Despite our best intentions to do this annually, we have had years who had to go without a list of the best 99 musical tracks. For very personal reasons, 2016 was one of those years. You’ll remember 2016, that bundle of joy. You couldn’t even enjoy a musical programme to hide from the dreadful news because virtually every show was interrupted by an announcement of another musical legend no longer amongst the living.
One thing struck us, though: we might have had lots of discussions offline about the influence of David Bowie, but when we had a look at our online archive, it turned out we hadn’t published that much about him.
So yes, we did see Bowie as one of the biggest artists of the 20th century (for various reasons we won’t mention here, but do feel free to send us a postcard if you’d like some correspondence about this topic) and his death (in January) as well as the release of Blackstar just before he’d leave us set the tone for the musical year 2016.
“Dollar Days” isn’t just a tribute to a late artist, it also contains lyrics that may have received fewer lines written about them than “Lazarus” but are equally – if not more – poignant. Especially the “I’m dying to” which – with an extra ‘o’ in ‘to’ – haunts you until well after the final notes…
Had there been a Best of 2016, “Dollar Days” would have the number one. So here it is:
Nothing gave me more pleasure than – while looking for appropriate pictures to accompany this post – discovering a still of The Giant Claw. Rest assured, that monumental piece of cinema couldn’t be more apart from today’s topic. Both movies are in black and white, but that’s about it. Le Corbeau, which is French for “raven”, is a 1943 film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Yes, that means this film is 73 years old, but that does not mean you never should’ve heard of the director. Unless you’re adamant about boycotting anything made prior to the 21st century (in which case you’re an idiot). Clouzot is after all the director of that essential classic Les Diaboliques, a must-see movie for anyone claiming to be a lover of cinema.
Le Corbeau is no Diaboliques, but don’t worry: watching this film is no act of masochism. On offer is a semi-classic, which was made in 1943. That was during the Second World War and it definitely adds to the movie.
An unknown person is sending messages that are smack in the middle of whistleblowing and village gossip. The messages, thrown through windows or using even less subtle methods, are always signed by… the raven. In other words, the film becomes one big question: Who is the Raven? Add to this a protagonist who may or may not have a mysterious past and you have all the elements to make an interesting movie, especially in the hands of a more than capable director. You have your typical anti-hero and the scene where he tries to discover who’s the Raven by forcing all the suspects to write lines in a classroom is one you’ll remember for months after you’ve seen this film.
To be honest, Le Corbeau was on our shelves for years before we decided to give it a go and the trailer we’re about to show may not be the most convincing of this season, but it’s as good as we could find and maybe you’ll just have to trust us on this one. If your French is decent enough, you should check this out on France 3 next Sunday (Cinéma de minuit). If not, we’re sure you can find this film elsewhere. It was even released by Criterion (sadly out of print by now) and they don’t release just any old film.
The time felt about right for another short movie. Short movies are interesting for various reasons, either because they’re made by people learning the trade or because we’re dealing with a story that works better in a shorter frame. At its worst, a short movie feels flat because it doesn’t satisfy: the story isn’t worked out correctly, resulting in movies that are too dense (trying to tell too much in a couple of minutes) or fleeting (there’s not enough to make an interesting movie out of it). At its best, shorter movies have the ability to stay with you for longer than full-feature movies do. Shorter movies either show a certain fact or event and explore it (as with the recently shown Blood Pulls A Gun) or they take one specific event (in this case the sudden arrival of a spot on the wall) and build up the movie with the effects, action and reaction – focusing almost entirely on that. Besides that, things happen that prompt questions. We don’t get too many details of the young woman: we hear her parents on the phone, there is a back story hinted at during those calls, there’s a man who suddenly pops up, we see a glimpse of her job when she arrives home from work, … but the main focus here is the spot.
