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Personal Pantheon++

Ryuhei Kitamura is a God. Why is he a God? Not just because he’s made Azumi, the movie that introduced my eye-candy-deprived self – well, in 2003, at least – to Aya Ueto and her roaring rampage in a village full of crazed bandits. Just for the record, there is some crazed fan over in the IMDB boards who calculated that the total number of kills Azumi made in the movie is 164, which is about twice that of The Bride in Kill Bill. *snicker*

Using Ms. Ueto in a manner that befits her stature is but the least of Ryuhei Kitamura’s virtues. What makes him a member of my Personal Pantheon is this movie he made way back – called Versus. Understand this – a movie like Versus is Genre-redefining High Concept. Take a Samurai movie, which has sword-fights and arterial sprays galore, take a standard Yakuza shoot-em’-up, with dollops of John Woo-ish coolness. To this, add a Zombie movie set-up. If your brain has exploded from the possibilities this mixture has opened up before you – wait up, I am not done yet, so put that gooey mess back inside your head and keep listening. Every scene in the movie takes place in a forest, just because Kitamura and his crew could not afford a set. The entire movie was completed under 400,000$, and everybody involved did their own stunts. ( Yes, having a commentary track on a DVD does help, thanks)

But no, a movie like Versus would probably be relegated to wannabe-action-movie status, if not for two redeeming factors. One is Tak Sakaguchi, the actor who plays the lead role and rightly enough, modifies “acting” to “actioning” – he indulges in sword-and-gunplay with an inherent coolness that should put people like Keanu “I wanna Be The One” Reeves to shame. Tak Sakaguchi is The One in every freakin’ frame of the movie – but, whoa, hold on, I am not going to talk about him. I want to talk about the other name that makes Versus a repeat watch for me.

Nobuhiko Morino.

The guy who composed the soundtrack to Versus. A mish-mash of sounds that kicks the mood of the movie into overdrive from the word go. Begins with low strings and the shamisen and a bit of taiko drumming, a tabla riff here and there, discordant elements that suddenly erupt into chants – quite an appropriate music for a lone samurai fighting zombies. “The Escapee” is the setup piece, rock guitar howling out a warning of things to come. The fun begins right after that – the tabla-ghatam-drumbeat of “Big Trouble on The Way”, the Jew’s Harp on “I’m a Feminist” ( the specific scene when this bit of music kicks in falls in my personal list of All-Time Great Musical Moments in Cinema), the electric-guitar-that-sounds-like-a-sarod-solo in “Join The Party”, the completely bluesy groove on “I’m A Fighter”, the total chaotic feel of…erm…”Total Chaos” – these are the tracks productive days are made of. All the songs are instrumentals, most of them electronic squelches and beeps and break-beats, loads of rock guitar, a little bit of orchestral music, which is there just to wind the listener up before a really kickass track begins. Kenichi Yoshida contributed with his Tsugaru-Shamisen, which is a Japanese stringed instrument that you must have heard sometime or the other.

I haven’t heard any other albums by Nobuhiko Morino – he seems to have composed very few other movie soundtracks, Kitamura’s Alive, and part of Godzilla: Millenium Wars. I really dunno how the man’s tunes will gel with movies that do not have the frenetic pace of Versus, but hey, no harm listening to the soundtracks, right?

Thus, another quest begins.

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ATC, Akira – vol 1, and Medulla

Bamp babamp.

Bamp babamp bamp bamp bamp babamp.

Ab Tak Chhappan: The Soundtrack has crawled into my mind, and now refuses to check out.

“We wanted to capture the staccato mood of the film and in the process ended up using unconventional instruments like the sitar, to chill the audiences. The music overall is a blend of Atmospheric world music with psycho rhythms featuring the Armenian Duduk and Sarangi singing a duet together.” – the cd inlay cover says, and features a photograph of the composers, grinning away to glory.

If you look at it as a whole, ATC is highly skewed. The main theme, the short riff that I sung at the beginning, pops up throughout the soundtrack, and it is good enough to overwhelm the rest of the tracks. It serves as a very good reminder for the mood of the movie – crisp, brisk, with just the hint of on-the-edge feeling. But, ah – the combination of Niladri Kumar’s sitar, Naveen’s flute, Shekhar’s cello, and the composers ( I presume!) on the piano proves its finesse on the concluding track ( “Sadhu Agashe”), and track eleven – “Nirvana” comes a close second. “Run Sadhu Run” is the only track that comes close to chaotic orchestration, but I guess the situation it. One of the main personal gripes against the soundtrack when I heard it in the theater was that it was too in-your-face, and loud, but listening to the cd does not make it seem as cringeworthy as I thought it would get.

All in all, worth listening to, even if you insist on ignoring all the bits other than “bamp babump etc”, which plays at all keypoints, on different instruments, ranging from the lower keys of the piano to vibraphones, slap bass, and the cello.

* * *

I read the first volume of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira today, the limited edition colour version that now costs a fortune ( 200$ for volume 3, last time I checked in Mile High Comics ) The book I read has “This is number 1247 of a limited edition of 2500 copies” inscribed on it, which is kind of awe-inspiring. Except of course, the copy I was reading was a digital version. Bless the guy who scanned in the 176 pages of his book.

Otomo-san, as I have repeatedly stated before, does not disappoint. The book is surprisingly unfaithful to the movie, which is rather unexpected ( he wrote the damn book! And he drew and directed the movie too), and also expected (after all, when does a movie stick to the book?) but what is strange is – the movie actually goes into more detail than the book, so far. The beginning of the book is somewhat abrupt, and the relationship between Tetsuo and Kaneda ( one looking upto the other, with a faint sense of resentment, and the other being an elder-brotherly figure), so nicely slotted in the first five minutes of the film, have yet to develop in the book.

The artwork is stunning, and the colour (by Steve Oliff) fits the dystopian look of Nu-Tokyo to the hilt. I am kind of worried, because someday I will be buying Akira, and I do not want to feel lost if I buy the Black and white versions. Otomo-san excels in scenes of mass-destruction – the level of detail has to be seen to be believed. Thank you, brainz, for getting me this ( and the Lone Wolf volume, and the Hellblazer series, and the Elektra collection, and ….wait, I need to catch my breath. )

Enough blabbering. I have a mild headache, which I am worried will mutate into something huge and of planet-shaking proportions if I loiter around the Internet too much.

But I (ahem!) forgot to say that Bjork’s latest album Medulla, which was released two days ago in the United States, and which has been residing in my hard disk for the past two weeks, is an experiment worthy of hosannas. The lady decided to have her album with voices alone, and no instruments. While some tracks ( Show me Forgiveness, Oll Virtan, Desired Constellation) are straight-out acapella songs, some (Pleasure is All Mine, Who Am I) are experimental, with voice-samples used as bass-tracks and layered to produce outrageous sounds; some (Oceania, Mi├░vikudags) are downright creepy!!! What am I saying? ALL of them are creepy – that’s why I listen to Bjork in the first place.

Note: I promise to buy this album as soon as I find it here. Feel rather guilty downloading it before it’s release date. I didn’t know it hadn’t been released yet, swear.

Sasi was a little depressed yesterday. So we went to Basheerbagh and he bought eleven DVDs. I bought four.

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