Thursday, December 13, 2018

This Is Blog Post No.1000

I started this blog over 12 years ago now, about a month after my daughter was born (there must be a link between the two but I've no idea what it is). A colleague called Ken thought of the name Barnflakes, and it's kind of stuck. But it's never made me rich, successful or popular (obviously; I must do it for the love of writing and it's my own little corner of the internet). Most weeks I think of deleting everything Barnflakes on the web, but probably never would. I like to think one day my daughter might like to read my exploits and dodgy opinions. Even at the height of blog popularity (say a decade ago) Barnflakes was never that popular (I know, hard to believe), let alone now that social media has virtually killed the blog – no one reads anything longer than a sentence any more. Once in a while I'll get a very flattering email from a stranger saying how much they love the blog; I reply thanks, leave a comment! But they don't. Friends, family and colleagues who have been reading over the years, and leaving the occasional comment, many thanks to you all.

Anyway, to those who are new to Barnflakes (or those who aren't but want to re-read some classics), and daunted by 1,000 posts about such far-ranging subjects as film and fruit, here are 25 of the best (a tough yet mainly random choice – they're mostly all great), selected by either most comments, most hits (Skinny dipping in the movies and Top 10 most valuable CDs have consistently been popular over the years; no idea why), most controversial or personal favourites, in date order: 

Battle of the Brutalists (January 2018)
Generation X (June 2017)
White clouds, dark skins (September 2016)
Top five office moments (August 2016)
"Women don't understand film" (April 2016)
Eye catching (April 2016)
Public transport courtesy cards (July 2015)
Top 10 most valuable CDs (May 2014)
Singles vs couples (October 2013)
Weekend barngains (April 2012)
Warminster Folk (November 2011)
Edward Burra: 20th century man (November 2011) 
The books of Lambert M. Surhone (October 2011)
Skinny dipping in the movies (May 2011)
The chewing gum artist vs the ad men (April 2011)
Homeless Movies DVD out now! (February 2011)
Back to work session (January 2011)
Surreal Silk Cut cigarette ads (Dcember 2010)
Jean Vigo and L'Atalante (May 2010)  
Random film review: The War Zone (April 2010)
Linkedout.com (April 2010)
Aspire to be average (November 2009)
How to have taste (January 2009)
Water as it Oughta (October 2008)  
The New Shape (June 2008) 

Here's looking forward to the next 1000!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Barnflakes' top 20 of the year

Low—Double Negative album cover

Barnflakes celebrates the people, moments, music and movies that defined 2018.

1. Moving to Cornwall [Event]
2. Looking for fossils at Lyme Regis with daughter [Event]
3. Being a juror for five weeks at the Old Bailey [Event]
4. Beauty and the Brutalist exhibition [Event]
5. Going Slovenia [Country]
6. Bob Dylan – More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 [Album] 
7. Low – Double Negative [Album] 
8. Stopping smoking [Major Event. My New Year's Resolution is to start again. Joking!]
9. Sitting outside a pub with DJ Nind on the Portobello Road on a glorious weekday afternoon, having bought some records (and fearing they'd melt, it was so hot), watching the people go by and talking trash [Event]
10. Long Cornish walks [Event]
11. Gazelle Twin – Pastoral [Album] 
12. The Shape of Water [Film]
13. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In [Album]
14. Mandy [Film]
15. It's a Shame About Ray [Book design]
16. 'Meeting' Ross Poldark [Event]
17. Charity shop bargains [Barngains]
18. Leonard Cohen – The Flame [Book]
19. The Other Side of the Wind [Film]
20. Cleaning my records [Event]

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Enigma of Casper the Cat

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser is a 1974 film directed by Werner Herzog, based on the true story of the eponymous Kaspar, who claimed to have lived in total isolation, chained in a dark cellar for the first seventeen years of his life. Many historians now believe Hauser to have been a fraudster.

"Casper lives in a world without promise
Sitting at home in his pyjamas
Just wishing it would all go away somehow

He walked by but he never saw us
He could have been a famous guitarist
He must have not have had a clue"

– Daniel Johnston, Casper the Friendly Ghost

Casper is a big cat, and we'd both have to brace ourselves for his landings. In the mornings he'd jump up on our bed, meow, and settle himself on one of our chests, inches away from our noses, his whiskers tickling our cheeks. We'd feel his cold breath on our faces as he purred contentedly and dug his claws into the duvet. If we were spooning in bed, he would lie diplomatically across both of us, half and half.

It occurred to me a while ago that whilst my former pet cat, Casper, occupied the same space as me, lived with me within the same four walls, to all extents was a member of my family (or so I liked to think; we didn't have any children), he had a completely different experience of life to me. Yes, sure, he's a cat, but I could also be talking about my wife, Annie, who also left me.

I used to say to her that Casper's one of the world’s great thinkers, with a Buddhist-like propensity for sitting still and staring into space, thinking great thoughts. When he stared into nothing with his big black eyes, I always thought he was seeing things us humans couldn't see. Annie wasn't so sure. She thought when he stared into space he was staring at sounds, looking in the direction where he could hear things that we couldn't. Either way, he experienced things us humans didn't.

It was when I'd left for work one morning Casper told Annie I'd been having an affair. She told me later she screamed so loud but wasn't sure what was most upsetting – me having the affair or Casper speaking, in English, and sounding a bit like Kenneth Williams. It was the first time in recorded history a cat had ever spoken a human language. Casper was exaggerating somewhat when he said I'd had an affair. I'd spent time with a female neighbour, it's true, but less than half a dozen times, in the evening, when Annie was out at yoga. It meant nothing. I was stupid, but it was a blip. But for Casper to tell Annie was a gross betrayal. I thought we'd had a bond.

I knew something was amiss that day because Annie hadn't answered any of my texts, and when I got home sure enough, she was gone, and so was the cat. I knew they weren't coming back (there was a note which emphatically said so). Well, not until I was gone, which happened very early the next morning with a loud knock on the door from the police.

At first I thought they had the wrong address. I opened the door to two policemen in uniform and a detective. Then I thought it was a joke – I racked my mind for what I'd done wrong (all I could think of was the fling with the neighbour). The detective told me I was under arrest for domestic abuse, kidnapping and torture. Eh? I'd never laid a finger on Annie. I protested, they said the usual 'anything you say will be taken down and could be used in court later', though it was the first time I'd actually heard it spoken outside of films and TV. They forcibly escorted me to the police station.

This was all surely some mistake; some Kafkaesque administration error. Nevertheless, I tried to be as co-operative as I could. My photo was taken and fingerprints digitally scanned. I was read my rights. I was asked if I'd taken drugs, or drunk alcohol or was liable to self-harm. I said no. An officer asked me if I wanted a solicitor. I didn't see any need. They put me in a cell for two hours.

When they let me out I was taken to the interview room. It was here I was read the full charges against me. It was here that I think I fainted. I was being accused by Casper – my cat – of these so-called crimes. I looked at the officers. They were serious. They advised me to accept legal counsel and a solicitor was appointed to me.

I loved Casper like a member of my family, probably more so than most humans. The list of offences against me went on for several pages, and they were all read out to me. Most I thought were pretty trivial to say the least, but apparently this was no laughing matter. Torture, kidnapping and false imprisonment was the general gist of it.

