Geniale Dilletanten – Subkultur der 1980er-Jahre in Deutschland

This was a nice surprise. A Goethe-Institut international touring exhibition of 1980s subculture and German New Wave music is currently showing at the RMIT Gallery (344 Swanston Street, Melbourne).

The title translates as ‘Brilliant Dilletantes – Subculture in Germany in the 1980s’ and features some of my favourite German bands from that period – Der Plan, Palais Schuamburg, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, as well as others such I’ve spent less time with such as Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Tödliche Doris and Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle. Malaria and Pyrolator also get a kleine look in, but alas no Andreas Dorau. There’s a mix of photos, posters, music, videos, artworks and ephemera (it’s weird seeing albums that are sitting in your own music collection being displayed in a gallery).  It’s open until February 27 and free to visit. Here’s a bunch of photos I took:

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There’s also a smaller companion exhibition called ‘Australian Indigenous Amateurs’ that I ran out of time to look at properly but I’ll post about that when I return.

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Ladybug Ladybug (1963)

ll6Underappreciated in its time (look at this scathing review from the New York Times from 1963) and largely unknown today Ladybug Ladybug is the story of how staff and students at a country school respond to a “yellow” warning from an electronic device indicating a nuclear attack will occur within the hour. The threat of ‘duck and cover’ becomes suddenly very real. The film observes as the children are dismissed from school and focuses on the group walking home led by a worried teacher.

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I am reminded of the Twilight Zone episode ‘The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street’ (1960) where the residents of a community react to the perception of a threatening event, with fear transforming into irrational and even murderous behaviour. Ladybug Ladybug walks a parallel path as it watches how the group of children establish a ‘Lord of the Flies’ style community in the bomb shelter belonging to one of their parents and have to live by her rules.

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What most struck me about this film though is the strange and informally excellent performances of the cast – both the children and adults. The NY Times critique (“It is as though Mr. Perry, as director, had deliberately had his people play in a mood and at a pace that would suggest a sort of mental and emotional paralysis”) is somewhat correct, although what they see as a negative I see as a very positive aspect of the film. Genius in fact.

Then there’s the general mood – if I had to liken LL to other movie touch points there are elements that made me think of the rich strangeness of The Swimmer (1968), the secluded children in These Are The Damned (1963) and even the childhood nightmares of The Night of The Hunter (1955) despite it being a very different film to all of those. Ladybug Ladybug was an independent production and budgetary issues may play a part with the odd atmosphere but again this works in its favour as it creates a unique semi-documentary/semi-fantasy style.

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I found the last few minutes of the film completely devastating. I won’t go into detail suffice to say that if you have an interest in outré cinema (and if you’re reading this blog you probably do) this is one you need to see. It was recently on Youtube but seems to have vanished and there isn’t a DVD release that I know of (apart from grey market discs), so it might be a tricky one to see, but it’s worth the effort.

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Manz Whirled

I’ve been listening a lot to the music of Charles Bobuck (member of The Residents and likely creator of much of my favourite Residents music -but we’ll never know really – more about CB in a later post) when and this excellent update of their also excellent cover of This Is A Man’s World re-entered my shuffled listening orbit.

This has been released under the title of ‘Manz Whirled’ as a ‘Charles Bobuck Contraption’ (read that ‘version’) and features beautiful ethereal vocals by Residents comrade Molly Harvey. Looks like it’s been around for ages but you need to hear it – it’s dreamy and magnificent and, oh look, here’s a clip of them performing it live in all their fluoro glory.

You can also buy an mp3 of it at CB’s Bandcamp page here for $1.

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Películas de Terror Mexicano

El Barón del TerrorEl hombre y el Monstruo

I found this short documentary on YT about Mexican horror movies. It serves as a great introduction to the genre, especially to my favourite kind of Mexi-horror, the atmospheric Gothic films. If this interests you, some of the titles you might like to look out for are:

• Misterios de Ultratumba aka The Black Pit Of Dr. M (1959) review
• El Barón del Terror aka The Brainiac (1962) review
• La Maldicion de la Llorona AKA The Curse Of The Crying Woman (1963) review
• El grito de la muerte AKA The Living Coffin (1959) review
• El hombre y el Monstruo AKA The Man And The Monster review
• El Vampiro AKA The Vampire (1957) / El Ataúd del Vampiro AKA The Vampire’s Coffin (1958) review
• El Espejo de la Bruja AKA The Witch’s Mirror (1962) review

La-maldicion-de-la-llorona El Espejo de la Bruja

The ‘review’ links take you to DVD Verdict for more information about these titles. The documentary also moves into the lucha horror genre as well as some late entries such the super atrange Alucarda, but best for me is the more traditional (albiet Mexican skewed) Gothic frights.

Muñecos infernales

 

 

One film not mentioned in the documentary is Muñecos Infernales AKA The Curse of The Doll People (1961) which is a fabulously creepy film with doll people that will give you the willies. At the moment there’s a great (Spanish language) print of it on Youtube.

 

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Document 72 Hours

I love this odd melancholy TV show on NHK World. They spent 72 hours at a certain place (all night gyms, cafes, airports, tourist spots, travel agents etc…) and observe and talk to the people that go there. It’s often terribly sad and offers a secret glimpse into everyday Japanese life. This is no-frills TV and looks like it costs 25 yen to make, but the stories it finds are remarkable.

