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R Jess "Raymond Jess" (Limerick, Ireland.)

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Wings Of Desire [1987] [DVD]
Wings Of Desire [1987] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruno Ganz
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £14.98

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sky Over Berlin., 9 Jan 2004
This review is from: Wings Of Desire [1987] [DVD] (DVD)
It's ironic that so soon after Wenders shot this film in Berlin (a film about seperation and the search for unity), the wall would come tumbling down. The only entities who can transcend the wall in this movie are the angels, who are nothing but pure consciousness. The original German title for this film translates as 'The Sky Over Berlin' and I certainly think it is more apt than the English one that was chosen. For it is only the sky above their city that unites Berliners each side of the wall. The angels imprisonment in the spiritual world is undoubtedly in my mind, a metaphor for the political set-up in Berlin at that time. Whether it be West Berliners imprisoned on all sides by the communist East or the East Berliners imprsioned from the decadent freedoms of West Berlin.
The angels themselves were banished to Berlin in 1945 for questioning God's intentions. As a city at the apex of 2 world wars and a cold war, there is probably no better choice in choosing it as a symbol of our century. Wenders use of documentary footage from the end of the 2nd world war is frightening in its portrayal of a city's damaged past. A past of confusion and despair that still marks the city's people through their ongoing frustrated desires.
In order to retain some sense of his original 'poetic' vision, Wenders refused to finalize a shooting script before he started filming. As a result he relied on a mostly spontaneous film shoot as well as a lot of improvising from his actors.

Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits
Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits
Price: £8.19

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It'll do......, 9 Jan 2004
This album may have been a big hit back when it was released in 1973 but time and a growing appreciation of Janis Joplin's talent hasn't been kind to it's choice of tracks. Nearly half the tracks chosen here are from the 'Pearl' album and indeed it was with the Full Tilt Boogie Band that Janis's voice could come to the fore, not having to compete with the spaced out acid rock of Big Brother & The Holding Company and the soul-influenced horns of the Kozmic Blues Band. Her seminal live performance of 'Ball & Chain' from the 1967 Monterey Festival was ignored for the lacklustre performance featured here. Ironically this is the best selling and least satisfying of all the Janis compilations out there.
Having said that there are some great Janis moments on this album. Her vocal performances on the Big Brother tracks are powerful and unrelenting. 'Cheap Thrills' was recorded in a way that would capture some essence of their intense live act. Although Janis's live shows with the Kozmic Blues Band never reached the same level of intensity, the album 'I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama' proved she could adapt her vocal style to soul-influenced riffs with veritable ease. 'Move Over' was an indication that she was also a pretty handy songwriter. A talent which unfortunetly never came to full fruition.
An average compilation in the end that needed an inspired compiler brave enough to make some track changes (or at least insightful enough to add 4 or 5 more bonus tracks).

Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £16.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated playing., 3 Jan 2004
What most surprised me about this beautiful collection was how original and inventive Ellington remained after 40 years of making music.
The opening 'Tourist Point Of View' despite it's exotic and seemingly strange overtones moves along effortlessly. The alternate version has even greater inventive bass playing by John Lamb than the original. 'Bluebird of Delhi' has some beautiful orchestration while the alternate version featured here goes in for greater intensity. In 'Isfahan' we can hear a little of how Ellington's mind brought together dispirate elements in his composing, it's foreign flavour subtly masked by a big-band waltz. The wonderful rolling melody 'Depk' is interspersed with some magical piano playing by Ellington. 'Mount Harissa' features strong bongo-style drumming while 'Blue Pepper' takes a cue from 'Isfahan' in it's ability to sound strange and familiar in one setting. 'Agra' proves to be the most exotic sounding piece on the album, Harry Carney's saxophone lilting its way round the Taj Mahal. 'Amad' footstomps its way into harmonic complexity before Ellington's most personal piece on the album 'Ad Lip On Nippon' highlights again his effortless piano playing. It'a also Jimmy Hamilton's finest performance of these sessions.
This is easily one of Ellington's best and most original collection of compositions and the remastered sound gives it a sophisticated colour that is impossible not to appreciate.

