Friday, May 15, 2015

200 Motels

As I'm approaching my 40's I sometimes worry my love for weird Cinema is starting to wane, like earlier when I sat down to watch Zappa's 1971 film 200 Motels, a film I've long had great affection for - I once stayed up past 3am to catch a screening of the film on the MGM HD channel, but this evening I lasted 50mins before I put my foot thru the TV - figuratively speaking of course. Despite my fondness for Jimmy Carl Black (my favourite Mother), weird just wasn't doing it for me today. Incidentally, the Voiceprint DVD can be picked up quite cheaply on AmazonUK but that's not a recommendation - the transfer feels little better than VHS, and having seen the MGM HD broadcast, the film looks far better and fresher than this pitiful DVD. Hopefully the Zappa estate will put out a superior edition of the film someday.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Sheening

I mentioned Stephen King in my previous post and reading thru an early issue of Fangoria last night, King interviewed about the yet to be released film of The Shining, expressed reservations about the casting Jack Nicholson "I always saw Jack Torrance as a tall, dark haired man, not the Nicholson type at all; not flamboyant, almost withdrawn. I had someone like Martin Sheen in mind" It's near impossible to imagine anyone but Jack Nicholson in The Shining but I do like the idea of Martin Sheen in the role. I'm thinking of his portrayal of the disturbed Kit in Badlands, and the cold callous assassin Capt. Willard in Apocalypse Now. I think it might have worked. I expect King was pleased some years later when Sheen was cast as the sinister Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Long Live the New Flesh: The Films of David Cronenberg

Just watched the excellent 1986 documentary Long Live the New Flesh: The Films of David Cronenberg… I was hoping this would turn up Arrow’s forthcoming BR of Videodrome, but not so (far), perhaps due to the presence of clips of Scanners, The Dead Zone and The Fly (and at one point Peeping Tom). Fortunately, this 50min documentary is still available on youtube (in 7 parts) and is well worth catching to see a relatively fresh-faced Cronenberg discuss his work in his usual erudite and thought-provoking style (“Most diseases would be very shocked to be considered diseases at all...it's a very negative connotation. For them it’s very positive. When they take over your body and destroy you, it’s a triumph"). Also contributing to the documentary are Martin Scorsese and Stephen King (both admirers) and there’s some dissenting opinion of Cronenberg’s work by critic Robin Wood and reactionary commentary by the British and Canadian censor on the kind of Cinema Cronenberg works in. James Ferman seems particularly pleased with himself when he claims what follows in Videodrome is exactly what his office protects against. Part 1 of Long Live the New Flesh is available here with the remaining 6 parts following on from this page.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Skies of America

I had a cluster of Cluster albums to listen to today - that was the plan at least, but following my last post, I wound up at Skyscraper City, an online community engaged in all things urban - architecture, urban planning, transport and so on. Well worth a visit. And as I was poring over fantastic pictures of the Chicago and the Manhattan skylines, I had the idea to dig out Ornette Coleman's 1972 third stream orchestral work Skies of America. The album has long been considered something of a misfire, or at best an oddity - the story goes that Ornette had to make some compromises to the work due to the involvement the London Symphony Orchestra, but I find that neither here nor there - I like the work for what it is, and it moves with a tidal force of power. Some passages remind me of Peter Maxwell Davies' feverish music for The Devils and Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother suite. This was a particularly hot period for Ornette - he had previously cut the Science Fiction record and had done some arrangements on Alice Coltrane's brilliant Universal Consciousness. If you haven't heard this one, be sure to check it out...

Monday, May 11, 2015

50 Years from Now !

I've just discovered a complete copy of the 1930 sci-fi comedy musical Just Imagine, set in the futuristic (and pre-code!) New York City of 1980. (“50 Years from Now” the posters marveled.) I've long wanted to see this film which has languished in relative obscurity compared with Metropolis and Things To Come. As far as I know the film is not available on home video so this youtube upload, which features decent picture and sound quality is something to celebrate. I very much like speculative science fiction, and Just Imagine is wildly speculative, with New Yorkers of 1980 flying around the vast Art-Deco style skyscrapers in their own little airplanes, but interesting nonetheless to compare the cityscape of Just Imagine with a photograph of Manhattan taken in 1983...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Photographing the Naked City

Now that I have a few things off the table, I’m gearing up for Season 2 of The Naked City, and in preparation for it, I’m checking out the photography of Arthur Fellig aka Weegee whose dispatches from the streets of New York informed the gritty style of The Naked City film and the television series that followed. Weegee also loaned the title Naked City to the film’s producer Mark Hellinger (Naked City was the title of his first book of photographs) and something of the shock and confrontational power of that title can still be felt in his crime photographs, many of which are have colonized popular culture, like the “Corpse With Gun” photograph from 1940 (pictured below) which appropriately enough adorns the cover of John Zorn’s Naked City album, or the 1942 picture “Arrested for Bribing Basketball Players” which was used as the cover of Penguin’s Raymond Chandler collection The Big Sleep and Other Novels. For more Weegee crime photographs, follow this link to Google Images

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Walking the Road

I've just finished a 3 day marathon of Season 5 of The Walking Dead... I actually hadn't planned to watch this latest season anytime soon, but a screening of John Hillcoat's film of The Road put it in mind and from there on I was hooked. There's a moment in Season 5 where Rick Grimes utters the title of the show - a first time I think, when he reflects: "This is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead", and interestingly it echoes a line from Cormac McCarty's novel when the unnamed wife spits "We’re not survivors. We’re the walking dead in a horror film." Despite the astonishing levels of splatter in The Walking Dead, and the writers willingness to kill off the cast, I feel the series doesn't have the hardness of The Road - there's been nothing yet to match the moment in the book (and the film) where the Man and the Boy discover a basement full of naked human livestock - a truly chilling turn of events. With Season 5 behind me, I look forward to the next series and the introduction of the sinister band of hostiles, the Wolves.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Lyric

The time, 1981, the place, the Lyric Theatre on 42nd Street… I was sifting thru some snapshots of Times Square as it was in the halcyon days of Exploitation film exhibition and one can’t help getting caught up in the romance of seeing MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY looming large on a theatre marquee. The Times Square of this era which bumped and grinded to the rhythms of extreme violence and sleazy sex is a sort of Xanadu within the Exploitation headspace, a collection of pleasure domes that sold dreams for the price of a double-feature. But for all my rampant cinephilia, I probably would have given Times Square a wide berth, preferring not to run the gauntlet of pimps, pushers, sex workers and freaks looking to turn out a quick buck from some babe in the woods. What an unnerving experience it would have been to see a late night showing of Maniac at the Lyric, and then having to make a 30min trip home on the subway to one of the boroughs, negotiating the bums and pickpockets and perhaps the odd serial killer working the hole (as William Burroughs called it).


