Friday, 26 November 2010

Machete: The Grindhouse Endures

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Lovers of trash/B-movie/exploitation/whatevs cinema will notice a stirring down below today, as Robert Rodriquez's guts-and-girls opus Machete finally opens in the UK. It's the director's second overt homage to the piss-soaked grindhouse era and the kid brother to Planet Terror, the zombie flick that formed half of his and Tarantino's sadly ill-fated Grindhouse project, and the same excursion that teased Machete into being as a faux trailer.

While Grindhouse fizzled out - to the point that the recent release of the as-God-intended version was met with little more than curiosity - the fleapit aesthetic of the 42nd Street scene has endured, from the loving homage of Black Dynamite through to the hot-curry-eating-endurance contests offered by A Serbian Film and the torture porn films - fittingly including the I Spit On Your Grave remake - and documentaries such as Jake West's recent Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide and Elijah Drenner's excellent American Grindhouse. Though remake nostalgia is ever-present in cinemas, this ongoing exploitation chic offers a different, less commercially driven and arguably more legitimate thrust - a hankering for primal film-making and a shift away from the multiplex-aimed slick production process. Obviously, it's fucking stupid to argue that we don't live in an era when the mainstream isn't offering classics in its own right, perhaps rather it's that the exploitation scene had a mad spontenaity which afforded directors and producers who often didn't have a clue what they were doing the chance to create happy accidents, a tone that is perhaps less apparent today, and a sense of discovery that is missing in the internet age; though the grindhouse's obvious rep is for setting the tempo on sex and violence, it was also way ahead of the curve by giving the fringe cinema of Europe and Asia a platform - would Bruce Lee have broken through if Jimmy Wang Yu hadn't become a grindhouse fave first? Would Blair Witch exist without Deodato's cannibal flicks' faux-docu framing?

The release of Machete, and the upcoming Hobo With A Shotgun - another fake trailer to make the conversion to a feature - and the rash of midnight movie schedules at festivals around the world show that the need to hang around on the periphery of acceptability and love of unfettered film-making endures. Now, all we need to do is persuade Edgar Wright to make his Don't! trailer into a feature...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

So, What's XXXchange Been Up To Then?

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Spank Rock twiddler, hip-hop renaissance man and PCCP fave XXXchange is a busy man. After sprinking his party-hued beat magic over the likes of Kele, The Kills and Amanda Blank, and remixing countless others up a gear, he's now announced another project: Win Win, a collaborative joint with longterm associates Devlin & Darko and video artist Ghostdad. Hot Chip, Andrew WK and Gang Gang Dance.

The Fader have Releaserpm, their first single, on their website in a highly grabbable form. Get on it, I say.

While you're at it, here's a particularly swell remix of his:
mp3: Make It So (Xxxchange remix) - Daedelus

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

So When LCD Soundsystem Said No More Albums...

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...they should have put a little asterisk next to it with the words '*apart from this live album recorded at the Ally Pally' in tiny 6pt text.

Not that I'm moaning. Bag it, along with the Hot Chip set from the same night, here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Review: Carlos The Jackal DVD (Movie Version)

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Making terrorism sexy since 1973

As Mrs PCCP and I recently sat watching news reports of the thwarted terror business at East Midlands airport, we got into a nice middle-class chat about the ongoing Middle East situation, which, as I'm personally more geared towards weighing up which is my favourite disco edit or how irritating Roy Hodgson is, my contribution to the debate was intellectually and politically assured as a drunken teenager faced with a bra strap.

Coincidentally, a few short hours later I was watching Carlos The Jackal, Olivier Assayas' much-oohed-over opus on the activities of said Carlos, the David Bowie of terrorism, who theatrically ushered in the game-changing era of the setpiece terror attack, bold statements of aggression that plopped the Palestinian-Israeli situation into the laps of the world via the media.

Watching both the live events and the Assayas' take in the same day made me realise the following:

1. This situation has been going on for a while now, and not a great deal has changed.
2. Fuck going to the Yemen for a holiday.
3. Carlos' terrorist template sadly stands the test of time.
4. Being a Middle-Eastern terrorist doesn't mean you have to stop you getting your jollies.
5. Germany in the 1970s was an even more impressive place than I originally suspected - krautrock, Kraftwerk, Beckenbauer, Bowie and Iggy in Berlin - and if Carlos is to be believed, a seemingly endless parade of sexy Baader-Meinhoff revolutionary hipsters.

Points 4 and 5 are the key ones here. Carlos was a terrorist, no escaping that, but one who wore shades, smoked, drank, partied and got to make out with highly politicised lovelies - he's basically Don Draper with access to Che Guevara's humidor. But rather than rendering the situation in that simplistic, Mesrine-chic way, this superb ambitious drama instead highlight's how one man's action, and in many cases, his ignorance, served to provide a painful legacy that stretches for decades, leaving unbearable scars.

Filmed as TV mini-series stretching over nigh on six hours, Carlos leaps straight into the man's ascent in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, where his efficiency was overmatched by his determination and his balls. Finding a fan in Saddam Hussein, Carlos is sent to kill a minister who's blocking an oil deal the tyrant wants to go through. After leading a squad to storm a meeting at OPEC, the situation escalates, with Carlos taking sixty ministers hostage, before it unravels, leaving him to try to salvage the situation by flying the captives to Algiers. Forced out of the PFLP after the failure of the mission and the damage his decisions caused, Carlos ultimately becomes a gun for hire, flitting between volatile countries keen to get the rub from his notoriety.

Despite being cropped to 159 minutes, the movie version shows no sign of suffering from such a hefty edit. Neither Carlos or the viewer has the full benefit of the bigger picture, so the gaps feel organic, creating a naturalistic narrative that doesn't lean on exposition, in the same way the season breaks work in Mad Men. Intriguingly, we're offered nothing in the way of background, no reason why Carlos is so passionate about the cause. This means we're thrust in the middle of the drama, finding direction solely in his actions. With his understanding of the intricacies of the situation seemingly sketchy, his passion for the cause becomes little more than that - raw passion, of which there's plenty on show.

Smartly, Assayas allows you the option of learning the political intricacies of the situation or simply taking Carlos as a work of entertainment, cannily balancing the two - it's both a document of a pivotal moment in recent history and a character study with intrigue, action and women erotically licking live hand grenades. It's stunningly filmed, edited and directed, with a even-handed willingness to portray a string of probable bastards as simply people who are simply faithful to their beliefs - the judgement comes in hindsight as we count the long-term cost of their deeds. There's also a robust performance from Edgar Ramirez in the lead, making him an almost noble klutz, more full of bombast than canny wit, and always compelling and human throughout.

A success on plenty of levels, Carlos The Jackal is ample proof that you can actually be big and clever.