The Ghost of Piramida

Efterklang star in this unique and interesting documentary about their travels to a ghost town near the North Pole where they spent 9 days recording audio for use in their album Piramida. Directed by Andreas Koefoed, the film quickly becomes more than just a travelogue or behind-the-scenes look at their music-making process as we learn more about the previous inhabitants of this once rich, fertile, now barren and cold landscape.

Even better, the film is being released in a rather uncompromising fashion: all screenings will be free and open to the public, but can be held by anyone who wants to get more than 5 people together at one location. Kudos to whomever is behind this idea for finding ways to engage communities of the film, music and artistically-minded. Here’s a list of all the scheduled events so far. Find one near you!

For an added bonus, watch this oddly engaging, albeit personally invasive music video for the song, “SEDNA”:

Filmmakers to Watch: Noel Paul & the Work of That Go

Noel Paul may only be directing music videos and commercials right now, but he’s got a cinematic style and unique artistry to his work that will serve him for a long time. One half of the filmmaking team known as That Go, Paul and Stefan Moore have made some of the more interesting music video art in the past few years. Some of them (more recently) are even short films, which is nice to see the progressive expansion of their film body moving in that direction. I’m not trying to say I know that Paul or That Go has any intentions of making a feature film one day, but I’m simply saying I know that he could make a pretty damn decent one if he wanted. One of the signs of a good, blossoming filmmaker is the consistency in their work, the progression in their work and the common themes and imagery in their work. Noel Paul has displayed these qualities and I, for one, will be keeping an eye on him for future projects. Here’s a select retrospective of his video work with some of my thoughts and comments (in a sort of chronological order).

Back in 2009, one of Paul and Moore’s early music videos, “Jerk It” for Thunderheist, started them off with a bang, winning a Grand Jury Prize at SXSW. Co-directed by Moore, it’s main attraction is the obvious slyness of the imagery coupled with the song and song title, and it all works very well and is fun to watch. Paul would carry at least one of the themes from this video forward, and that’s the theme of the female muse in a studio setting where there’s no telling what may happen to her. Though most of his later work appears a little on the darker side than this one, there’s still a strain of eerie-ness to “Jerk It” which is hard to shake off after a viewing.

The video “Carry the Deed” for Angel Deradoorian shows Paul maturing in his use of the female form in a studio setting. There’s also a couple of types of imagery (the beach setting, the fairly creepy digital pupils, and the stroboscopic and 360-degree profile shots) which will crop back up in future work as you’ll see below. Paul also has a unique ability that almost feels as if he’s blending fashion photography with cinema that I also think is very well honed. You could easily picture him creating a commercial for some Alexander MacQueen women’s fragrance or something one day.

Their videos for the band Röyksopp, “Senior” and “The Drug” are really one in the same. “Senior” is basically a short film and “The Drug” appears to be a sort of shorter re-edit of the former. Moving this time from the studio to a dilapidated industrial-side somewhere in Detroit, Moore and Paul expand on some of their themes while also weaving in a Fish Tank-via-Gomorrah-esque group of young girls and a “Come to Daddy”-via-28 Days Later barrage of sparseness and creepiness. Shown below here is the “short film” version for the track “Senior.”

Paul’s video for The Dø’s “Slippery Slope” expands on the style of videos like “Carry the Deed”. “Slippery Slope” has an oddly M.I.A. kind of feel to it, and the video combines classic Japanese style horror imagery and taiko drumming and the usual female form in a color splashed studio setting.

That Go’s video for Alex Winston’s “Sister Wife” features Mark Romanek “Criminal”-era spotlighting and even more creepy imagery than their previous videos. This one is chock full with shadow lovers, angry ghosts (or just a indoor tornado maybe) and alternate reality puking cats. An homage to the Japanese horror classic House, maybe?

Noel Paul’s video for Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is maybe the most narrative work to date for Paul. I won’t give away the faint plot line or sort of surprise ending, but I will say that it’s a great use of both his skills with stark and dark imagery, atmospheres and the singular female form in distress.

Paul’s first video for Bat for Lashes, “Laura,” is fabulous. It’s simple in concept and tone, not too over the top and actually feels like it has a lot of story behind it. The storyline may not feel completely original, but it is most certainly inspired and connected to the lyrics of the song in a unique way. It’s a great match up of words and imagery.

Paul’s video for Thousands’ “At the Edges” is again simple in concept and tone, but effective. It utilizes the digital pupil theme Paul seems to like playing with (there’s definitely a thing with eyes in most of their work). The best part about it though, is how dark it is (both visually and thematically), and how vintagely processed the film is (originally shot on Super 8).