The Filth And The Fury - A Sex Pistols Film [VHS] [2000]
The Filth And The Fury - A Sex Pistols Film [VHS] [2000]
Offered by qualityfilmsfromuk
Price: £9.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pistol Packing!, 31 Dec 2003
'The Filth and The Fury' stands out as a much better film than Temple's original 'Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle'. The only flaw in the film is the overdubbing of album tracks over original live footage. The Pistols were very much a reaction against the prevailing social and cultural outlook of Britain at the time and Temple does his best to transport us there through splicing clips of riots in Northern Ireland and London with TV commercials of that era. Although many people would deny any influence, 'The Fury' does share similiar qualities in form with Guy Debord's movie 'The Society of the Spectacle'. Along with montage images of political unrest and everyday consumerism, there's also the use of Shakesperian characters as narrators to the story. Orson Welles' Macbeth in 'The Spectacle' and Lawrence Olivier's Richard III in 'The Fury'.
The best parts of the film are when various establishment figures e.g. city councilers and vicars, start to raging against the Pistols and the punk movement. From our vantage point it's difficult to see how some people could become so enraged over a rock group. Punk attitude today is almost a prerequisite for becoming a successful rock act. Another irony looking back from now is how ultimately contemporary the Pistols look. Almost conventional compared to the large hair and trousers they had to contend with. Which just goes to show how in terms of attitude and fashion, the Pistols were completely ahead of their time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2009 12:13 AM BST

The Last Emperor: Director's Cut [VHS]
The Last Emperor: Director's Cut [VHS]

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Redemptive, 31 Dec 2003
With 'The Last Emperor' Bernardo Bertolucci finally succeeded where he had failed with '1900'. In the previous film he tried too hard to document a period of Italian history through 2-dimensional characters placed in didactic situations. In this film he moved closer to the story of the central character and as a result we get a greater insight into the political upheavals of China at the time and how they effected those in power.
The story itself isn't entirely objective however as the Chinese government had final say over the script and made sure to correct any 'historical inaccuracies' they deemed damaging to China's image. Like most westerners I saw the individual fate of Pu Yi as essentially tragic, a once powerful if somewhat naive figure, brought to his knees by political machinations beyond his control. However, this is not how the story is seen in China or even by Bertolucci himself (who I believe is still a member of the Italian Communist Party). For them the emperor acts as a symbol of the collective and his re-education is seen as an act of redemption. The first step on his road to becoming a fully-fledged adult shorn of the childish priviliges and illusions he has lived with all his life. In one of the final scenes of the film, Pu Yi comes across his old prison governor being publicly humiliated by the youth of the Cultural Revolution. For the first time in his life he seems to empatise with the individual plight of a fellow human being and this spurs him to futile, yet ultimately redeeming action.

Price: £7.15

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, despite sound quality, 31 Dec 2003
Although not a good sound quality recording, 'Bird at 52nd Street does have great historical value giving us some sense of the musical revolutionary times after the war that Parker not only inhabited but helped create.
The record opens with the familiar riff of '52nd Street Theme' and unfortunately the poor sound quality means heavy bass hiss throughout. This is followed by the bebop drumming on 'Shaw Nuff' with added hiss quality making the cymbals crash like a Wagner opera. 'Hot House' sounds like a wonderful synthesis of jazz and bebop. Parker's version of 'A Night In Tunisia' swaggers along nonchalantly, giving us the impression that his performance may have been heroin induced. Parker was such an intricate player that when he was blazae about his performance the contrast could be striking.
As in 'My Old Flame' where Parker sounds flustered over a plodding blues riff. The most impressive track on the record is 'The Way You Look Tonight' which really drives hard, showing an inventive intensity missing from much of the performance here. As for the rest of the album, the compilers seem to have made a concerted effort to make the 2nd half sound superior to the 1st. The 2nd version of 'Out Of Nowhere' and the third version of '52nd Street Theme' remain the superior ones here. 'How High The Moon' has the most inventive bass playing, while the improvisation on 'Dizzy Atmosphere' is sprite yet formidable. 'This Time The Dream's On Me' doesn't seem to work in either version.

Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents (October Books)
Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents (October Books)
by Tom McDonough
Edition: Hardcover

