I didn’t post in a long time, didn’t feel the need to maybe, felt also a bit strange by writing on a blog when i have been enough lucky to meet so many people around the world recently, and talk with them. Ideas are always better around a late night drink - well, sometimes.
A quick post then, to celebrate the launch of the Temporary Copenhagen / Temporary Slaraffenland project. A sort of crazy idea which came to my mind once, when talking with the Slaraffenland guys about doing a long take away show version of their next album - definitely inspired by what we did with Chryde and Beirut 2 years ago - 2 years, wow. But with even less money involved - challenge!
In a few words, Temporary Copenhagen is the first experiment/instalment in a new serie documenting local creative scenes around the world, part of the bigger Temporary Areas project that i created a year ago, or something. The idea, which of course will evolve: over a few hours or a few days, bringing local makers to one space, and creating an improvised piece, a unique recording, documenting their own space and society with a collaborative and experimental piece. Plus offering diverse elements on the works of those local and often unknown creators.
In his next steps, this project will not be limited only to music, but should involve other fields as diverse as painting, performance, acting, poetry, dance… All different creations merging into a bigger picture, always with the participation of an audience. Focused on the links between cinema, new technologies, new makers, and society, this serie should expand in various areas around the world over the next 10 years.
The result of all those amazing actions, mostly all shot one night in a flat in Copenhagen, is there: www.temporarycopenhagen.com
And the main piece is this 30 minutes shot, one take, one camera, no cuts boumboum, just the feeling of a night and sounds merging into each other. Amazing bands, amazing people, i have to say. Special thanks to Petter for the incredible sounds and mixes, fantastic job. You can also download on the website only the audio pieces, that will make him happy.
But the first reason why i came to Copenhagen was to do this ‘loooong take away show’ with Slaraffenland. It took us only 12 hours i guess to make it happen, and for me to discover a great city - yeah, cinema as a pretext, right?
The result is this great piece of 40 minutes, edited by Lucas Archambault the great, praise to him. And don’t miss the lovely website made for the occasion: www.temporaryslaraffenland.com. And dont forget to celebrate by getting Slaraffenland’s new album here or here - a gem my friends.
Enjoy the danish sounds. Last thanks, huge, to Rasmus and Nan Na, to Aisha and Hometapes, and to the other amazing people i met, a week in may.
Working hard as usual now, i’m finishing ‘La Faute des Fleurs’, a portrait (70min?) on Kazuki Tomokawa, which will premiere in, tadadam, Copenhagen! for CPH DOX, next month.
My masterpiece, or my death. In between would suck bad.
I love South by Southwest (SXSW), for the extremity of it, for the insane noise, for the unstoppable crowd, for the 1000 concerts a day, for the fact that it’s simply so easy to hate that you should just embrace it. On one side, small or underground music celebrations (ATP, Blogotheque’s Soirees de Poche…), on the other side, SXSW, in between, a certain idea of hell in creation today.
I have to admit it, i went there (two times, 2008 and 2009) each time because i was paid (yes, money, ah) by some big websites to do some shootings there, over 5 days, with bands which are also playing 3 other gigs on the same day. Could have been a nightmare, was a nightmare when i was pressured to shoot an infamous band, but most of the time it was a real fun experience. Even if i have to admit i was far from doing the best work of my life.
But some souvenirs are strong and i wanted to post a serie of those videos for this month of august - when nobody is seriously online, i know, but sxsw tastes like summer.
To start, probably my favourite shoot in austin and one of my fav moment ever in a camera life, a 30 minute one shot/one take, in a house populated by 6 bands (Megafaun, Balmorhea, Murder, Stars Like Fleas, The Physics of Meaning, and Slaraffenland all stars). What we called the Hometapes family house, as most of those bands are very close to the label run by Sara and Adam.
No fake cuts, just one semi-impro shot, one hour to think about it, thirty minutes to shoot it. Thanks to Teresa, Natalie and Sara, who participated in the creation of this piece with the bands and i and a few other people. The best way we could film sxsw in a way. And a film which gave me a lot of new ideas on the social interaction/experiment that a camera could start, but more later.
My second favourite moment was in 2008, when we received (with my production team at the time, Rehab) at our house the fantastic Stars Like Fleas - shot them in 2006 in NY already. I love this band, for many reasons, and i feel guilty i never posted that video before. You can see also there some members of Slaraffenland, as well as the amazing people behind Hometapes, once more.
The Stars like Fleas have been having lots of amazing musicians participating in their adventures, under the captain Shannon Fields - amongst them, Thomas Doveman, Ryan Sawyer, Sam Amidon… All of them were present on that glorious day, in a house like a boat.
I discovered Merril ‘Tune Yards‘ in Montreal, during the Pop festival, and was amazed by her intensity with just a simple ukulele and some loops. I got her contact through Jessie Stein (thx, jessie) of the wonderful Luyas, but we kept missing each other for the whole week in Austin, until on the very last day, she called and told me to meet her at the cult Sam’s BBQ. We just met for 10 minutes, she then had to leave the town. Perfect timing, perfect improvisation in a piece of america.
