Tag Archives: musicals

Underwater Love: Interview with Stereo Total

Underwater Love

Format: DVD

Release date: 21 November 2011

Distributor: Third Window Films

Director: Shinji Imaoka

Writers: Shinji Imaoka, Fumio Moriya

Original title: Onna no kappa

Cast: Sawa Masaki, Yoshirô Umezawa, Ai Narita

Japan 2011

87 mins

Stereo Total are a playful, madly eclectic duo, who like synth pop, new wave and electronica, and Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc. They are proud of the fact that even though they’ve made a lot of records ‘they all sound the same’ and they ‘have made so little progress’.

For a person who hasn’t had a huge amount of sleep in the past few days, Brezel Göring, one half of Stereo Total, is brimming over with enthusiasm for their latest project, the film score of Underwater Love, directed by Shinji Imaoka. Described by an equally exuberant Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express), who was the cinematographer on this fast-paced project, as a musical comedy with sex and dancing, Underwater Love is a pink film – soft-core porn – filmed in five and a half days (it’s usually five for a pink film, but Doyle was given a little leeway) and tells the story of Asuka (Sawa Masaki), who’s about to marry her boring boyfriend but has an erotic romance with a water spirit instead. Producer Stephan Holl approached the duo, and they couldn’t turn the chance of writing their first film score down. Göring says: ‘He connected all the loose ends, chased down all these people who would never have thought of being involved in such a project and got them to do it. And I’m always excited about working on things which are different.’

Stereo Total, who ‘more or less make music that [they] want to listen to’ had no idea what a pink film was, so Holl sent over a pile of DVDs and he and Françoise Cactus, the other half of the band, sat down and watched them. It was a bit of an eye-opener. ‘I was really insistent that I didn’t want to make music for a movie where young girls aren’t treated well, because, you know, in some Japanese movies that’s really common, they can be really violent, but I thought this was funny and original. I loved the girl with the big tits, with the sunburn (another love interest of the water spirit), and the hippy God of Death was fun.’

The filming may have been speedy, but the musical part took a little longer. ‘Three years, I think,’ says Göring. ‘We got the storyboard and then we did the music and then the singing.’ Cactus sings the lyrics in Japanese: ‘I know that I have a French accent when I speak, so I was a bit worried about that, but I had a Japanese teacher and she told me how to pronounce the words, and everybody seemed to think it was funny.’ Göring had finished the music ‘and then the whole script was re-written…’

He wrote more music than was used, cut out background stuff, and had a little go at making the music accompanying the sex scenes ironic. He grappled with the fact that some of the cinematography veers from the incredibly sophisticated and atmospheric to the resolutely lo-fi, and fought against the idea that most directors want the score to sound like Schubert. ‘I was surprised that so much of our music ended up in the movie, it was so exciting. As a band we have such a dilettante, un-academic, anti-professional approach, we always feel that’s it’s going to be wrong, if things are going right from the start. We like uncontrollable situations like this.’

Eithne Farry

Piney Gir

Piney Gir

Piney Gir was born in a Thunderstorm in the middle of May in Kansas City, Kansas. It was tornado season, the sky was green and angry; in a bath of blood out she popped.

Piney grew up in isolation in the American Midwest; this isolation was reinforced by her strict religious upbringing. She went to a special Christian school (no Darwin, no sex education) and attended church four times a week; no sinful TV, no secular music… This left a lot to young Piney’s imagination, which flourished to fill in all the gaps.

Piney always used to say, ‘You can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can’t take the Kansas out of the girl… because country music is just in you when you come from the American Midwest. It’s not ‘cool’ to like country, teenagers wouldn’t be caught dead listening to it, but it’s everywhere in every gas station and grocery store. When I left Kansas I realised I missed the country twang. It reminds me of home and when I feel homesick I write a country song.’

Piney’s brand new Country Roadshow album ‘Jesus Wept’ is out on Damaged Goods on October 18. She will appear at the 100 Club on October 16 for a special one-off performance as part of The Actionettes Present A Decade O’Go-Go. For more information go to Piney’s website or the Damaged Goods website.

