‘Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street’: German TV thriller directed by Sam Fuller with soundtrack by Can
02.11.2016
03:46 pm

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Music
Television

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My mother was from Austria, and it’s through her that I came to learn of the incredible Tatort TV series that has existed in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria since 1970. There’s nothing really comparable to Tatort in America, although CBS’s practice of setting up CSI franchises in different cities provides a starting point to an explanation, as does the revolving door of homicide detectives in Law & Order.

The basic idea of Tatort is that it’s a police procedural series that exists in roughly a dozen different German-speaking cities—all at the same time. So think of it as a dozen different series with different police protagonists, all of which use the same basic template. Berlin has its Kommissare (police detectives) who work for the Mordkommission (homicide department), and Hamburg has its Kommissare, and so do Munich and Cologne and Leipzig and Münster and Dortmund and on and on. If you shoot a handful of episodes every year in twelve different cities for 40 years in a row, eventually you’ll end up with quite a massive project, and sure enough, as of this writing they’re zeroing in on their thousandth episode.
 

 
Tatort means “scene of the crime,” and one of the central ideas of the series is to take that word Ort (place) very seriously. All episodes use a good deal of on-location shooting, so that viewers can really see the different cities in which the shows take place. In a more general way, it’s part of the series mandate for the shows of each city to have some regional spirit—as an example, the various regional accents one encounters in the different episodes are quite noticeable.

Every episode of Tatort is 90 minutes long, without commercial interruption, and a great many of them start with the discovery of a murder victim’s body and the associated crime scene/forensic palaver with which we’re all familiar. The running length is a mixed blessing: it allows the episodes to probe deeper than comparable American shows, but it’s a bit too long for what is ultimately a formulaic exercise, and I’m not the first to notice that many episodes tend to sag around the midway point. Still: if at its worst a Tatort episode would be on the level of any forgettable Kojak, at its best the episodes attain the same general excellence of something like The Silence of the Lambs.

For those who are interested in the series, Michael Kimmelman’s astute writeup, which appeared in The New York Times in 2009 is worth a read. 

The 25th episode of Tatort aired on January 7, 1973: The episode was called Tote Taube in der Beethovenstraße (“Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street”)  The director was none other than that great American character Samuel Fuller, responsible for such masterworks as Pickup on South Street and Shock Corridor, and the music was provided by a German outfit, credited as “The Can,” that just a few months before had released its fourth album, Ege Bamyasi.
 

 
The episode is set in Bonn and Cologne, mostly. I’ve watched the episode in full, and there’s no denying that it has a certain pulpy pizzazz—Fuller does know what he’s doing—but it’s not much more than a collection of espionage tropes jammed together without too much rhyme or reason. My knowledge of German didn’t enable me to follow the plot, so you shouldn’t worry too much about understanding it, either. A major character is named Charlie Umlaut, which is a tiny bit hilarious. Apparently the plot was inspired somewhat by the Profumo affair in the UK.

In the opening sequence viewers will hear the familiar strains of Can’s hit “Vitamin C,” which was also used to strong effect in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Behind-the-scenes photos of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’
02.11.2016
12:55 pm

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Movies

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“I’m going out with my droogs to the cinny to shove a pooshka into the grahzny bratchny.”

A roundup of some behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, 1971. Like Cure videos and cute cat memes, there is a seemingly bottomless well of Kubrick memorabilia on the Internet. His films will still be discussed, debated—and still WATCHED—500 years from now.

“Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well.”


 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Plain Janes’ need not apply: Women in movie screenplays are invariably described as ‘attractive’
02.11.2016
11:42 am

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Feminism
Movies

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Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) in ‘The World Is Not Enough’

By now, a great many movie fans are familiar with the Bechdel Test, a thought exercise developed by cartoonist Alison Bechdel and her friend Liz Wallace that appeared in Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. In its common form, a movie passes the Bechdel Test if two named characters converse about any topic other than a man. Depressingly, as we’ve all learned, many movies have a hard time meeting even that low bar.

Another common area of irritation for women in films is casting. It’s far harder for an older woman to succeed as an actor than it is for a man, because casting personnel will tend strongly to populate every female role with younger women. One of the reasons Hollywood casts younger women is that younger women are perceived as more attractive, which gets us to the topic of this post.

A producer named Ross Putman has started an amusing Twitter account designed to point some obvious inequities in the ways characters in movies are apportioned.

Putnam’s Twitter account the parts of certain screenplays in which a major female character is introduced, pointing up how lazily, reflexively, automatically such characters are described as attractive, smoking hot, pretty, etc., whether it makes sense in the role or not. Here’s Putnam’s description of the project:
 

These are intros for female leads in actual scripts I read. Names changed to JANE, otherwise verbatim. Update as I go. Apologies if I quote your work.

 

After reading several of these tweets, one begins to wonder what’s motivating the (presumably) men who write this stuff.

James Bond movies are famous for being populated with sexy women for Bond to fuck, but in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, one of four indistinguishable James Bond movies featuring Pierce Brosnan, they went over the line, creating a character called Dr. Christmas Jones, who is a nuclear physicist played by Denise Richards.