Ah a little video with Herman Dune in Barton Springs. Would love to write about them but ah, i feel tired, writing isn’t much my stuff. Sorry guys, love you.
This man, David Thomas Broughton, just gave me one of the most amazing moments of my life, when he played at sxsw this year, a show at midnight on the last floor of a weird hotel, me totally high. One of the best shows i have ever seen, so i really think the video isn’t on the same level. At all. I think we should make together a one hour long shot, and it would be great. I should also write a poem for him, but i would fail miserably.
THE CHAP! one of my fav bands for 5 years now, at least ah! This year for their first tour in the US, they kicked the ass of all the little america. Wonderful people, funny morning moment at Low Lows‘ Parker’s house.
Joseph Arthur, hmmm, very interesting character… Loved him, he had such a purity in the way he was, sort of floating around, lost and followed by the worst manager thing ever possible, and the most beautiful musicians’ girlfriend i have ever seen. Intense, on that night got the feeling i convinced someone who was very sceptical at first about playing music in such a situation.
Ah, i think i talked already about them. Love the ending on that one. Yeah, improvised i swear ah!
Feel good those days, dont want to spend too much time writing ideas on a computer, prefer to exchange them around a drink without music in the background, just contemplating around.
Going to the Balkans tomorrow, with Francois Virot, for a film which might end earlier than expected, for some weird legal reasons…!
Yalla, tomorrow night, in Fiume - yes, Fiume/Rijeka, the one.
In the almost middle of the summer, swamped in a long edit on my Tomokawa movie (to be done in, november…), i thought i should share here some recent videos i did here and there, over the past 9 months on the road.
I remember an Akron Family show in Austin, SXSW 2008, ending in the street after 2 hours and a half. The last survivors were rewarded with a crazy dance in the middle of the busiest street during the busiest music festival ever made, jumping and doing some pretty strange screams. Their live shows are still amongst the most beautiful crowds experience you can get, and this little video shot in NY in march try to encapsulate their energy - impossible mission from a cinema point of view, by the way.
I love Nikaido, she is one of the most beautiful musicians i have ever met, and this little video i shot in Osaka in february is amongst my favourite works - probably my best one shot, just contemplating. She also played a gig on that night, and here are two other beautiful songs of the lady from Hiroshima. Nothing special from a filming point of view, but i was crying at the same time and it made it difficult to hold the camera - anyway that should make a beautiful summer, to play late at night outside.
I was travelling around New Zealand recently, and i discovered, while driving a car and playing music from my laptop, something absolutely amazing. It’s in itunes, it’s named ’shuffle button’ and i’m too stupid to ever use it. It just made me re-discover all my music (much to say about the shuffle generation we live on by the way), and especially some amazing tunes from the late Hukwe Zawose, the greatest tanzanian singer of the 20th century.
I was very lucky to film this little video in Tanzania back in november last year, with the help of the great Natalie Johns from Dig For Fire. The Zawose family was incredibly welcoming, and performed for us 4 or 5 songs, this one only delivering a little percentage of what they sounds like. Fantastic people, and so much more to explore.
I just spent 3 weeks travelling in New Zealand. Went there without too many things in mind, needed a break to work on the edit of my Tomokawa movie but finally ended up just driving around the country, from Auckland in the North Island to Queenstown in the South Island. Fantastic country, lovely people constantly teaching my french background about being open-minded, ‘bisounours land’ as my friend Jenny used to say. And that legendary humble attitude - ‘we are like Belgium’ i’ve heard here and there.
I didn’t know much about New Zealand’s music before going there, apart from the fame of Crowded House and a few elements here and there - just met Liam Finn a few weeks ago in Europe, but unfortunately he wasn’t in the country this time.
Scheduled also a ‘Temporary Auckland’ night in the main city of the country, but had to cancel it at the last minute due to many various reasons, and lack of energy - and preparation.
But if Auckland is by far the biggest city, it’s not the most interesting, especially from a cultural point of view. Auckland would make you think about Oakland, or another random american city, while the capital Wellington have this charm of a much more special place, an old european touch in it.
I didn’t have much desire to shoot any music those past weeks, but I met Jess Chambers one night in a party - the first night we spent in Wellington. An after party celebrating the last show of Fly My Pretties - i missed the show for a rugby game… but a great rugby game. I was introduced to Jess by a few people, including the wonderful guitar player Justin Firefly. We exchanged a few words and decided to organize a little shoot for the next week to come. And she planned doing something at her friend (and wonderful painter) Freeman White’s studio.
Wellington is an amazing city - ‘Windy Welly’ makes you think to a little San Francisco or Hong Kong for the beautiful bay surrounded by hills, with small streets packed with bars and musicians and people working for Weta, Peter Jackson’s film company. Most of the people i met (seriously 50%, the other half being musicians) were actually working on Avatar, the next James Cameron movie (you know, the guy who is gonna convince you that 3D movies are a revolution on the viewer’s brain, while it’s just a new dictatorial tool), so it was pretty interesting (makes you humble) to arrive there with my one-man crew and organize this intimate shooting.
