Posts from 21st November 2003

Nov 03

Gonza The Spearman

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,131 views

Gonza The Spearman

There’s some first-rate discussion of two approaches to acting on this ILE thread (before it zeroed in on Brecht), but there is another approach to the art that isn’t the default modern western style, the psychological (I mean this to include 20th Century movie acting, for instance, not just the Method and so on), or the Brechtian/epic style where the actor is to embody an idea or condition. Maybe this goes back to before Harold Bloom’s claims for what Shakespeare did not only for our ideas of drama but even our notions of what it is to be human, but it is perfectly possible to play a person without trying to create or evoke their psychology, or without making them emblematic of some abstraction.

I thought about this last night after watching Gonza The Spearman, a 1986 Japanese movie based on an 18th Century puppet drama. It’s an interesting collision, modern direction (by Shinoda Mashiro) visibly post-Ozu and Kurosawa, with an aesthetic often strongly redolent of 19th Century Edo prints, and using rather mannered plot and indeed acting. The acting is an odd collision itself, in that the titular character and star is a very early major J-pop star, Go Hiromi, but maybe the heightened gestures and expressions of a pop singer convert to a pre-psychological approach quite easily.

Anyway, I think this style that seems inexpressibly dated, almost impossible in the west, is still not uncommon in Japan. It shouldn’t be confused with bad acting, it is a distinct way of approaching what acting is.

Borderliners by Peter Hoeg

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 544 views

Borderliners by Peter Hoeg

I hope any Hoeg fans of my acquaintance who are writing books about school rebellions have read this, as that’s what it’s about. Specifically, three odd kids in an experimental school in 1969, trying to understand what is happening there, including why they are in the school.

It’s a strange book, full of ideas and thinking, with not all that much happening, and with a hint of the adventuring silliness of Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow. The main topic is time, but there is lots more on parenting and love and learning. I think there are ideas from areas of modern science floating around, such as the idea of observation affecting what is observed, and the titular idea about the limitations at either end of a scale, where he suggests that those in the border area are the only ones who have a chance of tearing aside the veil and understanding. Actually I think this is less referring to the fascinating and fertile boundary area between chaotic and ordered regimes, as I would like to think, and more a kind of old hippy notion that only outsiders can see the truth. In all honesty I half suspect that most of the ideas in here more realistically reduce to that than anything more substantial.

But still, it’s a pleasure to read a book that isn’t much like anything else I’d read, and is as full of intense thought as this.

Right, there’s this film about a guy called Noi, and he’s an albino

Do You SeePost a comment • 311 views

The film is called Noi Albinoi. Really before I went in I though Noi Albinoi had a proper, deep meaning, rather than – hey look at Noi, he’s and albino. The film is a bit like this. For eighty minutes of its ninety run time its pretty much watch Noi. Luckily Noi is a charming character, if troublesome to his teachers, his classmates and his family. He sends a tape recorder to school instead of attending, fixes fruit machines to win and scams his way around his sleepy Icelandic village.

And then something happens. Before thatsomething happens it looks like Noi is going to end up dead or in prison. Smart but nihilistic he starts getting into trouble, and losing his charm too. then something happens to put Noi’s life into perspective. The film is equally charming but inconsequential until this final sequence. Its a bit late to exactly save the film, but it does make the previous hour and a half worthwhile. Gentle, eccentric and at the end thought provoking, its just a film about an albino called Noi.

It’s rare, disappointingly so, to find a poet who loves language

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 452 views

It’s rare, disappointingly so, to find a poet who loves language, not in a fetishistic or clever or simply musical way, but robustly, lip-smackingly, instinctually. I saw Keith Bennett read last night, and he struck me as one of the few. Reading his poems on the page later, it wasn’t so obvious; I noticed that he had a way with rhyme and half-rhyme and liked to bury it inside his lines, and that he was funny, and had a great unforced sense of rhythm… but that applies to lots of poets. It was the way he delivered the poems – great ranting torrents of words like water spouting erratically from a hose, in a range of accents and personas but never less than BIG. A reminder of an oral tradition where rhyme and meter weren’t just conventions, but throbbed with the intention to hit home and be remembered. Other poets read last night and they were good (I am in awe of people who actually entertain the audience between poems like they were born to it) but Keith was something else. Keep an eye out for him (New Forest based but sure to get around…)