More specifically: the plaintiff was taken away from his parents and siblings at a young age which caused him considerable psychological and emotional trauma. The plaintiff had his genitals removed against his will. The plaintiff was forced to eat the same boring, horrible cat food every day, food not even good enough for dogs (this one really got me – Annie used to joke that he had tapas for dinner every night – a selection of cat food, chicken, fish and biscuits). The plaintiff's litter tray was not always changed regularly. The plaintiff was frequently locked inside the house alone, and on three occasions, for an entire weekend. The plaintiff was, on occasion, kicked (I would have called it a gentle nudge). The plaintiff was placed in a box and escorted to vets against his will, and had treatments and operations he was unaware of (which cost me hundreds of pounds).

I was under arrest. I made a statement and pleaded not guilty. My solicitor advised me not to say anything else so I didn't. The police had a warrant to search my house. A court day was set.

Within hours it was all over social media. The #MeowNow movement was launched. It seemed inevitable that cats would take to Twitter like a duck to water; after all, they love birds – to catch, to play with, to torture, and sometimes even to eat. They tweeted till the cows came home. Then the floodgates really opened. Other pets followed suit. Animal rights marches and protests took place in major cities. There were pussy riots in the streets. Within months, a law was invoked decrying pet ownership illegal, and having a pet was suddenly likened to slavery. All pets were declared sentient beings. Pet shops were shut down. Making fun of cats on the internet was banned.

What can I say? I was the fall guy, the patsy. I wasn't released on bail; I had to stay in the cell, for my own safety as well as for the protection of all cats. Nevertheless, I thought I had a good case for the trial. I'd had great times with Casper. The truth would shine through. It wasn’t until I was in the courtroom and noticed that the jury consisted of six cats, three dogs, two humans and a hamster that I started to get really uneasy. Only then did my solicitor inform me that the prosecution was a prominent pet rights lawyer.

The trail was all a blur, to tell the truth, and I did tell the truth, mostly. Witnesses came and went, evidence was presented – cat litter tray, cat food sachets, photos, my text messages and phone records, CCTV footage, you name it. Vets, scientists and psychologists gave evidence. All the time Casper sat there, Sphinx-like and poker-faced, either on the witness stand or watching from the public gallery. The jury was putty in his paws. He seemed to hypnotise them with his big eyes like black moons, his Kenneth Williams purr-like voice.

My solicitor was next to useless. He knew the result of the case before it started, and merely went through the motions. The prosecution, on the other hand, was like an actor on a stage. He was in his element.

His summing up speech, to be fair, encapsulated man's sometimes uneasy relationship with pets. He started on a light note. There's an urban myth that 15% of all internet traffic is cat-related, he intoned, almost in a purr of a voice. Everyone loves cats, he went on, and pets in general. Indeed, in a recent survey some 90% of British households considered their pets to be members of the family. In fact, 42% of British pet owners love their pet more than their partner (light mirth from the jurors). We are spending more money on our pets than ever before. So what's the problem then? He asked the jury rhetorically.

The problem is, he continued, the more we think of our pets as being part of the family, the more we think of them as being human, the more difficult it to justify keeping them as pets. More and more research shows us that pets, from cats to goldfish, have far more emotional feelings than we previously thought. They are independent, free-thinking, emotional beings that we are treating like prisoners. We are deciding where they go, what they eat. We are deciding if they have genitals or not, for God's sake! It is not our choice to make! With cats, we call it neutering and spaying. In human terms, it would be called castration and female genital mutilation.

Then the lawyer zeroed in on me one last time – me, the abuser and torturer – and it was all over. The jury took two hours to reach a guilty verdict. The judge gave me three years. Casper blinked at me and licked his lips. The public gallery erupted in applause. The press went mad. Casper was a celebrity.

When I got out of prison, 25 months later for good behaviour, my life was in shreds. I rented a room in a house away from London, and kept mostly to myself. I changed my name. I'd received enough death threats. But I missed the company of a woman and a cat. The amount of times I said to Annie I wished Casper could speak and tell us what he's thinking and feeling, but in truth, well, in hindsight, I preferred it when cats couldn't talk.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Protest music is dead! Long live protest music!

“Fossil fueling, masturbation, immigration, liberal kitsch, kneeling on a pitch”
– All the big ones addressed in The 1975’s Love It If We Made It

In this age of Brexit, climate change, huge disparities between rich and poor, diminishing wildlife populations and a thousand other near-apocalyptic predictions for the future happening in front of our eyes, we were wondering where the fuck was all the modern protest music in the U.K.

Well, for starters it’s not played on Pirate FM (the default Cornish radio station). Besides, apparently people over the age of 35 don’t listen to new music. But it’s out there, it’s angry, it’s loud, and most importantly, it’s good to dance to.

Pastoral by Gazelle Twin and Merrieland by Damon Albarn's supergroup The Good, The Bad and The Queen both tackle Brexit head on. Albarn has been examining what it means to be British since the days of Park Life. There's an argument that's been circulating the internet for some time that Britpop helped fuel nationalism, so perhaps this is Albarn trying to make amends, exploring Britain's loss of identity in a variety of musical styles.

Pastoral is scary stuff, featuring an Adidas-clad, demonic pied piper (see the Banksy-esque cover, above, mocking classical music publisher Deutsche Grammophon) touring modern England, from the phone-hacking scandal to false nostalgia. From the outset, the music is a frightening mash-up of ancient, traditional, folk sounds and chants combined with frenzied, electronic beats to create an England divided and adrift. Gazelle Twin is the moniker of Elizabeth Bernholz, a Brighton musician. It comes as no surprise that she conceived of the project whilst watching Fever Ray live.

There's also some chanting on Suede's latest album, The Blue Hour, which gives us a slice of British Gothic horror, reflecting Brett Anderson's recent move to Somerset. Whilst not overtly political, the album's dark themes of a missing child, dead animals and rubbish dumps conjure up an anti-pastoral, modern bucolic realism not often glimpsed in contemporary rock.

It's pretty much a political act in itself to have an album recorded entirely in the Cornish language; more confusing if the singer is actually Welsh. Anyway, this is what Gwenno has done on her album, Le Kov, sounding like a Welsh-Cornish lass singing Gainsbourg-era Jane Birkin via Air and St Etienne.

Whilst the Idles’ shout-singing-post-punk-anthems on their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, “don’t care about the next James Bond", they are "...wondering where the high street’s gone” in an impassioned and timely album.

Though modern dating isn’t my biggest worry for the planet, MGMT also tackle the current political climate and technology addiction on their fourth album, Little Dark Age.

Nenah Cherry, whose last two albums are as good as anything she's ever done (2012's The Cherry Thing and The Blank Project from 2014), released Broken Politics in October, her second album produced by Elliott School alumni Kieran Hebden a.k.a. Four Tet. Immigration and gun control are two issues she sings about as well as more personal issues.

