Film

After Images: Poland's 41st Gdynia Film Festival

The ErlPrince, the Opening Night film of Gdynia Film Festival 2016

From painters to interrogators, some of the finest films at Gdynia Film Festival 2016 dramatized real-life figures from the country’s past.

It’s fair to say that last year’s Gdynia Film Festival -- the 40th edition of Poland’s most prestigious showcase for its national cinema -- was a festival like no other. This was for reasons both good (notably, a superb selection of films including works as diverse as Jerzy Skolimowski’s sublime city symphony 11 Minutes, Kuba Czekaj’s mind-blowing candy-coloured puberty portrait Baby Bump, Kinga Dębska's touching and hilarious These Daughters of Mine, and Małgorzata Szumowska’s wryly austere Body/Ciało, which scooped the main prize) and for reasons truly horrendous: namely, the death of the 42-year-old director Marcin Wrona, which occurred on the penultimate evening of the event.

The emotions were still raw when I posted my final dispatch, and I would only add to that post that many of us who were at Gdynia in 2015 ended up feeling changed by the whole experience, which combined the great joy of seeing so much challenging and inspiring work with shared shock and grief at a talented filmmaker’s passing.

Poland’s political landscape has also changed since last year's Festival: the election last October of the nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS) has proved divisive, to say the least. The impact that the new government’s policies will have on Poland’s film industry remains to be seen, but that new political context provides the background to some of the controversies that the Festival found itself embroiled in even before it got underway this year. Criticisms have included the absence of any work by female filmmakers in the Main Competition and the decision to feature, among the out-of-competition “Special Screenings”, Antoni Krauze's Smoleńsk, a thriller about the air crash that killed 96 passengers, including President Lech Kaczynski and his top officials, in April 2010. Speaking about the decision to include the film in this year's programme, Artistic Director Michał Oleszczyk expressed the organizers’ hopes that “the Festival will help all of us in leading a relevant conversation on a topic that is still a challenge to ... Poles as a democratic community of citizens.”

Such conversations are part of the wider cultural discussion in which every festival of national cinema inevitably participates. From an outsider’s perspective, though, Gdynia 2016 felt as welcoming and as inclusive as it did in previous years, and its line-up was almost equally diverse and enticing. Those who felt like venturing outside of the borders of Polish cinema could do so via screenings of the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour, Albert Serra's The Death of Louis XIV, or episodes of HBO’s The Night Of. For most of those in attendance, however, Gdynia fest is all about immersion in Polish productions, whether old or new.

The notion of legacy and continuum feels particularly important at this event, for among the admirable aspects of contemporary Polish film culture is its commitment to the curation and preservation of the country’s movie-making past. That commitment was firmly on display at the Festival this year: whether in the popular “Pre-War Cinema Treasures” strand or in the "Pure Classics" section, which this time paid loving tribute to two of the undisputed greats of Polish film: Krzysztof Kieślowski (who died 20 years ago) and Andrzej Żuławski (who died earlier this year), via retrospectives, free outdoor screenings, poster exhibitions, and more.

Office for Monument Construction

While the absence of work by female filmmakers in this year’s Main Competition is certainly to be regretted (and is probably more a case of unfortunate timing than willful omission, since directors including Szumowska and Agnieszka Holland have projects currently in development), it should be noted that work by women was well represented in other areas of the Festival, including the Young Cinema Competition, and the always-exciting “Visions Apart” strand which showcases more experimental productions. Look out, in particular, for Karolina Breguła’s Office for Monument Construction, an amusingly deadpan, Glasgow-filmed concoction about collecting, communicating, and a city’s imminent destruction. It’s “a wee curiosity”, to say the least.

United States of Love

Female characters were also central to the first Main Competition film that I saw. Tomasz Wasilewski’s United States of Love (Zjednoczone Stany Miłości) is the 36-year-old filmmaker's follow-up to the well-received Floating Skyscrapers (Płynące wieżowce) (2013): a rare foray into LGBT cinema for Poland that was as notable for its cool visual elegance as for the pessimism of its perspective.

