On Thursday 27 September, Permanent Plastic Helmet held our second screening event at London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse. Following July’s packed screening of Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing, we kept the vibe nice and retro with a rare showing of Michael Rapaport’s superb hip-hop doc Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest(courtesy of top UK indie distributor Soda Pictures).
Soda Pictures, the company behind the imminent DVD release of ace hip-hop doc Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (which we’re screening at London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse on Thursday 27 September at 20:30) have created a special homage to the ‘Midnight Marauders’ album cover featuring faces of famous UK artists and DJs who are Tribe fans such as Zane Lowe, Roots Manuva, Reggie Yates and more (plus bonus face Childish Gambino aka comedian Donald Glover). It’s pretty cool, and it looks like this:
Re: the screening, you can, and absolutely should, buy tickets here, and you can bet we’ll be making an event out of it, with drinks and music in the bar, food, and a prize giveaway. Before you scamper off to tell all of your friends, be sure to watch the trailer:
Hot on the heels of our last event – a packed screening of Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing, we’re absolutely delighted to announce a rare screening of Michael Rapaport’s brilliant documentary about the hip-hop legends. The time and place? 20:30 on Thursday 27 September at south London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse.
Best known for songs like “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?”, and classic albums like “Midnight Marauders” and “The Low-End Theory”, the influential Queens-based group, alongside the likes of De La Soul, pioneered a jazzier, sunnier sound at a time when Gangsta rap was in the ascendancy. Their 1998 break-up shocked the industry, and this film picks up with Tribe in 2008, when they reunited to perform sold-out concerts across the country. It wasn’t all plain sailing…
This all-access film focuses on the inner workings, personal relationships and behind the scenes drama that defines the band. No stone is left unturned, with a host of musical legends (including Kanye West, Common and Mos Def) on hand to pay tribute. You won’t need to be a die-hard hip-hop head to enjoy this revealing, funny and finally very moving film. And don’t just take my word for it; the film currently holds a 91% fresh rating on aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.
You can, and absolutely should, buy tickets here, and you can bet we’ll be making an event out of it, with drinks and music in the bar, food, and a prize giveaway. Before you scamper off to tell all of your friends, be sure to watch the trailer:
Permanent Plastic Helmet would like to thank the lovely people at Soda Picturesfor offering us the opportunity to put this screening on.
Lovers of maps (you know who you are): attention! If you’ve ever suspected that Google Maps or the like could be the stuff of cinematographic beauty, then Patience (After Sebald) could be the film for you. For non map fetishists, beginning a documentary with screenshots of Google Maps and a rather RP voice-over may be the ultimate filmic turn off. But what this film requires – as the title suggests – is a little patience, if you’re prepared to breeze past geographical geek-offs and literary discussions on the nature of time, memory and landscape, that is. Patience is a richly rewarding exploration of the German academic and writer W. G. Sebald’s famous and utterly idiosyncratic novel ‘The Rings of Saturn’ (1995).
Patience (After Sebald) is a literary film essay from Grierson award-winning documentarian Grant Gee, known for his music documentaries on Radiohead (Meeting People is Easy) and Joy Division (Joy Division). Gee presents a mostly black-and-white exploration of Sebald’s famous book, which charts a meditative and melancholic walk along the East Anglian landscape. Titled in the original German as ‘Eine Enlische Wallfahrt’ (‘An English Pilgrimage’), the novel charts the physical and mental meanders of a mind hoping to dispel “the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work”.
Those who haven’t read or engaged with Sebald may struggle to find a way into this film, which incorporates actual footage of the director’s walk from Lowestoft to Southwold to Bungay, with various artists and writers’ interviewed responses to the work, from Andrew Motion and Tacita Dean to Robert Macfarlane and Marina Warner. However, in the name of research, I showed Patience to a Sebald virgin, and she adored the look and feel of the film even if she stumbled on various literary references or Sebaldian points of humour.
W. G. Sebald was born in Bavaria in 1944, and died in a car crash in East Anglia in 2001, aged only 57. His father joined the Reichswehr in 1929 and remained in the Wehrmacht; Holocaust war guilt and themes of memory and forgetfulness are powerful presences in the works of a man who famously stated: “I don’t think one can write from a compromised moral position”. Sebald (known as ‘Max’ to his friends, in case you get confused in the first fifteen minutes of the film like I did) studied German literature at the University of Freiburg, and eventually settled permanently in England, where he taught at the University of East Anglia.
While the film may explore the unclassifiable nature of Sebald’s works – that particularly idiosyncratic style of his which takes in elements of the travel memoir, the history book, Holocaust literature, biography, comic prose, poetry, the essay, and photography – the style of the film itself is disappointingly unexperimental. Rather than seeking to reinterpret the text or bring to the film the very disparate elements of Sebald’s style, Gee sticks to a very linear documentary form, which is rooted in the text (showing page numbers whenever the actor Jonathan Pryce reads parts of the text), and in the walk itself. With various artistic talking heads providing most of the narrative for the documentary, the overall effect is one of a straight-up-and-down BBC4 documentary, albeit one with the occasional artistic fugue or moment of startling brilliance.