If protest music used to mean folk music, à la Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan or, in the UK, Billy Bragg, with acoustic guitar wailings about times a changing, nowadays a rap, dance or indy song will reach more people and hopefully have more impact. Here's to Anarchy in the U.K.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

My daughter's top ten books, aged 12½

1. The Darkest Minds—Alexandra Bracken
2. Inkheart—Cornelia Funke
3. In the Afterlight—Alexandra Bracken
4. The Hunger Games—Suzanne Collins
5. Catching Fire—Suzanne Collins
6. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard—Rick Riordan
7. Never Fade—Alexandra Bracken
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—J. K. Rowling
9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children—Ransom Riggs
10. Listen to the Moon—Michael Morpurgo

What about all the classics? I asked. Alice in Wonderland, Charlotte’s Web, Great Expectations, Franny and Zooey, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Bible? Nope, she said.

Previously on Barnflakes:
My daughter's top ten films, aged 12 
Notes on Harry Potter

Flickagram #6

Top 10 Cornish towns for charity shops

When I was moving down to Cornwall, people would say to me oh everything’s so much cheaper down there. I’d look at them and say, oh is it? Is Tesco cheaper? Is public transport cheaper? They’d double back a bit and say, well, you know, property is. Ah. Of course. Aside – and I know it’s a big aside – from property, everything is actually more expensive than London (and wages are far lower), from the dentist and doctor to public transport and restaurants. I’ve never believed the myth that the country is cheaper, having lived in it before. You need a car to get anywhere. Restaurants, being few and far between, are over-priced and terrible. There’s no NHS dentists. There’s no subsidies for public transport so it costs £8 to get two miles down the road on the bus.

Worst of all, as everyone’s poor and there’s no jobs, the charity shops are like rubbish dumps. You may have noticed a distinct lack of barngains in the last six months. There are none (though to be fair H still seems to pick up some great clothes for a song).

1. Penznace
2. Falmouth
3. Truro
4. Newquay
5. St Austell

6. Bodmin
7. St Ives
8. Redruth

9. Camborne
10. Helston

Monday, December 03, 2018

Roeg's Gallery



On 30 July 2007, two giants of European cinema, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, died on the same day. Around last weekend, two more great European film directors (I’d never brand Roeg an English filmmaker, that sounds so… provincial) passed away. Nicholas Roeg died on Friday 23 and Bernardo Bertolucci on Monday 26 November.

Both directed a run of extraordinary films in the 1970s (what was it with the seventies when every director from Altman to Scorsese and Ashby to Weir directed a string of great films, then lost the plot?). Bertolucci made The Conformist, The Spider's Stratagem, Last Tango in Paris and 1900. Roeg directed Performance, Walkabout, Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Both directors were true originals and irreplaceable. (I've written previously about Roeg, see link below.)

Roeg Gallery from top to bottom: Performance (1970), Walkabout (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Bad Timing (1980) and The Witches (1990).

Previously on Barnflakes: 
Top 10 British Film Directors
Skinny dipping in the movies

Elsewhere on the web:
17 rare times when a director made five or more great films in a row

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Rachael's Cornwall to Antarctica journey

In participation with Homeward Bound, Cornish friend and environmentalist Rachael Bice is soon embarking on a journey from Cornwall to Antarctica to raise awareness about the lack of women working in STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).

I designed a series of four illustrations (the one above was unused, but probably my favourite) for Rachael, which she is going to use as postcards. Those who sponsor her will receive one posted from Port Lockroy in Antarctica. The designs will also be available as posters, bags and tea towels.

Sponsor her now on Crowdfunder and view my other designs there too. I wish her all the best.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Top ten records I would have bought in Totnes if I had any money

I probably looked through more vinyl in Totnes, Devon, than I have in any market town, ever (it was like the Hay-on-Wye for records). For a start there was a record fair on, so I perused through that. Then charity shops, of course, with prices more ridiculous than the record fair (£20 for the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, anyone?). Then various vintage shops with some racks of records, and finally a lovely cafe and overpriced record shop called Drift, which sold mainly new records and CDs. Nothing was cheap and I didn't buy a thing.

1. Holger Czukay Movies
2. Crazy Horse Crazy Horse
3. Kurt Vile Bottle It In
4. Jóhann Jóhannsson Mandy (Film Soundtrack)
5. Propaganda A Secret Wish
6. John Coltrane Both Directions At Once
7. Thom Yorke Suspiria (Film Soundtrack)
8. Ty Segall Freedom's Goblin
9. Bob Dylan More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14
10. Furniture The Wrong People

In the evening we went to an art gallery hosting four DJ sets, a mix of psychedelic, post punk and dub. It was good music and fun. The films Pink Flamingos and The Warriors were projected on the wall. I was afraid of being the oldest person there, but was in fact one of the youngest. The evening started a little tense, like being at an AA party (and I've been to one), but people got limbered up as the night went on, even if it did feel a bit like an iconic comedy sketch of a Fun Night Out In Totnes. A man in dreadlocks wearing a Sun of Albion leather vest asked me if I wanted to buy a magic poem from his red top hat. There was a man wearing a rainbow-coloured beanie hat holding a wooden staff. There was a man wearing black gloves, Michael Jackson style. In other words, people had character and danced like it was 1991. Which is no bad thing.

Previously on Barnflakes:
One Totnes Pound

Amazon Prime / Netflix mash-ups

We watched some of Outlander, where a woman from 1945 is magically transported back to 18th century Scotland via a circle of stones. It reminded me of the stone monolith in the shed in The Sinner, season two, where the boy, Julian, gets taken to a detention centre, which could have been, but wasn’t, the same one in Orange Is the New Black. The Sinner also has Julian having similar nightmares, actually when he was awake and couldn’t move with a person in a hooded cloak coming towards him (actually not a nightmare at all), to Nell in The Haunting on Hill House, who also had waking nightmares and couldn’t move and had the Bent-Neck Lady walking towards her (also not a nightmare). In other words, they're all blending into one.

What unites them all – aside from characters, plot and locations all morphing into one* – and many other shows on Neflix and Amazon Prime, is the ability to have lashings of sex and violence (and, apparently, worst of all, smoking: Stranger Things has been the biggest culprit), elements most traditional mainstream TV, such as the BBC, ITV or Fox, isn't allowed. Streaming websites don't need to comply to FCC regulations, something they make full use of, often at the expense of acting and plot.

Sex is particular is actually quite refreshing to see – we've become so accustomed to violence in the media, from films to video games, but with sex and nudity we're rather prudish. But it's swearing, according to a 2016 Ofcom report, that offends British viewers most: 42% in their survey said they found bad language most offensive on TV.

I don't mind a bit of sex, violence, swearing and smoking, but the night-long male rape scene in a prison in Outlander went a bit too far.

*What they also all have in common is an inability to tell a story from start to finish. I always thought when this happened, they had a straightforward script then realised it was pretty boring being so linear, so decided to mix it up in the editing. Whatever, every single Netflix or Prime series we’ve seen mixes up the past (i.e. flashbacks) and present to the point that every five minutes there's a flashback or forward. Of course filmmakers from Welles, Roeg and Godard – "A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order" – have been doing similar for years but in a TV series I find it rather disruptive and confusing.

Top ten worst inventions

On a daily basis, I’m amazed any of these took off.

1. Cars
2. Microsoft 
3. Football 
4. TV
5. Offices
6. Social media
7. Rucksacks 
8. The Daily Mail
9.  Single-use plastics
10. Mobile phones

Blimey, it's just occurred to me... that's most people's lives right there.