10 fave films & why,.. by Piney Gir

I must sound like the twee-est person in the world but I genuinely love uplifting films that are colourful and hopeful. I guess that’s why a lot of my picks are cartoons and musicals. I could probably make a list of 10 Disney films and be done with it, but I’m going to give it a little more thought… I hope you like my choices!

1. Funny Face (1957)
This film is brilliant on so many levels, first of all the clothes are amazing… it makes a girl wonder why they don’t make clothes that look like this anymore, so elegant yet playful, fashion was fun. It’s a musical (I love musicals)! Audrey Hepburn is a beatnik in it (I love beatniks)! And it’s romantic, set in Paris. I watch this film again and again.

2. The Little Mermaid (1989)
I am a big fan of this film, I love the fact that half the film is set underwater and the fish are colourful and the sea witch really is frightening. I love to sing and find the fact the whole film is about Ariel’s voice really poignant personally. Imagine, having to trade your voice for the boy you love, what a conundrum!

3. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
I must have seen this film 30 times; it’s a Tim Burton film and has his whimsical sense of humour with that dark twisted edge to it. I think this film has greatly influenced me as a person. I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I think good.

4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
OK, I have a lot in common with Dorothy (namely a matching pair of shoes) but also the fact we’re from Kansas, we have both had little black dogs and wear a lot of gingham. This film is also really frightening with the flying monkeys and trees that throw things, but what really strikes a chord with me is her sense of self. She discovers she has everything she needs within her. That’s a good message. I watch this when I’m feeling a little homesick.

5. Up (2009)
This movie is brilliant and heartbreaking but also a great adventure, following this fellow on a quest to South America with a misfit boy scout and talking dog. I loved it. See it. You will cry though.

6. Amelie (2001)
I love this playful film and the sense of colour and texture in the way it looks. Amelie seems like someone I’d hang out with if I lived in Paris and I love the way she helps people, her practical jokes and the elaborate scavenger hunt she stages. Jean-Pierre Jeunet highlights the beauty in mundane things, which I try to remember to do every day.

7. Fantastic Mister Fox (2009)
I adore every Wes Anderson film I’ve ever seen, but this one is my favourite. The animation is incredible, but also I can relate to Mr Fox’s conundrum, it’s as if he doesn’t really want to grow up and if he just does ‘one more raid’ he can capture the thrill of adventure again, instead of having to relinquish his sense of fun to feel like a responsible adult. I’m always seizing the moment even when maybe I shouldn’t, it’s as if this film was made for me.

8. O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
The Coen Brothers make films I love, and this reworking of Homer’s Odyssey is fantastic. The acting is brilliant but also the soundtrack changed the way that people thought of bluegrass and country music. I actually think this film is responsible for opening people’s mind to that new folk kind of sound.

9. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010)
This film is dazzling, for a start it doesn’t look like any other film I’ve seen, it treads the line between what you see and what you imagine when you read the comic books (yes, I’m one of those rare girls who read comics). The whole concept of battling the exes is not just tongue-in-cheek but metaphorically true. See it (but I’d say read it first!)

10. Pecker (1998)
I love John Waters’s oddball humour and I like how this story is set in Baltimore of all places. I want to be in Pecker’s family, it’s such a cast of eccentrics from Mee Maw who talks to the Virgin Mary to his dad who despises the town strippers. I find this a really cute, feel-good kind of film. Christina Ricci is adorable in it too.

* Can 9-5 get honourable mention? I am such a huge fan of Dolly Parton and I have my own day job conundrums (sadly being a Piney doesn’t pay all the bills). This film lives out all kinds of boss-killing fantasies and is a hopeful film for anyone trapped in a job they don’t want to be doing.

** OH and Party Girl, starring Parker Posey as a wild librarian? I loved that film; it inspired me to wear orange platform sneakers.