Monday, September 29, 2008

oh, heather...

Girl, don't let the bad press bring you down. You're still royalty and we're here for you, should you need to talk it out...

Friday, September 19, 2008


Call it the heightened sense of awareness brought on by... trauma, is it?

I moved to London 10 days ago and things have been a whirring combination of quite smooth and harried. My general temperament has been rather introspective (as behooves a move, I suppose). Moving to a foreign land is like work travel, where you may know a few people, but lose the daily routines which lend life structure. I've been quite reclusive and my bouts of nonpragmatism have all been very hermetic. I've been blowing through the back catalogue of Chris Kraus (Aliens and Anorexia and Torpor, thus far), a writer I adore -- who, though eloquent and painstakingly irreverent, does nothing to mollify this self-analysis. Instead, Kraus' critical prose invades my thoughts as she drifts from Berlin to New Zealand, Romania to the Hamptons. I find myself near tears at the purchase of candied peanuts on the South bank, in part some Kundera-esque revelry in Kitsch and because, on my second day of reading on a parkbench before the South Bank Center, killing time before yet another orientation seminar, I'm upwind from the mediocre cellist who plays for the tourists (daily, I've gleaned) and downwind from the candied peanut fellow. I love that smell, though I'd never purchased the things at any of their urban incarnations. This moment, between these two vendors, was perfect. I welled up. I took it too far by buying some, though. Half way through a mouthwash cup of them, I wanted to throw up.

But this is a film blog (can't you tell from all of the Kylie posts?!) and I must report on the newest Ozon offering (speaking of sugar coating). It's the only cinematic outing I've made so far. It did nothing to dissuade any of this intense interiority. You see, the eponymous Angel lives a life entirely in her head. The goings on around her are all filtered through the escapist fantasy any child reared above a grocery would invent. She writes hopelessly florid texts -- enough to make Charlotte Rampling squirm -- and becomes the Queen's favorite author. But she briskly drowns in her own denial of (real) world events.

It's a hopelessly wrong film; none of the embellishes Ozon heaps onto Angel ever truly amount to much, and though we're given glimpses at lovely "what could have been"s, were left with this bulbous costume drama and a completely uncompelling, disdainful lead. I saw the film at the ICA and, eating a sandwich on the grass of Mall park, in a state of vague homelessness offered me rather succinctly to the desperate fantasies of the film. I'm empathetic to the teeth and Angel speaks aloud a similar self-narrativization that ran through my head. But this pipsqueak who writes trivial literature ultimately drove me back to Chris Kraus (with anything but torpor).

This has been my vicious cycle, one which the mammoth Film Studies readers stacked beside me in bed will assuredly cure.

From Torpor:"Tenses situate events relative to their closeness or their distance from the speaker. Rules of grammer give the empty space of human speech some shape. The simple past We left. In more complex tenses, "have" and "had," the helping verbs, help to separate the speaker form the immediacy of events. We had left. Had forms a little step between what happened and the moment when you're telling it."

Friday, September 05, 2008

R.I.P. Kylie Ann Minogue

No, Kylie is not dead. Though some, if you were to ask, would argue that her career is. The online world was abuzz with discontent for this last outing. X, as it were, did not mark the spot. And neither did KYLIEX2008.

No, Kylie is not dead. But this post is to serve as an epitaph. This is the clincher to a love affair. The goodbye letter. 'No More Rain'. 'Bittersweet Goodbye'.

I was just in San Francisco and saw Kevin Killian read from his delicious new collection of poetry, Action Kylie and I knew it marked the end. In the infancy of my Kylie obsession, a peer and close friend told me of Kevin's work. Our conversational, dish methodology was similar -- though Kevin is far superior and insanely more well read than I. Eagerly awaiting this forthcoming, "1,000 page KylieTheory tome" that my friend (who is admittedly prone to intense exaggeration) relayed to me, I emailed Mr. Killian and we met on several occasions. We met and discussed Whitney Houston, Lele Sobieski and, of course, Kylie. His first correspondence, dated February 21, 2007 09:47:50 PM PST read: "I disagree violently with *some* of your opinions, but you're a contrarian, like I am, and we have to stick together shoulder to shoulder" We got along best when just earnestly fawning over recent Kylie developments. Holding the copy of his poetry book in my hand -- a traded copy for my recently published theory book -- a beautiful moment of closure overtook me. Kevin's wonderful poems speak in lyric, far more succinctly than most ruminations of fandom. It's felt and loving. My work on the Impossible Princess was an affair, a blissful passing through; Kevin's fever is more epically impassioned, intransigent.

See, I had already (reticently) decided to move on, and this night was the brilliant send off. I am moving to London this Monday, the 8th of September, and developed my recent diva theory book, FEVER PITCH as an act of LA closure. I wanted to encapsulate the feeling of living here. Pop, as glassy and banal as the Los Angeles street scenes. The feeling of devotion in a town that is both devoid of devotion and exorbitantly drunk on it. And I wanted to move on. I had not yet made peace with this decision, but the three events I will now relate made it possible.

Kylie's new show, KYLIEX2008 was broadcast at 9pm London time on August 16th, 2008. That morning, I had a date to view the newest work by my close friend (and, were I to have one, mentor), experimental filmmaker Lewis Klahr. It was a wonderful piece, though I had to sift through it twice to comprehend the visual narrative. It begins with a vinyl rip of 'Theme from Valley of the Dolls' and closes with one of the Cale pieces on Songs for Drella. We had a long, roundabout conversation where we both toyed with one another's intentions and eventually both conceded, seated at his perfunctory patio furniture. I kept glancing restlessly at his watch. At ten-to-one, (8:50 pm, London time), I urgently informed him that I had to be somewhere and scurried off to view the spectacle.

