“I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”—Sir David Attenborough, on what he tells people who ask him why he doesn’t credit god with nature in this interview about how creationists tell him he’s going to hell. Sir David Attenborough is the man.
The Arbors’ demented 1969 cover of “The Letter,” which I finally remembered to find on the internets after getting my mind melted by it months ago. Of course, it’s not demented right away. It’s a slow burn, not revealing its total weirdness till around the 2 1/2 minute mark. By then it’s sailed over the deep end.
I was monstrously disappointed to discover that the rest of the Arbors stuff isn’t quite this out-there. Most of their covers (ranging from “Mas Que Nada” to “Summer Samba” to “Valley of the Dolls”) are sickeningly slick over-produced fits of sonic Velveeta. As they get into the psychedelic ’60s (ca. “The Letter,” that is) they get into some truly wack experimentation. “Like a Rolling Stone” has a harpsichord opening that, sadly, builds to a gross-out chorus that calls to mind nothing less than jazz-hands. But their “Touch Me” is perversely languid and melancholy, while a medley that unites “I Can’t Quit Her” with “Emily (Wherever I May Find Her)” remains otherworldly throughout. It’s as though they had just made up their target audience in their mind without bothering to see if they actually existed. In other words: exactly who is this music for?
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition presents an opportunity to engage students in thinking about the science behind the landscapes first created in the mind of author C.S. Lewis and in film adventures by Walt Disney Pictures.”—Um…what science?
“Rebellious. Passionate. Gifted. Beautiful. Béatrice Dalle could be a mix of some artist from many centuries ago and a rock star. Discovered in 37°2 le matin (1986), Dalle has become a sex symbol and a respected performer. Known for her problems with justice, her relationships with rapper Joey Starr and her explicit talking, Béatrice Dalle is anyway starring in many independent works of art such as Belle histoire, La (1992) (“The beautiful story”) by Claude Lelouch, À la folie (1994) (“Six days, six nights”) alongside Anne Parillaud, 17 fois Cécile Cassard (2002) (“17 times Cecile Cassard”) with Romain Duris or Trouble Every Day (2001) with Vincent Gallo.”—The IMDb bio for Béatrice Dalle. The trivia section is just as jaw-dropping. I think I’m going to become an amateur Dalle biographer; if there’s more like this it’s possible she may become my new Werner Herzog. (Hat tip: Chris Stults’ Facebook page.)
While killing time in a Village bookstore tonight I spotted Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard and child. Maggie sat down on the floor with her kid and read her a couple stories. It was really amazingly adorable, from what I could see though mostly just hear. (They both have lovely voices in person. Of course.) Warmed the heart, all that shit.
“I know lying is wrong, but if the Elephant Man came in now in a blouse with some make-up on and said, ‘How do I look?’, would you say, ‘Go and take that blush off, you misshapened elephant tranny’? Or would you say, ‘You look nice… John’?”—Alan Partridge, offering some sound advice on the positive aspects of lying.
“Eager to watch it before assembling my 10-best list in December (Manohla’s rhapsodic review had me at “Carl Theodor Dreyer”), I finally ordered a copy, subtitled in French, from a shady-looking DVD dealer in Malaysia—only to find that after about 35 staggeringly lovely minutes, the image broke up into a tiled mosaic of pixels and froze there.”—Dana Stevens on Silent Light, over at the just-ended Slate Movie Club. I was about to say that one can procure the movie — my number three for last year — from the UK by a pretty kickass Tartan R2 disc…but I now see it’s out of print and going for upwards of $50, probably because Tartan is no more. Dag. At least I have a copy. Not that I dare watch it on my TV. (Though I’ve watched the opening about ten times. Dude.)
