Friday, March 30, 2012

These are the skeletons of us

I saw this play last night that a guy called Chris Neels wrote and directed. I went with my flatmate , Hannah. I read some great reviews of it, and my friend Ruby helped make it.

It's pretty much just real good. It's about the breakdown of a relationship except it starts from the breakup and commences backwards, following the couple's experiences, first meeting, hanging out, making out etc. The scenes are more, memories I think, for the main character, reflections of the relationship, of her, whether she is what he thought she was and so on. It seemed for me, a really familiar situation where you fall more in love with your own idea of someone, instead of getting to know them without your own grandiose delusions.

People will like the play I think because most have had those really passionate, really shitty, agonising relationships. This makes the play sound kind of bleak but it's not, I don't think because the right thing to do was break up and it ends amongst all these happy memories, which I think it what happens kind of when people break up. Watching this play was like watching someone's insides for a few days after they have been dumped.

I liked Nic Sampson in it a lot. I liked these really good little eye movements he did when he was thinking about things, when he was on a really good roll of extended metaphors.

I liked the references to 'old NZ'. And I mean like, when I was a kid and played in the ball pit at family restaurants. There aren't ball pits anywhere these days. When he was talking about ball pits lots of coloured balls flew on stage towards him from all directions. That bit gave me a fright but it was useful thematically because it added to the mess on stage. The stage started out all messy and was slowly cleaned up until at the end it was pretty much bare. Sampson's two friends also played the role of 'set movers' - I really liked this, I think it gave the play a more optimistic quality, like even though he didn't have a girlfriend, he still had some good mates that cleaned up after him, even if they did smoke a lot of pot and were a lil bit sexist.

There was live music as well which is really cool to see. One of the most memorable bits for me was when Sampson went to put on some tunes for his date and opened the upstage centre doors and the live band were just sitting there. He gave them a lil nod like it was 'aint no thang' that his soundsystem was real people, and then they played something romantic.

One part that I felt a bit weird about was that Chelsea McEwan Miller's character was blamed for the friend's broken arms. Sampson's character was meant to be spotting his mate on the weights at the gym, but he was too busy checking her out while she was stretching... and so on until both his friends arms broke. Seems like his negligence is at fault, not her physical appearance. Seems odd that she had too apologise for that and then be abused by the friend earlier/'later' on for 'breaking his arms'.

A bunch of other cool stuff happened. It's on at BATS until the 5th of April.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Being shy in Academia

This isn't something that I want to write and I hope that soon I won't have to, but in the meantime to make myself feel a bit better about being passive in class, I'll discuss some of the things I wanted to add to the discussions, here. If I can remember them of course. But I'm going to try. 

Going to a new university is really hard especially when most of the other people already know each other and have learnt the same things and watched the same films. In the last month I've gathered that Victoria University has a stronger focus on avant-garde/experiemental/independent cinema and has paid more attention to the art of film production than Canterbury did. I had some goals when I started and they were to be totally immersed in the content of the courses and make friends and be more vocal in class, you know, get into some really full-bellied discussions. It's not like I don't have anything to say, there are things I want to tell the other people, partly to:
  1. boost my self-esteem (if I say stuff then I will have fulfilled a goal and that feels nice)
  2. appear more approachable to others 
  3. learn more and get good marks and in good rapport with my lecturers so this godforsaken year is not going to be a waste of time. 
 The problem occurs when I wait for a time to say something and then try and decide if I should do it now... or now... or now? Damn they're on another subject.

Today in class we watched Jean Cocteau's Le Sang d'un Poéte and some Maya Deren films. I thought that it would be easy to talk about Maya Deren because I wrote about her in an assignment recently however the others it turned out had watched her films a lot more than I even had and did this rolly-eye thing and I couldn't quite read it but I think it was something like "oh man not this sucky lady" which totally threw me, of course because I really liked her films, mainly Meshes of the Afternoon which I thought was really great, albeit hard to deconstruct. 