The Lyric theatre which sat right in the middle of Times Square was one of the more salubrious picture houses on the strip, its grand spacious lobby was immortalized in Taxi Driver as the theatre where Travis Bickle takes Betsy on their doomed date. I was reading some memories of the Lyric by people who attended the theatre in the 70’s and there was some interesting speculation on whether Scorsese had the marquee specially dressed for the shoot (displaying the double-bill Sometime Sweet Susan and Swedish Marriage Manual) as the Lyric was not generally known as a porno theatre. That scene in Taxi Driver hinges on Betsy’s disgust for “dirty movies” so perhaps a regular fixture of the Lyric, say Andy Milligan’s Bloodthirsty Butchers, might not have worked so well…

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Black Angel’s Death Song

I've recommenced reading Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story after a brief hiatus… I’m just heading into the Velvet Underground era so right now I’m cherry picking some favourite VU songs to set the mood (I’m planning on listening to the 4 albums proper at home later). I remain astonished as ever by The Black Angel’s Death Song off the first album. I seem to remember an article some years ago, in Q magazine I think, where the author singled out certain duck eggs found on classic albums, one of which was The Black Angel’s Death Song (as well as the incredible We Will Fall from The Stooges LP). The song is of course one of the most extraordinary moments in the VU catalogue. I was just reading thru the lyrics over at songmeanings.com and was enjoying the interpretations listeners were offering, from the vague (it’s about meaning of life) to the mundane (it’s about drugs). I’m less interested in what the song is about and more enthused about the song as a piece of Dadaist sound poetry – try saying aloud a few lines from the song
"Shining brightly red-rimmed and red-lined with the time
Infused with the choice of the mind on ice skates scraping chunks
From the bells"
and one can get a sense of what Arthur Rimbaud called the “systematic derangement of the senses” Morrissey selected the song as one his Desert Island Discs for BBC in 2009, and said: “Listening to Lou Reed as a part of The Velvet Underground, we are really listening to the W.H Auden of the modern world…not existing in print poetry but in recorded noise


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Remembering Welles

May 6th, marks the centenary of Orson Welles’ birth, and there’s lots of stuff online and on FB to celebrate the occasion. I’m currently listening to the Mercury Theatre’s radio production of The Magnificent Ambersons, broadcast October 1939 as part of The Campbell Playhouse series. The recording like most of the existing Mercury radio plays is rather scratchy and lo-fi but it’s an excellent hour’s worth of drama, with Walter Huston playing “queer looking duck” Eugene Morgan and Welles doubling up as narrator and as the arrogant, immature George Amberson. Perhaps most significant though is that the radio play was what RKO used as a guide to shaping The Magnificent Ambersons film in Welles’ absence. Highly recommended listening. The Magnificent Ambersons radio play (and other Mercury radio productions) can be dl’ed here

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An Art film for Teenagers

I've just listened to Francis Ford Coppola’s audio commentary for Rumble Fish and very much enjoyed the great director ruminating on his vision for the film, ( “an art film for teenagers”), his experiences with the actors and so on. Coppola makes no bones about his love for the film, it’s clearly his favourite picture and at one point he ponders why he didn't devote his career to making small, independently-minded films. It would have been an interesting alternative career trajectory to be sure. Elsewhere Coppola reveals that the look of The Motorcycle Boy was modeled in part on Albert Camus, with accounts for Mickey Rourke’s cool French intellectual style. In an amusing moment Coppola recalls an unhappy week Chris Marker spent on the set, invited to work on the film to pick up some second unit shots but completely uninspired by the location around Tulsa Marker promptly left. Highly recommended listening.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Waterfall

I had some time to kill earlier this morning and was leafing thru Thames & Hudson’s 'World of Art' book Graphic Design: A Concise History and spotted Japanese photo montage artist Tsunehisa Kimura's signature work "Waterfall" in which torrents of water are literally cascading out of the Manhattan skyline. There was something instantly familiar about Kimura's picture - a little bit of research tells me the image has appeared in various guises - in advertising, on a record sleeve, but what I had in mind was one of the poster designs for Koyaanisqatsi which depicts a cityscape emerging out of Canyonlands National Park. I haven’t been able to find the name of the artist but I wonder was Kimura's Waterfall an influence ?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Music from The Andromeda Strain

Listening to Gil Mellé's soundtrack for The Andromeda Strain (1971), an incredible 26min suite of glitchy, experimental electronics and alien soundscapes. I'm racking my brains trying to think of another film since Forbidden Planet to utilize a completely electronic score - I'm sure I'm missing an obvious one but right now I'm drawing a blank. It's a shame this important work (at least within the realm of electronic music) is unavailable thru official channels - there was a 2010 CD release on the Intrada label, but its run of 1500 units quickly sold out and this edition commands a small fortune these days. For the seasoned collector though, the album's first issue on Kapp Records is the one to get - issued as a hexagonal-shaped 10" record, with matching fold-out packaging containing stills from the film. Quite a beauty. The soundtrack (indexed) can be listened to in its entirety over at youtube





Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why I Want to Fu*k Ronald Reagan

I'm currently 3/4's way thru a four part PBS documentary about Ronald Reagan but only this evening thought to re-visit J.G. Ballard's 1967 Atrocity Exhibition piece "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan" a short skit written in the cold dispassionate style of a scientific report investigating the sexual appeal of the then Governor of California. It's one of Ballard's finest moments, very funny to read, yet it remains quite shocking:
"The genitalia of the Presidential contender exercised a continuing fascination. A series of imaginary genitalia were constructed using (a) the mouth-parts of Jacqueline Kennedy, (b) a Cadillac rear-exhaust vent, (c) the assembly kit prepuce of President Johnson, and (d) a child-victim of sexual assault. In 89 per cent of cases, the constructed genitalia generated a high incidence of self-induced orgasm."
Ballard said of Reagan that he projected the image of Buick salesman, but in the notes for The Atrocity Exhibition, Ballard felt Reagan was "a figure far closer to the brutal crime boss he played in the 1964 movie The Killers, his last Hollywood role". Ballard's story was enough for Doubleday to destroy their initial print run of US edition of The Atrocity Exhibition, which outraged Ballard, but in an 1982 interview Ballard said: "Afterwards I permitted myself the pleasure of sending a copy to Ronald Reagan complaining about whichever respectable US publisher dared print this smut and filth. Of course I never got any reply but it was worth it for me"

