Negativland was asked to be guest editor of MAGNET this week, which poses a challenge to such a large collective of members with extremely disparate tastes and obsessions. Members Peter Conheim and Mark Hosler came forward to share what’s been on their minds lately and, indeed, what’s informed their thoughts and work over the years. The group’s new album is entitled It’s All In Your Head and, being entirely about faith, monotheism and why humans believe in God, comes packaged inside of an actual King James Bible. And while religion and intolerance are posing the biggest and toughest dilemmas facing the world today—well, excepting that climate business—Negativland will focus instead this week on such things as sounds, pictures and books. And the impending death of everything due to digital technology.
This absurd, hilarious and inventive 1932 pre-code musical, starring then-superstars Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, was a revelation when I saw it for the first time. For its era, it’s as wildly inventive and avant-garde as you could get in a Hollywood film, bursting at the seams with new ideas that still surprise today. Containing astonishing uses of sound-as-music, inventive camera moves, zooms, slow and fast motion for humorous effect, dialogue that often rhymes long before erupting into song, unique sound and picture editing, dirty double entendres, a supporting character who’s a nymphomaniac, and lyrics that are often truly bizarre, director Rouben Mamoulian uses miniatures, layered visual montages, tracking shots and dolly shots that are as unique as any in Citizen Kane nine years later.
Videos after the jump.