After watching Sang, we were asked whether or not it was a narrative film. The general consensus I think was that it had some recurring themes but not exactly a particularly strong narrative. I thought that it had strong structure - it had four 'chapters' - which gave it a literary quality and perhaps the 'illusion' of a narrative. There was talk about narcissism and the role of the artist and whether or not this film was too personal.  Someone said something in reference to the mouth rubbing off the sculpture and onto the artist's hand, that he "can't control his own body/art" and I thought "but Cocteau is making this film, surely that reflects some sort of control". It seems like if you are going to make a reflexive film like that then the 'artist' has a major role on and off the screen and that it is the artist's manipulation of whatever medium which creates the art. I think maybe I got a bit confused though because it's hard to know how objective you have to be in class/doing any academic stuff, especially when you (I) find it really hard to believe in objectivity at all. The words "too personal?" came up. If I was going to say anything here I would have said that the four doors in the second chapter seemed quite personal and inexplicable without information of Cocteau's life maybe, however they were almost episodic and symbolic (or at least referential) of the four-chapter structure of the film. My lecturer posed this interesting question: in what ways does the film conform to surrealist films? and the even more interesting one, what ways does it not? The former was answered like this: 
  • non-traditional narrative
  • close ups on gore-y faces
  • mouth on hand was like the ants on the hand in Un Chien Andalou
I think that also it explored memory more than the unconscious, also childhood was more of a thing for Cocteau where animals was more of a thing for Buñuel. That could be stretching it a bit though.........................................................................................................................................

When we talked about Maya Deren I wanted to make this joke: well, if blood of a poet was narcissistic then this is (wouldn't had to have to finished my sentence for the laughter would have drowned it out). I decided that I need to discuss technical aspects of film more in my writing, during this discussion. I wrote that in my exercise book, not between the lines, and put a box around it [very important]. I wanted to talk about the contradictions of Deren, like how she says the camera isn't important in film, it's only a means of recording, editing is where the gold lies, except that on the stairs the position of the camera seems integral (in Meshes) and also in other films eg The Very Eye of Night sometimes the subject moves across a static lens and sometimes the lens moves over a static image. There are a lot of other things she contradicts herself on that I wanted to say as well. When we watched At Land everyone basically agreed that: wtf? 
 I thought that since we are talking about autobiographical film in a sense could we not assume that At Land is a sequel maybe to Meshes (the recurring Freudian idea of the 'ocean' and 'rebirth' [of the psyche] (side note: is this what Led Zep's 'The Ocean' is actually about?? hot dang!)) and that makes it a little bit easier to understand because whether intentionally or not, films dealing with such strongly subjective 'guts' will have (most likely) similar and recurring elements, protagonists [the 'self'], large intestines etc... 

Mainly though it sort of seems weird to try and make sense of avant-garde films because most of the time they're not supposed to be made sense of and sometimes it's important to acknowledge that and just look at the pretty pictures. The more people that talk though, the more ideas there are to share and develop, so more sense is made, thus everyone is better off (assuming that ignorance≠bliss).

So, next week before class I'm going to eat lollies and drink a coke zero and hope that all that artificial sugar gives me the artificial boost I need!

Friday, March 23, 2012

something that would make my life better i think

my own little office with a desk, medium-sized and a wooden chair with a cushion on it - the one that my sister made for me, with the map of new zealand on it surrounded by lil korus and sign posts, real kitschy but only in that really good way that is rural art galleries - somewhere about a 15min walk from my house so that i can listen to something on the way down the hill and back up it again also close enough to town so these people that i'll also be making really good friends with can meet me somewhere and we'll have a great time doing things like laughing and being awake enough not to nap in the daytime. it will have a big window that i can look out once i get there really early in the morning and sit reading current affairs and other articles on other websites for about an hour while also honing in on some banana-porridge and a cuppa tea. i'll do some work - some research and some writing and some stressing out about deadlines - and there'll be a bit of carpet big enough for two people to lie down on & i can read on the floor in the sun when it comes around again. i could draw a picture maybe and colour it in or cut stuff out and paste it on other stuff and somehow all of this leading to..leading to a better life maybe something comfortable, you know with money but also peace.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maya Deren

Maya Deren is an avant-garde filmmaker (also critic, writer, dancer, actor, academic etc) from mainly the 40s. She did some stuff in the 50s before she died but was ethnographic film - a lot different from her more surrealist/expressionist stuff. Lots of people were angry that she went down this kind of documentary route but they didn't have much time to be grumpy cos she died from a brain hemorrhage brought on by malnutrition. She was also taking lots of amphetamines at the time for something I can't remember but wikipedia does.

