Author Archives: Matthew Caron

About Matthew Caron

Matthew Caron is a making videos, booking shows and composing text in New York City.

An Interview with Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of Liturgy

Written By Matthew Caron

Conducted at Goodbye Blue Monday in Brooklyn NY

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is the songwriter behind Liturgy, a Brooklyn-based black metal group that doesn’t much resemble what most people think of when they think of black metal, if they are aware of the genre at all. This is because Liturgy are forging new ground in a mode Hunter refers to as Transcendental Black Metal, which dispenses with the nihilism and free-floating hate of Scandinavian black metal in favor of the mystical and ecstatic.

M: So because this is a somewhat literary blog, I have to ask…read anything good lately?

H: Lately my genre of choice currently is correspondence, because I was getting into Artaud and he had this correspondence going with Jacques Riviére, which is really awesome. He was applying to be in this magazine and was rejected over and over again, and then eventually they published his correspondence. Recently I read the Freud-Jung correspondence. There’s a famous set of letters between Freud and Jung cataloging how they met and their eventual splitting. There’s something really exhilarating about reading correspondence for me. There’s some good Ginsberg-Kerouac letters that were just published. Also Heidegger’s letters to his wife. I read a lot more philosophy than literature. There’s really no contemporary literature that I’m aware of that I’m excited about, except maybe Don DeLillo. As far as I know, literature is dead, right? Continue reading

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Reviewed: Dengue Fever Presents: Electric Cambodia

By Matthew Caron

Whether you know it or not, Cambodian rock n’ roll from the 60s and 70s is some of the finest musical stuff on earth. A new CD compilation called Electric Cambodia is out on the market as we speak, and I have mixed feelings about it, but before I share those feelings I’m going to lay down a brief history lesson and explain why I think this music from decades ago in a little country you don’t often think about still matters in the year 2010.

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Reviewed: Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box By Jacques Boyreau


Fantagraphics Books, 200 p.

Reviewed by Matthew Caron

“I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” So said Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, to a 1982 congressional panel investigating the legal quandaries presented by the VCR machine and the Record button in particular. The movie industry’s fear of VCR was soon proved baseless as home video became hugely profitable to the studios without putting so much as a dent in the volume of ticket sales; in fact, they increased. Distinctly different from each other, tape and film happily fed a shared appetite without conflict until the age of digital, which is when Jacques Boyreau believes everything began to go awry.

Boyreau’s new art book, Portable Grindhouse, is more than a stunning collection of VHS box art. Anyone with a sense of nostalgia for cruising the shelves at the local Video Depot will recognize old favorites alongside more than a few bizarre rarities within its pages, and if you don’t feel a sense of loss over the current state of DVD box art, you just don’t have any feelings. Lurid paintings and illustrations paired with overripe titles helped move countless low-budget horror flicks, straight-to-video dreck and a few cinematic masterpieces in a way that the clean, bland Photoshop creations of the present simply don’t. The modern formula is to present a list of ingredients, usually nothing more than the lead actors superimposed on a black or white background with some red text. (Sadly, the sales pitch of movie stars suspended in a vacuum is usually an honest appraisal of the product.) The art collected here rarely even bothers with photos, relying instead on illustration and collage to create a dynamic portrait of the idea of the movie that’s often more exciting than the movie itself.
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Reviewed: Not Quite Hollywood, Directed by Mark Hartley