For the record, here’s how Christmas Jones is described in the screenplay
 

Moving fast, off comes the helmet to reveal a BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN GIRL. CHRISTMAS JONES is mid-twenties, shortish hair, hot right now.  In one movement she unzips and steps out of the suit, revealing a khaki sports bra, cut-off shorts, heavy duty boots.  A nasty-looking hunting knife strapped around her hips.  She has a deep tan and an incredible figure.

 
This character stretched credulity to the point that Canada’s National Post called her character one of the “ten worst moments in the history of James Bond on film.”

Anyway, here is a sample of some of Putnam’s JANE tweets:
 

 

 
More tweets about JANE and how attractive she is after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘We Are All Prostitutes’: Lost Pop Group vid discovered days before the song’s reissue. Coincidence?
02.11.2016
11:21 am

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Music
Punk

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When it was released in 1980, Bristol funk terrorists the Pop Group’s second studio album For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? was pretty widely panned. Though the band’s disorientingly noisy No-Wave/punk/funk musical attack had become significantly tighter than on their debut LP Y, singer Mark Stewart cut the brake cables on his lyrical politicking, adopting an uncompromisingly agit-prop “no one is innocent” ethos that was really, REALLY easy to hear as self-righteous finger-pointing. And I get it—one could get ballpark-similar musical kicks from the Contortions or the Birthday Party without feeling like one was being scolded for merely having been born in the First World.

That album has been extremely difficult to obtain legitimately since its first issue in 1980, (further editions do exist, but they’re few, and were released only in Japan) but despite its scarcity, it’s gone on to become the band’s definitive work, along with its contemporary single, “We Are All Prostitutes.” That single had everything that was essential to a Pop Group song—Stewart’s accusations chanted in a terrifying warble, rubber-band bass that sounded like a blind-drunk Larry Graham, guitars so sharp they could cut your throat, and drumming that threatened to shove the rest of the band down a flight of stairs.
 

 
On February 19th, both Mass Murder and the “Prostitutes” single will finally be re-released, after 36 years. The LP is a straightforward re-issue with no bonus goodies save for the addition of “Prostitutes,” and the single contains a non-album track. (The band’s best unreleased material was already compiled on 2014’s Cabinet of Curiosities.) The album’s reputation has significantly grown, in part because the band’s influence has reverberated through the decades despite the difficulties encountered in actually procuring its work, and in part because oh my fucking god we’re seriously still struggling against everything Stewart was yelling about 35 years ago. An edifying exchange between Stewart and Simon Reynolds appears in the latter’s indispensable book Totally Wired:

Reynolds: After Y came “We Are All Prostitutes” and For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder… The lyrics went from being abstract-expressionist to propagandist. Pretty direct protest.

Stewart: The first album was written when I was sixteen or seventeen. But on Y there’s “Don’t Call Me Pain,” about torture, and “The Boys From Brazil,” about Nazis hiding out in South America. So yes, the first one is more mystical, but there’s songs about issues. “Don’t Sell Your Dreams” is one of my favorites of that period—it is poetic but it’s incredibly idealistic and it’s really out there, as pure as you can get.

Reynolds: Still, there was a period around that time…where it seemed like the Pop Group had decided that there was no room any more for music as sheer entertainment or art for art’s sake. That the political imperatives of the time were to urgent to allow for such decadence. In one interview [Pop Group guitarist] Gareth Sager even says it’s trivial to use interview time to talk about the music when they could be talking about serious political issues.

Stewart: It wasn’t really conscious, but there was a fire in our belly. The idea was that if there was a space to use in any kind of media, you had to use it to get out what you really wanted to talk about. It was connected to hanging out with all these radical groups, like People United in Southall, and Race Today. That was a really good magazine run by Linton Kwesi Johnson and Darcus Howe, based out of Brixton, and it was going on about the “Sus” laws—stop and search—which I sang about in “Justice” and “Forces of Oppression” on How Much Longer. Loads of black people were dying in custody. Demonstrations were getting broken up. Race Today was the only thing putting out that information at that time. For us, it was all part of the same thing—the fire, the music and the desire to get these things across. Nobody was talking about it really. It wasn’t party political; there was just this fire about different injustices. It wasn’t this worthy thing, you know. It wasn’t really preaching. The things that excite me—be it a musical form or a lyrical form—often the singing is buried inside the music. So it’s not like giving a fucking speech.

The use of torture is clearly far from a settled matter if you’ve suffered even one GOP presidential debate, and who could fail to see screamingly obvious parallels to the Black Lives Matter movement in that last response? Oh, how far Western Civilization hasn’t come. Stewart may have protested that singing a song is “not like giving a fucking speech,” but when his lyrics are clear, as in the pensively dubby j’accuse “There Are No Spectators,” and the completely fucking groovy indictment of authoritarian corruption “Justice,” um, yeah, it kind of IS like giving a speech.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment