September 30, 2005
September 29, 2005
I'm not a reviewer. Neither am I a writer. Never have been, although I think posing in some local media is by some admission pretending to be one. I don't have paitence, talent or uncontollable alcoholic psychoticness to truly wrap an idea or a sentence in wistful musings around my little finger. Which I've decided has resulted in my a nice way to approach this film.. and more films to come, as what I want to convey will no doubt be lost in me attempting to construct a somewhat stock standard reveiw platform. Instead of controlled critical objectivism, you'll instead be at the mercy of mere emotional platitude. At least you'll know what I really think... Some of you may not consider that such an advantage, but those dear readers can go fuck themselves if then they're not happy with what they read.. Shall we continue?
Directed by Chang Dong Lee
Oasis contains all the virtues which make Korean cinema what a power house it is today. The film is gritty, shocking and very, very confrontational - yet injected with enough hearfelt quirk to humour even the most cold film viewer. Lucky for Korean Cinema it also happenned to be directed by the man who is today the Minister for the Arts. Good stuff for the industry I say. Funnily enough this film seems tobe more widely recognised outside of Korea. Now that is a pity. Let's begin.
The film moves through a difficult period in Jong-du Hong's life. He is greeted by the audience having just been released from prision back into a world that truly doesn't understand him. It's nothing as abrasive or angst as rebellion on his part, but in a society with rigid social controls and morays he fails to live within his families expectations and is derided and alienated by them. His happy, simpleton demeanor slides uneasily over the family dynamic yet he longs to please. Ultimately it's his family's betrayl that is his tragic downfall.
Having no friends, Jong-du randomly appears at old classmates and stranger's houses whom he has met briefly hoping for some attention. It is on one of these trips he meets Gong-ju, a mentally disabled woman left to fend for herself in a run down flat having been abandoned by her parents for her state appointed upmarket residence. At first Jong du attempts to rape her but is scared off only to be contaced by her later. The two strike up a frinedship and Jongdu attempts to show Gong ju the world her parents have been so afraid (or too selfish) to show her. Inevitably their blossoming affair is confronted by those around them with tragic results.
The movie deals with themes very critical of the Korean pysche: the problems of a rigid confucian mindset, communication, the acceptance and understanding of the mentally disabled in society and what responsible reactions to them are...
Ther performances of the actors is outstanding. So-ri Moon in the most challenging role brings amazing realism and dignity to her role as Gong ju. Her transformation from spastic to dancer is truly magnificent during the dream sequences. How she did not drown under awards and accolades for this performance is beyond me. However it is Kyung-gu Sol as simple Jongdu that keeps you entranced. Somewhat ironically it is Jong du's attenuated demeanor that keeps you electried and so drawn into the drama. This is the true mark of a great actor and both leads work outstandingly well together.
There is an equiste touch to the film where by the viewer is put under the spell that this story is accompanied by wonderous illistrations...perhaps a picture book of a movie... or better yet, each passage of the movie is complimented by a richly decorated and ornate first letter of the passage. Something akin to old celtic calligraphic decorations.
One such mark is where we are first introduced to Gong ju and she is playing with a broken mirror watching the reflected light round the room dissolve into butterflys. The audience is lead to believe that this is what the world of a simpleton is... where as although Gong ju has cerebal palsy/is mentally retarded , she is actually far from idiocy and in a short time one begins to wonder exactly how much of our modern world do we except on face value? How free are victims of such afflictions allowed to make decisions.. especially with regard to decisions as taboo as sex.
Oasis is a post-modern day masterpiece. If there is only one Korean film you see.... Cut that.. if there is only one film you ever see in you life, make it this one. Tragic, funny, confronting, heartfelt: Oasis is magic. Decorating Gong jus wall is a picture of an Oasis: a childish picture book escape. A place we all long for safe and comforting from a hositle world that isn't meant for us.
Humanity is a concept we're still groping with.
September 24, 2005
Jogno Kings, queens and Concubines
Korean Lotto - A small irk, a useless entry
Why do lotto ads always feature middle class families in nice expensive homes going nuts over winning lotto? They look like they've already won the cash and spent it on their house, clothes and a nice slice high quality MDMA.You think it would be a little more important to your average struggling family trying to make ends meet.. I mean, i know it's a ridiculous question. We all know lotto ads show rich middle class folk cause they are capable of spending far more on lotto tickets. It just rubs me like money is so fucking important you can only be happy with that much... and if thats the case it's a sad fucking existence for the majority of the population.
Everyday, in front of me as i wait for the line 8 train, flashing the same sad ad of middle class Korean utopia.