NB: This is top ten #100

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top ten dislikes

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Random film review: Circle of Light

Circle of Light: The photography of Pamela Bone
Dir: Anthony Roland | Sound: Elsa Stansfield and Delia Derbyshire | UK | 1972 | 32mins.

From the director's website, where you can also rent and watch Circle of Light: “This film without words is composed of Pamela Bone’s unique photographic transparencies. Her talent has been said to ‘push photography beyond its own limits, liberating it to the status of an entirely creative art form’. Inspired by nature, and being more responsive to feeling than to thought, Miss Bone has sought to express the mystery and beauty of the inner vision through photographic means alone: landscape has the quality of a dream; children on the sea-shore have a sense of their own enchantment, trees are foreboding and strange when night moves in their arms. It took Miss Bone twenty years to find the right technique and so overcome the limitations that photography would impose."

Delia Derbyshire, who died in obscurity of renal failure in 2001, has become something of a cult figure in early electronic music. Her pioneering work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop spawned the Dr Who theme. Since her death there have been plays, dramas and exhibitions about her life and work (her posthumous recognition reminds me somewhat of Alan Turing, mathematician and computer scientist, who remained unknown for many years due to his homosexuality; in Derbyshire's case it was partly due to being a woman in a male-dominated industry).

Trunk Records released the soundtrack to Circle of Light on vinyl in 2016. Consisting of natural sounds combined with the odd Dr Who-esque drone, it works best with Bone's mysterious and sometimes beautiful images of nature, parts of which come across as a slower version of Stan Brakhage's Mothlight.

3/5

Previously on Barnflakes:
The Putney Shed Synth

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Flickagram #5

Overheard #11

“That’s a cynical sunset.”

“Does my cock look big in these [jeans]?”

“She treats me like I’m part of the furniture – but not anything she’d want to sit on.


“She's [Stormy Daniels] just a storm in a double D cup.
 
“The difference between my week and weekend is I don’t feel guilty for doing nothing at the weekend.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Train tales #2: taking the piss

Yes, Train tales #1 was back in 2013.

The smell of him fills the train carriage before I even see him, before he's even in the carriage. An overriding stench of urine and alcohol. The man sits across the aisle from me, opposite me. The smell of him makes me want to gag. He looks fairly respectable, possibly in his late 30s, neatly cut curly black hair, glasses, green jacket. But the bottom of his jeans are filthy, and he has a filthy carrier bag full of stuff. From which he proceeds to unpack a smart-looking video camera and an iPad. He connects the two up. Not your typical homeless guy, for sure.

At least I'm an aisle apart from him; there's a woman sitting directly opposite him on the same table. She looks aghast and is perhaps holding her breath. The guy is quite pleasant and chatty, in that mad kind of way, half muttering to himself, half talking to the woman. She doesn't really want to engage him in conversation.

By now he's got his camera and iPad linked up and seems to be editing a video. If it wasn't for the smell and the carrier bags, he'd look quite cool. He notices the book cover of the novel the woman's reading. There's a photo of London Eye on the front. 'What's that on the front?' he asks her, directly. 'What?' she says. 'That photo on the front of your book, what's it of?' She tells him it's the London Eye. 'What a coincidence!' he exclaims. 'I'm making a film about London, and was just editing a sequence with the London Eye. I thought I recognised it'. The woman doesn't say anything in return.

The man gets up abruptly, walks out the carriage and enters the toilet. The woman and I collectively exhale. She takes some perfume out of her bag and sprays it liberally all around her. It's a bit better, but the mix of perfume and urine actually quite sickly.

The man returns a few minutes later. He stands in front of his table. 'What's that smell?' he asks to no one in particular. 'It's like a combination of... caramel and flowers.' No one says anything. That he has a fine sense of smell is, well, quite extraordinary. He seems completely oblivious to his own aroma.

After another ten minutes of editing and muttering and stinking he packs up all his things and walks to the other end of the carriage, finding another seat there for no apparent reason. Maybe he didn't like the smell.

I exchange a vague look of relief with the woman, though I can still smell the man from the other end of the carriage when the breeze whoofs down my way.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Random film review: Mandy

Dir: Panos Cosmatos | Canada & USA | 2018 | 121mins.

"He’s the only actor since Marlon Brando that’s actually done anything new with the art of acting; he’s successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours."
—Ethan Hawke on Nicholas Cage, 2013

"I think Nicolas Cage is one of the few people in the history of acting that has really changed [the form]. I mean, he’s a true original—one of the greatest actors ever."
—Ethan Hawke, still obsessed with Nicholas Cage, September 2018

"All I care about is the transformation."
—Nicholas Cage on his acting, October 2018

No actor divides opinion more than Nicholas Cage. Even though he's always had a cult following, for many years he was a bit of a joke; you weren't even sure if fans were laughing with him or at him. This is despite winning an Oscar in 1995 for Leaving Las Vegas and working with directors such as David Lynch (Wild at Heart; the filmmaker calls Cage 'the jazz musician of American acting'), Martin Scorsese (Bringing out the Dead), Werner Herzog (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) and Francis Coppola (yes, his uncle). But for every great film, there's a dozen turkeys—the man's still a workaholic in his mid-50s, though mainly to pay off his debts, it seems.

I'm still not sure he can actually act, but he certainly has a manic presence; and as someone in The Guardian wrote recently, they'd rather watch Cage's worst performance than any film with, say, the bland Ryan Gosling. I'm inclined to agree.

Nevertheless, whilst Cage is powerless to control the numerous 'Cage rage' memes or the reddit forum onetruegod (with 117,000 members), he doesn't exactly help himself when he describes his acting techniques as 'Nouveau Shamanic', 'German Expressionist' and 'Western Kabuki', none of which anyone knows what he's talking about. Most people just call him crazy.

*******

A cult film used to take years to germinate. Not anymore—Mandy comes ready packaged as a cult classic. Charles Manson meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre via Alejandro Jodorowsky and Dario Argento in this lurid, hallucinogenic doom metal psychedelic horror sci-fi revenge LSD trip of a movie. The first half has Nic Cage at his most laid back, playing Red, a lumberjack, living a peaceful, bucolic existence in a cabin in the woods with his girlfriend Mandy. (Sorry to be a party pooper but I would have enjoyed the entire movie if it was just the two of them pottering around, talking planets, watching movies and reading sci-fi novels...) Alas, of course, the tranquil bliss doesn't last.

A hippie cult—with help from a demonic biker gang, the least scary of the bunch looking like Pinhead from Hellrasier—invade his home, murder his girlfriend. And Cage, naturally, goes crazy. And (spoiler alert) kills them all in variously imaginative ways. That's it. But what distinguishes the film, aside from its King Crimson opening song and the doom metal soundtrack from the Icelandic musician Jóhann Jóhannsson (who died earlier this year, aged 48), is the extraordinary visuals, the set pieces—and Cage's crazed performance.

(If I say it’s Netflix's Stranger Things but for grown-ups, what I mean is: it has similar fonts, it’s set in the 1980s, mostly in a forest, it’s scary... yet where Stranger Things was a rehash of Spielberg et al, Mandy is a true original, even if its second half is somewhat predictable; a lusher version of Hobo with a Shotgun or a grindhouse movie. I also noticed shades of British filmmakers Ben Wheatley (in particular Kill List) and Peter Strickland, with their nods to vintage Euro-horror.)

