Archive for June, 2009

wernerIt has been quite the pleasure devouring Werner Herzog’s filmography in high-definition. Unlike most other DVD box sets, never once did this collection seem even a trifle overwhelming in content. Whilst it would have made me a happier person if the TV specials – Herdsmen Of The Sun, The Transformation Of The World Into Music and a few others – had been included, I still can’t honesty complain considering that some of these films have made me feel incorrigibly wonderful for ever having stumbled upon this melancholic German fellow. Over the past weeks, the elation has reached such dizzying heights that I am almost at a slight loss for words. The reviews are shorter than usual to accommodate such delightful handicaps.

Letzte Worte (Last Words): Shot in 1968, this one’s an experimental short film about a strange man brought back to civilization from an isolated leper colony. Letzte Worte showed traces of the narrative style of filmmaking that Herzog later proved to be a master of. The humour is omnipresent and goes well with redundancies in dialogue a.k.a Iranian belch cinema.

LebenszeichenLebenszeichen (Signs Of Life): Later that year, Herzog released his debut full-length film about a German paratrooper going insane while patrolling the Greek island of Kos during WW II. For movie geeks out there, legend has it that this supposedly inspired Stephen King to pen The Shining, which of course gave the world the gift that was Jack Nicholson’s psychotic side. In Lebenszeichen, actor Peter Brogle holds it back so much during the initial moments that during when he eventually goes cuckoo, the audience is left breathless; not at the brutality of his actions, but rather at the extent of his change. Oh it is based on a short story called Der Tolle Invalide Auf Dem Fort Ratonneau by German writer Achim von Arnim.

Even Dwafs Started SmallAuch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen (Even Dwarves Started Small): His sophomore film was about a group of dwarfs rebelling against the guards and the director himself on the remote Canary Islands. It doesn’t take long for one to realize that David Lynch could probably be America’s answer to Werner Herzog in about ten years (with more maturity and less misogyny). Of course, by then, Herzog would be Germany’s answer to God. Engineered food fights, a pig killing, floral pyromania, a monkey crucifiction and a bunch of other epically surreal scenes had me asking myself, Then how come great directors don’t start small?

Fata Morgana: Herzog once described the 1971 film as “a documentary shot by extraterrestrials from the Andromeda Nebula, and left behind.” Who else thinks he should review films? He’d so sound like Ebert on downers. Based on the Mayan creation myth of Creation, Paradise and The Golden Age, Fata Morgana was shot on the southern Sahara region of Africa. Needles to say, the cinematography is breathtaking, as is the soundtrack comprising mostly Leonard Cohen’s ballads, Blind Faith and classical interludes. It should be said that Herzog has tried his best to keep Fata Morgana out of the sci fi category and despite the fact that it’s about aliens landing in the Sahara desert, he has succeeded. I’d sooner categorize this into ‘pleasant nightmares’.

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguire, Wrath Of God): Not since words failed me a few hours after watching Clockwork Orange (they still do), have I felt this ill-equipped to review a film. I could try and probably pull off something vaguely funny and philosophical, but I’d be doing everyone injustice. I’ll lead you to the mind of Roger Ebert for a great review of my favourite Herzog film of all time.

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver SteinerDie Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner): Werner Herzog’s lifelong fascination with ski-jumpers comes alive in this 1974 short film that is based on the story of Swiss ski-jumping champion and erstwhile woodcarver Walter Steiner. Apart from filming the breathtaking ski-jump scenes that seem like the illegitimate children of Video Zonkers and Jacques Cousteau, Herzog also gives you glimpses of Steiner’s painful shyness, which moves you just as much. Popol Vuh’s haunting music only adds to the intensity.

The Enigma of Kaspar HauserJeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle (The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser): Based on the legend of Kaspar Hauser – “a mysterious foundling in 19th century Germany famous for his claim to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell” – this 1974 film won Herzog a nice grand jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. On a personal note, I’d like to say that this is my second-favourite film of the collection. With the Kaspar myth already drenched in mystery, Herzog adds to the mystique by casting German actor Bruno Schleinstein as the lead.

For those who don’t already know, Bruno had a fucked up life that made Drew Barrymore’s look like a Walt Disney animated feature with talking animals. Born “as the illegitimate son of a prostitute, he was often beaten as a child, and spent much of his youth in mental institutions.” Fantastically, much like Kaspar Hauser himself, Bruno too had a great ear for music. People say that he was quite proficient in the piano, accordion and glockenspiel. Come to think of it, this is the only Herzog film, in which the actor upstages him as a performer.

Mit Mir Will Keiner Spielen (No One Will Play With Me): It was only a matter of time before the director had something to say about innocence lost. This obscure (hahahaha) 1976 short film is apparently based on the stories, which he had once heard from the children themselves. It’s depressing, yes it is. Sort of like Children of Heaven, but without the miracles. Life, as Werner Herzog might tell you, is already a frightening miracle. Why want more?

heart_of_glass12Herz aus Glas (Heart Of Glass): I wish I had some sort of technical acumen when it comes to interpreting cinematography. Maybe then I could tell you in length just how friggin beautiful this film looks and feels. For now, deal with fanboy amateurism. Heart Of Glass is set in an 18th century Bavarian town known for a factory that produces red ruby glasses. When a veteran glass blower dies, so does the legend of the blood-soaked glasses. What it results in is not very pretty to think of but leave it to the director to squeeze every ounce of beauty from it. Why cinematographers don’t give free foot massages to Herzog, I’ll never know.

