Beached Miami just published another post I wrote for them. It is focused on what Miami Beach-based composer Gabriel Pulido plans to bring as musical accompaniment to the silent surrealist film classics by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age D’or (1930). The on-going Great Directors series at the Miami Beach Cinematheque continues with a tribute to the preeminent surrealist filmmaker Buñuel, throughout the month of September.

You can read details about how Pulido plans to pull off his ambient augmentation of the existing soundtracks of Un Chien and L’Age by clicking through the logo below:

Though it is a one-night only event, for which Pulido has created a limited run of 50 CDs to be available for purchase at the event, the electronic music composer has experience with re-envisioning film soundtracks. His “re-mixing” of another iconic film, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless was a collaboration with another local artist, this time of the visual realm, simply known as Buzzeye. “We’ve worked with Breathless three times, including at the French Alliance and a special event at New World Symphony,” Pulido told me when we met for drinks at a local coffee house.

The sonic and visual artists filtered the iconic French New Wave film with colorful, trippy, computer-generated visuals and supplemental sounds, including popular tunes as well as electro-synthesized music, turning it into a sort of abstract art installation. You can watch a sample of the work below:

Pulido actually called the work he did with Breathless “less experimental” than what he plans to do with the Buñuel films, at least from the sonic side, as the visuals of Buñuel will in no way be altered at tomorrow’s screening. “With Godard I mixed in other songs … and left some of the direct soundtrack, including dialogue,” he said.

In the near future, during Miami Beach’s next Sleepless Night arts festival, he plans to do a similar work with Buzzeye. “We’ll be doing a new filmmaker. One of the big ones,” he teased. He said the film will be screened on the outdoor wall of the New World Symphony, off Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue, during the festival that starts Nov. 5, a Saturday night, and continues into Sunday morning.

Pulido actually has his hands in many projects, including his own solo work as Gabó. He completed his solo debut in 2007, entitled Somewhere Between the Beach and the Sea. In early 2010, he released an EP entitled “After the Moonlight” and has a new single with Latin music vocalist Natascha Bessez, which you can stream below:

Then there is Deep-Surface. On the website for the project it is described as a “A concert/multimedia performance in homage to the Sea [featuring] music, dance, video-sculptures and projections.” It debuted during the Miami Beach Sleepless art festival in 2009. Local dancer and choreographer Sandra Portal-Andreu is part of the group, as is an eclectic mix of musicians including Abi Loutou (cello), Ebonee Thomas (flute), Ali Kringel (voice) and Rafael Solano (percussion). It has even been performed by the artists in France. They made some video clips of their Miami Beach performances, and this must be my favorite:

When asked who are his touchstones when it comes to electronic music, Pulido, who has a degree in Music Synthesis from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and a diploma in film scoring from the “Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot,” notes some of the true pioneers of electronic music as influences, including the so-called “Father of Electronic Music” Edgar Varèse and Steve Reich, whose pioneering work with tapes holds particular interest. He also cites Eric Satie as the pioneer of ambient music, though he also has a place in his heart for Brian Eno and popular artists like Air.

Pulido will appear for only one night (tomorrow) offering his distinct ambient stylings to back-to-back screenings of Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’or at 8 p.m. The MBC has vintage Buñuel memorabilia on display for the month of September, which will also offer one-night-only screenings of 1961’s Viridiana on Sept. 8, at 8 p.m. and 1962’s the Exterminating Angel on Sept. 22, at 8 p.m. (Read more).

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I have been real busy as of late working other blogs with film and music pieces, plus I am brewing up some interesting exclusives for Independent Ethos. But today, I must pause to note that this day marks one year since one of South Florida’s greatest guitarists died and came back to life.

A few days ago, I wrote a brief profile piece on Carl Ferrari and his work for his band Gypsy Cat on Beached Miami, ahead of this “re”birth day, Aug. 28. Click the Beached Miami tile below to read it (and get a free download of “Zambra,” a mesmerizing, 11-minute-plus slow burn of a piece that highlights Ferrari’s plucking acrobatics):

It’s a short profile piece mostly focused on this man who should have been dead after suffering an electric shock on stage that stopped his heart. His savior, Alex Logan, a friend/musician/paramedic, describes that terrifying day last year in the piece.  “I remember I dropped down to my knees and prayed to God to keep him good and safe,” he told me over the phone. He said he had spent close to 10 minutes giving Ferrari CPR until paramedics arrived.