Looking for a movie to post on the Avenue, we browsed through several others, but too often we didn’t feel satisfied enough or there was too much adoration for iconic filmmakers. Channeling your heroes isn’t bad in itself, but it should never get in the way of the short. It’s not good to watch a film and catch yourself thinking “Hmm, I wonder how many movies by Lynch and Godard they must’ve watched” rather than paying attention to the film itself. Having said that, it’s true that we started watching This Is She while thinking of Repulsion, but before too long, This is she moves into completely different territory. Or in other words, it becomes a work of its own.
The protagonist is played by Grace Rex. The Avenue computers, who like the internet, never forget told us that we’d already done a search on “Grace Rex” and, unlike a lot of the internet, our computers weren’t wrong: she gave a memorable performance during an episode of Blindspot. In the case of This is she, Grace is more than just the leading actress, she also wrote the story. The director is Tarik Karam, who has been a second unit director on Extremely Loud & Terribly Close and The Reader and so far helmed a couple of shorts and a documentary himself.
So there you go, the story of a young woman who discovers a spot on the wall. That’s all you need to know about this film. Enjoy!
Today, we don’t pay tribute to a movie or a book, but to one of the most used and least appreciated inventions of our modern age: the telephone. And we’ll do this by playing you five tracks about this humble yet torturous device. Because a telephone is more than a tool for one person to connect to another person. Today we talk about the calling, the wanting to be called, the anxiety you have while waiting and the weird calls – and some novelty songs too.
For those of you who thought we’d kick off with Blondie‘s Call me, you’re wrong.
… because that other track by Blondie is much more appropriate for this selection. Yes, you can call Blondie all day, but “Hanging” talks about that lump in your throat when you’ve mustered enough courage to grab that phone and you’re waiting for the other person to pick up. Oh pick up, please…
LIL LOUIS & THE WORLD – I called u (but you weren’t there)
But maybe (s)he isn’t there. And sometimes that’s a good thing, as proven in this track by Lil Louis, who gets a less than lovely call from his former girlfriend. Lil Louis may be only remembered for the late 80s track where he used the sound of a female orgasm (French kiss, if you’ve forgotten), a track we really hated. Whereas we did like “I called you”, but that never became as much of a hit. Shows you how much we understand about the world.
GREEN VELVET – Answering Machine
See, if every time you pick up your phone, you hear this sort of stalkerish abuse, one understands why you’d buy an answering machine. Like Green Velvet did in 1997 and he was kind enough to upload the neverending torrent of good news he could listen to. Or to summarize nearly five minutes in one sentence: “I don’t need this shit.”
ANDREAS DORAU – Das Telefon Sagt Du
Is this selection becoming too gloomy? Let’s hurry over to Germany then for Andreas Dorau‘s wonderful anthem about the telephone. If anything, it will change the way you listen to the phone’s sound forever. Isn’t the pre-dial sound much like “Du” (or the English translation “you”)? Try it, then try to forget it. Can’t do it, eh? Add to this powerful lyrics: “Everyone knows this sound / ‘BT’ sends it through your phone / this signal means ‘free’ / and that’s how it makes me feel.” Then, in full ego-boosting mode (possibly channelling Snow White), Andreas asks its phone the name of that dashing young gentleman (Du/you) and, why stop when everything’s going great, his next question is who’s the dream of every woman. And again, that lovely telephone praises Dorau’s ego.
Probably best known for the 90s tracks “Girls in love” (which isn’t as sweet as the title suggests: it’s about a 16-year-old girl who commits suicide when her boyfriend cheats on her), “Das Telefon sagt du” isn’t the first or only novelty hit by Dorau (at which point we’d like to stress we really really love this sort of novelty tracks and we don’t mean it in any condescending way). In the early 80s Dorau, together with the Marinas, celebrated the arrival of spaceman “Fred vom Jupiter” (of which we’ve picked the extended version – more Fred!).
This is not the original video of “Das Telefon” (we’re not even sure there was one), but this video by Borja Martín may be the quirkiest thing you’ll see all day.
