"Eraserhead" by David Lynch (1977)

Local cinema here just started a retrospective of work by David Lynch and I wanted to explore more of his work, absolutely unaware what am I getting myself into. Happy and naive, I took a seat in a cinema hall just to end up being intensely uncomfortable and squirming while this dark surrealistic masterpiece on the screen hypnotised the audience. It was very strange, probably the weirdest movie I have ever seen in my entire life - obviously influenced by 1920s German expressionistic movies but it pushed the envelope even further, so both visually and script-wise this was step into madness. For the start, visually it was pure David Lynch - people grinning at the bottom of the bed, strange dialogues (if any), nightmare visual effects and tattered old furniture just as later we came to expect from his work. Than there is a script - not so much script as series of disconnected scenes with main character Henry living obscure, empty life and somehow ending up having a dinner with girlfriend Mary X whose parents are freaky beyond words. They end up having a baby whose cries drive them crazy but the baby itself is also a nightmare because its not a baby but a monster - clearly, this is some kind of paranoia, fear from sex and parenthood - the baby/alien cries and cries while Henry (now alone, because Mary X has left him) tries to keep the baby alive and sinks into all sorts of visions that include absolutely weird Lady in the Radiator who dances on spermatozoids and many more too creepy to mention here. There is also a beautiful but equally creepy neighbour lady who wiggles herself into his bed (the following sex scene is dark, disturbing and repellent), some completely off-the-wall scenes that include Henry's head bouncing around and eventually the alien/monster/baby explodes and grows until the end of this unbelievably odd movie comes suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving me blinking in the dark. 

Strange as it was, it was also very powerful movie - Lynch will later eventually enter the mainstream and create movies with some resemblance of beginning and end, but here he was young and brave so he was clearly burning the screen with youthful energy and enthusiasm. With all my discomfort, I couldn't take my eyes of the screen and was struggling to see something in the dark shadows - usually I love black & white movies but this was genuinely difficult to see. Occasionally I tried to glance at the watch - no luck, cinema was too dark - I even found myself thinking "at least I will never have to go trough this again" - however the most interesting part happened after I left the cinema. Never before had I experienced such disorientation, where it took me good 30 minutes before I could function again - since I have just been subjected to David Lynch movie, everything around me looked creepy and spooky, the emptiness of the streets seriously unnerved me and even occasional cars and passersby freaked me out. So in that sense, "Eraserhead" was powerful but I wouldn't call it happy experience - mainly it felt like being submerged into some strange madness for two hours and I just couldn't wait to get out of the cinema. What a strange, unforgettable evening!


"The Wife" by Björn Runge (2017)

You know when important people get their important awards and step into stage to thank God, producer, hairdressers and technicians - they usually end thanking the most to their spouses as the most important people in their lives, somebody who supported them trough thick and thin. Something about this speech must have planted a seed of idea into writer Meg Wolitzer who played with the idea what if the spouse is really the most responsible for this public success? She wrote the novel that is now being filmed and glitters with almost perfect cast amongst the movies full of supersonic special effects, superheroes and animated gimmicks. As much as I love going to the cinema, its a bit disappointing to glance at sameness that prevails now and "The Wife" is literary the only drama made for adult audience - the lonely island that deserve every praise and strangely, this very old-fashioned setting might be example of endangered species - from what I see around, the cinema is moving towards fast & furious special effects spectacles and there is noticeably less and less real stories involving real people.

"The Wife" is about elderly writer who gets Nobel prise and now, in the autumn of his life is showered with attention, prises, recognitions and perhaps a bit too much protocols that have him confused and exhausted all over Stockholm. The stoic wife and surly son are also in tow, smiling for the cameras and living their private dramas behind closed doors. Exciting as it is to receive such high honour, its also clear that writer Joseph Castleman is just like his peers, a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight and instead of enjoying what must have been the highlight of his life, actually feels claustrophobic and uncomfortable with all this fussing around him. The wife accepts all of this with a patient smile, the son is sulking and argumentative, while nosey biographer (Christian Slater) tries to wiggle his way into couple's private life, although they clearly avoid his company and suspect he just wants to publish scandalous gossip. 

