Friday, January 21, 2011

Discovery #13

CocoRosie - Grey Oceans (2010)

CocoRosie is very weird and that's what I love about them the most. The duo, of sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady, created their first album in a bathroom in Paris as a creative project for their own personal amusement but the album, La Maison de Mon Reve, became a cult hit as it passed through various friends hands until it connected with a producer at Touch & Go records. That was in 2004, now six years and four albums later they are still tripping out the world with their artistic and strange perspective on music. The sisters come from completely different backgrounds, Sierra studied opera in Paris while Bianca studied fringe art and activism in New York. These two elements are intrinsically woven throughout the adventures of their wonderful albums. Grey Oceans is more polished than the rest but it does have the definite feel of a CocoRosie record, quirky and jaunty Bianca rapping at the audience while Sierra's ethereal voice floats in the background or thrives through the chorus. Lemonade is just about the most perfect song of the year, so please listen and let yourself get pulled into their magical existence.

Paths Of Glory - Stanley Kubrick (1957)

A harsh criticism on the nature of war, Paths tells the story of a French battalion during the first world war that must embark upon a suicide mission to take the Anthill, a “strategic” position being held by the Germans on the front. From the moment the plan is set in motion by the top brass, as the order is passed down through each subsequent level, the men are completely aware that the mission is impossible but it soon becomes apparent that rejecting the order is simply unacceptable. Following the inevitable failure of the mission, the General in charge of the battalion holds the soldiers responsible and demands a court-martial hearing for cowardice hoping that a few executions might hinder such poor performances in the future. The Colonel of the battalion, being a lawyer during his civilian life before the war, defends the three men selected to face the charges. Once the mock trial ends, the soldiers must face their worst nightmare, being murdered by their own country. Meanwhile their Colonel, after obtaining some juicy information regarding the enigmatic General, throws a few wrenches into the gears, but does he truly care about what happens to his men or is he simply angling for a promotion? The combination of Kubrick and Douglas just as both of their careers were beginning to blossom is enough to have this film on your radar. Kubrick, the maniacal perfectionist, and Douglas, the fierce face, come together to construct a complete dissection of the nature of warfare with intelligent storytelling and striking visual acuity. Filmed in 1957, over a decade after WWII and just as the cold war was gaining steam, these two men, who both had extremely long lasting and influential careers in Hollywood, make a very definitive statement about the purpose of those who wield their destructive power. Paths was the first film of war whose images and tone were stark and honest, without the hint of sentimentality that was so customary to those types of films up to that point, something so praised in the latter half of the twentieth century with the films about Vietnam. Aptly titled the film follows the path of command as it maneuvers from the privileged arrogant prestige of those in power all the way down to the incredible suffering it causes in the lives of regular people. The storytelling naturally weaves its delicate thread through this particular company and how the weight of immoral decisions comes to bear in a variety of ways, revealing the diverse nature of humanity. In the end each man must come to terms with his dutiful obligation. Some have integrity, while others are terrible cowards. Some are mean and malicious, while others are good-natured and courageous. Even the champion of the film, Douglas' character Colonel Dax, who turned out to be one of the true untarnished heroes of Kubrick's films, isn't immune to his own path of compassion for his men. His insistent manipulation of the events as they unfold turn out to have the opposite effect of their intent and he manages to save no one from the ravages of war. In the end Kubrick pulls us back and reminds us that we all have the ability to touch our human side, the tenderness that resides in the heart. The final scene, a typical moment in most war films, where the troop is gathered to consume with hearty gusto some primal need. A young German woman, captured and at the mercy of beasts, is asked to sing for their pleasure. The ruckus in the room is so overwhelming that her pity and fear is almost unbearable to behold. It's a scene that has the ability to unfold with animalistic fervor and the crescendo of snarls being voiced by the soldiers expects only one outcome. But when she begins to find strength and once the soldiers hear the sound of her voice slowly rising to comfort them, they sink into a somber revelry that fills the heart with so much more power that even the machinations of war can't contain it.

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