Well, the term ‘organization’ is less and less accurate to my work i guess… i didn’t organize anything on that night, just asked Jess to bring a few friends in a nice place - again, pretexting the cinema to launch ideas and energies into a collaborative creative moment.
On the night i met Jess, later when we came back home, Justin Firefly was playing in his room, supposedly ‘for a girl on skype’. It sounded amazing, it was one of his new song, ‘Please’. Justin wasn’t supposed to be there a week later for the shooting, but he postponed his trip to the south island to be part of the sounds of the night. Thanks to him, this ‘Please’, replayed with a bunch of friends, is a definitive highlight to my recent musical months.
The whole night was beautiful, and even if i didn’t do a great job on the filming approach to it, it stays as a nice souvenir of a little trip to Aotearoa, and i hope for you the viewers, a good window to enter a great, diverse and exciting musical scene.
I also spent 3 days on Kapiti Island, which at first was the main reason to my new zealand trip. Following Glenn Colqhoun, Riki Gooch, Richard Nunns and Whirimako Black in their quest of the birds, on this preserved island an hour north from Wellington. The project, for diverse reasons, was too much in its early stage to get anything interesting filmed over a few days, but i spent 2 hours shooting and cutting this little piece with Whirimako Black - the ultimate maori soul singer, ah. Here i should write about the maori culture and its interesting integration in New Zealand nowadays, but well, another time aye.
This little exercise back into cutting (i haven’t cut much in the past 6 months) was so refreshing that it made me, in a way, rethink about the whole process of showing images, of my work over the past weeks, and the certain desire to drift images from sounds as much as possible. It also made the Jess Chambers videos possible, for sure. And thanks to Jenny who gave me such a great help on the sound, and on the edit and everything else.
I am leaving New Zealand now, back in Europe for a while, slowing down on shoots to re-work some edits, long pieces, Mogwai, REM, Tomokawa…
And what a weird moment for protests mixed amongst deaths. Just learned about the disappearance of Pina Bausch. Sadness. Yalla anyway.
New York, end of april. With my friend Nathanael, we had just finished an intense and exhausting live shoot of Mogwai, 3 nights in a row, for a live dvd to come. Noah and the Whale were in town, and free for the night. We remembered a long and very sweet take-away show shot a year before, and thought we could redo something for fun. A few days before we talked about doing a little recording, they promised me new songs, i asked them if they could find a nice loft space to invite a few friends, deal done.
I almost cancelled on the same day, without energy or ideas. After all, things were not much prepared, no money behind such a thing, no pressure, just the pleasure of collaborating on a new piece of music and images - and if the pleasure isn’t there… But i didn’t cancel, and that night now stays in my mind as a sweet beginning for another direction in my film work. Well, i hope!
A few days ago, a dear friend of mine criticized some of my recent films, mostly made for this blog - nice moments, she said, nice images, but she doesn’t get the feeling she is part of the action by watching it, she wasn’t concerned.
Interesting thought on which i agreed mostly - and all i could reply was a sort of very radical critique of the viewer’s position - my recent thoughts made me think that the viewer’s position wasn’t right anymore. I developed a sort of contempt for it - for anything recorded in fact. I know it shouldn’t have such an effect on the ‘final result’, and i guess my goal for the next months will be to find the good balance, in between the action and the recording.
I am in a plane, a long and slow travel which offers me this TIME i need to put some thoughts on this blog. But i won’t try to develop too much my thoughts here, even if each week i feel ready to write this fucking manifesto on new images i have in mind - before starting to get headaches and fears of losing so many friends who would throw words like ‘pretentious’ to me. Ah, anyway it’s not my role, at least not now, and one thing at a time is way enough.
To put it in short, the whole recording process seems more and more absurd, while the images seems just over-abundant. It would be all good if all the image expansion of our net generation was also raising an expansion of thoughts on images today - but there’s been an incredible lack of reflexions on that side for the past few years. I haven’t read much about the subject - and i still think it’s one of the most important thing to deal with those days, for our generation and the next. I feel very obsessed by the ‘why’ of recording - why adding to the amount, to the stream, to the informations?
Constantly makes me think about the psychic space, and the constant attacks from a marketing industry getting more and more insane - you can try to read some of Bernard Stiegler’s books - dunno if any are translated in english though…
And so, after this first one take of 4 new songs (which marks a departure from their original sound and open a beautiful direction for their next album), we took a break, and the guys insisted to maybe, play a few more. Totally agree, but let’s have the ‘audience’ participate a bit more in this one - my favourite song from the first album. We took it to the street, and added to this one 2 or 3 more songs by the river - but i think this one to watch is enough.
I admit it: the recording of it probably doesn’t reach the level of energy and fun from that night. So i mostly agree on the fact that those more recent films are not as good for the viewer as, maybe, some take-away shows were. But for the participants and i, for sure they are way better.