The profile was also in promotion of the release of the debut album by Gypsy Cat, which came out this past June. The eponymous debut sure is something different from the music I first heard him performing in the mid-nineties. He was the lead guitarist in what I described in the piece above as the “gloom-rock outfit Swivel Stick.”

This new CD opens with distinctive polyrhythmic beats of hand drums and hand claps, establishing it as Flamenco-influenced. “Nuestra Rumba” then continues on a rolling guitar rhythm featuring two intertwining melodies on one acoustic, sealing the Flamenco quality. But then a soprano sax offers a jazzy accompaniment, which the guitar joins. The instrumental pulls and melts into this shifty, yet cozy amalgam of very distinct styles, setting up the record’s unique sound. It also features more meditative pieces, like “Preludio” and a daring reinterpretation of the horn master Miles Davis’ “So What” with electric guitar at the center, not to mention the mp3 noted above. You can stream tracks from the full album here:

Check out Gypsy Cat’s Bandcamp page

I did not have space to share all the Ferrari-related news in the piece on “Beached Miami.” He also told me he is not necessarily done with Swivel Stick. During a recent phone conversation, he was fast to tell me that he maintains an affection for the dark, hardcore rock of Swivel Stick, which actually evolved to a more jazz-influenced group, often featuring several John Coltrane pieces in its repertoire. In fact, Ferrari assured me he’s not done with Swivel Stick, as he plans to have their unreleased 1998 album available to the public soon. “It’s pretty much finished except [producer] Frank [Albergaria] is pretty obsessed with it. He’s been mastering it for a while. That will be just an Internet release. I’ll set up a Bandcamp where people can download it for free.”

Anyway, that’s some extra news about this talent from Miami, and it’s a good thing for music to still have him around. Happy Re-Birthday, Carl!

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Today marks the opening day of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. As a childhood fan of scary movies, particularly of the mysterious unexplained kind featuring unearthly creatures, I can totally relate to why the film’s producer/screenplay writer Guillermo del Toro felt the need to revisit this 1973 made-for-TV movie.

One Halloween day, many years ago, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” was asking listeners to talk about the their favorite scary movie. The usual suspects emerged: The Shining, the Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. Then someone mentioned Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and described the happenings featuring little whispering critters scurrying in the dark corners of an old mansion. The memories came flooding back. This was the movie that freaked me out so bad as a little kid, home alone, that I ran out of my house after the finale to wait for mom to get home, one sunny Saturday afternoon.

A couple of days ago, I was able to attend a preview screening of Del Toro’s re-imagining of the story (he did hire Troy Nixey, a first-time feature film director, to helm it) and decided to write mostly about my memories of the original, as, for me, nothing was as scary as that original film … being an 8-year-old kid and all. My review appears through the logo below:

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark opens in wide release today and is rated R.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The Names of Love (Le nom des gens) is a film so obsessed with being cutesy it drowns out its message in an overreaching arc of idealism that not only seems implausible but dilutes its message. Despite its Euro-centric story and humor, Michel Leclerc’s movie about politics and love still seems to try to appeal to a world audience, as imported Stateside by Music Box Films.

The zany odd couple comedy opens with a near half-hour flashback of the two main characters, the free-spirited 20-something Baya Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier) and the repressed, straight-laced 50-something Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin). As they recount their family heritage, Baya’s mixed background of French and Algerian and Arthur’s French/Jewish parents, the film recounts life-defining moments in quick vignettes over the course of nearly a half-hour that recalls Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie but with less visual punch.

The film follows the growing affections between Baya and Arthur, who also happens to share his name with a small, popular “cooker.” It’s that kind of joke that hints at the distinctly European humor of this film. The Francophiles will indeed love it, as the film does not wholly pander to an American audience and maintains a keen focus on the dynamics of foreign influence on that nation through history. Both the repercussions of the German occupation of World War II and France’s own brutal involvement in the Algerian War define Arthur and Baya, respectively.