Both of those qualities are again on display in Wasilewski's latest, which takes the form of a triptych about four lovelorn women, each connected (intimately or loosely) to the other. Set in the uneasy transitional period after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and shot in striking desaturated colours, the film's most involving strand focuses on the fallout of an affair between a headmistress (Magdalena Cielecka) and a doctor (Andrzej Chyra) after the death of the latter's wife ends up causing more strife than liberation for the two lovers.

Featuring a memorably brutal confrontation scene that drew some gasps from the audience, this narrative mostly shows Wasilewski at his brittle best. However, the other strands are more problematic, notwithstanding a fine performance from Dorota Kolak in the final section, as an older teacher who lives in a bird-filled apartment and is nurturing an erotic / maternal obsession with Iza's younger sister Marzena (Marta Nieradkiewicz).

With the naked flesh of its characters frequently displayed in baths, swimming pools, and bedrooms, United States of Love is as boldly body-conscious as Body/Ciało was, and it also shares something of that film's studied, art-conscious ambience. (Small wonder that this year's Berlinale jury, on which Szumowska featured, saw fit to award the movie the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay.) But where Body/Ciało benefited from Szumowska's confounding manipulations of tone, and a lot of sly humour, Wasilewski’s movie succumbs to a mood of grinding grimness. The potency of the images isn't always matched by the screenplay, either, which doesn’t entirely avoid clunkiness and cliché. Wasilewski is clearly talented, and the movie has a consistency of vision, but, like Floating Skyscrapers, United States of Love is less affecting than it might be, foundering on its confusion of bleakness with insight, pessimism with profundity.

Kamper

Another Main Competition disappointment was Łukasz Grzegorzek’s Kamper, a comedy-drama about a slacker-ish 20-something video-game tester (Piotr Żurawski) who responds to his wife’s adultery with a TV chef by staring an affair with his Spanish teacher (a character who, in the film’s presentation, ticks practically every sultry, carefree Latina cliché). A bright spot in the movie is the likeable, honest performance of Justyna Suwała as our hero’s pregnant colleague, and a parody of life-or-death cookery shows raises some laughs, but the film finally feels as aimless as its protagonist, and just about as tiresome.

The ErlPrince

More distinctive by far was Kuba Czekaj’s The Erlprince (Królewicz Olch), a highly stylized head-scratcher that found the writer-director graduating to the Main Competition, in a decidedly ballsy and subversive choice of Opening Night film on the part of the Festival organizers. When I saw Baby Bump last year, I didn’t hesitate to label Czekaj a vibrant new voice in Polish cinema. With the focus again placed firmly on a mother / son relationship (and with the excellent Agnieszka Podsiadlik once more on board as the matriarch), The Erlprince and Baby Bump feel very much like self-conscious companion pieces.

In fact, The Erlprince was actually completed before Baby Bump and that’s good news, since the movie is rather less sustained, its mixing up of physics, Goethe, Oedipal tensions and an apocalyptic countdown failing to cohere in the way that Baby Bump’s combination of elements miraculously managed to. A happy hallucination towards the end feels lifted straight out of Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (2014), and that’s not the only point of kinship that the movie has with Dolan’s similarly divisive work. Still, the film offers some unique pleasures, and at its best succeeds in putting the viewer in the busy head-space of its teenage protagonist, who’s well played by the talented newcomer Stanisław Cywka.

Ederly

The experiences of young characters were also central to All These Sleepless Nights (Wszystkie nieprzespane noce), the latest indulgent docu-fiction hybrid from Michał Marczak, and also to Artur Urbańsk’s rather better The Crystal Girl (Kryształowa dziewczyna), the diploma film of the Łódź Film School acting students, which screened in the “Visions Apart” sidebar. “Visions Apart” also yielded one of the Festival’s most polished gems in Ederly, an equal parts baffling and beguiling enigma about family, identity and community by animation veteran Piotr Dumała. Poetic and absurdist, the movie is beautifully shot by Adam Sikora and gorgeously scored by Selma Mutal.

Planet Single

Returning to the Main Competition offerings, it was fun to see Mitja Okorn’s Planet Single (Planeta Singli) with a Polish audience. This smart (if only in the sense of “dating app” smart) rom com has been a huge hit at the domestic box office. As corny as hell in some of its developments (not least a cutesy climax involving a kiddie choir), and with some oddly tasteless moments as well, the movie manages to be quite appealing, with a few enjoyable plot twists and funny supporting turns that beguile more than its central romance.