4/5

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top ten Nicholas Cage films

(I was listening to Jóhann Jóhannsson's album Englaborn whilst I was writing this. Such a sad piece of music—and it suddenly dawned on me: films, reddit (I still don’t know what it is), the internet in general, TV, consumerism, most poeple’s pointless office jobs… all this stuff we do to waste our time and energy… and meanwhile, you know, climate change, 60% of wildlife wiped out since 1970, huge divides between rich and poor, all happening before our eyes. I guess we choose to ignore it most of the time...)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Notes on John Dahl, film director

Like most (if they’d even heard of him), I’d forgotten all about John Dahl – until I saw his name come up recently as director of a few episodes of Amazon Prime’s Outlander series. Could it possibly be the same John Dahl who directed a a string of superb but criminally underrated neo-noirs in the 1990s then seemed to vanish without trace? Yup, the one and only.

The original film noir (a term coined by French film critics retrospectively) was a certain type of thriller made post-war and up until the mid-50s, tapping into America’s pessimism and cynicism. Defined by expressionist lighting and shadows, starring laconic anti-heroes and fabulous femme fatales, with convoluted plots worthy of Shakespeare, some of the best include Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep and Kiss Me Deadly.

In the 60s and 70s film noir came out from the shadows and into the L.A. sunshine with Polanski’s Chinatown and Altman’s The Long Goodbye, two of the best films of the 70s; Penn’s Night Moves, however, as the title suggests, kept things in the dark.

Like John Dahl, Alan J Pakula directed a trilogy of classics in the 1970s: Klute, The Parallax View and All the President’s Men all contain elements of noir, fuelled by political paranoia and corruption in the States during the period. (Pakula died in noirish fashion, aged 70, when a metal pipe smashed through the window of his car and into his head in Melville, an affluent New York suburb. French director Jean-Pierre Melville was a master of the laconic noir; his masterpiece is Le Samouraï.)

Since the 1980s there's been a smattering of classic neo-noirs including Cutters Way, One False Move, Blood Simple, Fargo, LA Confidential, Brick and Mulholland Drive.

John Dahl's first three films – Kill Me Again (1989), Red Rock West (1993) and The Last Seduction (1994) – all inhabit noirish worlds, full of duplicity and desire, and smouldering femme fatales. Kill Me Again stars Val Kilmer as a private eye hired by Joanne Whalley, escaping abusive boyfriend Michael Madsen, to fake her death. Red Rock West contains perhaps Nicholas Cage's least manic performance – well, he's up against Dennis Hopper for a start. Cage plays an out of work drifter who gets mistaken for a hitman, and goes along with it to make $5000. Things start to get complicated when the real hitman – Dennis Hopper – turns up.

The Last Seduction is the best of the three, with Linda Fiorentino as the most socipathic femme fatale ever to grace the screen, running rings around husband Bill Pullman and lover Peter Berg. Still slightly shocking is the scene where she sizes up if the guy in the bar (Berg) who hits on her is really 'hung like a horse', and the sheer fact that she's pure evil throughout, and gets away with it. As Roger Ebert says, 'This woman is bad from beginning to end, she never reforms, she never compromises, and the movie doesn't tack on one of those contrived conclusions where the morals squad comes in and tidies up'.

Dahl returned to the world of noir with 1998's Rounders, starring Matt Damon as a high-stakes poker player. Joy Ride (which spawned two inferior sequels), his 2001 thriller with a noirish, B-movie feel, is a tense, roller coaster of a movie, with two brothers travelling across the States to pick up a girlfriend. En route, one of the brothers, playing around with his CB radio, teases a truck driver who turns out to be a psycho killer. Imagine Spielberg's Duel, with teeth.

Most of Dahl's films received critical acclaim – there's even been a book written about his first three – but fared badly at the box office (I think it's because they all had awful posters), picking up fairly well on video later. His first three are nelgected classics: tense and steamy, with sizzling dialogue, lashings of black humour, an atmospheric sense of place, fine performances and labyrinthine plots. Everything a film noir should be.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Random Film Review: The Other Side of the Wind

Dir: Orson Welles | USA | 2018 | 122mins.

“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.”
– Orson Welles

Awesome Welles! The only thing more absorbing than watching an Orson Welles film is watching a documentary about Orson Welles. Along with the release on Netflix of The Other Side of the Wind, we are treated to two documentaries to accompany the film: You'll Love Me When I'm Dead, a feature-length film about the rise and fall of Orson Welles up to and including The Other Side of the Wind, and A Final Cut for Orson Welles, a fascinating 40-minute extra about the painstaking restoration of Welles' last film.

Welles shot some 100 hours of footage for the film between 1970 and 1976, and edited about 40 minutes worth of it before his death in 1985. By then the film had become wrapped up in legal and financial problems which wouldn't abate until, well, its release earlier this month on Netflix.

The Other Side of the Wind is a film within a film, taking place at the 70th birthday bash of veteran film director Jake Hannaford (played by veteran film director John Huston and presumably based on Welles), interspersed with scenes from the film Hannaford is making: an arty, Antonioni-esque parody. At the start of the film we are told it is Hannaford's last day on earth; he dies in a car crash at the end of the party.

The large ensemble cast of characters includes Peter Bogdanovich (director of The Last Picture Show) as Brooks Otterlake (based on, erm, Bogdanovich), Hannaford's protégé who has become more successful than him (à la A Star is Born). The party is a media event with various film people, journalists and fans filming the fiasco from every possible angle. There are actual directors at the party, including Dennis Hopper, Claude Chabrol, Curtis Harrington, Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky. And there are actors playing barely concealed real life characters: I guessed the annoying female film critic (played by Susan Strasberg, daughter of drama coach Lee Strasberg, famous for his method acting teaching) was based on Pauline Kael, who famously wrote Raising Kane, the article which claimed Herman J. Mankiewicz, rather than Welles, was responsible for writing Citizen Kane. In a screening room, Max David (played by Geoffrey Land) is a dead ringer for legendary producer Robert Evans.

Shot in a cinema verite manner with handheld cameras, switching between colour and black & white, 35mm and 16mm, the film is Welles' return to the States after two decades of exile in Europe and a satire on both old and new Hollywood. Though stylistically dissimilar to other Welles’ films, it has typical Wellesian themes including the abuse of power and the betrayal of friendship. The editing of the film is frantic and kaleidoscopic.

The colour scenes of the film Hannaford is currently working on, shown partly in Hannaford's projection room and partly in a drive-in movie theatre, are beautifully filmed. The plot, as such, has a hunky young biker following Oja Kodar (Welles' lover and collaborator) around various locations, including an empty studio backlot, where they are naked. There is a highly erotic sex scene in a car between them (in typical Welles style, half the scene was filmed in L.A., the other half two years later in France). There's something about these sequences – maybe to do with a naked woman walking around, maybe something to do with the editing – but it reminded me of a Russ Meyer film. (One of the more surprising insights of the documentary was learning Orson Welles helped edit a low-budget porno film whilst shooting The Other Side of the Wind.)

