Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Over the course of the recent long weekend spent in London, we managed to 'do' five of the major museums and galleries, and - as threatened - I wanted to inflict my comments on them upon you. But first some trademark pedantry.

While in English one tends towards collocating exhibition with said institutions, personally I prefer the more dramatic term exposition, which is the cognate typically used in romance languages. The theatrical flourish of exposing or unveiling something before your eyes captures the imagination so much better than merely exhibiting or displaying, don't you agree?

The word exposition has several other uses like with the so-called 'idiot lectures' delivered by fictional characters
through monologues and clunky dialogues to ensure even the most inattentive and ignorant of audience knows what's going on, and which invariably drive me to the brink of a blind rage. The worst perpetrator that comes to mind of the lazy use of liminal exposition is by that truly dreadful author Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code (both book and movie), though surely even his crimes have been surpassed elsewhere. It's hard to avoid a modern movie these days that doesn't smash you over the head with this most condescendingly dreary of narrative devices.

How can a full-size blue whale or tyrannosaurus rex not be worth seeing? Tragically, this childhood favourite of mine has been utterly ruined in ways almost worse than Baghdad's ancient historic archives were after Gulf War II - not by untrammelled hordes of looters but by the fucking hipper-than-thou 'design' squads with tens of millions of pounds at their disposal to squander on gaudy banners, flashing lights, animatronics, spooky ambient darkness, unreadable signs (think tiny grey Helvetica on orange backgrounds) replete with spelling and grammar mistakes, buttons to press, fancy elevated walkways, sound FX, and consumer opportunities like Coke machines and postcard stands. And no, I'm not being a grump: the building is beautiful and the curators should have confidence enough in their wonderful exhibits just to isolate them in big white rooms - that's all that us kids,
big and small, want.

This is far better. The world's biggest display of stolen property, vast floors of colonialist loot from around the globe all shown in cluttered, but unfussy, warehouse style; what's also nice is that they have far more in the vaults than they can ever expose at once, therefore there's a lot of rotation which encourages repeat visits. My personal favourite is the African collection downstairs - the fetishes, masks, modern metalwork, and the weird throwing knives never disappoint.

For the most part, the eclectic V&A still has the reassuring values of the British Museum - though worryingly there is a creeping Helvetica Hell in some of the new refurbishments there too. One would hope that tendency is checked before it's too late. There are some rooms that just take your breath away, in particular the deservedly famous Cast Courts (the recreation of Trajan's Tower is exceptional), and the highly impressive array of classical sculptures.


Considering the resources the Tate possesses and has access to, and the magnificent architectural structure at their disposal, this must be one of the most poorly, idiotically curated art galleries in the world. Paintings are haphazardly and unimaginatively stuck on walls with coherent thematic attention to neither content, nor style (other than some vaguely glib -isms), nor progression - thus, even several iconic pictures by big names such as Bacon and Picasso have severely diminished, if not negligible, impact and create almost no meaningful response amongst the viewing public. Meanwhile, many other rooms contain some of the most disposable modern art junk nonsense imaginable - that is, except for one by a German conceptual artist whose name escapes me, and the clear highlight of David King's extraordinary collection of Soviet era posters all perversely and illogically packed into the smallest room in the entire gallery.

Naturally, I didn't expect the grandeur of Munich's peerless Deutsches Museum for science and technology, but this place is as bad, if not even worse, than the Natural History Museum. The Science Museum curators are clearly so scared that the public, and especially children, will find science boring that hipster metropolitan design agencies have been called in, at vast public expense, to make it 'fun' for us - thus ruining the experience; come on, kids, let's have fun with science! let's press some buttons! watch the plasma screens!
let's sing the DNA song with Mr. Boffin! altogether now! Can you think of anything more likely to beat out of you any residual enthusiasm or fascination? And of course, it's not because we're bored, or youngsters are bored with science, it's because they are bored; therefore it's no wonder there are no science graduates any more. A manifestation of this warped approach is the vast store on the ground floor which sells T-shirts and toys but not a single book! With that all considered, praise your lord, because hidden out of the way on the top two floors is the Wellcome Trust sponsored wonder, the beautifully curated History Of Medicine exposition showing us exactly how the rest could and should be done: stunning exhibits with a phenomenal attention to detail, well written essential information that's easy to read, all beautifully conceived and presented in a simple way that's inspiring and educational in equal measure.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Johnny Mad Dog (****)
despite its going all pretentious in the final act, Johnny Mad Dog is a brilliant portrayal of a motley group of child punk soldiers moving in on Liberia's capital - at times their appearance and individual actions seem ludicrous, but in fact it's probably a pretty realistic representation, albeit overly sombre;
delightfully, the English patois is impenetrable enough to require subtitles throughout