Without going too much into the story itself, I want to say it was tour de force as acting, script and atmosphere - rarely I have seen something like this in a modern cinema and loved every minute of it. In fact, it obviously takes director with European sensibility to create something like this. As Castleman, Jonathan Pryce is charismatic and magnetic - charming under spotlights, nightmare to be around in a private life. For Glenn Close this is probably a role of a lifetime - I have seen her zillion times and nothing so far matches intensity, subtlety and power of this particular character. Its all about chemistry and energy between a couple who have lifetime of living together - in the interesting flashbacks we see them as much younger people in 1950s and 1960s, played by excellent younger actors Harry Lloyd and Annie Starke

Excited as I was with (finally) a movie that presents adult people in interesting situations, I couldn't get another similar movie out of my head - back in 2009 "The Last Station" was about another elderly couple loving and hating each other but Christopher Plummer (as Tolstoy) and Helen Mirren (as his wife) loved, laughed and giggled all the way trough - one could tell they genuinely loved each other. Here, curiously, I find that I don't actually see love between Pryce and Close - theirs is more a master/servant relationship based on husband domination and wife's silent acceptance. That Close eventually emerges as far stronger of the two is not really a surprise because Close always had intensity about her, that this time have been kept in check for the sake of the role and it works wonderfully for her. However, I could also imagine several other elderly actresses doing wonders with this role (Judi Dench for example) its just a excellent part to play and it must have been very exciting to bite into such part. 


"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Bryan Singer (2018)

This is something I had in mind for quite some time and was overjoyed when friends invited me spontaneously for a evening in a cinema. I was never really fan of rock band Queen but as a teenager growing up in the 1980s I was sure aware how big they were and their hits played non stop on the radio. Hearing good things about the movie, I was curious to experience it for myself and was pleasantly surprised how carefully the filmmakers treated the subject of flamboyant singer's life - everything was shown but not exactly in your face and luckily the focus was not a list of dirty laundry but the circumstances in which he lived, the media pressure, the backstage intrigues, the loyalty between band members and what kept them together. Flamboyant Freddie Mercury was the band's most recognisable trademark and movie is mainly focused on him, in this case he was very faithfully portrayed by young Rami Malek who did an excellent job by showing him as nervous, highly energetic personality probably tortured by his inner demons and surrounded by usual gang of sycophants - nothing unusual for that particular lifestyle and something we could probably expect.

I was particularly impressed how the movie realistically reconstructed band's phenomenal performance on legendary Live Aid concert in 1985 - I watched it myself on TV and remember how sensational guys were, Mercury had actually commanded stadium audience like he was born to do it and thousands of people responded as he was some conductor, making them sing along and clap hands in unison. Two concerts were organised simultaneously, Freddie Mercury was the highlight of the one in UK, while personally I would say that duet of Mick Jagger and Tina Turner was the highlight of the concert across Atlantic. 

Curiously, I read some comments and opinions that movie was not gritty enough and that it could have focused more on dark side of Mercury's private life, but I think these people miss the point completely. Mercury passed away in 1991 (at the age of 45!) and why dragging him trough the mud just for the sake of entertainment (or curiosity) - we know how he died and what he died from, its not necessary to go into details here, besides the movie ends on a positive note so that was just fine by me. Biographies, memoirs and biopics are not a dirty laundry list but a story about someones life and surely there is more to Freddie Mercury than his death, for which he seems to have been remembered. Before he died, he was also one of the biggest rock stars in the world and this is how I chose to remember him.


"First Man" by Damien Chazelle (2018)

Because I enjoyed my recent excursion to cinema, I decided it might be good idea to use my spare time and enjoy some more movies. Biopic of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong seemed like interesting proposition and not so long ago I read about him with greatest interest, so even though I was lolling around after a dinner and considered just staying in, I forced myself to get up, get dressed and get out of the house, simply for the sake of taking a walk and doing something. 

