Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You, Robot

Nestled in the midst of yet another summer where cinemas were buckling under the weight of bloated effects-heavy spectacles choked by a surfeit of plot strands and character arcs all struggling to extricate themselves from unnecessary narrative complexity (I’m looking at you Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End!), along comes the small and perfectly formed Electroma from Parisian bleep-sculptors Daft Punk.

Whereas the summer’s standard issue eye candy is just passive entertainment, a relentless barrage of noise and nonsense requiring absolutely no contribution on the part of the audience, Electroma is the opposite. It leaves plenty of room for the viewer as an integral part of the experience, allowing them to project their own feelings, interpretations and responses on to the film.

Those wacky Daft Punks may disagree with me. Co-director and imaginaut Thomas Bangalter describes Electroma as “…experimental and inaccessible; however, it's a movie that does not require your brain to function.” He couldn’t be more wrong. It is a far richer experience when both your brain and your emotions are receptive to the sounds and images skittering across the screen.

Heavily indebted to 70s American cinema, in particular nihilistic road movies and sterile sci-fi dystopias like Electra Glide in Blue and THX 1138 (with a dash of the suburban weirdness of David Lynch thrown in as seasoning), Electroma is the story of two leather-clad robots cruising the American highways, flanked on either side by a craggy burnished orange backdrop familiar from old westerns, saddled up in their black 1987 Ferrari 412 with its license plate displaying “HUMAN”.

And that’s all they want – to be human. To be different in a world full of robots. And that’s basically the whole story.

With the slow and hypnotic accretion of meticulously selected and stunningly beautiful imagery, Electroma is an entirely wordless meditation on the meaning of humanity, belonging, assimilation and conformity.

Every single miniscule element of Electroma is seemingly crafted with painstaking precision, from the grotesque human masks that the robots wear, melting in the sun and running down their faces like rubbery pink tears, to the immaculate location shots, in particular one striking shot of the desert laid out like the curves of a reclining woman, with a serendipitous pile of scrub brush appearing tantalisingly like a pubic mound.

Even better than the visuals is the fantastic sound design – the repetitive scuffing of boots on gravel; the crackling of flames; the unwavering drone of the Ferrari. Even the silence is perfect.

Music also plays a part in the whole tapestry (although, wisely, nothing by Daft Punk themselves). My personal favourite use of music is the sound of Curtis Mayfield’s Billy Jack as the two robots walk through a suburban town centre proudly wearing their new faces, in a twisted parody of Richard Roundtree or John Travolta strutting defiantly in the opening sequences of Shaft or Saturday Night Fever.

In a film without words, subtle physical performance and use of body language is vital, and Peter Hurteau and Michael Reich acquit themselves admirably. But I’ve said enough. A film that’s a blend of impressions and imagery is not a film that can be sold on the strength of words. And it’s now available on DVD.

Tempted yet? Here’s a teaser trailer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Songs for Swingin' Lovers

Buttercup is going to be 3 in just over a week. She has exemplary taste in music. I can prove it too. Look and listen:

At the moment, this is her favourite song. For the last few days we have both been wandering from room to room singing it incessantly. I can’t get the thing out of my head and, let’s face it, why would I want to?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bobby Byrd 1934 – 2007

I know you got soul
If you didn’t you wouldn’t be in here

Beautiful obit by Red Kelly over at The “A” Side

Bobby, take it to the bridge…

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Work Out

As of this Monday just gone, I have been in my current job for two years. I started with a healthy degree of new-job-enthusiasm. It didn’t take long for that to degenerate to the level of mild apathy. By the time my first year was up, I was well into the Outright Hatred zone, and I never got out of it.

It was around that point that I started looking for a new job. By my calculations, that’s over a year of hardcore job-search, with all its attendant annoyances: poring over webpages and squinting at the poorly-worded job ads in miniscule type; endlessly tweaking CVs and cover letters; verbal jousting with aggressive, incompetent and overly-friendly recruitment consultants; burning through my annual holiday allowance (with the odd sick-day thrown in) to attend interviews.

I must have been devoting around 20 hours a week to job-hunting. Over 300 job applications. Circa 30 interviews, increasing in frequency to the point where I was out of the office twice a week.

Now, the eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have noticed that I am writing in the past tense…

In the last few days, I have received not one, but two, job offers. I’ve grabbed one of those fuckers with both hands.

I feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment. It’s such a momentous thing for me, and I finally feel like I am back in control of my life in a significant way. My current job has been A Fucking Nightmare - and that’s an understatement.

There is no downside. There is only upside! I get out of this crummy North London suburb overrun with rats and fast-food joints. I get to have more time to myself (at least for the next month whilst I work out my notice period) now that I don’t have to endlessly pursue job opportunities. I’m joining a company flush with potential and the promise of a new beginning. I’m back in the heart of that fickle bitch London.

Such an immense weight has been lifted from me that I feel a little dazed by it, and I’m still adjusting to these impending changes. I haven’t tendered my resignation yet, as I’m waiting for all the paperwork to come through confirming everything, but in four weeks, my world will shift on its axis ever so slightly. And Donald Byrd was right – Change really does Make You Wanna Hustle.

I haven’t managed to wrap my head around all the implications of this, but the main one that affects you, dear reader, is that I finally get the opportunity to devote some valuable brainspace to writing again. This means more tinkering around with my little pet projects, but it also means an increased presence here for the next few weeks at least.

We’ve got a lot of catching up to do…