Saturday, September 19, 2020

An Illegal Rave (a dance drama)


The film consists of a live DJ (Jätten - The Giant who plays at a illegal rave party where a dark, but also funny, story takes place. In the crowd, a group of actors move around and interact with the party participants. Most people are unaware that the person they are talking to has a microphone and is a character in the movie. So much of what you hear and see is improvised. The cohesive thing is that everyone pretends to be at an underground rave for criminals. A bit like the Boiler Room.

The story is about Sandra who has robbed a jeweler's shop and will flee the country with the loot. Her plan is to find someone with a boat that she can pay for. She tries her luck at an illegal rave, which goes as it goes.

Directed by Samuel Olsson

Producer: Quinn Cordukes

Sound: Niclas Carlén

Production by: JAQ Studios

English and Swedish subtitles available! (click on Settings at the bottom of the video and select language)

Friday, September 18, 2020

"The Glittering Mile" (1964)


The entire 1964 documentary about Sydney's Kings Cross "The Glittering Mile*. David Low's classic narration says it all: King Cross is a "glittering mile of dreams, delusions, hopes and headaches, where life comes out of an espresso machine and you can have it any way you like it."

In some ways, Kings Cross, described as Sin City, hasn't changed at all. One Sydney alderman wants to clean it up, another says it's worth a million dollars a year the way it is.

American singer Wayne Newton, the so-called King of Las Vegas, has just flown in and is seen rehearsing for his opening night at the Silver Spade Room at the Chevron Hotel. He's singing Danke Schön — "Thank you for all the joy and pain."

Outside, the people celebrate the bohemian way of life and complain about the weirdos who congregate there. A dancer at the Pink Pussycat tells a reporter, "Well, you get a lot of creeps around here, I know that. You get pestered walking from one club to another." A New Zealander and his mates perform an impromptu haka outside one strip club.

Dancing girls. Another voiceover demonstrates the way women were portrayed in the media in the '60s: "If it's company you're after, there are plenty of girls at the Cross. The place is full of girls, coming and going. It's hard to understand what keeps them busy all night long." And another: "You can be catered for at places where the girls are provided to please you, but you mustn't touch."

The manager at the Pink Pussycat, "Last Card Louie" says, "I've seen the (striptease) show 39,000 times. It's just one of those things. I don't know what to think about it, to tell you the truth."

Another sign that some things never change is the "frequently heard demand around the Cross" for more police ... and for more police on the beat. One resident even keeps a diary of all the crimes that she hears and sees from her flat.

An interviewer speaks to the infamous "witch of Kings Cross" Rosaleen Norton at the Apollyon Lounge, a cafe that she used to frequent. A robed Rosaleen Norton performs a banishing ritual by inscribing a pentagram in the air with her ceremonial athame, or dagger, thereby purifying and defining the ‘sacred space’ associated with the ritual. However we know that Norton was not always robed during her ceremonial performances because she confirmed in her interview with D.L. Thompson that ‘ceremonial attire ranges from nakedness to full regalia – robes, hood, sandals and accessories...’. Norton appeared during her interview with Thompson clad only in her dark leather ‘witch’s apron’, naked from the waist up, although she later posed for a photograph wearing a cat’s mask in addition to her apron. During Norton’s interview with Thompson her fellow coven members wore ritual animal masks to disguise their identity and referred to each other by using code names like the Rat and the Toad, thereby remaining effectively anonymous. (see Neville Drury's article on Roie)

The excerpt ends with an all-male revue. The narration reads: "A few years ago an all-male revue like Les Girls would have been out of the question in Sydney, as it would in most places where people like the differences between the sexes to be clear and obvious. Today, it's part of the Kings Cross scene." And now years later, it still is ... with the Gay Mardi Gras now one of the highlights of Sydney's social calendar.

The Glittering Mile is a fascinating stroll down memory lane ... looking at Kings Cross as it really was in 1964.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

The Clash - BBC4 Documentary (2014)


Built around the earliest, until now unseen, footage of The Clash in concert, filmed by Julien Temple as they opened the infamous Roxy club in a dilapidated Covent Garden on 1 January 1977, this show takes us on a time-travelling trip back to that strange planet that was Great Britain in the late 1970s and the moment when punk emerged into the mainstream consciousness.