These two are her most popular films (i think) and they are my favourites too. I also like the ones called The Very Eye of Night and A Study in Choreography for Camera. 

If you look up pics of her or watch the films (she is the lead) you can see how beautiful she was/is. I read that she was a Russian Jewess. She had three husbands. One of them did the sound for Meshes later on after she died maybe. Another one does the cinematography for it. There is a movie she did with one of her husbands about their cats. A lot of the films are shot in their own apartment. She was real good friends with Anais Nin too. They first met when Deren was shooting At Land with Hammid (her hubby) on the beach and Anais Nin was walking along it (maybe with Henry Miller ????!!) and they stopped and watched for a bit then kept walking then found out about her later and they all hung out and had a good time. They were pretty good mates with André Breton and Marcel Duchamp too.

In terms of avant-garde cinema she's more like the Russian constructionists/futurists I think than Dada and Surrealists. She likes form too much. In an article she wrote she talks a lot about the 'art instrument' though doesn't feature much machinery in her films. I dunno then. Seems like the body and movement is her 'machine'. She explores lots with space and time and I think that is one of the things I like most about her. Also identity. I disagree with her take on reality though and objectivity of the photographic image. But that's cool. Her films are real good I think and that's all that matters, really.

 Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1943)

At Land (Maya Deren, 1943)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

some lil abstract animations that made me laugh in class yesterday. i dunno why they just make me feel really good.

Swinging the Lambeth Walk (Len Lye, 1939)

Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren, 1949)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

a list of good things

  1. kurt vonnegut
  2. lorrie moore
  3. space bitches
  4. space ghosts
  5. hamish parkinson
  6. flat party
  7. the artist
  8. grimes
  9. perfume genius
  10. sandwich club
  11. shenandoah davis and band
  12. the piano
  13. pecan pie breakfast dessert
  14. university
  15. f. scott fitzgerald
  16. cat power
  17. if you only see one show in your life
  18. jono playing pokemon
  19. good deal at farmers
  20. getting new glasses
  21. richard meros salutes the southern man
  22. drinks with my teachers
  23. ginger and lime cider
  24. having cool lecturers and a cool supervisor
  25. my job
  26. skype
  27. water
  28. gingernut flavoured ice cream
  29. uni library

Saturday, March 10, 2012

if you only see one show in your life

I had been looking forward to this show a lot. I saw it last night. It was excellent. For one the poster is really great. Like if home brand had a range of theatre-related merchandise it would almost definitely be sold via this real clever and compelling marketing scheme.

iyososiyl is directed by Holly Chappell (who is doing a Master of Theatre Arts in Directing at Toi Whakaari) in collab with Jo Randerson. I like Jo Randerson (I have not seen any of her shows but I have read two of her short story collections and they are just fantastic). From what I gathered previously in conversation with some of the cast, it was a devised piece. I also heard that this is a new approach for J.R so cool for that I suppose.

It's a show that questions theatre, what the audience expects and why we/they attend theatre. It's a piece very much, I think, for theatre practitioners though other audience members will recognise familiar elements yet maybe not be able to deconstruct some parts. I think I felt a bit like that sometimes (though still thoroughly enjoyed it (appreciating, like by the sounds of everyone else, the irony).

I think the show is kind of about reality performed in theatre (and the paradox that it can only be a representation) and also probably maybe the role of fiction/creativity/imagination within the act of creation. Sometimes this show reminded me less of theatre and more of conceptual videos that are played at art galleries on repeat all day.

The show didn't have a cohesive or linear structure, rather segments of storylines played out separately and then altogether in a big vegetable stir-fry, each vying for our attentions at the end. Every part was mindfully constructed even before we set foot in the theatre: the ushers ushered us in a very ushery way into our seats, cunningly breaking up groups of friends. The tickets were even real 'tickety' (with the rip-off bit like at the movies except card, not receipt paper!) 

Some of the elements/styles of theatre (I think) were: monologue (Chris Parker did real good monologues), dance, in yer face (Tai Berdinner Blades did real good heroin injecting), performance art, music (Tom Eason did real good drumming), violence, the 'review' (Alice Canton did real good overdone review clichés), 'breaking the forth wall' (like, constantly), audience participation, silences, absurdist theatre (Andrew Paterson did really good reading the newspaper with three hands in the rain (he also did real good tap-dancing with chalk)) (and heaps more (maybe some of the things I've mentioned don't count)) and they were all exaggerated which made for a very funny/sometimes shocking performance, which culminated into a very messy and cathartic finale/orgy-thing. 

