural light in this film. Not only does he find a way to enhance this by the use of mirrors, but he also uses light as a symbolically. He films directly into the sun, whose light is partially covered by the canopy of leaves in the forest, referring to the concealment and overshadowing of truth. His characters act differently according to the lighting they are exposed to, the darkness symbolising evil and the light symbolising good. He even makes use of the weather and associates it to the plot; the rain forces the three characters to retreat underneath the gate together, the medium conjures up the spirit of the husband in the billowing wind, the three characters in the forest endure an unbearable heat.


 Although overly simplistic for my liking, if there was one main thing I took away from this film, it is the appreciation of the ability Kurosawa has to make use of minimal tools he has available to him, both in terms of sets, lighting and effects. In this sense, both the director and the film deserve their positions in cinematic history.


Rating: \bigstar\bigstar\bigstar

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A PIECE OF STRANGE

Fifth installment of hip hop poster tribute series, dedicated to Cunninlynguists & one of my favourite albums of all time: A Piece of Strange.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eys Wide SHUT.


I was already lucky to be able to still see this in cinema (it being a 1999 release), but I was even luckier because the showing was at 9pm and the room was nearly empty.
This is the way I have always liked to taste the seventh art; in a cinema, alone and late at night.
Sadly there was no popcorn stand.


Eyes Wide Shut is my first Kubrick experience, a rather compelling one at that, and I can honestly say that I did not get bored for a split second.


Firstly, the film is perfect. Hell, if it won world record for longest constant movie shoot (46 weeks), and Cruise had to be filmed walking through a doorway 90 times (or maybe thats another occult ritual) it better be. The acting was perfect, the dialogue was perfect (and I don't mean perfect in the sense that it was specially ingenius, but perfect in a way that fit the slightly otherwordly quality of certain scenes:
Dr. Bill Harford: Are you sure of that? 
Alice Harford: Am I sure? Only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can ever be the whole truth.
Dr. Bill Harford
: And no dream is ever just a dream)
Even Tom Cruise's cheesy acting was perfect.
And the lighting was also perfect; at Ziegler's dinner party of course, but I also found the interactions between the vivid blue and orange (yes contrasting colours) captivating. What puzzled me however, was that the light we could see outside the windows, which I was presuming to be that of a nascent dawn, was this vibrant blue, and not the muted crepuscular colours one would expect. Upon further research, I concluded that it was perhaps an allusion to the blue hour.


Eyes Wide Shut is the kind of film where you're dying to go to the toilet and you don't even want to go because you're scared of missing a second of the plot. There's so much tension, so much suspense, so much secrecy that you're sat there with your eyeballs glued to the screen for two hours. And you also realise through symbology (eight pointed stars, columns, pentagrams,rainbows) and a rather curious ritual that here, Kubrick is not only toying with occult references as he does in most of his films, but flagrantly plunges the viewer into its' core.
(The film is saturated with occult references- including in its' very title. I will not go over these, but if be of interest, I found an interesting article here).


I first heard of this film through a certain friend who had (and fairly graphically) divulged the orgy scene to me, which was unfortunate seeing that it was the climax of the film. Prior to watching it however, I decided to watch the trailer, which cunningly revealed nothing but it being a slick, sex fuelled motion picture.


Which was true.
From the first few scenes, you know that its going to be a sex driven film, the first thing you see is Nicole Kidman's ass for Gods sake. However, I wouldn't say that it is a film about sex, but quite surprisingly, I would say that its a film about marriage and the strains and responsibilities that come with it. It was interesting that it was about this particular subject because I was having this discussion with my friend the other day, whether or not it was possible to stay faithful to a spouse for the rest of our lives. She thought not, and that if we were to cheat on them, that the burden of guilt was ours' to bear in silence, out of responsibility for our family and respect for our spouse. I personally value truth and honesty over all things and begged to differ, but this particular film depicted the damage that revealing such things could potentially do to a married couple.
After confessing her lust for a naval officer she briefly saw while on holiday the previous year, Kidman declares that she would have been capable of giving up everything, her husband (Tom Cruise), her daughter, and their marriage. Despite dismissing her statements as ludicrous (this is quite a stoned Nicole Kidman we are talking about after all) Cruise is traumatised by this admission.


