TamTam Books News

Saturday, December 21, 2002:

December Swoons

1) Contempt (Le Mepris) DVD Criterion: This double DVD set is the definition of perfection. Jean-Luc Godard’s film is anguished in how relationships move from tenderness to compromise to eventually destruction. It is a meditative work with a haunting score by George Delerue that is the perfect marriage of sound and image. The second DVD has a fascinating discussion between Fritz Lang (who is also in "Contempt") and Godard discussing their craft. Also included is an interview with Godard on a French TV show looking and sounding uber-cool. Also for you Brigitte Bardot fans there is a fascinating short 1963 documentary by Jacques Rozier called ‘Paparazzi,’ which is an amusing look at the relationship between the Italian photographers and their subject of desire and finance: Bardot. As Jack Palance, who plays the movie producer in the film, utters "When I hear the word culture, I reach out for my checkbook." So do buy this – it’s priceless!

2) Sparks: "Lil’ Beethoven: As of right now, there is only one band that is doing radical music – and they been doing radical music for the past 30 years. Sparks in their 30th year has put out a new recording that dares to raise the stakes a little higher than the others out there who are just re-doing the rock n’ roll dung thang. Ron and Russell Mael presents their first work in the 21st Century that is basically pissed off at contemporary pop culture. In their new album they got rid of the song and kept the chorus – but what gorgeous choruses. "My Baby’s Taking Me Home" is a heartbreaking ode to beauty and home, but closer inspection exposes a certain amount of angst: "And the streets are glistening/Streets named for New England Trees/A rainbow forms/But we’re both colorblind." The melodies are ultra-strong and there is a certain amount of sadness – but then again I always found Sparks to be poignant than most who may felt that Sparks were just quirky. To me, Sparks are a modern blues band that just so happens to sound like Kurt Weil if he was in a modern band. This is very much emotional music in the lines of early Miles Davis, Glenn Gould’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (his last and second recording) and Love’s "Forever Changes." Fans of Scott Walker’s "Tilt" or Pulp’s "We Love Life" would admire the orchestration and for those who don’t like Sparks’ "Lil Beethoven," don’t even bother to talk to me!

3) "Platform" by Michel Houellebecq (William Heinemann: London) I have two favorite contemporary (meaning new) novels for 2002. One is Jim Krusoe’s remarkable "Iceland," and the other is Houellebecq’s "Platform." On one end it’s a story of a man named Michel who is coping with the nature of ‘leisure’ and on the other hand the role of the tourist industry that fulfills the desire and adventure for their clients. Particularly in foreign lands and cultures. What is remarkable is Houellebecq’s tone of voice, which never condemns nor praises the world as he sees it. It is simply "is."

Tosh // 7:31 PM

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