It was bloody wonderful to be able to see something like this (in Christchurch there is absolutely nothing of the sort) and so now I am very excited to see more cool stuff here. 

The last show was this evening (sorry). 

I liked it heaps.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

top four nights hamish was here (somehow all relating to food)

  1. the night we listened to the beach boys really loudly, had 11 vegetable + udon noodle soup and made props
  2. the night we got take away key-lime and rhubarb and strawberry pie from sweet mothers and ate them watching twin peaks in the lounge
  3. the night we nearly ate a 2L tub of 4-flavour ice cream and felt really ill
  4. the night we made fried rice and ran all the way down the hill to see tinker tailor soldier spy at the embassy

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Birdlings Flat

It was the summer of early 2010 when me and Ben took mum’s little white Corsa out of Christchurch. It was a semi-spontaneous decision, I guess you could say, being made only the night before amidst talk of Huck Finn, the romance of the outdoors (so fixated upon in New Zealand literature), and the art of bird-watching one of us had recently read about in a ‘How To’ manual borrowed from the library (possibly written by Steve Braunius[1], who we had a rather shameless Sunday morning crush on back then). All this because of a failed attempt at building a raft, an idea taken from Twain (the week previous we filled up the boot of the aforementioned hatchback with bits of wood, kitchen utensils, plastic shells once homes of lightbulbs perhaps or other breakable items – junk mostly obtained from the Supershed–a yard full of other peoples rubbish/second-hand treasures–with the intention[2] of a fully-fledged luxury liner[3], all of which still remained stuffed into that little boot, dismissed, albeit not forgotten[4]).

I picked Ben up at 10am. I parked in the driveway, tooted my horn twice and he appeared, closing the door, a mug of coffee in hand[5]. He was wearing his ‘adventure hat’: a straw hat frayed at the edges, missing some weaves at the top and on the rim so that in the sun, dappled light played at his feet; ripped blue jeans and a red plaid shirt.

“Hi. Sorry. Didn’t have time to finish this”, he said motioning to his mug.
“Or put on your shoes…”
“Heh. Yeah”.
            “I thought we could go out to Birdlings Flat.
            “Yeah. Sounds cool”.
            “Oh, and I brought this”, I said handing him a pocket guide to New Zealand birds. “It has the names of all these birds and the Maori ones too and the locations you can find them and the size and weight of each bird as well as info on their habitats”. (Though it’s not like we were particularly interested in the science behind the birds[6], we weren’t avid bird-lovers, it was more we liked to watch them walk, study their different gaits, the way they interacted with their environment, the way the Shag would dive into the water, the way the seagulls would shriek at each other and some, thinking they were particularly clever would often feign lepracy or an amputated leg in an attempt to haggle a chip or two).
 We passed two signs. One said ‘REAL FRUIT ICECREAMS’. The other said ‘LAVENDER FARM’.  
 “A lavender farm. I love lavender,” I said. “I like plants that grow aggressively”.
            “Oh yeah?” said Ben, “I like climbing trees”.
“Hah, you do too. (Once when I was a child (once with an entrepreneurial streak; once[7] intent on not being poor and really wanting a new Pokémon trading card deck), I cut the lavender that lined our driveway (and crushed the flowers in my hands). I wrapped the perfumated crumbs in small calico sheets I had painted purple and bundled them up (like dumplings), secured with a piece of sting at the top. I sold them on the street, a big sign “LAVENDER POSIES” taped to a desk and illustrated the health benefits of lavender to passersby[8]. Smiling cutely, of course[9])”.
“Cool. I made up planets and hybrids of animals and languages and drew them in my school books. I’m hoping that one day they will be worth thousands”.
“When will that be?” I asked.
“When they come true”.

We stopped at a dairy and got some coke. Ben looked out the windows and pointed at things; I stared ahead[10].