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Legendary Japanse wrestler Mitsuharu Misawa passes away

Enthusiasts never debate on the seriousness of pro-wrestling as a legitimate display of athleticism. There’s just too much fun to be had for us to bother about such frivilities. Of course, there is a lot of legitimacy in death and it is with an overbearing sense of attachment that I mourn the passing of a personal hero of mine…Mitsuharu Misawa

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Legend has it that Jim Morrison’s performance in 1967 at the University of Michigan made one hell of an impression on a young-ish Iggy Pop. Fittingly, he looked more like a Lizard King than Morrison at his most malnourished ever did. While he reinvented punk rock with The Stooges, I am of the opinion that Iggy never sounded better than he did on his solo albums. Ever his debut The Idiot in 1977, Iggy Pop has consistently released solo albums that have defied the artistic consciousness of their respective generations.

Iggy-PopFor instance, as the rock fraternity celebrated the Glam and Synth wave during the early Eighties, he dropped a bucketload of mid-tempo garage noise anthems through Party, Zombie Birdhouse and Blah Blah Blah – three albums that quietly refused to conform to the tune that everyone else were dancing to. During the early to mid Nineties when everyone and their mothers were listening to radio-friendly alternative rock and squeaky-clean polished grunge, the Godfather of Punk released the frenzied and crude throwback to Seventies – American Caesar and subsequently, Naughty Little Doggie.

I am not entirely sure what genre of music the current generation is salivating over, but I sure as hell know that it has nothing to do with jazz or bossanova. Needles to say, Iggy Pop’s 15th solo album – Préliminaires – is a collection of just that. Inspired by the French novel The Possibility Of An Island (Michel Houellebecq), Préliminaires, I hear, has Iggy in a jazz-like trance with a sea of delicate Dixieland-flavoured rhythm sections for him to drown himself into. Also included is a fantastic cover (hearsay) of the 1940s French classic Les Feuilles Mortes.

IggyKing Of The Dogs” is fucking splendid. One of his finest tracks, I think. It starts off with a swinging-as-Tarzan-on-crack cabaret beat that leads to Iggy telling us, “I’ve got a smelly rear, I’ve got a dirty nose, I don’t want no shoes, and I don’t want no clothes…I’m living like a king of the dogs”. I swear, if Frank Sinatra was cryogenically frozen and then unleashed at a Tom Waits concert, he’d sound just like this.

So that’s Iggy Pop for you. The deranged disco remix of what one would expect of an elder statesman of popular culture. The antithesis of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Conformist. The shaman of artistic hedonism. A crazy, lean, old man who won’t stop till the audience can conceptualize just how crazy he really is.


Iggy Pop – King Of The Dogs

Iggy Pop – I Wanna Be Your Dog (Live)


Iggy Pop – Préliminaires

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As I was driving to work a few hours ago, I heard this song called Metropes by London-based indie hipsters Orphans and Vandals, which sort of blew me away. It’s been quite a while since indie music has drawn me with such allure. Imagine ‘American Pie’ explosively rewritten by Liam Gallagher and sung by a younger, fitter Lou Reed piss drunk on malt whiskey. If you prefer not to, then you should know that Metropes is a fantastic piece of rock n’ roll storytelling.

orphans-and-vandalsYes, there is a resemblance to some of the more rollicking stuff that Velvet Underground recorded, but the folksy indie vibe really works in the track’s favour. Al Joshua’s vocals perfectly capture the mood of the story’s progression while the rest of the band – Gabi Woo (drums), Franchesca (strings), and Quinta (strings) – create a wall of fuzzy noise that you’d want to hear during the first hour of a long road trip.

Great, great music. In fact, so good that I feel bad putting up a free mp3 for download. So I tell you what…

Read about them

Here, here, here and hereThe Lost Revue

Listen to them online

Here and there


Orphans and Vandals – Metropes


Tickets to their shows

Most importantly,

Spread the word about them

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News: Alice In Chains sign new deal with Iron Maiden’s label

My Reaction:


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I like it when friends make music. Especially when they are insane. Jay (vocalist) is one heck of a reason to lock up your pet cats. He smells fear on them and makes music when he feels it too. Arun (guitarist) pretends to be an engineering student from Sri Venkateswara College during the day. He plucks wings off butterflies and laughs at the sky during Wednesdays.

Together they haven’t yet come up with a band name. I’d suggest The Plastic Fantastic Congregation Of Zombies, but who the hell listens to me.

Well, you should listen to them.So here’s a rough demo of one of their prospective singles. I have heard it a couple of times and there’s a sweeeeet Days Of The New rhythm section in the demo that you should check out.

Good stuff.

The link will be available only for three days since it’s a work in progress.

Download it and win a free trip to Singapore support your local musicians. Record companies won’t love them unless we do.


Jay and Arun – Rorschach (Deleted)

110 downloads in two days. Thank you, come again!

Together they haven’t yet come up with a band name. I’d suggest The Plastic Fantastic Congregation Of Zombies, but who the hell listens to me.

Well, you should listen to them.

This is a rough demo of one of their prospective singles.

The link will be available only for seven days since it’s a work in progress. Download it and win a free trip to Singapore support your local musicians.

Record companies won’t love them unless we do.


Jay and Arun – Rorschach

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Albinator, a marketing colleague of mine, has stumbled upon an Excel file that does not make you want to grievously injure the person sitting next to you.

It lists out all phone numbers through which you can avail of citizen services (and a few luxurious necessities, as well) in Chennai.

Pretty fly for an Excel file, I’d say.

Download Chennai’s Encylcopedia

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