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Austerlitz
Austerlitz
by W. G. Sebald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy, but so enriching, 27 April 2014
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This review is from: Austerlitz (Paperback)
Austerlitz is so profound and weighted, that I could write pages on everything that grabbed me, moved me, pushed me or inspired me.
However, I'll just say that where a classic like Ulysses can lead to very tired, confused and discouraged minds, Austerlitz constantly feeds the mind despite it's tragic subject matter, obsessive detailing and nowhere tangents. Austerlitz is a book to seek refuge in. It stays with the reader for weeks. It's got a smell. It gives you a false memory and false education. It gives you something you didn't think you needed. I will be reading this again.


Dolce Via: Italy in the 1980s
Dolce Via: Italy in the 1980s
by Max Kozloff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Great images spoiled by lesser ones, 27 April 2014
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I initially saw Charles H. Traub’s images warmly reviewed online and was most impressed with the vision, colour and quality of the presented work. It struck me as being in a similar vein to that of Martin Parr’s ‘Last Resort’, with Traub’s “resort” (Italy) being decidedly more desirable, if I can use that word.
That said, I am disappointed with the book on a whole. The layout is okay - maybe reaching for a nod to the perceived colors and style of the 1980s - but there are, in my opinion, too many weak – even pointless – images. It’s a pity as there are many striking, humorous and joyful images loaded with wonderful colours and a soft forgiving analogue quality that transports the viewer into the 1980s and into a sunny, Italy of holidays and of summer.
Yet, there is no getting past the presence of poorly composed and executed work that should have been left out. If there is strength or significance in these images, then it is so subtle as to be lost to all, but the photographer. Better a photobook that is five or ten pages shorter, than being fixated with hitting the magic 100 pages.


Armadillo [DVD]
Armadillo [DVD]
Dvd ~ Janus Metz Pedersen
Price: £5.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't get closer to the nature of conflict, 28 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Armadillo [DVD] (DVD)
Pedersen's documentary following Danish soldiers deployed in Afghanistan is a standard setter.

I previously watched Restrepo (2010) and while it is very worthy, to me it somehow suffers when compared to Armadillo in that Pedersen managed to get that bit deeper under the skin. Armadillo is less about the "situation" and more about the individuals' experience, be it enjoyable or unpleasant.

Engagements with the Taliban are sudden and fierce, but there are longer periods of soldiers video-gaming (war), watching porn and chatting about everything and nothing. Someone told me that when they think of war, their touchstone is Platoon (1986). I could not have disagreed more. THIS is a bold attempt at relaying and understanding conflict, and is mercifully free from oversimplification, cliched dialogue, cool soundtracks and stereotypes.

Of course, as with all documentaries (& films), editing is key, so that civilian viewers can never get a truly whole and authentic experience of conflict, but Pedersen's strength is his ability to dispel or dilute the myriad of (Hollywood) "myths" of (modern) conflict from Dr. Strangelove (1964) to Black Hawk Down (2001).


The Secret In Their Eyes [DVD] [2009] (Spanish soundtrack with English subtitles)
The Secret In Their Eyes [DVD] [2009] (Spanish soundtrack with English subtitles)
Dvd ~ Ricardo Darin
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A master class on directing and acting, 28 Nov. 2013
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A superbly crafted, intelligent and engaging thriller, masterfully weaving hidden love, a search for justice, the comical and state terror.
The cinematography is rich and all characters well fleshed out and developed. It's the type of film I suspect Hollywood could never have made.


Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
by Maxim Leo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and uncompromising. A revelation., 2 Oct. 2013
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Leo's diligent investigation of his family's roots prior to and during the existence of the GDR is a remarkable story with a raw honesty and criticism I had not expected to find. Indeed, had I not been lent the book I would never have opened it. Now that I've read it I've had to buy it. This is an exceptional piece of writing and a necessary piece of writing.

Whether you are interested in the decidedly unsexy history of the ex-GDR or not is to a large extent immaterial as regards reading this book. Leo's literary style and narration is second to none in weaving through his tumultuous family history from mainly the 1930s, through WW2, the post war reconstruction and up to the fall of the Berlin wall. It is about personal romantic dreams and betrayal between people and between people and society. It's about what happens when a whole population becomes subjected to a few visionaries' narrow and uncompromising dream from which nobody is expected to ever wake.

