F•USIC – JANUARY 2018

F•usic is a section I do at the end of each month in which I pick (F)ilms and M(usic) that I’ve consumed and loved over the period and pretty much just recommend and gush about them for a little while.

Due to my missing the December post and covering two months here I had to cut down on how many films I wrote about and so here are some recommendations that didn’t quite make it:

  • Go and see “Lady Bird”, it’s effortless and breezy – favourite film material.
  • “A Serious Man” might be the Coen’s underappreciated masterpiece.
  • Join in the conversation surrounding “Three Billboards'”, because the debate and discussion of the film and what it contains speaks volumes for both political and artistic sentiment in 2017. I liked it, but I like even more that people didn’t.
  • Watch “Lady Macbeth” for a tightly wound, unique film made in the North of England.
  • A quick shout out to Michael Cera in “Molly’s Game”: that was… something. 

It’s Such a Beautiful Day – Don Herzfeldt

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Inside space is outside space.

A metaphysical exploration of this concept, wrapped in a delicate 1-hour-long parcel to knock you off your feet.  Not since “Persona” have I seen a film use the medium to such an effective and exclusive extent; Herzfeldt melds and moulds the forms of cinema and its inherent subjective/objective dichotomy to investigate intensely philosophical ideas of memory, perspective and existence.

But it has heart, most impressively. “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is as wistful and emotionally punch-packing as it is thoughtful and tightly created, a simple story told that will endear within the opening seconds and then throughout. Spare 60 minutes and watch this.

The Red Turtle – Michael Dudok de Wit

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Born infinite from wisps of decayed past,
Each day’s hue is greener than the last.
And at night, Möbius dreams.
Sea becomes sky and it seems
Everything flows into everything
Like ink, horizonless.

Though the organically crafted lines of animation are ultimately distinct barriers, sound and image and music work in tandem to build a world beyond the structures of language and purpose – dissolving definite strokes to leave a boundless, perpetuating one. Fully, fully deserving of the Ghibli banner, wrestling with that same gorgeous, tortured serenity of the very best Miyazaki films. Do not overlook “The Red Turtle” – what an absolute gem. 

Benji – Sun Kil Moon

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A first listen to “Benji” charmed me, but didn’t truly uncover the gold that rests beneath its tender layers. I was immediately hypnotised by the gently drawling and melancholic ballads but closer, subsequent listens revealed complexities that go beyond the seemingly simple writing. Tracks bleed into one another thematically and portraits are resurfaced to be further fleshed out, creating a weird albeit beautiful landscape of death, grief and pitch black humour (see “Dogs”). You realise that in actuality the whole record seems to be driving towards the same insurrection of those (often cruel) absurdities that life throws at us – a quiet rebellion against the phrase “C’est la vie”. Through his songs, Kozelek probes you not to try to prevent these inevitable events, but not to rationalise them either, and instead in his own words to “find some poetry… find some deeper meaning.” I’m quickly getting addicted to this; it helps too that “Carissa” and “Jim Wise” are two of the most simplistically profound songs I’ve heard. 

Come and See – Elem Klimov

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Eclipse of the soul… Hands down one of the greatest films I have ever, ever seen. The title refers to a passage in the book of revelations that describes the coming of Death on horseback and visions of hell brought successively and it is more than apt: “Come and See” paints humanity in apocalypse, withered to our physical shells and then beaten down further beyond that. The experience is frankly a cruel one – cruel upon your senses and your emotion – but to dismiss it as exploitative would be naive as through this assault of the highest filmmaking you are forced to confront the truth that the cruelty you feel through this window into fiction is a million miles from the cruelty and deprivation truly faced. It’s brutally transcendent. And I feel as if Klimov knows this, his title stretching beyond religious connotations to test our willingness to address reality.

Can’t make an anti-war film? Come and See.
Forgot what happened? Come and See.
Ignoring the bleakest shades of what we are? Come and See.

Columbus – Kogonada

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The backdrop of modernist architecture in “Columbus” provides contradictory feelings of both tranquillity and an uncanny anxiousness. Everything is unbearably satisfying: straight lines, large panes of glass, perfect palettes… yet the humans in the tale – like all of us – are caught in that oscillatory whirlpool of come and go, now and then, life and death. So the buildings create a nervousness that occurs when your environment is just done. Everything around you is complete and all there is to seek is what is already there; like some tall, brick question mark that you find out is really a full stop.
The resulting effect is almost as if the characters are being bent and stretched to reach “modernism of the soul”, paradoxically forced to find peace with just this. But maybe that is the healing process they talk about in the first place.

Precisely the film you’d expect from the guy who made that one Wes Anderson symmetry video. Included here because it deserves far more awards attention than it (and “Three Billboards'”) received – especially for Richardson.

Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

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A quick creak of a chair opens Sufjan Stevens’ celebrated opus “Illinois”: it is as much a show of confidence (a maestro assuming his position) as it is an instruction to take your seat, because what is delivered here is more theatre than it is music. “Illinois” is operatic in both musicality and scope, sprawling from the breadth of great historic battles to the image of a wasp, from choral compositions to acoustic arrangements and then still traversing within every song like a camera zooming and panning through time and space and music. And though I have never visited – and know very little about – the state attributed, it hasn’t mattered. Stevens has drawn up a map of humankind, full of vibrant pictures that reinvigorate your curiosity and connection to your own environment and the people that live and have lived within it. An epic, that I can’t wait to learn off by heart.

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond – Chris Smith

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“Jim and Andy” is a documentary that I think contains within it far more weight and enlightened material than many are crediting it for. The performance analysed is one of nihilistic perversion and from the analysis stems profound musings on the nature of acting relative to perceived reality. Knowledge of Andy Kaufman’s work and certain hints dropped by Carrey’s narration – particularly that Jesus line at the end – will take you further down this existential rabbit hole to reveal a modern commentary that, I believe, is more meta, absurd and liberating than you may have initially recognised. Give it a go (or another go) with this angle in mind, and try to look past the spectacle of an “actor being weird”, because I feel that this could be a classic with time.   

Written by Caleb Carter

 

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