More Great Movies Not Available on Region-1 DVD, Part 2
Continuing from where we left off, here’s another batch. Again, this list could go on ad inf.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967, Jean-Luc Godard) Weekend is available on a (shitty, unconverted-from-PAL) DVD from New Yorker, while KOCH Lorber was kind enough to release La Chinoise last year. Godard’s powerhouse ‘67 trilogy would be complete if someone would bother with the best thing he did that year - an eternally undersung piece of fragmentation that improves with every viewing. Hell, you can even get Godard’s impenetrable post-narrative La Gaï Savoir on R1 DVD! Marketa Lazarová (1967, Frantisek Vlacíl) Voted by Czech natives as the best homegrown movie ever made - and that’s beating the whole of the Czech New Wave, of which this is technically not a part - Vlacil’s survey of medieval times is like a proto-McCabe & Mrs. Miller, only even more alienating. We’re plunged deep within an unforbidding, B&W ‘scope landscape of freezing temperatures and flesh-hungry wolves, with a narrative that only makes sense part of the time. Those with regionless capabilities can get a pretty cheap, and pretty damn gorgeous disc from England’s Second Run label. Everyone else will just have to take our word for it as primo transporting cinema. The Bed-Sitting Room (1969, Richard Lester) I could have chosen Lester’s 1967 satire How I Won the War, but at least that’s available from England. His even more nutso post-apocalyptic comedy is wholly unavailable, unless you’re lucky to catch it on cable. A notable bomb that was the result of Lester being handed a blank check at the most confident part of his career, The Bed-Sitting Room has languished unfairly in movie purgatory, robbing people the sight of, among other things, an all-star cast mutating into animals and furniture and Frank Thornton’s bored BBC reporter delivering the news in hollowed-out TV sets. Zabriskie Point (1970) Michelangelo Antonioni’s first and only American film tanked both critically and commercially, but it’s been growing immensely in stature over the last couple years. Maybe that process could be sped up with a DVD release, don’t you think, studio execs? The Devils (1971, Ken Russell) Last spring a cruel joke was played: word spread that Warner Bros., usually one the bestest friend to DVD-cinephiles among the majors, was going to release the uncut version of Russell’s notorious, X-rated tale of the “possessions” that occurred in Loudon in the 17th century. (Whether or not this cut would have included the “Rape of Christ” sequence, snipped prior to its release, is up in the air.) And then, just as soon as its name appeared on release sheets, it was gone, not to appear again (so far). Drat. Must we continue to subsist on bootlegs and sketchy YouTube posts?
Deep End (1971, Jerzy Skolimowski) But at least there are bootlegs and YouTube posts for The Devils. As far as I can tell there’s nada for Polish emigré Skolimowski’s amazing British debut, which details one creepily awkward boy’s rude and eventually violent sexual awakening. How else will people know that Jane Asher, best known as the pretty redhead Paul McCartney was dating when the Beatles first exploded internationally, can actually act, and well? Messiah of Evil (1973, Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz) Believe me this: the couple that made Howard the Duck used to be awesome. Yes, they wrote American Graffiti, but more importantly they wrote and directed this uneasy chiller, one of the only films to translate the feel of an H.P. Lovecraft tale into the cinematic language. Yes, one can torrent this beast or even watch clips on YouTube. But they’re in pan & scan full-frame. This shit needs to be seen ‘scope. Trust me. Vincent and Theo (The TV Cut) (1990, Robert Altman) When widdled down to a more easily digestible two hours and change, Altman’s film on the the Van Gogh brothers was integral to his ‘90s comeback, laying the track for The Player and Short Cuts. But it was originally a four-part BBC miniseries. I’ve never seen the theatrical cut, but the TV one - available from Spain - is masterful in a way I’ve never seen the theatrical cut described as. King of the Hill (1993, Steven Soderbergh) Yeah, huh?! Why isn’t Soderbergh’s masterful portrait of one eccentric kid’s eccentric, harrowing childhood on DVD? One of the best from one of our era’s best, King of the Hill ought to seize upon the cancellation of its cartoon namesake and make sure that when people say King of the Hill they think of that film with an amazing kiddie performance from Swimfan and Clockstoppers star Jesse Bradford. Cold Water (1994, Olivier Assayas) Before Irma Vep, there was Cold Water, Assayas’ even more intense, even more handheld survey of something even thornier than a film set: bored, drugged-up, aimless teenagers. Though set in France in the ‘70s, a friend informed that she’s pretty sure she lived this exact film, whose centerpiece is a classic rock-heavy party set at an abandoned house in the woods. A French DVD exists but sans English subtitles. Keep your eyes on the Sundance Channel schedule, on which it sporadically pops up.
Adam Curtis documentaries The BBC are wise to consistently employ Curtis, whose prolific, epic docs restlessly explore subjects concerning the Baudrillardian forces that guide society in heady, unexpected ways. Alas none of them - The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares, the recent The Trap - are available legally stateside, thanks to a whole treasure trove of rights issues. But again, as with so many of these, one can easily find them posted by very nice people on YouTube. Start here and don’t look back.
The reunited My Bloody Valentine left me with (happily) temporary hearing loss
Several friends got married, got engaged, had kids or conceived kids
That’s it! I’m happy the Phils won, but I just can’t get too worked up over sports so it didn’t make the cut. Note that only one (1) of these happened directly to me. And it involved the loss of a sense.
Now, if I were to make a list of all the bad to fucking awful things to happen to the world and to me directly we’d be here all day. If you see me, please pretend that last year simply never happened.
I’m so not ready to go back to doing work, even “work” like this. In the meantime:
Plug 1: Burnsy and I did a tête-à-tête on the year’s cinema and, hoo boy, is it depressing. Or so says my roommate. This is what happens when you have two sad, heartbroken gentlemen muse on a particularly sad, heartbroken year. (Aside: my name’s on the cover of the paper! Whee!)
Plug 2: A Six Pack on nice(-ish) movie Nazis. As this season is chock full of ‘em.