For someone whose experience of the liberal arts was a landslide of leftist theory and dewy eyes when thinking about the great Communist ideals and its demise, this read was a breath of fresh air. However, this in no way some crude gloating right-wing, socialist-bashing exercise. When finished it I felt refreshed and upbeat despite the smothered hopes and wishes of two generations of his family and broader GDR society. Leo's story offers inner reflection, doubt and confession. Leo's family saga could so easily have been that of most people reading it.

It should be required reading in school.


Deutschland
Deutschland
by Gerry Johansson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ausgezeichnet, 26 May 2013
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This review is from: Deutschland (Hardcover)
It's hard to find anything not to love about this book's images, layout and cover.

Though the images are small (and text minimal), they are each and everyone deeply engaging and enchanting through Johansson's outstanding yet subtle compositional skills. He has entered the soul of Germany by understanding what exteriors and topographies to engage with: not the "obvious" ones, but the right ones.

In considering Deutschland I was tempted to link it to the "usual suspects" (Eggleston, Sternfeld) and the not so usual ones (Nieweg, etc), but that would have been a lazy, throw-away conclusion. Johansson's work is Johansson's work whether the afore mentioned photographers were ever contributory, overt influences or not.

Having lived and worked in Germany I can personally identify with this "anti-postcard", "anti-anti-aesthetic" treatment, which in turn has brought both Johansson and the viewer to celebrate and marvel at a land in a Goethean spirit of traveller and raconteur.

I would not be so presumptuous as to attempt to second guess Johansson's political or aesthetic motives and choices, but as a practitioner of photography who is increasingly allergic to the all too pervasive and suffocating genre of a hopeless post-industrial, post-boom and post-nation treatment of land, humans and structure, I found redemption in this body of work, whether this was Johansson's intention or not.

Vielen Dank!


Nature Man-Made
Nature Man-Made
by Simone Nieweg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £49.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, 9 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Nature Man-Made (Hardcover)
I had come across Nieweg's work in a Photo Art (The New World of Photography) and was very drawn to her treatment of landscape. Happily I was not looking at a "best of" in Photo Art as 'Nature, man-made' does not disappoint. In her work you can see the rigor and disciple of Bernd Becher (and many other outstanding German photographers from Sander to Struth) as well as shades of Sternfeld. Nieweg's work is quietly engaging and deeply romantic (the non-amorous definition) with each image having an inspiring and cleansing freshness.

In her approach to landscape she studiously avoids cliche and deliberately includes that which many landscape photographers try to avoid at all costs: dilapidated garden sheds, fencing, industry, roads and debris: humanity. Nieweg is able to include the ugly, the overlooked and the "boring" and raise it to an enchanting level without ever being kitsch or predictable. She is not on a revolutionary mission screaming "look!", but only wants to uphold the ordinary everyday landscape as most people experience it by a pylon on the edge of suburbia, or in your grandparent's bitty allotment: Spring, summer, autumn and winter are as present here as they are far from signs of man, and their wonder is no less appealing. Nieweg is an example of a photographer whose work sits comfortably above the rest, but at the same time is in no way vague or aloof or inaccessible.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Gesang im Feuerofen: Köln : Überreste einer alten deutschen Stadt
Gesang im Feuerofen: Köln : Überreste einer alten deutschen Stadt
by Hermann Claasen
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Who does not see Köln does not see Germany, 8 Mar. 2013
(Review of 1947 edition)

The above phrase - cited in latin - is repeated in the introduction (Josef Rick) like a kind of mantra for Claasen's Gesang im Feuerofen (1947).

Köln was effectively no longer a city and while this work ultimately claims to be a work of hope, for me it also functions as the polar opposite to the escapism evident in Herbert List's later Licht von Hellas's (1953)*. What is at the core of this crater-landscape is the bewildering question: what happened? ('was ist geschehen?). Laboured throughout the extensive introduction and Claasen's photographs is that this is the new face of Germany: a reality without pretense or embellishment. There is no desire or attempt to cloud the reality. Rather, Claasen's images are to aggravate the nation's open wound ('Dies Buch ist illusionlos [und] legt es den Finger in die Wunde unserer gefahrvollsten Verletzbarheit') and is to also be more than just a document.

