photo & text by nacrowe
forget about how awesome the MARTIN SCORSESE film was (review HERE). in my mind opinion reducing the compositions found in PASSION (GEFFEN, 1989) to that of a soundtrack is criminal. this holds up on its own with no need for external stimuli whatsoever. not that i don't adore THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (UNIVERSAL, 1988). it is one of my three all-time favorite films (the other's being EAST OF EDEN and CABARET).
what makes this PETER GABRIEL album so fascinating and so utterly unique is how seamlessly he blended textures, instruments and vocals from the deep musical traditions of PAKISTAN, ARMENIA, MALI, TURKEY, INDIA, EGYPT, KURDISTAN and SENEGAL among other locales. it still paradoxically sounds absolutely contemporary while being steeped in substantial depth that feels eternal. tracks such as "THE FEELING BEGINS," "IN DOUBT," and "PASSION" are such deeply evocative affairs. they are the aural equivalent of a deep yearning to transcend, which makes sense given the religious subject matter for which it was composed. "A DIFFERENT DRUM" and "OF THESE, HOPE" are pure expressions of joy, elation and ultimately transcendence. you get the sense of being put on a higher plain of consciousness. its otherworldly music.
i first heard this album as a child and i still very much hold it very dear. it reminds me of going to church when i was younger and the unbounded enthusiasm and wonder i once took in the world. life seemed magical. im too jaded now, but as an adult id put GABRIEL with this record in the pantheon of great film composers, right there alongside BERNARD HERRMANN and ENNIO MERRICONE. its that great.
the ensemble of talent utilized her is likewise incredible, most notably that of NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN (PAKISTAN), YOUSSOU N'DOUR (SENEGAL), BAABA MAAL (SENEGAL) and LAKSHMINARAYANA SHANKAR (INDIA), all arguably at the peak of their powers. there is real sensitivity on the part of GABRIEL to make this music cohesive yet entirely personal, showcasing each artist in the best possible light.
if i sound overly effusive, its because this was a singularly powerful musical effort that made a great film an absolute revelation, pun intended. i could not recommend such anymore passionately.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
having given up touring in 1966, BOB DYLAN was convinced to return to the road in the mid 70s during the bicentennial with his ROLLING THUNDER REVUE tour, in part to take advantage of the newly lucrative national stateside touring circuit. but things were different this time around as he experimented with minor theatrical elements and the concept of artifice as means of allowing him the psychic space to perform and communicate, ironically, more directly with more honesty. as DYLAN states in this recent the MARTIN SCORSESE-directed documentary ROLLING THUNDER REVUE (NETFLIX, 2019), "when somebody's wearing a mask, he's gonna yell you tell you the truth--when he's not wearing a mask, it's highly unlikely." interesting concept.
made up of archival footage from the period as well as recent and vintage interviews, the film finds DYLAN trekking across a continent anew that was in the midst of experiencing the death throes of the VIETNAM WAR, bitter intergenerational discord as well as political uncertainty with the fall of PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON. it was quite a time in AMERICAN HISTORY and for DYLAN, long-heralded with an unwanted VOICE OF A GENERATION tag by his proponents, he chose explicitly to present himself within the context of a band concept on stage solely armed with new songs that made use of such. if you look closely youll notice such members of the band including T-BONE BURNETT and even guitarist MICK RONSON, straight from his time with DAVID BOWIE after the SPIDERS FROM MARS had broken up. pretty cool stuff. now im not a big DYLAN fan, most of the his work i am familiar with is firmly in the FOLK tradition and comes off as musically repetitive and unimaginative. lyrically hes a genius but as a musician i thought he sucked. sue me. the music here is definitely more BLUES-based and at times comes off quite powerfully with a loose ROCK AND ROLL feel. dare i say with songs like "HARD RAIN" he actually grooves. who knew? and "HURRICANE" is arguably the highlight of the film as it touches on DYLAN's sense of social justice and the redemptive and transformative power of music. maybe its time for me to dive into his catalogue again.
on a slight side note for cinema dorks, SCORSESE deftly intercuts shots of the mime BAPTISTE from the FRENCH WWII classic THE CHILDREN OF PARADISE, which is the ultimate switch-and-bait film of all time. the movie begins with the curtain opening after the credits, cluing you right from the jump that this is not what it seems. the film is highly allegorical with everyone wearing masks, some literal and others covered by aristocratic behaviors deemed acceptable by the rigid FRENCH class system despite diabolical motives. even the film itself, which was made under NAZI occupation, is viewed by many as a coded rebuke against their new superiors. so anyway, if ever there was a film to reference about speaking truth while being physically obscured, THE CHILDREN OF PARADISE is it. sorry, i'm a film dork.
the film itself utilizes performance footage, both rehearsal and in concert, meant to be included in a panned obscure film from the period by a failed scandinavian arthouse director. while some of the behind-the-scenes footage seems listless and meandering on first glance, it also gives you an intimate look at the hangers-on of DYLAN and their goal of being in his good graces. as exhausting as it is to hear these people dribble and drabble on, pontificating about bullshit, you can only imagine how much worse that would be if this was your party and you were the object of their affection. i get it now why he's a recluse.
which brings me a bit to the structure of this film. at the beginning the interview with modern-day DYLAN breaks down on the first question and essentially he just says he's gonna talk about what he wants to. there is no purpose to the film or bigger revelation about life in general in this film, instead DYLAN argues it is all about creation and making things. when the original scandinavian director asks dumb straightforward questions to DYLAN before and after going on stage, again we are left to empathize with him not wanting to butcher the experience on stage into words. language devalues lived experience and as a community we are experiencing this journey once again. again as he states in the film "thought will fuck you up."