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revolution In The Service Of Poetry., 6 Dec 2003
The Situationist International has retained a certain cache in postmodern thought. Guy Debord's concept of 'spectacle' is now widely bantered about in any discussion on the nature of consumer society. Ironically, in the eyes of the traditional left, the situationists have been seen as variously elitist, nihilistic and childishly utopian. Yet their central focus, on how consumer capitalism affects the most intimate and mundane aspects of our everyday lives, brings us right back to the essence of Marx's theory of alienation.
This book gathers together previously unpublished texts and acts as a useful supplement to 'The Situationist International Anthology' edited by Ken Knabb. Fortunately for the art historian Tom McDonagh (who edits the book) and the other art historians who add complementary blurbs on the back of the jacket, most of these previously unpublished texts were written when the SI still had an enthusiasm for art. Post '63 the political came to dominate their work. This was almost a realization that they were on the defensive, that in the socio-political world of the mid-60's art as a means of authentic experience had been pushed to the margins. 'The poetry of the streets' was the only sure-fire way of taking back everyday life. This form of aggressive poetry eventually culminated in the events of May '68 in Paris.
California it seems was the nemesis of the SI's Latin Quarter. The radicalism that evolved from the Beat Generation in the U.S. is dealt with by nothing but contempt by Debord and his cohorts. Freudian psychology: "We know that the unconscious imagination is poor, that automatic writing is monotonous"p.33; ecology: "...a greater domination of nature, a greater freedom."p.42; and eastern spirituality: "...the mental infirmity of American capitalist culture has enrolled in the school of Zen Buddhism"p.80 This searing revulsion of American hippie culture may have been one of the reasons the SI was so attractive to certain strains within the punk movement from Malcolm McLaren to the Gang of 4 (who's 'Natural's Not In It' is the best distillation of situationist ideas set to music).
What also sets the situationists apart from the radicals within the U.S. was their unbridled enthusiasm for technology. This might seem like evidence of their utopian strain, a throwback to pre-war surrealism. But a belief that technology will eventually relieve us of unnecessary toil is an idea that goes back as least as far as the 18th century. As far as I can deduce from the early texts included here, the most impressive and imaginative of the early situationists was not Debord or even Asger Jorn, but the Dutch painter Constant Nieuwenhuys. His 'A Different City for a Different Life' is fascinating in its vision of a situationist city in a post-capitalist world. New Babylon would be constructed above ground level with most of the traffic condemned below. Moving walls, changeable spaces, climate-controlled communities, neighbourhoods designed for different individual emotions and the creation of a variety of environments to facilitate chance encounters. What could be a greater experimental realization of Marx's dictum that consiousness is shaped by environment?
Constant's early technological optimism contrasts sharply with Debord's later political pessimism. For by the mid-60's it was clear that not only would imaginative and non-alienating uses of technology not be on the horizon, but that a stronger defensive must be made for existing environments that were about to be totally consumed for capitalist techne. One is reminded of New York's Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and his hubristic schemes to run expressways through every borough of New York. When it finally came to running one through bohemian Lower Manhatten, an anti-Moses action group was formed to put a stop to the idea of motorwaying old communal neighbourhoods into the ground. As such maybe 'derives' are still possible in Lower Manhatten?
In Mustapha Khayati's 'Captive Words', there seems to be a slight acknowledgement of some structualist arguments that were bandied around at the time, "Power resides in language, which is the refuge of its police violence."p.174 Detournement - the situationist subversion of the signifier - was probably the most powerfully striking method of conveying dialectical conflict in the later 20th century. Khayati looks back to the dadaists in whom "the innocence of words was....consciously attacked."p.175 The situationists sought to challenge traditional signifieds by constant subversion of popular signifiers. This attack on comfortable images provoked an immediate questioning of received meanings. Their natural artistic sympathies were with the European avant-garde but they also disavowed much of it due to its often political ambiguity and its sometime outright reactionary nature. In the words of Greil Marcus "The situationist program....came down to Lautreamont and workers councils."p.14
Of the essays on the SI, Jonathan Crary's 'Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory', proved to be more than a little contentious, if all the more illuminating for it. He takes a sentence from Debord's 'Comments on the Society of the Spectacle' written in 1988 in which he states that when he wrote the original back in 1967, the spectacle was barely 40 years old. Crary then theorizes on what Debord meant by placing the beginning of the spectacle in 1927 or around the late 20's. He gives a number of insightful reasons, including 1: 1927 saw the technological perfection of television; 2: 'The Jazz Singer' premiered in 1927 and saw the birth of synchronized sound; 3: The rise of facism in the late 20's and its emphasis on using all available mediums to propogate its ideas.
I leave you with Theo Frey's vision of our Internet future written in 1966(!) "Henceforth a universal communication network supresses the distance between things while increasing the distance between people, the future solution will consist in making people circulate less and information circulate more. People will stay at home, transformed into mere audiovisual 'receivers' of information."p.170

The Complete Rca Victor Recordings 1937-1949
The Complete Rca Victor Recordings 1937-1949