NotQuiteHollywood

Reviewed by Matthew Caron

Released by Magnolia Pictures

Just released to DVD this week is Not Quite Hollywood, a documentary examining Australia’s so-called Ozploitation flicks by director Mark Hartley. Not Quite Hollywood relates the story of filmmaking in Australia from its surprisingly late birth in the grindhouses and drive-ins at the tail end of the 1960s. Australia produced nothing at the beginning of that decade, but as international productions increasingly began to use the country as a location and employed local crews, creating a local industry in the process. Domestic films soon appeared in the form of soft-core nudie comedies like 1970’s The Naked Bunyip, whose makers used crude humor and lots of forbidden public hair to stir up controversy and publicity. (A bunyip, by the way, seems to be a kind of kangaroo-dragon hybrid with human breasts that is peculiar to Australia. It is too fucking weird to flourish anywhere else.) The ensuing ballyhoo moved the local censors to create an ‘R’ rating to prevent children from entering theaters showing The Naked Bunyip, with the unintended consequence of created a mainstream market for sexually explicit movies. The first Australian box office phenomenon to exploit the new ‘R’ rating would be the Barry McKenzie series of films, which follow the adventures of a gangly globetrotting simpleton on the prowl for sex. Not merely an international ladies man, Barry is also exceptionally prone to stepping in dog shit and projectile vomiting. It is with both pride and embarrassment that Barry McKenzie hurling from atop the Eiffel Tower is cited as an early milestone of Australian cinema.

A young Nicole Kidman in "BMX Bandits"

A young Nicole Kidman in "BMX Bandits"

Inevitably, some filmmakers bristled against this image of Australia as a nation of horny barfing yahoos and set to work making serious films. Among them was Peter Weir, whose 1975 Picnic At Hanging Rock was the first Australian film to earn international critical success. Meanwhile, many other directors began to focus on the lucrative horror genre. Films like Richard Franklin’s Patrick set into motion a wave of bloody thrillers, monster flicks and slashers which continues today as evidenced by contemporary cult hits like Wolf Creek and Rogue.

1974’s Mad Dog Morgan, a bloody period piece starring Dennis Hopper at his cocaine-addled looniest, ignited Australia’s grand tradition of action movies when it became the first Australian picture to achieve a big theatrical release in America. More than any other mode, the action movie is where Australian filmmakers really shine, due in no small part to a large pool of local stuntmen eager to risk life and limb for the sake of a great shot. Just as Hong Kong cinema made its way to the international marketplace on the backs of martial artists willing to break their necks for a great fight scene, Australian stuntmen propelled the local industry by driving flaming cars and motorcycles into walls and over cliffs, or else allowing themselves to be run down by these vehicles. All this motorized mayhem led to a uniquely Australian style of action-packed road movie took shape and began raking in money at the box office. As Quentin Tarantino puts it, they’re mostly about “marauding packs of bullies in cars they could never afford, roaming the highway looking for people to pick on, women to rape and guys to beat up.” Mel Gibson was pitted against these Australian road bullies to great effect in Mad Max.

Gibson in Mad Max

Gibson in Mad Max

Despite his status as a non-Australian, Quentin Tarantino is all over this movie, flailing his arms around like a crazy person and wearing a ski hat that somebody gave him for free. I admire him for knowing more about these films than even the people who made them, but I’ve seen Q.T. featured in about a half dozen cult cinema docs and he is always dressed for the night shift at 7-11. Dude needs a wife or assistant or something.

Tarantino’s stupid hat notwithstanding, this is as entertaining a documentary on the trials and joys of filmmaking as you’re likely to come across and the array of outlandish film clips on display is simply jaw-dropping. Hats off to director Mark Hartley for conveying the history of moviemaking in Australia and presenting its horniest, barfingest and explodingest efforts with such skill and affection. It must have been very dirty work.

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Roman Polanski: Unwanted & Undesirable

By Matthew Caron

Roman Polanski was arrested yesterday in Switzerland and faces a likely extradition back to the United States after fleeing from sentencing at the conclusion of a rape trial in Los Angeles that lasted from the spring of’77 into February of ‘79. Initially charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under 14 and furnishing a controlled substance – methaqualones, i.e. the ‘ludes he slipped into her champagne – to a minor. Polanski’s lawyers succeeded in getting the charges dismissed under the terms of a plea bargain, and Polanski plead guilty to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

The victim, then 13 year-old Samantha Geimer, has since moved on with her life and publicly forgiven the director.

“I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society. I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever – besides me – and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory … (but) I can live with it.”