HELENA VONDRACKOVA – Ruf mich an
And finally, Ruf mich an, a song – we must admit – we only discovered while browsing YouTube in search for a decent finale. The year is 1969 and the almighty video hadn’t been invented. Sure, you had scopitones and even in those days shows devoted to teenagers liked to insert some video footage of a band who was touring the region (sadly, never at the time of recording). So what they did was have the band over and record them playing their single in whichever setting was available, peculiar and out of the ordinary. Hence, the footage you sometimes find on YouTube of the likes of Sonny & Cher etc. in a circus tent, in a stable or – in case the producers were less creative – in a dark room. Because, apparently, nothing screamed “1960s teenager” as much as putting your favourite artists in a stable and making them perform their latest hit.
We of the Avenue Kurtodrome were already aware of this phenomenon, so we didn’t blink an eye when Helena Vondráčková started singing to us from between a flock of camels (even though Camel #1 looked as if (s)he’d preferred Black Sabbath). Helena singing “Call me, doesn’t matter how, where or when” while sitting on a horse? Sure, why not? However, 85 seconds into the video, Helena is no longer the focus of the song: suddenly – settle down, David C. – a pig is swinging itself into the screen and Helena decides nothing is more fun than swinging along. Remember all those people talking about the “swinging sixties”? We had no idea this is what they meant…
Given that it’s been years since we regularly updated the Avenue, even regular visitors may have forgotten that our website (Kurtodrome) was named after a programme on BBC2. It was called Moviedrome and it showed cult movies, on summer nights (mostly Sundays), from 1988 to 1994 (hosted by Alex Cox) and revived from 1997 to 2000 by Mark Cousins. The Cousins era was widely debated and split the fans into either being glad at least there was more Moviedrome or thinking it wasn’t as good as the series with Alex Cox as host. Because after all, Cousins was no Cox. Even though, you could also argue that Cox was no Cousins. And while it’s true that in the Cousins eras there was no month of spaghetti westerns, it was Cousins who included movies like Branded to Kill. And while it’s true that in 2016 it’s been more than fifteen years since the last episode of Moviedrome, you can’t say that the sort of movie to be shown in either form of the BBC2 show is no longer aired on TV. Even though Brits may have to juggle between BBC2, BBC4, ITV4, Film4, Channel4 or even Movies4Men and these cult movies are shown throughout the year on mixed nights rather than a weekly programme… oh, and that there is nobody who introduces them. Yes, it’s 2016 and these days you watch movies on Netflix where you select a movie because of a synopsis of four lines and a still next to it. But don’t we just sometimes long for those programmes where someone warmed you into a movie, telling you bits about the director, the making or even scenes you should pay close attention to?
Alex Cox, the original host of Moviedrome, is a director in case you didn’t know. He shot to fame in 1984 with the instant cult classic Repo Man. He then directed – a.o. – that punk biopic Sid and Nancy and, just prior to hosting the first episode of Moviedrome, a movie called Walker. Made with American money in a country the USA wasn’t particularly fond of, the shooting of Walker was so controversial the movie company sent someone to make sure
Alex Cox didn’t completely destroy the budget. According to folklore, Cox threatened to kill the man if he came too close to him on set and to this date it’s unclear whether he meant it or not. All the doors opened by his previous movies, were closed after Walker and Cox’s filmography post-Walker definitely looks different (which does not equal less interesting).
After completing Searchers 2.0 in the mid-noughties, Cox had learnt how to record a “microfeature”, i.e. a movie made for a ludicrously low budget. This came in handy for his next feature, Repo Chick. A sequel to his breakthrough movie? No, such a thing is impossible: the contract between Cox and the movie company that produced Repo Man made it clear that sequels can’t be made unless both parties agree on this. And had we already told you either party doesn’t really like the other one? Repo Man and Repo Chick are both about repo(ssessing cars), but the stories are different. And whereas both movies share a couple of actors, it’s not as if some of those actors don’t pop up in other Cox movies too. However, the production company was so pissed, it redubbed a movie starring the Avenue’s nemesis J*de L*w (perennially dubbed The Twat over here) as Repo Men in order to piss off Cox and to cash in on its cult classic after all. Cox’s raised middle finger, Repo Chick, is in this case the better of the two insults. However, as the “chick” is no “man” and because it was filmed on a micro budget, lots of people didn’t like it.