It was underwhelming.
And I know exactly why - movies about historical characters can sometimes be too respectful, to the point where in order to be correct and deferential, these affairs just end up bland. We see the actors, we understand who are they supposed to be but its all kind of lukewarm chamomile tea and the main focus mostly symbolises real people, while occasional supporting actors have much more meat to them. This, cinematic Neil Armstrong is silent hero, unable to show his emotions and director Damien Chazelle clearly worships the idea of manly struggle to stay strong and taciturn. His private world is falling apart, little daughter dies from cancer, colleagues and good friends are also dying in all sorts of accidents but instead of talking with his wife about it, he pushes everybody away and stares at the moon, his face showing no emotions whatsoever. Not sure what I think about Ryan Gosling who might have just followed director's instructions but this was a portrait of extremely reserved man who hardly ever cracked a smile - I guess if you are hero, than you take everything very seriously and can't talk to your children a night before journey from which you might never return (the movie has his wife forcing him to do this). Claire Foy as his wife has much more humanity because she is actually showing natural emotions: she is aware of dangers all the astronauts wives face, the responsibilities of raising a family and the possibility that her husband might never come back. Quote: "All these protocols and procedures to make it seem like you have it under control. But you're a bunch of boys making models out of balsa wood! You don't have anything under control!"

With all the visual effects and gritty, realistic scenes of what it feels like in a super-mega-shaky spacecraft, somehow the whole idea of space race and launching a moon expedition seemed a bit pointless to me - it was obviously a big deal in that time and a matter of political power but looking at all those astronauts who were dying left & right in accidents and leaving their families behind seems less heroic and more suicidal to me. I understand these people were living their dream and there is a huge pride in being part of something so monumental, however I am not some impressionable teenager now and looking from this perspective I see husbands leaving families behind - not completely convinced that sacrificing life for anything is really worth it. The movie depicts Armstrong silently suffering daughter's death but in reality, if things turned out differently she could have been just another fatherless child like so many others. 

The only thing that I truly enjoyed was inclusion of beautiful, old 1947. recording by Les Baxter in the movie's soundtrack - being lover of all things old & strange, naturally I was familiar with it, in fact I might even have the recording somewhere.


"Maria by Callas" documentary by Tom Volf (2017)

Back in the day when I actually used to live here initially, one of my favourite spots in town was Filmmuseum in Vondelpark - they would screen classic movies and retrospectives of famous directors/movie stars and the whole experience was beautiful because it was usually combined with a walk trough beautiful park right in the centre of the city + small screen halls welcomed the audience that was genuinely interested in such movies. In 2012 the place eventually moved elsewhere and I had huge problem with changing my habit, since new location was in completely different part of town. I understand they needed bigger place for their archives and wanted to expand their audience but personally I just couldn't make myself travelling with a ferry across the water into new modern building that was highly praised but to me it lacked the charm of the old pavilion. Last night, however, I did made an effort because of this new documentary that I really wanted to see. My friends and me were all unfamiliar with the place so it was fun to discover it together for the fist time - the ferry crossing was easy peasy (and free), the journey lasted perhaps only 5 minutes from Central Station, it wasn't really as bad as I believed all these years. 

"Maria by Callas" is obviously a labour of love by director Tom Volf and it has found surprisingly faithful and loving audience here, but this is what I expected from the city that always had affection for culture. It has been showing around town for quite some time and still the cinemas are full, which is wonderful considering this is a documentary and not some big blockbuster. It combines old clips of Callas performances with interviews, news clips and her own letters so it gives a close look at who this legendary woman might have been in a real life. In the post WW2 world she was a phenomenon and media often exaggerated her image as impossible, temperamental diva who cancel performances on the whim but the documentary points that she was highly praised professional who simply refused to be treated like a circus attraction and refused to be pushed around. In fact, for all her alleged prima donna behaviour it seems she was actually very patient and controlled until stress gets her lashing out, which is perfectly understandable for anybody in such position - she was expected to focus on performances and give her best in situation which were not arranged and her fury was not at the colleagues but at the management that provided no adequate rehearsals (often she would not even seen costumes or scenery before actually stepping on a stage).