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Duelists

One last w/end screening to log some thoughts about... It was probably my recent reading of Kubrick's screenplay for Napoleon that led to me to revisit The Duelists. Another film I hadn't seen in many years, perhaps I thought it inconsequential in comparison with Alien and Blade Runner, but I now consider it Ridley Scott's most visually splendid film to date. Apart from the central story about two French soldiers locked in a battle seemingly without measure or end, this is a great film about weather, from French fields full of rain to freezing frost bitten Russian steppes. For some reason I had it in my mind that the film was shot by Philip Lathrop but upon checking it up, the cameraman was in fact Frank Tidy. The Duelists was Tidy's first film as a DP but looking thru his filmography, nothing else stands out to match the painterly beauty of Scott's film. By all means see the overblown Exodus: Gods and Kings but if you have a copy of The Duelists lying fallow, the film is ripe for rediscovery...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Star Gazing

Earlier today I caught Paul Morrissey's 1971 film Women In Revolt and was instantly smitten by Candy Darling. That she was a transgender person hardly matters, she's an enchanting, lovely beauty all the same. Candy is perhaps best known as the Candy in Walk on the Wild Side, immortalized in the song's most famous verse:
Candy came from out on the island,
In the backroom she was everybody's darling,
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She was also Lou Reed's muse on an earlier song, Candy Says, from the third VU album, a far more delicate song about Candy's dilemma of being a man living as a woman, and all the doubt, guilt and confusion that brings. Reed's line "What do you think I'd see, If I could walk away from me" is especially touching. Elsewhere Candy is one of the cover stars of The Smiths' discography, her image (a stylized still from Women In Revolt) was used for the 1987 single Sheila Take A Bow. Candy also appeared in films beyond the Factory, she's shares a tiny moment with Jane Fonda in Klute, and perhaps stranger still, she appears in Silent Night, Bloody Night (which also includes two other Warhol alumni Mary Woronov and Ondine). The film would be Candy's final screen appearance, after contracting leukemia she passed away in March 1974 aged 29.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Violent Four

Just watched Carlo Lizzani's The Violent Four, an excellent hard-nosed Italian crime film about the exploits of a crew bank robbers and the police hunt that follows their latest score. Emerging in 1968, Lizzani's film is slightly ahead of the curve of poliziotteschi films of the 70's, the story itself is fairly rudimentary - apparently based on real-life events, but Lizzani galvanizes the material with a pseudo-documentary style and a relentless pace - the centerpiece of the film, a bank robbery that spills out onto the streets of Milan, is quite breathtaking with the actors hanging out of speeding cars, all guns blazing. I suspect Lizzani intended his film to call attention to the increasing levels of violent crime that were encroaching on Italian life - at one point the director uses a novel device of introducing some minor characters who are fated to be killed in the aftermath of the robbery - lest one imagines there was any honor among these thieves. Cast is headed up by the great Gian Maria Volonté as the erratic head of the gang, and squaring off against him is Tomas Milian, slightly too young to be playing a police commissioner but effective nonetheless. And bringing up the rear is a fresh-faced Ray Lovelock as the young whipper-snapper in the gang. My thanks to my good friend Martin, who introduced me to this film, which surprisingly has not yet received an official English-language release on DVD/BR. In the meantime, there's an excellent fan rip doing the rounds which combines the original Italian soundtrack with a very good looking German print (Die Banditen von Mailand) and it's well worth seeking out...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Abbey in the Oakwood

I finally opened my Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales boxset last night and have cleared the proposed w/end viewing to hopefully catch all 6 films (and the substantial book that accompanies the set). Last night I watched The Fall of the House of Usher and I had seemingly forgotten much of it since my last pass at the Midnite Movies DVD edition, which made the Cocteau-ish dream sequence all the more startling. Watching the final shot of the film, the Usher house sinking into the malignant earth, I was reminded of the German landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich's 1810 painting The Abbey in the Oakwood, in which the old ruins of a church have become a cemetery for the monks who perhaps, Usher-like were cloistered there...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Violent City

Watched Sergio Sollima's 1970 film Violent City last night (it was going to be a Carl Dreyer, but at the 11th hour...). Not quite the equal of The Big Gundown or Revolver but an enjoyable, compelling crime film all the same, splicing the infernal affairs of Build My Gallows High with the avant-gardism of Point Blank. The title of the film led me to expect a muscular urban action film, but Sollima almost deliberately steers clear of the streets of New Orleans, where the film is set, and instead relocates the action to the city's grubby hinterlands which lends the film a certain sobriety in comparison with some of the more outrageous examples of the Italian Crime genre. Film is surprisingly rough around the edges as well with a number of technical imperfections - inconsistent lighting, and some clumsy aerial shots, but the film is bookended with two stand-out sequences - a wordless car chase around the increasingly claustrophobic streets of St. Thomas island, and a stunning assassination scene that plays out in near complete silence. In a decade which saw him appear in a string of forgettable films, Violent City remains a Charles Bronson picture to savor...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jon Hassell

Variations on a theme... After dusting off Eno's Neroli on Friday, I’m listening to his collaborator Jon Hassell and his 1977 debut album Vernal Equinox. The timing of Hassell’s album seems appropriate, the album emerged during Miles Davis’ lost years, as if to fill the void left by the trumpeter's departure. I wonder what Miles thought of this record ? Hassell was most definitely ploughing similar ground with his own music – his heavily processed trumpet sounds are something Miles was working towards with albums like On the Corner and Get Up With It, although Hassell’s music is more minimalist and spacey in comparison, with instruments and environmental sounds given lots of room to breathe. I very much like Hassell’s theory of Fourth World Music - the reshaping of ethnic music and instruments thru modern recording technology. Listening to Vernal Equinox I see visions of tall, clean skyscrapers rising harmoniously from a rainforest, or in some of the more dreamier passages, I can imagine William Burroughs trekking thru the Amazon in search of ingredients to make the psychedelic concoction yage. It’s a shame that Vernal Equinox is currently out-of-print, but I’m hoping a re-issue might be on the cards at some point considering we've had recent re-issues of Fourth World Vol. 1 - Possible Musics and City: Works Of Fiction. In the meantime, the album’s 22min title track and centre piece can be heard here

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Francis Bacon

It was a rather slow day at work yesterday so I managed to steal an hour to watch a South Bank Show documentary from 1985 devoted to painter Francis Bacon. Sky Arts showed an abbreviated 25min version of this some months ago, but fortunately the entire 55min programme has been preserved at the ever essential Ubu Web film archive. The documentary finds Bacon in fine form - interviewed by Melvyn Bragg, Bacon is chatty, lucid, articulate (even after too much wine), and open and frank about his life, his homosexuality, his fondness for the drink (at one point the programme relocates to a boisterous Soho drinking den) and his great love of gambling. Bacon’s honesty when it comes to his work - his successes and failures - extends to other painters work, and in one amusing moment he gives his impressions of Jackson Pollack (“To me they look like bits of old laces”) and Mark Rothko (“They’re the most dreary paintings that have ever been made”). Better still, the programme serves as an excellent primer on Bacon's work, his theme of the mutability of flesh and his desire to remake/remodel the human form which renders the figures in his paintings unmade, unfinished, de-evolved, nightmarish. This excellent documentary can be viewed here