i should also mention that on this journey as tour mates and collaborators were such luminaries as JOAN BAEZ, ALLEN GINSBERG, JONI MITCHELL, ANNE WALDMAN, PETER ORLOVSKY, SAM SHEPARD and ROGER MCQUIN.
interesting film worth checking out and revisiting.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
leave it to AARP of all places to produce this gem of a YOUTUBE series where the late comedic legend DON RICKLES (R.I.P.) gets taken out to eat and talk shop with various comedians including ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, AMY POEHLER, JUDD APATOW, SARAH SILVERMAN, SNOOP DOGG, ROBERT DENIRO, MARTIN SCORSESE and MARISA TOMEI.
i know his insults were not exactly the most politically correct or compliant with our current age's cancel culture, but shit that guy was funny. and sharp. even in his late 80s which in a sense makes the AARP thing make perfect sense. here is an elderly dude giving these young bucks a run for their money. you see him not missing a beat with witty comebacks and razor sharp barbs. its totally endearing. you also just get a real sense of how much he was loved and cherished by comedians, actors and directors. almost like a surrogate family.
definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.
i remember when living in VLORA, ALBANIA during my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer i told new, incoming sitemates that there were three rules to being a good volunteer. now you have to remember that PEACE CORPS had all these maxims and without a doubt, they were all effectively bullshit. here were my three rules. rule #1: don't be a dick. rule #2: dont be a dick. rule #3: whatever you do, don't be a dick.
i remember going around town and hearing different ALBANIANS i knew complaining about my sitemate, the fact that he said all these nasty things to their face. i had to explain to them that he was just repeating things that i already said to them earlier a few weeks back. their response was "yeah, but you didn't mean it." i would tell them they knew i meant it and we'd all laugh.
i feel like what RICKLES did was similar in that he tore down the walls that we put up against each other in order to inhibit honest communication. in a sense he was creating a shared sense of affection through his comedic barbs. i almost see it as a kind of empathy in the way that the ALBANIANS i knew really felt i saw things from their perspective because i was so adept at mocking it and throwing it in their face repeatedly. it definitely went both ways and it was all love. for my sitemate they werent convinced he knew where he was and it came off as spiteful and full of hate. oops.
artwork by nacrowe
sometimes there is art that cuts so deep that they inevitably remold your worldview. i count MARTIN SCORSESE's 1988 film THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST on that list. it makes me question the root of any belief i hold. it compels me to examine the nature of doubt each time i watch it.
based on the NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS 1955 novel, this film like its source material explores the dual nature of christ: the idea of him being fully human and divine at the same time. the film really gets at the heart of the origins of faith and the struggle that comes with the weight of power and responsibility, as jesus would've felt when learning of his fate that he had to be sacrificed for the benefit of all humanity. its that struggle that continually draws me back to the story, not so much the religious overtones. but if you are of the religious persuasion, as KAZANTZAKIS (greek orthodox) and SCORSESE (catholic) most definitely are, the film is a helpful dissection of the root of belief since the film asks what happens if jesus had chosen NOT to die on the cross, but fulfill his human desires of connection by finding love and raising a family. if anything the film explores and answers that "why."
now i don't want to give the film away, more just to say most emphatically that if you haven't seen it you must. it is expertly acted by WILLEM DAFOE as jesus christ and HARVEY KEITEL as judas iscariot. DAVID BOWIE even makes a masterful appearance as pontius pilate. the dialogue was masterfully written in the modern vernacular of the time, which gives the film a raw edge that allows the themes to cut deeper as opposed to using king james english as other films by CECIL B. DEMILLE and others had done before (think THE TEN COMMANDMENTS), which is equally a construction. there is no doubt that during that period a common carpenter would've spoken a common pedestrain form of aramaic, so the dialogue choice is beyond apt.
the film also has one of the most evocative scores ever courtesy of PETER GABRIEL which i would put up their with anything ENNIO MORRICONE or BERNARD HERRMANN ever produced. the score infuses vocals and instrumentation from the region into a lush evocative soundscape that instantaneously draws you into the world of the film. PASSION: MUSIC FOR THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST is required listening.
months ago the DEER GOD team had the pleasure of attending a joint exhibition at LAST RITES GALLERY in manhattan put on by METAL BLADE RECORDS for polish painter SYLWIA MAKRIS and sculptor TOMASZ GOORNICKI and the artwork they produced for polish metal band BEHEMOTH's recent I LOVED YOU AT YOUR DARKEST record.
i had the pleasure of speaking with GOORNICKI about his sculpture (pictured below) depicting an uncrucified christ and no doubt, he was quick to state it was influenced by both the KAZANTZAKIS novel and SCORSESE film. he felt in poland that faith unfortunately was a matter of national identity and that inherent in true belief is a sense of doubt. his sculpture was an attempt to draw people into examining the dual nature of christ and the significance of his sacrifice by invoking doubt (no cross, no stigmata = no sacrifice). some would call that heresy, as the sculpture could not be exhibited in poland apparently due to fear of retribution, but i would say that his work requires self-examination and thoughtfulness for it to bear fruit, which is the sign of any good art. at least in my opinion.
check out the film and if this topic sparks an interest, you must read the novel.
photo by lj avalos