Archive | June 2014

Paris, Texas (1984)


Paris, Texas, Wim Wenders. Anyone who tells you this movie has no plot isn’t familiar with the precepts of Aristotelian drama and should be shunned. A modern exploration of the concept of ‘katastrophe’ [with a ‘k,’ punk], with a script cowritten by the exalted Sam Shepard, is filmed in a flat, subdued key by Robby Muller that creates a visual expansiveness at odds with the explosion of the characters’ lives. It’s as if all that space is what condemned them in the first place, the tyranny of a will that appears free yet only leads to further consequence and complexity. The touching moment of inevitable recognition [‘anagnorisis,’ ya mook] is filmed in a strip joint with a one-way mirror forcing the actors to use monologue to actualize the identification. The unexpected reversal [‘peripeteia,’ pay attention!] is all the more painful for the visual power structure between the characters that the mirror creates. The irreconcilable opposition between them, echoed in the film’s title, is rendered bittersweet by the reuniting of mother and child. It’s a catastrophe with a happy ending! Ry Cooder’s soundtrack is worth the price of admission. Pop culture bonus: John Lurie appears briefly as a pimp.


Tuyet Hoa, Viet Guitar Wonder Girl

Awhile back this Vietnamese girl calmly playing gnarly guitar while wearing traditional dress made a small splash online. Her name is Tuyet Hoa and the videos are uploaded by Saulong Tayninh, who, if I can piece this together, runs a music school. Maybe not. I can’t speak Vietnamese and his ‘About’ section is blank. Either way, the videos are meant as instructional tutorials on Vietnamese music theory and technique, but result is something much more.

They’ve tuned Hoa’s electric guitar to a Vietnamese scale and she plays non-Western cord progressions in an attack that is reminiscent of classic jazz guitar and the result is pretty mind blowing, something like a cross between Marc Ribot and Sir Richard Bishop. It’s the sort of music you used to hear Gary Lucas perform at the Knitting Factory

The Saulong Tayninh youtube page has over 845 subscribers and 1,112,208 views, so someone is tuning in and most of them probably don’t speak Vietnamese. Check it out here:

All the videos are pretty amazing, but the sound quality tends to be quite poor. In some, Saulong gives an introduction in Vietnamese. All of them were shot with the mic on the camcorder, which creates lots of buzz and inconsistencies in volume; and in some videos there’s a floor fan blowing directly on the mic; sometimes a dog barks. It only adds to the charm.






Midnight Grindhouse ‘treated soundtracks’ from DrG Supreme

My fun/learning with ProTools continues, now with ‘treated soundtracks.’ Links and explanation below.


Midnight Grindhouse is an occasional sound project by DrG Supreme. ‘Treated soundtracks’ are created entirely from original soundtracks of B-movie noir and exploitation flicks. All sounds, including static, surface pops, tape noise, and electronic glitches, are treated as part of the original soundtrack for manipulation. No sample banks are used.”

I should also point out that the titles of the treated soundtracks are NOT the titles of the original films. The title cards are designed by yours truly.


Youtube links:


On soundcloud:

My latest ‘Opium Traces’ feature article

“Invisible Factory Billionaire: The Minting of a New Post-Colonial Literary Darling”

by yours truly, on

The Passenger (1975)

The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni. The plot is boilerplate thriller: switched identity in Africa leads to chase across Europe in search of big secret, with reporters, arms dealers, and a vulnerable ingenue all thrown in the mix. Sounds like a Liam Neeson vehicle. BUT WAIT. In Antonioni’s hands, the thrills become lugubrious, the chase slows down to a crawl, the gloomy main character, played by a perennially stoned Jack Nicholson, constantly doubts his own motives and purpose. The outcome is a chase picture turned inside out, an existential journey into self-reflection. Call it the Antonioni effect (not for everyone: Orson Welles found him boring; John Fahey got into a fistfight with the guy). The legendary penultimate shot of Passenger forever changed the way movies are made, altering the subject/object grammar on which all previous film narrative relied (and anticipating the sort of free-form camera movement that Terrence Malik would take as his own). Pop culture bonus: the ingenue is played by Maria Schneider, the actress from Last Tango in Paris. She’s obviously bombed out her skull in this flick, too.


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