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boppin!, 5 Dec 2003
Dizzy Gillespie's style was the nemesis of Miles Davis's. Introspection doesn't seem to have been a word often used in Diz's vocabulary, musical or otherwise. His playing did have a 'dizzying' effect always putting speed, dynamism and drama at the forefront of his performances. On this collection Gillespie's talent as a bandleader and musical arranger also come to the fore. He had of course a great theoretical knowledge of music and wasn't afraid to pass this on to other musicians by way of help and encouragement. With the big bands here he manages to register bebop lines in a larger sound and the over-all enthusiasm shows through.
Throughout this collection Gillespie never loses sight of the desire to swing despite his revolutionary tendacy to subvert traditional chord structure. 'Hot Mallets' swings like hell over great xelophone playing that also features on 'Blue Rhythm Fantasy'. The first version of '52nd Street Theme' is amazingly fluent while the second version goes in for greater improvisation. The bebop standard 'A Night In Tunisia' gets its greatest rendition here in its original form with Diz's no-holds emphatic sound. Gillespie's generosity to other musicians can be heard on 'Ol' Man Rebop' where each soloist takes his turn exercising his own bop interpretations. The most incessantly driving tracks on these CD's are the two versions of 'Anthropology' which rock like crazy. I also loved the rolling end of 'Ow!' and the swinging shout of 'Cool Breeze'. With 'Cubana Be' and 'Cubana Bop', Gillepie moves into even greater experimental territory. Each display a menancing rhythm like the growing stampede of an elephant herd backed up by Gillespie's elephant sounding shrieks on the trumpet.
More brash and emphatic playing on 'Minor Walk' and 'Lover Come Back To Me' proves to be yet another shining example of Dizzy as a great arranger. The backing brass jumps about at its own frenetic pace while Gillespie's trumpet bursts with energy and of course there's also the tight technical arrangement of the 'Overtime' tracks. The footstomping 'I'm Beboppin' Too' could be a manifesto for the whole bebop movement, while tracks like 'Jump Did La Ba' shows an early example of bop scat-singing. In contrast you have tracks that still swing (almost violently in Dizzy's case) like his interpretation of St. Louis Blues.
What always shows through in Dizzy's playing is his total enjoyment and utter euphoria, something that he shares with few other jazz players (the most notable exception being Louis Armstrong). All in all a marvellous collection for Dizzy fans.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2012 8:16 PM BST

Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More [VHS]
Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More [VHS]
Offered by robertsmike2005
Price: £9.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mean Deserts, 28 Nov 2003
Although a stop-gap movie for Martin Scorsese, 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore' proved to be the pinnacle of Ellen Burstyn's career. Her academy award winning performance in this film crosses back and forth between careful tenderness and passionate intensity with intelligent ease. In most of his best work Scorsese encourages the actors in his films to play around with the script and improvise extensively. In 'Alice' he allows Burstyn's instincts about her character to come to the fore in the scene in the kitchen with Kris Kristofferson where she talks of her early showbiz career with her brother. Practically all of the dialogue was improvised by Burstyn herself, so much so that Scorsese had to cut the scene down to 3 minutes from 15! In fact there seems to have been a lot of cutting going on in this film. Alice's husband comes across as a totally unsympathetic character until you realize that much of his more tender scenes with Alice were cut in order to make the film move faster.
And move faster it does, for with Scorsese's deep aversion to static shots and his use of a hand-held camera in the small claustrophobic environments in which Alice and her son are confined, all the characters in this film look deeply unsettled in personality as well as in geography.
Ironically, filming had to be stopped on this movie for a couple of days because Ellen Burstyn had to go to the Oscars as she was nominated for her role in 'The Exorcist' that year. She returned unawarded to the work that would eventually reward her.

Eagleton Reader (Wiley Blackwell Readers)
Eagleton Reader (Wiley Blackwell Readers)
by Terry Eagleton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £33.76

