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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly picks for movies, TV shows, books and music

Movie: “American Gigolo” dir. by Paul Schrader (1980)

Director Paul Schrader Bingo—fill out a 3-by-3 note card row by row with the following: 1. Protagonist conceals their true nature with superficial charm. 2. Romance with a soft-spoken woman. 3. Extreme violence in the last 20 minutes. 4. Protagonist has a bizarre or questionable relationship with sex. 5. Protagonist is a lonely, alienated male (free space). 6. Religion. 7. Protagonist engages in self-destructive behavior throughout the film. 8. Box office under $10 million. 9. Semi-autobiographical. And we have like three bingos, baby. “American Gigolo,” with its Giorgio Moroder soundtrack and slick ‘80s sleaze feel, doesn’t stray far from the mean of Schrader’s filmography. Actor Richard Gere gives a fantastic performance in the lead role and, despite a whimpering finale, the film is calm and brilliant. 

Book: “A Cup of Rage” by Raduan Nassar (1978)

Following the singular spiraling argument between an isolated farmer and his journalist lover, author Raduan Nassar hits notes of furious cruelty and confession. This book is extremely short (65 pages) but every line is brimming with psychosexual anger and confusion. For every uncomfortable moment, there’s some exaltation: a step toward a resolution that never really arrives. The prose is vengeful and tons of fun, never snapping out of the delirious state it introduces from the very first line. It can be difficult to stomach, but it’s worth pressing through to the end.

Album: “Les Cinq Saisons” by Harmonium (1975)

“Les Cinq Saisons” is awesome. It takes diverse, beautiful folk tunes into uncharted territory, fusing them with contemplative and expansive progressive improvisation. Despite “Les Cinq Saisons” marking only the band’s second release, Harmonium had already brought this combination near to perfection. It’s impossible to separate the folk from the prog here, not that you’d want to anyway; the product is pressing and beautiful the whole way through. No single note is out of place. While the shorter, sweeter tracks deserve attention in their own right, the true star of the album is the closing track, the 17-minute “Histoire Sans Paroles,” which gives the band’s compositions ample time to breathe, revealing the magnitude behind it all. I forgive the superfluous nature of French-Canadian culture for this reason only.

TV Show: “Xavier: Renegade Angel” (2007)

This show is an absolute nightmare, somewhere between surrealist comedy and philosophical horror. It goes to extreme lengths in the name of never being lucid for more than a moment, and describing the plot of any individual episode is an impossible task. This is one of the few good shows to come out of Adult Swim and, despite its cheap presentation, there is real passion behind it. It straddles a line between funny and off-putting with surprising skill, never becoming predictable or ambivalent—it defies explanation. Unfortunately, it received just two seasons before its 2009 cancellation. But both are magical.

Written by: Jacob Anderson — arts@theaggie.org


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