Drag Me To Hell (*)
you'd think this would at least be a mediocre horror movie for the easily pleased mulitiplex popcorn brigade - instead, it's a vacuous nonsensically shambolic mess lacking any redeeming qualities whatsoever - risibly bad acting (some of the worst 'foreign' accents of all time), lobotomised script, shameless product placement, crap CGI, tedious narrative; you can only assume that mainstream critics' generosity, otherwise inexplicable, is due to the massive advertising spend

Dead in Three Days (*)
bored in three minutes - a simply dreadful attempt by Austrian cinema to make a US-style teen horror movie

Africa Addio (*****)
Jacopetti and Prosperi's finest hour and the pinnacle of the so-called mondo genre; for the full poetic effect it's essential to see the full Italian version with English subtitles (not the trashy Blood And Guts version)

Addio Zio Tom (*****)
no drug can prepare you for the screen madness that this uniquely fearless exercise in the constructive smashing of taboo sights and beliefs represents through the simple device of recreating historical scenes of slavery - a truly extraordinary work that will leave your head spinning into oblivion (full Italian version reviewed)

The Godfathers Of Mondo (****)
Jacopetti, Prosperi, plus soundtrack composer Riz Ortolani, are indeed as inspiring human beings as are their films; meanwhile, the losers posing as 'cult movie experts' also featured to pass comment are worse than expendable - they're easy to ignore however, so packed is the documentary with amazing revelations and insights

Friday The 13th (*)
atrociously dull and predictable - makes the originals seem like veritable classics

Phoebe In Wonderland (**)
much of the narrative and script is overplayed: too much exposition and never enough naturalism, which is a shame because Elle Fanning is wonderful as 9 year old Phoebe and the story itself is worthy - she's also saddled with a typically anthropomorphic adult script (as is so often the case for leading child roles), thus betraying a wholly unbelievable degree of lucidity for her age

Thursday, June 11, 2009



Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Last weekend's trip to London was most enjoyable, and on the Sunday we managed to fit in an absorbing day at South Kensington's museum district (more about that in a later post), one which culminated in some lively avian drama on the outdoor terrace of Paul's patisserie and coffee shop.

No sooner had a young woman customer laid down three fine pastries on an outdoor table and gone inside for a stirring device for her coffee than a highly aggressive conglomerate of pigeons swooped in to rampantly feast. The girl duly screamed and ran inside for help and there was much commotion amongst those of us at the other tables. I managed to snatch a picture of the predatory action, and can assert that, after having written several postings about similar attacks, nothing can quite prepare you for the terror of the real thing at close quarters.

If you're in South Kensington, it's worth visiting said establishment (just opposite the Tube station) as the birds there are pleasingly rapacious - and the cappuccini are pretty good too.

Meanwhile, here's a blackbird homing in on pedestrians in San Francisco (many thanks to Dave for the link).


Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The series needs an entry from the realms of movie soundtracks. Since nowadays most every major contemporary film OST is used as a shoddy marketing tool for a bunch of desperate indie/metal bands; or else an exercise in recycled featureless orchestral wallpaper; or worse still, laptop jockeys doodling around with midi keyboards and echo/reverb plug-ins for a couple of hours.

But it wasn't always like this - fantastic commissioned works by Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass, Goblin, Popol Vuh, Francis Lai, and Angelo Badalamenti spring to mind. Even so, it's hard to disassociate to the extent where the music can be judged purely on its own merits beyond that of the effect of a film.

