Posts from 8th March 2004

Mar 04

He was a ponytailed Japanese wrestler-turned-fence, on kidney dialysis

Do You SeePost a comment • 130 views

He was a ponytailed Japanese wrestler-turned-fence, on kidney dialysis; she was a grave and grey-haired curator-scholar with an impish smile… Art Crimes told the story of Anne Roever-Kann of Bremen Museum, and how (with the help of New York art detective Bonnie Goldblatt) she recovered 12 drawings, including Durer’s 1494 Women in a Bathhouse: they’d been looted from Bremen – though not as part of Stalin’s reparations programme – by Russian soldiers in WW2, and vanished. In the late 90s a local Azerbaijani reporter says the Durer’s in the basement of the Baku Museum – but just as Roever-Kann began investigating, it’s stolen, and vanishes again. Then Koga, the mystery Japanese middleman, contacts her from Tokyo, and flies to Bremen – without the drawings, which he had photos of – to cut a deal. His minder and translator is an angry little man called Ogo, who hinders more than he helps: negotations collapse, and Ogo and Koga vanished. But now it seems the drawings are in New York, in Brighton Beach, “Little Odessa” – and Roever-Kann is there too, wearing a wire and arguing with Ogo again, surrounded (possibly) by Russian mafia enforcers. Ogo smells a rat and vanishes; Koga with his terrible English and halting charm shows Roever-Kann the Durer for real – he carries it in a jiffybag – and the police swoop. She has her prize; he has nothing – not even his health, and he dies before coming to trial.

“Like Robert Ludlum” said this report at the time, but really it’s more like early Eric Ambler, all these ambiguous, semi-stateless figures roving across borders in the chaos of collapsed Empires, carrying priceless treasures in brown envelopes – except of course it’s the Soviet Empire not the Ottoman Empire (there’s a shadowy Russian Olympic medallist and his bottle-blonde wife in this tale, too: she gets jailtime, he’s still on the lam). Roever-Kann herself is fascinating – a quiet-spoken librarian type, except clearly as brave as she’s dogged, and equally clearly in love with anyone fascinated in art, even criminals: “Good art always survives – it finds friends, it finds fanatics. Koga was a bit fanatic… but so were we.” And she gives her funny shy little laugh.

One odd thing: the real Roever-Kann is slim and dapper, careful of movement – and we see a lot of her, it’s her story. In the reconstructions she’s played by an energetic, fat, jolly little woman, with shortish grey hair, yes, but really no other resemblance.

“I Created Blog, The Thing That Should Not Be!”

The Brown Wedge2 comments • 412 views

“I Created Blog, The Thing That Should Not Be!”. Via Pearls That Are His Eyes, another awesome comics resource in the form of the MONSTER BLOG. (NB it’s not actually in any sense a blog, it’s just a website. Also they should have called it BLOGG at the very least!) These are blatantly some of the GREATEST EVER COMICS, even reading the names should chill your spine. My personal favourite though is absent – TIM BOO BA, as in “Behold The Mouth Of Tim Boo Ba! The Mouth That Cries, “ATTACK! ATTACK!””. But why quibble when you can enjoy such wonders as Googam and The Alien Pencil?

Why don’t I like U2?

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 407 views

Why don’t I like U2? Because Bono is a dick? Well, maybe, but why is he a dick? What particular quality of theirs is it that stops their rockin’ monumentalism working for me? I think it’s this: rather than just be about bigness in a Springsteen or Steinman fashion U2 want to be a lens, focussing the tiny (you) through the big (them) so as to reach the EVEN BIGGER (what they’re singing about). Their massiveness wants to reference or appeal to an even vaster idea, usually metaphysical – they’re an almost literal ‘sonic cathedral’. The probem is that the Big Things they’re trying to lens lyrically or musically – God or The Evil Of The World or Blackness or even The (Post)Modern Condition – are just too huge for them to say anything useful about, maybe for anyone to say anything useful about in a rock context. U2 aren’t big for bigness’ sakes, content always seems terribly important to them – so much so that I simply can’t let it go and enjoy the shimmery noises or the hooks, I’m always painfully aware of what they’re Saying. Fighting is bad! BB King is good! What a confusing place the world is! They’re no more trite than most other rock bands, they’re just so LOUD about it.

Screen Cuisine

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 446 views

Screen Cuisine: Done well, lists are writing tapas.

Take The Daytrippers and mix it with Gurinder Chadha’s What’s Cooking

Do You SeePost a comment • 385 views

Take The Daytrippers and mix it with Gurinder Chadha’s What’s Cooking, and you get Pieces Of April. The Daytrippers is the family journey part, as the go from suburbia to New York to see wayward daughter April. What’s Cooking is the trials and tribulations of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. To its extreme credit, Pieces Of April manages to come in shorter than both films and say pretty much all those films said too.
a) Families, especially when stuck in cars together, are nasty pieces of work.
b) Cooking for your family is about the most stressful thing you can do.

c) If it turns out okay it is all worth it in the end.

I must admit, c) is not a cast iron law.

Anyway as a comedy Pieces Of April has plenty of decent laughs, not least in the disastrous cooking pratfalls in the first half of the film. (Turkeys are big and slippy bastards). The cancerous Joy, the mother coming to visit, is just a nasty piece of work – at turns bitter, deranged and spiteful to all around her. There are a few mis-steps, despite suggesting it, the too good to be true boyfriend was never going to turn out to be anything but sweet. The film was also probably correct in taking th easy option in montaging the end, the happy snaps probably sum up better than any amount of sickly dialogue how occasionally families can set asides problems. You know though that any written sequence would have lasted about a minute before spiralling off into arguments, and that does not make for a decent ending. So despite playing it safe, Pieces Of April is a pretty sweet movie.

We’re back from Bilbao.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 237 views

We’re back from Bilbao. It was terrific – big thanks to the organisers, who handled the inevitable logistical nightmare of 14 thirsty Brit blokes with aplomb. There will no doubt be several holiday-inspired posts. This is one of them. It’s funny that Some Disco is talking about chains and accomodating solo drinkers and big groups – a few of us had a chat while in Spain about how the British pub model is incredibly flexible for this. If ILX had sprung up in Spain or France the chances of being able to hold FAPs for 20+ people and still be in a good drinking place would be low – those countries are packed with terrific bars but they’re usually small, and in Spain at least there’s a big sitting-at-the-bar culture (cos of the tapas) so there’s often a lack of tables*. But the British pub – a fair bit of space filled with tables of varying sizes – can accomodate the largest groups as easily as it can offer the lone reader a bit of peace and quiet.** You do get small pubs, of course, and they’re often very good, but you’re never too far away from something sizeable and quality.

* We had a great time anyway, but generally adopted a nomadic policy so as not to outstay our welcome in any of the smaller places.

** Unlike Somedisco I am not sure chain pubs do this latter very well – they tend to lack the kind of nooks where you can read or drink alone unmolested. There are always a lot of lone drinkers in the schoolroom-style table ranks in a Wetherspoons, but they are a particular breed and not to be taken as role models.