To save money on locations, Repo Chick was shot entirely on green screens with the backdrops added on later. This rarely produces a natural setting, but that’s not something Cox was aiming for. In fact, he exaggerates this by adding even less natural additions to the backgrounds, thereby dipping his movie into a surreal and cartoonish setting. In case the main character’s name, our chick, wasn’t obvious enough, we’ll tell you that Pixxi De La Chasse (Jaclyn Jonet) is a clear pastiche of a Paris Hilton-type socialite. At the time, this was said to be too much of a fashion fad that wouldn’t last another year, but flash forward nearly ten years and even now blogs and papers are bursting with any sort of gossip about the TOWIEs, Kardashians and/or Big Brother contestants whose skirts split live on air while twerking. Paradoxically, in this fake atmosphere with unreal backdrops and cartoonish characters, it’s Pixxi (whose car is towed away when daddy cancels her credit card and who then finds a job repossessing cars) who looks the most genuine character. Which means Cox isn’t just poking fun at the uberrich chicks who couldn’t be more estranged from reality, but also at those who think all socialite chicks are airheads. Which at the time pissed off even more viewers. Tonight BBC2 will air Repo Chick once again, the third showing already (the fourth if you count the time it was shown on BBC1) and to be honest, it’s not the sort of movie one would expect to get four showings. (We’re quickly adding we’re more than happy to be proven wrong in this case.) If you’re up late at night, have a watch. Unless you don’t like fake backgrounds. Or Pixxis and Parises. Or a movie which doesn’t poke as much fun at Pixxis as one would expect. Or movies surreal enough to feature socialites as well as terrorists and doesn’t seem to make sense when you’re telling the plot to someone (noticed we haven’t really tried?). Or movies where the director has a cameo as a deranged scientist. All of these things make Repo Chick even more different. But different doesn’t equal less interesting.
(BBC2 airs Repo Chick tonight at 12.55am local time.)
Hello everyone. It has been a while, but at least for this summer Avenue Kurtodrome will return with weekly updates. Weekly updates, the summer months… one might even think we’ve been inspired by the programme that gave us our name. Speaking of which, we’ll talk about an Alex Cox movie next week. But to kick us off – and to prove we’re back in style – some Eye Candy (as it’s been a while, that’s the Avenue’s code for clips or short movies).
Blood Pulls a Gun is a short movie of just over 18 minutes, released in 2014 with a world premier at SXSW. It’s the winner of the Gold ACS Award 2014 (which is short for Australian Cinematographers Society) and won Best Emerging Film Maker at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2014. That film maker is Ben Briand, a name you might have heard before from another short: 2009’s Apricot. (If not, feel free to expand your Eye Candy session for another 11 minutes by watching it here.)
In Blood Pulls a Gun we’re introduced to Alice, a teenage girl who “gets a keyhole look into a dangerous and mysterious world when a tattooed stranger checks into her roadside motel”. Alice is the daughter of the motel owner and she likes to keep momentos from guests, which she stores in a box. The short may have been recorded in Australia’s Swansea, but the feel is very much somewhere in the US’s Bible Belt. And by somewhere, we mean a non-descript place between two more important locations. Alice (played by Odessa Young) is a typical teen in a movie: trying to discover herself while growing up in the neighbourhood of an impressionable young boy and lots of men who spend one night in a motel, probably on their way to another destination. The sunglasses, the pink paper heart on her bedroom wall, the ambitious use of lipstick… all find their way into these 18 minutes. As does Blood Lieberman, whose arrival at the hotel does not go unnoticed. Like Alice, you’re wondering if Blood is his real name. You never know: if someone asks you to draw a picture of a guy called Blood, your cartoon might just look like Mr Lieberman. Alice peeks into Blood’s room and suddenly becomes a peeping tom, seeing Blood seducing a woman. She’s wearing a wig, like Alice’s voice-over narration, another stereotype subtly used by Ben Briand.