Rather than those more obvious candidates however, I intend to passionately argue the case for the much underrated genius of Riz Ortolani, who also composed music for several mondo flicks and Deodato's other notorious nasty The House On The Edge Of The Park.

Riz Ortolani : Cannibal Holcaust (1980)

Its opening track begins with gently plucked acoustic guitar thus lulling you to a place of leafy beauty serving to disguise the unsettling horror of the musical drama to unfold, thus expertly mirroring the narrative development of this most shocking of films. The baroque melody of the main theme of Cannibal Holocaust is reminiscent of many of the erotic Italian and French films of the 70s, and initially, seems an unusual choice for the visceral subject matter. Its leitmotif, nevertheless, returns with devastating impact in later scenes of almost operatic horror - and serves to deepen the underlying pathos.

In contrast,
Adulteress' Punishment, Massacre Of The Troupe, and Savage Rite are tenebrous dirges brilliantly combine electronic percussion noises, moog synths, and heartwrenching savagely powerful string-led harmonies that will rip your soul apart - just as the Amazonian tree-people cannibals will your bare flesh with bloodied merciless hands. The kind of shatteringly meaningful emotional response that so few composers, bands, or artists are ever able to attain.

The other tracks on the album exhibit a notable change of pace - the dynamics
soften between returns of the main theme and the more sombre introspective tracks (that often accompanies appalling animal torture scenes in the movie) to give us breezy jazzy disco numbers so idiosyncratic of many other lesser video nasties of the era.

The remastered version of the
Cannibal Holocaust OST is particularly recommended, even though some of the other sparser incidental film music is not included: the audio production is of exceptional quality and this remarkable soundtrack (to what was in actual fact a uniquely remarkable film) is really something very very special.



DJ BENETTI : Sensoria @ Dreams Niteclub, London, UK : 5th June
DJ BENETTI : The Bathhouse, London, UK : 6th June
DJ BENETTI : Disco Nectar, Cardiff, UK : 20th June
WILLIAM BENNETT : live at Club Megaphone, Burscheid, Germany : 26th June
WILLIAM BENNETT : lecture in Ludwigsburg, Germany : 13th July
CUT HANDS : live in Dusseldorf, Germany : 17th July
CUT HANDS : live in Berlin, Germany : 18th July
DJ BENETTI : tba, Berlin, Germany : 19th July
ZEITKRATZER perform WHITEHOUSE* : Huddersfield, UK : Nov 27th

*songs to be interpreted and performed by Zeitkratzer are: Bia Mintatu - Scapegoat - The Avalanche - Munkisi Munkondi - Fairground Muscle Twitcher - Nzambi Ia Lufua

Monday, June 01, 2009


The Girlfriend Experience (***)
as an experience, Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience is ultimately as fake and superficial as would be a date with an expensive escort girl, and I suspect that its glossy contemporary exterior is going to date pretty fast - despite that, it has much to admire: she, Sasha Grey, is impressively laconic and charismatic throughout in the lead role and only falls somewhat short in the two scenes in the film where some real emotion needed to be displayed - and the vagueness in plot development and timelines giving it its distancing effect was refreshing; dare I say, however, that there just wasn't nearly enough sex?!

Obsessed (*)
poorly executed, laughably miscast, hopelessly generic garbage

Mum & Dad (*)
staggeringly amateurish even by the UK's anthologically woeful standards - my words cannot even begin to communicate how atrocious this drivel is (in truth, 'Lottery-funded' and 'BBC' should be warning enough)

Vinyan (*)
Vinyan is a directorial disaster terrifying only in how catastrophically it implodes before your very (tired) eyes - it's a mess that simply should never have been released in its current form

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (**)
while it has all the right heartwarming Spinal Tap moments and caricatures, at its heart Anvil is a fraudulent piece of work - a manipulative piece of PR for what is - and this is painstakingly left unsaid throughout its 90 minutes - an eternally dreadful heavy metal band

State Of Play (*)
a tedious and contrived political thriller