Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Claude Chabrol gallery, part deux
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Review by Christine Young
Homeless and searching for some kind of meaning in his life, Mark Bittner finds a no-rent situation as caretaker of a small cottage in the Telegraph Hill section of San Francisco where, outside in the gardens, he notices four parrots.
In the beginning, Mark’s attention is on the parrots intermittently as he goes through his daily routine. His curiosity about the parrots soon becomes admiration. Admiration soon becomes love, and each new day brings another delight and another lesson about their ways. Mark’s gentle and unassuming nature is appealing, and you can see why the parrots would accept him and trust him as they do, and how natural it is for Mark to embrace them.
This is a wonderful film that reveals the beauty of San Francisco in a personal way. The stealers of the show are definitely the parrots, and Mark’s devotion to them is inspirational. Judy Irving does well in presenting the compassionate side of human nature and the spiritual connection we have to the world and the wildlife around us. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this film.
As a matter of fact I didn’t want it to be over, and on the strength of my enthusiasm for Mark and these delightful creatures, I couldn’t wait to read Mark’s book of the same title, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Harmony Books, 2004), which Flickhead presented to me for my birthday.
The book is great! I particularly enjoyed the story concerning Mark’s early days in San Francisco. It’s a place I’ve never been to, and he brought it to life for me. Through his description of his youthful and aspiring days during the 70’s, he brought to my mind this period of my own youth that had somehow escaped my notice. The psychedelic quality of that time and space, along with the music of the flower children, was in my peripheral vision — occasionally admired, but not experienced in the flesh. My small hometown wasn’t really a happening place. San Francisco would have been an exceptional place for me to visit at the time. I would have fallen under its spell. Perhaps I would have stayed there.
Mark’s story is genuine. He describes himself as a regular guy who has had some good times and some bad times. When he was a kid he wanted to be a writer. When he grew he changed his mind and put his efforts into being a musician — which is why he wound up in San Francisco, where musicians sprouted like wild flowers through cracks in the pavement.
Later, when music didn’t pan out for him, he had no vocation, no direction in life, and no place to live. He depended on the generosity of others who would occasionally help him out. He read a lot of books and studied the Eastern philosophies that might somehow help him find what he was looking for. He lived in his friend’s beat-up van. He was evicted from the van. He slept in an alley. Police chased him from the alley. He slept on a roof. He gleaned what coins he could find on the ground and bought day old bread from an Italian bakery. He worked odd jobs for food, and at a really low point in his life had thoughts of suicide. He did not follow through but went on searching, and in due course discovered the path that lead him to his future.
A flock of wild parrots was Mark’s saving grace; their existence in the gardens outside his door and his pleasure in observing them was a distraction from the worries about his future. He intended to bird watch, but the parrots were a pleasant surprise. Their flight and their antics — their mere existence in a part of the world they are known not to come from is a marvel. From this point on Mark cultivates a relationship that blossoms, and in doing so finds a respite from the cares that have plagued him all along.
The film and the book compliment one another. It really doesn’t matter whether you read the book first or see the documentary, as one will lead you to the next. But my suggestion would be to read the book first. I think that knowing the story and having it all in your mind first will make watching the film even more enjoyable. The stories in the book, of course, go into more detail about Mark’s life and his feelings and about the individual parrots and their personalities. I was considerably touched by the stories of the sick or injured parrots he had brought into the house to care for, especially little Tupelo. These are the birds he really got close to.
We are not all cut out to be seekers of fortune, but I think we are all seekers of truth — our own truth. In either quest there is the primary notion that what we are seeking will ensure our happiness. Like Mark, I grew up as a child of the 50’s, a teen of the 60’s and a young adult of the 70’s. I sought happiness and never put a dollar value on it. I thought happiness was the husband and the children I longed for, and I focused on that to the exclusion of everything else. Ironically, I didn’t marry until I was thirty-three and I have no children; so all those years I spent seeking what I thought would make me happy right then and there, could have been spent learning all the things I crave to learn now in my fifty-sixth year.
But that is a spilt milk situation that cannot be relived and shouldn’t be cried over —besides, I have found happiness in many things that were not on my original to-do list. When you’re older you come to realize that happiness in this world — so says Nathaniel Hawthorne — “…comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.”