A year before, on the first day i spent with them, we shot a bunch of videos during the SXSW festival, most of them for a quite bad website. Fortunately i kept one for me, the same song, ‘Rocks & Daggers’ here performed with no audience but with the same great energy. I was happy at the time of the intense rhythm of the images, the evolution of the camera always filling the frame as much as possible
Ok, and for the hardcore fans, if you click on this last video, you will have finally spent almost an hour with Noah and the Whale. Lovely kids aren’t they?
A few more little things, not about Noah and the Whale or problems with my own consciousness:
Working on a web project involving new businesses for the 21st century the past week, i’ve been reading this wonderful book by the great Muhammad Yunus, and talking about him around, realized not so many people know about the 2006 peace nobel prize.
So, read this book about one of the most important personality of our generation - i call him Obama from the south, yeah i know it kinda sucks but, ah.
I also had to read this sometimes interesting book by Jacques Attali, ‘Une breve histoire de l’avenir’, in which he develops the 3 steps of the evolution of this century: from hyper-empire, to hyper-conflict, and finally hyper-democracy. Interesting but not very accurate due to his wish to give a ridiculous spectacular twist to it, but more specifically the fact that those 3 schemes are happening at the same time, now, in a much more complex way. The hyper democracy is already there, if you want it, right?
In the same futuristic spirit, you should take the time to watch this great talk by Ray Kurzweil on TED, about his ‘new school for new humans’ in a way. Brilliant.
And last and least, I was reading this morning a very bad book by the over-estimated ‘thinker’ Malcolm Gladwell, so just an advice, don’t lose your time with this pop-philosopher, very inconsistant.
Crazy past weeks, travelling and shooting maybe a little bit too much, without much time to post here, trying to find the good balance. But I want to share some recent of those encounters here, as to introduce people i like to each other.
Wanted to develop some ideas on the ‘recording process’ and some (personal?) problems with it, but i’m gonna take the TIME another day - but it all starts with the question which affects me the most these days: are we still watching? And how?
I was in Copenhagen and Aarhus (Spot Festival) last week, a tremendous time, at first going there to shoot something with my friends from Slaraffenland (which ended up as a big musical tour of the city), plus what i called the first ‘official’ (and last minute) Temporary Area - Temporary Copenhagen. I will develop on this another time as we need to work on a website and edit all the images and sounds, but it made me discover many amazing danish bands - and amongst them, this week’s video with Valby Vokalgruppe.
Formed by Anja Jacobsen (also drummer of Kirsten Ketsjer), the female experimental choir was one of the highlights of my danish trip. They don’t have anything on internet, not even a myspace page, how wonderful this is. But Anja describes it like that: “Valby Vokalgruppe was formed in the spring of 2008, with only four members, and in April 2009 the choir formed its present shape with 7 members. The choir started as a curiosity about what it is possible to do with the voice and with voices together, and an intention to explore this through play and experiments. The inspiration for the compositions comes from different sources such as african pygme singing, Morton Feldman, Dirty Projectors, classical choir and what appears during experiments at our rehearsals. In June 2009 Valby Vokalgruppe will make recordings for their first LP.” Can’t wait to see them again.
A few nights ago in Barcelona, i screened some short films for an hour, invited by the Primavera Sounds Festival. On a (very) small screen, people on stage and (short) talk in between movies. Improvised screening as usual, not knowing what to show, until i double click on a file. Interesting ideas to explore for the next years about this sort of ’screening-performance’ (coming straight from the idea ‘when i go to a concert, i dont get the set list before, why would i when i go to cinema?’), but especially good moment to present some little treasures, to share towards some strangers some recent discoveries that most of the people wouldn’t take attention to while on internet. Like Valby Vokalgruppe. Or Holly.
A few months ago, my friends from Black Cabs were in NY shooting lots of sessions there, before heading to Austin, and told me about this fantastic singer named Holly Miranda. So we met and did this little video, 4 songs in a 17 minute shot. She is there accompanied by the wonderful Marques Toliver, whom i am pretty sure we will hear more about in the next years to come. Holly is gonna release her first album (produced by David Sitek, and it sounds incredible) in a few months. I don’t think i did a very good job on that day from a visual point of view, but it sounds absolutely great and again, i wanted to share something about Holly.
I guess this is why i continue to push rec on the button - to be able to share, to act like a conduit for people i can’t meet directly.
Cinema, or any ‘art’ form, as a starting point, not the final destination hopefully.
Yalla, let’s go to New Zealand for winter, such a good idea.
A recent night in Montreal, Patrick invited us at his loft in Montreal to have a little filming there with Lhasa. At the end of the night, after a pretty intense ping pong party, we all went down to the bar around the corner, where Patrick arrived screaming in his megaphone. 2 minutes later he was onstage with an improvised band of bar people, playing metal for 30 minutes. And then complaining about losing his voice doing this. Patrick is such a man, over the top charismatic guy, some will hate him (but i guess it’s mostly people locked in old 20th century appreciation), but some others will just remember those people are the ones which makes us wanna live, not necesseraly longer, but stronger.
