Watch/Read/Travel: Aidan Baker

November 13, 2014

It is difficult to narrow down a single film as a favourite, but certainly one that I have watched numerous times and always find affecting is Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris, Texas (1984).There is an interesting collision of European and American aesthetics at work in this film: its German director and Dutch cinematographer, Robby Müller, present something of an outsider’s view of the desert expanses of Texas and the concrete wastelands of Los Angeles, offering a spare yet starkly beautiful portrait of these often harsh landscapes. Contrast this with the film’s terse screenplay, by American playwright Sam Shepard, and its equally laconic protagonist, played by iconic American actor Harry Dean Stanton, which almost reluctantly offers up a narrative in fragmentary dialogue about repression and loss, the difficulties of making emotional connections, the nature of sacrifice, and the possibility of redemption. And I would be remiss to not mention the soundtrack, by guitarist Ry Cooder, fragmentary variations of blues musician Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground’, which perfectly compliment the sparsity and melancholy of the film. That may sound all rather academic, so to speak simply, ‘Paris, Texas’ is a beautiful and beautifully sad film.

Wim Wenders: Paris, Texas (1984)

Wim Wenders: Paris, Texas (1984)

It is even more difficult for me to name a favourite author, let alone a single favourite title, but if I must choose I will go with American novelist and film critic, Steve Erickson. When I first discovered him in the late ’90s, I found his unique prose and narrative style intriguing and inspiring. He seemed to offer a different perspective on how to portray reality and perception and how one might tell stories (or write music) that both utilizes and communicates that difference. I find it incredible the way Erickson transitions between characters, places and times, altering perspective both in a narrative and seemingly physical sense wherein reality seems to stutter and shift and become wholly other, foreign, novel, yet still retain a convincing realism. Erickson defies genre: he writes sort of science fiction, sort of magic realism, sort of surrealism, and sort of none of those… I like all of Erickson’s books, but a definite favourite is his third novel, ‘Tours Of The Black Clock‘. As with all of Erickson’s work, this book is difficult to synopsize… but the primary narrative tells the story of a man who writes pornography and creates an idealized fantasy woman (who may or may not be the embodiment of the 20th century) for Hitler, and in the process alters the course of history, creating an alternative reality wherein the Germans won the second world war… That plot may sound absurd, and it is, sort of, but part of Erickson’s talent is taking bizarre concepts and conceits and wrapping them into complicatedly nebulous yet compelling narratives.

Istanbul (Photo: Moyan Brenn)

Istanbul (Photo: Moyan Brenn)

I tour and travel a lot, which of course makes it difficult to pinpoint one particular place or city as a favourite, but one city I would like to return to and spend more time in is Istanbul. Bant Magazine invited me and my partner to perform in Istanbul last fall and while we were only able to stay a few days, and spent most of our time on the Asian side of the city, we found it a fascinating and vibrant place. Not just because of the historic sites, which are interesting, of course, but also the atmosphere and character of the city and its people.

 

(Aidan Baker)


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