Sunday, April 17, 2011

Echo and Chime

to Me


"An old-fashioned style pop album, albeit one with a perverse haunted feel."
-- press note description

I've given Crystal Stilts and Pains of Being Pure at Heart a try,
but I can't quite get with their program, though I can under-
stand the attraction. I love echo and chime, so you figure I'd
be all over those NYC outfits, but taste is a mercurial thing.

After one listen to Belfast's Girls Names, which shares a label
with the latter, I encountered the same exact ingredients, and
yet they appeal to me in a way their better known peers don't.

Click here for the "Bury Me" video.

While listening to Dead to Me, I've tried to pinpoint the differ-
ence, but I don't think it has anything to do with superior music-
ianship. If anything, the drumming seems a bit sluggish. It's part-
ly that they remind me of understated, dark-tinged UK guitar
groups like Felt. Their bio also cites the Walker Brothers, Oran-
ge Juice, Black Tambourine, and the Sound of Young Scotland.

It isn't goth or Joy Division-style post-punk, but there's a melan-
choly air to this material, starting with vocals mixed so low they
melt into the music, much like another instrument, rather than
the focal point of the enterprise. They're just loud enough that you
can hear some, but not all of the lyrics. The advantage to this ap-
proach is that one listen doesn't reveal everything. You have to
pay closer attention...assuming you're sufficiently intrigued.

Click here for "Séance on a Wet Afternoon."

The closing track, "Séance on a Wet Afternoon," marks the first
Girls Names
song I ever heard. I don't know whether they took
the title from the book or the movie, but it's a great choice either
way, and aptly encapsulates the rainy-day mood of their debut.

Endnote: For more information, please click here. First im-
age from Your Music Today, second: Béla Tarr's Sátántangó.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Movie of
the Month:
Part 27

I recently
the follow-
ing DVD for
Video Lib-
, and thought the results were worth sharing.

THE GIRL [***1/2]
(Fredrik Edfeldt, Sweden, 2009, 95 mins.)

An unnamed Swedish nine-year-old (the remarkable Blanca Engström) gets left behind for the summer when her aid-worker parents travel to Africa in 1981. They want to bring her with them, but the agency deems her too young, so they entrust the girl to her aunt, Anna (Tova Magnusson-Norling), a single woman who doesn't appear to have much experience with children.

For the next few days, the slight redhead attends a swimming school, while Anna drinks, smokes, plays records, and throws raucous parties. The girl and her friend Ola (Vidar Fors), a shy farmer's son, find Anna's antics amusing, but then she goes off on an extended holiday with an old boyfriend, leaving the kid to fend for herself--a development our heroine actually sets into motion.

The girl lies to Ola and to her hard-drinking neighbor, Gunnar
(Leif Andrée), about Anna’s whereabouts, giving her license to
do whatever she wants, like pursuing a fleeting friendship with
Gunnar's boy-crazy teenage daughter, Tina (Emma Wigfelt),
and her more sophisticated friend, Gisela (Michelle Vistam),
who like to pretend they're the female members of ABBA.

The girl, who spends more time watching than speaking, doesn't
know how to cook, but she attempts to keep the house clean (and
to raise a tadpole). Mostly, she observes the teens and the adults
around her behaving more badly than the kids. The story is ab-
sorbing enough as it tracks her movements, but then something
happens, which isn't her fault, though she's present at the time.

Afterward, she isolates even more, almost as if she were go-
ing through a sort of premature mid-life crisis. Even so, Fred-
rik Edfeldt's film is hardly depressing, even if tragedy lurks a-
round every corner. Shot with care by Hoyte Van Hoytema
(Let the Right One In), it offers the same suspenseful ap-
peal as Hirokazu Kore-Eda's No One Knows, which also
featured children left on their own. Recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part
26: Fish Tank - The Criterion Collection

Endnote: Slightly revised from the origin-
al text. Film still from Time Out New York.

Friday, April 01, 2011

April Reviews 

These are the reviews and other pieces I'm working on this month. 

Amazon DVDs: Friday Night Lights - Season Five [3-disc set], Michael Winterbottom's A Summer in Genoa (with Colin Firth and Catherine Keener), and Identity (with Aidan Gillen) [2-disc set].  

 Amazon Theatricals: Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff (with Michelle Williams and Bruce Greenwood), Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Julian Schnabel's Miral (with Hiam Abbas), Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and Water for Elephants (with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson). 

Armchair Commentary: Sidney Lumet obituary

SIFF: Four more notes for the program guide.

Seattle Film Blog: Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains and Some Days Are Better Than Others (with Sleater-Kinney/Wild Flag's Carrie Brownstein and Shins/Broken Bells front man James Mercer). 

Video Librarian: Steve Reich - Phase to Face, Carancho, Clannad - The Motion Picture, Anton Chekhov's The Duel, Let's Talk About Sex, The Owls, Great Directors, I'm Just Anneke / The Family Journey, 9000 Needles, Nature - Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story, Hid-
den Battles
, This Land Is Our Land - The Fight to Reclaim the Commons, The Heretics, Loving Lampposts, Miss HIV, Moth
er Nature's Child - Growing Outdoors in the Media Age

Endnote: Image from The Film Stage.