Through the dynamics of these characters fumbling their way through life in France, the Names of Love explores the country’s complicated history under Nazi oppression and its complicity with concentration camps, not to mention its militaristic hold on Algiers. Riding in the wake are these two battered souls, Baya and Arthur, who not only have their cultural history to deal with but also their own personal childhood traumas. The director lightens the load through the characters’ own zany way of dealing with their pains. Baya calls herself a “political whore” on a mission to convert fascists, one man at a time, with sex. Meanwhile, Arthur only finds a purpose in life by conducting necropsies on dead birds in search of potential disease that can lead to mass outbreaks.

I can appreciate a good foreign comedy that rails against fascism. Fellini did it the best in many of his films, and the Tin Drum was as serious a surreal serio-comedy against the idea of fascism as it comes. But such films also prove what a difficult line Leclerc has chosen to walk. When Arthur points out that Baya has a “broad idea of fascism,” it calls both her credibility into question as well as the film’s.

A problem inherit in the story is the fact that both characters are ultimately victims of oppressors, so you cannot get grand statements from the chemistry between the two, which the film seems to focus on. In Arthur, Baya is not flirting with a fascist, just another victim dealing with his pain in a different way. So what should be at stake in her fascist-converting mission quickly becomes unimportant to the main story. When she does finally make good on her plan in the story, toward the very end of the film, it is handled in such a contrived, over-the-top manner that it turns out offering little to the whole of the movie.

The actors do the best they can with the flighty script. Gamblin plays the quiet suffering clown with soft-spoken subtlety, haunted by the missed opportunities of his younger self who occasionally materializes via a chastising Adrien Stoclet, in a very Woody Allen-esque flourish. Meanwhile, Forestier plays the explosive Baya with a frentic quality. You can almost see her not stopping to think before she acts in her eyes alone. They are, however, caricatures that are not totally unfamiliar from the denizens of many zany European comedies before the Names of Love. The layer of perky, classic slapstick music of plucky strings and loopy clarinet and violin, added to the happenings forces the clichés harder down the audience’s throat than necessary.

A little more restraint could have gone a long way to benefit the story, but also some attention to consistency of characters. The final 10 minutes especially has this tight, tacked on feeling like the worst of Frankenstein crowd-pleasing Hollywood-fare. What the movie spends most of its time treating as a complex relationship is so neatly packed away, with such lightweight humor, it only does a disservice to everything that came before.

Names of Love is Rated R and opens tomorrow in the South Florida area. It will screen in the Miami area at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, Intracoastal 8 in North Miami Beach and in Broward County at the Sunrise Eleven. On Sept. 2 it will continue playing in the Miami area at the Tower Theater.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Those on the Sigur Ros mailing list got a surprise video clip in their in-boxes yesterday from the preeminent rock band of Iceland. Lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Jón Þór Birgisson, aka Jonsi, had been busy the past couple of years on solo work, while the group he fronts seemed off in hibernation. Well, here they come, again:

Heralded with the four-letter Icelandic word Inni, turns out this indeed brings together the worlds of cinema and music, as this happens to be a teaser trailer for yet another Sigur Ros film. The project will have it’s premiere at Venice Days today, a self-described “autonomous section” of the Venice Film Festival. This new video document of Sigur Ros is directed by Vincent Morisset, who also brewed up the obscure Arcade Fire documentary Miroir Noir (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon ).

Guess what? Full live clips have been up on YouTube since March. Looks like it will look gorgeous on the big screen:

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

This morning, I received an email from an indie label based in England simply titled “Fires.” Stolen Recordings, a wee label, which I don’t even believe has proper U.S. distribution lost a good amount of inventory, many limited runs of vinyl CD, in a fire that burnt down a warehouse owned by Sony Music (I have written about their band Pete and the Pirates several times).

The latest news is that police have arrested three teens in connection with the fire, according to Spinner.com (Read here). Kenny Gates, the Founder & CEO of [PIAS], an umbrella distributor of many smaller indies, said in a statement: “Sony DADC have been remarkably quick and efficient to put together a contingency plan that should allow us to ship to stores sometime next week” (Read the full message).

