Monday December 5 2022
You probably know that the new Number One film in the once-a-decade Sight and Sound poll is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), but were you aware that Laura Mulvey wrote a brand new essay to mark the occasion? Even better, Another Gaze is hosting Autour de Jeanne Dielman (1975) on their Vimeo channel. Delphine Seyrig’s partner, Sami Frey, recorded about sixty hours of footage during the making of the film, and it’s a phenomenal document. Akerman comes across as a brilliant, nervous kid while Seyrig is patient and wise and sometimes seems to understand the assignment better than the director. Cinematographer Babette Mangolte plays peacemaking auntie and Jewish food sensei.
JoAnn Wypijewski writes: “Thank you for the appreciation of my Sidecar piece on Mike Davis. You are no doubt right about the name of the restaurant, but when The Nation’s offices were at 72 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 13th St., to all of us who made the place a regular hang-out, it was always The Spain: the place one would go for a tryst with a lover in the afternoon, because the backroom was usually empty then, the place visiting writers would want to go for lunch because it was so commodious, the place where we knew all the waiters and would have retirement parties or special office lunches. I don’t know why we all called it The Spain; maybe the two syllables somehow conveyed that familiarity, like a family nickname owing to the family feeling we all had for the place. I don’t remember the toothpicks. I remember the lamb ribs with that salty brown sauce—the most wonderful of their on-the-house tapas.”
Thursday night, there was a screening of 2 Lizards at the Lower East Side Girls Club and the artists Meriem Bennani (animator, voice, script) and Orian Barki (voice, script) were on hand. You know how I feel about 2 Lizards.
Bennani and Barki told us that they began the series during the early pandemic without a plan, using digitally animated figures that Bennani had created for another project. “I liked the lizards best out of the animals,” Barki said. “I will always choose anything shiny, like these pants,” pointing to her gleaming, leather-ish jeans. Friends chipped in with music and then the two were approached by new collaborators who’d seen the first episode. Maluca volunteered her voice and became the mouse news anchor, for instance.
Barki, who has infinite charisma and the voice of burnt toast, said some of her dialogue was planned as tweets. She started an account right before the pandemic, apparently, but never tweeted. Barki also pointed out that the live backgrounds, which they filmed on iPhones, would have been hugely expensive to pull off during non-pandemic times. Vanilla Sky had to clear Times Square with the city’s permission on a Sunday in 2000; Bennani and Barki just had to show up at 7 AM in April of 2020.
My friend Mary Kate and I made a playlist titled Wet Eye Guy. The original title was “It’s Giving Buzzcocks,” the result of MK mentioning a Blink-182 song and me getting Misty and Very Knowledgable about the Buzzcocks. We looked for the thread that runs through whatever “pop punk” is, with all the definitions depending more on the song than vice versa. The wet eye guys are singers at the mercy of extreme emotion on the far edge of teenhood.
I saw my friends Kiera Mulhern and Sydney Spann on Thursday at Theater Mitu on Sackett Street in Brooklyn. The two artists talked and sang and manipulated software in real time together for roughly thirty minutes. The result was a slow-moving poetry reading that bled into a guided tour of caves and abandoned switching stations. One central practice was the two reciting what seemed to be the same text, slightly out of sync. The tones stayed in an autumnal bass palette, and the whole thing had a liturgical feel. It just flew by. After the show, Spann said that, “Kiera wrote a lot of the spoken text, I wrote some of the spoken text and the singing sections and we improvised one of the vocal melodies together. We recorded 90% of the instrumentals and textural stuff together.” Look for an album of this material next year.
We went to a party on Friday night for about thirty seconds. It was in a very fancy Soho loft that looked like the interior of an ocean liner. The rooms were glassed off like museum exhibits and everyone was in uptown cocktail attire. We ran out, in fear of not being fancy enough, and went to see my friend and bandmate Melvin Gibbs.
Anamibia Sessions 1: The Wave is not the soundtrack to Arthur Jafa’s AGHDRA but it is a chunk of the music that was used in the film. To see a brief clip of the sentient ocean borg at the center of AGHDRA, watch Jafa and David Velasco in conversation. At the record release on Friday night, Melvin talked with Stephon Alexander before and after he played the album. The event was held at Shift, a new spot in Williamsburg that had a café and record shop in the front room and a performance space in the back. (It felt very similar to Mitu, in that both are small-ish almost residential spaces.)
The music is a roiling broth of bass and rain and rattles and succulent clicks. Melvin mentioned that the mbira and djembe often use rattles and noisemakers that were removed in American recordings. If you buy a thumb piano now, it will not likely have little bits of metal attached to each tine. These noises parallel the tendency in Black music to “worry” the note, something Melvin brought up a few times. The Wave isn’t tonal or melodic and Melvin himself proposed that it might be proto-sound or proto-music during the talk, which makes sense in light of Jafa’s ocean, a very proto-life entity. The talk of vibration (Melvin’s piece will definitely move the salt shaker on your table) brought up something I never knew—Melvin’s mother was deaf.
Pitch in if you can. Because there is no paywall and there won’t be, I must bug you. Thanks.
The TikTok user known as @ashraf_noonn has begun posting English translations of the Arabic and this is big. His daughter, whose name I do not know, is a superstar. Has someone said “Bye!” to you with a little karate hand chop? That’s her. The recent video of her speaking “to those who hurt my heart” is better than anything in the Sight and Sound poll. Sorry, Chantal. Also this man is fabulous parent, full of love and patience and delight and affirmation.
Greil Marcus is on Substack, which is good news but not even as good as the gooder news: he is doing Real Life Rock Top 10 here. As my boys would say, let’s fucking go.