August 30, 2011
The Shout is a 1978 British film directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, based on a short story by Robert Graves which was adapted for the screen by Michael Austin. Starring Alan Bates as a mysterious travelling man who invades the lives of a young couple, played by Susannah York and John Hurt. Hurt is a composer, who experiments with sound effects and various electronic sources in his secluded Devon studio. The couple provides hospitality to Bates, but his intentions are gradually revealed as more and more sinister. He claims he has learned from an Aboriginal shaman how to produce a "terror shout" that can kill anyone who hears it unprotected.
Huddie Ledbetter, better known to the music world as “Lead Belly” was born January 20, 1889, in Mooringsport, Louisiana (near Shreveport) as the only child of Wesley and Sally Ledbetter. As a young man he was introduced to the guitar by his Uncle Terrell Ledbetter and from that moment he was electrified by the guitar and its sound. He learned to play the accordion, mandolin and piano as well. Which gave him a wide knowledge of various musical instruments and rhythm. It has been said that one day Lead Belly witnessed a Mexican guitarist playing the twelve string guitar which struck his interest in mastering the unusual guitar with 12-strings.
He later became known as the “King of the 12-string Guitar” and “Stella” is what he affectionately called his guitar. Music was his way of expressing what was written on his heart and soul. At an early his father’s farm at an early age to pursue his music. Huddie traveled to Texas playing his guitar and even became friends with the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson. He worked as as laborer doing jobs such as cotton picking, farming and lining the railroad tracks.
Lead Belly once said, “When I play, the women would come around to listen and their men would get angry.” In 1918, he was wrongfully convicted for murder in Dallas and sentenced to thirty years in the state prison in Huntsville, Texas. In 1925, he wrote a song asking Governor Pat Neff for a pardon. Neff, who had promised at his election never to pardon a prisoner, broke his promise and set Lead Belly free. Back on the road with many new songs he had learned or written in Texas, Huddie again found enthusiastic audiences throughout the south. But, as the center of admiring crowds, he was again the target of envy and jealousy. In 1930, after a racial fight at a party, which was likely in the Jim Crow south he was sentenced to another prison term in the infamous Angola Farm prison plantation in Louisiana. In a way, this was a stroke of luck, because he was recorded by folklorists John and Alan Lomax, who were recording folk songs for the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Lead Belly was pardon in 1935, joining John Lomax and his son Alan, they showcased Lead Belly to northern audiences where he played on college campuses like Harvard, Princeton, and NYU. Internationally he was received with great acclaim as a famous singer of American folk songs.
WNYC Radio interview by Henrietta Yurchenko with Alan Lomax on Lead Belly (mid '60's) & an unaired radio show with songs by Lead Belly presented by Woody Guthrie (1940)...
More Lead Belly
The Land Where the Blues Began a 1979 film by Alan Lomax
August 15, 2011
August 06, 2011
August 01, 2011
Seul Contre Tous (Gaspar Noé, 1998)
The history of the butcher is narrated through voice-over and a montage of still photographs. Orphaned at a young age and subsequently abused by a priest, he opens a butcher shop and fathers an autistic daughter with a woman who leaves him because it is not a boy. He raises his daughter while fighting his incestuous feelings for her. On the day of her first menstrual period, he sees blood on her skirt and stabs an innocent man who he thinks raped her. He is sentenced to prison and forced to sell his butcher shop to a Muslim, and his daughter is put in an institution. He has sex with his prison cellmate, but after being released, he vows to forget it happened. He gets a job working for the fat woman who owns the tavern he used to drink in. She seduces him, and she becomes pregnant. She sells her business and moves to northern France with him, promising to purchase a butcher shop. It is now 1980.
The butcher hates his life with his overbearing, overweight mistress. She backs out of her promise to open a butcher shop, forcing him to take a night watchman job at a nursing home. Along with a nurse, he witnesses an elderly patient die, and he ruminates on the pointlessness of life. He fails to capitalize on the nurse's vulnerability, but his mistress accuses him of having an affair nonetheless. He snaps and punches his mistress in the belly several times, very likely killing their unborn child, then steals a pistol and flees.
The butcher determines to feel no guilt and returns to Paris. He rents the same flophouse room where he conceived his daughter and begins looking up his old friends, but they are all too decrepit and poor to help him. The butcher's interior monologues focus on his hatred of the rich and their exploitation of the lower class. He looks for butcher jobs, but the French economy is in recession and there are no jobs in any related field. After being turned away at a slaughterhouse that once did business with his shop, the butcher decides to kill the manager. He plots the murder at a local tavern, but is ejected from the bar at gunpoint after squabbling with the owner's son. The butcher finds that he has only three bullets in his gun, and begins assigning them to each of his various enemies.
He eventually decides to see his daughter. After meeting her at the asylum in which she is a patient, he takes her back to his room and hesitates, looking at his gun. He contemplates having sex with and then killing his daughter. The movie returns to the moment of the butcher's hesitation. He puts the gun away, resolving to be good, and tearfully embraces his daughter. He then again contemplates having sex with her in the same manner as he did with her mother. Standing at a window, he unzips his daughter's jacket and begins fondling her. His interior monologue asserts that their love is more pure because the world condemns it.
"Ballad of the Little Soldier" is the record of another Herzog journey, this time to northeastern Nicaragua to the territory of the Miskito Indians, the former allies of the Sandinistas in the revolution against the Somoza regime, but who are now engaged in their own war against the Sandinistas. Originally persecuted by the Somoza Government, the Miskitos joined the revolution in the fond hope of obtaining their own freedom and some sort of guarantee for their culture.
Once in power in Managua, however, the Sandinistas set about to bring the Miskitos into the "new" society. In theory, this meant moving the Miskitos to centralized communities where they would have access to the amenities of civilization. In fact, though, the Government's campaign resulted in the Miskitos being ruthlessly uprooted, their villages destroyed, their crops burned, their livestock butchered and the systematic massacre of all recalcitrants - men, women and children.
Now, apparently equipped by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Miskitos have put together a crack commando troop, about half of whom are boys 10 to 12 years old, trained by former members of the Somoza regime's notorious National Guard. Early in "Ballad of the Little Soldier," Mr. Herzog and his crew accompany a small band of Indian commandos on a raid into Sandinista territory, which, as so often happens in a Herzog film, comes to nothing when the raiders are spotted by Government troops.
Most of the film is composed of interviews in refugee camps with the Miskitos, who tell their first-person narratives of torture and murder with a terrible, placid stoicism. Mr. Herzog, a political skeptic whose initial sympathies, I assume, were with the revolution, records all this with unsentimental sorrow. ''I can't believe,'' he says at one point, ''that the Sandinistas intended this to happen.'' Elsewhere he has been quoted as saying he's convinced the Sandinista Government must collapse, though whether because of its own excesses or outside intervention is not clear.
The most moving moment in the film comes when Mr. Herzog's assistant director, Denis Reichle, after listening to the testimony of 10- and 12- year-old boy commandos who express their willingness to fight the good fight and to die, recalls that this was just the sort of thing he heard in Germany in the last days before the fall of Hitler, when the Nazis were recruiting boys into the army.
"Ballad of the Little Soldier" is not a rabble-rousing film. It's both a lament about the idiotic state or the world and a song in praise of the human spirit. New York Times