Paul’s second video for Bat for Lashes, “All Your Gold,” is again nearly flawless. The combination of music and imagery is pitch perfect and simple, artistic use of the iridescent neoprene bodysuit Natasha Khan wears is a unique and great touch. If you watch it long enough, it’s almost like she’s liquid gold.

And finally, there’s Paul’s third video for Bat for Lashes, “A Wall.” A little more narrative than the other two Bat for Lashes videos, it’s still strong and a great example of the cinematic style and creative use and blending of fashion, photography, music, film and art for which Noel Paul and That Go should be recognized.

Sound City

Dave Grohl, the musician notorious for being in Nirvana and the man behind the Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures and a host of other musical side projects, has widened his scope to the cinema now. Granted, it’s a Vh1-looking rock documentary that will probably only find itself in rotation on your basic cable music channel; in January though, Sundance (of course) will unveil it which will no doubt bring out the hip Hollywood stars.

The doc is about the rise and fall of the famous recording studios in California named Sound City. Watch the trailer below to check out the impressive lineup of musicians that have recorded there, and many of which are interviewed by Grohl to reminisce. While I’m excited at the prospect of learning about this famed institution and seeing its history, the trailer is frankly less than captivating or polished.

The soundtrack Grohl has put together as compendium to this film though, looks honestly amazing. It’s out March 12, 2013 (but available on iTunes now – which seems in direct opposition to what this doc is soapboxing about), and features a collection of musicians from some of the notable bands that recorded there, playing together with Grohl on a number of original songs (one of those now infamous mashups is the former Nirvana bandmates, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, and Grohl, performing the song “Cut Me Some Slack” along with Paul McCartney, which they premiered to the world during the 12.12.12 Sandy Benefit concert earlier this week). Here’s the full tracklist (via Pitchfork):

1.) Dave Grohl, Peter Hayes, and Robert Levon Been: “Heaven and All”
2.) Brad Wilk, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl, and Tim Commerford: “Time Slowing Down”
3.) Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee, Stevie Nicks, and Taylor Hawkins: “You Can’t Fix This”
4.) Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Rick Springfield, and Taylor Hawkins: “The Man That Never Was”
5.) Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl, Lee Ving, Pat Smear, and Taylor Hawkins: “Your Wife Is Calling”
6.) Corey Taylor, Dave Grohl, Rick Nielsen, and Scott Reeder: “From Can to Can’t”
7.) Alain Johannes, Chris Goss, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme: “Centipede”
8.) Alain Johannes, Dave Grohl, and Joshua Homme: “A Trick With No Sleeve”
9.) Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear: “Cut Me Some Slack”
10.) Dave Grohl, Jessy Greene, Jim Keltner, and Rami Jaffee: “Once Upon a Time… The End”
11.) Dave Grohl, Joshua Homme, and Trent Reznor: “Mantra”

The Toddling Dead

Zombies are pretty much saturating the market right now, but it’s always cool to see filmmakers with fresh ideas for a quickly becoming played out fad. Check out this short film / music video directed by David Altobelli and Jeff Desom for the band HEALTH‘s song “Tears.” You can’t look away, and you won’t be sorry!

A Stunning Video Short from Filmmaker Alma Har’el for Sigur Rós’ “Fjögur Píanó”

What is it about Sigur Rós music that just makes you want to add visuals to it? It’s literally made for scoring a film it seems. So it makes sense that the Icelandic avant-rockers would hold their own little film festival of sorts for their new album “Valtari.” It’s a two-fold project (called The Valtari Mystery Film Experiment) consisting of a number of filmmakers whom have been invited to direct a video for one of the songs on the album, and an open call to all other filmmakers (in the form of a contest really) so they can also make their own videos for one of the songs on the album. Sigur Rós releases one new video a week on their site from the collection of filmmakers they’ve collated.

So far, they’ve gotten about half way through and they’ve all been pretty minimalist and droll, unlike most anything you’ve ever seen from a Sigur Rós video previously. Then there’s “Fjögur Píanó.”

Truly an infuriating piece of filmmaking for me, I am torn between the things about it I love and those things about it which I loathe. Let’s begin with the love. Shia LeBoeuf’s performance will for a long time be indelible from my mind. I watch a lot of films in my work and I have a weird habit of not liking to know too much about what I’m about to see before I see it. So unless I’m trolling for something specific, if I find a film to watch I initially intentionally avoid looking at anything about it except maybe who the director is, and in the case of music videos, the musical artist. Initially, when I viewed this short video, I thought he looked familiar but couldn’t put a name to the face. I was so compelled by his performance as “Man” though, that I when I saw who it was playing the role, I couldn’t believe it my eyes.

