Friday, February 25, 2011

ambiguous sentence:

"America's leadership on clean air has benefitted our children with asthma and our seniors with lung diseases."

                                                                                                             —from US Senator Benjamin Cardin's blog

Thursday, February 24, 2011

artaud painting, colin wilson, outsider

   Broadbent: ... I find the world quite good enough for me—rather a jolly place, in fact.

   Keegan (looking at him with quiet wonder): You are satisfied?

   Broadbent: As a reasonable man, yes. I see no evils in the world—except of course, natural evils—that cannot by remedied by freedom, self-goverment and English institutions. I think so, not because I am an Englishman, but as a matter of common sense.

   Keegan: You feel at home in the world then?

   Broadbent: Of course. Don't you?

   Keegan (from the very depths of his nature): No.

                                                                                                                     —George Bernard Shaw, John Bull's
                                                                                                                     Other Island
(1904), Act IV.

Monday, February 14, 2011

FRANKLY SPEAKING: ZAPPA THE COMPOSER (1940 - 1993) - The Influence of Varèse and the Evolution of Classical Pop

A guest post by D.J. Carlile, poet, playwright, lit crit and big Zappa fan, who lives in Los Angeles. His critically-praised translation of Rimbaud: The Works is available from Amazon and most other sources of printed material.

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young frank zappa

"The composer's job involves the decoration of fragments of time. Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid." —FZ, The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)

Often thought of as the Bad Boy of Rock 'n' Roll for his satiric and sometimes off-color lyrics, Frank Zappa was a musician of immense and concentrated genius. His industry was legendary and over the course of a three-decade career he produced, on average, two albums a year, toured with a band, made videos or film and created countless notated scores. Less well-known is the fact that his music also attracted the interest of such classical maestros as Pierre Boulez, Kent Nagano and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Initially dismissed as a prankish parvenu, Zappa's status as a composer has risen in recent years, due in part to a series of albums recorded by the Ensemble Modern— notably The Yellow Shark and Greggery Peccary— and the more frequent appearance of his music on symphonic or chamber programs in the avant-garde vein.

A pair of instrumental albums with the London Symphony Orchestra under Nagano's baton appeared in 1983 and 1987 to mixed reception as Orchestral Works, Vols. I & II. Densely textured and dissonant, the music was not embraced by Zappa's strictly rock fans, while the classical critics found it diffuse or too thickly orchestrated and difficult to follow.

Performances of his symphonic music were generally plagued by low budgets, limited rehearsals and union hassles. The soundtrack to the 1962 film The World's Greatest Sinner had a track by Zappa performed by the Pomona Symphony Orchestra, but it was woefully under-rehearsed and FZ called the results "rancid." This was followed in 1968 by Lumpy Gravy and in 1970 by 200 Motels (another film score), both of which suffered from lack of rehearsal-time and some ragged, inaccurate playing. 200 Motels is significant in that the Royal Philharmonic is featured in the film as part of the action, wherein Ringo Starr plays the role of Zappa-as-conductor and Keith Moon, in one of his last film appearances, plays a crazed nun who creates mayhem by running amok through the orchestra as they attempt to play the score. This movie is an underrated surreal-comic gem devoted to the old rock 'n' roll axiom that "touring will make you crazy." The orchestral score is played with impressive energy and fervor despite the lack of polish.

In 1984 two albums appeared which gave notice that FZ was indeed more "classically" serious than the garden-variety rock-musician-plus-symphony-orchestra gig. The first of these was devoted to arrangements of trio sonatas by FZ's 18th century namesake Francesco Zappa (no apparent relation), an Italian cello virtuoso who flourished circa 1763-88. This was accomplished on the synthclavier (a synthesizer attached to a working keyboard), which had become Zappa's instrument of choice for composition and arrangement due to its high degree of flexibility. The original sonatas are lightweight, tuneful pieces of a dignified lyricism. Not, certainly, any threat to the status of a Mozart or Haydn, they are nevertheless a cut above the average 18th century output. Zappa's arrangements, similar to Stravinsky's transformations of Pergolesi in Pulcinella, are pungent, lively re-creations.

