31 December 2010

2010 - The Year We Made Contact




2010 could be seen as a rather 'difficult' year for me. Or to put it another way 'completely fucking shit'. Particularly the second half. I mean, I experienced redundancy, burglary, unemployment and fraud all within the space of a few months...

But despite all these various setbacks, I'm going to choose to look on 2010 as the start of a new chapter. Or, I would if it didn't sound so deeply pretentious.

I will remember 2010 as the year I gradually began to reclaim back some of my life. I wrote more and performed more (er, well 6 gigs... that's quite a lot for me). I visited Sicily and Berlin. I began to understand that drinking for 48 hours each weekend isn't always the best course of action. I kept my good friends and made new ones. I recognised the true enemy as fear and ignorance and the ones that harness that power to control and enslave populations and minds.

I also saw the glimmer of a life away from full-time regular 9-5 employment. This is starting to sound like a school end of year record book so I shall stop now and thank my loved ones for their patience and understanding and wish you all a happy New Year!

Robert W Monk

29 November 2010

The London Underground Film Festival - 4th - 10th December


I wrote an article about the London Underground Film Festival -
It can be found HERE

11 November 2010

bad thinkers stop now

I could write bad poetry until I'm dead
----------------------------------------------
Or, I could borrow from books already read
----------------------------------------------
I could stand my ground, too proud to receive
----------------------------------------------
A pathway constructed, with no chance to leave
----------------------------------------------

London 2012 - your charming smile touches my soul.

Work camps/
For the Dispossessed/
East London/
Ratford/
Growing/
Glowing/
Gold Medal/
For the one/
Who finishes/
Last/
Closing Ceremony/

The London Underground Film Festival - 4th - 10th December


With an enticing and eclectic programme featuring provocative screenings, performances and talks from established and up and coming artists the London Underground Film Festival is all set to shock and awe.

Running from the 4th to the 10th December, the Festival offers lovers of the obscure and strange the rare chance to see genre-less and genre-defying film take centre stage. Taking in darkly humorous shorts, inspiring geographical documentaries and avant-garde expressionism there is a truly mind - searing range of cinematic styles on show.

The programme is highlighted and contextualised by live acts, exhibitions and discussions including the surreal experimentation of Arthur Lager, the rebellious spirit and political activism of Dario Vigorito’s work in music video and the Greenaway Oration given by Dr. Patricia MacCormack on Necrosexualty.

With a whole week of events scheduled in the eccentric environs of London’s Horse Hospital the Festival has the time and the freedom to do things in its own mercurial
way.

As James Lowry, director of the London Underground Film Festival explains:
“I wanted to put together a large programme that would allow room for exploring various aspects of underground film. I try to understand things in their historical contexts, and I wanted to be able to explore the development of a genre, the work of an auteur and bring in film theory too. It seems like the many London film festivals happening at the moment are either too mainstream or too niche to allow for that kind of exploration. I think I just wanted to put together a film festival I'd want to go
to.”

So, cinephiles looking for something a little different you know where to go...

The London Underground Film Festival runs from the 4th – 10th December at the Horse
Hospital, Bloomsbury, London and tickets and the full programme can be found at:

www.londonundergroundfilmfestival.org.uk
www.clashmusic.com/news/london-underground-film-festival

01 November 2010

Readings in November

I am reading some poetry at long running spoken word/anti-folk/anti-whatever night Spoonful of Poinson at the Lion 132 Stoke Newington Church St on Weds 3 Nov.

I will also be reading a new story with musical backing at SsshBoom at the Nave on 20 Nov. Contact me via email/facebook for details if interested !

13 September 2010

The Sun & The Moon As Serial Killers

Also from 1998...

Old Comics

The following are some examples of comic strips and ill-ustration from the short-lived small press mag Passenger Pigeons I did with a couple of friends many moons ago... 1998 to be precise. Anyway, I'm going to start drawing again for the best reason of all - it's fun !











30 July 2010

Splice - out now - 100 word review


100 word review time for Vincenzo Natali's (Cube) 'Splice'.

Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody are cool/geek scientists. She wants a kid, he doesn't. They 'splice' their genetic monstrous creation with human DNA making 'Dren' (nerd backwards) a weird girl thing with bird/serpent/spider stuff in there. Polley has weird mother-daughter relationship going on, Brody isn't so sure - um, till he has sex with it (pretty hilarious in a deeply wrong way) that is and it all goes pear shaped.

Basically a cautionary 'fear of science' B-movie with a budget, there are nods to the Frankenstein story and other creature features and it's a decent laugh but no more than that. A Saturday night movie for sci-fi/horror fans...