Blindness

At the other end of the scale of seriousness, meanwhile, was Ryszard Bugajski’s Blindness (Zaćma), a taut, talky fact-based drama that imagines the encounter, in 1962, between one Julia Brystygier (Maria Mamona), a Stalinist-era Ministry of Information interrogator, and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński (Marek Kalita), a man whose arrest she facilitated ten years earlier. At times too heavy-handed in its approach to its themes of guilt and repentance, Bugajski’s film nonetheless proves consistently compelling in its contribution to the cultural conversation regarding Poland’s complexly interwoven histories of Catholicism, Communism and Jewishness. In addition, the film boasts a staggeringly intense performance from Mamona that ranks as one of the Festival’s best.

Afterimage

The last two films that I saw both focused on real-life artist figures. Afterimage (Powidoki) , the latest from the now 90-year-old master Andrzej Wajda was more worthy than thrilling: a portrait of the persecutions suffered by the avant garde artist Władysław Strzemiński (Bogusław Linda) at the hands of the Communist authorities in the '50s. With a fine score made up of Andrzej Panufnik compositions, the movie is respectful, well-intentioned and always engaging but it lacks the kind of energy that gave Wajda’s last film, 2013’s Wałęsa, some spark.

The Last Family

The Last Family (Ostatnia Rodzina), the feature debut of Jan P. Matuszynski, is something else, though: a rich, surprisingly funny and achingly poignant drama based on the last 25 years in the life of Zdzisław Beksiński, the highly revered Surrealist painter and photographer.

A portrait of the artist in the context of his domestic and familial arrangements, the movie focuses on the dynamic between Beksiński (superb Andrzej Seweryn, who won the Best Actor prize at Locarno for his performance), his patient wife Zofia (a quietly heart-rending Aleksandra Konieczna), and the couple’s troubled son, Tomek (Dawid Ogrodnik), who worked as a DJ and film translator.

Beksiński’s art was known for its apocalyptic visions of death and decay. As its title indicates, The Last Family is also deeply concerned with loss and mortality, but it approaches those issues in a relatable way that’s as humble as it is insightful. Eschewing obvious attention to sociopolitical context, the focus is firmly on family dynamics and the rhythms of domestic life, from which wider resonances emerge. An emblematic scene combines instructions on how to use a washing machine with concern over placement in the family tomb.

Given the sorrows that beset the Beksińskis, the film’s low-key, unfussy and non-reverential tone is little short of astonishing. Matuszynski’s filmmaking is supremely intelligent: static shots which usually frame the characters in doorways are juxtaposed with the home movie footage that Beksiński obsessively makes. (The passage of time in the movie is traced, in part, through his recourse to ever-slicker recording devices.)

Matuszynski and screenwriter Robert Bolesto trust us as viewers to feel our way into this family situation. They don’t force anything and, in its lovely attention to the texture of the quotidian (with scenes showing the put-upon Zofia scrubbing floors, removing a spider from her terrified husband’s studio, or caring for her and Beksiński’s ailing mothers), the film owes a debt to Mike Leigh’s work. But it echoes Leigh at his finest: that is, when he’s not judging or simplifying or sentimentalizing. Ogrodnik’s performance as Tomek is sublime, too: garrulous, volatile, dancing to Yazoo like a man possessed, yet capable of moments of calm and control; it’s not too hard to imagine Leigh regular David Thewlis inhabiting this role some 25 years ago.

So intimately do Matuszynski and his collaborators involve us in this family that the film’s deeply painful final scenes arrive like a punch to the gut, even if you know what’s coming. Signing off with This Mortal Coil’s indelible version of “Song to the Siren” (“Here I am / Waiting to hold you”), The Last Family becomes a haunting, lacerating work, one that touches very personal feelings. It was, without doubt, the best movie that I saw at Gdynia this year. Distribution being what it is these days, it’s hard to know for sure just how widely The Last Family will be seen outside of Poland. I predict, though, that this miracle of a movie will win admirers and awards wherever it does get shown.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

Next Page: Potent and Ferocious

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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