Over the past 3 years, we have filmed more than 150 bands, inside/outside/acoustic/electric, fun for most, boring sometimes. Never any band made us such a great impression as Patrick Watson and the Wooden Arms. It was a year ago, it’s finally online, and it still remains one of my favourite movies, and probably the best Take Away Show ever. Not much to add to this, so i’d be happy if you take time to watch it - this is the long version of the Take Away Show, and you can see the 4 separated episodes here.
The past 2 weeks have been absolutely exhausting for me, as if i tried to experiment on my own body a never-ending creation travelling as much as possible, shooting as much as possible, probably lost in the infernal spiral of this blog and trying to send informations on a regular basis. Many people are probably offensed by the regular newsletter thing, but catch what you can catch.
From Mogwai that we shot live in NYC for their live dvd, to yesterday’s excellent trip amongst cows in Normandy with the wonderful Mami Chan (the one singer which makes you wanna have kids) for an interesting Orange project (yeah i’m sold), from a fantastic night with Noah and The Whale playing new songs in a sweet loft in Williamsburgh to the most recent ATP festival in west England (probably the weakest line up i’ve been to, but still this unique energy of ATP), and before a trip to Denmark to develop a project with Slaraffenland, and some other danish bands (Efterklang, Choir of Young Believers…) by the end of the week… It’s a quite ridiculous amount of projects in such a short time, but we can learn a lot on ourselves from such rythms.
This 21st century allows us to try, without too much difficulty, this incredible amount of experiences, this never-ending trip. A few months ago i left my hometown, more or less consciously, to start this ‘never-ending tour’ - but more inspired by the figure of Damo Suzuki than any other musician, and trying to reduce my life to the essential. A frustrated musician as i was, my camera with me as an instrument like any other, a backpack full of cables and computers, and let’s start this nomad filmmaker experience that i was envisionning a few years ago already - cinema on the road, all the time, as a social tool, as a pretext to meet people. In the meantime, i’ve been trying to catch up on the rest of the world and its informations delivered at an always faster pace, reading news, magazines and books more and more (i’ve been back a lot into Hakim Bey through new texts i found recently, and as usual Bey’s writings contains a lot of layers), thinking a lot about technology and the impact on our bodies (basically, the idea of where technology and bodies meet to create a good balance, and not only for the western world - been starting to read Besnier’s book on Posthumans, and even if fascinating, as for a lot of futurists, it seems hard to link those ideas to a world of multitudes). Been thinking also about the infernal and dangerous excitement of medias for spectacular subjects - the ‘mexican’ flu of course, but also the stupid fascination for Twitter. And how to think about Bruce Sterling comparing ‘connectivity and poverty’? Even if i disagree with part of the idea, there’s something very strong in this statement on, not what i would call privacy, but a certain state of nature - or how to balance right bodies and technologies. Without being part of the elitism that Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist described very well (and approved) in Netocracy.
What is memory those days? How is it possible to keep so much informations in one human brain? What stays from the flow?
Recent talks with friends i haven’t seen in a while uncovered again this huge reconfiguration of the society, and i would love to spend more time here writing down ideas. But the main fact is that more and more people seems very conscious of this fact, and are ready to change heavily their way of being into the world. Often people are amazed about the fact that i don’t have any home, any place in my luggages to buy any objects or stuff like that, but this is much simpler than what we imagine. Reducing is simple after all.
Why am i evocating ideas about new societies, new humans and stuff like that, in this blog who is supposed to be about my little amateur films? Because this is what inspires my work those days, much more than any other images or sounds. Because i deeply think there’s a strong link today, over categories, over genres, over separated creations, in between all the different elements which compose our ultra-connected world. And that the only way to understand the switch in our society, and to enjoy it, is to be aware of it, and to find the good balance.
Yalla, some rest for now.
A few hours before the show, in front of the Poisson Rouge, the new West Village venue where Tinariwen would perform on that night, a new yorker dressed as a tuareg asked a tuareg dressed as a new yorker an autograph. This world is sometimes a funny chaos. Tinariwen is one of my favourite bands, by far the most incredible sound to come from Africa in this 21st century - hard to imagine how they have been able to come up with such a unique sound, and many of the most interesting brooklyn bands of the day were in the room to try to understand. In the end everybody was dancing and it was just perfect.
The first time i have seen Tinariwen play was at 3am, in the middle of the desert in Mali, at the Festival au Desert, 2 hours away from Timbuktu, and it was an incredible experience. Even when they were not playing live, their music was played in each city we visited, always this same melody catching our ears. My friend Wills from Greenowl offered me the possibility of filming them before the show, and this little video we share today (plus this other one) is the very simple result of a long deal to convince them to play an acoustic song - in the end, only the main singer Ibrahim joined us. Nothing incredible here, total impro style in backstage a few minutes before the show, but a beautiful sound i wanted you to hear. Plus this other short video during their live performance (and, no, they don’t dress like that in the streets of NY).
