F•usic is a section I do at the end of each month in which I curate a selection of (F)ilms and M(usic) that I’ve consumed and loved over the period, writing a short creative appreciation of each work.
Shout-out’s for the month:
– Atlanta Series 2 – Robbin’ Season by Donald Glover, Steven Glover, Hiro Murai (and lots of other people): Better, bolder, darker and an all round improvement on the first series. From the explosive intro featuring none of the main characters and then never referenced again, the thesis is clear: Atlanta ditches traditional story to instead offer a surreal, brutal portrait of an experience in a city. A strange, survivalist attitude undercut with one uttering of cynical, mundane acceptance: “this is America.”
– Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?: More Fallout than Steinbeck, this portrayal of depression-era heroes driven to pale fatigue, crumbles into a nightmarish vision of torment. It’s old-time-y sensibilities only further highlight the perverse degradation of the human spirit on display.
– Jairus McLeary’s immense documentary The Work: Part letter to rehabilitation, part soulful curiosity, part cure… the documentary initially seems too good to be truly authentic, but in reflection upon your own internalised constructions and obstructions, a desire is resurrected to exorcise the shit clogging you up in the same way that seems to be happening here. Awesomely profound stuff and one of the best documentaries of recent memory.
Love Island – Ibsen, probably
A graceful but shattering work of the highest dramatic quality. Radical not only in its unflinching approach of the human condition stripped of modesty but also in its depiction of self-obsession in free-fall: left to rot in an isolated, sun-beaten fever dream – separated from traditional tools of validation. Forced to use each other. Forced to choose in manic bouts of eye-batting persona between love and death.
Beautifully spiritual in how it reveals that shifts of the soul are linked interminably with the Earth’s cosmic axis: day builds ennui, frustration, inaction, and at night the Jungian Shadow manifests in full force, “quick chats” are the death knell for our brave beauties. The Platonic Ideal floats before the Initiate, a mirage of possibility and success. Artifice and reality spoon in this Truman Show parade which attempts to unnaturally force the natural feelings of attraction. It’s love, isn’t it? It’s a competition, isn’t it? Each is presumed to exist exclusive of the other and yet, here, both are true. Love and competition. Peace and rage. Yin and yang. Duality. Conflict. Compromise. Life. Love. Truth.
Lean On Pete – Andrew Haigh
Growing up is tough. Nobody’s denying it. The whipping winds and barren terrain of the adult world seems to come at you exponentially harder and faster, and you put on a brave face, whipped from behind by the grown-ups who expect you to be ready for it whilst simultaneously reminding you how little you know. Their backs are equally scarred, fresh. They are men who get drunk and swear and have stopped crying at death and they are women who have accepted their place: these are the role models you have to base your foray into the uncompromising nature of adulthood, dotted by spires of society. And you’re only 15, and you’d like them all to think you’re tougher than you are… so you mould your face like those men and down your pint and beeline it to the finish line. “Another day’s work”, “C’est la vie”, “That’s just how it is“.
This is the world that Andrew Haigh establishes, one of a solid simplicity that finds tragedy in the truth of life, in its beauty and awkwardness and suffering. His naturalistic, frontier odyssey is carried by Charlie Plummer’s central performance who expertly crosses that tight rope between naive youthfulness and resolute hardness that you can spot in all 15-year-old boy’s eyes. That dichotomy is key here too, because as much as that scarred, rugged frontier seems to roll on endlessly before you – there is also an opportunity for the land to lie fertile for growth and warmth through a softness and vulnerability, irrespective of the standard set by those drunk men. In the end, it is a choice. Haigh’s film is a straightforward one, but it has bags of heart.
The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady – Charles Mingus
“Mad Minnie”, they call her.
Stepping out, the sun is her spotlight,
the world is her stage.
Watch. She pauses. Then.
It convulses from her.
Whatever beat is in her head
Bounces to her blood and streams from her pores,
Movements, shakes, cries of painful ecstasy.
A rapturous abolition of control.
She makes love to the concrete
And she sings through the air.
Time fractures as she moves, distorting her.
She’d be at home on Guernica.
And the audience determines her:
“Mad, mad Minnie”.
Minnie knows there is beauty in madness.
A deep respect for that Chaotic fire that rages within,
Uncontrolled by the water of the mind.
Devoid of order and formality:
The natural truth of true nature rears,
In its divine, undular arrangement.
And oh, how the buildings will bow to her,
And oh, how the banks will close.
What she does was here long before all of them.
She reclaims the world.
Dance on, Minnie, Dance on.
I’ve always wanted to listen to more Jazz, and I feel that, with Black Saint’, the gates have opened for me. There is an energy and power on display here that bursts from the piece’s seams; Trumpets and saxophones explode like they were plugged prior to the eruption and then sing harmonious tales of rage and coolness. And it all bounces along a beat that fractures and cracks and whirlpools towards chaos as if the fabric’s entropic designs were woven from the very first thread. As if the players are possessed by the same poetic pursuit of destruction, their wailing notes leaping from the abyss until every vibration is finally swallowed.