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The direct wayward path., 3 Oct 2003
Terry Eaglton's own career path has followed a similair dilectical trend to his Marxist espousal of history. Not seen as a particularly original thinker within the realms of cultural theory, he nevertheless has done more to popularize its existance through the almost mandatory assigning of his book 'Literary Theory' to every B.A. English course in Britain. Alienated within the cultural stagnation of Oxbridge for over 30 years, he gladly packed up his belongings and moved across the Irish Sea without a morsel of regret. His current position as Professor of Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester gives some indication of his own (and indeed academia's) shift from English Literature to theoretical discourse.
'The Eagleton Reader', edited by Stephen Regan was published in 1996 and so unfortunately doesn't cover Eagleton's more recent work in which he blurs the distinction between academic theorist and creative critic - I'm thinking of such books as 'The Truth About The Irish' and 'Figures of Dissent'-. 'The Eagleton Reader' gives a broad view of Eagleton's work from Catholic leftist of the 60's to postmodern debunker of the 90's. In terms of his own engaging style however, Terry really doesn't hit his stride until the 1980's. Most of the work featured here before that decade reads like the dry doctoral thesis of an industrious and serious-minded postgrad with a mundane enthusiasm for prefunctory Marxist criticism. Since 'Literary Theory' though, Eagleton has made a name for himself in relating cultural theories to everyday social and political practice and it is in this arena where he truely shines.
In 'Estrangement and Irony in the Fiction of Milan Kundera', he points out the paralysis of communist Eastern Europe, where paranoia about state survelliance reigns. In this claustraphobic enivironment every signifier holds within it the potential for a multiplicity of signifieds. This overreading of signs leads to impotent paranoia. Coincedentaly, this absence of stable meaning is one of Eaglton's main criticisms of much postmodern theory. In the chapter on 'Ideology' he further lambastes the postmodern theorists for their political vaucity. A vacuousness that 'reflects their customary distance from the world in which most people have to live, mistaking the media and the shopping mall for the rest of social reality'. His own Marxist beliefs see him trying to hold on to those Enlightenment values which challeneged ancient fantasies by pointing those values towards the new fantasies of the media and consumerism. This illuminating chapter also covers the enduring contrast between the British academic world which Eagleton inhabited and the continental thinkers whom he drew most inspiration from. The 18th century Enlightenment saw the beginnings of this battle between the pragmatist and the ideologist. The French Revolution brought with it the cries for a society ruled by reason. But within the social upheaval that brought the Revolution about, much of the political establishment in Britain saw a vision of a universal social order that was fundamentaly flawed. To them human beings are much too uncertain in their thoughts and actions, too spontaneous and intuitive to be rendered under close critical analysis. These doubts about the motives of human intentions inevitably lead to a conservative politics. The rise of English Literature as a subject of academic inquiry is closely related to this divergence between Britain and the continent. The English championed literature as an 'alternative to systematic enquiry, not an object of it'. As such, traditional literary criticism in perfidious Albion has shown great resistance to 'ideas'.
In what is probably the most significant chapter in this book, Eagleton rips into England's traditional conservative and liberal critics such as Carlyle, Arnold, Eliot and Leavis. In fact 'The Crisis of Contempoary Culture' - his inaugural lecture as Wharton Professor of English at Oxford in 1992 - is probably the best distillation of his cultural stance to date. He holds the New Right to account for the obvious paradox of their political position, colluding with a form of economics which by its very nature 'drains value and purpose from social life' and then decries the loss of absolute value that results.
In a clever essay on Arthur Schopenhaur from 1990's 'The Ideology of the Aesthetic', Eagleton highlights Schopenhaur's central thesis that human beings are slaves to their wilful desires. This corresponds nicely to 19th century bourgeois society's belief that capitalism is desire personified. But by allowing our desires free rein, do we not then become enslaved to its all-pervasive objectives? This resurfaces in one of Eagleton's works on Irish culture, 'Heathcliff and the Great Hunger'. In it, he recognises the traditional adjectives used to contrast 19th century Ireland and England. Ireland is naked, unbridled Nature in comparison with England as ordered, cultivated Culture. However, when one focus's on the lassiez-faire economics embraced by England at the time with the contempt it held for traditional Irish ways and customs, that dichotomy can easily be turned on its head.
We learn a little something about the personal past of Terry Eagleton in his heartfelt obituary to his Cambridge mentor Raymond Williams. Eagleton, as a short working-class northerner, felt ill at ease in the University Common Rooms of Cambridge where every student seemed to be over 6 foot, 'brayed rather than spoke and addressed each other like public meetings in intimate cafes'. In his introduction to his play 'Saint Oscar', he suggests that Wilde has helped him not only come to terms with his own Irish roots, but also helped him to develop a sythesis between his creative and critical writing. Despite the historical and political upheaveals of his own time where he has seen Marxism cross from being false but relevant to true but superfluous, he nevertheless maintains 'there is no reason why this sobering thought should change what one strives for, which remains true and valuable whether or not it is realised in the here and now.'

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