Last note, they are featured in the movie Footsteps in Africa, a nomadic journey. I haven’t seen the film yet, let’s just hope it will be better than the shitty trailer they have.
When in Paris as today, i try to spend time to watch movies that you wouldn’t see anywhere else - one of the last pleasures of old Paris. This morning i went to see Un Lac, the 3rd movie by french filmmaker Philippe Grandrieux. Sombre (1999), his first movie, or maybe more the blurred souvenir of it, was a big influence on my work when i switched from photography to moving images. Un Lac is probably even more experimental than Sombre was, a very unique experience in cinema nowadays, which i think difficult to link to any other film released those days - a very strong aesthetic experience, probably one of the most striking movies i have ever seen from a visual point of view. Grandrieux is his own camera operator, and that is definitely the main element which explodes the viewer’s marks at first - almost the whole movie is shot in close ups, extremely close to the bodies, the eyes, the skins. You will never see a horse filmed like that for sure. Even if some might think that Grandrieux’s cinema lose himself a bit too much in the formal experience, there’s is something there absolutely unique to this art form, a sensorial aspect to it which brings back in mind the cinema of Tscherkassky or even Brakhage.
One of the strongest aspects in ‘Un Lac’ is the way images works with sounds - the sounds are only diegetic (even if very reworked and raffined), which allows the images to be that free. An experience we often get while shooting live music - a perfect sound allows the images to try something else, to go somewhere else and towards abstraction, while the contrary doesn’t work much. Funny also to notice he’s been asked to direct a music video for Marylin Manson (who’s a huge fan of his ultra-stylised and difficult 2nd movie, La Vie Nouvelle).
‘Cinema is profundly documentary at first’ says Grandrieux. I can just agree with this fantastic image creator, without even taking more time to explore the whole ‘out of frame’ dimension in his movies, allowing viewers to reconstruct an intense psychic landscape. I wish i could get some of his movies to share, but they are still pretty hard to find - and it’s quite definitely a big screen experience anyway. To me, the perfect companion on a bigger screen to one of my favourite movies for the small screen, ‘Pain Is’ by Stephen Dwoskin.
Very short post today - try to find the link between Tinariwen and Grandrieux, mmm… In between two projects now, going to ATP for the weekend, coming back on tuesday with the best Take Away Show we have ever done, finally online: Patrick Watson. Yalla.
A few days ago, i had the chance to share a coffee for the first time with the great and very funny Jon Brion in LA. I’m hoping to do a project with him in the next months (a few good and hilarious ideas were exchanged) but it was more of a first encounter talk, talking about everyday likes and dislikes, attitudes and general ideas on the society in between anecdotes. Talking about some of my favorite topics - the rise of the amateur culture and the disappearance of professionals, amongst others. When talking about the music we were listening to those days, i realized that even if i continue to follow and enjoy more or less the everyday buzz of the internet era, made mostly of European and North American indie music, my strongest recent experiences were with people that have something in common: they are often considered as ‘outsiders’, they are not part of ‘it’, not part of any genre, of any music world - i think about the incredible and still very unknown Kazuki Tomokawa (i still have to edit the hour long movie i did with him in Japan last february, and i swear you will be amazed), Lhasa de Sela, Damo Suzuki, Lydia Lunch or the wonderful Havels, to whom i dedicate this week video.
All those people gave me the feeling that their music was part of something way bigger, way more important - themselves, and their other experiences in life. Their music was a simple continuity of their ideas and positions on other matters, and the whole formed something extremely strong, coherent and inspiring. They don’t see themselves as professionals in their field, but much more as everyday creators, work and life being not separated at all. Tomokawa is probably the most extreme figure - he is mostly known in Japan as a bike-race gambler (he gives advices and tips on TV), but is also a painter, an actor (in some Miike movies, and in a few sex movies as i have heard…), a cooker, an intense alcoholic, before being a folk figure (and to me the most incredible performer i have ever witness). I hope to be able to finalize the movie about him before next october - the movie is named so far ‘La Faute des Fleurs’, and is the second element in a new serie (Musiciens de Notre Temps, created by my friend Antoine Viviani) dedicated to very unique and quite unknown musical creators. But before that, the first movie of the serie, ‘Little Blue Nothing’, a 50min film dedicated to the Havels, should soon be released in conjunction with the Brassland label.
The story behind my relationship with the Havels is pretty strong, and comes back a few years back when Gaspar Claus introduced me to this album named ‘Little Blue Nothing’ that Bryce Dessner gave us as a burned cd. There was not much indication of where it was coming from, and the music haunted us for a while. After some research, it all came back to this story of Bryce’s sister buying their album in the streets of Copenhagen in 1991, where they were playing in pure bohemian style. It took us a few years i guess to finally be in touch with them, and learn they were coming from the region of Prague. Discussing briefly their music with some Czech people and having them categorized in ‘yoga music’ or something like that was obviously a strong reason for us to try to show their music to the world, differently. And so for a few years, we fantasized many movies, to end up with that ‘Little Blue Nothing’, the film, shot a few months ago, a slow portrait in intimacy with a unique musical couple. I can’t wait to show it, and those two videos here today, which are not part of the movie, are i hope a good introduction to their universe.
