Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From the Pixies to the Avant-Garde

Robert Archambeau recently wrote in his Samizdat blog about how a young Frank Zappa discovered the avant-garde via a cut-out bin record, The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume I, at his local Sam Goody's. By 22, he was playing a bicycle as a musical instrument on a national network comedy show. As I wrote (in part) to Archambeau, when I was in high school, all I could muster were pen twirls and pale imitations of "The Waste Land." It took the Pixies to point me to Bunuel's "Un Chien Andalou," though I was as enthralled with the eyeball slicing as I was by the "B-side" film, "Land Without Bread," a documentary about poverty in Spain that filled out the VHS version. Thank God for bundling.


rodney k said...

Hi Philip,

I just read somewhere that "Land Without Bread" was meant as a parody of the British documentary movement, with its dispassionate remove from urgent social problems. Once I read that, even the name sounded parodic, but I haven't seen the movie.

Did you get that sense watching it?

Philip Metres said...

Rodney, I'd have to look into that. Being overly earnest when I saw it, I'd have to say that I probably didn't read "Land Without Bread" as parodic. If so, might it be the first mockumentary?

Philip Metres said...

The plot thickens:

If so, the lengths that Bunuel goes to create a parody of human/animal misery are cruel in themselves!:

"Buñuel slaughtered at least two animals to make Las Hurdes. He ordered an ailing donkey to be covered with honey so he could film it being stung to death by bees. Similarly, his crew shot a mountain goat and threw its carcass from a cliff for another sequence."