Featuring the voices of Joe Strummer and The Clash from the time, and intercutting the raw and visceral footage of this iconic show with telling moments from the BBC's New Year's Eve, Hogmanay and New Year's Day schedules of nearly 40 years ago, it celebrates that great enduring British custom of getting together, en masse and often substantially the worse for wear, to usher in the new year.

New Year's Day is when we collectively take the time to reflect on the year that has just gone by and ponder what the new one might hold in store for us. Unknown to the unsuspecting British public, 1977 was of course the annus mirabilis of punk. The year in which The Clash themselves took off, catching the imagination of the nation's youth. As their iconic song 1977 counts us down to midnight, we share with them and Joe Strummer, in previously unseen interviews from the time, their hopes and predictions for the 12 months ahead.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Strange Story of Joe Meek (Arena, 1991)

Robert George "Joe" Meek (5 April 1929 – 3 February 1967) was an English record producer, musician, sound engineer and songwriter who pioneered space age and experimental pop music. He also assisted the development of recording practices like overdubbing, sampling and reverberation. Meek is considered one of the most influential sound engineers of all time, being one of the first to develop ideas such as the recording studio as an instrument, and becoming one of the first producers to be recognized for his individual identity as an artist.

Meek became fascinated with the idea of communicating with the dead. He would set up tape machines in graveyards in an attempt to record voices from beyond the grave, in one instance capturing the meows of a cat he believed was speaking in human tones, asking for help. In particular, he had an obsession with Buddy Holly (saying the late American rocker had communicated with him in dreams). By the end of his career, Meek's fascination with these topics had taken over his life following the deterioration in his mental health, and he started to believe that his flat contained poltergeists, that aliens were substituting his speech by controlling his mind, and that photographs in his studio were trying to communicate with him.

Meek was affected by bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and, upon receiving an apparently innocent phone call from American record producer Phil Spector, Meek immediately accused Spector of stealing his ideas before hanging up angrily. His professional efforts were often hindered by his paranoia (Meek was convinced that Decca Records would put hidden microphones behind his wallpaper to steal his ideas), depression, and extreme mood swings. In later years, Meek started experiencing psychotic delusions, culminating in him refusing to use the studio telephone for important communications due to his beliefs that his landlady was eavesdropping on his calls through the chimney, that he could control the minds of others with his recording equipment, and that he could monitor his acts while away from the studio through supernatural means.

Meek was also a frequent recreational drug user, with his barbiturate abuse further worsening his depressive episodes. In addition, his heavy consumption of amphetamines caused him to fly into volatile rages with little or no provocation, at one point leading him to hold a gun to the head of drummer Mitch Mitchell to 'inspire' a high-quality performance.

Meek's homosexuality – at a time when homosexual acts were illegal in the UK – put him under further pressure and he was particularly afraid that his mother would find out about his sexual orientation. In 1963 he was convicted and fined £15 (equivalent to £316 in 2019) for "importuning for immoral purposes" in a London public toilet, and was consequently subject to blackmail. In January 1967, police in Tattingstone, Suffolk, discovered two suitcases containing mutilated body parts of Bernard Oliver. According to some accounts, Meek was afraid of being questioned by the Metropolitan Police, as it was known they were intending to interview all of the gay men in London. This was enough for him to lose his self-control.

Meek always walked everywhere outside the studio wearing sunglasses, fearing recognition by local gangsters such as the Kray twins, who he feared would attempt to steal his acts or blackmail him regarding his homosexuality.

Meek's depression deepened as his financial position became increasingly desperate. French composer Jean Ledrut accused him of plagiarism, claiming that the melody of "Telstar" had been copied from "La Marche d'Austerlitz", a piece from a score Ledrut had written for the film Austerlitz (1960). The lawsuit meant that Meek did not receive royalties from the record during his lifetime, and the issue was not resolved in his favour until three weeks after his death in 1967.

On 3 February 1967, Meek killed his landlady Violet Shenton and then himself with a single-barrelled shotgun that he had confiscated from his protégé, former Tornados bassist and solo star Heinz Burt, at his Holloway Road home/studio. Meek had flown into a rage and taken the gun from Burt when he informed Meek that he had used it while on tour to shoot birds. Meek had kept the gun under his bed, along with some cartridges. As the shotgun had been owned by Burt, he was questioned intensively by police before being eliminated from their enquiries

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Raphael - A Mortal God

This documentary on Raphael edges towards the hysterical at times and the segments where modern artists recreate his works seem obscure. But it is well made and gives a good idea of how brilliant the famous painter and architect was. The suggestion that Raphael died of syphilis is also unfounded. The sudden onset of his fever and the rapid decline he experienced seems to suggest it was an acute infection, possibly pneumonia and that the blood letting that was prescribed, a common practice at the time, weakened him to the point of death. 