Accordingly, Mark’s path through life brought him to where he is today. As a result of his curiosity and kindness toward the parrots he was given the privilege to hang out with them and to get to know them more intimately than he could have imagined, and that brought him unexpected happiness. He’s written a book about his experience and it’s the subject of a great documentary — can it get any better than that? I suppose it can.
Thank you Mark for sharing your story with us. Thank you Judy Irving for showing it to us. But most of all, thanks to the wild flock of parrots for gracing our world with your presence.
A note about the soundtrack music
— Christine Young
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Out of gas, forever flatulent
Bite My Exhaust Pipe:
By Nelhydrea Paupér
Group one we will call the Directionalists. These are People who, when driving a car, use their directional signal – their “blinkers” – on a regular basis whenever they make a turn, left or right. Using their blinkers is not the end-all of life, but it is an indicator of that person’s overall outlook and philosophy. They understand that others are not reading their minds, that the universe does not revolve around them alone, that they are capable of making mistakes and causing accidents. They use their directionals because they should.
Group two is comprised of the people who rarely or never use their directionals. They are called Shitheads.
If you do not routinely use your directional when you are driving you, dear reader, are a Shithead.
This bit of philosophical insight, acquired over the last few years whilst living as an exile in New Jersey, reemerged recently in Daddy Paupér’s heat-stroked head after visiting the local simplex with the Wee Paupér. We went to catch some air conditioning and the most recent Pixar release, Cars. It is clearly a movie made by and for Shitheads.
The Paupér household has thus far avoided most of the current breed of CGI animated movies. The few we’ve seen have, put simply, sucked. The smarmy, self-knowing, nudge-nudge double-entendres intended for the “grownups,” so beloved by moronic audiences just because they go over the kiddies’ heads are, frankly, unfunny and obnoxious. I’m no prude – Anal Invaders 4 is among my favorite auteurist efforts – but why not try making smart jokes for the adults instead of bottom-feeder stuff? Or at least give the bottom-feeder stuff a witty enough presentation to make it actually clever.
Anyway, it turned out we had somehow managed to only see recent animated drivel by Disney and Dreamworks. All crap (the Wee Paupér demanded to leave Shrek 2 after 30 minutes). But we’d entirely missed Pixar. I confess I knew the name but didn’t know there was supposed to be such a big difference in quality – until a few co-workers at my former employer informed me that Pixar was different and far superior, the corporation as auteur. One fellow considered The Incredibles to be the best film of 2004 (I still haven’t seen it so I offer no opinion here).
With that in mind I took the Wee Paupér, now 6 years old, to see Cars. This time he lasted 45 minutes. Which was about 43 more than I thought I could bear.
It was a completely muddled barrage of noise and gyration, with fast cutting galore and lots of switching from the general movie mise-en-scene view to a TV network ESPN-type view to Christ knows what else (think Speed Racer done as an Owen Wilson comedy directed by early-90s Oliver Stone). Confusing to an adult, pointless to a kid.
Then it steals the entire plot of the 1991 Doc Hollywood. As far as I can tell none of the 12 – I shit you not, 12 – “writers” listed in the credits for this thing have the same name as either of the 2 writers credited for that inoffensive Michael J. Fox fluff.
At this point the Wee one mercifully started wandering around the – empty – theater, jumping on the folding chairs and shaking his head “no” when I gestured for him to sit down and watch. It was time, he was ready, we left. I’ll never know what happened to Speed McGurk, or whatever the fuck that piece of shit lead character was named.
I must state here that the Wee Paupér sat still throughout the entire Wallace and Gromit Curse of the Wererabbit. It so happens that it was quite good, well written, genuinely funny and had hand-animation that was simple but somehow pleasing to the eye ( I know it was released by Dreamworks but they didn’t actually “make it,” Nick Park and Steve Box did). He also sat throughout the Curious George movie earlier this year. Nothing special but it was actually quite sweet and enjoyable. Also hand animated, interestingly enough.
Now, the wee Pauper likes lots of junk, mostly old stuff on video. He’s currently on a Little Lulu kick – the 1940s ones. He’s not infallible. But the Big-Self-important Paupér is a proud papa indeed. For when it comes to new animated studio releases the kid already knows shit from shinola.
