Guy Maddin is my muse of the week

Interview with Guy Maddin, one of my favourite directors, from October 2006:

GM: I’m also kind of pleased with what I came up with. It was such short notice that I didn’t have time to make anything up, I had to just be very honest. So much so that I can’t really show it to my family. I’d be disinherited, things like that.

TB: It’s kind of funny to hear you say that about a film that involves organ harvesting in a lighthouse.

GM: Yeah, I sort of promised myself I’d never talk about that part of growing up. It’s all there now! But sometimes you can hide things in plain sight.

I watched The Saddest Music in the World three times over the weekend, with and without commentary, and now I find myself hanging on every word out of Guy Maddin’s mouth.

His comments about expressionism in the Saddest Music are helping me with my mission to draw. He did things like shoot the actors making assorted facial expressions against a black backdrop so he could stick them in whenever he needed a shot, figuring that nobody really cares whether the backgrounds are consistent or accurate: the characters are in the movie, that’s enough context. I like that specific tactic, to just stick everything in together and nevermind the accuracy. It’s helping me draw, and design websites. I’m good at thinking up parts; less good at accurately proportioning them.

This other comment is helping me think about giant projects that involve a lot of research:

I know the Japanese had a different way of presenting silent film altogether, with a benshi narrator who would get in to characters or supply their own narratives that ran athwart the text unfolding on screen and that sounds really elaborate. The most I wanted my interlocutor to do was sort of season up, spice up, the proceedings a little bit and, truthfully, clarify some spots where I may not have shot things clearly enough. The benshi thing I found out about just a bit too late to figure out how to work with it and incorporate it myself.

That happens to me a lot, getting into a project and then finding really inspirational ideas right at the end. I have to insist that it’s ok, a good sign even, to be spotting neat ideas all the way through a project instead of having a complete and perfect idea right from the beginning.

And of course I’m looking forward to sometime seeing the organ harvesting movie, The Brand Upon The Brain.

Dead teenager songs

Undead teenager... Madonna/Iggy Pop

Behold! The only discussion of dead teenager songs that I haven’t found completely tedious!

I love ridiculous catalogs that overwhelm even the archivist, and this archivist is barely keeping a handle on his dead teen songs. If I set out to organize dozens of melodramatic ballads by cause of death (cars, rivers… surfing…) I’d probably get a bit silly too.

Honey – Bobby Goldsboro (1968) Kind of a twist, it sounds like she crashed the car and survived, but then died of some sort of disease. Most of the song is about the tree he planted.

He makes fun of most of the songs, but he still catalogs them. This role model might help me break on through to a “so bad they’re good” appreciation of these songs. I’m always game to stop hating something.

What really makes this list for me, though, is the inclusion of songs I genuinely like. I may be all burnt out on Leader Of The Pack and Tell Laura I Love Her, but I can still handle these post-punk gems:

(The photo above is a shot of Madonna that Galen pointed out looks just like Iggy Pop. They’re both kind of undead.)

Maybe novelists are just nerds

This NYT article complaining about bibliographies in novels is hilarious to me. Have they never heard of sharing? Why this obsession with modesty?

“It’s terribly off-putting,” said James Wood, the literary critic for The New Republic. “It would be very odd if Thomas Hardy had put at the end of all his books, ‘I’m thankful to the Dorset County Chronicle for dialect books from the 18th century.’ We expect authors to do that work, and I don’t see why we should praise them for that work. And I don’t see why they should praise themselves for it.”

Do literary critics really have no interest in reading related books? Bibliographies are so clearly useful that I can’t understand anybody giving them the diss. Most of my reading list is harvested from the back pages of other books, especially for the indie thesis. I would love to see more bibliographies reference non-literary sources too: movies, art, people, places (you know, more like what websites do).

When websites post references and citations, that is taken as helpful even if it is a form of bragging. I guess on the internet it is ok to brag as long as you’re still contributing. I wonder how much that has to do with nerds taking delight in working too hard and caring too much. It’s not even real bragging or showing off, it’s just geeking out.

Songs about death #1 (with bonus beard)

One of the death-related things I’ve been collecting is music. Death songs aren’t as common as love songs, but they’re up there, especially if you count songs about killing. I’m hoping to regularly post music here… say, every Tuesday, since today is the day I found The Saddest Beard In The World.

“Hope There’s Someone,” by Antony & The Johnsons is one of my favourite songs about dying. So weighty! “Oh I’m scared of the middle place between life and nowhere…” I wonder if the solution to that fear could actually be unlocked by contemplating this bearded gentleman and his ice cream (and the ice cream in his beard).

I’m not kidding— those heavy sighs are committed and respectful as well as hilarious. Watching this video makes me feel ok about most things.