Saturday, July 25, 2009

Five Feet High and Rising



I loved this short film when I saw it at Sundance many years ago, and was thrilled when it was developed (with some key changes) into the feature film Raising Victor Vargas, which is one of the best American coming-of-age films of the last twenty years. If I were a filmmaker, I'd churn out script after script for Judy Marte.

I Want My Money and My White Chirren

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Soundtrack For a Summer Day

Since I posted this, Youtube has apparently been instructed to remove the content for the first clip. I'm leaving the post up as-is, though. Anyone who reads it and is interested in hearing the music is encouraged to go to Youtube and search out newly uploaded clips, or to just google and see if you can't download the music from somewhere. It's worth the effort. -- EH

I knew nothing about Elkin & Nelson (real life brothers Javier Marin Velez and Leon Marin Velez) until this morning, when Josh Kun posted a YouTube clip of their work. Oh, man... Sent me on a trek to listen to as much of their stuff as I could before I jet to an appointment. This is just some of what I found. I'm definitely digging deeper as soon as I can. Here's what little biographical info I could find online:

Arriving in Spain from Colombia in the early 70s. Elkin (Javier Marin Velez), with his brother Nelson (Leon Marin Velez), established themselves on the Spanish music scene. Fusing hot Latin songs with influences from James Brown, Santana, Afro-Cuban and Jazz-Funk, success in Spain and Latin America saw many number one albums including "Jibaro". Thanks to the '88-89 Ibiza Balearic Beat scene, DJs such as Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong re-discovered "Jibaro". Elkin & Nelson also performed on some of the biggest hits with The Gibson Brothers - "Cuba", "Que Sera Mi Vida" and "Ooh! What A Life". Elkin is now based in Mumbai (Bollywood), India.






Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ridin' the Rails With Emily: Seen on the Subway

Tell All The Truth But Tell It Slant

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant ---
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind ---

Emily Dickinson

Sight + Sound of the Day: Rachel Maddow



Also check out these links: here and here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sound of the Day: Bobby Womack Live


The Preacher/More Than I Can Stand (Live) - Bobby Womack
This is pure undiluted soul, one of my all-time favorite recordings. Listening to it now, it evokes the kind of small, intimate, smoke-filled clubs that used to be the Friday and Saturday night getaways for grown folks. I can smell the cigarettes and beer coming through my speakers. Listen for the audience reaction and the back & forth as Bobby tells the story (setting up the song) and the way he interacts with the crowd. Notably, it's the women responding most vocally to his tale of being made a cuckold. The horns that first kick in at the 6:24 mark, and then repeat at 6:56 and 7:45 absolutely slay me. "The police say we got to go; it's ten after two... Well, tell the police to come on in..."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Rye Rye

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Soul Power: Zaire '74



"When you bad," boasts the young, beautiful, piss-and-vinegar-filled Muhammad Ali early in the documentary Soul Power, "you can do what you wanna do." The film, which takes too long to get to the meat of its matter, but captivates once it does, is an addendum to Leon Gast's Oscar-winning 1996 documentary When We Were Kings. Ali's bravado-soaked words, breezily tossed off after he disrupts a Don King press conference, also serve as an artist's manifesto for the film's musical acts: Celia Cruz, the Spinners, Fania All-Stars, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, and others.

Culled by director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte from the 125 hours of footage shot by Paul Goldsmith, Kevin Keating, Roderick Young, and Albert Maysles and relegated to the vaults after Gast didn't use it in Kings, Soul Power documents the three-day music festival that accompanied the iconic 1974 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match in Zaire. The concerts, meant to be a cultural exchange between African and African-American musicians (the late, great Cruz fiercely reps Cuba in a movie-stealing number), were briefly imperiled after a Foreman eye injury forced a postponement of the fight. When finally mounted, the shows became the stuff of pop culture folklore. Given the power of many of the performances, and the dreary state of modern Black pop, Soul Power itself might well be subtitled When We Were Kings.

The film begins with lovely, if clich├ęd, day-in-the-life shots of ordinary Africans (a young mother strapping her two babies to her body before starting a trek down a dirt road; a boisterous street bazaar), as well as press-conference and travel footage of the artists; a mid-air jam session, in which a member of Cruz's band improvises a Pepsi can as an instrument while Cruz keeps time by pounding the heel of her shoe against the overhead compartment, is especially cool. But this first act is largely padding, bogged down in the tedious chronicling of assorted logistical nightmares that accompany such an undertaking.

The irony is that headliner James Brown is one of the least impressive of the performers. He's wonderful, but familiar. Much badder is Cruz and her sprawling, sexily raucous band; Bill Withers, with his sparse and aching acoustic performance of "She's Gone" (an especially brave choice of song given that most acts focused on mid- to uptempo numbers to rouse the crowd); and Miriam Makeba's "Click Song," introduced with a vigorous assertion of cultural pride ("It's not a noise, but my native tongue.")

Infusing these performances with a political heft that resonates across eras is a press conference at which Ali dismantles a white reporter's utopian race rhetoric. With nationalistic counter-attack, Ali calls out entertainers and athletes who don't dedicate themselves to the uplift of their people—the yin to the yang of James Brown's observation that "Dollars is what this thing is about. You cannot get liberated, broke."

