Gérard Lauzier 1932-2008

I remember a film critic who once compared Robert Altman’s Gosford Park to Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (Regle du jeu). The critic found each film more or less equal in terms of ambition, craftsmanship and themes, but nevertheless argued that one was clearly superior to the other. To that particular critic, the question was easy to answer — since Altman and Gosford Park displayed a cold-hearted misanthropy compared to the warm and embracing humanism of Renoir, The Rules of the Game won.

Back then, I thought long about this matter. Was it really fair to evaluate things that way? Surely, I knew that film studies and criticism aren’t exactly objective matters, but still: just like that, stating that humanism is a richer and better artistic value than misantropy? Sympathetic, but, well, hmm…

Well, Gérard Lauzier — who regrettetly passed away on december 6th, after a long illness — is one example that challenges this perception pretty strongly.

Stranger in an Un-Strange World: An interview with Brad Neely

Having forgotten to ask Brad Neely for permission to use his work as illustration, we must make do with a sketch of the man himself.

Brad Neely’s drawings work, because you read them in an instant.

The images tend to move, but Neely isn’t really an animator. His drawings are all single instances, flashing by, at a pace that’s slower than ordinary film, but still fast enough to keep you focused.

And as he piles on layers of madness and weird moves : George Washington eating brains, snorting cocaine, making rough love to bears and radiating gamma all in the span of one brief video cartoon : you absorb all of it, cause every panel’s done just right.

Brad Neely provided the headline. He is at once cartoonist, musician and video director, and strange and hilarious creations emerge from his pen and brow. In this interview he talks about his characters, how he fleshes out the world surrounding them, and how he works as an artist.

First up: How come videos?

The big steps in my life are blind. I’ve never really considered my videos to be “videos.” I’ve always wanted to make movies, but I was poor, unconnected and uneducated about the process. So, I couldn’t make movies, and I lacked the discipline to draw real comic books in a professional sense. Somehow I found a place in-between that I could afford and control by myself. It’s a bastardized process, but it works. I guess.

Like a lot of people I came across your work when I saw the Washington video. It’s funny, and then after a while you realize that the song’s a hit. Is that how you get inspired : by writing songs and then illustrating them?

Yes. Some of the time. Music is a great starting point. Sometimes I start with an overall feeling, an abstract place that I want the piece to evoke. Music sometimes is the right tool to use first. Sometimes it’s the pace of the language; sometimes I want to try for plot. With intention I have a lot of options.

RIP Party Arty

I was never a fan of Party Arty of the NYC crew Ghetto Dwellas, who sadly passed away a few days ago due to undisclosed health complications. An long-time affiliate of the legendary conglomeration Diggin in the Crates (D.I.T.C.), I first heard him on Show and AG’s Goodfellas, and he was pretty much the fly in the ointment of an otherwise great record (don’t take it from me, judge for yourself how he compares with AG here). And I saw him more or less ruin a joint performance, again with AG, at D.I.T.C. don Lord Finesse’s 40th birthday party at SOB’s a few years back. He was basically yelling his lyrics hoarsely into the mic, as had always been his wont, and AG, who is normally ultra tight on the mic, apparently felt he had to follow suit. Bleh.

Over the years, however, I guess he did develop decent freestyle chops. OK, it’s written material performed a cappella, but he still holds his own against New York freestyle phenomenon Murda Mook here. And in any case, it’s real sad to see him go. Rest in peace P80.

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The New York Times: Bill Ayers responds. Op-ed piece from the recently much-maligned former Weatherman Bill Ayers. Succint and to the point, with plenty of things to disagree with. The comments section by the way contains some excellent discussion.
  • A couple of great comics links. “The Fourth Dimension Is a Many-Splattered Thing” (1957) is a Jack Kirby foray into the world of modernist art. The story’s totally lame, but dig those visuals. “Flesh and Blood Comics” is a recent effort from master cartoonist R. Crumb, and it’s freaking great, melding as it does crazy visuals reminiscent of his 60s work with the wise old man concerns of his recent work. Not to be missed. (Thanks, Tom).
  • du9: Quality commentary on the imminent abandonment of fixed-book pricing in the French-language book market and on the awards season on the cultural scene, with focus on comics, in the same place.
  • Odetta RIP

    “O freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me, And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free.”

    The New York Timesobituary. The clip above is from a performance of “Waterboy” as excerpted in Scorcese’s No Direction Home.

    Hype: Anders Nilsen — Landscapes and Smoke

    If you’re in LA you should really, really consider going to Anders Nilsen’s first solo show, which opens at LitteBird Gallery this Saturday. Nilsen himself says that it’s “a bunch of big drawings, a few gouache paintings and a few covers from Big Questions. Included are Batman, Captain America, The Archangel Gabriel, Adam and Eve and an upside down tree. Oh, and Bison Man.” I know I’d go if I were anywhere near.

    The show runs between December 6 and January 14, the reception’s on Saturday between 7.00-10.00. Here’s the official flyer:

    Hype: Mongo Business — Updated!

    Danish cartoonist Ib Kjeldsmark is currently doing a strip called Mongo Business for the bi-weekly branch mag Markedsføring. It’s worth a look — Ib is a great visual stylist the hollowed-out bullshit Buddishm metaphor he makes use of works well for his irreverent anti-authoritarian satire. It’s in Danish, unfortunately, but check it out anyway, for a taste of one of Denmark’s most graphically innovative and generally funny cartoonists.

    UPDATE: Mongo Business is now available in English.

    Søren’s Goodbye

    Our man Frederik Høyer-Chr. was in the place to be at the reception held at historic Copenhagen comics/SF/games store Fantask on the occasion of co-founder Søren Pedersen’s retirement, this past friday. Check out his photos if you weren’t there — or if you were — and especially if you’ve never been. It’s a pretty unique place — the second-oldest of its kind still in existence (the oldest if you consider Lambiek’s short period of closure), and an obvious destination for any SF or comics fan travelling to Copenhagen.

    The Listening: Q-Tip

    My pet theory about Q-Tip’s solo career for a long time has been that something went awry when his house burned down back in 1998. The trauma of losing his entire record collection to the flames purged the glory that was A Tribe Called Quest from his system and begat the abomination that was Amplified (1999), and his career has been in recovery ever since. Record label limbo did him little good, but spared us the snoozefests that were the unreleased-but-leaked Kamaal the Abstract and Live at the Renaissance. But now he is back with an actual official release full of new songs, The Renaissance, and it’s actually pretty damn good. Who’da thunk it?

    RIP MC Breed

    Flint, Michigan’s MC Breed passed away due to kidney failure on Saturday. 37 is way too early to go, but at least Breed had a prolific career behind him ensuring he won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Though never much of an innovator, he was nevertheless one of the pioneers of the Midwestern rap scene and recorded quality material on his own, as well as with such luminaries as Tupac, the D.O.C. and Too $hort. He always stuck me as a somewhat derivative MC, delivering a mixture of East Coast-inflected street rhyming and Bay Area/LA type funked out gangsta shit. But he brought to his game a clarity and solidity of flow that made him stand out amongst all the clones.

    Rest in peace. At least you got to see the painters preparing to go to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.