The movie kind of depicts her story as tragic but I disagree.
Every body's life can be described as tragic one if we focus only on sad things - Callas had huge happiness in a life filled with music, she loved her work and it gave her adoration by millions around the world. Her work was admired, what she offered was spectacularly praised and she will be forever known as the ultimate opera singer of her generation. True, she sacrificed family life for the professional one but it seems she accepted it with grace, besides this is what many other artists also did, she was not the only one. The much-publicised affair with Onassis is a complex issue but than again, instead of making martyr out of her, we must remember they were the perfect match (as most famous Greeks in the world back than) and Callas experienced passion and love that many other people never experience. 

The most startling fact for me was that so many lives end suddenly without a warning - Callas herself died from heart attack at the age of 53 and still in one of her last interviews she was full of hopes, dreams and plans, she even talked how she still waits for the perfect man who will take care of her. There were also some funny moments when one can't help but notice how genuinely theatrical lady she was, very much poised and mannered all the time - than again we are talking about 1950s when women were expected to behave that way. In one funny scene, she is filmed on the set of movie "Medea" and she quickly licks her glasses in a very unexpected, genuinely human moment - scenes like these show her not as a mythical diva but as a sweet, warm person.

Hellos and goodbyes

Back after a hiatus, in the meantime had some seismic changes in my life.
Just as I wanted for the very long time, I have finally gave up nomadic life and settled on land after fifteen (!) years of constant travelling, re-located to another country and found a job that I had in mind. Everybody who knows me, by now understand my opinion about my previous travelling life - it sounds glamorous but the reality is completely opposite, it has been really demanding and challenging for most of the part, physically and mentally, the joys of seeing the world mostly eclipsed by sheer amount of work and lifestyle that eventually became cause of genuine unhappiness. I started craving for my own private space, for the life where I can have my own quality time, evenings, weekends and socialising, even peeling my own potatoes instead of eating in the canteens and such. So I pulled trough really bravely and managed to escape the hamster's wheel and right now I am still amazed and awed with such a huge change, where I walk to my new work trough the beautiful historical streets of the city where I wanted to be and enjoying cinemas/dinners with friends instead of constantly working until midnight, seven days a week. 

Unfortunately, this new beginning has also been a goodbye to my dear and faithful companion Teddy Bear who got stolen together with my backpack in a train just as I have arrived here. He was my most beloved material possession, always had travelled with me around the world and nothing else that I own gave me such a joy - all the books, music, clothes and everything else is replaceable but this little fellow was my friend and I truly feel pain in my heart every time I see photos of him taken in various places. I am still mourning for him and even if I manage to find exactly the same Teddy Bear again, the original is gone and it really bothers me very much. With him is also gone the whole idea that I can own something that means so much to me, everything seems to be transient. It saddened me so much that I couldn't make myself writing here or starting a new diary (also stolen) or even reading books which I would normally do. Theft of my little Teddy Bear really broke my heart. 


"Ti i ja" by Zdravko Čolić (1975)

Practically unknown just a few years earlier, by 1975 Zdravko Čolić was such a hot property that no less than five recording companies competed against each other with his releases - in addition to singles by Beograd Disk, Diskoton and Suzy, both PGP RTB and Jugoton came with his LP album in the same year - this is actually something quite unprecedented on local market and I can't think of any other name that got the same treatment.