Link

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Interim Posting: Vaginal Davis


I will post new content in a day or two, including some final thoughts on the meaning of Michael Jackson. In the meantime, here is the full interview I conducted with Vaginal Davis recently. I've known and loved Vag for years and just wanted to get a quote or two for my profile of Bruce LaBruce; I ended up asking my editor if we could run a Vag sidebar/profile. It can be found in the current issue (old-media) of Flaunt magazine (Issue 103.) I've also attached a link to Vag's blog at the end of my post.

Vaginal Davis—author, actress, screenwriter, film director, ’zine publisher (of the late, lamented, and hugely influential rag, Fertile LaToya Jackson), painter, and raconteur—has known Bruce LaBruce for two decades. They spring from a shared cultural and aesthetic root of ’80s punk and Jean Genet, gritty porn and Fassbinder. But what most strongly binds them is a shared, reflexive mistrust of the status quo, which is manifest in their each artist’s work. Davis is now a resident of Berlin, having abandoned Los Angeles and the United States over two years ago. La Negressa, as she signs off these days, is in the midst of prepping for a series of performance gigs that will take her across Europe, so she answered questions about LaBruce — whom she calls Judy — via e-mail, and in her own inimitable style, creating new words out of thin air and crashing bull-in-a-China-shop style over notions of propriety and reality.

Ernest Hardy: Can you place Bruce’s work in the historical context of queer and experimental film?

Vaginal Davis:
Bruce “Judy” La Bruce is part of the continuum of experimental queer filmmakers like Jack Smith and Andy Warhol. I’ve always found Judy more in keeping with the Smithian tradition than Warhol, though he gets lumped in with Warhol. His aesthetic choices are more Smith, with the shaky camera, grainy film stock, images barely registering on the screen but evoking a lot of intense beauty, and as [New York Times film critic] Man!hola (sic) Dargis put it when No Skin Off My Ass came out, “femme wit and butch charm,” or something like that. I went to see Super 8 1/2 at the Sunset 5 with a normative gay audience during its theatrical run at a matinee show, and these bourgie white industry fagulas (sic) walked out screaming, “Doesn’t this director know how to use a tripod? This movie is making me dizzy…” I was loving the matinee sweater-queen critics.

EH: You’ve worked with him a few times in the past. What have those experiences been like?

VD: I’ve worked with Judy on two films, Hustler White and Super 8 1/2. We collaborate well in that we share the same aesthetics and failuretics (sic) and came from the same post-punk-y orbit. We are both masters of availablism — making the best use of what’s available at any particular moment. In 2007-08 we collaborated and toured with “Cheap Blacky,” Bruce’s first stab at directing for the stage. I was really impressed that Judy was able to edit his zombie flick Otto; or, Up With Dead People and direct his first performance piece at the same time. He was really operating without a safety net. I am working with Judy again on his second piece for the stage in Zurich. The theme is male hysteria and the title of this project is called “Macho Family Romance.” This piece is a collaboration between Judy, me, and Susanne Sachsse—the East German actress who used to be part of the Berliner ensemble, and who is Judy’s muse. Susanne is [to LaBruce] what Julianne Moore is to Todd Haynes. I introduced them. Susanne starred in Raspberry Reich and is the silent-film girl in Otto. Bruce couldn’t find the right actress for Raspberry Reich until I introduced him to Susanne, who I started working with in the CHEAP art kollective back in 2001, here in Berlin.

EH: You’re also working on another project with him, right?

VD: The third project we will work on later in the year is called "The Bad Breast" and is vaguely based on the writings of Naomi Klein. This piece is on female hysteria and will feature me, Susanne, the famed ’60s model Verushka, and fellow Canadian (and Berlin resident) Peaches.

EH: And what is it like collaborating on a professional level, given that you are also friends?

VD: I work well with Judy, but she can be problematic— she’s selfish, egotistical, and bratty. Those are her good qualities. We butt heads quite a bit. She has a husband now, this Afro-Cuban Santeria priest that she gay-married —yuck— and talks about non-stop. The guy has a fourteen-inch penis. I am an old-fashioned loner type who is basically unboyfriendable, so of course I hate people who are coupled. That is natural for me to resent domesticity in my friends.

EH: What do you think his influence has been on queer culture and queer filmmaking?

VD: Both Bruce and I came out of the ’zine scene of the ’80s. And that was an important movement that countered the normative faggoty world. Bruce is definitely an important filmmaker who has influenced a generation of young FITs (fags-in-training) in the knowledge that there is another way of being a same-sex lover than this whole gay-equals-spend-here-and-now, status-quo bologna.

EH: What do you think is his best work so far?

VD: My favorite film of Judy’s is Raspberry Reich. His sense of humor and the politics all come together the best in that one. And of course there is Susanne, who puts in a tour-de-force performance. And back then she barely knew English. She lost her agent in Germany because of the sex scene with the gay porn model. Bruce, politically, is a sister of the cloth with Jean Genet. I think he has a real genius film in him, and that movie will only emerge if he works with Susanne. I keep pushing him in this new direction. We will see what happens. Skin Flick, his Nazi movie, I also like; especially the scene where the main hooligan and his gang break into the salt & pepper [interracial] couple’s house and rape the black lover, and they all shout “Fuck the Monkey!” It’s so wrong but so right. Like my late mother used to say, “I would rather suck the three-horned penis of the grand cyclops of the KKK than [deal] with a well-meaning white Liberal.”

Vag's blog

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