Thursday, August 25, 2005

What do these two people have in common?

Image hosted by Image hosted by

The Question of Zion

If you've got a spare 15 minutes today, I highly, highly recommend reading the transcript of the interview Tony Jones conducted last night withProfessor Jacqueline Rose. Better still, watch it.

Jacqueline Rose is a British academic who works, as she said, on the borders of literature, politics and psychoanalysis. She is also a jewess. She has written a book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in particular the use of rhetoric in support of the Zionist cause, that is, the expansion of Israel as a 'holy' Jewish nation. I have never been able to understand the ferocity of the hatred the Israeli right has towards the dispossessed arabs upon whose soil they live. I do not deny Israel it's right to existence. However, I am appalled by the military invasion and military occupation of the West Bank (and until just a few days ago Gaza). I am appalled by the subjugation and denial of human rights to people of the these areas. I am appalled by the policy of 'targetted assassinations'. I am appalled at the double-standard that inherently lies beneath these actions—that is, it is justifiable for us appropriate your land, because you were hostile towards us; to assassinate your leaders, because they oppose us; and to do all of this because the German Nazi party and the Third Reich treated us in similarly appalling ways. Somehow, because our people were the main victims of the Holocaust, because the property and livelihoods of (some of) our ancestors were visciously torn from them, we can do this to a current generation of people who were in no way related to the fascist concentration camps of Middle Europe, and upon whom we were foisted without their consultation.

To me, this is akin to me savagely beating and robbing a passerby, because my own great-grandmother had been murdered in another city in another part of the world many years before, and I felt I had the right to protect myself incase this person, child even, had a sinister glint in their eye. This is not respecting one's neighbour, it is not doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is not fair, nor decent, nor justifiable. Neither is suicide bombing, mind you.

Read or watch the interview. Professor Rose is a much more eloquent exponent of my point of view.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

El Presidente

The week I decide to be a Venezuelan Leftist Fanboy is the very week the US Religious Right decides to out itself as the gun-toting fascist bullyboy that its always been. I expect a few harsh words will have been thrown down the phone from the oval office this week, along the lines of that Alanis Morrissette star-vehicle You can't do that on Television. For those of you who don't know what the fuck I'm on about, a quick primer on my hero for the week, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías:
  • he's the president of Venezuela
  • he's popular
  • he's a lefty
  • he's an ex-paratrooper
  • a colonel, no less
  • he's established free medicine
  • and increased literacy,
  • he's a good friend of Fidel's (and a friend of Fidel's...)
  • his is the fifth biggest oil producing nation in the world
  • and it has the world's tallest waterfall
The US has already tried to unseat him twice, once covertly—by backing a coup in 2002—and once overtly—by funding a recall referendum they lost last year. All the while prattling on about representative democracy. And they have still manged to cock it up both times. And now, Mr Robertson, they can't much assassinate him because we'll all know who was to blame. HA! What's that about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face?

Somebody mention Salvador Allende?



postscript: This is the article to read about Venezuela

Friday, August 12, 2005

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Festival Finale

And so, a triumphant end to my Festival:

The Wayward Cloud
Image hosted by
A woman returns from Paris to Taipei, with a suitcase, in the midst of a drought. The drought is so bad that people are encouraged to substitute watermelon for water. She can't open her suitcase. Upstairs, her love-interest is taking a lead role in a bunch of home made porn films. Yeah. And it's punctuated with high camp musical interludes.
An explicit Taiwanese lovestory, eh? This is one strange, strange film. It is easily the most aural film I have ever seen. With fuck-all dialogue—you never hear the lead male speak at all, and probably only get a good 40 words from the female lead (there's more dialogue between the Japanese pornographers than there is between the leads)—the emphasis is put on those everyday sounds: her constant footsteps up and down the hallway of her apartment block; the shooshing of plastic bags; a jackhammer; the gooey, crunchy sounds of chewing; of choking and swallowing; of slurpy, slappy sex; of heaving breathing, sighing and grunting; of pouring water, dripping water. So while we watch as our heroine goes about her everyday tasks, her suitor is upstairs shagging his co-star senseless, literally. Watermelons used as sex-toys, as food, as drink, as birth surrogates. And there are bodily fluids to match the sounds, there's saliva and tears and cum aplenty. And an ending that I am at a loss to explain. Just plain disturbing. Explicit and disturbing.