22 July 2010

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) - Out Aug 13



Richly deserving of this year’s best foreign language Oscar, this superlative and impeccably crafted Argentinean trawl through the human condition draws its audience in and never lets go until the closing frame. Like a classic novel, it encompasses many disparate subjects – love and evil, the passing of time, loneliness and desire; and yet has the resonance of truth that all great works share and has the finesse to bring everything together in one literate and compelling whole.

The story stretches across twenty five years as newly retired criminal court employee Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) decides to write a novel based around a tragic case of rape and murder that he was once assigned to. Switching between the older Esposito’s growing obsession with the un-concluded investigation as well as his unrequited love for his younger, beautiful and socially elevated ex-boss (Soledad Villamil) and the case itself, the movie’s sophisticated script artfully goes from noir-style creepiness to love story to out and out horror within its packed running time. But there are no easy answers and it would be a disservice to the mastery of the writing, acting and production on display to try and pigeonhole a single scene or character.

A truly wonderful cinematic experience.

23 June 2010

Ssssh Boom - 6 August, Dalston, London

I'm reading a long prose poem/monologue (with music!)at Ssssh Boom at the Nave between Dalston and Islington on Friday 6 August.
Yeah, I know it's a long way off but it promises to be quite a night. The venue is fantasticly unusual and there is a lot of talent on show from poets, dancers, musicians and all round creative types.
Tickets are on sale here :


www.wegottickets.com/event/85939

17 June 2010

Tetro - out 23 June



Coppola takes a break from making wine to return to similar territory to 2005’s Youth Without Youth directing and writing this mesmerising, highly literate tale of familial secrets and lies.

Tetro follows 17 year old Bennie ‘s search for his older brother Tetro in Argentina’s capital. Once there, the two siblings confront shared histories and deceits, while each pursuing their own agendas.

Perfectly cast Vincent Gallo exudes broken down, beatnik charm as the eponymous blocked writer, while newcomer Alden Ehrenreich nearly steals the show as his younger brother, fuelled by confused desires and destructive rivalries. Maribel Verdu adds class to the supporting roles as Tetro’s former psychotherapist turned common law wife Miranda. Her subtle, understated performance as a wise and emotionally mature woman who just happens to be in love is the kind of female character that Hollywood rarely portrays – it’s a well written part and Verdu makes the most of it.

The city of Buenos Aries is an important character in itself. Its bohemian cafes and bars take on an almost mythical aspect with the intense black and white cinematography, while flashbacks are brought forth in phantasmagoric colour and brief dance sequences (calling to mind The Red Shoes). It’s ‘artsy’ approach fits in well with the beatnik ambience; jazz scores filter through the theatrical conversations and the whole film has a dreamlike quality, with everything being expressed in an extremely stylised way.

No doubt many would fault some of these techniques as pretension – they should, however, be seen as a continuation of Coppola’s stunning 1970’s output, where he invented new rules and discarded old ones. And while Tetro does not quite reach the heights of The Conversation or The Godfather’s (1&2) it is an intriguing, intelligent film and the best thing Coppola’s been involved with for many long years.

A startling reminder of how film can transport an audience, Tetro is the work of a true master rediscovering his muse.


This review also appears here: http://www.dontpaniconline.com/magazine/film/tetro2

11 June 2010

Resurrecting the Street Walker - Out on DVD June 28


A wonderfully smart horror film, writer Ozgur Uyanik’s debut takes a clinical look at video nasty conventions and twists them into something entertainingly dark and new.

Following an aspiring filmmaker and runner - mockumentary style - who discovers an unfinished 80’s slasher flick and vows to complete it, Street Walker keeps the audience guessing throughout.

A pacey, intelligent script featuring plenty of playful snipes at the British film industry make this little gem equally accessible to fans of original cinema and hardcore horror geeks alike. Definitely worth seeking out and an encouraging nod that, yes, intelligent, challenging horror movies can be made on a micro budget in Britain !

10 May 2010

Spittle on my Phone


There's spittle on my phone
From where I tried to explain
The inner workings of my core being
It's a shame
That it was
Turned off.

Nowhere Boy - out now on DVD


Artist Sam Taylor Wood’s debut is a moving and well-crafted biopic focusing on Lennon’s early life and strained relationships with his old-fashioned aunt (Kristin Scott- Thomas) and unconventional, self-destructive mum (Anne-Marie Duff). Taylor-Wood’s real life beau Johnson captures Lennon’s belligerent, rebel with a soul persona beautifully but it is the performance of the two women who loom large in his life that steal the show. Cinematically one might expect more flair, but for Lennon fans this is a solid and sympathetic study of a turbulent period of the star’s life.

The Descent 2 - out on DVD now



Well decent it ain’t. Whereas the first Descent movie benefitted from Neil Marshall’s imagination and eye for detail this brain dead sequel limps from uninspired jump to uninspired jump. Picking up after the first film’s ambiguous ending this part asks the audience to seriously believe that survivor Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) would go back into the cave to search for her lost pals. Yeah, right. There is no character development to speak of, some truly awful acting and worst of all, no scares. The subterranean ‘gribblies’ carry none of the menace of the first film mainly because we know they’re there. And that they’re blind and stupid. Avoid!

