Saturday, April 29th, 2006
Winner of this year’s Acadamy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Tsotsi really got me to thinking – but not about the film, specifically. But to that in a bit. First I’ll talk about the film.
Set in the slums of Johannesburg, it follows the story of a young man who goes by the name of Tsotsi, which loosely translates into “thug”. It’s an appropriate name as he spends his time leading a small gang in committing crimes of increasing brazeness and brutality. His world is thrown askew when he steals a car and discovers that he’s acquired a baby in the process. What happens next is rather predictable, but this isn’t a film about keeping the viewer guessing. On the whole, in fact, it’s not especially sophisticated but for all its obviousness, it’s riveting in its execution and atmosphere. In the titular role, Presley Chweneyagae manages to take a character who is initially so cold and callous and give him if not a redemption – that’s not in the cards nor is it deserved – enough depth that when the story is played out, it can’t be dismissed with a simple “good riddance to bad rubbish”.
And that’s what has had me pondering the film over the last couple days. Somewhat to my surprise, it brought out a (very) latent Old Testament streak in me that I didn’t realize was there. Understand that through much of the film, the character of Tsotsi is absolutely a violent, seemingly hopeless misanthrope. I wasn’t prepared for the coldness or callousness of some of the actions depicted, so when he’s given an opportunity via the stolen child to reevaluate his life or turn a page, I admit I didn’t think he deserved that chance. Where was the responsibility, the punishment, the justice? Simply letting him see the error of his ways wasn’t going to be enough. I was not comfortable with the notion that I should be feeling sympathy for his – the none-too-subtle flashbacks to his childhood made this fairly clear – when there seemed to be no such sympathy for his victims. By the time the credits roll, there does seem to have been some balancing of the karmic scales but I still left pondering not what message the film was trying to get across, that much is pretty obvious, but what my reaction to elements of it say about me and my presumed liberalistic ideology. Conclusions thus far? I do not know.
And Pitchfork reports on reissues from Bobby Gillespie’s old band The Jesus & Mary Chain. Their first five albums will be remastered with some bonus materials and released in DualDisc format on July 11. I have to ask – does anyone really want to hear Psychocandy in high-definition sound? I mean, isn’t the fact that it sounds like 40 minutes of white noise rather the appeal? And why reissue every album except Munki? No love for Munki? Munki sad. Not a good album, but still sad.
Matador has taken a page from Merge’s playbook and announced that all of their vinyl releases will come with a free digital download of said same album. Bravo, Matador. Curiously, though Merge pioneered this tactic, they haven’t made it a standing policy. No idea why, seems like a no-brainer to me. And Matador seems to be going along with I Am Not Afraid Of You, And I Will Beat Your Ass as the official title of the new Yo La Tengo album, due September 12, at least for now. I’ll believe it when I see it on store shelves, but for the moment, AWESOME.
The Globe & Mail previews next week’s Over The Top Fest, which will bring a plethora of weird and wonderful acts to town. Fail to catch at least one of them and you are officially uncool. You’ve been warned.
The reunited and probably nothing like the original Don Caballero are at the Horseshoe on June 19.
np – The Radio Dept / Pet Grief