Our favorite things this week include a Tropicalia classic, Criterion, and a long walk.
The Costa of Living: On the Sunday afternoon before the start of the World Cup, a show on BBC 6 asked listeners to call in and tweet Brazil-centric requests. It was no surprise that Os Mutantes got a lot of love; they remain the freakiest and most rock-friendly of the late 1960s bands in the “Tropicalia” movement. It’s easy to hear the challenge their music represented to Brazilians as they embraced The Beatles and Rolling Stones, and made sure that their bossa novas, sambas and forros were all a bit damaged in the process. Tropicalia confronted Brazil’s anxiety about external influences and threats to its culture by embodying the feared thing. In a way, it’s a moment we’re living through in New Orleans but with less dread or dire consequences. Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil did nine months for making music because the military regime saw them as threats.
Veloso’s Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil is a great book on this moment, and makes it easier for American ears to hear what was groundbreaking about Tropicalia artists other than Os Mutantes and Tom Ze. Recently, Real Gone Music reissued Gal Costa’s self-titled album from 1969, which opens with a psychedelic keyboard whir and reverbed strumming, immediately invoking London more than Bahia before strings shape the lovely “Não Identificado.” Costa sings with angelic loveliness while a Farfisa organ rumbles noisily and tries to break through the layers of strings. It succeeds in the closing moments, emerging joined by a croaking sound and a flute slowly going crazy. The song and album aren’t hardcore in their obviousness, but in Tropical Truth, Veloso anatomizes the levels of subtle confrontation in the sound and lyrics. Poetic, subversive allusions and musical twists made seemingly simple, beautiful music contemporary and radical. Os Mutantes were the punks of the movement, but the more common dynamic plays out as well as it can for those who don’t speak Portuguese on Costa's album. (Alex Rawls)
Criterion Online: For movie buffs of all generations, the video distribution company Criterion Collection is a resource like no other. Though perhaps mainly known for their restoration of older films, Criterion also fosters contemporary, often indie filmmaking. Recently, Richard Linklater announced that his wildly hyped Boyhood, filmed over the course of 12 years, will receive a Criterion release. Criterion’s DVD packages often include extensive behind the scenes special features, sweetening the deal for film fanatics. These packages often fall on the more expensive side, which makes their video streaming service through Hulu Plus seem all the more accessible. Their YouTube channel includes short videos series like “Three Reasons,” which highlights compelling reasons to watch certain movies, and “DVD Picks,” where famous actors and directors talk about their favorite movies. Even if you don’t intend on buying anything, the Criterion website is worth surfing merely for educational purposes. Rife with essays, videos, and photos, Criterion has a lot to offer for people looking to learn about good movies. (Lauren Keenan)
A Long, Quiet Walk: The quintessential road trip across America would probably involve a hatchback with friends, loud music, and inappropriate jokes spilling out—but not for Greg Hindy. http://greghindy.com/home.html On his 22nd birthday, the Yale graduate took a year-long vow of silence and decided to walk across America with only a backpack, a film camera, and a notebook to communicate with. No television. No music. No reading. No entertainment or communication. Just meditation and walking.
Photos by strangers who encountered Hindy have been collected online, and they seem inspired by a sense of community (Hindy on his graduation day, posing with families who have taken him in, selflies with fellow travelers) as well as his physical diminishment and the loneliness of his journey. He didn't shower for 50 days in the desert, had fungus growing in his navel, got shin splints, and walked in all weather conditions. A before-and-after video shows that the journey was no easy task of spiritual enlightenment or parable on American kindness, although that was sometimes the case. Hindy’s dad Carl related on the project's Facebook page (where the parental anxiety in each post is almost palpable) that his son faced negative reactions 90 percent of the time. The collected media paints a complicated but fascinating picture of America that provides more questions than answers. Hindy will start his walk back home on July 23—without silence this time—and though his intention is performance art, it's the unexpected that is truly thought-provoking. (Stephanie Chen)