To end up with those little ideas on such creators and link it to the second part of this text, i would say that to me those artists are extremely inspirational because i don’t see any gap, any border, between their creations, their life, and the backgrounds, the surroundings around them. It’s all tied together, they integrate the world in their way of being and sounding.
In those two videos, shot a warm sunday night in Manhattan, the music isn’t the main element. It is just part of something else, the life of a city at dusk, the interaction between sounds from two Czech musicians and children laughing, a couple kissing, dogs barking, boys skateboarding. New York as the best scenery possible, as usual. This is probably why i am not (yet?) interested in writing any kind of stories - no movies could compete with the improvised movements of such backgrounds. No art forms even could compete with the amazement of such a life theater. Looking at such elements interacting (the first little girl disappearing behind a tree, then reappearing on the slide, the other teenagers talking on the swings for the first video, the couple kissing and all the life passing in front of the Havels in the second video…), there is so much to imagine, to interpret, as a viewer. There’s not a clear meaning to all that, a clear direction or tension - and some spectators will think it’s just boring to wander around. But i hope my work still welcomes the viewers when it comes to such documents on everyday life. There is no desire to integrate any spectacular element, or to tell a story with a clear meaning, a clear ending. The music is then part of something bigger, that words will i hope fail to describe.
A few days ago, i was talking with my new friend Andrew Van Baal in a cafe in LA, waiting for Jon Brion to arrive. He asked me why i started to film music in such a way, how did we come up with the idea of what we called at first the Take Away Shows and which made people think differently about music videos. It always seemed very natural to me, but being asked about it, i just realized something absolutely obvious: my interest have always been in the links between images and sounds, and how they interact together. The hierarchy started to explode a few years ago, when discovering amongst other works Outer Space - the limits of each medium were blurring. Those two art forms (cinema and music) have always been hierarchized. The music industry was just asking for images on pre-recorded songs (what they then called ‘music videos’) to sell records. And even the best documentaries on music (Gimme Shelter, Don’t Look Back…) were following the music. There is not many examples of creations where sounds and images are on the same level, talking face to face - to me, there’s only one important: Step Across the Border, by Werner Penzel and Nicolas Humbert (again, ask me if you wanna see it).
How do we share a moment, how do we interact and influence each other, how do we use our own creative tools to make something together? Is the music first, or is it the images? The images follow some kind of sonic rhythm, but the music maybe wouldn’t be played there if the camera didn’t ask for it. And in return the music is influenced by how the camera look at her, in a very subjective way. Nothing comes first, both elements, images and sounds, are then together. As those ‘outsiders’ of music and their surroundings.
Ok not many links this week, very exhausted after the Mogwai Live film we did this week, next week back to Europe for a while, from festivals to gatherings.
I spent one day at the Coachella music festival on friday night, saw some great acts (Girl Talk, the ultimate hero of the over informed generation of music addicts, or McCartney with his epic 3 hours set - read about the funny costs of it) - but left just after to spend 2 more days in the desert, far from the crowd and the insanity of Palm Springs, hell on earth (walls and walls and people in it). I’ve been to Coachella before, didn’t like it at the time but wanted to give it another try, to arrive to the same conclusions.
It seems that over the past ten years, the idea of music festivals have just exploded over the whole western world into something more and more spectacular. Bigger and bigger. Let’s think about that a second - why most of those things grow towards always more? Why not, sometimes, growing towards less? ‘This year, we have decided to invite only 10 bands, over one stage, compared to the 200 last year over the 12 stages. It’s our choice’.
This mainstream idea of music festivals is something which seems to bring more and more people in it, but that less and less people seems to enjoy. Maybe it’s just my vision due to the people i meet, but there’s something quite significant in it. It accelerates, it’s always more spectacular, louder, more expensive, while people seems to criticize it more and more - but continue to go. It’s like TV. But there’s a certain end coming, or at least a switch.
For sure the pleasure of a music festival isn’t that much in the live performances - more into the crowd experience, the drugs experience too. And diverse ways to present music are needed anyway. The main point is that some music festivals over the past few years have been developped in such hyper-everything way that they now are threatening other musical experiences.
There’s an interesting parallel to draw there, between, on one side, a music industry, made of professionals, creating distance through music videos and music festivals, and often reluctant to new technologies in their basic aspect. And on another side, a creative community, made of amateurs, building intimacy through blogs, music films and more underground circuits.
Of course those two sides are permeable to each other, but the opposition between them is pretty strong. There’s a need which have been the main reason behind the success of the Black Cabs Sessions, the Take Away Shows or some other web project over the past few years. A need for intimacy, for simplicity, a need to break some pedestals of the ‘artist’.