A masterpiece might be too much credit, but Blood Pulls a Gun is definitely a masterful piece of genre cinema. The right notes are struck and over the course of 18 minutes you get enough bits of information to label characters – especially Alice but to quite some extent also Blood – round rather than flat, but also enough empty spots in the story for you to fill. Shorts, even more than feature-length films, have a tendency to overexplain characters and their actions. Add to this (voice-over) lines like “When cats have sex, it sounds as if they’re fighting. People too, especially the people that come here.” and you know you’re in for a treat.
So here is – without further ado and to mark the beginning of the Avenue’s summer – Blood Pulls a Gun. Enjoy!
Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that 2010 was the only year without either a list with the best 99 tracks of said year or a quick mention of who would’ve won had there be a full list. In 2010 the Kurtodrome site launched Radio Kurtodrome (°31 July 2010 – +31 Jan 2016) and was too busy trying to work out the kinks and buttons of a radio station to compile a list. Which didn’t mean there was no favourite…
Intros may be long, but we’re not fooling anyone. You will have noticed the link below before you’ve read this sentence. You know it’s Amatorski‘s Come Home. You just don’t know why. Well, for one, it’s a Belgian band and, contrary to public opinion, we were never against a bit of sticking it up for the motherland. Also, this was the first single by Amatorski and we can all name millions of bands who had a poorer launch. Furthermore, there’s this nostalgic flair of a couple during a war sending each other letters and the choir-like ending to the track which kicks in just after two minutes. In 2016 we may wonder whether we like Come Home more than Soldier, but don’t let afterthoughts spoil a party. After all, Come Home must have struck a nerve or else it wouldn’t have been used in countless TV shows, several commercials and received an update when becoming the soundtrack of the BBC series The Missing.
Ladies and gentlemen, without regrets, our best track of 2010 was:
No list this year for an obvious reason (same as why this blog went on immediate hiatus for 25 months and I’m sure I’ll write about it one day, but this is not that day), but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any good songs. So, in anticipation of this year’s Best of list, here’s the top 3 of 2012.
1. TEEN – Electric
2. JESCA HOOP – Born To
3. CRYSTAL CASTLES – Kerosene
(Check out that site for more excellent combinations of Crystal Castles with cult videos)
After a night out you wake up in a strange bed and have no recollection of what happened or indeed the name of the person you spent the night with. You find out her name is Julia (Michelle Jenner) and you introduce yourself as Julio (Julian Villagran). Oh, what a funny coincidence. Anyway, it’s been fun and you’re about to bid farewell when you notice there’s nobody in the streets. Oh, and there’s a UFO on top of a nearby apartment block. Turns out you’ve both missed the invasion of extraterrestrials.
Is the Spanish film Extraterrestre a movie about extraterrestrials? Well, yes and no. While the invasion is part of the story, the plot seems to be around Julio and more importantly Julia. It turns out Julia’s neighbour has an unhealthy obsession with her and Julia seems to have a boyfriend too. Excuses have to be made and stories have to invented to cover up their nightly affair. How that happens and the consequences of all those stories is the core of this film by Nacho Vigalondo. Don’t expect a lot of sci-fi or you’ll be bitterly disappointed. Expect a quirky comedy about people whose lives are being taken over by lies (and some flying saucers that inspire them). The fun thing is that none of the characters may be exceptionally likable, but because of the situation you sit there and wonder how their futures will develop. Because I wasn’t expecting anything, I can’t say I was disappointed and indeed, I genuinely liked Extraterrestre.
That’s also why I offer you this trailer with the biggest reservations. A lot of the developments are already hinted at or indeed shown. But if you want to see how the film is visually made, then feel free to check out the trailer or at least a couple of seconds. Hovering between 7.5 and 8 out of 10, Extreterrestre will probably find itself in my Top 10 of 2012. Of course, it’s already 2013 but because of the recent events in my personal life there’s a handful of movies I still need to review before the list can be compiled, so expect the list in approximately two weeks. Which leaves you for now with the trailer of Extraterrestre or, if you don’t like any form of spoilers, the end of this article. Happy New Year!
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