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Italian: [raffaˈɛllo ˈsantsjo da urˈbiːno]; March 28 or April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), known as Raphael (/ˈræfeɪəl/, US: /ˈræfiəl, ˈreɪf-, ˌrɑːfaɪˈɛl, ˌrɑːfiˈɛl/), was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his early death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome, much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael's more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models. His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles, first described by Giorgio Vasari: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years (1504–1508) absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two Popes and their close associates.

Raphael saved the Coliseum, the homes on the Palatine Hill, the Forum and the Curia, the arch of Constantine and various temples and many others.

On Good Friday, April 6th, 1520, Raffaello Sanzio, one of the greatest painters of the Renaissance, died. Raphael, as he is known in English speaking circles, had asked to be buried in the Pantheon, and his request was granted, making him the first artist to be accorded such an honour. 

Raphael's epitaph hails him as a preeminent painter and rival of the ancients; it also implies that he died on his birthday, which may or may not be true. Vasari simply states that Raphael was born on Good Friday, 1483, which in that year fell on March 28th. However, another source states that he was born on April 6th. 

By the 19th century Raphael had become a cult figure and on September 14th, 1833, Pope Gregory XVI (r. 1831-46) ordered that his tomb be opened to verify that the artist was really buried there. The tomb was opened in the presence of a host of distinguished figures from the worlds of art, the church, politics and medicine. A skeleton was discovered and the doctors declared (on what grounds?) that this was, indeed, the earthly remains of Raphael. The event was duly recorded in a painting by Francesco Diofebi (1771-851). 

The skeleton was transferred to an ancient sarcophagus, a gift from the pope, on which were inscribed the last two lines of his epitaph: 'Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori.' They have been attributed to Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), a Venetian humanist, scholar and writer, who first met Raphael at the court of Urbino.

The couplet was beautifully translated by the English poet, Alexander Pope (1688-1744), in the last two lines of his Epitaph on Sir Godfrey Kneller (1723): ‘Living, great Nature feared he might outvye Her works; and, dying, fears herself may dye.’ Kneller, who was a very successful German portrait painter, is interred in Westminster Abbey, London. 

Antonin Artaud's The Theatre and the Plague

Antonin Artaud’s The Theater and the Plague is an international cinematic reading of the essay "The theater and the plague“ by the French poet Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Directed by Wolfgang Pannek, co-director of Taanteatro Companhia (São Paulo, Brazil), the project is a collaboration of artists and academics from five continents and engaged in multiperspectivist reflection on the critical tension between „death and cure“.

In The Theatre and the Plague, the first, now prophetic-iconic text from his best-known book, The Theater and its Double, originally presented as a peformative lecture on April 6, 1933, at the Sorbonne, Artaud develops the foundations of the „Theater of Cruelty“ by establishing an analogy between the rupture of the civilizational order caused by the "plague" and the "convulsive passions" triggered by the virulence of his transgressive theatrical poetics.

The Artaudian text was divided into 8 distinct segments (in turn divided into sub-segments), each with a specific thematic focus. Each collaborating artist accepted the challenge of developing an audio-visual dramaturgy (and recording Artaud's text in their respective language), corresponding to the segment to be addressed. The only creative indication given to the artists was to perform a cinematographic reading of Artaud's text in the light of their subjective experiences conected to their respective geographical locations, and under the conditions of limited circulation and social distancing in pandemic times. This work process, recorded with simple digital cameras, cell phones or IPads, resulted in a set of 18 films, lasting between 4 and 11 minutes each).

In addition, the audio-visual collection of these cinematic narratives was re-edited for the feature film Antonin Artaud's The Theater and the Plague (62 min., 11 languages, English subtitles). The film presents the text of “The Theater and the Pest ”in its entirety and brings together people, landscapes and sensibilities ranging from São Paulo to Paris, from Brisbane to Garðabær, and from Maputo to Khon Kaen.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

The Swedish Theory of Love (2015)

This documentary from 2015 by Erik Gandini (Surplus: Terrorized Into Being Consumers, Videocracy) examines the social and political landscape of Sweden in terms of relationships, family and love. (There are precoded English subtitles available by clicking the CC button in the bottom left corner). The implications of such basic social elements as attachment and interaction with other people are probably obvious. 