04 May 2010

Kicks - released 4 June




Of all the developments to come out of British society's recent fixation on celebrity culture the rise of the ‘wag’ is surely one if the most profoundly depressing. Young, usually glamorous wives and girlfriends solely defined by the wealth and fame of their sporting partners. Girl power it certainly isn’t, but apparently hopping into bed with a bloke with good ball skills has become to a lot of 21st girls a viable career path.

This grim reality of modern life is tackled sympathetically and without judgement by writer Leigh Campbell and directed confidently with no small amount of wit and charm by Lindy Heyman.

Focusing on two Liverpool girls’ (Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley - both very good) shared obsession for a Premiership footballer, Kicks attempts to uncover the desperation and stifled dreams behind the champagne cocktails and VIP parties of the local football aristocracy.

It is only partly successful. While the first half of the film - propelled ably by Ladytron’s melancholic electro - is an engaging tale of two lost souls sneaking in and out of clubs and wondering what to do with themselves; the second half- when they actually meet and take their hero hostage- is sadly disappointing.

The defining act of kidnapping the star player seems unlikely and even unnecessary to the story as a whole and even threatens to devalue the strength of what went on before. The two girls are at first seen as normal girls tainted somewhat by the regrettable disease of celeb worship, but never the less normal. In the second half they are borderline psychos; playing mind games with the captive winger and taking weird pics of him on their mobiles. An added element of horror yes, but one that detracts from the well balanced social commentary of before and not something that rings true of two ‘normal’ 15 year girls.

That aside, Kicks is an interesting and enormously relevant film and one that it is encouraging to see being made in this country.

10 April 2010

How to 'make it' in the music biz

To the undersigned I think I might sign this;
A scripture or a picture
Not worth painting
The gallery hangs...
Above us
And the similes
Sound like quiet or loud desperation.
If (at all) aware of imitation
Then at least make it interesting
Tick boxes
Lick boxes
And become a part of everything you hated
When you still had sense.

Other than that, play 3 chords loud (or quiet)
And remember that imagination
Can be yo muvva of invention.

01 April 2010

Victoriana; the Sins of My Fathers


Victoriana and the Sins of My Fathers
Out of my window the streets are still bleak.
The unforgiving highways and byways of this dark and unpleasant land –
Built upon Roman roads,
Ancient tracks, Sassenach Cul-de-sacs
- Remain caked with filth, muck and ground in grime.
The labours and Miss Demeanours – “Pray tell. Have you seen her?”
Of the City’s already dead show up like fresh scars
On the slippery-when-dry
Cobbled streets of old Queen Vic’s London.
Sparkling like shit in the not there sun,
Rich on pain,
Insane, fat and bloated on the toil of the conquered,
In India, Africa and over here.
Dear old London.
Dear old London.
How did we get here?

*
And thousands of miles away
After a few gin and laudanum cocktails I see it:
Eyes glinting like the fires of Hell
6 and a half feet tall
16t of prime BSE British Beef
The word ‘Dangerous’ tattooed in blood on its sweaty forehead.
Slaughtering and raping through village and town
Killing without remorse in jungle and desert.
Bayonet and cutlass
Rifle and blade
Extract the succour of wealth where they find it.
And send the money, wealth and self regard straight home to Blighty.
The blood red uniformed machine –
Is shouting “Progress! Progress!
For Queen and Cuntery
I shall kill so that you may live in Glorious Technicolor.“

*
Middle class guilt and the feeling of dread
200 years ago it’d be off wiv my head
I’ve taken all prescriptions for historical wins
And studied reparations of colonial sins
What it comes down to isn’t worth shit
Things are more concealed now but only a bit:
“O, we’re so sorry for what we have done
In the torture gardens and under blood sun
And we’re so sorry for acting like men
Never again, we promise, never again,
Cross our hearts and hope to die
Jesus is going to buy us an alibi”
For Christian soldiers march ever on
Fighting violence with violence, bomb with bomb
Our brave boys, when will they come home?
When the beast is sated and we have our New Rome.

*
Because let’s not kid
We’re still empire building
Except this time they call it ‘peace keeping’
Different masters, same shitty pay packet at the end of the month
With a built in tax on foreign affairs,
Pointless crusades and
Dodgy geography
Same circle of despair, same pictures of misery
Same cycle of abuse that has been going on
Since we left the hunting/gathering pack
And settled down with our farms and towns
With our pills and Dancing on Ice
We’re just defending what with got.
What’s wrong with that?
This ‘Great Game’ will never be won
But while it continues we've already lost.