frank zappa mandolin guitar
"To be able to write a piece of music and hear it in your head is a completely different sensation from the ordinary listening experience." —FZ page 142

The other release of that year featured Pierre Boulez conducting the Ensemble Intercontemporain in a program of Zappa's works entitled The Perfect Stranger. Best known as a conductor of such modern masters as Debussy, Bartók, Varèse and Stravinsky, Boulez was also an acclaimed composer of seriously abstract music himself. Zappa had sent him some scores for consideration and was delighted when Boulez agreed to record them. Zappa was of the opinion that the results were the most successful recording of his so-called "classical stuff." Boulez had no shortage of rehearsal time, and his grasp of the technical difficulties inherent in most contemporary music went a long way toward ensuring the superior quality of The Perfect Stranger.

Zappa was, in essence, an eclectic musician; he derived his pop vocabulary from early rhythm-and-blues, rock 'n' roll, doo-wop, TV jingles, film music and popular ballads, while at the same time forging his classical style out of Stravinsky, Bartók, Ives, Stockhausen and Varèse, blending these influences into a surreal texture of abrupt rhythmic changes and abstract melodic lines. The influence of Varèse was perhaps first and foremost here.

"Made at the height of Cream and love beads, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968) ... was the first rock & roll tribute record: 13 original songs, soaked in the oiled pompadour cool, prom-night lust and tremulous croon of Fifties vocal group R&B.... Doo-wop was as vital to Zappa's composing palette as Stravinsky..." —David Fricke, Rolling Stone review of Greasy Love Songs, the CD reissue of "Cruising with Ruben & the Jets" (with added tracks), June 10, 2010; page 81

When he was a teenager, living in Southern California, FZ read an article in Look magazine wherein Sam Goody, a New York City record retailer, bragged that he could sell anything, even an album called "Ionisation." As Zappa later recalled: "The article went on to say something like 'This album is nothing but drums— it's dissonant and terrible; the worst music in the world.' Ahh! Yes! That's for me! I wondered where I could get my hands on a record like that... [...] Sometime later, I was staying overnight with ... a friend who lived in La Mesa, and we wound up going to the hi-fi place— they were having a sale on R&B singles."

While he was browsing the bins, an album cover caught his eye: "...a strange-looking black-and-white album cover with a guy on it who had frizzy grey hair and looked like a mad scientist. I thought it was great that a mad scientist had finally made a record, so I picked it up and there it was, the record with 'Ionisation' on it." The price of the album was $5.95 and Zappa had only $3.75 in his pocket, but the owner of the store gave him a deal on the disc and he went home with an empty pocket and The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, vol. 1 in his hands.

Varèse zappa mad scientist
A while later, he bought his first Stravinsky record, a version of the Rite of Spring with a "green-and-black abstract whatchamacallit" on the cover. "I loved Stravinsky almost as much as Varèse," he later wrote. Soon after, he discovered Webern and Bartók.

stravinsky zappa rite of spring
Based on the description of the cover art, Zappa was probably referring to this
Everest recording with Sir Eugene Goossens conducting the London Symphony
Orchestra, an early hi-fi stereo LP much praised in its day for its spectacular sonics.

On his fifteenth birthday, when his mother offered to buy him something special, he persuaded her to let him make a long-distance phone call. ("Nobody in our house had ever made a long-distance phone call," he noted.) So his wish was granted and he found the number of Varèse through directory assistance. When he got an answer, it turned out that Varèse was in Belgium working on a piece called 'Poème Électronique' for the World's Fair in Brussels. The composer's wife Louise (a noted translator of French poet Arthur Rimbaud) was cordial and suggested that Zappa call back in a few weeks, which he did. "I don't remember exactly what I said when I finally spoke to him— probably something articulate like 'GeeI really dig your music,'" Zappa recalled.