However, what Gee does capture so artfully is the peculiarly melancholic atmosphere of the novel, something Sebald partly achieves through his interweaving of prose and image. Gee sticks to a grainy black and white palette, often overlaid with mid-frame video shots to recreate the look of a Sebaldian page. This works particularly well when the Sebald scholar Lise Patt explains to us her thoughts on what the continuous imagery in ‘Rings of Saturn’ represents, suggesting one image is linked to another in notably symbolic ways, and that its up to the audience to tease it out. This is where Gee’s choice of title really comes into its own. If you’ve read Sebald, you’ll more than likely have experienced the unusual rhythm of his prose. Digression follows digression in a seemingly intangible manner; thought seamlessly weaves into thought in such a delicate way that you find yourself having arrived at point C with no idea how you moved from point A and B. And the prose gallops. Everyone I know who’s read a Sebald has done so in two days. What Lise Patt, and the film itself, suggests, is an exercise in patience – watching this film, walking the walk, and reading the book, should be a meditative exercise. Mind maps of ideas tracked in the novel, literary maps of the locations explored, the concentration of mentions of death, the transition from one image to the other – the film asks us to requestion our own reading style in order to squeeze out meaning and inference from Sebald’s text.
The film suffers from too many interviews, and as such threatens to lose it’s audience’s interest towards the end. Gee is at his best when capturing on camera the physicality and nebulousness of the East Anglian landscape. Sebald is obsessed with the physicality of natural phenomena – fog, mist, cloud, vapour and spume are explored by him as elements on the borderline between being and nothingness – and similarly amorphous elements emerge from Gee’s film, especially that particularly grey misty British sky we so love to hate. Gee overlaps outdoor noises of birds, waves breaking on the shore and road sounds with the interview voices of talking heads.
Shots from the film become reinterpretations of Sebald’s literary and mental landscapes; the writer’s photographs coming to life through a 21st century lens. This is a beautiful if unimaginative documentary about one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.
Patience (After Sebald) is in cinemas now, released by Soda Pictures. Contributor Sophia Satchell-Baeza can be followed on Twitter @SophiaSB1.
Tatsumi is based on Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s autobiographical graphic novel A Drifting Life, and was something of a passion project for its director, Eric Khoo. A long-time fan of Tatsumi’s work, after reading A Drifting Life, Khoo was inspired to create a tribute to the artist’s life, celebrating his work and bringing it to the attention of a wider audience.
The film deftly condenses the key moments and sentiments from the original 840 page graphic novel and includes five of Tatsumi’s own fictional short stories. Tatsumi harboured a passion for comics from an early age, working furiously on creating his own, submitting them to manga competitions against a background of post-war struggle and the trials of family life. With a prodigious output Tatsumi’s work began to be recognised, and he became able to support his family, move to the city to further his career, and work with likeminded artists. In this new environment Tatsumi spearheaded the birth of ‘gekiga,’ realist, adult themed manga.
The film loyally retains Tatsumi’s style, virtually animating the original panels in a simple and modest manner, adding only a cinematic scope to the hand drawn, direct, cartoon-realist drawings. The autobiographical element of the film is rendered in full colour, while the five of Tatsumi’s early stories (fitted into the film at relative chronological points), are presented in muted tones, serving to clearly demarcate these fictional interludes, while simultaneously intensifying their dramatic nature. A voiceover narrative fills in the details, while other dialogue is sparse or left to subtitles, successfully occupying a space somewhere between the original static panels and their captions and the demands of movement and scale of cinema.
Tatsumi’s is an interesting and touching life made arresting by the open and frank style of recollection, but it is not a particularly dramatic one. Khoo’s decision to interpose a selection of Tatsumi’s fictional short works between the biographical sequences adds real depth and enriches the film. The stories illustrate an otherwise hidden emotional and sociological level; specifically the mindset and life of their author and the historical context of post-war Japan and its rebirth. These short self-contained parables of isolated, anguished lives in crowded but lonely cities resonate as much with today’s urban alienation as they did when originally created. ‘Beloved Monkey,’ the story of a lonely factory worker, who after an accident can no longer work and so must give up his pet monkey is a perfect example of Tatsumi’s humanist tales, and one with a particularly tragic and harrowing turn of events. Such dark, realist and at times disturbing subject matter clearly highlight the break in style and subject Tatsumi makes from the traditional, child-aimed manga, marking explicitly Tatsumi’s most important contribution as an artist and story teller.
To take Khoo’s aims as stated above as a framework of critical review for Tatsumi, the film leaves any audience member who, like myself, had previously known nothing of Yoshihiro Tatsumi wanting to discover more (Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly have published a three volume ‘Best of’ anthology of Tatsumi’s short stories, as well as his first full length work, Black Blizzard ). In juxtaposing the artist’s biography with a selection of his fictional works Khoo has created a broad overview of a life and the art it has produced. For those more familiar with Tatsumi, while the film might not offer anything insightful, it will offer a new perspective within a carefully and beautifully crafted, respectful and thoroughly engaging tribute.
Tatsumi is in cinemas from Fri 13 Jan, released by Soda Pictures.