T'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.6
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter
Summer '01 - Let It Blurt

 

MARGARET

I don't want to really dwell on this. I just found out my friend Margaret Kilgallen passed away the other day. I'm still in a bit of shock. Margaret was my age and is probably best known for her paintings, which have been shown in galleries everywhere. Along with her partner, Barry McGee, she had a highly celebrated show last year at LA's Armand Hammer Museum down in Westwood.

I really only knew her through Barry and his sister, Kim, who was our old roadie. The three of them made up a certain team of people that I always admired. Some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I truly mean that.

Her paintings are a great testament to her life and ability to communicate ideas through her personality. Often painted with spray paint or house paint, she also often used random materials as canvasses. There was a definite lo-fi feel, which along with her use of striking and often abstract female images, and arcane typography communicated a demented joyful feeling. The joy was in conflict with the content of the art. There was a challenge being made in her art. But the challenge was inadvertent and in turn the art became truly revealing.

The timing of her death is unbelievably tragic. Just a month ago she had graduated from Stanford and had given birth to her and Barry's first child. I guess there's really nothing else for me to say.

 

STUFF

Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding will be out in about three weeks. I'm pretty excited about it. It's a very lo-tech release, as I really haven't got the funds to hire a publicist and do it up right. It's a shame, because I think people will find that this, though a singles collection, is probably our best full-length release in years. I'll have a few available through my mail order. But, any decent record store should have it. Revolver exclusively distributes it, so any decent record store should have it…

Okay, so New Disorder Soda is out. It's a cool little CD compilation that we've got a track on. Our song is Palm Tree which is an outtake from One Mississippi. It's a cool song and I really dig the lyrics, which I wrote while wandering around downtown LA a few years back. There's more cool stuff here with, as far as I can tell, unreleased material from What Happens Next, Songs For Emma, Talk Is Poison and loads more. It also features Pirx The Pilot, which is Ernst's cool new band. I'll try to review their new CD next time around. You can get the comp from New Disorder at: 115 Bartlett St., San Francisco, CA 94110

 

ALL THE NEWS FIT TO PRINT

The first version of my article on the Mob was in Maximum Rock N Roll in issue #218. That issue also featured my interview with Jon Moritsugu. Next up will be the first half of my article on Flowers In The Dustbin which Arwen told my they split in half as it was too long. Look for it in #219.

My diatribe about what an idiot Sid Vicious was is in the latest Skyscraper. That's one hell of a nice looking zine even if I don't know who half of the bands are that Andrew is into. I'll be writing more over there too…

A couple of J Church interviews have surfaced recently as well. First of all, we're in issue 10 of Green Zine by our pal Cristy Road straight outta Sarasota. It's a fun little read and also has an interview with Bratmobile. This zine was the inspiration for the title of one of our live CDRs (Blue Jeans Hurt My Crotch). I think you can get it for a buck or two from: 1130 Greensboro LN #112 ­ Sarasota, FL 34234.

I'm really stoked that we are in the latest Fear And Loathing from England. Andy is an old friend of mine and it's one of the only zines I really go out of my way to read. He's been doing it forever and the quality of the writing is always great. Written sort of like a diary, it's fun to read. The issue that we're in (Volume 54) also features Mike Patton, David Johanson, Less Than Jake, Gaza Strippers, Billy Gould and Mick Mercer. It's well worth the $3 or whatever it costs. PO Box 11605, London E11 1XA, UK

 

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM

The Stendhal Syndrome DVD

I first saw this film four or five years ago, and I felt then as I do now. This film is not a horror film. It's been wrongly judged in that context due to the director's reputation. But I think history will show that Dario Argento isn't really a horror filmmaker. Horror films actually make up just a small percentage of his films and The Stendhal Syndrome is no horror film.

Dario Argento is a genius. As an Italian director in the generation (and tradition) of Antonioni, his films are far more cerebral and avant-garde than the traditional horror fair of even Bava and the like. His films are Freudian investigations that exist somewhere between psychological thriller and horror. The violence is a device more so than a selling point.