*
Waking up now, through brightening eyes
Forgotten smiles, hazy sun-rise and inflammatory headlines
And an impenetrable smoky hangover
I see the streets filled with the noise and the bustle
The giving and the getting
The taking and the receiving
The dying and the grieving
The power and the glory
The bullshit stories
And another dead marine
In the year of our Lord Mamon 2010
All human life is here
Where’s the war?
Over there.
Who’s war?
Ours!

11 March 2010

New Spoken Word Tracks

I have put some new tracks up on Last Fm - they are free to download if that's your cup of meat.

www.last.fm/music/Robot+Monk/Dead+Letter+Days

04 February 2010

Paranormal Activity - DVD out 22 March 2010


Paranormal Activity
Released on DVD and Blu-Ray 22 March 2010.

The horror phenomenon of 2009 makes its appearance on DVD with the suspense, originality and most importantly, the scare-factor all intact. In fact, in some ways the conversion does the movie a favour - viewed in one’s home the movies subtleties and old-school chills come out into their own. One more point on this, the soundtrack is integral and deserves to be heard through a decent speaker system if the viewer is lucky enough to have one…

The plot itself is a fairly familiar tale of haunting and possession. Barely leaving the middle-class suburban house that is central to the film, the story follows a young couple’s nocturnal disturbances with a seemingly demonic presence that centres upon Katie, a student who has past experience with the paranormal.

Where the film differs – although sharing mood, atmosphere and some stylistic tricks - from a past classic such as Poltergeist or The Exorcist – is that Katie’s boyfriend Micah chooses to film the couple’s sleeping patterns on his fancy new camera in an attempt to understand what is going on. It is his footage that makes up what we see on screen.

Of course, this sort of ‘real’ footage as well as the police notes at the beginning and end of the movie (and the use of the actor’s real names) brings to mind another earlier horror phenomenon, The Blair Witch Project. Many sources have drawn unfavourable comparison between the two; and there is no getting around the fact that Activity borrows heavily from that film. Even some of the initial hype and Internet based marketing campaigns were similar. Certainly, it cannot be claimed that Activity is anywhere near as original as that previous movie.

However, for my money it is a more effective horror movie. Director Oren Peli is clearly a fan and in effect what he has done is a stripped down, minimal version of Blair Witch. In the final analysis it completely works as a scary movie - it produces enough jumps in its 90 minutes to fully deserve its reputation. The fixed set-up of one camera focused on a sleeping couple with unknown threat lurking is what stays in the memory. Like all great ideas it is a seemingly simple one – and one that probably every aspiring filmmaker wishes they had had first.

Note. The DVD comes with an alternate ending added as an extra. (This is Peli’s original ending which Spielberg’s producers decided to alter when it was realised that it ruled out the possibility of a money-spinning – and almost inevitably crappy sequel (PA 2 is being made by the bloke that did Saw IV. Nuff said…) There is also another version of the ending haunting the internet as well.)

Robert Monk

07 January 2010

Katalin Varga DVD released 22 Feb 2010


Peter Strickland’s mesmerising, timeless revenge thriller is a stunningly original debut and one that will surely garner an appreciative DVD audience.

The British auteur has meshed an intelligent and humanist work with a relentless, story structure filled with memorable, taut scenes. When at times it seems as if the narrative is about to veer off course, it always comes straight back with a precise, distilled form of suspense. It is by no means a ‘thrill-ride’ of a movie – it is after all a film with it’s roots in the art-house - but the intensity of the journey is gripping and stands up favourably to repeated viewings. The cinematography is at once impressive; beautifully capturing the dreamy pathways and surreal shadows that lie in wait in the Eastern European landscape of the Carpathians.

The film deals with crime; the nature of crime, the nature of revenge and, of course, punishment. In essence, it’s a Dostoyevskian folk-tale set in the Romanian countryside; a curious world where horse drawn carts mingle with mobile phones. It is also a profoundly sad piece, a study of how frail and fickle human relationships are and how men regularly mistreat and abuse women with depressing predictability.

Our protagonist (a strong, commanding performance from Hilda P├ęter)had been raped by two men in the past. This brutal incident results in a child, who Katalin brings up with her husband as their own. When the truth (which she has been hiding for ten years) comes to her husband’s attention he casts her out, unwilling or unable to cope with the facts of his son’s parentage. Katalin vows revenge on the rapists and, taking her only son in her old-fashioned wagon, she sets off down the road to find them and...to kill them.

It is a challenging film – one that challenges our idea of justice and right and wrong. Father figures switch places, police officers are unknowable and friends appear as enemies. In many ways a bleak film; then, implying as it does that in the end personal morality (no matter how twisted) is better than none at all, but a powerful film never the less and, ultimately, an enormously satisfying one.