I enjoyed the film a lot more than I thought I would; though it's obviously dated (whilst also being ahead of its time with the mockumentary 'found footage' aspect), it's a fascinating time capsule, and looks – and sounds – fantastic. What was almost more surprising than being able to see a 'new' Orson Welles film was the documentary about the Herculean post-production process, a labour of love for everyone involved. It probably wouldn't have been possible to edit the film twenty years ago – the technology wasn't available. I'm guessing more money was spent, and more people involved, in the restoration than the actual shooting. "It's all in the editing", Welles would have said, but that's only half the story. Hundreds of reels of film stock were organised, cleaned and digitalised, using the HDR (High-Dynamic-Range Imaging) process. They found an editor, Bob Murawski (editor of the Spiderman films), to replicate Welles' frenzied editing style of the footage he had cut before his death.

The negative print was generally in excellent condition; the sound, as is often the case in low-budget films and Welles' in particular (for some of his independent European films he didn't record sound at all, dubbing it all later on), was not. Sound editors spent months cleaning up the dialogue. Most bizarrely, actor Danny Huston, John's son, did ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement) for his father's voice (who died in 1987), so there are scenes with John Huston speaking with his son's voice.

There was no soundtrack for the film so Michel Legrand, composer of many film soundtracks since the 1950s, including The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Thomas Crown Affair as well as Welles' own F for Fake, provides the much-needed music for the film (only recorded in March this year), giving some consistency to the fragmented nature of the visuals.

Frank Marshall (producer of Bogdanovich's first four features as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark and countless other blockbusters) worked as producer and production manager on The Other Side of the Wind and described the shoot like being in film school – everyone mucking in on it. Welles would spend years writing, shooting and editing numerous film projects at once. Unfortunately, the list of his unfinished projects – From Heart of Darkness in 1939 to The Dreamers and King Lear in the 1980s – is longer than the list of his finished films. As with John Cassavetes, another American auteur, Welles would act in other director's films to finance his own; hence his so-called fall from grace in his later years, acting in The Muppet Movie and appearing in adverts for frozen peas and sherry.

To have reached the heights of Citizen Kane at such a young age was Welles' curse – he would apparently never recreate such greatness again. But as someone says in the documentary, Citizen Kane is the best film ever made – but it's not even Orson Welles' best film.

4/5

Monday, November 05, 2018

Success and failures of the Eden Project

 
Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World by some, the Eden Project needs no introduction. I like it there, it's great, amazing, visionary, with a cool shop! It's a success, it's popular, so why was I so underwhelmed there? Mainly because it feels like the opposite of what it's meant to do. It's become an eco-Disneyland; though it calls itself a charity, it feels commercial and strangely soulless. We came out having had a good time, but learnt nothing. It feels like it's missing an opportunity, in this age of over-consumerism and climate change, to educate and enlighten on the natural world, on sustainability, on protecting the planet. It's taken the consumerist approach: buy, eat, drink, leave. It should be alternative. It should be about community, not big business.

For me it fails automatically as everyone takes their car to visit. Local traffic and pollution has become a problem in the area. There should be a free shuttle bus service from St Austell. The car park in the pit takes up as much room as the actual domes. (Okay, I have used public transport a lot in Cornwall and it's not that much fun; buses in particular are expensive – there are no subsidies like in London and other major cities – and infrequent; all that EU money was spent on, erm, Superfast Broadband, a few new roads, some business start up schemes, some new-technology based industries... you know, nothing useful for the locals.)

A lot of the negative reviews about the Eden Project on TripAdvisor I think are valid: overpriced, unfocused, disorganised, insufficient information, bad food, 'A theme park without rides', 'Greed is a terrible thing'...

Glassdoor reviews by people who work there say poor management, underpaid and overworked staff – the usual... but somehow you want it to be different at the Eden Project. It's just a business, and a badly-run one. To be fair, when we attended a day of TED Talks in Truro recently, we heard a passionate lady who works at the Eden Project talk non-stop for fifteen minutes about fungi; obviously a woman who loves her job. But we also heard from the charismatic Ollie Oakenshield, founder of Rogue Theatre, a group which has stayed small, local, community-based (as opposed to, say, Kneehigh Theatre) and cheap: tickets for a performance still only cost £8.50; food and drink is reasonably priced (rather than doubling the cost like most theatres, cinemas or Eden Projects do). Performances take place in the lovely Tehidy woods, it's family run, and the audience are encouraged to dance on the stage after performances.

Ollie Oakenshield, as he told us in his TED Talk, was born and raised on the Pengegon Estate in Camborne, where more than half the children live below the poverty line. Oakenshield talked about his childhood on the estate, where the local woods and his imagination were an escape from the harsh reality of estate life. Thirty years later, despite EU and council funding for charities, start up business and back to work schemes, little has changed: a third of working age people in the area are claiming unemployment benefits, violence and domestic abuse is rife, children are neglected.

Oakenshield is one of the lucky ones: many children from Pengegon or similar estates in the area (Camborne, Redruth and Pool make up the largest urban area in Cornwall, and also the most deprived 20% in England), who live three miles from the woods and beautiful beaches, have never seen either. This seems extraordinary when tourists travel hundreds of miles to experience Cornwall's wonderful rugged countryside and white sand beaches, but poverty, unemployment, depression, abuse, boredom and neglect are a potent mix in a county where many people see no hope.

Back at the Eden Project, towards the end of the day we saw staff chucking away all the day's unsold food (I have photos to prove it if you're interested). The area around the Eden Project is another deprived part of Cornwall; surely this food should be given to the community instead of discarded?

Obviously, I felt much closer to nature when I recently explored the nearby abandoned Baal pit, where it felt like a real – and free – adventure, where plants and birds are abundant, and commercialism hasn't yet reached it. Though it will – plans are going ahead for the 'eco village'.

Recently in the news...
• Cornwall council housed boy, 17, in a tent
• Gary Barlow apologises after littering the Eden Project with plastic confetti

(I moan about the internet sometimes and Instagram often but what happened was I was in the Eden Project shop – which is cool – and flicked through a lovely gardening magazine called Rake's Progress. Then at home I went to their website. Then I went to their Instagram page, then to Christoffer Dalkarls’s Instagram page because I liked his photos of pigment still lives in the magazine, then back to rakesprogress Instagram page and saw someone called augustabruce had left a comment with just the words @rigbygone (no idea why) so I looked at their page and liked (I don’t mean liked, I mean enjoyed) their photos, then went back to augustabruce but his or her account is private so I went to their website, which I LOVED, though didn’t spend enough time there to figure out what they do, but enough to work out that Taïs did the drawing so went to their website, which was lovely, then Googled the name Taïs and came up with Taïs Kuri’s Instagram page, though no idea if Taïs is Taïs Kuri, probably not, but didn’t really care (though I knew at a glance that this photo would have more likes than the others), and thought I’d quite like to go to Mexico again… and so it goes with the internet, into the night. I recommend it to waste your nights and days.)

Previously on Barnflakes:
The China clay pits around St Austell
Reviving Redruth (and environs)

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Notes on dog poop bags

At first I thought they were presents left by pixies in the forest. I was intrigued by them…. beautiful little black plastic bags tied neatly in a knot at the top, placed delicately on rocks or in grass along country paths. Were they gifts for me? I couldn’t resist a look. I opened one up and found to my dismay a pile of... dog shit. No, I didn’t really open it. I knew what they were.