Friday, April 24, 2015

Neroli

I’m currently listening to the 1993 album Neroli, one of Brian Eno’s most austere and minimalist works, the entire album consisting of just one single 57min glacial soundscape. It’s a quiet recording too, and perhaps not best suited to the noisy office where I work, the sounds of voices and ringtones straying into the sound field - no doubt something Eno would approve of. My revisiting of Neroli, an album that doesn't get much plays (in contrast with the extraordinary Thursday Afternoon) was prompted by the recent clutch of Eno re-issues, which includes a second pass at Neroli, augmented by an extra disc of previously unreleased drone music. Perhaps the most significant thing about Neroli, at least for me is that it marks the end of a near faultless run of Eno albums that began with No Pussyfooting. I’ve found it very hard to connect with his post-millennium work - the door is not closed by any means on albums like Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Another Day on Earth and Lux - but so far, I've found this music remote and unengaging… Incidentally I recently came across an interesting Eno documentary online entitled Imaginary Landscapes, a 39min piece from 1989 featuring the great man discussing music and art in his own illuminating and stimulating style. Aside from shots of Eno at his mixing board, the visuals are strictly stock-ambient, so this might be best experienced as an audio piece if you’re busy looking at something else. You can find it here

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pasolini

Currently reading Pasolini’s 1956 novel Ragazzi di Vita, a neorealist account of a group of street urchins growing up in the slums of Rome, whose lives are shaped by poverty, boredom, crime and violence. Ragazzi di Vita is not an easy read, the narrative feels as aimless as its teenage protagonists, and the book’s documentary style is taxing - Pasolini’s attention to detail when it comes to places and place names is such that one could almost construct a map from the book of this less frequented side of The Eternal City. And yet the novel is fascinating in the light of Pasolini’s early films, his observations on slum life are echoed in Accattone, and Mamma Roma and his screenplay for Bertolucci’s La Commare Secca. All this Pasolini business was prompted by Abel Ferrara’s biopic which I’m looking forward to seeing at some stage. It’s not good to ruminate on a film that I'm perhaps months away from seeing, most likely on Blu-Ray (I wonder will the film be held back until November to tie in with the 40th anniversary of Pasolini’s death), but if the striking image of Willem Dafoe, wearing Pasolini’s trademark horn rimmed glasses is anything to go by, I’m hugely excited for the film. Be sure to check out the excellent trailer (nsfw) which uses appropriately enough “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” from Bach’s St Matthew Passion...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MisinforMation

I suspect it was Peter Strickland's wonderful 5min short Box Hill (found on the Berberian Sound Studio BR/DVD) that inspired me to revisit the British Film Institute's 2012 film MisinforMation, a fascinating experimental compilation of films and fragments culled from the extensive archive of the Central Office of Information, and equipped with a new soundtrack supplied by the elusive electronic outfit Mordant Music. Some of these films will be familiar to a generation of English and Irish people who grew up in the 80's - I remember well the film about home security, a house invaded by thieving magpies - but re-contextualized in this collection, their original narrations replaced by thick, atmospheric drones, serrated electronics, and foggy distortion, the previously hidden experimental quality of these films begins to emerge. My favourite films in the collection are the landscape studies - Looking at Prehistoric Sites, a film about Britain's ancient spaces is transformed into something akin to Derek Jarman's Super 8 film A Journey to Avebury, while the extraordinary Sea in Their Blood, a 1983 short by Peter Greenaway looks less like one of the director's statistical obsessions and more like an alien report on a land shaped both physically and psychologically by the body of water that laps its edges. Hauntological and highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Berberian Sound Studio

Revisited Berberian Sound Studio earlier and I enjoyed the film much more than my initial screening which left me a little underwhelmed. Now some two years later, the film feels much more substantial and rewarding. Watching the film again, I couldn't help but look for nods to Italian films - the film-within-a-film, The Equestrian Vortex feels like a cross between Black Sunday and Mark of the Devil re-written for the Demons generation, and there are some interesting parallels with Peter Strickland's film and Suspiria. But one film that came to mind was, oddly enough Videodrome, partly due to the shots of the antiquated electronic equipment I suspect, but more than that, I was reminded of something David Cronenberg said about his film which seemed to forge a link to Strickland's: "I wanted to posit the possibility that a man exposed to violent imagery would begin to hallucinate. I wanted to see what it would be like, in fact, if what the censors were saying would happen DID happen. What would it feel like ? What would it lead to ?"

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Road To God Knows Where

Watched Uli M Schüppel's 1990 documentary The Road To God Knows Where, a grainy, dimly-lit b/w record of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' month long tour of North America in 1989. "This is the last song, of the last show of our American tour. Thank God" announces Cave at a gig in LA, and you can't help but sympathize, the band having to contend with dingy venues, bad sound, and the deadening boredom of life on the road. For Cave, the process seems especially tortuous, he's clearly uncomfortable among the strangers at backstage parties, or dealing with journalists and their inane questions. One suspects the band poured all that boredom and frustration into their music and the film includes a number of full-blooded, volcanic performances, the highlight, an incredible impromptu rendition of a stripped-back Mercy Seat at a radio station. Essential viewing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vampyr

Watched Carl Dreyer's Vampyr last night... I can't think of another film that replicates that elusive, intangible feeling that comes with being on the edge of sleep. The weird movement of the actors caused by the under cranked camera, the reverse shots, the milky photography, the strange shadow play, the sudden breaks in continuity all add up to perhaps the most singular vision in Horror Cinema. I've seen the film perhaps 4 or 5 times over the years between the odd TV screening, the UK Redemption video and the Master of Cinema DVD, and still I was looking ahead to the moment in the film where Allan Grey sees dirt shoveled down upon him from the vantage point of inside his own coffin - but of course no such scene exists in the film. I was probably seeing the film thru the prism of later horror films – there are similar moments in The Evil Dead and City of the Living Dead, but it seems oddly appropriate that I would experience this false memory with Dreyer’s dreamlike film…

Burroughs books

Looking thru a fantastic archive of William Burroughs book covers… Fascinating to see how a tricky customer like Burroughs was packaged and sold over the years. Naked Lunch and Soft Machine borrowed Dali paintings for their US Ballantine editions, the first US edition of Cities of the Red Night used Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s apocalyptic painting The Triumph of Death, while a Dutch edition of Naked Lunch, featured Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring His Son. Occasionally publishers would reflect the decadence of Burroughs’ novels – UK paperbacks of Junkie and Dead Fingers Talk featured explicit syringe play, a German edition of Naked Lunch from 1982 came with a fairly explicit still from what looks like a porno, while various naked male torsos were commonly seen on copies of Queer. Burroughs himself was the cover star for many of his books over the years – I particularly like the Chinese film-tie-in edition of Naked Lunch which features Burroughs sitting in the black meat factory set of Cronenberg’s film. All designs mentioned above can be found here

