The Rear-View Mirror: 1900

After more than two years, we’ve finally ended up in the year 1900. Our bumpy ride is nearing its end. What will the Rear-View Mirror present us with when we look at it this week?

As you will soon see, this is a special instalment of the Rear-View Mirror. And to celebrate that big, scary, exciting number, we’ve asked several of our contributors to write about 1900. You’ll find the results below the “Read More” button, but let me already whet your appetite: coming your way are World Fairs and films with actual, honest-to-god sound, ocean pianists and historical epics, maps of Europe and Swiss musicians and actors. So, curtains up! and enjoy our trip back to 1900!

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Apples from Greece, hate from Paris, music from nomads

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest installment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Bernard Herrmann (1911)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

You don’t have to be into movies all that much to have been scared by Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975). He started composing when still a teenager and also worked as an orchestrator and conductor later on. One of his first notable contributions was for Orson Welles’ original 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. Hermann’s music must have had a hand in the fact that so many listeners thought that the Martians were really coming.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Nina Simone (1933)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

I was in Berlin last summer, getting my bearings back, and I walked past a bar where someone played a live version of Nina Simone’s take on Sinnerman. Honestly, my friends, there cannot be many more songs such as this one getting under my skin like that. She wants to make light because the rhythm of the song wants to sound so jolly, and it does, but then that voice comes in and puts a damper on the cheer, warning about what is going to happen, turning the rhythm from jolly to urgent. And yet there is hope somewhere, not much, but just enough. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: With a Little Help from My Friends (1967)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

The year 1967 stands out for a number of reasons.

It was a powerful year for movies: the world got the likes of Bonnie & Clyde, In The Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner blowing open the doors on what was previously considered taboo in the US.

It was a powerful year for history: it was the year James Bedford died. It was also the year James Bedford became the first man in history to be cryonically preserved. It was the year the United States stepped up the war in Vietnam. It was also the year that, in the middle of race riots and violence, the world seemed to unite for a single moment in opposition to Vietnam, and the Summer of Love was born.

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The Rear-View Mirror: Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Live/1975-85 (1986)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Bruce Springsteen seems to be a part the bedrock of the music business, but he is the first to admit that he is a fraud. He has never held down a working-class job in his life, he has never seen a factory from the inside. (If you don’t believe me, then go watch Springsteen on Broadway, currently on Netflix.) He is one of the greatest posers ever. And yet nobody sees him that way because he has unearthed something, a kind of poetic common denominator, an idealised, romanticised version of the USA, or of working class life, or of being young – maybe a bit of everything. There is a sense of wanting to get out of this town that he caters to with his music. Or why do you think his biggest hit is called Born To Run?

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Love is a free agent. We may say that opposites attract, or that birds of a feather flock together or whatever; we have our kinks and fetishes and predilections and our angsts when it come to relationships and love and sex; we describe ourselves as homo- or heterosexual or polyamorous or bi or as of many colors of the rainbow, but we really don’t know why we fall for this person or that person. It’s a mistery, at its core, that crazy little thing called love.

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Four days of fun, then un-saved by the bell

imagesI am trying to come up with a more versatile director than Richard Linklater, but I am drawing a blank. Linklater might be best known for Boyhood, or for his Sunrise trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. All four movies follow a handful of characters, visiting and re-visiting them at certain points their lives. Then there’s the Linklater who made a well-mannered con-man drama called Bernie, slightly overlooked, featuring a surprisingly smarmy Jack Black who is after Shirley McLaine’s wealth. Then School of Rock, a comedy again featuring Jack Black, and almost too formulaic for a Linklater movie. A Scanner Darkly, based on a Philip K. Dick short story, shot with a real-life cast and then re-designed afterwards to make it look animated. And finally there is the Linklater of such philosophical essays as Waking Life that seem to work best if you are drunk and stoned and sitting around a campfire on a summer night with friends or strangers or both and discuss really deep concepts like art, or life, or beer. Continue reading

Down in the Ocean of Sound

Here’s the thing: on Monday, Elvis Costello and the Imposters were four musicians, while Death Cab for Cutie last night at the Kmplex 457 in Zurich were a band. It’s a surprise to me that the newcomers were the better act than one of my favourite musical artists.

I’ve learned from the net that people tend to avoid the Komplex for its bad acoustics, and I see their point, but Death Cab were so good that this didn’t bother me at all.

They were there for the music. Ben Gibbard barely uttered a dozen words between songs other than his almost shy thank yous. They played almost flawlessly. Some very few effects that give some of their songs their distinctive flavor came from a sampler (like the percussion bits from “Transatlanticism” or the nervous drum from “St Peter’s Cathedral”), but the rest was live craftsmanship, and very atmospheric. It helped that there were no seats, and maybe that’s what stopped Costello from performing better.

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They knew what they were doing. The intro to “I Will Possess Your Heart” had the right mixture of sneak and speed; there was “Doors Unlocked and Open” letting you dangle, but pushing your forward at the same time; and I’ll be damned if “Soul Meets Body” wasn’t a perfect piece of pop – maybe it’s the rhythm, not too fast, not too slow, but just right. The song sounds careless, but it has such a warm tone that I can’t name one other song with that same warmth.

It looked like they didn’t really feel comfortable being on stage, and especially Gibbard keeps slinking around with his back to the audience, but they were there to play their stuff, so they threw everything they had into the sound. It worked really well. No extravagant show necessary.