It's just hard to believe that dog owner's leave them in the countryside. Quite frankly, I'd rather just see the piles of crap instead of the plastic bags. I'm not sure what the owners expect to happen to these bags – the aforementioned magical pixies to pick them up and dispose of them?

Anyway, even aside from selfish dog owners chucking their little black plastic bags of delight into the foliage, the problem of what to do with those bags – even if you're a considerate dog owner, i.e. you put them in a bin – is a problem that's been debated for years with no solution in sight.

Turns out, for a start, that so-called biodegradable black plastic bags aren't biodegradable at all, and won't degrade fully in a landfill site for anything from ten to 10,000 years. Besides which, animal faeces (which contain harmful pathogens) decomposing in a landfill release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In modern landfill sites almost no decomposition happens at all.

The alternative is the little plastic bag ends up in an incinerator. Since China banned the UK importing its plastic waste for recycling earlier this year, we've been burning more plastic than ever before: shockingly, the UK now burns more waste than it recycles. Incineration creates harmful dioxins which contribute to climate change and holds back recycling rates which in the UK have stalled since 2013. Greenpeace says incinerating plastic is the ‘wrong answer’ and 'if you build incinerators it creates a market for the next 20 to 30 years for single-use plastics, which is the very thing we need to be focusing on reducing right now'.

I don't have a dog, or even like them, but when something so seemingly trivial as how to dispose of dog shit becomes a major issue lasting years, with no sustainable and safe solution decided, I see no hope for the human race and more importantly, the planet.

Flickagram #4

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A brief history of photography (part three)


Back in the day when we had to take our photos to Boots to get developed, the only time we ever used to share photos was boring to death family and friends with our holiday snaps (like with a joint, you didn't want to share them with just anyone). Now we do it to strangers too on social media of course. I'm such a Luddite, if I want to see some good photos, I'll look in a photography book or visit an exhibition where hopefully the photos are larger than 3x3 inches. My eyes are fading too.

Previously on Barnflakes:
A brief history of photography (part two)
A brief history of photography (part one)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Cornish evening: seals, sunset and moon

We walked the coastal walk from Hells Mouth Cafe near Gwithian, Hayle, until we reached Godrevy Point; down below is Mutton Cove, otherwise known as Seal Cove. I’ve been here plenty of times before, only ever seeing one or two seals. Tonight we were in for a treat: there were at least 30 of them frolicking on the beach or in the water, some with their babies. From a distance they looked to me like a cornucopia of slugs (actual collective noun). By this time it was almost sunset as we walked down onto Godrevy beach, spotting some more seals in the ocean. We turned back once the sun had set and saw a giant moon in the distance. Yes, the photo makes it look like a dot in the distance but it was huge, bright and detailed. So nothing like the photo, but you get the idea.

Pengealitus

On the way to Tate St Ives there was a sign to a place which sounded like Penge (can't remember its exact name). I joked with my daughter it was the Cornish name for Penge, a horrible suburb in south east London. Ten minutes later, in the Tate St Ives bookshop, there was a guy wearing a Penge Cycle Club T-shirt. He was with his wife and two kids. He picked up the book Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress and said to his family he used to work with Alan Kitching, 'practitioner of letterpress typographic design and printmaking'. His family showed absolutely no interest in this interesting fact, and walked off. I was familiar with Kitching's work – I've seen it a lot in posters and magazines, and a friend of mine is always going on about him – and was about to ask the man about Kitching (and Penge, which I used to live close to) and show him more interest than his own family. But I didn't, and the moment passed.

Flickagram #3

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The top 100 albums

I actually compiled this at work a few years ago when I should have been, er, working. Lists are so much more fun than work. Five of us geeky types (yes, the same ones mentioned here and here) emailed our own lists to each other (aside from these five events, it was the most fun I had in over four years in the same office). I’ve limited myself to one album per artist, otherwise they’d be 30 Dylan albums, 10 Cohen, 5 Velvet Underground, 5 Springsteen and all Belle and Sebastian's LPs. No, there’s no REM, Oasis, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin or Radiohead. You’re lucky there’s a Beatles album in there. Also, it’s in no particular order:

Leonard Cohen Songs of Leonard Cohen
Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks
Velvet Underground Loaded
Bruce Springsteen Born to Run
Miles Davis In a Silent Way
Gil Scott-Heron Pieces of a Man
Belle and Sebastian Tigermilk
Pulp His 'n' Hers
Blur Parklife
DJ Shadow Entroducing
Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique
Beck Odelay
Michael Jackson Thriller
Nick Drake Five Leaves Left
Moondog Moondog
Terry Riley A Rainbow in Curved Air
Glenn Gould Bach: The Goldberg Variations
Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
My Bloody Valentine Loveless
The Doors L.A. Woman
Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street
Incredible String Band U
Sonic Youth Daydream Nation
Pixies Doolittle
Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks
The Beatles Revolver
The Smiths Hatful of Hollow
Arcade Fire Funeral
Terry Reid River
Massive Attack Blue Lines
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures
Various The Harder They Come (OST)
U2 The Joshua Tree
Joanna Newsom Have One On Me
Low The Great Destroyer
Grace Jones Nightclubbing
Naked City Naked City
The Congos Heart of the Congos

Big Brother and the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
Ride Nowhere
Madonna Like a Virgin
Brian Eno/David Byrne My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Public Enemy Yo! Bum Rush the Show
Guided by Voices Bee Thousand 
White Stripes White Blood Cells
Sun Kil Moon April
Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion
The Strokes Is This It?
Blondie Parallel Lines
Talking Heads Remain in Light
David Bowie Hunky Dorey
JJ Cale Naturally
Warren Zevon Excitable Boy
Sigur Ros Ágætis Byrjun
Can Future Days
Amon Duul II Phallus Dei
Stevie Wonder Innervisions
Boogie Down Productions By All Means Necessary
Al Green I'm Still in Love With You
The Clash London Calling
Serge Gainsbourg Histoire de Melody Nelson
The Pop Group Y
Kris Kristofferson Me and Bobby McGee
Portishead Dummy
Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians
Otis Redding Live in Europe
Billy Joel The Stranger
The Fall Live at the Witch Trials
Run DMC Raising Hell
Bonnie Prince Billy I See a Darkness
The Modern Lovers The Modern Lovers
The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin
Tom Waits Swordfish Trombones
The Cure Disintegration
Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Roberta Flack First Take
Pavement Slanted and Enchanted
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Boards of Canada Music has the Right to Children
Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York
Hole Live Through This
Kate Bush The Kick Inside
Joni Mitchell Blue
Patti Smith Horses
Simon and Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water
Paul Simon Graceland
Blind Faith Blind Faith
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
A Love Supreme John Coltrane
Charles Mingus Blues and Roots
Ennio Morricone The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (OST)
Nick Cave The Boatman's Call
The Stone Roses The Stone Roses
The xx xx
Beach Boys Pet Sounds
Deerhunter Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Scott Walker 4
Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells a Story
Roxy Music For Your Pleasure
Wings Band on the Run

Previously on Barnflakes:
The top 100 films

Flickagram #2

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The top 100 films

I was casually scrolling through Empire magazine's 100 Greatest Movies (published June 2017) and came across Avengers Assemble at No.65, Drive at No.45, Guardian’s of the Galaxy at No.34 and the Dark Knight at No.3. I knew something had gone seriously wrong with cinema. Still, this was the reader's top 100, so I imagine it's a bunch of male teenagers who don't know their Kurosawa from their Kaurismaki – which is fine; even though I can watch, say, Ozu's sublime Toyko Story for free on YouTube, there's no reason why most people would. Apparently the internet narrows people's tastes rather than expands them. So their top hundred is mainly recent American mainstream cinema, some of which is great, of course. But films are made in other countries too. Thankfully the BFI Top 50 includes a broad range of foreign and American films from the 1920s onwards.