It took a little while for The Stendhal Syndrome to make it to the States. I don't know why that is. But I'm sure there are some politics behind it as Argento is only too happy to criticize Hollywood and of the bad experiences he's had making films for major American studios. What's strange is that this DVD is on Troma (who I love in a weird way) instead of Anchor Bay who have been releasing most of the old Argento stuff on DVD.

The Stendhal Syndrome is something of a return to form for Argento. After a couple of severely hacked films done for American companies and a brief hiatus, this film was his chance to make a film strictly following his own muse and without the business end of the film industry in mind. Working with his daughter, Asia, for the second time he was able to explore darker subject matter. The previous time they worked together was on Trauma which, despite being ruined by an editing process aimed at success in the US horror market, still dealt with issues outside of the norm and deeper into his psychoanalytical fascination as the main character suffered from bulimia.

Asia Argento has carved a name for herself as an actor not afraid to play characters who either have severe psychological disorders or who has to face emotionally and physically abusive obstacles. In this film, she is a detective named Anna Manni sent to Florence to track down a serial rapist / killer known as Alfredo. While at the Uffizi Art Museum she not only discovers that she suffers from a mental disorder that makes her hallucinate that she is inside the paintings she's observing (the Stendhal Syndrome, of course). She passes out in the crowded museum only to discover she has a bloody lip and her gun has been stolen from her purse. Of course, it turns out that the gun is stolen by the serial rapist / killer who then becomes the pursuer and finds Argento in her hotel room. In a brutal and horrifying scene, Alfredo rapes the detective in her hotel room setting things in motion to create a long, complex story ending with a Hitchcock-ian twist.

Along the way, there are some classic Argento innovations with shot design and cinematography. Always an innovator that avoided any sort of computer special effects, there are some amazing sequences including a dreamlike sequence where Anna hallucinates that she sees Alfredo murder another one of his victims. In slow motion, we see the bullet leave the gun, through the wall of the victim's cheek, through her body and out the other side. In another sequence, Anna takes medication and we actually see the pills travel down her throat. This drawing of attention to otherwise mundane events is a lot like the gun battle scene in Three Kings.

Another surreal moment happens when Anna reflects back to her first contact with one of Alfredo's victims. Rather than say it's a dream or use some sort of obvious special effect, the shot is designed so she can walk directly from one set to another. By betraying the cinematic illusion created by sets, it's an interesting twist on a dream sequence.

Argento has always been good with heightening tension with simple over the top acts done without fanfare. During the rape scene, one horrifying image that stayed with me was when Alfredo produced a razor blade out of his mouth during the rape scene. He claims that he needs to cut her lip so she looked just as she did when she passed out in the museum. The importance of that dialog offsets the fact that he's had a sharp razor in his mouth the entire time.

There are other Argento stand-bys. Soundscape is always very important to his film especially when used to heighten paranoia. Like some moments in Suspiria, there are sequences in the film that use obtuse audio overdubs of chattering voices. While part of the background, they're recorded so manic and unrealistically, they become a reflection of the protagonist's psyche.

That day in the art museum becomes the factor that binds together Anna's disorder with her victimization by Alfredo. The use of this type of logic plays large in the film and forces the viewer to make a lot of otherwise unrealistic leaps of faith. That's always been part of Argento's style. His intellectual approach and matter of fact form of arguing his characters logic helps make it all believable no matter how absurd. Surrealism and special effects are blatant and never hidden. There are no tricks here that he doesn't want you to see.

A lot of people argue that this is one of his lesser works. I disagree. While nowhere in the area of Profundo Rosso or Four Flies On Grey Velvet, I found the film to be gripping and fascinating. I suppose if you're looking for a horror film like Suspiria or Opera, you'll be disappointed. But I think that this film is one of his better. It's certainly his best in recent times and I really can't think of another film like it. (Troma)

 

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