LeBeouf’s performance is heart-rending and real. When he smashes his hand through a glass frame, I found myself wondering if he actually smashed his hand though a glass frame and cut it. The award-winning director Alma Har’el seemed to truly be able to connect with these characters. The female lead who plays “Woman” is also phenomenal. Both of them together have a similarly cosmic and combative chemistry that is completely engaging.

The story is conceptually strong and metaphorically powerful, while not being blunt or compromising any artistry. Man and Woman start off having a close, connected and intimate relationship, when all of a sudden – quite literally – the winds of change blow through and force them down a path that tries their love at its very core. While the film takes a sillier turn at this chapter, it quickly redeems itself and regains traction as the couple finds themselves locked in an unforgiving downward trajectory of anger and repulsion.

Eventually, and almost subconsciously expected, Man ultimately kills Woman and then realizes what he’s done as something permanent and life-altering (it’s a little hard not think of Sid and Nancy here, but the unique touch Har’el adds at the moment of impact quickly snaps you ou of it). The fact that they lived in a bedroom of deceased and well-preserved butterflies, is almost a slap in face admitting that one of them should’ve seen this coming – for they were always trying to hold on to something that would forever leave them one day anyway. How many butterflies must be caught before the captor realizes they’ll never stop being another one out there to catch?

Even more interesting is the disjointed narrative which essentially depicts at the onset of the film, as Man and Woman dance gracefully with each other like winged insects themselves, that none of the preserved butterflies are on the wall and there are faded shadows resembling the ghosts of where there used to be something beautiful, caught, pinned and on permanent display. I assume it’s post-death of Woman when we open with this scene, maybe a memory Man has captured for a moment in time.

What’s wrong with this short film is the sloppy detour it takes mid-way through the story. I like the realistic depiction of a metaphor, and I like the aggressive etherealness of their dream-state, but the direction of this segue and the look of it was jarring and overblown. Finally, I wish there was more collusion with the music, but honestly this was the first Sigur Ros video I think I’ve ever seen where I cared less about the song than I did about the video. I think the beauty and fragile artistry of both mediums in this case worked against each other and one is lost for the other. I’d love to see this film with a less notable “soundtrack” and watch a video for “Fjögur Píanó” with a less engaging narrative.

WU LYF “We Bros”

Simple in concept and beautiful in tone, this short film/music video for the band WU LYF, directed by Sam Piling is worthy of film festival inclusion somewhere in this world! For now, enjoy it below.

Rebecca Hall Demonstrates Her Emotional Range

In this dreamy, glossy video for the Joni Mitchell cover “A Case of You,” performed here by James Blake, we see actress Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona) run the range of usual emotions as she’s artfully chased by a leering cameraman.

Fincher’s Tattoo Remake Gets Its Best Trailer Yet

I find myself having to begin warming up to this whole remake/reboot market which Hollywood seems to be in lately, and with Fincher, an amazingly unique and original filmmaker, I have total confidence in the fact that he will put out a fine film, but deep down it’s still hard for me to handle the fact that he has to be getting sloppy seconds on this one. What I look forward to most about the first remade feature in the Swedish crime trilogy is that with Fincher’s eye, I am sure it will look gloriously dark and seem almost Ikea-perfect. However, the original Swedish films were damn near perfect, although they regrettably had the feeling of television miniseries more than cinematic experience. (For those of you living under a rock this year, I’m of course talking about Stieg Larsson’s The Millenium Series and, in particular, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.)

Anyway, I ran across this little promo spot which the filmmakers seem to have put together to promote the film in a most unique way – highlighting both the artistic, marketing and musical perfection which both David Fincher and his new-found scoring partner Trent Reznor constantly (and usually successfully) strive to. Check it out below.

Drive

According to the trailer, “critics are raving ‘Drive is the coolest movie,'” but I think I’m a pretty good judge of cool movies and let me tell you Drive ain’t all that. First, let’s take the terrible pacing. Nicolas Winding Refn’s films are notorious for being slim on dialogue and long on stylized takes, but it’s poorly utilized here. What makes the pacing even worse though, and truly emphasizes it, is the music. Synthy, repetitive, indie pop is literally plugged in like the editors just sat there and went, “Ok, well I don’t feel like trying to cut this song to the actual film, so I’ll just slap the whole track in there and make people sit through a couple five minute, boring, slow motion music videos.”