September 22, 2005
Korea Seoul - May
September 21, 2005
Japan - August
Some people gamble for a job here... and they are obsessed with Pachinko. The place opens at 10am and one morning there was a queue streching round the street waiting to get in. Shiny Metal Balls
This scene is from an exhibition I visited a month or so ago of Yoshimoto Naro's work. It is actually his work station reconstructed in a log cabin. He composes cute little Otaku pieces that really struck me for their simplicity and unsual context. His work, like some of the Dali paintings I've seen, have been re-interpreted into statues or 3-D works. One piece was a huge Teacup fountain filled with otaku ghost heads crying. Their tears filling up the Teacup.
September 20, 2005
There was nobody there at 10 but by starting time the place was pretty full. Things went down surprisingly well and the punks jumped around and danced. I drank till I couldn't stand..
September 19, 2005
Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
Apologies to the Queen Mary
I’ll be honest. I’m a bad person. I download a lot of music. I used to download not as much music but justified these actions by buying the music I downloaded If I liked it. I thought this was a fair deal that I’d struck up with the imaginary band/record exec lurking somewhere in the back of my monitor.. “ugh… Is this cool to be downloading tunes?" “Downloading? Hell yeah.. it’s ok! You know who really suffers from downloading? Big fat major record companies!! They have money anyway don’t they? And the cool thing about the music you listen to is that independent music listeners have a conscience and are probably playing in a band themselves and know about the importance of buying records and you have to download this music to find out about such artists as it’s rare to even hear it on the radio and after that you buy the albums and…."
Yeah I downloaded this album a couple of weeks ago. I’m probably not going to buy it. This isn’t because I’m in two minds regarding the quality of Wolf Parade’s tunes. It’s more to do with the fact I haven’t bought a single album since I arrived in korea. I have one sitting on my shelf which a friend in a straight edge band gave to me. I’ve only played it once. My problem is it’s difficult to find the albums here and I don’t want to be stuck carting a whole lot of CDs back home. I’ll have enough luggage as it is. You probably don’t realize how many coats I’m going to have buy once winter kicks in here. I’m a real baby when it comes to temperature. I’m going to fucking freeze!
Sorry was I talking about an album? Yeah. I don’t even know if Apologies to the Queen Mary has even been released yet. But when it does you should run out to the store as fast as yr skinny little indie legs can carry you and by this album.
The trick in making a great album is not only having a foot in the past (Americana) and a foot firmly planted in the future (they sometimes incorporate disco drums) but also possessing great pop sensibilities. Having a nice raspy voice always helps things I feel. Oh and coming from Montreal… Have you heard of a bad band from Montreal? No neither have I. So shut up and don’t mention Celine Dion.
Actually there is no real band I could think to liken them to give you a nice idea of their old sound. They just sound like they belong to period past. It could be the obscure lyrics. It could be the ringing harmonics that sound like the background music for ghosts a rapping at your door. It could be Isaac Brock at the recording helm and his interest in that sort of sound. There is a definite Modest Mouse feel to some of the songs but it sounds like Wolf Parade carve out sweeter, more honest songs.
The first half of this album in particular moves at a cracking pace with one gem after another, all twisted about Dan Broekners gorgeously rough vocals.
I liken them most as a cross between the Shins and the Constantines. They’ve been touring with Modest Mouse. With grooming like that how can you complain?
I challenge you not to fall in love with the last half of Modern World!
“I’ll paint three figures on your heart.
One of them will be me as a boy.
One of them will be me
One of them will be me watching you run
I am my fathers son"
Sounds like: Modest Mouse, Shins mixed with the Constantines
Standout Songs: It's a Curse, Modern World, Grounds for Divorce
Punk Rock, Gentials and the Hardline
For some, like myself, music is an integral part of ones life. It becomes a range of differing things from an outlet or obsession to an ethos. This can mean demanding the right for self expressionism and uncensored commentary. In a Confucian country such as Korea, punk rock in particular faces a number of obstacles. Distorted guitars, pogoing, mohawks and a DIY ethic are attributes not readily accepted by mainstream Korean culture. This is country with deep traditional roots that are still embedded with strict social mores. But the flashing by the band Couch on prime time has bought this too the surface showing the strict authoritarian mindset governing the Korean people and landed 2 young lads in prison for 2 hard yearsl.
More than most other genres, punk has a loyal and growing fanbase spread across South Korea. And Korean Confucian society represents a more repressive and ideological ethos than Thatcherism or lassier-faire economic conditions. This is why young Koreans seem to identify so well with Punk.