"Varèse told me that he was working on a new piece called 'Déserts,' which thrilled me since Lancaster, California, was in the desert. When you're fifteen and living in the Mojave Desert, and you find out that the World's Greatest Composer (who also looks like a mad scientist) is working in a secret Greenwich Village laboratory on a 'song about your hometown' (so to speak), you can get pretty excited. I still think 'Déserts' is about Lancaster, even if the liner notes on the Columbia LP insist that it is something more philosophical." [see the comments section to read an amusing letter 16-year-old Zappa wrote to Varèse]

"Composition is a process of organization, very much like architecture. As long as you can conceptualize what the organizational process is, you can be a 'composer' in any medium you want. You can be a 'video composer,' a 'film composer,' a 'choreography composer,' a 'social engineering composer' whatever. Just give me some stuff and I'll organize it for you. That's what I do." —FZ page 139

frank zappa bulldozer funny

In 1992 Zappa appeared as guest conductor of the Ensemble Modern for a series of concerts of his music in Germany. This turned out to be is last public appearance onstage; he died the following year of prostate cancer. The album of those concerts was released a month before his passing. Entitled The Yellow Shark, it contained 19 of his "classical" compositions , including the breezy "Dogbreath Variations"— a piece that was later programmed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under its music director E.P.Salonen.

"[The Yellow Shark] is his last major work. The ensemble is awe-inspiring. It is a rich pageant of texture in colour. It's the clarity of his perfect madness, and mastery. Frank governs with Elmore James on his left and Stravinsky on his right. Frank reigns and rules with the strangest tools." —Tom Waits

In the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century, Frank's oldest son Dweezil, a guitarist of no mean accomplishment himself, began to organize a series of concerts devoted to his father's music. The band(s) that he assembled consisted of younger musicians— some not yet born when FZ was composing this music— those with the sight-reading and improvisational skills to master such little "pop" tone-poems as "Inca Roads," "Black Page #2" and "Eat That Question." FZ alumni Steve Vai, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Terry Bozzio and George Duke would appear as "special guests" during these concerts, which are partially preserved in a 2008 film by Pierre and François Lamoureux called Zappa Plays Zappa (2 DVDs recorded in Seattle and Portland). In December 2010 in Los Angeles, Dweezil and the band played the Apostrophe album in its entirety, along with many other items from the vast Zappa catalogue— among them "Uncle Remus," "Inca Roads" and "Dinah Moe Hum." George Duke was the "special guest" at this pair of concerts, along with the video shade of FZ who played on a giant screen along with the onstage musicians for a couple of numbers.

In a 2007 Montreal interview, Dweezil commented: "When it came time to put the band together, I knew it was going to be a big challenge to find people that were able to rise to the challenge. I personally feel that Frank's music is very contemporary and I wanted to present it in a way that— if we're trying to attract a newer audience— which I definitely am determined to do— I want younger people to be interested in it and be exposed to it. I thought, 'I probably need to have a younger focus with the band itself.' And that sort of energy would be very important. I was very fortunate in that the word got out to the right people...[among them] ...Aaron Arntz [trumpet & keyboards], Scheila Gonzalez [keyboards, sax & vocals] and Billy [Hulting] the percussionist..."

Considering the success of these concerts, in some ways the "pop" side of Zappa's huge output has become "classical" too now precisely set out or notated in highly complex arrangements that replicate the sound and shape of Zappa's originals without being slavish imitations. Dweezil may not have the edgy, brittle brilliance of his father's guitar technique, but he is a more lyrical and coloristic player whose immense gifts serve this music well. Dweezil says: "What we're doing onstage is just celebrating Frank's music and trying to give people the chance to see it -- now -- in the most authentic way possible... I'm not going onstage trying to pretend to 'be' Frank.... There's certainly enough music to explore.... I am looking to the future to be able to do this on an annual basis and continually add more material and just keep improving the way we're able to present it."