Hereditary – Ari Aster
A candle-lit black nightmare, where whispers of dawn tickle the paranoiac walls of your psyche to outline shapes in the dark that are and aren’t there, ghosts of fears unmet by your cowardly conscience are summoned to rise from prickly limbo; skeletons dance nefariously from the closet: hear them bump in the night. Ari Aster rips the nightmare from your midnight mind and projects it in full cinematic glory, taking inspiration from this modern resurgence of “smart horror” but more importantly (and in true A24 spirit) from 70’s and 80’s horror M.O. The aim is to scare you, and scare you it will. Aster paints his conspiratory tale with compounded trauma and familial leashes, mutating umbilical cords into fatalist snares as the damning irreversibility of action hangs over characters like a thunder cloud. He makes you afraid of the dark, reminds you that not even your parents can save you from that – and suggests that they just might be the cause of it.
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
“I wouldn’t be surprised if poetry – poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs – is how the world works. The world isn’t logical, it’s a song.” – David Byrne
Western and Eastern philosophy and art crash into each other like waves, their mingled fingers synthesise metaphor and story, resulting in a singular, gently tornadic beast. Kafka Tamura stands in the eye of this storm, it moves as he moves.
Murakami writes an adventure where these metaphors grow legs, possess people and take a role in not only causation but destiny. And – like all great storytellers – he has that divine eye that sees both physical and spiritual and bridges it with meaning. The book is also deeply funny, observant and fast, with that beautifully irresistible quality that’ll have you clambering over your imagination to get back in the pages again, living out the world in your head. The best part about the experience of Kafka on the Shore, however, is how it reveals itself to you further once the final page has turned, and those obscure (but boundlessly poetic) metaphors suddenly crystalize as lessons and truths in your own life.
An internal wooded labyrinth externalises itself in the choices you make, the opinions you have – city or country, school or work it’s there – and the quicker you run the denser it grows. I think accepting this might be the first step to emancipation.
Bojack Horseman – Raphael Bob-Waksberg
The most depressing animated, telivisual reinterpretation of the Sisyphus myth featuring a syphilis-ridden, washed up, talentless, celebrity-type anthropomorphic horse and his daily struggle with a self-destructive cycle of nihilism, hope and narcissism that you will ever see.
Bojack Horseman is, quite frankly, fucking genius.
The lowbrow, irreverent, “ha ha it’s a dog” humour is a thin veil upon a cavernous soup of philosophy, satire, existentialism and harsh relatability. Waksberg shines a light over modern America, the futility and absurdism in the word “celebrity” and most of all over you. The show is obscenely reflective for a cartoon in which Penguin Books is owned by a depressed Penguin and some of the more grating episodes can be difficult to watch in its brutal peeling back of the layers that make you, you. Bojack Horseman‘s storytelling has no right to be this adeptly cutting either, the heights of animation’s power is utilised to put some film and more “serious” TV to shame, fleshing out characters and themes endlessly – forget Hamlet, Freud would be all over this psychological complexity. And there are sudden moments of abstract profundity and ineffable poetry that would put any avant-gardist out of work. Episodes that will have you sitting silent and with the shattered pieces of your goosebump-covered body around you when they reach their bombshell of a finale. There have been times in which I have sat down to unwind with something easy on Netflix and had to turn the show off midway because I had forgotten the weight of what I was about to watch. There’s shit in here that will make you cry… it’s a cartoon about a talking horse for fuck sake.
ye – Kanye West
When hip-hop began it was a tool of radicalism, a platform to give a voice to the people and opinions that wouldn’t gain it otherwise. And this past month Kanye has continued the tradition, in the most modern way. Celebrity is dead, or at least in some postmodern phase of self awareness; a product of an age in which near everyone exists within a self-constructed limelight, rendering it practically meaningless. And amidst the rubble of this 20th century construct (the demolition of which Kanye and his peers partially caused), there is opportunity for new groundwork to be laid. ye is art born from power, not in awareness of or pursuit of status, but purely and wholly because of it.
Suicidal thoughts follow albums that proclaim self-divinity and relate the fashion industry to the slave trade, the work of Kanye West provide one element to a larger painting: himself. Whether intentional or not, West has made himself into art – the final expressive frontier that could only be done to such an extent today, now. Condemnable, inspirational, hate-worthy, genius; it doesn’t matter what you think, the man will be studied for decades. He’s already immortal, already free.
And personally, I like ye, because against all odds; despite the spectacle, the comments, the fame and the controversy, Kanye has made something that is actually kind of relatable.
Written by Caleb Carter