ο is for..The Omicronos Quartet

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 764 views

Pop stars are notoriously insecure types. They think often that what they are doing is not in any way worthwhile. And I don’t blame them. They’re right. But one of the ways a record company tries to bouy up their egos is by adding real, actual classical musicians to play on their record. Or if they are unlucky they get in the Chronos Quartet.

The CQ are a bunch of chancers, probably drop-outs from some conservatory, who play pop classical music. This means in reality rearrangements of very simple songs (say by musical half-wits like Elvis Costello) slowly and with what they imagine is gravitas. I remember when University Challenge had a decent theme tune, all clanging bells and what-not. Now it is some syrrupy cello heavy, frown-along-with-the-Chronos nonsense. Indeed it is telling that the Chronos Quarter rarely ever do any classical music at all, rather stuff by such great, complex composers like Phillip Glass and the bloke out of Pop Will Eat Itself wot does film soundtracks now. And how serious can you be when you are playing music written by the man who wrote Beaver Patrol.

ξ is for…Lord Rockingham’s XI

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 1,201 views

Ah Scotland. Home of the brave. And you would have to be brave to live near all those Scottish people. The Scot’s have a great history of musical crimes against humanity, starting with the bagpipe and continuing to this day through Travis. One of the interesting things about Scottish bands is their tendancy to sing in particulalry fake American accents, but I suppose this is to try and rub some of the shit that being Scottish automatically brings to the party. Because look at the bands that have sung in Scottish accents. Speccy twats The Proclaimers, and indeed Lord Rockingham’s XI.

I do not think that Lord Rockingham was a real lord. Though it would be the kind of useless diletanteism that Lord’s go in for, making novelty songs about how there is a large horned animal off the leash in your domicile. Funny you see because said in a Scottish accent this becomes :There’s A Moose Loose About This House. In Scotland apparently the word Moose rhymes with house. Much like bunch of twats means exactly the same as Lord Rockingham’s XI.

The thing about novelty records is that by definition they are only a novelty the first time. There should not be a second time. WHich proved to be the case career-wise for his lordship, though the song unfortunately has staying power wherever someone over seventy wants to get up and dance. And Scotland. And that’s another reason why its the land of the brave. After all, brave is another word for stupid.

Pub Quiz Report

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 415 views

Pub Quiz Report

Pub: The Wishing Well, Bellenden Road. I only live a few minutes from here but I haven’t been in for years and it’s completely changed. Not for the worse, but apparently it was re-modelled as the set for Peckham pubflick ‘Last Orders’, though I have to admit I didn’t recognise it. Spacious, friendly and relaxed, it was an ideal place to meet old friends who were in sunny Peckham for the night. And ‘ oh! ‘ there was a quiz on! Just adding to the nostalgia was a very nicely kept pint of Bass, which was my learner beer.

Quiz: charmingly old-school. Twenty questions, general knowledge, no picture round, no music round, no jackpot accumulator, no messing about. Thursday night. Unusually, the quiz didn’t kick off until well after 10pm. Happily, the pub stays open until well after 11, so all was well.

Prize: similarly no-nonsense. One prize, a crate of 24 bottles of Stella for the winners. No runners up, no third place, no consolations.

Questions: the kind of thing you might know but might not; good, solid, well-judged quiz questions, like ‘what was the name of Henry VIII’s first child?’ or ‘what colour flag does a ship fly to signify it is in quarantine?’

The quizmaster: laid back to the point of not giving a monkey’s. This actually added to the relaxed late-night feel of the whole enterprise.

Will I go again? Yes. This isn’t a quiz to cross town for but it’s a nice, low-key, local way to kick off the weekend (Thursday being the new Friday, of course). I’ll have to get through all this Stella first, mind.