08 December, 2011

Puppy Film Festival 9: Of Time And The City

This is the first half of an intended Terrence Davies double bill, with his Edith Wharton adaptation, House of Mirth. I have found this 2008 documentary so contemplative, so generous in the spaces it allows within itself to absorb the string of moments that Davies constructs carefully in his collage / essay, that I felt that I should allow it an external space of its own. So I'll be diving into Gillian Anderson tomorrow.

Ostensibly a reflection on Davies childhood home of Liverpool, it touches on both social and personal history. He charts his disaffection with Catholicism, his emergent homosexuality, his growing love of the perfect world of cinema. He takes sideswipes at rock'n'roll (including the local Merseybeat), municipal architecture ("the British genius for creating the dismal"), and deconsecrated churches repurposed as night clubs. He doesn't just kick at modernity, he puts the boot into the monarchy ("The Betty Windsor Show") and the empty pomp of the church. Apart from these bitchy forays, the majority of the tone is lyrical, elegiacal, but without the moribund tone from the graveside.

The film is composed mostly of meticulously put together archive footage with a lush soundtrack of classical and gentle late fifties pop. Terrence Davies provides narration in his own velvet voice combining poetry recital, personal memoir and literate quotes. Images of poverty over time as old slums are replaced with their contemporary tower block equivalent. New footage shows Liverpool as it is now, a place he barely recognizes, yet retains fragments of familiarity, not merely in hoary landmarks, but in the people he lets his camera linger over in the coda before his Odyssean, oddly triumphalist, firework strewn finale.

At times it seems to be a film of exile, he quotes Joyce and Psalm 137 (By the rivers of Babylon). I do not know whether Davies is in any kind of self-imposed physical exile from Liverpool, nor whether he has ambitions in this film, as Joyce allegedly did, that his home could one day be reconstructed from his words and images. Davies is at the very least, as are we all, an exile from the past. His memories here are intricate stamps in a passport to that unrecovered country.

Near the end, I began to feel a bit lost, unsure of what Davies is driving at, if anything, beyond a mere but deeply thoughtful paen to Liverpool gone, but at the same time, I felt compelled to start it again, almost immediately, from the beginning. If not to watch it more closely, but to spend more time in Terrence Davies' palace of memory, to wander it aimlessly like a beguiled tourist. Though billed as "a love song and a eulogy", it is much more, a gallery of memento mori, a cinematic monument, a place to inhabit in a dream detached from the place and time, the city in Terrence Davies' mind's eye.


07 December, 2011

Vague-a-ries: YouTube has been designed by idiotic monkeys.

Today, preparing for a future project when this blog has some video content created by myself on YouTube, I tried to set up a channel. This was easy, to a point. I wanted to have a channel called:


however I managed to make a small mistake and typed:


and hit enter. I immediately realized my mistake, and thought that should be easy to correct. I was probably momentarily seized by Steve Jobs syndrome, that annoying impulse to lowercase "i" as an initial letter (maybe I should get checked out, it may be indicative of something worse, what? too soon?).

Scrabbling around the menus I couldn't find anything to let me rename, change or delete my channel name, which depending on where you look in YouTube is suddenly my YouTube username as well. Using the "help" feature gives you a list of questions asked on a forum style help, with answers relevance voted on by users. This is even more frustrating as it forces you to pour through irrelevance to try to glean an answer, this does not constitute help in my book. The "answers" seemed to point to the idea that there is nothing you can do except close your account entirely and set up a new account, which would require a unique email address, not the one you already used, and you couldn't have the channel name you already used because, although they store the case of your deleted account that never had anything posted against it, the check is not case sensitive, and that channel name, though never used, can never be used again, ever.

When I selected an option to allow me to directly post my own question, it tries to misdirect you to a page that has already asked questions similar to your "summary", but doesn't have a text box, forcing me to hope that clicking on a link marked "Continue" would actually bring me to where I had intended to go in the first place. Here's what I submitted as a question:

I have just set up a channel, but have done nothing with it. When I set it up I mistyped the capitalization -VaguestiDeas as opposed to the desired VaguestIdeas. I cannot believe that there is no way to edit/correct this. That you've developed a system that 1. allows such a momentary mistake as when your finger happens to hit the shift key to be etched in stone, 2. doesn't at least warn you that "hey you better be careful here, because we're not going to let you change this, ever"

This may seem a trifling request, I appreciate, in my case at least, I spelled the channel as I wanted it, so I couldn't delete and recreate the channel, as, although there is no data associated with it, your system will see it as "used" already.

Most frustrating of all is that your help system directed me to questions about deleting my account, and suggested that was the only workaround, and that I'd have to use a unique email address, other than the one I already have. Help systems which return irrelevant or incomplete answers show both laziness and indifference on your part as a developer. You should develop a clear comprehensive reference explanation of how your accounts '/ usernames / and channels work, not rely solely on whatever partial answer pops into the head, of knowledgeable, but blinkered forum style responses.

In my case it is a cosmetic error, but one that any users would see against any videos I wanted to post. So I look stupid rather than Google/YouTube who should look stupid for sitting on a pile of money rather than having developers create the most basic functionality imaginable.

Now I'm pretty much pissed off at YouTube, a company that are clearly sitting back on the benefits of their one killer idea, and within the fold of GoogleEarth (not the software product from Google, but the new name they've given our planet, which apparently they own through one of their subsidiaries), they don't have to care. They may be burning all their money, or more likely just jerking off into wads of disposable 100's as they index all the porn on the internet.

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06 December, 2011

Puppy Film Festival 7: Catfish

Catfish is documentary about misrepresentation on Facebook which may be misrepresenting its own veracity, but is kinda engaging and touching all the same.

A New York 20 something professional photographer gets sent some interesting naive art based on his published photos, painted by an eight year old girl in Michigan, and he strikes up Facebook conversations with her mother and older sister leading to a long distance crush relationship with the older sister.  The photographer's brother/flatmate is a filmaker and with another friend, they begin to document this socially networked virtual relationship.

It starts anecdotally, and, to the point, perhaps too anecdotally.  The first thing you will wonder is why did they begin filming this?  On the other hand if you've seen either Tarnation or Cloverfield, you've seen that the self obsessed youth of today in both reality and fiction are bound to strap a webcam onto their egos at the drop of a status line.  You could spend the whole film trying to second guess what's going on, but to some extent that cannily fits in with the subject's dilemma as things begin to seem that they are not what they seem.  What makes the film compelling despite its more ropey premises, is that many of us interact online as a matter of course now, and we are constantly faced with the question of who we are actually dealing with, how well do we know these people whose faces appear in 55 by 55 pixel boxes on our screens.

There are some mind bendingly stupid assumptions made by the protagonists.  It's kind of like watching someone blogging Blair Witch as it's happening, only without the witch, the horror, and they have sat/nav so they don't get lost pointlessly in the woods.  As we see them test the limits of the reality they've been presented with, we wonder what is motivating both the film makers, and the who-are-they-really? social group they've interacted with remotely.

Ultimately the film becomes a story about how and why we construct identity.  The emotional weight of the payoff, an insight into the need for human connection, minimizes the issue as to whether any of this story is true, or if documentary is just the style it wears, like a choice of profile pic, or the font for a blog.  It stands as an interesting, relevant and involving story either way.

Did I really watch it? Maybe I just Googled it and gleaned a dozen reviews, or saw parts of it grabbed on YouTube.  I'll make you guess.

But if you think I'm not telling the truth, ask yourself, what's in it for him?

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