Anyway, the Empire magazine list compelled me to do my own top hundred. Actually, I'm surprised at how mainstream/American my list is. Those who still insist on calling me pretentious, see here, in the last few weeks I have seen A Star is Born and Mamma Mia: Here we go Again (though it's one of the worst films I’ve ever seen; a vacuous, lacklustre, extremely dull prequel and sequel in which nothing is added to the original film – in fact, with all the flashbacks, all that actually happens in the present day is a storm. And a party. The central character – Meryl Streep – is killed off with no explanation whatsoever (wisely, Streep wasn’t interested in doing a sequel, though was dragged in for a scene at the end; the original writer and director also didn’t want anything to do with the sequel, so in came… Richard Curtis. Could it get any worse? No, but it does); leaving a cast of cardboard cut-outs (including Cher, technically I guess appearing in her first film with Streep since 1983’s Silkwood), two blonde leads (a young Streep, played by Lily James, in flashback and her daughter, Amanda Seyfried; I sincerely hope she works out what to do with her life now that acting and singing haven’t worked out) looking and sounding like they work in the marketing department of a B2B magazine publishers, and a ‘loving’ yet mainly absent boyfriend who looks and sounds like he works in the sales department of said B2B magazine publishers. Just horrific.) Naturally, I’ve also seen some decent stuff: the extraordinary Close-Up (Kiarostami, 1990), the moving Eagle Huntress (Bell, 2016) and the kinetic Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929).

(Accusations of scenes being acted or staged in the documentary Eagle Huntress (unfortunately the first item you come across when Googling the film is a BBC article asking if it is a documentary – a strange question to ask in the digital, post-Catfish era when all media is to some extent fabricated, and documentaries certainly have since the time of Robert Flaherty – Nanook of the North was made in 1922 – and Jean Rouch) fall by the wayside when compared to Close-Up, which takes the minor, true-life case of a man who impersonates Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian film-maker, and is eventually arrested. Close-Up films the trial as it happens, i.e. as a documentary, then uses all the actual people in the case (the impersonator, the family he fooled, the police, etc) and gets them to re-enact scenes which led up to the impersonator's arrest. It's probably easier just to watch the film than explain it.)

Anyway, here's the alphabetical list which, like all good lists, would change daily.

Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1972)
Alien (Scott, 1979) 
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, 1974) 
The American Friend (Wenders, 1977) 
Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 1966) 
An Angel at my Table (Campion, 1990)
Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) 
The Apartment (Wilder, 1960) 
L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934) 
Badlands (Malick, 1973) 
Belle de Jour (Bunuel, 1967) 
Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986) 
Le Boucher (Chabrol, 1970) 
Brazil (Gilliam, 1985) 
Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1966) 
Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967) 
Brighton Rock (Boulting, 1948) 
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, 1974)
Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel, 1929) 
Chinatown (Polanski, 1974) 
Claire's Knee (Rohmer, 1970) 
Closely Observed Trains (Menzel, 1966)
Come and See (Klimov, 1985) 
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Lee, 2000)
Dawn of the Dead (Romero, 1978) 
Death in Venice (Visconti, 1971) 
Deep End (Skolimowski, 1970) 
The Deer Hunter (Cimino, 1978) 
Deliverance (Boorman, 1972) 
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Bunuel, 1972) 
Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989) 
Easy Rider (Hopper, 1969) 
Elmer Gantry (Brooks, 1960) 
Les Enfants du Paradis (Carné, 1945) 
Les Enfants Terribles (Melville, 1950) 
Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977) 
Fantastic Planet (Laloux, 1973) 
Fat City (Huston, 1972) 
Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson, 1970) 
Freaks (Browning, 1932) 
The French Connection (Friedkin, 1971) 
Get Carter (Hodges, 1971) 
The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974) 
Gone with the Wind (Fleming, 1939)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)  
Goto, Isle of Love (Borowczyk, 1969)
The Graduate (Nichols, 1967) 
The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, 1940) 
Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993) 
Hannah and her Sisters (Allen, 1986) 
His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940) 
If... (Anderson, 1968) 
It's a Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946) 
Kill List (Wheatley, 2011)
The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich, 1971) 
Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1966) 
Lola (Demy, 1961) 
The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973) 
Loulou (Pialat, 1980) 
A Matter of Life and Death (Powell/Pressburger, 1946) 
McCabe and Mrs Miller (Altman, 1971) 
Mean Streets (Scorsese, 1973) 
Mephisto (Szabó, 1981) 
Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001) 
Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955) 
Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968) 
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975) 
Onibaba (Shindo, 1964) 
Pather Panchali (Ray, 1955) 
Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)  
Performance (Cammell/Roeg, 1970) 
Point Blank (Boorman, 1967)  
Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) 
Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968) 
Scorpio Rising (Anger, 1963) 
The Searchers (Ford, 1956) 
Seconds (Frankenheimer, 1966) 
The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957) 
The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont, 1994) 
Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001) 
Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979) 
Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957) 
Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974) 
The Thing (Carpenter, 1982) 
The Third Man (Reed, 1949) 
This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984) 
Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958) 
Tree of Wooden Clogs (Olmi, 1978) 
The Truman Show (Weir, 1998) 
Trust (Hartley, 1990) 
Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971) 
Under the Skin (Glazer, 2013) 
Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958) 
Walkabout (Roeg, 1971) 
Weekend (Godard, 1967) 
Withnail and I (Robinson, 1987)
The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939)
Woman of the Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964)
Les Yeux Sans Visage (Franju, 1960)

It's too difficult choosing just one hundred. Here's a bunch which didn't quite make the list, though come back tomorrow – they might be in there: Crumb, Blade Runner, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Matrix, Housekeeping, Aliens, Black Narcissus, A Canterbury Tale, Carnival of Souls, Le Samourai, Silent Running, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Planet of the Apes, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Day for Night, Journey to Italy, Repulsion, 12 Monkeys, Dimensions of Dialogue, Grease, The Lady Vanishes, The Holy Mountain, Jules et Jim, Bill Douglas Childhood Trilogy, Out of the Past, Gummo, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Alice of the Cities, Uzak, Tampopo, Babette's Feast, Elvira Madigan, Mr Vampire, Jeux Interdits, Sunset Boulevard, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Conformist, In a Lonely Place, The Warrior (2001), Couscous, Timbuktu, Bad Company, Kiss Me Deadly, Star Wars, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Rocky, LA Confidential, 8½, Rashoman, Phase IV, Alphaville, Les Amants du Pont Neuf...

Previously on Barnflakes:
My childhood just flew by
858 films in two years 
Top ten greatest film trilogies 
Top ten films about film-making 
Top 10 film directors