Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tokyo Driftin'

A few days ago we managed to secure a trio of Seijun Suzuki films, Youth of the Beast, Tokyo Drifter, and Branded to Kill, that made us swoon with cinematic delight. Filmed in Japan during the 1960s, these yakuza-centred movies ooze a sense of style that make them veritable pop art in an of themselves. Coupled with soundtracks that combine acid jazz and vibrant colours schemes amidst elaborate stage backdrops, Seijun was routinely at odds with his production studio over his films' "incomprehensibility". His response was always vowing to "play it straight" on the next, until ultimately Branded to Kill, released in 1968 was hailed by critics as a cinematic masterpiece, and a maddening failure by the studio, leading directly to his firing.

While the storylines often play second fiddle to the films' visual appeal, they nevertheless tackle themes of modern alienation and existential angst in a way that other contemporary gangster films, such as The Godfather, never did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Joy Divsion - Control

Most of us here at The Daily Wenzel did not encounter Joy Division until we were well into our teenage years, often in the context of our more morose friends and fans of bands like The Smiths and The Cult. Even though "Digital" became one of our favourite songs, it certainly seemed at odds with the dour sonic atmosphere provided by other Joy Division classics like "She's Lost Control". Until viewing the new Ian Curtis biopic, Control, we never would have imagined that Joy Division could have passed themselves off as a dance band, though obviously the groundwork for New Order's dance-friendly sensibilities had to come from somewhere.

Control follows Curtis from his high school days in Manchester, where we are introduced to his prolific creativity, through to the rise of Joy Division, and Curtis' subsequent bouts of epilepsy, depression, and severe medication. There is much in Control that dovetails nicely with 24 Hour Party People, the biography of recently deceased Factory records head, Tony Wilson. Including scenes where Curtis accosts Wilson for not putting Joy Division on his show, or later, when Wilson signs the band's Factory Records contract in his own blood before passing out at the pub.

Given Wilson's own famous encounter with the British National Health Service during his bout with renal cancer (though his passing this summer was due to heart failure) it is sad to be reminded of the role that drugs potentially played in Curtis' suicide.

In the end, all we have is the music, and the Control images of Ian Curtis dancing and singing to "Digital" and others, helps to demonstrate that Joy Division was aptly named, despite all that came after.