I have lived in Sweden for 20 years and am still continually surprised by the society. It is a culture of contradictions. On the one hand incredibly individualistic and with remarkably high degrees of personal freedom and choice. But on the other hand, it is totally conformist and always struggling for a homogeneity that seems to be slightly out of reach or pragmatically impossible. It is a segregated society, built along deepening ethnic and more recently economic fault lines, but at the same time social mobility is more available than in any other country I have encountered, with free education, high standards of housing and well paid jobs in a unionised workforce. It is a supremely psychological culture, by which I mean discourse is performed according to an established set of ideas, but there is little room for sarcasm, surrealist humour or satire (parody is the norm when it comes to humour). In many countries one could say the norms and proclivities of hegemonic culture are based on a consensus enforced by media, education and public opinion. But in Sweden there are few alternatives. Ideas are accepted and distributed or shared according to a very stable hierarchy of knowledge. An example that still makes me smile is how news broadcasts are often accompanied by an 'expert' who explains the rapport as part of the news. Analysis of social and political issues is conducted from the top down, and the vast majority of people do not question it. 

Everything from sexuality to political dissent is organised by the State. For example RFSU - Riksförbundet för sexuell upplysning (The National Association for Sexual Enlightenment) is just one of many organisations that is state sponsored and devoted to organising the intimate lives of Swedish citizens via a complex network of media and educational channels. The annual Pride festival is also managed and financed by RFSU. In one sense the work of RFSU is very progressive, and personally I support it. But there is no alternative. Revolutionär Pride Stockholm and Anarchopride are two examples of recent attempts to radicalise Pride and move it away from the 'Pink Washing' commercialisation and political photo opportunity is has become. But any questioning of the official discourse in Sweden is shut down very quickly by an activation of a carefully controlled public opinion. I believe this level of manufactured consent and crafted public opinion comes from the same forces described in "The Swedish Theory of Love". 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

AÏsha Devi Talks Frequencies, Transcendence and Performance

Aïsha Devi uses her voice to break through the din of our current musical moment.

Singer, producer and performer Aïsha Devi speaks with Chal Ravens about her personal philosophy, why the voice is her preferred instrument and how she looks at ritualistic traditions as a source of inspiration for a new transcendental electronic music.

Monday, July 27, 2020


Aluna means "conscience ". Enter the last theocratic chiefdom in America, hidden for centuries on a mountain in Colombia. The Kogi have made this amazing documentary to help us understand how to avoid the destruction of the world that they are trying to protect, and of ourselves.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

You Are What You Eat (1968)

The great hippie home movie, You Are What You Eat (1968) is a strange, psychedelic and convoluted film as incoherent as its hippy brethren 200 Motels (1971) and Rainbow Bridge (1972). It belongs with that small collection of movies in which more people own the soundtrack than have actually seen the film. The soundtrack is phenomenal. The bright yellow cover is as eccentric as the vinyl itself that features audio cut-ups, squealing Moog synthesizers, relentless psychedelic improvisations, lounge music, Tiny Tim oddities, and the final appearance of The Hawks before they changed their name to The Band.

The list of those involved with the film is an incredible roster of counter culture heroes and weirdos. Tiny Tim, The Electric Flag, Frank Zappa, Peter Yarrow, Paul Butterfield, Superspade, David Crosby, Hamsa El Din, Barry McGuire, the radio personality Rosko and several others.

Superspade was William E. Thomas. William E. Thomas, a 26-year-old black man, was known to just about everyone in the scene as “Superspade,” a moniker he embraced by wearing an oversized button proclaiming “Superspade, faster than a speeding mind.” Superspade was a dealer for legendary LSD maker Owsley. On 3 August 1967 Thomas made a drug run to Sausalito with a reported $35,000-$55,000 in cash to buy the makings of a massive batch of LSD. Thomas' body was later found stuffed in a sleeping bag and hanging 38 feet off a 300 foot cliff in Point Reyes. He had been shot through the back of the head and stabbed in the heart. Only $15 remained of the wad he'd brought with him to make his score. He and his girlfriend had been planning to move to Europe following this one last drug scheme. The murder of William “Superspade” Thomas is still unsolved and is being handled by the cold case unit of the Sausalito Police Department.