Lawrence of Belgravia

Question:

How can a musician so disciplined that he releases 10 classic albums in 10 years in the 1980s (with the band Felt) produce minimal output in the years that followed?

Short answer:

By being true to himself.

Long answer:

See below.

Lawrence get things done, but in his own way and on his own terms.

In the documentary Lawrence OF Belgravia, filmmaker Paul Kelly followed the little-known musical legend Lawrence around for five years. The film came out in British theaters in 2011, but is just being released on DVD this week (five years later). The film is worth the wait because the music is brilliant, and just like Brian Wilson, you want to get inside the mind of the musical creator.

Take an authentic eccentric (in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes) as only the British can produce, a dose a megalomania, and ear for a tune, a dash of sartorial excellence, and you have an indie hipster, but not a star. The Beatles were cool too, and they appealed to the masses. Where did Lawrence go wrong?

In Lawrence’s mind, he should be a superstar. That is why he only has one name. Like Sting or Madonna.

But unlike Sting or Madonna, Lawrence takes the Tube (underground) and has difficulty paying the rent.

Lawrence does not collaborate on outside projects. If you want Lawrence to sing on your album, even if you are famous, forget it.

After Lawrence achieved his goal with Felt of recording 10 albums in 10 years, he moved on to form Denim. Unlike Felt, which had and indie music vibe, Denim took its inspiration from ‘70s bubblegum pop and glam rock. Denim released three albums in the ‘90s, but to Lawrence’s dismay, he did not conquer the charts.

His next (and current) band, Go Kart Mozart, is more of a B-sides band. His idea to was to capture the magic of the B-sides of great 45 singles – where the forgotten B-side was uninhibited, more experimental and often more musically adventurous than the radio hit. Again, though received well by critics, Go Kart Mozart did not tear up the charts.

The music business is both music and business. Perhaps all Lawrence needed was a great manager to handle the business side of things. Maybe one day he will get one.

Most of Lawrence’s music is great, and worth a listen. It will challenge your mind, and maybe even get you onto the dance floor.

In 2018, in his own slow yet meticulous way, Lawrence is releasing new music: it is the fourth Go-Kart Mozart record, called Mozart’s Mini-Mart. 

You can read all about it here:

https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/vbpdpm/lawrence-felt-go-kart-mozart-interview-profile

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Russian Ark – a film review

Russian Ark is a stunning film released in 2002 and directed by Alexander Sokurov.

The film was shot is one continuous 96-minute Steadicam camera shot in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Russian Ark is meticulous in its details, taking us on a two-kilometer trek over three centuries of Russian history.

The film is narrated by two narrators – one visible and one invisible. The invisible narrator implies he may have died and been transported here (via a time machine?) for reasons unknown to him.

The interactions between the two and their insights and observations drive the story – for example they both agree that Russians are lacking in originality but great at copying Italian style – they agree this palace is a better St. Peter’s than St. Peter’s in Rome.

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The visible narrator (I will call him “the Guide”) who the camera follows, is a real eccentric and aesthete – he appears to be a 19-century French traveler who also arrived here for reasons unknown even to himself and is suddenly fluent in Russian.

This guy is funny, cultured, artistic and charming. He acknowledges a comment about his great hair but telling us that, of course – artists always have fantastic hair.

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The visible narrator

The Guide has been here before, so he recognizes some of the works of art from his era, but he also needs to make sense of all the changes in the rooms and what he has been told happened up to the present time, e.g. all the Russians who died in WW II, which he finds inconceivable.
So we discover each new person and work of art through his eyes.

The Guide is sometimes, and sometimes not, seen by people pursuing various activities in the museum (setting up a banquet, viewing art, etc.)

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Throughout Russian Ark, the camera and narrators guide us through the various rooms of the museum – each room contains various characters from different periods of Russian history – from Tsar Nicholas to Catherine the Great to modern-day tourists appreciating the paintings.

The cinematography and the story-boarding has been meticulously planned, each room has a distinct lens filter/hue which captures its mood.

This must have taken ages to coordinate and navigate all the aspects of making this epic: the government approvals/bureaucracy, the actors, costumes – and again this is all one one take – no edits.

The film concludes in grand Tolstoy-esque style with a luxurious and prolonged ball with lots of dancing, drink and food.

Russian Ark is much more than one continuous camera shot – perceptive commentary on the Russian soul, hundreds of actors who never strike a false note, stunning art, and thousands of period-authentic costumes.

And a compelling reason to visit The Hermitage in St. Petersburg for yourself.

the big short

 

 

Maybe like you, I always thought finance was boring.

After seeing this film, I see it differently. It’s like a enigmatic zen riddle wrapped in a shifting sand oracle of inscrutable change – or is it?