Most recently, [PIAS] established a fund to help the indies affected by this loss music and art. Here’s part of that statement: “Labels and artists affected by the destruction of the Sony DADC warehouse are faced with incredible pressures on their businesses in respect to the re-manufacture, re-supply and marketing required as a result of the fire. Whilst it is expected that insurance will cover the lost stock, the reality for many labels is that they will not be compensated or insured for an interruption of trade or the additional capital to reproduce the stock that they have lost and the promotion in which they have invested.” Information about donating can be found in the full statement. Finally here is a list of [PIAS] labels affected by the fire (see here), though I have read as many as 150 independent labels were affected.

Worst of all, these riots of cost lives. Today, news broke that three men were killed in Birmingham trying to protect their shop from looters (here’s the BBC report). I’ve heard and seen the interviews with these rioters who are setting fires to buildings, including homes, cars and buses and beating people in the streets, not to mention looting shops, including mom and pop businesses. These offer such deep reasoning for their actions like “We do it because we can,” “it’s the government’s fault” and “because everyone else is doing it.”

Anarchy is just an idiot’s form of hypocrisy. The truth is there are complicated circumstances that lead to such boiling over of violence. Race and class divisions are probably the larger issue, and the state indeed deserves some blame with their polices, including taking away medical and education benefits for the public who had come to take it all for granted. Maybe if these punks would have been better educated they might understand the lives and livelihoods they are affecting. However, this is no way to get back at “the man” because, you ultimately only affect your neighbor.

I’ll leave you with a free mp3 sanctioned for download everywhere, from one of those band’s affected by this fire:

Download Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Ffunny Ffriends”

The Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s new self-titled album (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon) has a wonderful retro feel, that’s at once dreamy and progressive. The Portland-based band know how to stick an ear worm in their songs, which often have a knack for making the most of the unappreciated fade-out coda, where the song seems to tease to so much more. At once grungy and psychedelic, UMO remind me a bit of those electronic sixties pioneers Silver Apples, but also bring to mind the prog side of Ween and Kraut rockers like Can. They probably fit best alongside contemporary celebrators of psychedelia like MGMT. But the fuzzy, flat production quality that permeates the new album adds a deeper side to their retro feel.

As far as human tact, though. They seem a bit contradictory. Yesterday, UMO actually tweeted: “All our albums got burned up. Stop coming up with “hot summer album” puns TARD BRAIN”

So, indeed, they suffered losses to their most excellent record, pictured above. Still, a few hours later, UMO tweeted: “I don’t mean to offend anyone when I say this but was anyone else happy about how powerless the police were in those riots?”

So there’s even some hypocrisy there. Sheesh.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

With Tabloid documentary filmmaker extraordinaire Errol Morris focuses his lens on a 1970s-era beauty queen whose delusions of love made for salacious fodder in the British scandal sheets. It was irresistible: the alleged kidnap and rape of the Mormon object of her affection, an underground career in the S&M business, and a return to the pages of the tabloids for a story about the cloning of the only thing she had left to love: her pet pit bull.

In the brisk documentary (87 min.) former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney sees things a certain way and holds steadfast in her perspective. She says she loved a man once: Kirk Anderson. He happened to be a Mormon who she tried to save from what she called his “indoctrination” at a London-based temple, in 1977.  She says she rescued him, and they spent several days of bliss together in a cottage in the English countryside, giving him back rubs, feeding him his favorite foods, like chocolate cake, and making love to him. She blamed  Mormonism for Anderson’s impotence and felt a duty to make love to him. “If it took  giving up my virginity in a romantic moonlit cottage, so be it. I just wanted him out of that cult.”

She says she had hoped to have his children. But word got out Anderson had gone missing, and McKinney was jailed for rape and kidnapping. She skipped bail and returned to the US but never got over the 6-foot, 300-pound-plus Anderson. “I never got married because of him.”