If PGP RTB secured themselves nice piece of action with compilation that rounded singer's earliest recordings, Jugoton went for completely new material tailored specifically for him - Kornelije Kovač (his old boss from time in Korni Grupa) shoulders most of songwriting task, while no less than Arsen Dedić and Kemal Monteno were also invited to participate in a project that was meant to establish young singer as a unstoppable supernova and they all surely did good job because ever since Čolić basically never lacked media attention. Add Goran Bregović to that mix and you get curious amalgam of names that around the same time collaborated on each other's projects - Kovač also produced album for Dedić who praised Monteno on every occasion, while song "Loše Vino" eventually reoccurred again very next year on album of Bregović's rock band Bijelo Dugme. Surrounded with such seriously talented musicians, twenty four year old singer simply couldn't fail but it must be noted that he was genuinely up to task and vocally he was absolutely convincing in anything they threw at him, be it fluffy pop jingle "Život Je Lijep, Helene-Marie", bombastic pop hit "Zvao Sam Je Emili" or genuinely dirty rock "Igraš Se Vatrom" where guitarist from Indexi (Slobodan A. Kovačević) burns in the background - the last one has Bregović's signature all over it and it is a rare occasion where this artist experiments with rock, something that he rarely did in the future. In hindsight, ""Ti i ja" served as test ground for various directions he might explore and from now, the rest of decade Čolić was our biggest pop star with such enormous following that this new phenomenon was seriously analysed even in political circles, where surprised bigwigs discussed is he a good influence on our youth (contrary to wild and obviously untamed Bijelo Dugme, Čolić was eventually considered wholesome and not threatening).


"Osvrni Se Na Mene" by Stidljiva Ljubičica (1981)

Stidljiva Ljubičica (The Shrinking Violet) was a short-lived, early 1980s Croatian rock band that managed to forever leave mark on my life, however not for the reasons one might expect - neither their music or messages actually registered with me - you see, I was hormonal teenager besotted with a classmate whose house entrance was "adorned" with a poster advertising the band's upcoming concert and every single time I walked the stairs leading to her apartment, this poster was looking at me and I wondered what kind of name is Shrinking Violet. The poster was forever there, layers of other stuff eventually glued over it but I could still see it from inside glass door - same picture as on the album cover - it probably outlived the group itself, which disbanded very next year, while my visits continued for the rest of decade until the object of my affection became a mother, alas not of my children.

Fast forward some three decades later and this album finally came my way - touched with sudden recognition of picture from mysterious, indestructible poster, I listened it with greatest interest and discovered surprisingly charming rock/new wave debut by bunch of small-town youngsters who actually sound far more refreshing and original than some of contemporary big stars. It might be their youth or energy, but the album brims with nervous vitality associated with new wave and the best of all is songwriting - unlike most of the songs released at the time that dealt with generic subjects, every number here is a little story written by Zlatko Đurašina and several times I found myself chuckling with amusement at his witty ways with lyrics, this was not just some macho rock posturing but urban and quirky little vignettes about young students with big dreams and empty pockets, eccentric characters and everything that goes trough the mind of someone who is young, angry and obviously well read. For all their talent and enthusiasm, the band apparently didn't really have strong contacts in the business and ended as curiosity which is perhaps fitting because they appear as a strong burst of fresh inspiration destined to wither amongst seasoned veterans who already learnt how to sail murky waters without asking too many questions. Title song is one single hit they ever had and this little gem of album is unexpectedly endearing discovery that deserves re-evaluation. 

"Pan's Labyrinth" ("El laberinto del fauno") by Guillermo del Toro (2006)

Quite unlike anything else I remember seeing on the screen previously, this unforgettable movie deals with contrast between children's fantasy world and harsh reality that surrounds them. Its almost as Guillermo del Toro tapped in something we are all aware but chose to forget, how it was to be small and vulnerable amongst grown up people with their problems and big arguments. Instead of creating movie for children, he decided to present it as allegory of childhood with very dark undertones, so its not really for kids - too disturbing for little souls who shouldn't be scarred with something so brutal - but for mature audiences and apparently I am still not completely grown up, since I found it occasionally very disturbing.