Ultimately its answers reveal themselves  – to those who want to Really See – the markets reveal their secrets to those who will take the time to look – and most do not – even those who live and breathe it.

This film breaks down how it (the financial crisis) was seen and who saw it.

But not only did some see it (a very few) – they took action.

All the while the true casualties of this crisis – the American taxpayer and homeowner- has no say in the matter. The big banks know the taxpayer will bail them out and no one goes to jail.

Some observations on the film:

  1. No one sees the answer, which is obvious
  2. In order to answer the question, the answer needs to be invented – aka mortgage-backed securities had to be created out of thin air to buy them
  3. The editing keeps the viewer off kilter – occasional blurry images and weird cuts. Art house film editing applied to a potentially conventional subject matter keeps the viewer engaged.
  4. Ryan Gosling is hilarious and also brakes through The Fourth Wall, breaking out of character to directly acknowledge the audience, talking to the camera a la Ferris Bueller
  5. Christian Bale puts in his first great performance since Rescue Dawn
  6. Christian Bale’s and Steve  Carell’s characters have Persistence – they don’t freak out and sell – they stay the course but see what no one else could see – they bet against the banks
  7. Steve Carell’s character’s minions went out into the field and actually talked to mortgage brokers and real estate agents. They found out the banks were not verifying income.
  8. You will know what a tranche is.

In 2016 we harvest massive amounts of data and call this chaos Big Data. This seeming chaos is not totally random to those who want to take the time to study the past and extract is lessons and patterns that emerge to teach.

mr tony law doesn’t know how to end his show

What do you get when you send an 18-year-old Canadian to England, leave him there to raise a family, find a career, and see if he sinks or swims?

There is nothing else like this – comedy that is made up on the spot – with a running internal commentary.

This is comedy that is actually funny because it is on the cutting edge of creativity and the unknown.

A comedian’s comedian. Who dresses like a 19-century polar explorer.

Watch Tony combine singing tiny elephants, a political bit about the economy of Trinidad and Tobago, all finished with anthemic song about how Tony doesn’t know how to end his show, but then Marcus Aurelius shows up?

“So that just happened.”

OK enough, just watch:

 

The best Wim Wenders films

The films of German director Wim Wenders are infused by his love of people, music, photography and travel.

Wim has made numerous landmark films (way more than I am listing here).

These are my favorites:

2011
Pina (Documentary)

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Pina is a film from the heart from one artist to another.
Pina is a available in 3-D – and the dynamic dancing thrives in this format. Wenders started working on Pina because of his friendship and love of Pina Bausch’s choreography. He did not expect her death as he was in the process of filming.
However, Wim decides to keep filming as Pina’s dancers cope with and express their loss – and this becomes movingly integrated into the film.
Pina turns a tragic event into a celebration of a life well lived, spent in pursuit of creative excellence. Highly recommended.

2005
Don’t Come Knocking

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Starring Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard as a funny, drifting cowboy. A continuation of the screenwriting collaboration between Wenders and Shepard that started with Paris, Texas.
The colors captured in the cinematography are spellbinding and Fairuza Balk turns in a hilarious performance.

1999
Buena Vista Social Club (Documentary)

Buena Vista Social Club La HabanaIf you have not seen this film about Cuban music and musicians that thrived in Havana during the pre-Castro era and their reunion 40 years later, go see it now.

1987
Wings of Desire

iurIn my top five of the greatest films ever made.
Captures the soul of Berlin just before the wall came down. Perhaps Peter Falk’s greatest role outside of Columbo. Also captures an archetypal moody, musical performance by Nick Cave.
Makes a compelling case for why angels should join the ranks of the humans. Wings of Desire captures internal dialogue in a way that I have never seen before or since.

1984
Paris, Texas

iu-3Another one of the greatest films ever made. Three main reasons:
  1. The desert cinematography
  2. The archetypal loner role that Harry Dean Stanton was made for
  3. The sparse, haunting slide guitar work of Ry Cooder

1974
Alice in the Cities

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The first half of this film shows us the soul of America with its open spaces and wanderlust – which infuses the second half in Germany.

Stars the impossibly charming and cute Yella Rottländer as Alice who is trying to get to her grandmother’s home in Wuppertal.

Also contains a classic scene featuring a little German kid, a jukebox and the music of Canned Heat:

Wenders mainstay Rüdiger Vogler brilliantly takes the lead role as a wandering Ulysses-type character with a wry smile. Alice in the Cities was the first of a trilogy of road movies for Wenders – all of which are worth checking out of you like this one.

Filmography and additional information

For a full list of films and additional information about the constantly evolving creations of Wim Wenders: