Saturday, August 04, 2007

Careful With That Axe, Andrés

At least once a day we try to hack our way through an entire newspaper article in an effort to improve our rudimentary language skills, so we were pleased to see this column in El Universal by Mexican radio host Andrés Sánchez-Juárez - an appreciation of the excellent Pink Floyd soundtrack for the late Michelangelo Antonioni's God-awful movie Zabriskie Point. (It feels less like homework if we're even slightly interested in the subject matter.) The column references a scathing 1970 Rolling Stone review of the film by John Burks. The author obviously disagrees with Burks's assessment of the picture, and ends his column with this coup de grace:

"Today everybody knows who Michelangelo Antonioni was, while nobody knows who Burks is, nor if the critic is even still alive."

Oh, snap! Still, this seemed a weird thing to print in one of the country's more serious newspapers. Nobody knows? Seriously? Burks, while admittedly not a household name, is the dean of the Journalism Department at San Francisco State - oh,'s his phone number and email - and, unless the SFSU website needs updating, he is - in contrast to Antonioni - currently alive. This is not something we actually knew, but discovered have firing up the Univac and turning on the Googles. (Frankly, the only reason we even bothered with it is that "Rolling Stone writer missing for 37 years, unknown whether dead or alive" seemed like a pretty good story. Alas.)

Then, thanks to the hyperlinked magic of the intertubes, we soon came across this rambling, undated essay by a Finnish DJ, and - this is the part that will make our tutor proud - quickly spotted the passages the El Universal guy had lifted almost verbatim for his column.

Anyway, the moral of the story - besides the fact that our reading comprehension is, like, off the chart! Maybe a certain 10th-grade teacher would like to reconsider an F she handed out in 1983? Apology accepted! - is that if you're going to take a swipe at a professional journalist, you probably shouldn't do it in a column that you've plagiarized from another source, what with the whole "internet" thing that the kids are into and all.

[Offending passages below, for geeks and obsessives. And Ms Shanahan our 10th grade teacher.]
In Zabriskie Point -- a film about the collision of youthful innocence, hardboiled commerce, and social mutiny -- bizarre bedfellows such as Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, the Eisenhower-era siren Patti Page, the brilliant guitarist John Fahey, the ethnic-folk-rock fusion band Kaleidoscope, and the hillbilly country singer Roscoe Holcomb could all be heard in strange but effective juxtaposition.....In its original, 11-track vinyl release on the M-G-M label, the Zabriskie Point soundtrack was a testament to Antonioni's deep research of and appreciation for pop music, not to mention his excellent taste. Pink Floyd's "Heart Beat, Pig Meat," heard during the film's opening credits as a radical-student meeting is in process, effectively sets the scene's tone of menace and cross talk with a naked, foreboding pulse-beat and a disruptive sequence of television and radio sound bites. "Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up" is a cryptically titled remake of the Floyd's volcanic 1968 B-side "Careful With That Axe, Eugene." But its bonfire sound -- all roaring guitars, crashing drums, and death-throe screaming -- is the perfect complement to the movie's cataclysmic finish.

Para sustentar las imágenes de inocencia juvenil, drogas, amor libre y materialismo descarado, Antonioni escogió una lista bizarra y extravagante de artistas existencialistas que además de Pink Floyd, reunía a Jerry García y The Grateful Dead, Patti Page, el guitarrista John Fahey, la banda de fusión folk-rock Kaleidoscope, y el cantante country Roscoe Holcomb. En su original de 11 temas lanzado por MGM, la banda sonora de Zabriskie point es un testamento pionero de su profunda búsqueda y apreciación por el rock, su excelente gusto y sentido para la perfecta fusión de los movimientos sincrónicos de la cámara y las armonías sicodélicas. “Heart beat, pig meat”, de Pink Floyd, es entremezclada durante los créditos de apertura al tiempo en que un mitin de estudiantes radicales está en proceso y “Come in number 51, your time is up” —remake de Careful With That Axe, Eugene, con sus guitarras destempladas, percusiones en colisión y gritos estentóreos son el complemento perfecto para un final cataclísmico y apocalíptico.

Antonioni was in London in October 1966, filming Blow-Up, when he first saw Pink Floyd at a launch party for Britain's first underground paper, IT (International Times). By the time he contacted them about working on Zabriskie Point, the Floyd already had substantial film experience. With founding singer and guitarist Syd Barrett, the group appeared in Peter Whitebread's Britain-gone-psychedelic documentary Tonite Let's All Make Love In London. A realigned Floyd, with guitarist David Gilmour replacing Barrett, had contributed an embryonic version of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" to Peter Sykes' 1968 movie The Committee and provided the entire soundtrack for director Barbet Schroeder's 1969 release, More.

Antonioni estaba en Londres, en octubre de 1966, filmando Blow-Up, cuando vio por primera vez a Pink Floyd en una fiesta de la revista IT (International Times). Ya tenían experiencia fílmica sustancial, con Syd Barrett: el grupo apareció en el documental de Peter Whitebread Tonite Let´s all make love in London y ya realineados después de la partida sinestésica de Syd, trabajaron en el soundtrack de la película More, de Barbet Schroeder, en 1969.

In his lengthy 1970 review of Zabriskie Point in Rolling Stone, critic John Burks chastised Antonioni for the clichéd images of freedom and social oppression .... Burks insisted that while the film was definitely a failure, it was not a total loss. "It is seriously flawed, true," Burks said. "But even the flaws have a grandeur about them."

En una edición de Rolling Stone de la época, el crítico John Burks castigó a Antonioni por “las imágenes estereotipadas de libertad y opresión social” que hirieron su delicada sensibilidad e intenta matizar al concluir: “Es un fiasco, cierto, pero aun los fiascos tienen una grandeza en ellos”.

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