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Expensive Records

I mentioned The Beatles' Let It Be a few days ago, and I'm just cruising eBay checking prices for a copy of the album that came with the photo-book - a slightly worn edition will set you back a cool $550.00. I hasten to add I could never afford such treasures, but one should have things in mind in the event of an unexpected windfall... Some other nice items currently up for auction on eBay: a copy of Sticky Fingers, with zipper fencing in Joe Dallesandro's bulge goes from $40 to $250, depending on grading... The all-destroying sandpaper packaged Return of the Durutti Column will destroy your wallet at $480... Depending on the level of rust, copies of Public Image Limited's Metal Box are available starting at $150 and up to $295... Paypal donations will be warmly received.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Zone

I’m currently leafing thru a gallery of pictures taken from within Chernobyl’s Zone of Exclusion, one of the most radioactively contaminated areas in the world. Looking at these pictures of discarded, disintegrating military vehicles; abandoned residential blocks being slowly reclaimed by the wilderness, my thoughts are inevitably drawn to Tarkovsky’s film Stalker and the eerie way the film anticipates life after the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. As per the film, the photographers who took these pictures may well have snuck into the Zone (strict permission is required to pass thru the military checkpoints), and perhaps a guide or a stalker was required to lead them around pockets of radiation - apparently the poisonous radioactive dust that coats the Zone is more prevalent on foliage than asphalt roads. Something else to reflect on was the high number of crew members, including Tarkovsky, who developed cancer in the ensuing years – most probably from working in the poisonous ruins of the Estonian power station where Stalker was filmed. Seeing the film nowadays I can’t help but wince when I see the actors wading thru pools of dirty water (think of the famous shot of Alexander Kaidanovsky dozing in the stream), or negotiating their way thru spaces filthy with toxic dust. Pictures of the Zone of Exclusion can be found here and here

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Let It Be

Watched Let It Be, the Beatles film from 1970… It wasn't quite the scenes from a marriage I was expecting, no doubt the four Beatles had cherry-picked the most appealing footage of their stint at Twickenham Studios rehearsing for the aborted Get Back album. And yet there are painful hints that the band was working towards an inexorable dissolution – one imagines Ringo was wishing he was away on a film set, or George working instead on the songs he had been quietly squirreling away. John simply goes thru the motions (accompanied everywhere by Yoko Ono, wearing a rigid Noh expression throughout her scenes), whilst Paul shows the strain of keeping the fragmenting band together – a shot in the film of a partially devoured green apple on top of McCartney’s piano can help but raise a wry smile. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the film is how ragged The Beatles were sounding - a lot of the music they make in the film dissolves into loose jams, old rock n’ roll standards and comedy routines, but as if by magic, the lethargy is swept away when they convene on the rooftop of Apple HQ on a cold January morning for one last concert, to the delight of lunch-hour shop girls and a few disapproving bobbies who eventually break the whole thing up... Let It Be remains an unloved and unwanted film, McCartney and Starr have apparently scotched proposed re-issues of the film, but it remains an important, perhaps even essential closing chapter The Beatles story.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Movies

Listening to Holger Czukay’s 1979 album Movies… Whenever I dig this album out, it requires a few passes before the weirdness of the album wears off on me. The core of Can appear on this record at various points - Irmin Schmidt, Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit were all drafted in to add a touch of their magic, and it’s probably why the album resembles in places Future Days. But on the whole the album has a far sunnier disposition than Can – there’s none of Tago Mago’s frightening experimentation, in fact the opening track Cool In the Pool could pass for skewed Euro-pop. One significant aspect of the album are the samples peppered throughout – dialogue is lifted from movies (naturally) and there’s a distinct middle eastern texture. Czukay had sampled exotic voices before, on the Canaxis album, but I wonder was the Movies album a more direct influence on Eno and Byrne’s My Life In the Bush of Ghosts (which also pulls dialogue and middle eastern vocals into its mix). Listening to the album, a scene from The Man Who Fell To Earth springs to mind, where Bowie’s character is feverishly channel surfing thru the bank of televisions he has set up – the film’s soundtrack is suddenly swamped by dialogue from old movies, documentaries, adverts, and a Roy Orbison song, creating an extraordinary bricolage of sound…

Book Spotting !

I watched Interstellar over the w/end (and loved it)… Being a book nerd one memorable aspect of the film were the shots of the bookshelf, which completely took me out of the film momentarily, the plot and characters pushed aside as I scrambled to spot as many titles as possible. I’m sure some eagled-eyed blogger has cobbled together a full list of books, but I couldn't fail to spot a copy of The Stand – and I hope it wasn't one of the books that got pushed off the shelf - the copy featured was an original Doubleday first edition (a facsimile I’m sure), a fine copy of this book can fetch up to three to four hundred dollars ! Another book I caught was James Ellroy’s The Big Nowhere (which made me smile!). One book I might have expected to be there was James Blish’s four-volume interstellar saga Cities In Flight, in which scientists and engineers have solved the problem of gravity and whole cites have uprooted and blasted off for the stars. I actually thought Nolan’s film was heading in this direction, so there’s a sequel that’s just asking to be made !

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Amazing Mr. Bickford

Just watched the claymation film The Amazing Mr Bickford... I have a few Frank Zappa things to watch in the next few days and this was top of the list, a 51min compilation of claymation sketches by animator-extraordinaire Bruce Bickford made for Zappa in the late 70's/early 80's. The film is scored with cuts from Zappa'a 1984 orchestral work Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger, and the London Symphony Orchestra Vol 1 album, the thunderous music the perfect accompaniment to Bickford's dizzying, perpetually morphing animation, made in the surrealist tradition. His extraordinarily expressive clay players wander through hallucinatory Max Ernst type landscapes, encountering violence, hatred and degradation, and undergoing radical Dali-esque contortions. It's a technical tour de force of hyper kinetic editing and movement, with Bickford's camera swooping and diving after his characters - I suspect creating this incredible micro-cosmos was a Herculean task. Better to leave this wonderful film do the talking, and despite it being unavailable thru official channels, the entire film is available to watch in very good quality over on youtube...


