Influenced by ‘alcohol, gravity and 20,000 years of culture’, Shrag’s arty indie pop balances the sweetness of girl vocals with appealingly bitter lyrics. So far they have released 10 songs over five 7Ã¢â‚¬Â singles released by Where It’s At Is Where You Are, soon to be collected on an album, and they provided the most rock’n’roll moment of Indietracks 08 when they took to the stage to cheekily perform as the no-show Comet Gain. They play Ladyfest Manchester on November 8, the Buffalo Bar (London) on November 28 and La FlÃÂ¨che d’or (Paris) on January 2. For more info visit their MySpace or the Where It’s At Is Where You Are website. Below, guitarist/vocalist Bob gives us the low-down on his favourite films. And in case you wondered, ‘shrag’ means ‘to lob twigs off branches’.
1- North by Northwest (1959)
So cinematic it virtually defines cinema. It’s funny, thrilling and downright sexy, peppered with so many memorable set-pieces (modern Hollywood films would covet just one of them). Ernest Lehman’s witty, inventive screenplay. Robert Burk’s iconic photography. Bernard Herrmann’s pounding score. Eva Marie Saint. Cary Grant. James Mason. Hitchcock’s exemplary direction. It’s almost too perfect. You can see why many cineastes favour the darker, more psychologically complex material of films like Vertigo, Psycho et al (which were made immediately before and after this film), but call me a perfectionist because NxNW(as the noughties remake would surely be called) wins hands down for me. And that scene with Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant in the diner car is so filthy I blush every time I see it!
2- Blue Velvet (1986)
David Lynch peels back the veneer of small-town America to reveal a grotesque underbelly. Disturbing, seductive and almost unbearably tense, it’s David Lynch’s most fully realised work and it’s fucking genius. Why are there people like Frank? Because they make the greatest screen characters of all time.
3- Orphée (1950)
Sometimes art in cinema falls flat on its self-satisfied face but Jean Cocteau’s dreamlike poetic masterpiece transcends any one single medium and manages to satisfy as a work of visual art, a work of poetry and above all a work of cinema. Bastard.
4- That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
I’ll give its English title to stop sounding like a pretentious twat. Don’t be put off by the Frenchness (from a Spaniard), the artiness (from another proper ‘artist’) or the oldness of the director (he was a sprightly 77 when he made this). BuÃ±uel also was a painfully astute satirist and this is such a fucking hilarious send-up of middle-class mores that emasculates to the extent that most men will be guarding their crotch throughout.
5- Trust (1990)
How can such humanity and warmth emanate from a studiously arch and stylised film as this? It’s quite a coup, and it made me want to be friends with Hal Hartley. He never returned my letters.
6- The Third Man (1949)
Here’s a challenge. Pop the VHS cassette in your video player. Fast forward this film with your eyes shut. Play, then pause. Keep them shut mind!… Now open them. Isn’t that fucking amazing! Every frame of this film (I haven’t counted how many) is such a stunning composition you could hang it in an Athena frame and gaze at its wonder for many years. Don’t worry: the film’s good too. Orson Welles is in it. He also made a few good films.
7- The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
More cold war machinations. Eerie. Weird. And so fucking cool. It’s got ol’ blue eyes Frank Sinatra in it. It’s so political and cryptic you’ll be scratching your noodle ’til your fingers bleed but don’t worry – there’s always the Hollyoaks omnibus.
8- Chinatown (1974)
Polanski genre-hopped like no other. His comedies were largely woeful. His horror films more rewarding. But his one stab at film noir is a direct hit. How can a 1974 film by a complete outsider usurp such genre classics as Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Kiss Me Deadly? I don’t rightly know. It’s gripping and brilliant and evokes mood and time without a hint of pastiche.
9- City of God (2002)
Another film by a latecomer that transcends (and possibly surpasses) its obvious lineage. I’m a huge fan of Scorcese but this film blew me away even more than Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas did on first viewing. And that’s no mean feat. Unlike Scorcese’s stoic representation of gangster life, City of God has a poignant humanity that makes you gasp, shriek, weep and punch the air at various moments. It’s that good!
10- Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
My favourite Woody Allen film. Included mainly to wind up my Allen-loving colleague who doesn’t even rate it in her top 20. It’s a brilliant film with one of the best narrative framing devices. How can you say it’s ‘SHIT’!. You are wrong! You are so fucking WRONG!!