Film

Dogtooth by Yorgos Lanthimos: 29.Nov.09 - Brighton, UK

Dogtooth by Yorgos Lanthimos: 29 November 2009 - Cinecity Film Festival - Brighton, England

Winner of the award “Un Certain Regard,” Dogtooth is Yorgos Lanthimos’ second feature film. Thus far it has received great acclamation and has won awards at film festivals in Toronto, Munich, Catalonia, and, most recently, Stockholm. Dark, provocative, humoristic and twisted are some of the words that best describe Lanthimos’ film, which will be the subject of long discussions when officially released in the UK and US.

The film tells the story of a family living in the outskirts of a town somewhere in Greece. The family consists of the father (Christos Stergioglou), mother (Michele Valley), older daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia), younger daughter (Mary Tsoni,) and a son (Christos Passalis). The kids have never been outside the tall fence surrounding the house and they have been educated only in the manner that their parents deem appropriate: without any influence from the world outside the house. The situation is entirely confounded by the fact that the language system they have learned from their parents is absurd, with no representational attributes. For example, the kids have learned that airplanes flying overhead are toys, zombies are small yellow flowers, a lamp is a white bird and a keyboard is the definition for female genitalia. When they hear their mother talking secretly on the phone, they think "mom talks to herself." They really only entertain themselves by watching family videos recorded by their father and are warned that a cat is a life-threatening animal. Furthermore, they can only leave the house securely, as their father explains, once their right dogtooth falls. Therefore Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a security guard who works at the father’s business, is the only person from the outside world who enters the house, visiting mostly to fulfil the son’s sexual urges. (Her presence in the house will eventually provoke a series of events that will change the family’s serenity.) Sick of offering her sexual services to the son without having an orgasm, Christina gives the eldest daughter a headband with stones that glow in the dark as a present, only to ask for oral sex in return. The arrival of sex in the house provokes curiosity for the outside world. Consequently, the lexical and hermeneutic boundaries offered by the family cannot satisfy the older daughter anymore, who decides to break her own dogtooth to gain admission to the outside "reality."

Dogtooth cannot be categorised as a film that provides the audience with a coherent and closed fictive cosmos produced by means of mimesis. On the contrary, the film can be characterised equally as a treatise on representation and as an interrogation of the very notion of the "real." Lanthimos is dedicated in the exploration of the potentials of representation, and in doing so he minimises dramaturgy to the extent that the final cut is more like an assemblage of happenings rather than a discernible narrative. In many ways, the film recalls some of the Dogme Manifesto’s restrictions in the filmmaking process, such as the minimal dramaturgy, the avoidance of extra-diegetic music, and the emphasis on the possibilities stemming from the unpretentious performances of the actors. Also, by systematically abusing the language system, Dogtooth confronts the postmodern speculative dichotomy between reality and fiction. One of the fundamental premises of postmodern thought is the perception of the world as a linguistic construct. From this perspective, language is interrogated, abused, and de-systematized, with the view to exhibiting the split between sign and referent and demonstrating that it is an enforced code rather than a natural system of signification. Brecht’s modernist theories on theatre aimed at demonstrating that language cannot be neutral by explicitly treating it as a “hetroglot,” namely the language of the other, which is politically contaminated. As he says: "the world is someone else’s and thus always already a quotation" (Saurtiliot: 1984, p.129.) Jacques Derrida has pushed Brecht’s argument forward arguing that there is a complete inadequacy between saying and meaning, a theory reflected in the experiments of contemporary performance art and the post-dramatic theatre (Lehmann: 2006.) These experiments are grounded in the idea that only by questioning the medium of its own articulation can art change our perception of the world and avoid reproducing the “consensus omnium."

By this account the acting style in the film follows the aesthetics of post-Brechtian performance, which prioritises the presence of the bodies of the actors as empty masks, as bearers of signs that accumulate material from the aesthetic and extra-aesthetic reality. Such preference, towards presence over representation, is reinforced by an acting style that reduces the actor to a linguistic quotation instead of a unified subject. This view of identity is central to postmodern theory that marks a break with one of the central tenets of the Enlightenment: the unitary Cartesian self and the deployment of reason as a means of interpreting the world and orientating oneself within it. Subjectivity is seen as an agent of western reason that postmodernism opposes (Friedrich: 1999, p.46).

Lanthimos draws upon these issues in Dogtooth by explicitly showing his actors quoting the script instead of performing it, a “modus operandi” that has absurd, grotesque, and hilarious effects on the narrative. At times the camera captures the bodies of the actors speaking without showing their faces, an aesthetic that clearly reinforces the dissociation between the speaking subject and the words enunciated, signifying words are a foreign body and do not belong to the speaker. Here it is important to emphasise that this blockage of linguistic communication as put forward by the film is not a childish technique but instead draws upon the contemporary concept of the disappearance of the real into images and representations, or as Jean Baudrillard puts it into simulacra (Baudrillard: 1994, 6). At one point in the film the elder daughter asks for a copy of Rocky that she finds in Christina's bag, in exchange for providing her with oral sex again. This triggers a series of violent events, instigating the daughter's curiosity for a world beyond the linguistic and visual boundaries imposed by her parents. After watching Rocky she realises that there are subjects that have names and are not nameless as herself and her family, and she asks her sister to call her Bruce. The younger sister obliges and the representational function of language is once again undermined, demonstrating that a “glossological” change does not necessarily succeed in ameliorating the rupture between being and meaning. Earlier in the film we see the family entertaining itself by looking at videos of its own life, hinting at contemporary media reality in which real-reference and self-reference blur.

Can reality be perceived outside our representational systems? The film refuses to answer this question, nor does it offer a narrative closure that provides even a one-dimensional interpretation. Equally notable is that Dogtooth is not interested in creating a dramatic story--referencing, for example, the Fritzl child imprisonment case in Austria last year. On the contrary, the film engages in an exploration of language through the temporary suspension of it. The spectator is asked to participate in the hermeneutic process and redefine his or her role, in the same way that Dogtooth opposes the concept of representation as an act of reproduction of images for consumption . It is a film that will preoccupy film-criticism and film enthusiasts for a long time.

References:

Baudrillard, ‘The Precession of Simulacra’, in Simulacra and Simulation trans. by Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: UMP, 1994), pp.1-48.

Friedrich, Rainer, ‘Brecht and Postmodernism’, in Philosophy and Literature 23:1 (1999), pp.44-64.

Lehmann, Hans-Thies, Postdramatic Theatre (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).

Sariliot, Claude, Citation and Modernity: Derrida, Joyce and Brecht (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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