This is my favourite episode, about a 24 hour noodle vending machine in Akita.

And this is the beautiful song by Nao Matsuzaki played at the end of each episode.

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Gutevolk – Picnic

Charming Japanese indie music and a little like an advertisment for socks.

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…it’s the freakiest show…

Oh dear, I wrote this in April (April 18, to be precise) and forgot all about it. We’re currently watching the next Americn Horror Story series (Hotel) and Murphy’s Scream Queens which is one of my favourite shows of the year. However, let me transport you back a few months to when we were watching Freak Show. Let’s think of it as ‘retro’. Enjoy…

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If you watched American Horror Story Freak Show you’ll understand why I’m quoting David Bowie’s Life on Mars above. If you didn’t here’s your warning that this post will probably be littered with spoilers, or maybe not, depends what you call a spoiler and if you don’t watch it much of this won’t mean much anyway, so, whatever about that.

Now to the fun part. There’s a lot of reviewers and commenters getting themselves in a bit of a knot about this show, and I can see why. The problem seems to start when you try and place any sort of logic, narrative or otherwise, on it as it’s unlikely to live up to expectations. AHS in general is a bit of a mess, but a wonderful one at that. Full of plot holes and story arcs that go nowhere. It also seems to ignore the conventions of series TV by doing things like introducing major characters 3 episodes before the end of the series and setting up stories that go nowhere. It’s nonsense generally, but for me that’s part of the fun. As I watched the final episode of AHS Freak Show there was a scene with some of the cast watching a psycho killer drown in a Houdini Water tank whilst cheering and eating popcorn. It’s one of the many scenes I couldn’t have imagined they would do, and it made me realise it’s why I roll up each week in front of the TV and think – what have you got for me this week? You just don’t know. Eating popcorn and cheering might well be the way to watch AHS.

OK, so to the show, and I wanted to do a little list of weirdness, bouquets, brickbats and questions it left me with. As I said, this probably won’t mean much if you don’t watch it, but it might still be colourful reading.

1. Stanley – what happened to him? After his Freaks (the movie) homaged multilation it seems like the writers forgot about him.

2. Stanley again – why the plotline about him having an extremely large penis. Went nowhere, was never mentioned again.

3. Why wasn’t Salty in the Valhalla/Heaven/Whatever it was freaks reunion?

4. Can someone please give Sarah Paulson an award, she is consistently amazing in this show and never more so in her dual/single role as Dot and Bette this season. The special effects to create that illusion were also spectacular, although when Dot/Bette were filmed from behind or walking or both and there was clearly a dummy head there it tended to look a little Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

5. Other amazements – Angela Bassett for me is somehow trashy camp excellence (in other words – perfect), Neil Patrick Harris was only in 2 episodes but stole the show – and casting Jamie Brewer as his ventriloquist doll was genius (she was one of the best things about Coven, which I also loved). Frances Conroy who I almost forgot to mention because she was out of the show far too soon. Oh, and Finn Wittrock as Dandy – stupendous. More awards, give them awards.

6. Slightly less excited – Emma Roberts, felt like the same character again, I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the actor or the casting, Kathy Bates Baltimorian accent was distracting (I recognised it thanks to John Travolta in Hairspray of all people), Evan Peters got to do a lot more this time and was good but I’d like to see him cast in a really different type of role – he could have been Edward Mortlake maybe, the angry young man thing is starting to get a bit tired. And Jessica Lange who is great (even with the slightly silly accent Liebchen), but again I feel there’s a lack of challenge for her in these roles which have been more of less variations on the same character.

7. The songs. This is where AHS meets Glee, but both of the Bowie songs were perfect, I loved that they were completely decade inappropriate, ra-ra, all the better. That’s So AHS. The other songs though were less exciting and it would have been better without them.

8. The title sequence is a nightmare come true. That clown with the 360 head turn and red eyes is going to haunt me at some stage.

9. Plot holes? Inconsistencies? We got ’em. But I don’t care. Again, it’s part of the thrill ride suspension of disbelief this show is all about. I don’t care that Jimmy, a wanted fugitive with fake lobster hands, somehow eludes capture and lives inconspicuosly with his two-headed pregnant wife in the suburbs. Or that Stanley just happened to have the required ipecac syrup on him at the jailhouse and Jimmy thought that was A OK buddy.

9. Oh the mysterious top hat thing, very obviously inserted on coffee cups etc. shouting IT’S A CLUE. AHS isn’t good at being subtle – like the Freaks homage episode where they make sure you get told everything about that movie, and Desiree making a parallel the pickled-in-jars freaks before drowning Dandy in the water chamber. It’s OK, we got it. Also, I’m not convinced that the inter-season relationships were designed from the start, I think that’s something that has been added as the series have been written.

10. Pepper. I left actress Naomi Grossman out of point 5 only because I felt she deserved her very own dot point. In a role where she barely spoke Naomi Grossman was nothing short of spectacular in ‘Orphans’, the episode that revealed Pepper’s back story and the link to AHS Asylum. This episode will destroy you, it’s TV on a whole new scale. Truly, beautifully devastating.

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