Friday, November 23, 2007

The Week That Was (11/19 - 11/23)

Bergman Rocks The Casbah: In 1957, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman released The Seventh Seal, which would become perhaps the most iconic foreign film ever to reach American shores. The film has all of the essential Bergman themes: the silence of God, the inevitability of death, and the struggle with faith; it would influence generations of film-makers to come. Viewers unfamiliar with Bergman's oeuvre will instantly recognize a very young Max Von Sydow (1980's Flash Gordon, 2002's Minority Report) as the knight who plays chess with the personification of death. The Seventh Seal is the Bergman film, indeed, the foreign film, to see.

In 1982, the English punk rock band The Clash released "Rock the Casbah," a single from its Combat Rock album and the band's only Top Ten hit. It would become of their most famous tracks; a video for the single was shot in Austin, Texas featuring, of all things, an armadillo. Combat Rock was to be the penultimate album by the band and the last to feature its classic line-up; Mick Jones would dismissed from the band in 1983 and went on to form General Public and then Big Audio Dynamite. Topper Headon, who had composed much of the music for "Rock the Casbah," left the band on the eve of its Combat Rock tour in 1982 due to drug addiction.

Finally, someone has put these two works of art together. Although initially placed onto the YouTubes in March of this year, I myself only discovered it this week (leading to its inclusion in this more frivolous Thanksgiving edition of The Week That Was). Swedish actors Nils Poppe and Bibi Andersson can now jam to the work of Jones, Joe Strummer, Joe Simonon, and Headon; could there be any more satisfying mash-up of pop culture images? The mash-up appears to be the work of YouTuber KingGidora, although one can never tell the true authorship of such a piece by the account which has uploaded it. Best comment by a YouTuber: "Bergman puts a lot of hot bitches in his movies." Could Bergman film historian Peter Cowie have said it any better?

UPDATE (11/30/07): After being contacted via the YouTubes, KingGidora explains the origin of the Bergman/Clash mash-up. Hailing from the greater Washington, DC metro area, KingGidora (real name Alex) created the mash-up after about four hours of work and uploaded it the same day. Bergman remains his favorite director, and he remembers his father playing The Clash's London Calling album "pretty much every other Saturday afternoon" during his youth. So putting the two things together seemed natural:

I had just watched Persona, and after seeing it I was in the mood for more Bergman, so I popped The Seventh Seal DVD into my computer that my father gave me for Christmas a couple years ago. Because I have a terrible habit of trying to multi-task way too many things at once, I also had Combat Rock playing in the background. I was really struck by the imagery of the lyrics of "Rock the Casbah." The line referring to the plan to "drop bombs between the minarets" to silence the music which didn't confirm to the theocracy's strict code. In other words, the bombing of a mosque to maintain religious purity. So, while I was marveling in my new-found respect for the song, I still had The Seventh Seal playing in the background, and I noticed that they sort of synched together well in many spots. So I opened iMovie HD . . . and started playing around with clips from the DVD combined with the song.

The initial response to the video, Alex says, was "extremely slow" when he posted it in March of 2007. However, following a flurry of searches upon Bergman's death, the video became a minor net event with features on various blogs and hits in the thousands.

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