An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujirô Ozu, 1962). Ozu's last film, like so many during his career, is instantly recognizable ... the low-level camera and the lack of camera movement take care of that, even before we get to the plot and realize that once again, Ozu has returned to a story about a family with a daughter at the age to be married. Although the idiosyncratic nature of his style by definition draws attention to itself, Ozu always manages to give a feeling of "real life", as if a static camera suggests a documentary. Throughout, I felt like I was missing something because I wasn't a Japanese viewer in 1962, but rather an American in 2015. The class structure that affects relationships among the characters isn't always clear to me, but it seems to be very clear indeed to the characters. The struggle to be true to that structure means people rarely speak their minds without resorting to allusion. Drinking loosens tongues, though. Some lovely acting here, and this is another must-see for fans of Ozu, even if it isn't quite the masterpiece that is Tokyo Story. #252 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. A companion film would be Ozu's Late Spring.
My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004). Nicely drawn tale of two teenage girls from different backgrounds who come together one summer. Emily Blunt (Tamsin) is properly beautiful as the rich one; Natalie Press (Mona) dresses in a thrown-together manner that befits her casual, working-class status. It's easy to see why Mona is taken with Tamsin, but it doesn't initially play as you might expect. Tamsin seems to have real feelings for Mona, which Mona matches, but Mona is never condescended to. Or so it seems. A series of revelations at the end of the movie show that more was going on with Tamsin than Mona realized. That realization makes the movie a bit more generic, but the buildup, and the interaction between the two actresses, makes their summer of love believable, and thus makes the end of summer surprising. #463 on the TSPDT list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century ... it benefits greatly from the new format that expands the list from 250 to 1000 films. 7/10. If you'd like to create a double-bill, go with Heavenly Creatures.
John Renbourn died yesterday. He had a long and valued career in music, worth digging into, but as is usually the case here, I'll personalize it and stick with what I know, which is the 1960s and "underground" radio.
My memories ... well, insert the obligatory "don't trust my old memories" ... Pentangle was a band that was listened to by many people I knew, whether on the FM radio or on their turntables. They were a band that came together gradually, even (dare I say) organically. Guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch were well-known in British folk circles, and had even recorded an album together. Singer Jacqui McShee began working with them, followed by standup bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox, who brought a jazz feel. In June of 1968, they released their first album, The Pentangle, which is when they caught my attention. British Folk wasn't always my favorite genre, but here, the musicianship and the fine interplay between the band members won me, and many other listeners, over. In the modern YouTube world, you can listen to the entire album here. If you want to get right to it, though, check out "Pentangling", the one song I most associate with the band and with the summer of 1968:
The bass player in me loved what Thompson does here, although I never did figure out the double bass myself.
They recorded several more albums over the next years, but it was the debut that I remember best. One album, 1970's Cruel Sister, did inspire one of Robert Christgau's more memorable comments. On the way to giving the album a C+, he wrote, "I prefer "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" to the eighteen-minute 'Jack Orion,' about a noble fiddler betrayed by his serving lad. Don't they realize that every verse of 'Cruel Sister' used to end "Fa la la la la la la la la la" because in the olde days people had nothing else to do at night?"
Here is Renbourn and Jansch in 2011, playing a song from their 1966 album, Bert and John:
Jansch died a little more than two months after this performance.
This is John and Bert in 1967:
Finally, for you Led Zeppelin fans who enjoy seeing how the band was "influenced" by others, here's Jansch with the traditional "Blackwaterside". (Jimmy Page was a big fan of Jansch ... how big? Check out "Black Mountain Side", "written" by Page.)