...Gen Sekiguchi's patchwork vomitorium of tsunamic set design and cinematographic eye-candy Survive Style 5+!!! The random yet clearly delineated Christmas sequence of this whirlwind adventure, set to the strains of "The First Noel" turned way up to eleven, is so over-the-top fabulous and inspiring that I hope to one day successfully drown my house in holiday decor à la Sekiguchi --- every year I get closer to the mark. Enjoy the visuals! Wanna know more about how Japan "gets" its Christmas kicks? Check out my "Christmas in Japan" jam here!
Today both the DVD and the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed, award-winning and Florian Gaag directed fictional graffiti-feature film WHOLETRAIN are being released via RykoDisc. The film was shot in Poland and is in German with subtitles in English and 13 other languages. The English language hip-hop soundtrack includes all original songs (over beats produced by the film's director) from all American artists including KRS-One, Freddie Foxxx, O.C., Planet Asia, Afu-Ra, Grand Agent, Akrobatik, Tame One, and El Da Sensei. Both the film and its soundtrack are highly recommended for anyone, not just graffiti fans.
The film's title, WHOLETRAIN, comes from the graffiti writers' goal of spraypainting every inch of an entire train. Although the film's young cast will be totally unknown to American audiences, it is dramatically gripping, with a solid story-line, plus a most impressive display of all new graffiti art. Colorfully shot on the trains and walls, throughout the film this graffiti was all tirelessly commissioned by the first time director himself, who is clearly a major graffiti fan. For these beautiful pieces he brought in such established graffiti artists as NEON, PURE, CIEL, WON, and CEMNOZ to do the art work.
Back in February, when the film screened in LA and San Francisco at the Goethe-Institut in each city, I reviewed it for the Amoeblog. I also interviewed the director at that time. He told me about the challenging process of making this film, including the overwhelming obstacles he faced due to making a film that includes an illegal art form, and how WHOLETRAIN turned into a six year project. That interview with director Florian Gaag follows below.
Amoeblog: WHOLETRAIN is a great film and what's most impressive is that it is your first full-length film. So had you done short films or videos before this?
Florian Gaag: Yes, I´ve done a couple of short films, mostly short documentaries though, because that´s where I´m coming from.
Cast and Crew Members at Inceville in Santa Monica, circa 1915
Before the emergence of Hollywood and the studio system, moviemaking was something of a free-for-all, open to anyone that could afford it. In the US, that privileged group was almost exclusively white and male. Roles for minorities were usually crudely stereotypical, minor, and liable to be played by a white actor in yellowface, brownface, blackface or redface. As a result, some minority figures attempted to start their own alternatives. In 1916, Oakland resident Marion Wong made the first example of Asian-American Cinema with The Curse of Quon Gwon. A few years later, Anna Mae Wong and Sessue Hayakawa began making films. In 1918, John Noble invented Black Cinema with Birth of a Race. He was soon joined in his endeavor by Oscar Mischeaux.
True Native American cinema beat them both by almost a decade. The mainstream view of Natives at the time was generally less murderously hateful than those of contemporary Asians and blacks (or the Natives' ancestors). In fact, Natives were widely adored and fetishized, what Frank Chin would later term “love racism." Natives, regardless of reality, were reduced to mere metaphors and symbols… for stoicism, honor, strength, &c. Edward S. Curtis's 1914 In the Land of the Headhunters and Robert Flaherty's 1922 Nanook of the North have little to do with reality, but did reflect well-meaning white men’s attempts to portray their subjects with some respect, even if it meant they had to fictionalize and stage everything.
Everybody knows that old cats can open doors, but did you know that only ghost cats can close them?
Well, to quote the great Levar Burton, don't take my word for it, find out for yourself! Here's to the joy of lessons learned from Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 cinematic freak-out Hausu (or House if you speak American), a film that'll give you a trick-or-treating of horror-infused psychedelia like you've never ever experienced, not even in your wildest, most delightfully random-ass frightmares. While it's difficult to know where to begin in reviewing this amazing monkeyshine, it should not go without saying that supposedly the story was dictated to the director by his 11-year-old daughter, which pretty much makes the movie itself just as crazy as, well, a story told by a demented little girl with cat fancy, Auntie issues, and campy ideas about "indecent" piano behavior. Add to that the fact that Hausu seems to be a visual exercise in testing the limits on how many times a movie can one-up itself, utilizing a lightning round of every stylistic technique known to film-making all the way, as if daring viewers to exclaim "this shit is bananas!" to which the movie quite literally delivers a shit-ton of bananas, no kidding.
It may only be in its third year but the UK's small and fast growing Branchage Film Festival has already become a guaranteed fun four days that's unlike most other film festivals out there. With an idyllic location in the quaint town of St. Helier on the small island of Jersey in the UK's Channel Islands (off the coast of France), this year's Branchage Film Festival (September 23-26th) offered a richly diverse program that included documentaries, features, animation, and shorts, plus some classic films presented in entirely new ways. In addition to its picture-perfect & historic location, what sets Branchage apart from most other festivals is how it nicely weaves a wealth of live music (as both opening acts to films and/or its soundtrack) into its program. Equally important is how it magically transformed so many of its film screenings by taking them out of the stereotypical cinemas & screening rooms and onto screens in site specific locations in St Helier and around the historic island.
At last year's festival, which was the first time I attended, unique screening locations included Castle at Gorey (picture above) and the German War Tunnels (closer to France than England, the Channel Islands, including neighboring Guernsey, were the only parts of Britain occupied by the Nazis). There were also screenings in churches, something that was repeated this year with such films as Tatsuo Sato's Japanese anime Cat Soup, which was screened in All Saints Church (a functional church on loan at no coast from the Methodists). Japanese psych-metal group Bo Ningen replaced the original score of this gory 2001 animation with an amazing new score that went from quiet, soothing hushes to crazy wild n'loud screeching guitar and vocals. This year's other novel locations included the screening of Superman at a dam and The Battleship Potemkin on the deck of a tugboat in the St. Helier Harbour with an ever engaging live soundtrack provided by French electronic duo Zombie Zombie, who, as Branchage creative director Xanthe Hamilton told me with a delighted chuckle,"had sailed in from France to do their set." Truly this is a special kind of film festival.