After the scandal died down, Morris offers a sad portrait of McKinney growing old in seclusion, suffering agoraphobia and failing to complete her life’s story, a book she had titled A Very Special Love Story. Paranoid that the press was still after her, she adopted a mastiff to guard her home, which turned on her. She says another pet dog, a pit bull she rescued off the street she named Booger saved her life from the mastiff. When Booger passes away from cancer many years later, McKinney gets over her grief by finally finding a sense of maternal bliss after cloning him in 2006. “We’re pregnant!” The cloning, which she paid to have done in South Korea, saw her return as a subject of the tabloids. However, at the beginning of the news coverage, she would keep the sex scandal out of the story by adopting an alias.

But the other version of this story comes mostly from two journalists from competing UK tabloids: “The Daily Express” reporter Peter Tory and “the Daily Mirror” photographer Kent Gavin. Tory talks about McKinney as a woman set on dominating men. He says, she, with the help of an accomplice, actually kidnapped Anderson and shackled him to a bed at the cottage with chain or rope, forcing him to become her sex slave. Gavin uncovered her past as a call girl and model who offered bondage and dominance or S&M services, prior to her London trip.

The two men share an ironic laugh over McKinney’s dishing out as much as $150,000 to clone her dog. When she made the media rounds with the pups, she used her middle name: Bernann as a first name. In her interview with Morris, she even says Joyce McKinney no longer existed.

With Tabloid, Morris makes efforts to point out the impossibility of documenting the so-called truth, to almost giddy effect. The film becomes nothing more than a variety perspectives by varied interests, as many documents on both sides of the story seem to have been lost. But this is as much about McKinney’s version of a story, as it is a representation of it by tabloid journalists. The differences between the interviews McKinney granted exclusively to “the Daily Express” in 1978 and the background published by “the Daily Mirror” based on investigative research, also offer their own extreme differences. “We became her fantasy,” Tory says. One layer after another reveals itself as just another different story about different people.

Another version of the story comes from Salt Lake City Radio Host and former Mormon missionary Troy Williams who speaks of the cautionary tale of “Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon.” As an already highly interpretive story, Williams says, there is an important lesson in the tale for young Mormons on their mission to beware a temptress, such as McKinney, who might strip them of the magic underwear to take away their purity. McKinney offers the most salient point when she says, “You know, you can tell a lie long enough till you believe it.” Though it was a criticism of “the Mirror,” this statement could very well apply to herself, as well as anyone else trying to recount her story.

Morris does not so much take the stories seriously, as he does present his own version, which reveals one can never know for certain what has happened at any time, when it comes to hindsight (so often described as 20/20). Morris can be heard of camera exclaiming over certain answers with incredulous questions: “You mean she wanted him to inseminate her?” Morris juxtaposes several bits of narrative provided by the sources with ironic footage of fifties-era suburban bliss or cartoons. The director also offers images of the actual news clips from published articles of McKinney’s story cut up and animated in a collage form to augment some of the narrative. This again, smartly drives home the point that any story can be manipulated by the storyteller.

In between these widely varying stories, not based so much on fact as they are “accounts,” remain the mysterious gaps. In his interview, Tory introduces her accomplice,  Keith “KJ” May as “this strange, unexplained man.” Tory notes observing McKinney telling May, “Down, slave!” during their interviews and meetings. Tory theorizes the two have a long-standing master-slave relationship. May passed away a few years ago, so he could not offer any insight into his relationship with McKinney.

Interpret what you will of these references. That’s what makes Tabloid such a wonderful movie: it presents you with information that leads only to suspicion, as what Morris is really pointing to is the fact that no one can know the whole truth about anything, least of all know what really happened among so many versions of a story. As Tory notes, somewhere in between the stories lies the truth. The gaps, however, are so wide, one will never know what really happened. Some might find this frustrating, but I find it’s a more accurate truth of the life experience than most films dare explore.

Hans Morgenstern

The Coral Gables Art Cinema provided a screener copy of this movie for review. Tabloid is rated R and will have its South Florida Premiere at the Coral Gables Art Cinema on Friday, Aug. 12 at 5 p.m. The Miami Beach Cinematheque will also screen the movie beginning Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. For screening dates in other areas, check the movie’s homepage at the top of this post.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
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