This is the credo of the classical musician faced with his or her umpteenth performance of a Beethoven symphony or Ravel's Boléro— to "just keep improving the way we're able to present it." Frank Zappa's "last band," the Ensemble Modern, made its West Coast debut in 2010 at the 64th Ojai Music Festival. This world-famous festival has been called "the most important new music event on the West Coast, if not the entire U.S. [... ] a necessary pilgrimage for any fan of contemporary classical music," so said the LA Times. "For a new music fan, Southern California's Ojai Festival is about as close to nirvana as it gets," opines the San Francisco Classical Voice. The Ensemble played music from The Yellow Shark and Greggary Peccary & Other Persuasions on a program with Varèse's Density 21.5 and Octandre. On the season's brochure cover were photo portraits of Stravinsky, Messiaen and Frank Zappa. The Festival even offered a "Zappa Package Everything Zappa in one day: Friday Symposium, Pre-Concert Dinner, Zappa Concert." At the Symposiuim, members of the Ensemble Modern recounted tales of their tours and recordings with FZ in the 90's.

ojai music festival flyer brochure program

Zappa certainly stands alone as a serious composer of both popular and classical music; he has a unique and instantly recognizable style in both genres. And while "Mo 'n' Herb's Vacation" or "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress" may never surpass "Dinah Moe Hum," "Peaches in Regalia" or "Call Any Vegetable" in popular esteem, those deeply convoluted and cerebral compositions pay back the adventurous soul who ventures a few repeated listenings.

According to Max Paddison in the Grove Music Dictionary: "Zappa's importance lies less in any obvious influence on rock music than in the way his music embraces American popular culture while simultaneously maintaining a critical distance from it .... His own material is always calculatedly secondhand, disposable and ephemeral; his approach to structuring it is critical, ironic and self-reflective. The result has a richness of allusion, wealth of detail and a consistency of thought reminiscent of James Joyce." Like the works of Joyce, particularly Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, the surface difficulties are many, but the pleasures run deep.

Social satire, a gleeful sense of humor, musical sophistication and silliness, Brechtian alienation and Dadaist collage technique are all present in Zappa's work, which has achieved the individuality of high-art music subversively grounded in the popular music industry. In a way, Zappa is something like the J.S. Bach of the 20th Century. He synthesized and celebrated defunct or old-fashioned styles (Doo-wop, for example, vis-a-vis Bach's use of Fugue), making something utterly fresh and Zappa-esque to scintillate and delight listeners for decades to come. And that, as they say, is nothing to "snat!" your fingers at.

zappa statue baltimore bach

Click HERE to see "eARTh", a rare Zendik Arts Farm publication containing an interview with Frank Zappa.

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"Dog Breath Variations" (The Yellow Shark, 1993)

"Peaches in Regalia" (Hot Rats, 1969)

"Call Any Vegetable" (Absolutely Free, 1967)

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Just Another Band from L.A. (Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, LIVE at UCLA) - 1972
One Size Fits All (Zappa / Mothers) - 1975
Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (Zappa / Mothers) [reissued on compact disc in 2010 as Greasy Love Songs, with several added tracks] - 1968
Hot Rats [with Captain Beefheart, vocalist, on "Willie the Pimp"] - 1969
Apostrophe (') - 1974
Chunga's Revenge - 1970
The Yellow Shark [LIVE in Europe with Ensemble Modern] - 1993
The Perfect Stranger [with Pierre Boulez & Ensemble Intercontemporain] - 1984
Francesco Zappa - 1984

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Baby Snakes (1977)
200 Motels (1971)
Frank Zappa: The Dub-Room Special (1982)
Zappa Plays Zappa (2007)

Below, an hilarious appearance by a young Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show "playing his bicycle." He also mentions having recently scored Timothy Carey's 1962 film The World's Greatest Sinner. (Parts 2 and 3 will play automatically):

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Grove Music Online (Zappa, Frank; Zappa, Francesco)
The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso; Poseidon Press 1989 [quotations from this book notated as FZ with page number]
Zappa Plays Zappa (2 dvd concert film) P. & F. Lamoureux; Muppy Productions and Strobosonic 2008
Ojai Music Festival program-brochure, June 10 - 13, 2010

