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On the sofa: The Man from Mo’Wax

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The documentary The Man from Mo’Wax was something that I’d been looking forward to watching for a while. James Lavelle made his name as the guy at Honest Johns who was the go to guy for Major Force Records releases. Major Force was a Japanese hip hop label that featured the likes of

  • Hiroshi Fujiwara
  • Takagi Kan
  • Masayuki Kudo
  • Milo Johnson (who was part of the pre-Massive Attack group The Wild Bunch)
  • “Tycoon” Toshio Nakanishi
  • Scha Dara Parr
  • Ishida Yoshinori

These were the people who influenced 

  • Bomb The Bass’s first album Into The Dragon
  • The subsequent trip hop movement
  • Japan’s streetwear scene (Goodenough, Fragment) which has a continuing impact on the global streetwear scene

Lavelle’s impact before Mo’Wax was huge. His column that had the Mo’Wax name and identity was huge. Mo’Wax the record label in its tunes and championing the designs of Swifty and Futura’s art have been hugely influential. Lavelle was the tastemaker that drove BAPE before the Americans like Pharrell Williams got hold of it. He did things in collectable figures and fashion that other labels still haven’t done. Surrender was a great streetwear label. The first UNKLE album was brilliant. 

But he lost it; drugs and self indulgent projects that burned money and credibility. He was sufficiently narcissistic to document his life two decades before social media, which is the reason why you have a lot of warts and all material that has elements of Spinal Tap. Lavelle lacked the introspection and self examination in the documentary to make a real turn around. It ends up coming across as a two-hour pitch video for James to take part in a pop star re-invention on VH-1 a la Remaking Taylor Dane. The Guardian’s review summed up Lavelle and The Man From Mo’Wax really well.

…from superstar DJ to rock bore

Cath Clarke, The Guardian (August 30, 2018)

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On the sofa: No blood no tears

Reading Time: < 1 minuteOne of the best kept secrets in London is the free sessions put on by the Korean Cultural Centre just off Trafalgar Square. I caught the last film of the year to be shown at the centre. No blood No tears is a Korean heist story. Gyung-Sun is a former safe-cracker who has reformed and become a taxi driver.

Her husband is in the wind and left behind a lot of gambling debts that local loan sharks try to collect on. She doesn’t know where her child is and to cap it all Gyung-Sun has a difficult relationship with the police and her short temper.

A chance car accident brings her into contact with a petty gangsters moll and a plot ensues to rob the dog fighting arena where illegal gambling takes place. What ensues is a film that is part comedy, part Thelma & Louise and a healthy dose of ultra-violence that would be familiar to Hong Kong cinema and Tarantino fans.

Over the next few weeks I will be getting my fix of Korean cinema at the London Korean Film Festival. I can recommend from personal experience:

  • Raging Currents
  • The Man From Nowhere
  • The Classified File
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看电影 | on the sofa | 영화를보고

On the sofa: The Raid 2

Reading Time: < 1 minuteComing back to the UK reminded me of how much Hong Kong is a cinema-centric culture despite the technology, mobile devices and amazing restaurants. Going to the cinema there was literally half the price of London, which means that I am much more critical of the entertainment shown. The first film I have seen that was actually worth it’s ticket price since I have got back is The Raid 2.

The Raid put the Indonesian martial arts scene on the map with a highly kinetic film that owed much of its visual intensity to computer games. The Raid 2 follows on just hours from the first film; but is an entirely different beast.  As you can see from the trailer, there is still lashings of Indonesian-style ultra-violence

But the film’s pace ebbs and flows in order to tell a more detailed story this time around, which feels very much like an early John Woo, pre-Hollywood. There is a nod to Quentin Tarantino with some of the gimmicky characters such as Hammer Girl.