Polanski, now 76 years old, has since spent his time primarily in France, where he is a citizen and extradition to the United States is rare. He also travels regularly to Poland and has been to Germany, where some have speculated that German unwillingness to arrest Polanski might have something to do with his status as a Holocaust survivor. Technically, Switzerland was not a safe country for Polanski to travel to, but what the hell – Polanski probably figured they’re tight with France, where Polanski is a member of the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts, so why not? Nevertheless, they got him coming off the plane, on his way to pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award at a film festival.
So: Now that they’ve got him, who exactly wants him? And why?
Evidently, not his victim. In January of this year, Samantha Geimer filed to have all charges against Polanski dropped. It seems that in her opinion, all that the justice system had achieved over the course of three decades with its focus on the lurid details of the crime was a great deal of trauma. Unfortunately for Geimer, who is now married with three sons, Polanski’s arrest promises that more media-inflicted trauma is headed her way. One of the court’s recent attempts to lure Polanski back to America for sentencing included the promise that he would not be held in custody as he was in 1979 on the condition that all proceedings be televised. What an enticement, right? Unsurprisingly, Polanski chose to remain in France, working on movies. The courtroom TV spectacle was deferred for the 29th year in a row. But now, with Polanski in Swiss custody, it seems likely that L.A. will finally get the courtroom circus it couldn’t have in the 1970s due to Geimer’s pesky minor status at the time.

Since the victim and her lawyers are actively lobbying against the court’s desire to revisit the case, I can only conclude that the city of Los Angeles wants this trial, or at least someone in the system out there with a mind to make a career on it. That’s the only gain I can see by serving justice to a victim who doesn’t want it, against an old man who is a threat to no one. Otherwise, there’s nothing to be had but a big show, and more frivolous debt heaped on an already busted California.

Cost is a worthwhile consideration. While many would cite the moral imperative in punishing a child rapist, in this case it would constitute a dubious moral victory at best, at tremendous expense. $350 million in debt at present, Los Angelinos will have to shoulder the costs of a showy televised sentencing and the attendant police details the proceedings will require. Polanski’s return to court in L.A. could easily outstrip the $1.4 million in public money spent on the recent Michael Jackson memorial service depending on how long it lasts and to what degree the media and public wind up congesting the city’s streets while it happens. This pricey brouhaha of moral outrage will be followed by the cost of housing and feeding Polanski for the rest of his days at approximately $70,000 a year, not including the medical expenses may be required to keep the 76 year-old Academy Award winner alive behind bars, billed to the state of California – which is currently facing a budget deficit of over $26 billion for this year.

To make matters worse, California likely hasn’t got anywhere to put the old man once he’s been sentenced. The state is currently employing a variety of strategies in the pursuit reducing its population of elderly and nonviolent inmates, including shipping them out of state to minimum security prisons like the Florence Correctional Center in Arizona. In 2006, the Schwarzenegger administration signed contracts with Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, America’s largest publicly traded prison operators, to provide cells in four other states for the nonviolent inmates it cannot humanely house. What business does a state that’s unable to afford or even physically contain its prison population have reaching overseas and committing potential millions of taxpayer dollars to adding one more elderly, nonviolent prisoner to the system? California, this is why you can’t have nice things.
The hell with the victim and the California taxpayer…CNN needs this dubious little moral victory. Inside Edition needs this. The blogosphere needs this. Careers in L.A. need this. AMERICA needs this.

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Reviewed: Boston Noir, Edited by Dennis Lehane