As the concert was an exclusively British broadcast, there were two, covert online viewing sites, both to be posted on 'Say Hey: The ultimate unofficial Kylie Minogue forum' an hour before the broadcast. I'd had trouble with the forum before and as I breezed into the apartment and threw open my laptop, I was not surprised to find it too populated to gain access. I hit google. Tapping in a series of searches, I finally found one address and leaned in to decode the horribly pixelated livefeed. "Drop your socks and grab your miniboombox..." Kylie crooned mechanically as she was lowered to the stage in a halo of circuitry. I don't like 'Speakerphone', the tune she used to open the tour, but her entrance sure was grand. Midway through the mashup, 'Boombox/Can't Get You Out Of My Head', the feed began rebuffering. I would get snippets, like a scratched CD only I'm also hunched over and attempting to decipher the jumble of pixel squares. Finally, it crashed and I gave up on the affair. My pulse was still quick, but I knew the whole thing would be uploaded onto the forum in high quality later that night. I could wait.

A physical trainer from Columbia Missouri named Yvette watched over my shoulder when I finally watched the download on a plane ride from St. Louis to San Francisco. She liked Kylie because her music was easy to work out to. We took in the rather rote extravaganza. I found myself more curious than exhilarated. I'd invested so much into this. This tour was launched at the peak of my Kylie obsession. I hung on every development that was made. When the tracklists were posted after each of the 53 European gigs, I would read them like poetry (My favorite poem in Action Kylie is the one in which Kevin reproduces, verbatim, the fictitious "leaked" tracklist and author credits for Kylie's Fever follow-up, City Games -- the flop which would truly be titled Body Language). Act after act, my weariness grew. She was not having the slightest bit of fun. She half-heartedly transitions into the single, 'Wow' by addressing the audience, "You all look so... WOW!"

What truly disturbed me was how vulgarly inconsiderate the concert was. In the third song, 'Ruffle My Feathers', Kylie lounges across two dancers, as though they were chairs. They happen to enshrouded in black gauze bags and the scene mirrors those at Abu Ghraib. 10 Million pounds were spent staging this concert and no one noticed the likeness? Later, Minogue -- who was famously diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years back -- is lowered to the stage atop a giant silver skull. This is her first tour of new material since and we find her playing with such iconography devoid of any of its charge? That's pop, I suppose. But this? Finally, no stranger to ethnic generalizations (see the Samsara portion of Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour in which Kylie is cast as a Indian/Middle Eastern goddess), the Naughty Manga Girl section sealed the deal for me. Not since Mulan have I witnessed such an affront of lotus blossom bafoonery. Watching pseudo-Geisha girls and Mongolian warriors divest to the grind of 'Nu-Dit-Ty', I was done.

Kevin's beautiful event reminded me where the resilience of this Aussie princess lay. Kylie's profundity can almost not be credited to her at all, but to all of those who invest in her. His poems use her lyrics to cope with personal traumas and bliss. Bouts of flawless prose weave through the vagueness of these pop lyrics. For Kevin, Kylie is personal. Far more personal, it would seem, than Kylie is to her own craft. His work speaks to pop's true power. Monumental in its interpretive potential, the same song can serve as an anthem to some, an elegy to others.

I'm mid-packing now and have no place to stay in the large city in which I'm soon due to land. Least to say, I'm stressed. As I was divying up the books and socks and shoes into their respective bags, I popped on the supplementary DVD for the recently reissued Criterion edition of Sálo. The doco in which I was interested was Italian with English subtitles. Read, not what one wants for use as a background soundtrack. I collapsed to the floor and burrowed through the spare selection of DVDs that have kept their plastic keep-cases. When I saw Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour, I knew what to do.

In my twilight hours of Kylie Minogue, I watched as the pink feathered showgirl princess is lifted to the stage. I saw the optimal optimism of the show. It's jam packed and truly a celebration. Kylie's so happy to be there, or happy to be looked at, anyway. And her ebullience is gloriously palpable. It's epic in all of the right ways. Giant headdresses and tinsel gowns, feather mowhawks and haute couture. She repeatedly surges with diva delivery that her voice can't actually hold, but that endures you to her more. Hearing her nasally coo through 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', from this current, stress-out and abandoning vantage, I welled up. Later, during a mash-up of her song 'Burning Up' and Madonna's rap in 'Vogue', she's raised to the stage atop a blond white mannequin chair (what's all of this with sitting on people?). "She's rising up on the back of Madonna!" my friend Sigrid observed and the performance which always seemed a misstep to me found fantastic new relevance. I went off to dinner as Kylie was dancing about the stage to 'I Should Be So Lucky'. Sigrid, who hates Kylie, was in the next room singing along "Lucky lucky lucky". This is the greatness of the Homecoming tour. Not only does the grandeur of it all convert the least likely to fans (Metallica records adorn Sig's walls) but, for a moment, my retirement was placed on pause. Like any beneficient, yet failed romance, I placed my hand on my heart and told her "It's all over"... that we're "throuuugh, oooo, Ohh ohh ohh..."and it was all okay.

Farewell my friend.