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kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Pop styles of the oh-so-rich and silly!

Britney Spears nearly drops her infant son, baby in one hand, drink in the other, while angling through an NYC crowd! And so soon after being bitch-slapped by the paparazzi for misusing her infant car seat! Oops, she can't do anything right!

Blaming "media intrusion" for his marital breakup, prenup-less Beatle Paul McCartney promises to hit the charts with the most costly divorce in Brit(pop) history at an estimated $188 to $376 million. Most referenced Beatles lyric: "Can't buy me love"!

Gossip so slight it's surreal comes and goes. What remains are the exclamation pointfree, consistently sinister talents of Nick Cave now back in form as the screenwriter of John Hillcoat's bloody, lyrical Australian western, The Proposition. His red right hand extends to yet another film opening this week in the Bay Area, Olivier Assayas's Clean, which features sometime Bad Seed James Johnston playing a simian-mugged ’80s rock star you rang? whose death by overdose leaves the addict mother of his child, Emily (Maggie Cheung), high and struggling to dry out.

Bathing in bloodshed and unflinchingly embracing the visceral, The Proposition immediately brought to mind the other recent movie by another rocker with punk, metal, and underground roots who hit a commercial peak in the early ’90s and found a temporary home in the arms of an Alternative Nation: The Devil's Rejects, by Rob Zombie. The two movies might be seen as spiritual kin if not responses to each other and might even be read as thinly disguised metaphors for life on the road in a rock band: Cave's bespattered, greasy, tangled-haired outback outlaws would blend in fine at Lollapalooza, while the do-you-want-to-stop-for-ice-cream-or-to-disbowel-passing-strangers repartee between Zombie's killer hillbillies on the lam smells like a kind of sociopathic teen spirit, circa ’92. The fact that the Rejects the very title of the film sounds like a band name torture a C&W band reads as uncensored rock ’n’ roll ribaldry to me.

Cave, on the other hand, takes hellfire, carnage, and, once again, torture scenes seriously: His is a morality play, with a fatalistic acknowledgment of the way race and class operate in an Australian frontier injustice system. Likewise, rather than relying on crowd-pleasing rock akin to that in Rejects, Cave and Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis unveil a shockingly restrained, elegiac, occasionally screeching score for The Proposition, now available on Mute.

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