Sunday, 20 September 2009


As an apt sequel to last weekend's Aguirre a return to that same amazonia, that same cicada heaving mass of buzzing canopy dropping its vertical tropical shadow onto the silty drifting flat mass below. Glory. Here is a landscape that offers so much vastness to the photographer's tiny eye, massive rolling pans over muscular trees, clich├ęs and ecological tragedies.

The moments of baroque soundtrack lend a magnificence starkly at odds with the mundane toil of the slow death of man played out on the plantation, and equally stark against the similarly caged pool girls barely alive in their haze of cynical wealth, perhaps the music conjures a time contemporary to the beginning of the rape of Brazil, and all the religion (and their choirs) that aided and abetted.

Charity mugging at the closing credits sullies and prostitutes a tragedy which should speak for itself, it hints at the cinema art's insecurity about its moral purpose, and it is so easy a fix that it jars with the rest of the film's brilliant subtle appreciation for the brutal complexity of lost innocence and technology.

Birdwatchers as a title finds its beginning as the opening scene follows binoculared tourists skimming up the river past staged natives. Natives there stripped of any dignity launching impotent arrows into the water. It goes on to draw us into a complicity in this social/emotional voyeurism. While the caged-ness of the rich and the native is glaringly mutual, along with a certain economic co-dependecy, I wonder that the voyeurism, the bird-watching, does not in fact go both ways successfully in the film, although that seemed to be the hope by under-dressing the pool girls, I don't know.

So, that is our beef that this fazendeiro is raising, when did self-loathing become this marketable?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Saturday, 12 September 2009

i am the wrath of god

if anyone wants to join me in being spoilt by london, here was another beautiful thing, old news perhaps to the more widely exposed cinema types this was my first time seeing aguirre, and that on a whim while I was at the over-priced, over-long but otherwise charming 'radical nature' at the barbican.

aguirre. heroic in its production, absorbing in its soundtrack and explicit in its portrayal of the madness of greed and the danger of Religion. there is something that much more visceral about the type of cinema shot like this that embodies the spirit of protest in which it was written, that seduces you by the risk taken in production. there is a beautiful moment once with a baby sloth and then later with a butterfly, these, along with the backdrop of nature in its vastness, provide stark contrast to the smallminded anti-heroes, that are we who hope to mine, exploit and proselytise. elsewhere celebrated as hypnotic and poetic, truly it was.

Monday, 7 September 2009

prince charles. pessimism.

So, I have had a few conversations with B – we daily have the most delicious lunch as a company whole on big tables in the middle of the studio – so much that I take for granted. We debated and largely agreed about Prince Charles. We can laud his well-intentioned hopes for human scaled Places with the involvement of community, however his outlook is so pessimistic as to render his efforts built on that pessimism counter productive. I love when words return from a spell in the wilderness lands beyond the borders of my daily arsenal with a new zeal for their own potential. Summing Charles' nostalgia and new-age environmentalism under pessimism is an approach I had not thought to connect the word and its associations to, it is a useful angle.

So yet unasked, next lunch together: What then is a rightful optimism? We can observe, as Charles presumeably does, the fallout from misplaced optimism.

Given the half of a chance, I shared my sustainable housing paper. Sustainable housing is what we try to do here and it is an ongoing interest of my own.”You seem to believe people can come to an epiphany moment..” I do and we must.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

austerlitz by wg sebald

Likely i do it an injustice blogging these quotes.

I understand myself better for having read Austerlitz, it is quite unlike any I have ever read. I read in its pages my own history of dislocation and future of restless academic melancholy. Simultaneously rivetting and bebaffling. Sebald paints architecture as the impression left by, the mould that formed and the metaphor which explains the twentieth century and all its horror.

The city metaphor portraying Austerlitz' collapse works because this is a common experience, being lost in the city. In parallel though, or rather in reverse, knowing language has collapsed, it is then illuminating to our understanding of the city that we can talk in these terms of comparison. This common experience of the city, is common because our cities have been abroad and have surrendered themselves to unintelligbility. "..until if I attempted to read a whole page I inevitably fell into a state of greatest confusion. If language may be regarded as an old city full of streets and squares, nooks and crannies, with some quarters dating from far back in time while others have been torn down, cleaned up and rebuilt, and with suburbs reaching further and further into the surrounding country, then I was like a man who has been abroad a long time and cannot find his way through this urban sprawl anymore, no longer knows what a bus stop is for, or what a back yard is, or a street junction, an avenue or a bridge. The entire structure of language, the syntactical arrangement of parts of speech, punctuation, conjunctions, and finally even the nouns denoting ordinary objects were all enveloped in impenetrable fog." p124

Observing the giantistic constructions of fascism he offers this which speaks to our own whims, towers, suburbs, masterplans: "..we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins" p19

And for any of you who have visited Paris' Bibliotheque Nationale, he evokes the calculated trauma of the stepped up then conveyor belt down entrance: " struck me as an utter absurdity, something that must have been devised on purpose to instil a sense of insecurity and humiliation in the poor readers.." p278 and then of the absurd forest in the middle. Which when I visited in 2005 they had pasted bird silhouettes to the glass to try to save those which "struck the glass with a dull thud, and fell lifeless to the ground.." Giantism begets an architecture of dysfunction, instability and death, like the fortresses before them in history.

Then of sleeplessness in London. "..I would leave my house as darkness fell, walking on and on, down the Mile End Road and Bow Road to Stratford, then to Chigwell and Romford, right across Bethnal Green and Canonbury, through Holloway and Kentish Town and thus to Hampstead Heath... and once you are used to walking alone you soon begin to wonder why, apparently because of some agreement concluded long ago, Londoners of all ages lie in their beds in those countless buildings in Greenwich, Bayswater or Kensington, under a safe roof, as they suppose, while really they are only stretched out with their faces turned to the earth in fear, like travellers of the past resting on their way through the desert." And so the city performs our nomadism for us. The theme of exile runs through the book, imaged in his boarding school, in israelites through the wilderness, and dying moths "clinging to the wall, motionless.. they know they have lost their way.. they will remain in the place where they came to grief even after death, held fast by the tiny claws that stiffened in their last agony.."p93

oh and more, it is a three course meal, sumptuous in its prose.
let's get together and read a book out loud.