Akashic Books, 207 Pages

by Matthew Caron

Boston Noir is the most recent entry in the expansive Akashic Noir Series, which anthologizes regional crime fiction by bundling together short works from best-selling authors with lesser-knowns and setting each story in a different neighborhood, helpfully plotted out on a map in the opening pages. Akashic Noir has so far covered points from Los Angeles to Wall Street to Trinidad with future editions dedicated to locales as diverse as Lagos and Orange County on the way. Beyond the opportunity to discover obscure writers or enjoy a short fiction by a popular novelist, the great virtue of this organized campaign of underbelly tourism is the revelation of characters and locales that would be overlooked by either journalism or straight fiction. Every great place ought to have one.
The Boston entry in this series is edited by Dennis Lehane, the best-selling author of Mystic River, Shutter Island, and Gone Baby Gone all of which have been adapted into big Hollywood movies. Lehane has a knack for nitty-gritty working class drama that translates well to the screen, distinguished by a powerful talent for characterization and an ear for his hometown’s vernacular.
Lehane’s Boston is slightly provincial, populated mainly by characters of Irish extraction who’ve been living in the same neighborhood for their whole lives, know their priest, worship the Pats and the Sox and are never far from a bar where shady things happen. There’s several helpings of this classic local flavor on offer here if you crave more of it. Lehane the author provides an excellent entry concerning a stray dog and a basement safe in Dorchester, where neighborhood knuckleheads dispense with wicked and pissa and invoke the Pats just like you knew they would. Fortunately, Lehane the editor leavens the expected with a handful of surprising entries devoted to corners and characters that aren’t so obvious.
Lehane starts things off with one such surprise, the taught hostage thriller “Exit Interview” by Lynne Heitman, which is set in a mirrored skyscraper where a woman’s collision with the glass ceiling results in a body count. Over in Cambridge, Don Lee’s “The Oriental Hair Poets” delivers an old-fashioned gumshoe yarn with a slight tang of Murakami, following a Hmong detective on the case of a long-haired poet who may or may not be wasting thousands of gallons of water to spite her landlord. In black Roxbury, we are treated to Itaberi Njari’s “The Collar”, which happens to be the most electric and modern entry in the book. Njari’s story follows Nina, an overburdened fourth grade teacher trying to figure out whether or not her current boyfriend is stupid enough to have slapped a woman in an argument over a minor fender bender. “The Collar” is also a standout for the fact that its characters seem at ease in their surroundings rather than tortured. It’s the story set in the least glamorous neighborhood, yet it’s also the one that presents the most generous image of Boston and the people who live there.
All in all, Lehane and Akashic have compiled a solid collection of short noir that is a pissa if not a wicked pissa as the neighborhood knuckleheads might say.

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The World Is Josh Harris’s Toilet, Especially The Internet Or: Thoughts that are freaking me out after viewing We Live In Public, a new film by Ondi Timoner

By Matthew Caron

We Live In Public, the new documentary feature by Ondi Timoner, is a downright worrisome piece of work that will have you consider its implications long after you’ve left the theater. Here is the story of dotcom entrepreneur Joshua Harris, a man once worth $80 million who now resides in Ethiopia, safely removed from the American Express people who would very much like to discuss his outstanding credit card balance. Long before his exile in Africa, Harris created software capable of tracking internet traffic and, for the first time, expressing this data in a way that marketing departments could understand. He became very rich. Next, he popularized and streamlined the internet chatroom. He became even wealthier. On a roll and backed by heaps of capital, Josh created a vast and impressive web TV network called Pseudo, effectively firing the opening shot of the now raging war between network TV and the web. Josh sells out at the right moment, and becomes wealthier still.

Now a millionaire many times over, Joshua Harris decides in 1999 that he shall become an artist. Naturally enough, the mediums he selects to work with are technology and live human beings. His vision is an expensive one, and in his own words he “spends money like sand running through the fingers of time” but at the moment money is no object. The goal is nothing less than a living, breathing model of the internet of the near future. In his mind’s eye, the future resembles a 24/7 party with plenty of sex and the very real possibility of mass murder, and it will be recorded to tape from a variety of angles. Harris’s called the project Quiet.

Quiet is placed on public display for the first time in this film, and which I hope will receive further examination now that it has at last been revealed. Quiet was pitched to its participants as a kind of arty party-cum-sociology experiment with the potential to make them famous. Like MTV’s The Real World, the trappings of Quiet bore little resemblance to reality. Rather than a hip townhouse tricked out with the inevitable Jacuzzi, the Quiets took up residence in an underground bunker on Broadway in Lower Manhattan – a cool bunker outfitted in a minimal futurist fashion, but a windowless bunker nonetheless. The Quiet facility could pass for something like a pod hotel, although Harris openly admits that the design had more to do with pictures he’d seen of concentration camps with beds stacked floor to ceiling. Each pod housed a bed, a camera and a television surrounded by three walls opening into a central corridor. The cameras captured everything at all times, and the television offered a channel for every pod as well every hallway, the dining room, the shower and the toilets. The shower was, of course, completely exposed and roomy enough for a half dozen while the unisex toilet area lacked stalls. What would be achieved would go beyond the real world in achieving total coverage of all activity; the Quiets would be putting on a show for each other and gauge their popularity by how many pod tubes were tuned into their activities at any given time. Presto! Here was a fully functional communications network overflowing with user generated content, including but not limited to nude marching bands and toilet cams.

