T'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #11.2
All You Need To Know About J Church and Honey Bear Records
Spring 2003 - "A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction"

 

MICHAEL MOORE, BILL MOYERS AND THE QUIET AMERICAN

Yup, it was a left leaning week for me. I went and saw Michael Moore speak here in Austin. Been really getting into Bill Moyers again. Finally got around to seeing The Quiet American. It's all great.

Even though I couldn't really give a shit about the Democrats and the Greens getting along, it was fun hearing Michael Moore speak. It's nice just to be in a packed auditorium here in Austin, the belly of the beast, cheering him on as he derides Bush, the War and capitalism in general. It might almost seem trite in San Francisco. But here in Austin, it's wild stuff. I mean, the Young Conservatives were protesting outside! You don't get that at SF State. There's always good stuff to read at www.michaelmoore.com.

Of course, Now with Bill Moyers is the best thing on TV. If you're gonna watch TV at all, you should really be following his show on PBS. I know some of you are scared off by the NPR connection (Are they really Cointelpro? I find that a little hard to believe…) and I know even more of you are scared off by the Joseph Campbell stuff (which I actually really like). But Bill Moyers is an old guy. He's got a lotta clout and he's gonna retire soon. He can do whatever the hell he wants, and that means reporting the news that no one else in the US is reporting. I like to think he's what Michael Moore will be like when he gets old. You can find out more about this show at www.pbs.org/now/

Most of you have probably seen The Quiet American by now. It's been out for a while. It was a nice surprise to see the theater packed this long after the film was first released. I used to think it was such a dead subject, the US and its dirty dealings before, during and after the war in Vietnam. Even if that's true, this film shows that these history lessons are worth repeating. I guess I've never been paranoid after all. I swear, I wanna believe that Brendan Fraser is a total moron and then he goes and does something like this or Gods and Monsters which I also totally love. Miramax is sort of totally evil, but it's better to go right to the source than the truly horrible imdb.com - www.miramax.com/quietamerican/

Incidentally, the quote on the top is from Kubrick.

 

HONEY BEAR RECORDS TOUR

Okay, the tour is taking a more defined shape. Let's see what we've got…

JULY
23 Denton, TX ­ Rubber Gloves
24 drive
25 Phoenix, AZ ­ Modified
26 Los Angeles, CA ­ TBA
27 Anaheim, CA ­ Chain Reaction
28 San Francisco, CA
29 San Francisco, CA ­ one of these two dates will be the Bottom of the Hill. Don't know which one yet or what we'll do on the other day…
30 Portland, OR ­ TBA
31 Seattle, WA

AUGUST
1-5 Canada ­ TBA
6 Minneapolis, MN ­ Triple Rock
7 Chicago, IL ­ Fireside Bowl
8 Cleveland, OH ­ The Grog Shop
9 Pittsburgh, PA ­ TBA
10 Philadelphia, PA ­ Calvary Church
11 Boston, MA ­ TBA
12 NYC ­ w/ the Plungers
13 NYC ­ w/ the Plungers
14 Washington DC
15 Baltimore, MD ­ The Talking Head Club
16 Chapel Hill, NC ­ TBA
17 Atlanta, GA ­ Echo Lounge
18 Columbia, SC ­ New Brookland Tavern
19 Gainesville, FL ­ CG Coffeehouse
20 somewhere in FL ­ TBA
21 somewhere in FL ­ TBA
22 Houston, TX ­ Fat Cat's
23 Austin, TX ­ Emo's

Okay, wherever it says TBA, you could for the most part replace it with HELP!!!! God, when did it get so hard to books shows in Boston and Chapel Hill? Portland has always been hard for us. If you've got any leads in any of those areas, lemme know! Keep in mind, there are three bands and we wanna keep the shows as all-ages as is possible.

 

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM
FIONA (directed by Amos Kollek) DVD

Amos Kollek must be crazy. Fiona is a film not only about prostitutes and crack addicts. It was an entire supporting cast of the real deal. Not just extras, several of the main characters are actual prostitutes and crack addicts with much of the film shot in a NYC crack house / crash pad. This is about as heavy duty as you can get without it being a documentary. Actually, this is beyond documentary because Kollek is no quiet observer. He's in there as a director working closely with the drug addicts and prostitutes. It's Dogma taken in a weird, dangerous and, inadvertently, titillating direction.

The story follows a young woman, Fiona (Anna Thomson) from her recollections of being sexually abused in a foster home to her adventures on the streets. The plot turns Oedipal as we meet her mother, who is a much more weathered prostitute working the same streets. Eventually, their paths meet and our streetwise Ophelia finally transcends her destiny by taking control of it.