Monday, April 13, 2015

Alan Splet

Listening to Robert Hampson's experimental soundscape project Main… The album I'm currently listening to, Hz, a compilation of limited edition singles comes with a dedication to film sound designer Alan Splet (pictured below with David Lynch and Jack Nance). Splet is perhaps best known for creating with David Lynch, the audio surrealism of Eraserhead. Splet first worked with Lynch on The Grandmother which led to a run of tremendous collaborations – Splet was responsible for the sound of the hissing, clanking machinery in The Elephant Man and Dune, and the extraordinary detailed soundworld of Blue Velvet (whose story begins with the shot of an ear!). Elsewhere Splet's brilliant work can be heard in Days of Heaven, The Black Stallion (which won him a special Academy Award for sound editing), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Dead Poets Society, and The Mosquito Coast, which incidentally includes another piece of sinister machinery...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mr. Arkadin

I've just completed (well, almost completed), Criterion's fabulous Mr. Arkadin box, having now watched all three cuts of Welles' brilliant 1955 film(s)... I had pondered on which order to watch the three films in and finally took the pedantic decision to watch them as placed within the Criterion set - Confidential Report first, followed by Mr. Arkadin (Corinth version) and the so-called Comprehensive Version. Of the three cuts, I think the Comprehensive Version is the best - the revisions are sensitive and well-considered, and the re-sequencing of certain scenes is handled with dutiful deference to Welles' own plan for the film. The Comprehensive Version also rescues a few exclusive snippets here and there from Confidential Report - I say "rescue" like Confidential Report was an unforgivable corruption of Welles' vision - far from it, I think producer Louis Dolivet's dispensing of the flashback structure lends the film a bold narrative thrust which makes few concessions to the audience's comprehension of the film. By the way, I fell head over heels in love with Patricia Medina in the film, her drunken scene with Welles on board a perilously swaying yacht is one of my favourite things in the picture. I very much liked Robert Arden as well, and have scribbled a mental note to look out for him in what I suspect are bit parts in Chaplin's A King In New York, and Omen III. All that's left now is to finish off the set by reading Maurice Bessy's novelization, and Video Watchdog's own forensic investigation of the film and its variants (which I might add appeared in issue 10 from 1992, predating the Criterion set by 14 years).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Revisiting Sunset Boulevard

Just watched Sunset Boulevard, a film that looks more astonishing with each passing year... There are moments in the film when Gloria Swanson, not hamming it up as Salome, retains some of that beauty of her younger self seen in the clip of von Stroheim's Queen Kelly - after all, William Holden takes her to bed at one point, and perhaps it's my age, but I think the film generates a palpable frisson of dark eroticism. I love the sequence where Swanson makes her triumphant return to that Paramount lot and there's a lovely moment where C.B. DeMille gently kisses Swanson goodbye on the forehead and Swanson momentarily closes her eyes like a loving daughter. Wonderful stuff. It's a shame the film's original, more macabre opening of Holden beginning his story from a mortuary slab was rejected after unfavorable test screenings, but fortunately the brilliant notion of a dead man narrating the film was kept: in fact, for Holden's last bit of voice-over I half-expected him to sign-off with "Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had finally enfolded her...in the Twilight Zone." (I was perhaps thinking of the 1959 TZ episode. "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" which leans heavily on Sunset Boulevard).


Friday, April 10, 2015

Kosmos - Soundtracks Of Eastern Germany's Adventures In Space

First album of the day... Kosmos - Soundtracks Of Eastern Germany's Adventures In Space, a 2002 compilation which collects together various themes (and dialogue) from a clutch of sci-fi films made at the East German DEFA studio - Der Schweigende Stern (First Spaceship on Venus, 1960), Signale - Ein Weltraumabenteuer (Signals: A Space Adventure, 1970), Im Staub der Sterne (In the Dust of the Stars, 1976), and Eolomea (1972). There's less weird electronics on this than I expected, the music swings in the style of Martin Denny and Les Baxter, with occasional jazz licks, celestial choruses, and the odd burst of prog rock (one track in particular sounds like a cast-off from Tangerine Dream's Cyclone album). Still, it's an enjoyable listen, and it's given me the urge to investigate these Eastern Bloc space operas...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon

Earlier this afternoon, I read Stanley Kubrick's screenplay for Napoleon... This particular draft is dated September 29, 1969, and comes with fascinating production notes concerning the film's budget, actors, filming locations, sets, costumes and research material. I'm not sure how advanced this particular draft of the screenplay was but it makes for interesting reading on what might have been, had Kubrick made the film. The screenplay spans Napoleon's entire life, opening with a scene where a 4-year old Napoleon is read a bedtime story, to his rise to power, his triumphant campaigns and battles, his coronation as Emperor of France, through to his fall after a disastrous war with Russia, and his exile and death on the remote Atlantic island St. Helena. And all of it within 3 hours. The screenplay includes copious amounts of narration (which I read with the voice of Michael Hordern in mind) providing expository information and filling in gaps in the narrative. The battle sequences make for the most exciting parts of the screenplay, with shots planned to include men by the thousands, but Kubrick deftly adds some small touches which delight - when the film briefly relocates to Egypt, there's a shot of French soldiers inspecting a tomb, and a young drummer boy scrawling "Long Live the Republic" over some hieroglyphic writing. Elsewhere, a key moment like the French naval defeat at Trafalgar is summed up in one single striking shot of a wrecked French ship at the bottom of the ocean, the body of its drowned captain drifting around the cabin along with his books and papers. But there are problems too. Kubrick's writing is less skillful when the film indulges in court intrigue, Napoleon's womanizing, and tempestuous relationship with Josephine are dull. A scene where Napoleon breaks away from a dinner to conquer the wife of a guest feels clumsily staged. One thing I did struggle with reading the screenplay was whom to visualize in the part of Napoleon. Jack Nicholson has long been associated with the role, but the Napoleon, as Kubrick writes him, seems a little to austere for Nicholson. I was thinking... Dustin Hoffman perhaps ? A copy of the screenplay is available here...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera

Following my last post on Philip Glass, I was reaching for my copy of Einstein on the Beach but instead I watched Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera, an excellent 1985 documentary about Robert Wilson and Philip Glass' magnum opus. What's terrific about this 58min film is that it gives a window into the visual aspect of an opera that comparatively few people will experience, with footage of the rehearsals of The Brooklyn Academy of Music production of the opera for the Next Wave Festival in 1984. Good contributions too from Wilson and Glass. The film is available on youtube, and for streaming and download at the Ubu Archive

A Glass Book

Just reading a warm review of Philip Glass' new memoir Words Without Music (Faber, pp416) in The Sunday Times' Culture supplement. "Reading this memoir will not make converts one way or another, but it should at least put paid to the idea that Glass is facile or vacuous, for he explains the aesthetic behind his music interestingly and clearly. And whichever side you sit, there is no denying the intrinsic interest of his story and what it has to say about the cultural politics of our times - and especially those ever shifting categories of avant-garde and mainstream". I remember one time I was on a bus touring around Chicago, and passing the University of Chicago, the tour guide listed some famous former students which included Philip Glass. Asked for a show of hands for those who knew of Philip Glass, I was the sole contributor which was slightly disappointing. My fellow travelers were far more enthusiastic when the conversation turned to the fortunes of the Cubs as we passed Wrigley Field...