From The Real World Harris borrowed The Confession Room and upgraded it to an interrogation chamber where the Quiets underwent Stasi-like auditing sessions with a professional interrogator. In this bright, white room they would be compelled to account for their failings, secret shames and fears, stripped of their clothing and folded into uncomfortable positions. Here, the principal of total exposure extended into the arena of mind control and intimidation. Installed immediately next door was a firing range stocked with an impressive array of semiautomatic weapons. Total exposure was pushed to yet another extreme with universal access to a considerable amount of firepower. It’s worth noting that the 30 days of Quiet were scheduled to conclude on New Year’s Day of 2000. Harris may have wanted a tech-savvy paramilitary force on his side if the Y2K bug actually fucked up civilization big time.

Harris was himself a participant in Quiet, though he seems to have quiet about his involvement as its author. While his role as dictator was known to a savvy few, it seems that most of the Quiets remained ignorant of his role right up until the final day, and in some cases years later. The mysterious authority behind the cameras and interrogations was apparently referred to as Oz, assuming that the wizard was concealed behind a curtain at a safe distance. However, it might be more accurate to say that Harris resembled Pol Pot, and his vision something like a media geek’s Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot, a.k.a. Brother Number One, allowed several years to pass before revealing himself to the participants of his tragic social experiment in developing a classless society. Under his Khmer Rouge regime, all were compelled to toil singlemindedly at rice farming and were relieved from the distractions of family, religion and free time toward this end. Harris twisted this formula around. Not only were the Quiets similarly denied contact with the outside world, they lacked responsibilities of any kind, encouraging them to interact, develop their identities and perform with abandon. People who would not normally fuck, shit, shower or reveal their darkest secrets to strangers suddenly found themselves doing exactly that on a daily basis. And in front of cameras too! Cameras owned by Josh Harris, recording to tapes owned by Josh Harris, to be used for purposes known only to Josh Harris.

And yet, the partygoers trusted that this would all work out to their advantage. Even if they were creating an audiovisual record of their worst and most private moments, it’s not like anyone was bashing in their heads with shovels. Here was a chance at increased fame, all expenses paid. The participants interviewed for We Live In Public all look back on the experiment with fondness. And why not? They are finally in a movie!

The Quiets’ joy at having been subjected to media exploitation and mind-control isn’t so far removed from the enthusiasm for YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Blogger and so on. The current pod party is a blast, but it remains difficult to know the intentions of the hosts. In an interview filmed prior to Quiet, Harris predicts that the business of selling people their lives back will someday be huge. The practice of profiling users based on their blog entries, emails and Google searches in order to more effectively market products is a perfect example. Down the line, it’s easy to imagine a profitable business designed around the retrieval of lost web content. Conversely, there should be a market in guaranteeing the absolute destruction of this stuff. A great fortune surely awaits the inventor of a web equivalent to the paper shredder.

After Quiet runs its course, Harris makes his most foolish move and decides to experiment on himself and become the star of his own show. He and his girlfriend establish weliveinpublic.com, which broadcasts live over the internet all activity within their apartment, complete with running commentary from subscribers. But that’s not all, folks! No longer content with a simple bathroom cam, Harris installs a camera right inside the toilet bowl. Josh Harris’s ultimate vision of audiovisual communication on a mass scale is that all roads lead to the toilet.

Just as he arrives at the logical conclusion of his artistic odyssey, Josh is confronted with the unpleasant reality of having flushed away his money and professional reputation. The market crashes and countless Silicon Alley dreams spiral the bowl, vanishing for good. The wiz who was once worth $80 million is informed via telephone of his negative checking account balance while sitting on the throne.

As for Pol Pot, he died in a dirt floor hut and was cremated on a pile of tires.

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