Germany

Paris, Texas

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1984 – Directed by Wim Wenders

I got inspired to go back and watch Paris, Texas again. The movie struck me quite a bit when it came out, and I was obsessed with the Ry Cooder soundtrack. There are obviously a lot of parallels between this film and the 10 years earlier Alice in the Cities. Again, we see the mediation of the direct experience through photographic images. Again we see lost and disconnected people. Also again we see semi-abandoned children, which set off alarm bells to us now, and are difficult to watch without judging, or at least fretting. No seat belts? Eek.

This is another road movie, of course, and constantly presented with a contrast not just between the direct experience and the captured image but the contrast between wide-open spaces and flattened spaces. The Dean Stockwell character, interestingly, creates billboards. the Nasstasja Kinski character, Jane, also interestingly works in a very odd strip club consisting of these strange foreshortened rooms resembling familiar public spaces.

The movie, then, as now, has a slight “ick” factor to me: i’ve never cared for the romantic depiction of what was obviously an abusive and possible even statutory rape situation between the Harry Dean Stanton character, Travis, and Jane. Our gaze upon her remains problematic. The rest of the relationships are more intriguing, such as between the child, Hunter, and Travis.

The movie doesn’t hold up quite as well as it could over time, and it times it lingers a bit too long on the idea of American vastness and emptiness. Still the geography is captivating, if, at times, inaccurate. Having now lived in Houston, can assure you that the place the Jane character turns off to after getting off the Interstate is absolutely not the neighborhood where the strip club is depicted to be.

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That neighborhood, were we to see it, is one of those typical Houston suburban-y areas filled with tract homes and cookie-cutter apartment complexes and little shack-like mom and pop businesses: not an urbanized back alley with murals and parking lots.

Below is the neighborhood near Shepherd off of I-10 (the Katy Freeway):

imageWhere is that damn Statue of Liberty mural? Oh, well, it has been thirty years...

Versus the movie:

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It took a while to scout out an actual urban part of Houston, but we did it!

That neighborhood is apparently near US Highway 59 and State Highway 288, near downtown, which is about 12 miles southeast from where we think we are, though I cannot find the exact intersections. We are definitely looking at a hybridized, fictionalized, perhaps mythologized, city.

Beware of a Holy Whore

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1971 – Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

This turned out to be a tough first entry. There are so many angles to approach this apparently last in the experimental phase of Fassbinder’s early films. I am not anywhere near as familiar with the director’s work that I should or could be, but I do understand that this was semi-autobiographical: an apparent near-reenactment of the experience of cast and crew on an earlier film, Whity.

With Fassbinder himself playing a manic production manager, Sascha, and Lou Castel sweeping in later as Jeff, the director of the film-within-a-film, the dynamic of who is whoring themselves to whom kinda sorta unfolds. While a lot has been written about the interpersonal dynamics of the film, I was uniquely struck by the geometry of the film.

The first half of production especially is heavily influenced by the static and detached aesthetic of Warhol, all odd geometry and dreary flat walls. This is literally bisected halfway through the film by an unexpected winding spin through the Spanish countryside. When we return from this meander into organic space and movement to pure angular chaos: jarringly set scenes have little continuity beyond the fact that, based on Jeff wearing the same blue shirt throughout, indicates it is all the same day.

The only other scene that flows rather than jags is shot of the austere yet irritating Irm on a boat out to sea, Irm being played amazingly by Magdelena Montezuma, an actress I used to be obsessed with from a single image in a book I used to have on subversive film.

As a side note, was interesting for me to realize how much I understood without subtitles. I used to know German: maybe it is time to do a little immersion again. I will certainly try to include Fassbinder into the mix in weeks coming up.

Next up:
Stray Dog, 1949 – Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Wench of yonder Day – Nina Hagen

Nina Hagen

Image via Wikipedia

Nina Hagen was born in East Germany in 1955. She has an amazing history.

Sometimes I really don’t want to paraphrase what is already so well-written on other sites. Just take a look at these videos…

(mit Automobil)




Icon of the Day – Genre of the Day – Rock Opera

Rock Opera

What do rock operas have in common? Well, whether it is Nora Walker rolling in baked beans as her son becomes Jesus, Pink watching endless reruns as he becomes Hitler, or  Swan (the Devil incarnate), running the cheesiest record label offices ever seen as he plots to buy souls, we can find a pattern: in rock opera, the most profound hopes and fears of our culture intersect with the crassest, most consumer-driven product. In fact, perhaps they are the (gasp) SAME?

So, yes, a flying hamburger.

TONK (via ALMOST VELVET)

There are some stunning images here.

TONK The great unreal TAIYO ONORATO & NICO KREBS have collaborated since 2003 in the Swiss artist group TONK. TONK is currently exhibiting ‘THE GREAT UNREAL’ @ Kunstagenten in Berlin from August 21- September 25, 2010.  Taiyo (b.1975) and Nico (b.1979) have a common interest in the manipulation of reality and in the play with proportions and perspectives. In ‘The Great Unreal’ they play with the images and myths that shape our view of the ‘America … Read More

via ALMOST VELVET

Memory Object – The Muppet Musicians of Bremen (1972) (TV)

A bronze statue depicting the Bremen Town Musi...

Image via Wikipedia

Tales from Muppetland: The Muppet Musicians of Bremen

I saw this when I was – what? eight? It had a big impact on me. I found the music haunting, the story gripping and the villians terrifying. Been looking for it for years as I don’t think it ever showed a second time.

Bremen, Germany is very proud of this old fairy tale. The Muppet version takes place in Bremen, Louisiana (I am trying to figure out if this is a real place – anyone?) and is filled with New Orleans style jazz. Jim Henson was from neighboring Mississippi and I have a feeling this project must have been dear to his heart.