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Coming Soon from Arrow...

I'm very pleased to see Arrow plans to put out Tobe Hooper's 1977 film Eaten Alive on Blu-Ray. This title has been on DVD for as long as I've been collecting - I've seen numerous editions of the film, good, bad and ugly released on both sides of the Atlantic, from fly-by-night cheapskates like Diamond and VIPCO, to more respectful editions by Elite and later Dark Sky. So, it's very gratifying to see Arrow's enthusiasm for this great, underrated film. I last visited with the film in 2013 and was impressed as ever (see link below). It will be really interesting to see what Arrow's production team will do transfer-wise, the film's visual scheme, all murky browns and thick, soupy reds will prove a formidable challenge for HD. If Arrow follows their tradition of offering alternative cover art, there will a bounty of material to choose from - the film at various points was distributed as Eaten Alive, Death Trap, Horror Hotel, Starlight Slaughter (my favourite!), Legend of the Bayou, and apparently Brutes and Savages, although I've never seen any admats or posters for the film under this title... Arrow's Eaten Alive is due for release in the UK and US in July

Monday, April 6, 2015

Visions of Clair

Just watched the 1977 art-porno Visions of Clair. My thanks yet again to Brad Stevens for introducing me to this utterly bewitching film. I feel one initial screening disqualifies me from saying anything meaningful about the film - Annette Haven's titular heroine, a beautiful model who conjures obsession, lust and jealously in the characters who orbit around her - explores ideas about identity, gender and dualism. I'm not entirely sure if Claire was actually a real person, or simply a projection of the other characters' own preoccupations (even the title of the film misspells her film - surely no accident?). I suspect a second or third screening is required for the film to give up its secrets. Still there was much to enjoy on this first pass of the film - director Zachary Youngblood lends the visuals a striking experimental flavour, the sexual grapplings are often layered together transforming bodies into surreal liquid flesh. Annette Haven is very good too, clearly the best player in the film, and is a rather delicate, ethereal beauty (and it some ways reminded me of Lynn Lowry). But perhaps my favourite aspect of the film was the brilliant electro-acoustic score by the delightfully named Ohm's Law, who appropriately enough, I can't find any info about!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Man Who Came Back From the Dead

Lots of Bowie stuff on the Web today in the wake of news of Bowie's participation in Lazarus, a theatre production inspired by Walter Tevis' 1963 novel The Man Who Fell To Earth. It pleases me too that Bowie's collaborator is Irish playwright Enda Walsh... It's always a treat to see The Man Who Fell To Earth film being revived. I'm seeing some great Facebook posts on the film this morning, and it remains a tremendous, integral piece of the Bowie mythology, made during Bowie's infamous sojourn in LA when he was up to his neck in coke, occultism and eccentric dieting. Later when filming began on The Man Who Fell To Earth, he developed an interest in UFOolgy - Bowie's total immersion in Roeg's film apparently had him keenly watching the skies of New Mexico for interstellar visitors. When filming was completed Bowie barely paused for breath before rushing back to LA to record what is arguably his finest album Station To Station. Still, The Man Who Fell To Earth continued a cast a shadow over Bowie, the cover of his 1977 album Low featured artwork based on the film, while Low's final track, Subterraneans used a reverse bass, an idea Bowie originally conceived for the abandoned soundtrack for The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The White City

I've just come to the end of Season 1 (1958-59) of The Naked City, and have thoroughly enjoyed the 39-episode run of this police procedural drama. The show's raison d'être was to present New York City warts and all, and much of the series was filmed fast and loose on the streets and neighborhoods around South Bronx and Manhattan. In addition to the principal actors, The Naked City featured an excellent roster of no-nonsense staff directors (including a prolific Stuart Rosenberg) and a revolving door of talented players making multiple appearances - part of my enjoyment of the show was seeing an actor playing a villain in one episode reappear as a victim in another. This first season features some well known faces too - Peter Falk, Vic Morrow, Martin Balsam, Roberts Blossom and an incandescent Diane Ladd (looking like her 23 year old Laura Dern). The one reservation I have for the show (and this perhaps this would be indicative of the era), is the absence of black actors. There might have been 8 million stories in the Naked City but none of them were black it seems. I think I counted two appearances by black actors throughout the entire season and both played indentured servants. More galling still, episodes often focused attention on the situation of other minorities living in NYC such as Hispanics or European émigrés... I'm now looking forward to delving into the 2nd season of Naked City, revamped to lose the definite article of the original title, but adding an additional half-hour to each episode.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Post-Apocalypse All'Italiana

Mad Max fever is currently revving up on the Web, and with the fourth film in the series due for release this summer, I had an idea to check out a more modest vision of the apocalypse courtesy of two Enzo Castellari films, The Bronx Warriors from 1982 and The New Barbarians made the following year..

The Bronx Warriors, or to give it its slightly clumsy full title 1990: The Bronx Warriors is not strictly a post-apocalyptic film, rather it posited a future where whole tracts of urban neighborhoods have slipped into lawlessness and become no-go zones. Looking at the locations where Enzo Castellari and his crew filmed, it appears the future had already arrived, with the action framed against endless blocks of rubble-strewn, abandoned tenements. In the film, Ann, a young runaway and daughter of a wealthy industrialist takes refuge in the Bronx where she hooks up with Trash, the leader of a biker gang called the Riders. Ann's father who has been grooming his daughter to take over his multi-million dollar corporation sends Hammer, a ruthless, sadistic police lieutenant into the Bronx to retrieve Ann by any means necessary... Inventive, energetic and propelled along by a sure-fire confidence, The Bronx Warriors is one of the great Italian action films. Not nearly as grim or ultra-violent as similar films that followed in its wake, Castellari's film often feels like a Western in disguise, in fact the rousing climax has the gangs of the Bronx pitted against heavily armed riot police on horseback. As well as raiding ideas from Escape From New York, the film takes inspiration from The Warriors, with the Bronx kitted out with even more outrageous looking gangs, like the roller skating Zombies or the camp, toe-tappin' high-kickin' Iron Men. Leading man Marco de Gregorio at least looks the part if nothing else, while Fred Williamson playing Bronx kingpin The Ogre, and Vic Morrow, effectively appearing in Lee Van Cleef role bring much class to the picture., not to mention Zombie-leader George Eastman who effortlessly livens up every scene he appears in. An excellent beginning...