I did, however, wonder whether or not the introduction and (to a lesser extent) the images ran the risk of being overly intellectual and whether this work was ultimately aimed at the German people as a whole or instead at the learned (who had tolerated and excused Hitler's Reich). My concern also is whether the millions of hungry Germans in roofless houses ever had time for these images or even wanted to have to connect visually with what they were fully living. Despite claims to the contrary this book seems to have been more for those whose hands were still smooth and for those looking in from the outside. Nonetheless, Claasen's work does passionately cry out for recognition as 'a call [...] in a year of hunger and despair' ('Dies Buch its ein Anruf [...] in einem Jahr des Hungers und der Verzweiflung').

I did, however, find it odd that in the lengthy introduction the word 'Krieg' (war) is only mentioned once. Perhaps that was only too obvious at the time and that the surviving German mind was too shocked to fathom the answer to the question, 'what happened?'. However, this omission could also be seen as the start of Germany's post-war national amnesia.

Looking again and again at these haunting images I thought of Gabriele Basilico's work (esp. Beirut). But where Basilico presents the cold, sterile, orderly and alien city, Claasen is in a place once called home. Claasen's eye journey's through an empty moonscape where once a beloved city stood. Strangely, and despite itself, a beauty does emerge from this apocalypse. Pointedly too, a previously abandoned God is also rediscovered amongst the ruins in damaged crucified Christ statues. Here, I believe, lay hope for Claasen and the wider intended audience for his work.

For me these images of this empty smashed and once recognizable world is a permanent and potent reminder of what befell Germany. It is that 'finger in the wound'. Despite some unintended weaknesses or flaws I think that this book ultimately works. This is a horrifying and beautiful visual definition of Stunde Null, of what it meant to wake up into a nightmare after the seduction of a promised, warped dream.

*reviewed on Amazon.de


Kodachrome
Kodachrome
by Luigi Ghirri
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be patient. It does reward., 26 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Kodachrome (Paperback)
At first I was decidedly unimpressed with this book. It looked like a classic case of the pilfering of a deceased photographer's work.

In fact it took me a few weeks of on and off leafing through Kodachrome to get into it and to be absorbed by its hypnotic simplicity. One enters Ghirri's world through a photographic "map" stemming from his 1970s personal archive. As a body it is far less stylized than, say, Stephen Shore, though perhaps lies closer to Eggleston. At a glance some images do quite frankly look boring and a little student like, but Ghirri was creating a "map" and so all elements - images - are critical in building up and presenting a single overarching picture.

In his own original 1978 essay Ghirri explains his work and vision by stating that he is 'not interested in pictures and the decisive moments, the study or the analysis of [photographs'] languages as an end in itself, aesthetics, the concept or totalizing idea ... the well-bred quotation, the search for a new aesthetic creed, the use of a style.'

This is not a photo book to love. It is one to return to and to remember when away from it. It does not offer nostalgia or excitement. But it does offer clarity and quiet questioning.


Berberian Sound Studio [DVD]
Berberian Sound Studio [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toby Jones
Price: £5.75

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misunderstood, but outstanding, 20 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Berberian Sound Studio [DVD] (DVD)
When the lights came back on in the cinema some of the audience muttered their annoyance and disappointment: it was not the horror movie they had expected. So for those of you of that leaning: THIS IS NOT A HORROR MOVIE. Why it is categorized as such is a mystery to me.

What it is is a brilliant study of one man's unhinged descent into a world of untethered and unapologetic egos and naked exploitation. Peter Strickland uses his unusually accurate insight into the dark underbelly of Italian life to recreate the suffocating, exploitative working environment of a claustrophobic sound studio devoid of natural light: the setting for most of the film. Toby Jones is superb in his role as the awkward, seemingly friendless sound effects recordist, as indeed are his fellow actors Cosimo Fusco (the producer) and Lalya Amir (voice-overs). In fact, all were perfectly cast.

For me The Berberian Sound Studio is an extremely rare movie whereby after the first 30 seconds into the intro I knew I was going to love it. It's not horror, but you are always anticipating a gruesome intervention in a world lauding the artistic merits of medieval female mutilation. Apart from a thoroughly hypnotic story, the cinematography is beautiful in a chilling and tactile chiaroscuro rendering (more scuro than chiaro).

Do not watch this movie if you're looking for some retro Hammeresque homage. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a riveting visual and auditory journey into the rise of horror and fragmentation within the self, then you will not be disappointed.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2013 7:00 PM GMT


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