The song at the end of the film, called “A Real Hero,” by a band called College is especially terrible, and even worse, distracting from the great ending. You see, the film has a fantastic story and even better acting, and honestly, Refn’s style-over-substance-cinema wouldn’t be so bad if it were just employed appropriately. This film needs a new editor bad. The lyrics which constantly repeat “He’s a real human being, and a real hero,” are just flat out laughable when put to the serious images during the final scenes of the film. It’s literally the worst pairing of score and movie I’ve ever witnessed. Sitting in my movie theater seat, finding myself actually fidgeting and thinking, “Yes, I get it, he’s a real human being and a real hero. Can we go now?” is not the way I saw myself finishing this movie.

According to Refn, and many critics I guess, he thinks the music speaks for the film in this case. But that would be so much better realized if he just didn’t pick a song that is literally explaining to us that Mr. Ryan Gosling is a real human being (during the day), and a real hero (by night). It’s like the laziest filmmaker move ever. Instead of trusting your audience to get what the film is about on their own, you just tell it to them in some ambiguous, cheesy, Urban Outfitters muzak, by a band that no one will ever make an effort to drive to a store and buy an album from. This unnecessary explanation and use of the song’s lyrics to explain the story however, makes absolutely no sense when you watch the movie, because by night Gosling’s character is aiding and abetting criminals and evading the police while simultaneously endangering anyone else who is on the street at the same time as him. He is most certainly no hero.

Here’s the bottom line: wait till it’s available on DVD/Blu-ray, then kill the score (God, I hope the DVD offers that option), or mute the film at the beginning and end only. Now you’ve got yourself one hell of a movie.

Here’s the song. If you listen to it long enough, it will likely make you want to drive full speed into a wall.

I’ve actually previously reviewed two of Refn’s other films Bronson and Valhalla Rising, and while Valhalla didn’t score many points for me (even though it looked gorgeous), Bronson was enjoyable albeit forgettable. Refn will probably become big(ger) news now, but before Gosling, he was maybe more of an acquired taste for the typical filmgoer. What could really make him stand out and get noticed by larger audiences though (more than the addition of a star like Gosling to his cast), is someone to help him hone his work to finer, sharper point. Conceptual, highly visual and visceral films are great, and even though Drive doesn’t appear nearly as visually striking and rich as his previous work, it’s alright because it also boasts such a rich story. The problem is, Refn doesn’t seem comfortable telling a story without the use of some style or technique picked up from whatever training he’s had. If he’d stop relying on other cinematic elements to do his storytelling work for him, but still employ those cinematic elements, he would be the next Oliver Stone or Tarantino.

Sigur Rós “Inni”

If you have never witnessed Sigur Rós as a live show, you should do yourself a favor and take the next opportunity you get. I had the rather rare opportunity during their first-ever American tour to see them in the dank confines of a pre-Katrina New Orleans House of Blues, and let me just say, I’d never once before and have never once since been to a concert where the crowd was so enveloped by the music that during a quiet moment in “Viðrar vel til loftárása” you could literally hear a pin drop – no one was chatting, glasses never clinked together, and everyone just stood watching in sheer amazement.

Aside from being the phenomenal musicians and artists that they are, they are outstanding live performers. As expected, they’re not prolific US tourers. A few years back they released a concert film called Heima which was a fantastic way to experience all they have to offer both sonically and on stage.

Surpassing that, we now get another glimpse of their ethereal live experience in the new concert film INNI. Debuting recently at the Venice Film Festival, it’s now playing in some select cities and also available to purchase. Below is a promotional clip from it called “Festival” which runs about 7 minutes long and while giving you a fantastic excerpt of what they’re like live (just wait till about 2 or 3 minutes in), the filmmaking is also replete with Alphaville-like strobing lights and Murnau-esque, grainy, saturated black-and-white imagery.

If you’re interested in purchasing the live album/video, I suggest the Limited Special Edition version which is packaged in a 7″ x 7″ x 1″ box, printed inside and complete with:

  • an exclusive (and unique to each box itself) artifact from the live show which is sealed in a printed and numbered envelope
  • a one-sided 7″ colored vinyl with unreleased track “Lúppulagið” with etching on reverse
  • a 75-min performance on DVD and Blu-ray with 4 bonus performances in both PAL and NTSC
  • DVD with exclusive 5-min short film “Klippa”
  • 2xCD live album
  • 4 7″-sized photographic prints
  • an enamel “Inni” pin badge
  • black opaque envelope with 10 pieces of A6-sized light-sensitive paper and a special URL for creating your own “Inni” images and uploading to the band’s website