This is where you see Kubrick's (and Cruise's) ability and skill in capturing the character's emotions that range from shock (upon hearing his wife's confession), to confusion, to apathy, to bitter resentment. Cruise is capable of conveying this even when hidden behind a mask, through his body posture, through his voice, something which I think is not unreasonable to take as an indication of his impressive dexterity as an actor.


Kidman's character stands in stark contrast.  Alice Hartford is a callous, stoic character, torpid when under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, unmoved by her husbands' reaction to her sexual fantasies. The only time where she shows any kind of emotion in the film is through tears when her husband tells her about the curious incident that he witnessed and through jealousy when she interrogates him about the two women he was with at the dinner party. She is almost emotionally detached from her husbands' torment and suffering, her primary preoccupation being her child and maintaining a family image. Her coarseness is summarised in the closing lines of the film:


Alice Harford: I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.
Dr. Bill Harford: What's that?
Alice Harford: Fuck





Rating: \bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar

Monday, August 15, 2011

MBTI

Yesterday me & my friend were discussing this whole MBTI typology and the different dichotomies & characteristics we had/ didn't have in common. Funnily enough because she's quite a laid back, logical and reasonable person, I was expecting her to be an ENTJ, but she actually turned out to be an ENFP (intuitive feelers, ewwwwww...).
1 what am I may you ask yourself.
Well I'm in fact an INTJ, a rare endangered species in the spectrum.
I'm not quite the arrogant tyrranical perfectionist but if you're interested, we were watching a pretty good breakdown series by Barcode 9588 yesterday which might help clear alot of the misconceptions of the different types, often grossly simplified & taken at face value:


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Super Sprayer

As much as I love graffiti & urban art, its become saturated & weighed down by heavy stereotypical connotations. In this midst this guy, whoever he is, is a breath of fresh air, demonstrating that there are everlasting means of using different media.
I got a bit scared when he set the image on fire towards the end though : /

Beautiful.


The Jeanius...

Since I didn't have a single post of the first poster of my tribute series featuring Jean Grae I figured that shit needed to be reposted

Exquisite Corpse 2

So I was at my friend Constance's yesterday
& guess what we played? :D




I wish my brother George was here...

Fourth Hip Hop tribute poster: Del The Funkee Homosapien
Shah-zaam!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

O YOU ARE SHITTING ME


Project Polaroid

When you mention Kool Keith, you don't really expect to hear that he's a specially lyrically gifted MC. Okay there's Dr; Octagon, okay he had his whole porno/ horrorcore thing going on, but he's not amazing.
Project Polaroid (a brief collab with TOMC3) changes the way you see the whole picture.
He's almost a poet.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

We on a SWARM!

Third poster of my B&W tribute series. Took a while, had to fit all 9 beeheads in there after all.
Composition is lacking cuz I kinda improvised the whole thing. May redo this at some point.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness

I was recently watching random videos on Youtube & came across this Channel 4 series, written & presented by author Alain de Botton. No, I wasn't watching it because I pop prozac, but yes, I was looking for a good documentary on philosophy.
Although very simplified and watered down, this series on philosophy breaks it down to the very building blocks, the views of great philosophers (Nietzsche, Socrates, Epicurus, Schopenhauer amongst others) essential defects of human nature; self esteem, anger, unreciprocated love, hardship and self confidence.
Whether or not you're interested in philosophy, this series of documentaries has much knowledge to offer on life in general.
It would be a good place to start.
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/philosophy-a-guide-to-happiness/episode-guide/series-1
the episodes can also be found here if you do not reside in the UK.

Friday, August 5, 2011

If you'e in London....

Be sure to check the event out, good deal, plus my boyfriend (aka Clockwork State) is playing :) :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quickie

Some weird mushy part of my former metal groupie teenage self posessed me this evening to do a Ville Valo drawing. So here it is. Quick one, no biggie.
& he's still as beautiful.
Sigh.