The ever industrious Enzo Castellari quickly followed up The Bronx Warriors with another post-apocalyptic film, and this time, it genuinely was, with The New Barbarians set in the nuclear ravaged wasteland of 2019. To say that The New Barbarians leans heavily on Mad Max 2 would be a kind way of putting it, the film a virtually remake of George Miller's film, right down to the customized vehicles and gloomy looking leading man. In the film, a nomadic loner named Scorpion driving a souped up Firebird car defends an isolated community against the Templars, a sadistic religious sect intent of purging the earth of the human race. Putting aside the film's shameless plunder of George Miller's film, The New Barbarians is severely compromised by the production's penny-pinching budget, the entire film taking place in the same damn stone quarry throughout (in some shots, the excavation machinery clearly visible), or the same stretch of abandoned road, all to numbing effect. Even the vehicles look strictly low-rent, a few dune buggies tricked out with spiked fenders, the occasional rotating blade or in the case of Scorpion's car, an impossibly dainty rocket launcher in the booth. And yet, The New Barbarians is strangely compelling, thanks to Castellari's heroic attempt to make something out of nothing - the idea of the Templars cashing in their horses for automobiles is rather good, and there's one particularly out-there moment where the subtle homosexual subtext of The Road Warrior is picked up and ran with - but I will leave that for unsuspecting viewers to discover themselves. Cast wise, Fred Williamson returns to the fold and he's easily the film's biggest asset, as does George Eastman, playing the Templar's leader with disarming intensity. Incidentally, the film comes with a health warning for the inclusion of Giovanni Frezza (or Bob from House by the Cemetery) playing a whiz kid mechanic. You have been warned.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Remote Viewer

I'm pursuing a Coil obsession at the moment (is there any other way to experience Coil?) and I'm thinking about the various film references scattered throughout their work. There is the unused music for Hellraiser of course, but I'm thinking of song titles like Tenderness of Wolves, Vanishing Point, Red Queen (possibly a reference to the 1972 giallo The Red Queen Kills Seven Times). And there's the homage to Pasolini on Coil's second LP, with the song Ostia (The Death of Pasolini). The Horse Rotarvator album also contains a song referencing Salo, entitled Circles of Mania, and getting back to Hellraiser, one of the titles from the Worship the Glitch album We Have Always Been Here is a line of dialogue from Hellbound: Hellraiser 2... Elsewhere Coil have sampled dialogue from Salo (on the track Homage to Sewage), The Wizard of Gore (pictured below) and Trash (Further), Performance and Trash (Further Back And Faster), The Reflecting Skin (Omlagus Garfungiloops) and Marat/Sade (Answers Come In Dreams 1). In addition the track Further Back And Faster samples some dialogue from a Charles Laughton spoken word album based on Night of the Hunter ("The fingers of the left hand spell...love, those of the right spell... hate"). Have I missed anything ?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Juliette Gréco

Just revisited Jean Cocteau's 1950 fantasy Orphée, a truly astonishing film which transposes the classic Greek myth of Orpheus to a contemporary Paris of petulant Left Bank intellectuals and an Underworld that resembles a WWII ravaged city. This is a magician's film in every sense, and Cocteau dazzles the eye with some remarkable devices - trick shots, reversed film, back projection and in one moment, an impromptu costume change between shots. Cocteau's film also features three beautiful actresses - María Casares as Death, Marie Déa as Eurydice and Juliette Greco as Aglaonice. Juliette Gréco's appearance in the film is all too brief, but she's an incredible beauty, and as I watched her tossing her luminous long black hair to one side I thought of an another enchanting actress - Mirella D'Angelo from Tenebrae. Both women do share a similarity I think. Or perhaps it's just Cocteau's mirrors working me over...
 
 
 
I was reading Juliette Gréco's potted biography on wiki and she has lived an extraordinary life, among other things she had a relationship with Miles Davis. Miles writes about first meeting her in 1949 in his autobiography...
I met Juliette at one of my rehearsals. She would come in and sit and listen to the music... I asked this guy who she was.
He said "What do you want with her?"
I said "What do you mean what do I want with her. I want to see her"
Then he says "Well you know she's one of those existentialists"
So I told him right there and then "Man fuck all that kind of shit. I don't care what she is. That girl is beautiful and I want to meet her"


 

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business

I caught just one film over the w/end, but it was a good one - the 2014 Mick Jagger produced documentary Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. Running a brisk 90mins, the film offered a potted history of the hardest working man in show business - from his early days singing for dimes in his aunt's whorehouse in Georgia thru to the formation of the J.Bs in the early 70's. Incomplete as it was, the documentary still took care of business, with a wealth of fantastic live footage and a near definitive roster of central players in Brown's musical life - members of The Famous Flames and the J.B.'s (including Bootsy Collins and Danny Ray, James' "capeman") who all bring along some priceless anecdotes, as well as the aforementioned Rolling Stone who fondly recalls smoothing a few of James' ruffled feathers when he was displeased with the filming arrangements of the T.A.M.I. Show. And while the film sidesteps the thorny issue of Brown's mistreatment of his women, the interviewees are given free reign to air their grievances about their boss' thriftiness, and his near-tyrannical control over how they played and looked; and I was genuinely surprised to discover James was an unapologetic Nixonite, publicly supporting Nixon's administration (which was only begrudgingly reciprocated by the President). A shame the film wasn't longer, although if you have a copy of the fabulous Soul Power, it pretty much picks up from where Mr. Dynamite bows out.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fulci Centi

I've seen various online tributes to Lucio Fulci today, marking the anniversary of his death, 19 years missed today. With that in mind I wanted to catch one of his films, but preferably not one of his signature works, perhaps something a little off the beaten track such as Perversion Story or Beatrice Cenci - two Fulci films I've had waiting in the wings for ages now but so far have not gotten around to seeing. I said a little off the beaten track - I'm looking thru Fulci's filmography now and any completist would have his work cut out tracking down the director's entire oeuvre. I counted 16 titles from 1959 onwards before I hit the first film of Fulci's I'm acquainted with, the 1966 western Massacre Time. Similarly, I've been lax on my post-Conquest Fulci too - all titles I know by name but have yet to investigate...


And so today it was the turn of Beatrice Cenci, Fulci's 1969 historical drama. This was my first time seeing the film and I was hugely impressed - the deft balance between lucid story-telling (the film based on actual events from 16th century Italy), and a surprisingly sophisticated chronological structure, would make it a fine rebuttal against naysayers who balk at the director's feverish, irrational Horror films of the early 80's. The film is perhaps closer in style and execution to Don't Torture A Duckling - there's not much in the way of explicit gore, but neither does the film flinch from the brutality of the age (one character has a nail plunged into, where else, his eye!), and Fulci laces the carnage with a sense of outrage at the hypocrisy and decadence of the ruling classes and the ease at the which they cannibalize even their own. Required viewing.