Friday, November 30, 2018

Soundtrack for The Immobile Flaneur: The Seductive Music of Nas Hedron

“Music is frozen architecture and architecture is frozen music.” – Goethe

Museum of Dreams. That was the title that my friend and fellow broadcaster the late Kevin Courrier and I gave to an episode of a pilot for a radio program we were working on together a few years back. The program was called Musical Chairs, with each weekly episode devoted to a particular theme and featuring drastically diverse musical examples evoking a given subject. That particular installment was about “The City,” and it offered a wide range of international music, including songs, instrumentals, pop, folk, jazz, classical and avant-garde, all of which personified life in an urban setting: what it meant to be city dwellers, all of us strangers living together in close proximity. My notion was that every city was a kind of museum collecting all the dreams, and even perhaps the nightmares for that matter, of all the inhabitants it had hosted throughout its history. Maybe even the dreams of future inhabitants would be stored in this urban museum, people who hadn’t even arrived there yet.

We had songs by Bruce Cockburn from Inner City Front, a concerto by Aaron Copeland called "Quiet City," The Lovin’ Spoonful’s "Summer in the City," Ornette Coleman’s "Skies Over America" jazz suite, Scott Walker’s enigmatic "Farmer in the City," Stevie Wonder’s "Living For the City," and the mysterious chamber work by American composer Charles Ives, "Central Park in the Dark," among others. The idea being to freak out as many listeners as possible by exploring one single, simple subject and theme, the city and its sounds, through as many divergent threads of musical styles as possible. In between tracks, Kevin and I would chat about how and why we each had chosen our alternating selections to play for the other (and the audience). If only I had known back then (mid-'80s) about the music of Nas Hedron, we could have programmed a whole episode, maybe even several, come to think of it, merely by playing a flock of Hedron’s own shimmering compositions.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Found Footage: Mountain (2017) and Shirkers (2018)

A scene from Jennifer Peedom's Mountain (2017).

I want to discuss two films that, to a significant degree, are stitched together from previously existing footage.

Mountain (2017) is a feature-length video essay, directed by Jennifer Peedom and mostly shot by Renan Ozturk, on the symbolic relationship between human and mountain. Mountain porn is to be expected – the gorgeous, absolutely stunning vistas and panoramas and drone shots – but what is not expected is just how much this 74-minute-long film effortlessly includes: mountaintop cyclists and motorcyclists, skiers with and without parachutes, tightrope walkers, shots of individual snowflakes (turns out they’re not flat), lava, nosediving helicopters, vertigo-inducing helmet-cam shots of regular and free solo climbers, an athlete wipe-out reel, a critique of extreme sports online branding, and a critique of mountain tourism. Not to mention the poetry of Willem Dafoe’s narration, taken from Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind. It’s truly an awesome experience.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Magic Season – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Eddie Redmayne and Callum Turner in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

We can all agree that the more franchises crowd the multiplexes, the more difficult it is for other sorts of pictures to get seen – indeed, to get made at all. Still, some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at the movies this year have been at the latest entries in various series: Incredibles 2, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Ant-Man and the Wasp, even the much-maligned Solo. However, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald towers above the others. It confirms that, visually and emotionally, this particular franchise is on the same level as the recently concluded Planet of the Apes trilogy.