Little Ofelia lives in a fantasy world of fairies and fairy tales, while civil war rages all around her, people are tortured and killed left and right - her innocence protects her from understanding this and she is too busy following her magical friends from the forest. In the meantime her mother suffers difficult pregnancy and stepfather is cruel Captain Vidal who haunts countryside rebels, unaware that one of them is in his own household as a spy. It is quite a gripping story and director (who also wrote script himself) tops it off with spectacular visual effects that make it looks like Disney horror movie - Ofelia's supernatural friends, visible only to her, are unforgettable and I must mention faun who is actually genuinely spooky and threatening, he is obviously older than humans and there is something sinister about him but Ofelia is too busy with her fantasies to notice it. 

I watched it recently for the second time and again got carried away with it to the point that I was protesting loudly, while friends wondered why do I care so much because "its only a movie" - well, the part of me is obviously still child like Ofelia because for me movies are not just movies. My music, books and movies as as real as anything else around me and often much more important, some of us are just born that way and we never lose it. 

"Lightning" by Dean Koontz

In the most dangerous moments of her life, Laura Shane is always saved by appearance of mysterious blond-haired stranger who comes out of nowhere, followed by lightning. He is here to protect her, than disappears as quickly as he came. What she don't know is that he was there on the day of her birth, to assure that drunken doctor would not let her crippled as was written in her destiny. Unfortunately, he is not the only one checking on her. 

This is seventh novel by Dean Koontz that I read this summer and at this point I think it would be wise to take a break. It came after his smash hit "Watchers" and his publishers insisted on follow up with another novel with lovable dog, which Koontz declined - in his witty afterword he describes the battles he fought to get "Lightning" published instead and what it meant to him to have artistic freedom instead of being shoehorned into box, which I perfectly understand (although Watchers" is still my favourite of all his works). Often we see authors pigeonholed once they achieve success and they end up repeating themselves (Dan Brown is a perfect example) so its refreshing that there are still people out there ready to take risks. However, this one is not really earth-shattering suspense, although it was a best-seller - it starts just fine but my personal impression is that somewhere along the way Koontz got a bit carried away with research about technical details which cluttered the story itself to the point that for the first time with this author I left the novel aside for a while, until I decided to finish the darn thing. For some reason this appeared far more interesting in the beginning than later when story should come to some logical conclusion but it felt just perfunctory. Perhaps, deep inside, I expected another "Watchers" and didn't want to admit this to myself. Its time to move on to something else but I will definitely return to Koontz at some point. 


"Count on Me" by Julie Grant (1994)

Delicious slice of early 1960s pop from a singer who somehow faded in obscurity, although she was as good as anybody around. The first time I heard wonderful Julie Grant was on some 1960s compilation, probably "Here Come The Girls" where she rubbed shoulders with likes of Sandie Shaw and such, it intrigued me enough to look everywhere for this compilation that collects all her recordings for Pye Records so we are talking about years 1962-65, roughly the years of British invasion. Grant was just a teenager back than, only sixteen at the time of her first single and producers obviously wanted to follow in the successful footsteps of another deep-voiced teenager Helen Shapiro - however, the lighting didn't struck twice or perhaps the gimmick was too obvious, in any case Grant was every inch good as Shapiro but with less luck on the charts.

"Up On The Roof" and "That's How Heartaches Are Made" are obvious highlights here amongst bunch of uptempo 1960s numbers and while its true that due to her youth Grant probably didn't have much choice in selection of material, there are some genuinely delightful songs here like "Baby Baby (I Still Love You)" or "Watch What You Do With My Baby" that show how music inspiration floated between both sides of Atlantic - if anything, Grant is often more convincing than original versions. Allegedly her contract with Pye Records eventually expired and overworked (and probably disillusioned) singer passed over the offer to introduce new song by Tony Hatch called "Downtown" and continued performing in places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. If you like classic girl-group sound, this one is for you. She might not have big hits but I guarantee that Julie Grant was one of the best female singers of her time. 