Last week i wanted to post this video of Lhasa de Sela and Patrick Watson, covering ‘Between the Bars’ by Elliott Smith, it’s probably better that it happens only this week. Two musicians performing together, two friends singing over a piano. Then the camera pans and opens on what was hidden for the first half - an audience, in a small space. This intimate performance ‘at home’ was in the spirit of what Chryde and la Blogotheque started to develop a few months ago with the Soirees de Poche / Pocket Parties. The idea behind the project was to continue the work we started with the Take Away Shows, stripping down the music to come back to the basics of a live performance (no stage, no distance, often acoustic…) - and this time, with an audience being there, and hopefully being more than an audience. Destroying any idea of hierarchy between creators and spectators to merge them all into one - an ephemeral performance, a commune or even a TAZ… And while the Pocket Parties are a little bit different formally (diverse angles, reworked then in split screens edits), i just shot those little performances with one camera, arranging the set-up to allow me to move a lot around the band, and tell little stories over the course of 3-4 min.
People like to put brands, names, in an era of intense marketing, and to start trends. Ok, so let’s claim we are organizing gatherings, in temporary areas. We have this idea of a first Take Away Show ‘gathering’ with a very reduced crowd, in a beautiful outside location. I hope this idea will take off soon, and maybe with the help of Hannah Baker, whom i asked to write a few words about the Republic of Fiume, from which this blog takes its name. Here it is, thx to her:
“Fiume. A bizarre and wonderful story full of pirates and poets, pushed to the backs of historians’ closets to collect dust alongside failed monarchies and ideological dead-ends. It begins and ends with Gabriele D’Annunzio, our hero, the bold, melodramatic, genius, one-eyed Italian. He was a politician and a pirate, a poet and a fascist. In the fall of 1919 D’Annunzio gathered a motley crew of 2,500 adventurers and took them with him to the port city of Fiume on the Adriatic sea: rebellious twenty-somethings, World War I veterans, poets, anarchists, Futurists, artists, and musicians. He originally claimed the island for his country (without his government’s permission), but, after the Italian government’s lukewarm reaction, D’Annunzio declared the city a free state. His utopian society lasted for 18 months before Italian forces came in and took over in December 1920. The main functions of the totalitarian government he established were to organize the military and to entertain the people. Each day began with a speech by D’Annunzio and ended with a public concert and a fireworks display over the port. The state was organized around Music as its central principle, the state religion was a ‘cult of music.’ Though a dictator, D’Annunzio gave a large amount of social freedoms to his subjects. Fiume was a city full of Creators and Revolutionaries- artists, musicians, radicals, and pirates of all ages dressed up in capes and feathered hats, absolutely and completely free for the first time in their lives. Drugs, alcohol, and sex were out in the open decades before the social revolutions of the sixties and seventies. Everything, even the air, was charged with creative energy. Just like the poetry he wrote when he was young, his state was vivid and sensual. Every sense was stimulated, every fantasy acted out. The whole affair sounds like a teenager telling his friends, “This is the world we’ll make, so different from what our parents have done!” I can only describe the magic of Fiume partially, through reading stale texts and anarchist manifestos (Hakim Bey mentions Fiume in his book ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’)…the Fiumians declared and defined themselves in the Testa Di Fiero in the best way that I can imagine:
We are the island of wonder, which in its journey across the ocean will carry its own incandescent light to the continents stifled in the darkness of brutal commerce. We are a handful of illuminated beings and mystic Creators.”
This story of Fiume is a beautiful and very unknown story of the 20th century (think about what the situationnists never made), and i wonder how this can inspire us while thinking about those new musical gatherings we are trying to create. Anyway, this is just a beginning.
CULTURE MUSICAL CLUB
Last week i posted a little film on Bi Kidude, this week another little souvenir from Zanzibar, with her backing band performing without her. Incredible movements there, and bright colours. And a question i will abord another time - each sound deserves its own filmic approach.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf: A Moment Of Innocence
I was talking briefly last week about Kiarostami movies, and especially Close-Up, one of my favourite movies of all time. I just discovered the incredible A Moment of Innocence, by Mohsen Makhmalbaf (the other great iranian filmmaker of the 90s, who was at the center of Close-Up). Very similar in its approach to reality, blurring lines, and it’s another iranian masterpiece. Ask me if you wanna see it.
Illich vs Kurzweil
Finally, a little word on something which continues to amazes me every day - culture clashes due to information access. What a great era we are living in - being able on the same day to randomly read an Illich book, Energie et Equité, and watch a document on Ray Kurzweil on VBS (what a number of great stories there, unfortunately without a very interesting form). I’ve been interested a lot in both writers for the past year, and their positions are so different on technology and their use that going through their ideas on the same day is quite revelatory. While Illich developed some very critics thoughts in the 70s on the use of energy in our societies (praising for less energy use - and waste - to prevent from social disparities), Kurzweil is a very interesting futurist fascinated in the merge of human bodies and technologies - in 2045 as he says. Beyond critics we could give to both visions (and especially to Kurzweil’s one i would say, whom deep social impacts are often eluded), the key thing there is, how can we absorb such divergences, and grow from it?