Monday, January 30, 2012

The Return of D'Angelo

(New D'Angelo song "The Charade")

It took longer than we hoped, but now it's unavoidably true. D'Angelo is back.

?uestlove said in an interview with Pitchfork that D'Angelo had asked him to join on tour in Europe, but couldn't make it. I never believe that it would happen. Glad I was wrong. Here's hoping for a great album. (Loved the ?uest hyperbole, saying the album "at its best...will go down in the Smile/There's A Riot Goin' On/On The Corner category.") Here are some clips:

Chicken Grease
Sugar Daddy, Playa Playa, Shit Damn Motherfucker
The Charade, Another Life, Space Oddity

Live D'Angelo mixtape from Okayplayer, one of the best music sites on the web.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Don Giovanni - Coolidge Corner Theater

Last Saturday I saw this season's La Scala performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Coolidge Corner Theater. Excluding the two chatty babushkas behind me, it was a great movie-going experience. I only have one short thing to say about the production. It is about the end of the opera, so if you've never seen it or heard it, stop reading now.

Don Giovanni, the suave philanderer, has been engulfed in flames and is going to hell for all he's done. The remaining characters appear onstage and his servant Leporello (a superb Bryn Terfel) describes how he was dragged to hell by the Commendatore. The last words they sing are, "This is the end of the evil-doer. And the death of wicked men is always just like their life." At this point in the La Scala production, Don Giovanni appears in the background, smoking a cigarette and walking towards the front of the stage. He points down and all the other characters begin descending in the same way Don Giovanni had earlier. He smirks as they descend singing the same line, "The death of wicked men is always just like their life." Now only the tops of their heads are visible. Don Giovanni nonchalantly tosses his cigarette into the fiery pit, grinning.

I loved this ending. It suggests that the real sufferer isn't Don Giovanni. He's dead, after all; he can't suffer anymore. The true sufferers are the ones who are left dealing with the consequences of his actions.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best Films of 2011

1. Melancholia
Lars Von Trier didn't do this sublime masterwork any favors by
running his mouth at Cannes. During the press conference for his film, he said he sympathized with and understood Hitler and finished it off with "I'm a Nazi." Whether he was joking or dug himself a hole and couldn't stop is irrelevant. From this moment forward, his film was stigmatized. The public mostly brushed it aside. Some critics praised it, others couldn't tolerate it. I think it's the best film of the year.

Beginning with the cataclysmic introduction set to Wagner's prelude from Act I from
Tristan und Isolde, the film, much like Hitchcock's Vertigo, welds music to visuals to themes at a relentless pace. In fact, I'd argue that knowing Tristan is the key to the film. In one scene, Justine, an excellent Kirsten Dunst, lays on the banks of a creek and bathes
in the blue light emanating from the approaching planet. She is nude. She touches her skin. It's made clear that she's deriving sexual pleasure from seeing impending death. Similarly, in Tristan, erotic desire is equated with the desire to die. In Act II, day and light (desire/pain) is what separates the lovers and only in darkness and night (love/sex/dissolution/death) can they be united. It's not only the desire for night (where they can be together), it's a desire for night (death). In death they can be together forever and the pain of life could never part them. This Schopenhauerian denial of the world (Welt) is the bleakest and most vital element in Tristan. (If Tristan's music and singing wouldn't be as gorgeous as they are, it would be merely nihilistic.) In Melancholia, Justine is so consumed by her depression that her impulse to die becomes pleasurable and desirable.

The film, divided in two parts and named for the sisters Justine and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg, terrific), divulges its method for achieving self-annihilation in each section. The first part deals with Justine's disastrous wedding reception and her crippling depression. The second deals with the approaching planet named Melancholia. Justine's own melancholia is shown to be all-consuming and thoroughly destructive. The planet Melancholia will achieve the same effect. Von Trier shows us what happens to a person suffering from acute depression and then gives us a metaphor for how it feels.

It is rare for a movie to achieve this type of balance. The flawless technical and on-camera achievements create a radical synthesis that delivers an intellectual and emotional wallop. If only Von Trier had kept quiet.

2. The Artist

3. Drive

4. The Descendants

5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

6. Midnight in Paris

7. Bridesmaids

8. Rango

9. Hugo

10. La Piel Que Habito

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back from the bunker

Best films of 2011 to follow soon.