"Sing And Perform "Funny Girl" by Diana Ross & The Supremes (1968)

One really had to admire determination of Berry Gordy, Jr. who strived to establish his artists as all-round entertainers - someone else might be content to have them recording hit singles but Gordy wanted his stars to be equal to anybody around, so if the biggest stars commanded big fees in places like Las Vegas, London's Talk Of The Town and New York's The Copacabana Nightclub, he made sure The Supremes got the same treatment. If this music direction seems a bit odd today, don't forget it was all about breaking the racial barriers and placing Afro-American musicians on the same footing as everybody else, even if it means that girls had to sing "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody" for jaded supper club audiences. Ever unstoppable Gordy arranged for them the whole album of Rodgers & Hart show tunes and the next step was "Motown" take on biggest Broadway sensation of the day.

Appreciation of such project really depends of listener's familiarity with the original and I have my doubts about it today, but back in the day "Funny Girl" was perhaps the last true Broadway smash hit, with songs that were actually chart hits and it was not a coincidence that Gordy wanted this album released just when cinema version by William Wyler hit the big screens. It was clear message that "Motown" set its ambition towards Hollywood and label pulled all stops to prove that they are equal to anybody - quite a daring challenge, coming from guy whose grandfather was a son of white plantation owner and his female slave - one can't help but be impressed with Gordy's capacity for dreaming big dreams. Diana Ross relishes the chance to step in Streisand's shoes and her small voice works surprisingly well in what is basically showcase for female lead, while The Supremes are reduced to occasional noise in the background. Insignificant and obscure when compared to their better known hit singles, it is still little obscure gem and to this day the only time anybody came dangerously close to Streisand in her most famous role. The only criticism would be that music sticks too closely to original and chance was missed to add that particular "Motown" upbeat touch to Broadway original - only "If A Girl Isn't Pretty" is updated to a dance number, while the rest cautiously follows Jule Styne music note by note. 


"Tvornica glazbe – Priče iz Dubrave" by Siniša Škarica

Kao mlad urednik u tadašnjem "Jugotonu" Siniša Škarica je svojevremeno - poput većine svojih vršnjaka - bio fokusiran isključivo na rock i tadašnje mlade izvođače kojima su festivali i estrada bili ono protiv čega su se borili. S vremenom, Škarica je sazrio i prihvatio da su upravo ti stariji kolege bili njihovi preteče koji su svatko na svoj način probijali led - danas je Škarica jedan od rijetkih ljudi koji se iskreno trude održati uspomene na generacije glazbenika koji su desetljećima obilježavali neke druge, ranije generacije. Njegovi eseji prate većinu kompilacija koje danas izdaje "Croatia Records" i u čast 70 godina ove diskografske kuće sad je pred nama knjiga koja je ne samo zbirka Škaričinih popratnih eseja već i presjek prvih dvadeset godina ove glazbene institucije. 

