Monday, November 05, 2007

November 2007 Picks

An Audio-Visual Consumption Log

In the spirit of those MySpace updates on what its users moods and habits are, here's my Pop Culture report for the month of November. Like you care!

WHAT I'M WATCHING:

Divine B.B. - Brigitte Bardot

The music of Brigitte Bardot helped soundtrack the 1960s with its kitschy easy listening flavor, and pure pop melodies.

It's finally out, all the Brigitte Bardot music videos. The gem of this two-hour, 35-song collection from a Quebec, Canada subsidiary of Universal is the 1968 French television special Le Show Bardot, which includes her sexy duets with Serge Gainsbourg on "Comic Strip" and "Bonnie and Clyde" as well as the iconic "Harley Davidson" and the trippily futuristic "Contact." This special was previously available only as a Region 2 DVD import or bootleg tape. The DVD also includes three previously unreleased titles, "La Bis Aux Hippies," "Stanislas," and the instrumental "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," the latter featuring Brigitte strumming a guitar while dressed as a top hat-toting jazz dandy.

The quality isn't great, but it isn't bad either, and is probably as good as one can expect since the source material is PAL. According to Mondo-ditgital.com's review, "Universal's DVD relies on the quality of the surviving material, which features some obvious film-related flaws. The 1967 special was shot on 16mm and edited roughly in a few spots, so the problems really couldn't be corrected without altering the entire texture of the piece. Colors look milder than they probably should, but the presentation still far outclasses any other out there." And while the setup menu offers English subtitles, I could only get them to work on "Faces of Paris," a 1968 documentary about the making of Le Show Bardot. Whatever. (Who listens to the Divine B.B.'s pop ditties for the lyrics, anyway?)


Bardot makes "Contact"


Bardot in "Comic Strip"


Serge smokes, B.B. smolders in "Bonnie and Clyde"

This is the Bardot collection to have because, other than Roger Vadim's Et Dieu...Crea la Femme (And God Created Woman) and Jean-Luc Godard's Le Mepris (Contempt) (notable for the gratuitous, tacked-on nudity in the opening scene), Bardot's movies are pretty crappy and this is the best way to enjoy her magic. That is, until they finally release her masterpieces, En Cas du Malheur (1958) or Clouzot's La Verite (1960) stateside.

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO:

Queen of Japanese Movie:
From Stray Cat Rock to Girl Boss Blues

(Hotwax)

Thanks to Bump Stadelman, I'm listening to this great companion CD to what looks to be a great book (which I didn't score from Mr. Stadelman) put out by Japan's Shinko Music/Ultra Vybe and distributed stateside by Hotwax and the fine folks at Dusty Groove America.

This has tracks from many of the Sukeban delinquent schoolgirl/"girl boss" films (aka Japanese Pinky Violence, a graphic sex and violence genre popular in Japan in the increasingly permissive 1970s that was itself an off-shoot of Japan's '60s "pinku" film style) such as Stray Cat Rock, Terrifying Girls' High School and Lady Boss Blues. These films, in the words of the blog Asian-Cinema, "wove together a lethal concoction of hip violence, pop music, sexual situations, in your face attitudes, mod fashions and some of the lovelier Japanese actresses in the business. The success of this genre only lasted a few years but in that time they produced some memorable films and images." In other words, stylish Tits and Kicks movies - though not without their share of legitimate social commentary. Some of the lovely Japanese actresses who made their mark in these films include Meiko Kaji (who got her start in the Stray Cat Rock series before achieving superstar status in the Female Prisoner/Scorpion films and Lady Snowblood), Miko Sugimoto and singing idol/actress Reiko Ike (who starred in five of Toei Studio's seven Sukeban films of the early 1970s). Many of these movies are being distributed for Western audiences by San Francisco's Panik House Entertainment, who recently released the Pinky Violence Collection, a 4-DVD box set that also includes an audio CD of Reiko Ike songs.

I really like the mix of styles featured on this disc. Though most of its 23 tracks sound like coked-up '70s Cop Show music that could easily fit into The A-Team, Queen of Japanese Movie also samples everything from Enka ballads to mod-a-go-go psychedelic rock, and from Spaghetti Western twangs to '50s Cool Jazz.

Since everything on this CD is in Japanese, I searched the 'net to find out more about it and came across this cool blog, Cho-Yablog, which is subtitled "Tokyo, Noise, Enka,Roman Porn, and more..." It's very informative and worth checking out.