Yeah, it's a simple plot. But the plot is really just a hanger with which a series of vignettes, both shocking and touching, are draped. Kollek's previous film, Sue (which also starred Anna Thomson), let him wear his influences on his sleeve as it clearly brings Cassavettes to mind. Fiona lets him take it to it's logical extent which, while most people will remember the grim moments, also allowed for some very real moments unlike anything you'll see at the multi-plex.
(Vanguard Cinema)

LEGEND OF RITA, THE (directed by Volker Schlöndorff) DVD
LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM, THE (directed by Volker Schlöndorff and
Margarethe Von Trotta) DVD

I'm a big fan of Schlöndorff. I remember being deeply affected as a child watching The Tin Drum and as a teen I was equally horrified when I saw The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum for the first time.

Okay, so I was really primed to love The Legend of Rita. And, yes, no surprise, I love this movie. Here's why:

First of all, it's an objective film about the European left in all its shapes and sizes. Rita is a member of a radical group of German urban guerillas somewhat based on the Baader-Meinhoff gang and somewhat based on the Hash Rebels. She kills a police officer, but unlike Western mainstream cinema, we still sympathize with her and identify with her struggle. She is aided by the East German Stasi, who see as normal people doing a job they believe in, rather than as the Stalinistic secret police we're told to believe they were. We see East Berlin as a difficult place to live. But not as the colorless, endless ghetto with bread lines that books and films have also told us. It's an objective film.

Second of all, it's a film where the main character is a woman driven by her ideological convictions AS WELL AS her loves and desires. If Hollywood made the film, unrequited love or some sort of sexual frustration would drive her. Her political convictions and dedication to leftist revolution are what give her strong character and is not her Achilles heel.

The film follows Rita as a young member of a radical group in `70s Berlin. While traveling back from Lebanon, a series of events leads her to make friends with the Stasi who aid her and her companions throughout their misadventures. After killing a cop during a police chase, she creates a new identity and lives a normal life in the East.

From there the film follows her life and the end of the Cold War (World War III). I know most of the world was celebrating Glasnost. But to me, it felt like such a huge failure. Now, I may be an anarchist and I may have the same problems many of you had with the Soviet Union. But the fall of communism still felt like defeat. And for revolutionaries around the world, including people like Rita many of whom were turned over to the invading right wing bureaucrats, it was a palpable defeat.

It's funny, but the recent Criterion DVD release of The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum gives it a whole new perspective. Next to The Legend of Rita, Lost Honor is almost like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. But in this case, it's dead serious.

Katharina Blum is a normal German woman who has a one-night state with a man she meets at a party. Later, she finds out that he is an anarchist and part of a Baader-Meinhoff-type gang; the group Rita from The Legend of Rita is supposed to be a member of.

Responding to the activities of German urban guerillas, there is a national dragnet to hunt them down. Blum is arrested and gets caught up in the hunt, revealing a myopic government at it's most abusive. Equally revealing is the insidious nature of the media and it's role in repression. You can't help but get a chill watching it not because you can't believe it ever happened. But because you can't believe it happens all the time. Life in America is a lot like Katharina Blum's for many people.

Schlöndorff is an intellectual. Both of these films are great reflections of that. They're smart, challenging while being well paced and lithe. Lost Honor marked the directorial debut of Margarethe Von Trotta (in some ways a protégé of Schlöndorff's not to mention lover) who would go on to great things including Rosa Luxembourg.

Both DVDs come with great extras. The Legend of Rita comes with a fantastic commentary track from the director. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum comes with recent interviews with the directors as well as excerpts from a documentary on the author, Heinrich Boll.
(Kino Video / The Criterion Collection)

SUN RA ARKESTRA - Live at the Palomino DVD

Well, this was supposed to be the first in a 10 part series. But it looks like someone put the kibosh on it as is usually the case with Sun Ra releases of dubious origin. I guess I should be happy that any Sun Ra performance is on DVD at all.

The Palomino was a club in the Valley. I kind of remember it being the home for all kinds of Downey Mildew type bands. But I could be wrong. This performance is from '88, so I was there in LA at the time. But I was probably not seeing anything that wasn't either Savage Republic or raging hardcore at the time. Oh, the impetuousness of youth…

So this one camera, straight off the video, DVD is as close as I'll ever get to seeing Sun Ra. And it is really great. The sound is decent (despite a roaring loud guitar at some points) and the cameraperson is able to follow the action as well as can be expected. Are there any totally bad Arkestra performances? There are so many great players that at any given time, someone can jump up and do something terrific. It's so random as to who is going to be hot (if not everyone) that it's no wonder there are so many rabid collectors of Sun Ra shows.

In addition to the Palomino show is a great duet with Don Cherry. I don't remember ever hearing about any of this stuff. But it's great. Sun Ra at the keys and Cherry on some crappy little piece of plastic making it sound like something "otherworldly", a term I vow to stop using.

The disc ends with a sympathetic interview with Sun Ra allowing him to pontificate in his most verbose, equal parts free association and abstract dogma.
(Transparency - PO Box 81-1821, Los Angeles, CA 90081)

 

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