One late August Saturday, legendary punk band Rux were performing live on MBC (A Korean version of MTV). Some of their friends from numerous other bands were there to support them including the very popular band Couch, whom I have seen numerous times at Skunkhell. At 4:15 the singer of Rux backed away from the stage and 2 members of Ouch came jumping about on stage with their trousers down, Gochus a-swinging.
A mere 4 seconds of footage of 2 men half naked jumping up and down was all it took for half the studio to be fired, drug testing implemented to all Skunkhell bands.. (because despite the fact that drugs are almost impossible to come by in Korea, these kids have to be on something…), and what looks like jail time for two 20 year old kids.
“Incensed viewers said an apology was not enough and the broadcaster should be punished. Some asked how MBC proposed to compensate teenagers, the largest age group watching the show, for the emotional shock they sustained. The two Couch members were arrested, as was the RUX lead singer for inviting them on stage, and are being investigated for violating public decency. “
In order to deter repeat performances the prosecution has called for the harshest penalties available and pending appeals, it looks like they will be serving the full time.
September 16, 2005
September 12, 2005
Our First Gig
September 11, 2005
The Bell Tower
Bell Tower, Same Church, TImor Leste
The church roof was blown off by Japanese bombers during WWII. The Church was left to itself but the Timorese continued to come to cemetery and it has been well maintained in the years since the explosions. The Indonesians ensured their would be plenty of reasons to visit during their occupation.
Bob is my new neighbour. He lives on the roof but spends as much time in my house. He is the mosy giving person I have ever met. We'd been friends before I moved into my new apartment, but it was shear fluke that he happenned to be living in the same building.
September 4, 2005
Tear up a mountain just to turn around and come back down again
I’m just full of love right now. Or full of it. It’s difficult to tell at this stage.. Other things I love? Well, Wolf Parade has cast a spell over my humble full-of-it self. What a wonder to be struck so unconscious by a band so suddenly.
And Huckleberry Finn, what a treat… The book is shear marvel. Impossibly great flow; wondrous, lush descriptions of Deep South life and a disturbingly fantastic grasp of the undertones of a society in moral upheavals It truly is the book that carved out Americana identity like no other. As majestic as the Mississippi itself. Sumptuous in nostalgia and character….
These kinds of stimuli make each step a skip, each heartbeat a blow to leave you breathless. I get caught up because I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be conscious of every moment. These kind of overwhelming moments make writing difficult. Wit is something I’ve reserved for pessimism and cynicism and otherwise I sound like garbage and flowers...
Yesterday I paid a visit to the monstrous monument to the Korean War, the Korean War memorial… Walking through the exhibit I began to feel drained and emotionally frustrated and saddened by the whole experience. This unadulted worship of wartime heroics and step by step demonstrations of various battles and their fatalities struck as something primitive which must tick at the back of all our brains. Perhaps it is something in built in humans. The desire to conquer and a blood lust that can never be fully overcome no matter how many generations pass through a country’s womb and are born into prosperity. There will always be a fascination with bringing another nation to its knees or overcoming the impossible through violent means and the machines that made this possible.
However, the main dilemma that struck me as I walked through the halls of propaganda, was not the sadness of the blood shed for Korean freedom but how the Peninsula has constantly been a pawn for nations to play and pillage as one army tries to fuck another.. This play off in the last 50 or so years has resulted in opposing idealism tearing the Korean people apart and against each other as the US and China/Russia tried to impose their own brand of modern colonialism on a people devastated by years of war and Japanese occupation... yet each side sets up rampant propaghanda blaming the other…
After this experience , behind the lines of tanks helicopters and missiles on display in the corner of the memorial grounds at a small temple a Korean wedding was taking place. The Women were dressed in hanmocks, the bride made up in the tradional Korean fashion her hair something akin to star wars episode 1 guarded and attended to by 5 bridesmaid. The mother of the bride periodically wiped a tear from her eye. The Groom and bride tried to hold solemn faces but couldn’t help uncontrollable grins..
September 2, 2005
Outside it’s wildfire burning skyscrapers in an orange haze.
On the street there’s cyclones in her hair.
They’re languid/vicious like the ether of January mornings.
I emerge my skin rubbing ethanol, steps weightless.
Yet you are here to greet me.
We catch light and break apart the space between us.
Reduce it to its elemental particles.
Energy, frequency, dead atoms.
The sunshine like your difficult eyes is alight with wicked fancy.
And I stand dumb as white teeth swallow drunk ears and
you pull him into a taxi.