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"The people most offended by my lyrics seem to be rock critics. The audience usually likes them." —FZ

zappa guitar angry face

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Around the World with Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi The Circle
The Circle (Jafar Panahi, 2000)

Yusef Sayed, on his blog AudioVisual Salvage, wrote the following on January 2, 2011:

"Filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and will be denied any opportunity to direct or produce films for 20 years, as a result of a criminal trial in Iran. This has been well documented amongst the cinephile community and mainstream media. In light of this news and as a gesture of support for the filmmaker, I would like to offer my Region 2 dvd copy of Panahi's film The Circle as a gift to somebody who would like to see it and who does not have a copy. In order to enable many individuals to see this film (and in imitation of the film's own structure) it would perhaps be fitting to allow the film to then pass from person to person, throughout the world and eventually land back where it started, at which point the situation may have changed.

We cannot change the world, but we may inspire many people, and support one great filmmaker."

An excellent idea, I thought, so I emailed him and became the first link in the circle, and now I'm ready to pass the film along to the next person. Note: The Circle, as Yusef pointed out, is a region 2 DVD (the region 1 DVD is out of print), and as such it won't play on most North American DVD players. Many players can be tweaked, however, especially those on computers.

I'd also like to let people know that I'm releasing my (region 1) copy of Panahi's Crimson Gold (2000) into the wild. Inside I will place a piece of paper on which people may write down their name and location (or whatever else) as a record of the film's journey (I'll do the same for The Circle). If anyone is interested in viewing either film, email me (or provide your email address in the comments section). If you've never seen a Panahi film, so much the better. And don't worry about being able to find somewhere else to send it when the time comes; if it reaches a dead end, contact me and I'll try to provide an address.

Needless to say, I highly recommend both films.

Finally, anyone reading this who has their own Panahi DVDs is encouraged to send them out as well. Lend them to friends, make a blog post, whatever. As Yusef said to me: "Let the idea evolve and take flight."

Panahi is currently sitting in a cell somewhere in Iran, but he remains free -- at least in some sense -- through the films he's made, especially as they make their way around the world...

* * *

Crimson Gold is a film about "doormen" and "delivery men."

Jafar Panahi Crimson Gold
Jafar Panahi Crimson Gold

It's also about doors -- specifically the kind of doors that close for some people and open for others.

Jafar Panahi Crimson Gold
Jafar Panahi Crimson Gold

And it's a film about a delivery man who attempts to force open the doors that are always closing on him.

Jafar Panahi Crimson Gold
Jafar Panahi Crimson Gold

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


(The dotted-underlined bits of text are not links; hover your cursor over them to reveal hidden text. note: I've been told that this doesn't work well with Safari (the text disappears after about 10 seconds). Firefox recommended.)

* * *

Phantoms are all around me.

I keep track of them with lists or on scraps of paper.

I do this for the same reasons children collect fireflies in jars.

Phantoms are all the alluring things that exist on the horizon.

Phantoms exist only in the future, yet they call back to the past in order to make their presence known.

Phantoms, by definition, are mysterious; thus, they have only imaginary value.

They're called phantoms because it's impossible to know which ones will find us and which ones will forever remain on the horizon.

I once saw a enigmatic, evocative poster for a film with an equally enigmatic title: The Valley (Obscured by Clouds). Instantly the film became a phantom. The plot, unknown to me at the time, formed loosely in my head, and some of the scenes crystallized and played out. Years later I finally had the chance to see the film. It was a disappointment.

Most things don't live up to their imaginative value.

Most things are better left as phantoms.

I have many phantom books on my shelves. Beautiful titles, beautiful covers, beautiful authors, beautiful reputations, and a few beautiful things I know about them. They build and build in my imagination until, finally, they turn into cathedrals.

I do this on purpose because I've learned an awful truth: it is rare for a book to remain better opened than closed.

In certain cultures writers sometimes leave a few pages of their novels blank for the reader to fill with their imagination.

Sometimes I wish all books were just beautiful covers and blank pages.