Le Pont des Arts
Image hosted by
And within 15 minutes I was back in the cinema. For a pair of parallel love stories, of sorts. He on the poster is a disillusioned student with an all-too-serious serious girlfriend. She is a classical singer with an amazing voice, an arsehole conductor and a misunderstanding, well-meaning boyf. She is at the end of her tether. She can't handle it anymore. He hears her recordings and pulls his head from the oven. They fall in love. Ish, because she's dead.
Film-making by numbers this one. French film-making by numbers. The entire film was shot direct-to-camera, all speech by all characters spoken to camera, all very nouvelle vague. Our lead fills the role of Jean-Pierre Léaud, the self-substitute used by both Godard and Truffaut, very well—to the point that he looks like him. All very left-bank and outre and gauloises-smoking. And so while holding up the arts as lofty and sacred, it took the piss out of the arts, the arts being run, in this case, by a shady trio of ridiculous, aging, sugar-daddy queens sharing their aspiring art-boy 'stewards'. There was more direct-to-camera business. There was a bunch manifesto-like Godardian philosphy. There was musing and repression and very little expression. There was some humour, there was a lot of very beautiful music. I liked it. In a wanky French trying-too-hard kinda way. And it didn't end with a woman with a cock in her mouth and tears streaming down her face.

Monday, August 08, 2005

"We would have made more progress against terrorism if we had brought peace to Palestine rather than war to Iraq."

Image hosted by

A man who had the strength of character to stand aside from his cabinet position in Tony Blair's government as a protest against the ilegal invasion of a sovereign nation, to voice his dissent publicly when so many kept their own counsel. Vale Robin Cook.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More Festival

Round two.

Ding ding

A Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji

Image hosted by

Back to Uchida Tomu, and this time a samurai flick. A road movie even, as a samurai lord and his two retainers make their way to Tokyo to deliver a teacup. Yep, a teacup. That you only see once. Briefly. This so-called cinematic masterpiece focusses on the experience of the samurai's lancer, played by the self-same actor who emotionally portrayed the birthmarked hero in Yoshiwara: The Pleasure Quarter. We also get to watch the enthralling escapades of a bunch of people we initially met on a ferry: amongst them a travelling player and her young child—a daughter who offers one of the most enthralling interpretations of the renowned 'slave dance', accompanied by koto; a reticent old peasant farmer selling his beautiful yet innocent daughter to a slave-trader, a nasty and deceitful thief and a comedy blind priest. Brilliant!
Well, kinda. A black and white genre pic. You could almost call it a buddy movie. A samurai film without violence (wha...?) but peppered with Ben-Stiller-type eeeww jokes. It was packed full of messages: all people are equal; violence is vanity; alcohol is evil. It sure moved at a clip compared to all the flicks I'd seen previously, and the sidekick kid stole the show.

Housewarming (Traveaux)

Image hosted by

A French comedy in the tradition of Les Fugitifs and The Dinner Game, this one concerning a beautiful, lefty, dancing lawyer, a handful of illegal imigrants and the nightmare that is renovation. Yes, a high-kicking, dancing lawyer.
It's amazing the difference in crowd at these Festy screenings. For Saraband it was all grey-haired, serious types; for the Japanese ones it's nerdy-looking fan-boys and fan-girls; for the French comedy, it was all women in coats, mittens optional. And oh, it's fun. A light-weight laugh if ever there was one—and well worth it. I was a little peeved that ony the French was subtitled—and there was a fair bit of Spanish being spoken by said Columbianos. And [spoiler] the place looked better before the renovations than it after them.

Princess Raccoon

Image hosted by

Legend has it that if an human and a tanuki fall in love, all hell will break loose.
Now,a modern film... but a Japanese comic opera? From esteemed director Sejun Suzuki—certainly the most arty of art films I've seen recently. It's very much a stage-y film, very much an opera: most of the action takes place on a set with a rousing chorus, complete with the comic characters you would expect from an Italian opera. Starring Zhang Zi Yi, you can't really go wrong—I mean there's one of the hottest women in the world up there, even if she is heading towards over-exposure. Yet, still, it ran for too long; it was slow, slow, slow.

The Mad Fox

Image hosted by

The third in my Uchida Tomu homage, this film was strikingly similar to the aforementioned Princess Raccoon. To the point where I'm pretty damn sure that it was the inspiration for Suzuki's enthralling 'lyrical tale'. This one is about a man falling in love with a fox—the other of Japan's two mythical, mystical shape-changing animals. The fox, however, is wicked, while the raccoon is jolly. Whatever. This 1962 technicolour number, considered Uchida Tomu's best by someone, somewhere, starts with a simple court-intrigue plot, the murder of the royal astronomer and the jockeying for succession of our hero and the Lady MacBeth-esque widow's favoured replacement. Which all ends in disaster about halfway through the film with the burning of the sets. And instead we switch to this weird-arse fox love story. Trippy weird. Too weird. Complete with rotating stages, animation, paper butterflies and fire-lighter blocks on wires, and a doll wrapped as a baby. Oh, and no sign of my friend the samurai lancer/pock-marked rural silk mogul.

So the upshot of all this Uchida Tomu business is that, frankly, the fellow rightly pales into insignificance behind legendary names like Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Mizoguchi. Watch Tokyo Story. You won't need to see another film ever again.

And so a rating for these four?
  1. Traveaux
  2. A Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji
  3. Princess Raccoon
  4. The Mad Fox

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Invasion of Iraq makes Australia a terrorism target

Can anyone seriously believe they are still trying to deny this?