Wednesday, November 7, 2018

retro, you know the scores (running with the Pakula)

Watching Homecoming - an addictive new podcast-sourced show - I really enjoyed the Pakula / 1970s paranoid thriller vibe to the camera work: the aerial, hovering, Panopticon / surveillance-vibe shots,  the decor and locations (sterile office interiors of huge looming scale, with that cold strip-lighting look - cf. newsrooms of All the President's Men),  the new-built buildings and soul-less exurban perimeter zones.

There even seemed to be a deliberately Pakula-esque vibe to the music, with certain motifs redolent of the eerie-voice refrains in Klute.

Well it turns out that was even more the case than I thought.

Via Bruce Levenstein, this piece explains how director Sam Esmail deliberately repurposed underscores and motifs from 1970s thrillers (and some later films in a similar vein), despite the enormous cost of doing so.

After learning that, with the later episodes I've spotted a recycled swathe of ruminative, melancholy jazz used in The Conversation (that bit at the end when the Gene Hackman character is thoroughly defeated, hoist by his own surveillance-expert petard etc) and an imposing, stately fanfare (evocative of power and its untouchability) that I'm pretty certain is from All the Presidents's Men or The Parallax View.

But the rest have been more elusive, vaguely redolent of Carpenter or Michael Small but hard to pin to specific.

Ah, stop press - also via Bruce Levenstein - a piece at Indiewire that gives  a detailed breakdown of what soundtrack motifs were recycled in Homecoming - turns out I'm right about The Conversation, Klute and All the President's Men. Lots of good-taste choices, including The Andromeda Strain OST by Gil Melle


 -



Friday, November 2, 2018

haunted haystacks and ghosts in the garden



Anybody seen this? Any cop?

At Pop Matters, John A. Riley writes:

"Arcadia compiles footage from the British Film Institute's sprawling national archive to create an impressionistic collage film about rural Britain...

"... Paul Wright's film is primed to be received in the context of two related phenomena: Hauntology and Folk Horror. Both represent new ways of thinking about our relationship to time and place, and of finding the sinister within the everyday, the former by emphasizing repressed pasts and failed futures, the latter by emphasizing sinister textures and themes lurking below the surface of Britain's rural communities. However, it may be equally if not more helpful to think of Arcadia as a sculpture done in paracinema: countless hours of public service announcements, promotional and instructional videos, and amateur-shot footage, are here given an unruly second lease of life....

"...  a dizzying assemblage of bucolic, folkloric footage; maypole dancing and sundry village festivities that wouldn't look out of place in The Wicker Man, harvesting crops, hunting, bucolic landscapes. Occasionally footage from a well-known narrative film, such as an unmistakable glimpse of Helen Mirren from Herostratus, is thrown into the mix.... 

".... The film doesn't present the archive footage chronologically, which means that a variety of formats, from badly damaged silent-era film to pristine 35mm, to home formats such as VHS and Super 8, all brush up against each other to dizzying, sometimes foreboding effect. The film works by associating, linking things in a montage chain that, in one example, goes from the pageantry of traditional village celebrations such as Morris dancing and 'Obby 'Oss festivals, to the '60s counterculture, exemplified by a patronizingly interviewed hippy who says he celebrates love "by doing psychedelic freakouts every now and again" to more recent times, through images of the kind of barnyard raves beloved by the '80s/'90s rave generation, as the soundtrack works itself up into a relentless pulse.... 

" Arcadia is a frequently fascinating, often unsettling look at traditions and places that can often feel like they are vanishing before our eyes."




Feel both allured and also faintly fatigued by the prospect - like this really should be the absolute last word on terrain that is well ploughed by this point... 
- perhaps even whatever comes after the last word.... 



Riley also praises the score by Portishead's Adrian Utley and Goldfrapp's Will Gregory.... 

"The eclectic score, at times evoking Debussy, at other times sounding like '90s lounge music revival (not surprising given its composers), and at one point breaking out into an ominously-tinged '70s bovver rock stomp, is worthy of serious standalone consideration..."