Anyway, the song titles are as entertaining as the music on the CD. Not knowing Japanese myself, I asked my girlfriend's mom (who was born in Japan) and a Japanophile friend at work who speaks Japanese (and who owns every Godzilla movie for good measure!) to take a stab at some of these titles and they came up with such bon mots as "Fainting Classroom Girls from Fear," "Scared High School Animal Girls," and "Terrifying High School Gangster Room." While there was a '70s Japanese film series called Terrifying Girls' High School, I still think something is missing in the translation!

WHAT I'M READING:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

I've been devouring Haruki Murakami books of late (After Dark, The Elephant Vanishes, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Wild Sheep Chase, etc.) and am reading this international prize winner now. It's involves libraries (as a card-carrying librarian this of course appeals to me!), oddly named characters, and talking cats (Murakami always seems to have cats in there somewhere!). Like most of his other works, it's compelling reading that is hard to put down. And speaking of things that are hard to put down, I've noticed his fascination with handjobs in his sex scenes. Has any living mainstream author been so obsessed with handjobs? Not since the "heavy petting" 1950s has The Handjob been so celebrated. It's a testament to Murakami's "oral" skills as a storyteller than he makes them seem so...exotic.

M. Sasek's "This is..." Books

The library where I toil recently discarded a bunch of its Miroslav Sasek "This is..." books, much to my joy (because I quickly snatched them up!). These were staples of my childhood and M. Sasak's unique drawing style always fascinated me - and educated me about different cultures of the world. Starting with 1959's This is Paris and continuing up to 1974's This is Historic Britain, the Czech-born illustrator (1916-1980) had 18 children's picture books published by W. H. Allen in the UK, Macmillan in the US and various other publishers worldwide. Each book looked at a different international city, giving an overview of its people, landmarks and culture. Below is a map of the lands and cities covered:



Long out of print, the books have recently come back into print. I especially liked Sasek's Beatnik study from This is Paris:


A Left Bank Beatnik at work: Crazy man!

And with my love of Asian culture, I naturally was attracted to This is Hong Kong, with its vivid street scenes and ornate decore. It was also one of Sasek's three favorite books (along with This is Venice and This is Edinburgh), the artist explaining the appeal as follows:
I loved This is Hong Kong because of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a hard book to do because of the language problem. It took me hours and hours to draw the characters of the alphabet. I tried to use a camera but it didn't work. Sometimes I could have screamed! Three times, ten times, twelve times over it took me to perfect one picture! - Miroslav Sasek in Books are by people



Check out the official Sasek site: This is M. Sasek.

Also check out Anne's UK site I Like M. Sasek, which has seen keen insights into why this series was so smashing. To wit:
The books stick to the same format throughout the series, which is pretty good for 25 years worth of publishing. Most are oversize hardbacks with illustrated dust-jackets or pictorial covers. There is usually an illustration of (presumably) Sasek himself going to wherever the book is set on the bottom left inside cover and a similar illustration on the bottom right inside cover which shows him leaving with some kind of local adornment.

The title page is always in the same style, with "This is" in cursive writing and Sasek's printed signature, but little details are added for each destination. The highlights of each destination are presented in vivid colour through the rest of the book with an emphasis on tourist hotspots, local transport and national dress (particularly the different cultures that inhabit each place). I only have a few of the books but they are all superb. They are in a very 50s, Eastern European style, but are not dated at all. Most of the things that Sasek has picked out are still noteworthy today and his style has endured. They are true classics.

I recall seeing some Japanese pop music video that featured sets modeled after Sasek's post-modern style (Pizzicato Five? Fantastic Plastic Machine? I can't remember!). Anybody have a clue what I'm talking about?

WHAT I'M WIPING WITH:

Charmin Basic

Yes, it's back to basics with my toiletries this month. After venting at the disappearance of my beloved and much coveted one-ply Charmin toilet paper rolls in a previous blog ("The Great One-Ply Toilet Paper Conspiracy"), I recently spied Charmin Basic - the new middle ground compromise between Charmin's Ultra Strong and Ultra Soft extremist fringes - on the shelves of my Eddie's Market. Charmin Basic is softness, strength and value all rolled into one!

My ass sincerely thanks Mr. Whipple and Company and I look forward to many satisfying "mop-up" operations. Oh, and a heads-up to Murakami fans out there - Charmin Basic can probably meet your handjob clean-up needs as well!

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1 Comments:

Blogger Violet said...

Sasek's
>This Is New York
made such a lasting impression on kindergarten-age me that when my grandparents asked where I wanted to visit when they took me to New York for the first time(around the summer of '81-'82) that I knew exactly where I wanted to go. "I want to go to Harlem!" I exclaimed. They practically keeled over on the spot. (Hey, in the book there was a picture of a smiling black girl about my age. It seemed like a nice place.)

8:17 PM  

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