Ben told me about Gondwalaland, before the earthquakes that broke everything up. That Earth is always changing and that maybe we could evolve backwards one day when our resources get used up. That maybe we will grow gulls and live in the sea. That he still eats meat because life is too short not too and, that Birdlings Flat reminded him of Christchurch. Chirstchurch. As if it hadn’t been built on a swamp. As if it hadn’t been colonized. A virginal alter-ego. As if it hadn’t been. Of course this had no meaning to us then. Not as it does now, perhaps. Ben often described things like this. Idealising things that could never be. A sad romantic. We drew faces on the stones that quilted the shore. Faces that were tired, happy, bored. Faces that were grey. Faces that couldn’t feel when we skimmed them into the waves.

It was gusty out on the flat. The wind came off the sea. Goosebumps grew over Ben’s arms; the hairs stood up on mine. We ran over stone-dunes that licked our calves. Ben panted something about our feet getting eaten. There was a large rock in the distance. Ben raced ahead. A thin moisture grew from the centre of his back and wet his t-shirt.

When I finally caught up to him he was picking weeds from the base of the rock. He looked at me, crossed his legs, looked at a watch that he wasn’t wearing and leaned back laughing.

“Oh fuck off”, I said.
“You’re just jealous”.
“You’re a dick”.
“Well are we gonna do this?”

The rock was a lot bigger up close. I remember how the wind had picked up. Birds were finding it hard to fly against it. Climbing hurt my lungs. Ben stayed close to me.
       “Well, what do you think?”
       “It’s nice”.
       “This is just like The Lion King, don’t you think?”
       “Heh. Yeah”.
       “Yeah! There’s the Shadowlands over there”
“And this is Pride Rock, right?”
       “I can’t see any birds I haven’t seen before”
       “Just Shags”.
       “Heh. Just shags”.
       “Do you think people get more philisophical when they are high?”
       “Probably. Or at least they think they do. Depends how high”.
       “Oh ha-ha. I mean when people climb stuff. And they look out over the land. It’s a new perspective. It’s different. They start to think about life in a different way”.
       “Like, more objectively you mean?”
       “Yeah. No. I dunno. It’s just. This is really nice. I feel like I can do stuff up here. Like I left my life down there and up here I am something else. I’m a bird. I can fly”.
       “I’m not sure. I guess… You would be a pelican if you were a bird”.
       “Pelicans don’t even live in New Zealand. You would be a pukeko”
       “They’re carnivorous aren’t they?”

            We sat there for about an hour. Looking I guess at mainly rocks and sea. But it was something else gluing us there. Something sure. Something we shared, keeping us safe.

“They're protected”.

[1]  although maybe it wasn’t him. I just remember that he wrote one of those books.  Maybe it was the one on wine tasting. Or looking at the stars.
[2]  quixotic
[3]  the only lining being punctured, rubber tires
[4]  especially around tight corners at high speeds
[5]  and an old, worn Chuck Taylor in the other
[6]  I cant remember names other than Shag and Seagull and Sparrow
[7]  once
[8]  calming; aids sleep
[9]  I think I sold two posies. Maybe three. Made a total of $1.50
[10] I was driving, remember.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Artist (2011)

Cinema seems to be getting real nostalgic these days with films like Hugo and The Artist.

I saw this at The Embassy with Jackson one evening in a massive and beautiful theatre (the one up the top of the stairs (definitely the best complex to see The Artist I think, (just for the lush aesthetic, (real 'star power-chic').).).).

We got a good deal on a combo: two drinks, two ice creams and a box of popcorn. 

The story told a similar tale of what I believe happened to a lot of silent film stars: they were really famous and then 'talkies' were introduced and they sort of faded into Hollywood obscurity. The story has been told a lot Sunset Boulevard, Ed Wood. The Artist is a pastiche of the silent era, never actually becoming a silent film of course, having a soundtrack (not a live orchestra) and also introducing dialogue right at the very end.

My favourite parts were:
  • The dream sequence
  • The dog 'uggie' (dumbfounded as to how this lil pooch did not win an Oscar for best supporting actor)
  • The beginning 'film within a film'
  • The physical comedy/slapstick humour 
  • John Goodman 
  • The titles (eg when he was about to shoot himself)

I didn't really like Peppy Miller, or the end that much (just couldn't see how tap-dancing was better than speaking) but it was nice to see a contemporary portrayal of the silent era, bearing in mind that this fictional and not a 'biopic' or whatever - I don't think complete historical accuracy was necessary, just an appreciation of early cinematic form and consistent application of codes/conventions within contemporary framework. 

God that lil pooch, though. Best acting I've seen all my dog-damned life.