Anything even slightly connected to the stench of Goldfrapp I'm a bit sceptical about....

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Q.E.D








postscript: Chuck Eddy chirps in with commentary about the nostalgia overload in pop, with folks simultaneously ransacking and remembrancing the Eighties, Nineties and the early 2000s

too much pop past innit

retro (on the) gaming

a piece by Dr Kate Lister on those prostitute micro-ads in phone boxes, which have now become part of urban history - collectibles

Thursday, October 18, 2018

La La Lame / Blah Blah Bland

I knew there were good reasons why I hated the movie, I just didn't know there were so many

From a Bright Lights Film Journal essay by Richard A. Voeltz, titled “The Joke’s on History”: Retro-Reality, Twee, and Mediated Nostalgia in La La Land (2016):

"La La Land is more of a composite remake; even better, an archive, where Chazelle cleverly uses a combination of parody, homage, and nostalgia to continue, remake, and reimagine nostalgic themes or franchises established in earlier times that places it in the epistemological category of the nostalgic remake as defined by Lizardi that blocks engagement with the past or present.... “La La Land ultimately feels bloated by its references, by the mad rush to imitate all Chazelle’s inspirations,” writes Christos Tsiolkas. 

"The movie opens with the old CinemaScope logo in a similar way that Quentin Tarantino pays homage to the movies that he is imitating. The shooting of the film in CinemaScope is important because “the technique represented a groundbreaking new widescreen process that revolutionized filmmaking in the 1950s,” which explains why aesthetically the film manages to look like a classic movie-musical even when it’s just panning across a modern-day traffic jam at the beginning of the film.25 This is a film that draws on classic musicals and films that most people would only know from watching TCM religiously: Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Top Hat (1935), Shall We Dance (1937), The Band Wagon (1953), Broadway Melody (1936), An American in Paris (1951), An Affair to Remember (1957), West Side Story (1961), Bogie Nights (1997), Funny Face (1957), Moulin Rouge (2001), and Sweet Charity (1969) among many others. Sara Preciado has, in fact, compiled a YouTube video comparing scenes from La La Land with ones from these famous musicals.26 Rebel Without a Cause (1955) also plays a significant role in the film. Even Annie Hall (1977), Pulp Fiction (1994), and 8 ½ (1963) make the list. But none resonate as much as Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and his lesser-known The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). Demy’s Umbrellas provides not only inspiration for the plot, ending, along with the 1927 silent film 7th Heaven, and music of La La Land, but also for Chazelle’s use of vibrant colors of blue, red, green, and yellow in the cinematography."

Also

"Sebastian drives a 1982 Buick Riviera convertible and listens to music on a tape deck. He plays vinyl jazz records at home. And the needle-scraping ending of such records figures prominently as a metaphor for his relationship with Mia winding down as well. Early in the movie, a dinner conversation between Mia’s then boyfriend Greg, his brother, and his wife deals with the subject of “nowadays theatres … they’re so dirty – and they’re either too hot or too cold – always people talking.” When Mia and Sebastian meet at the vintage Rialto* theatre in Pasadena, later shown as closed (Chazelle loved the old red velvet seats), to see Rebel Without a Cause, the celluloid film during the scene of the drive up to the Griffith Park Observatory melts in the projector. This is a retro-intertextual reminder of when the film burns in the middle of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966)"

Yeah it's just pure pastiche puke from start to finish... meta upon meta...  and these quotes are just a fraction of Voeltz's inventory of the ways in which La La sucks

But the other thing, though - the real failing is on a much more basic level. It harks back to a golden age of song and dance movies, but the dancing is not very good and the songs aren't much cop either.  If you're going to resurrect the lost golden age then you have to compete with Singin' in the Rain, High Society and West Side Story, on the toon and tap front... 

 * that Rialto Theatre  is just up the road from us in South Pas..  was where a crucial scene from The Player was filmed (so that layers even more retro-referentialism)...  was a ghost cinema for a long while...  has recently been refurbished, but not to show pictures: on Sundays it hosts the "hipster church" Mosaic