Poput legendarne knjige "Bolja Prošlost" Petra Lukovića, ovo se ne čita nužno kronološkim redom - budući da je to u suštini zbirka portreta, "Tvornica Glazbe" je jednako fascinantna na kojoj god ju stranici otvorili. Bilo da se raspravlja o atmosferi poslijeratne zemlje koja se našla u procijepu između istoka i zapada (što je rezultiralo velikim zanimanjem za Meksičku glazbu), različitim žanrovima koje je "Jugoton" objavljivao ili pojedinim zvijezdama što su svojevremeno mnogo značile, Škarica svemu prilazi s velikim poštovanjem i entuzijazmom, uvijek ukazujući kako je sve to bio odraz vremena u kojem smo živjeli a i mijenjanja ukusa široke publike koja je, konačno, odlučivala o tome što je popularno i uspješno. Kao kroničar tih davnih godina, on je tip osobe koja sve te silne detalje, anegdote i diskografske crtice zna učiniti zanimljivima i njegov zaigrani stil pisanja je istovremeno individualan i posve fascinantan, pokazujući kako je u dubini ostao mlad duhom i još uvijek ima strast za glazbu. Iskreno se nadam da će čitatelji pokazati interes za ovu knjigu (koja je popraćena poklon zbirkom najvažnijih pjesama iz pokrivenih godina) i da će se uskoro pojaviti nastavak koji bi analizirao kako su novi trendovi i mladi talenti istisnuli šlagere iz prvog plana. Ne radi se samo o nostalgiji (većina ovih izvođača je bila popularna prije nego što sam se ja rodio) već i o potrebi da se fenomen domaće popularne glazbe ozbiljno sagleda dok su njeni arhitekti još među nama.
Najzanimljije tek dolazi - kupim ja knjigu (dok sam plovio po Aziji našao sam ju reklamiranu na web stranici mog dragog Petra Lukovića)  i čitam ju s najvećim zadovoljstvom ali nije to nešto što se čita sve odjednom, nego zbirka eseja pa kud te inspiracija ponese. Prije par dana dođem ja tako do poglavlja koje se bavi počecima Arsena Dedića i na moje najveće iznenađenje tu Škarica citira moje vlastite riječi kada sam onomad 2014. napisao osvrt na Arsenovu prvu ploču na kojoj je mlađahni Šibenčanin pjevao twist - tu sam se ja nešto zezao, bio sam očito dobre volje ali nisam bio zločest ni sarkastičan nego iskreno iznenađen da je naš šansonijer pjevao "Let's twist again" pa mi je to ovako bilo zgodno i neobično. To se Škarici očito jako dopalo i činilo mu se simpatičnim pa je naveo, dapače citirao moje riječi navodeći kako su to misli jednog duhovitog, anonimnog blogera. Još mi se nije desilo da čitam knjigu o kojoj nađem samog sebe pa mi je to naravno bio doživljaj dana i bio sam strašno ponosan da jedan takav glazbeni autoritet kao Škarica zapravo uopće čita moje glazbene recenzije. Nema veze što sam ispao anoniman, to uopće nije bitno (tek sada sam shvatio da se nigdje na mom blogu ne spominje moje ime) no tek da se zna, dragi Siniša Škarica ako ikad ponovno svratite ovdje, mi smo imenjaci. 


"Dalida" by Dalida (1970)

When faced with such intimidating discography of artist who worked for many decades, like French music icon Dalida, sometimes it appear complicated where to start - only hit singles or few selected albums will present just a small part of the picture, as such longevity usually covers completely various genres and directions. Dalida in particular is fascinating, as she appears to have re-invented herself very often and went trough many metamorphoses which are genuinely interesting to explore: she was stylish torch singer in the 1950s, happy, upbeat poster girl trough 1960s, disco diva in the 1970s and glamour TV show star in the 1980s. 

This self-titled album (maddeningly, one of many released with same title) is perhaps one of my personal favourite, as it depicts Cairo born singer in a curious early 1970s phase when she was reaching forty and decidedly leaning towards more melancholic, ballad repertoire instead of what was she recording previously. Dalida always had beautiful, husky voice and stunning stage persona but too often trough 1960s she went for anything that was popular on the charts, so you would find her covering everything from "O Sole Mio" to "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" - at some point lady herself obviously had enough of this and in 1970 came with this beautiful album that is pop in performance but chanson in spirit. "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" opens the collection and it just gets better from there, with sophisticated songs by Mikis Theodorakis, Nicola Di Bari, Pete Seeger and Cat Stevens where her curiously calm and seductive voice works perfectly because its suddenly free of artificial cheerfulness - she is actually at her best in reflective material, obviously much closer to her heart. For good measure, we also have two upbeat hit singles, Greek "Darla Dirladada" and "Ram Dam Dam" that was originally recorded by Korni Grupa as "Trla baba dlan" but these are disposable jingles when compared with romantic ballads that are heart of this collection. This early 1970s is probably my favourite chapter of her music, before she will discover disco and leave beautiful melancholy behind.