Here are some of my phantoms.

* * *

Earth Ho Tzu Nyen
Earth (Ho Tzu Nyen, 2009, 41 min)

Because that image is all the convincing I need.

Liberty or Love! Robert Desnos
Liberty or Love! (Robert Desnos, 1927)

Because Desnos is a Prince if not a King.

Virilio War and Cinema The Logistics of Perception
War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (Paul Virilio, 1989)

Because the subject is important as well as fascinating. Because Virilio is a well regarded intellectual. And because many of his books sound interesting and one has to start somewhere.

The Microscripts Robert Walser
The Microscripts (Robert Walser)

Because I haven't read anything by Walser. Because he was a favorite of Hesse and Kafka. Because The Microscripts were translated into English for the first time last year. Because John Ashbery said they were incredibly interesting and beautiful. And because Walter Benjamin described them as "one of the profoundest products of modern literature."

Americathon 1998 Neal Israel
Americathon 1998 (Neal Israel, 1979)

Because it's narrated by George Carlin. Because I enjoy satire. Because the premise is that America is on the verge of bankruptcy and the only way to save it is to run a telethon. And because it apparently made many accurate predictions.

Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, Laurence Hyde
Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels
by Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri
and Laurence Hyde

Because of the reputations of the artists (whose work I'm unfamiliar with). Because I like woodcuts and graphic novels. And because of the subject matter ("Pacific islanders caught up in the U.S. Navy's A-bomb testing. [...] [T]he human spirit, threatened with crushing death by the specter of soulless factory work and cruel bosses. [...] A simple story about a commercial artist fighting to keep his family going... ending as a stunning validation of the dignity of man.")

The White Meadows Rasoulof
The White Meadows (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2009)

Because the arrest and imprisonment of the film's director, Mohammad Rasoulof, has been overshadowed by the arrest of (the better known) Jafar Panahi. (On December 20, 2010, both men were sentenced by the government of Iran to six years in prison for "propagandizing against the regime"). And because The White Meadow, Rasoulof's most recent film, is about a man, Rahmat, who has been "assigned to travel to several islands for a job in which he has been engaged for many years. He has been asked to meet the inhabitants of these islands to collect their tears. Although for years people have been giving their tears to Rahmat, no one knows exactly what he has been doing with them."

OBERIU Daniil Kharms
Oberiu: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism

Because I like learning about obscure avant-garde movements. Because I like Absurdism and Russian Futurism. And because I've been hearing amazing things about Daniil Kharms for years.

Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia
Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia

Because I like what I've heard and want to hear more.

Limite film still Peixoto
Limite (Mário Peixoto, 1931)

Because it existed for decades as apocrypha. Because many legends surround the film. Because its score includes Eric Satie, Claude Debussy, Alexander Borodin, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and César Franck. Because on multiple occasions it has been named the greatest Brazilian film of all time. And because someone described it as a "summation of 1920s silent avant garde techniques that Peixoto absorbed while in Europe" that "launches into new dimensions of synthesis that carries the viewer aloft on the feverish velocity of its inspiration [...] Peixoto practically exhausts the lexicon of silent cinematography with every shot conceivable from the era, but arranges them in a cascading visual pattern of sharp angles, deceptively vast vistas and sumptuous close-ups of worldly surfaces."

Duffer Joseph Despins Peter Christopherson Coil
Duffer (Joseph Despins, 1971)

Because Coil's Peter Christopherson championed the film and helped bring it to DVD. "It's entirely through his advocacy that the BFI even found out about its existence in the first place - and everyone in BFI DVD Publishing is greatly saddened to hear that the man who was so excited about the prospect of seeing his favourite film released in a version that makes it look as good as new won't be around to witness the happy event."

Jan Schmidt
The End of August at the Hotel Ozone (Jan Schmidt, 1967)

Because of how it's described on the cover: "Like MAD MAX directed by Andrei Tarkovsky."