— Nelhydrea Paupér
Monday, August 07, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
Jamming with Edwardians
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The Devil, probably
Anger management and Bobby BeauSoleil
It is a reflection of the ‘Age of Aquarius’ that was once so fashionable in the days of Hair, and Anger, living in San Francisco during 1967’s fabled Summer of Love, was inspired to make a film that would welcome ‘Lucifer, the LightGod’ to the simmering battle that was dividing generations and cultures. At the same time, his earlier movies were just beginning to work their way from museum showings to universities and revival theatres. Scorpio Rising (1963) became a cult movie and had a modest release on a double-bill paired with Robert Downey’s Chafed Elbows (1966; see the original poster art here). And perhaps most famous of all, Anger’s book Hollywood Babylon, his scathing exposé of golden-age Tinsel Town dirt, was making heads spin. After tinkering away on arcane, barely-screened experimental pictures for twenty years, Anger was now the focal point of the underground press and the unlikeliest media darling you could imagine.
Myriam Gibril in Lucifer Rising
Music has always been an integral part of his films, from Vivaldi in Eaux d’artifice (1953) to the perpetual juke box of Scorpio Rising and Mick Jagger’s pulsating electronic cacophony underlining Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969). He has gambled with blatant disparity to separate aural from visual — an extreme case was Andy Arthur’s shrill 70’s pop tune juxtaposed with the classic beauty of Rabbit’s Moon (1950/79) — and believes that these films cast spells. Most all of the music was culled from preexisting tracks, methodically selected and deliberately unsettling.
Commissioning an original score for Lucifer Rising was a smart decision. His colorful introduction to Bobby BeauSoleil, running up to the musician after a show proclaiming “You are Lucifer!” is detailed in an account written by Michael Moynihan for an attractive, informative booklet included with the new, 2-CD Lucifer Rising soundtrack. Other than capturing the mood(swings) and sense of abandon prevailing in and around the Haight/Ashbury during the late-60’s, when the young musician was in the Bay Area bands The Orkustra and The Magick Powerhouse of Oz, Moynihan has a clear appreciation of his music. (You can read portions of their extensive interview sessions online.)
Composed and recorded in prison between 1977 and 1979, BeauSoleil worked in a makeshift studio on bare bones equipment with an ensemble of fellow inmates. Collectors have circulated bootlegs of the sessions for years, copied from the limited vinyl pressing BeauSoleil once made for family and friends. But this new edition — authorized by BeauSoleil and Anger — has been cleaned up and digitally mastered. Tight budgets and antiquated technology notwithstanding, the music now has the breadth of a major studio recording. All things considered, this could be the most important soundtrack release of the year.
Donald Cammell in Lucifer Rising
Performed on mostly electric instruments by non-professionals, the music has a palpable organic texture and is rooted in the blues. The film could ask for no better accompaniment, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine Anger’s vision working as well as it does without this sound. “It not only perfectly suits the mood of Anger’s film,” wrote Michael Moynihan, “but even seems to have been scored precisely to coincide with certain visual images that occur onscreen.” This is either good fortune or symmetry with the gods, because there wasn’t a finished print of the film to work off of. BeauSoleil had to rely on description and a partial slash print. He supplies a few buoyant passages that invite movie Mickey Mousing (such as the playful “Part IV”), but the rejection here of Hollywood cliché is a given. (In the film, this piece accompanies Marianne Faithfull’s ascension of Star Mountain.) Offsetting the electronic foundation, a lone trumpet is used in moderation adding an underlying sense of melancholy — and brought to mind Ennio Morricone’s work of the 60’s. Most of the score revolves around a predominant riff, an infectious cascading chord progression that has the cyclical flow of an acid trip churning toward its peak.
It may be nostalgia for some (it all bears a superficial resemblance to the late 60’s Pink Floyd of A Saucerful of Secrets), but these ears found the twenty-five-year-old music vital and alive . . . and prompted the question, whatever became of BeauSoleil? An interesting man with an interesting story, he continues to compose and record, and has managed to build something of a small recording career from prison. The samples of his work that can be heard for free online sound like mini-scores for films yet to be made, and are on a par with, if not superior to, most of the material now written for the movies.
Buy from Amazon
Text Copyright © by Ray Young
“What impressed me about Rabbit’s Moon wasn’t the film itself — a seven-minute, black-and-white affair in which three clowns prance around in a moon-lit forest. No, what really caught my attention was the soundtrack — a demonic laugh kicked off a jaunty, organ-driven Beatlesque song that sounded like some half-forgotten top forty hit from the glam-rock era.” The search for the song and its elusive composer! Read the Flickhead article by Michael I. Cohen.
By A Raincoat (mp3)