VISUAL OF THE WEEK: BIRD TRAMWAY
It seems to be film week here at Five Things. Calum posts on his blog likeahammerinthesink about a film he made on his phone… “as I crossed between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island on the tramway. Then I re-shot the film through a mirrored box that I found one night on the King’s Road in Chelsea. I looked for songs that were exactly the same length as the footage (4’46”) and tried out various combinations. The juxtaposition of “No One is Lost” by Stars (a kind of disco-rock crossover number) with a kaleidoscopic view of New York, the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River worked…”
He’s then asked to take it down for copyright reasons by Vimeo, so he records caged birds in Tooting’s covered market and uses that as the soundtrack instead. However, should you want, you can start his film on Vimeo at the same time as starting the Stars song on YouTube, and enjoy it as its creator intended, the mirrored box making the images come kaleidoscopically alive.
It took me back to a time when, as students at Chelsea we found tins of 16mm offcuts outside a Wardour Street editing suite and cut them randomly together, playing it back with a soundtrack of equally random records. There are always moments where the sound and picture line up to make something so right that it seems planned. That happens here as the cars emerge out of the ground to perfectly-timed synth throbs, and the struts of the bridge arrive on screen at the same time as the drums recede…
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That, having brilliantly embodied MLK in Selma, David Oyelowo is playing Nina Simone’s personal assistant in the troubled biopic, Nina – hey, what other kind of biopic is there? With social media as it stands you can inflame a lot of people, a lot of the time, often over nothing, or nothing that most of them know about. Nina is played by American/Domenican actress Zoe Saldana (whose husband, Marco Perego, took her surname when they got married). “I didn’t think I was right for the part, and I know a lot of people will agree, but then again, I don’t think Elizabeth Taylor was right for Cleopatra either. An artist is colorless, genderless… It’s more complex than just ‘Oh, you chose the Halle Berry look-alike to play a dark, strikingly beautiful, iconic black woman.’ The truth is, they chose an artist who was willing to sacrifice herself. We needed to tell her story because she deserves it.”
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That there’s also a new Nina documentary premiering on Netflix on June 24, What Happened, Miss Simone?, directed by Liz Garbus. She made the brilliant Love, Marilyn. She also made the excellent Bobby Fisher Against The World – her titles are always good, as is her production company’s name, Moxie Firecracker. [As an aside, her favorite songs are “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, “Black Coffee in Bed” by Squeeze, and “Mesmerizing” by Liz Phair].
Her father is the legendary civil rights attorney, Martin Garbus, who represented Daniel Ellsberg and Lenny Bruce among countless others. His book, Tough Talk: How I Fought for Writers, Comics, Bigots, and the American Way sounds a must-read.
Liz Garbus grew up knowing Simone, and the film looks a cracker… Variety’s Scott Foundas: “Garbus limits the third-party talking heads to Simone’s close friends and collaborators (including her longtime guitarist and musical director Al Shackman), but smartly resists turning the movie into a pageant of present-day testimonials about the singer’s influence and legacy. Mostly, she just lets Simone take the stage, reasoning that the best way to understand her is through her songs – performances in which Simone seems to be pouring out every ounce of herself, the music flowing through her like an electric current, her voice echoing forth as if from some place deep inside the earth”. Watch the trailer here.
Jonny Trunk, Trunk Records: “And let’s all hope today is better than yesterday, with three extraordinary deaths all in row – of people who have certainly shaped my life in one way or another: Christopher Lee, Ron Moody and Ornette Coleman. I remember getting phone calls from Mr Lee when I first issued The Wicker Man. He used to phone up on a regular basis and sing “Tinker Of Rye” down the phone. One day, he phoned and I wasn’t in – these were pre-mobile days. My flat mate answered the phone and told him I was out. He asked, “are you Christopher Lee by any chance?”. “Why, yes”, came the reply – “how did you know it was me?”. Well I recognised your voice Mr Lee, from all those classic horror films you made”. “Horror!”, shouted Mr Lee – “I don’t do horror!” and slammed down the phone. He will be sorely missed, certainly around central London where he used to spook about the place, signing anything he was involved with (posters, soundtracks, you name it). There was (to me) another classic Christopher Lee moment, when he put some of his possessions into a James Bond sale at Christies in the 1990s. He put in a pair of his white Scaramanga loafers – both signed inside in black pen of course. Trouble was, he’d put in two left shoes. Brilliant.
As for Ron Moody, there will be his odd and only LP up for 50p next week, and I will be playing Coleman’s Chappaqua Suite, made for Conran Rook’s Chappaqua film but [judged] “too beautiful to use” on tomorrow’s OST Show.” Watch this mashed-up trailer made for it recently (not using Coleman’s score, but extraordinary nonetheless.
AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
Various mentions of Mary Margaret O’Hara this week also synchronise with me finding a Canadian musicians’ tribute album to The Band, presented by Garth Hudson (who plays on every track). It came out in 2010 and, I guess like biopics, there’s good and there’s bad. As usual, those who cleave too closely fail, and those who dive in with both feet win. I think this is the best track by far, a forgotten song that was tacked onto the Last Waltz album, a song which pointed ahead to the style that Robbie Robertson would adopt for his first solo album, a glassy atmosphere of synths and chiming guitars. Robbie’s singing had vastly improved from “To Kingdom Come” on Music from Big Pink, but I think MM O’H has more to give the song or – it may be more accurate to say – to drag out of it.