J. Allen Boone Letters to Strongheart
Letters to Strongheart

Because the book is comprised of actual letters J. Allen Boone wrote in earnest to the deceased canine film star Strongheart (whom he never even knew). And because, during a conversation with Werner Herzog, Errol Morris spoke of it like it was the Holy Grail of unknown literature.

Between Two Worlds Jayasundra
Between Two Worlds Jayasundra
Between Two Worlds (Vimukhti Jayasundra, 2009)

Because I was impressed with Jayasundra's debut feature THE FORSAKEN LAND, and the stills from his second feature look to promise more of the same.

Friedrichshof Otto Muehl Vienna Actionists
The Children of the Commune (Juliane Grossheim, 2009)

Because I am interested in The Vienna Actionists. And because I want to learn more about Otto Muehl's mysterious Friedrichshof commune.

Public Burning Robert Coover
The Public Burning (Robert Coover, 1977)

Because of all the (overblown?) praise it has received.

francesca woodman photos documentary
The Woodmans (C. Scott Willis, 2010)

Because its a documentary about Francesca Woodman and her family.

Decoder film Burroughs P-Orridge Einsturzende Neubauten Muscha
Decoder (Muscha, 1984)

Because it's a German cult film featuring William S. Burroughs, Genesis P-Orridge, F.M. Einheit (Einsturzende Neubauten), and Christiane F.

roberto bolano between parenthesis
Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998-2003
(Roberto Bolaño)

Because after the hundreds of various Latin American writers Bolaño drops throughout The Savage Detectives, one begins to get very curious (and excited)...

Uruphong Raksasad documentary
Uruphong Raksasad utopia
Agrarian Utopia (Uruphong Raksasad, 2009)

Because I think it will be a lot like Michael Glawogger's powerful WORKINGMAN'S DEATH.

Bukowski essays notebook
Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook:
Uncollected Stories and Essays, 1944-1990
(Charles Bukowski)

Because, throughout various letters, Bukowski showed himself to be an insightful and intelligent conversational critic, and I'm very curious what he said when pressed to write something more formal. And because I like his quick, lightning summations: "Artaud wrote the iron line, like reaming fire through cement."

surfbeat behind the iron curtain
(Various Artists)

Because "Surfbeat" and "Iron Curtain" can't possibly be a bad combination.

Sohrab Shahid Saless utopia pasolini
Utopia (Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1983)

Because of how someone described it: "This little known German film by Iranian director Sohrab Shahid-Saless has been compared by critics to Pasolini's Salò. And with a reason: It's just as claustrophobic, brutal and controversial. But it can't be ignored that Utopia actually shares more common ground with Sartre's No Exit. If there's one sentence that perfectly sums up the film's main concerns, it's without a doubt: 'Hell is other people.'"

rabbit berlin wall konopka
Rabbit à la Berlin (Bartosz Konopka, 2009)

Because it's a short film about the Berlin wall told from the POV of rabbits. And because the trailer looks promising.

Dandy nick cave hagen lovich ohno blixa
Dandy (Peter Sempel, 1988)

Because the cast includes: Nick Cave, Nina Hagen, Blixa Bargeld, Dieter Meier, Lene Lovich, Gudrun Gut, and Kazuo Ohno.

pinochet telescope documentary
Nostalgia for the Light (Patricio Guzmán, 2010)

Because I still haven't seen anything by Patricio Guzmán. Because it's a documentary about the Atacama desert, a place where scientists created the biggest telescopes in the world to peer into the sky at night. And because, during the day, women search the Atacama for buried political prisoners who were murdered by Pinochet. "I wish the telescopes didn't just look into the sky, but could also see through the earth so that we could find them."

ricardo lopez bjork documentary
The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez (Sami Saif, 2000)

Because even though this is probably terrible, sometimes I find it hard to resist watching something that promises to be so bizarre.

L'ange Bokanowski
L'ange (Patrick Bokanowski, 1982)

Because of those images! And because two people whose opinion I trust said it was very good.

the waste books Lichtenberg
(1765 through 1799)

Because in it the author wrote: "A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is unlikely to look out!"