Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Somewhat New Boxes from 2006
Friday, April 23, 2010
A Little Of This And A Little Of That
The Killer That Stalked New York
is none other than a Typhoid Mary type dame played by Evelyn Keyes in another one of her sweaty performances. This time she’s head over heels in love with a lousy heel played by Charles Korvin who is just using her to smuggle diamonds into the US of A. Unknown to Evelyn she has contacted the plague while in Cuba getting the ice. The whole deal stinks to high heaven, because Charles is doing it to Evelyn’s sister played by Lola Albright, and all the while everyone is searching for Evelyn who is threatening to close down shop on New York City. By the time Evelyn realizes that she is dying she also realizes that she has been used, but it’s too late. She’s real sick and looks like a chicken that has been left on the rotisserie for too many hours. Its B all the way, which is fine with me, and the film is highlighted by on location cinematography in New York which includes some nice shots of the late Penn Station, the el, and other spots around this city that do not exist anymore. Also the supporting cast is really terrific, it looks like every character actor in Hollywood worked that week including an uncredited Jim Backus (as a luckless lothario), the great Connie Gilchrist, Whit Bissell, Art Smith, Ludwig Donath, Dorothy Malone and a young an uncredited Richard Egan playing an eager treasury Agent. Directed by Earl McEvoy who directed “The Barefoot Mailman” and “Cargo To Capetown” both of which remain unseen by this viewer. This is part of 2 Dvd set Bad Girls of Film Noir.
Stop Me Before I Scream or What’s It All About Marina?
I swear it felt like there were a trillion people today at The Museum Of Modern Art and it is truly becoming a test for me to go to this place to look at art. Of course the throngs were still falling into the Tim Burton show that is still there. Is this side show going to be a permanent exhibit? Then there were the hoards going to see the nude people at the Marina Abramovic fun house. See the live nudes, see the recreations of her hair raising performance pieces. See the nude lady hanging from the ceiling. I did not care for this show, I think it was dead and boring, big and empty and surprisingly not all that confrontational. Why do some artists think that by covering walls with 100’s of nicely framed bits and pieces of biographical images and documentation that they’ve saved forever that anyone would find this engrossing or even give a shit. Then there is the artist herself sitting there in person wearing flowing bright red robes (at least it was red the day I was there, maybe she has 6 different color robes for each day of the week the museum is open, “let me see today its Wednesday so I think I’ll wear the blue robe)” like some empress at a tea party waiting to be served as fools sit opposite her and stare at each other for minutes, hours days? Some art critic actually called this work a masterpiece. Set up in the large Atrium space with very big lights surrounding her, it reminded me of the miracle sequence in La Dolce Vita., just as fake and phony. Ave Marina gee it’s good to see ya. Well I guess the tourists will have something to tell the folks back home. To be fair as I said just going to this museum is a test of my patience and endurance because of the crowds. I simply cannot look at art this way, and I really should just stop going to this zoo. Oh yes I did squeeze my way past the two nudes standing at the doorway and boy was that fun
Also at the Moma Henri Cartier-Bresson
There is no doubt in my mind that Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the great photographers of the 20th Century. There is also no doubt in my mind that the very large and crowded retrospective of his now pulling in the crowds at The Museum Of Modern Art could have used some curatorial editing. Viewing the show for me was of course difficult because of the crowds, and I’m seriously thinking of not renewing my artists pass when it expires in July. I shudder to think what it is going to be like at this pricey dump when the Matisse show opens this summer. That said I also can very easily enjoy looking at photographs in books, in fact I prefer it to looking at them hanging on a wall. They’re intimate and I have yet to be impressed with actually seeing a wonderful photographic image on a wall instead of in a book. In fact smack dab in the middle of the Cartier- Bresson exhibit were several large tables with copies of the catalog on them for people to browse through and there was not a vacant seat to be had.
Todd Haynes is an interesting and very smart filmmaker, and his 1998 film about the bisexual decedent world of glam rock in the 1970‘s.“Velvet Goldmine" was more enjoyable to me the other night than when I first saw it on it’s original release. Someone told me that Velvet Goldmine was slang for anal sex, but I don’t know if that’s true or is what David Bowie had in minded when he wrote the song. Bowie figures big time in the film, the main mysterious lead Brian Slade is obviously based on him. The plot, which is heavily influenced by Citizen Kane concerns a young reporter’s search for answers to the mystery surrounding Slade who disappeared after a fake assassination was staged during one of his concerts. The reporter played by a fine Christian Bale who when young was a glam rock fan himself. He searches for clues to his disappearance and finds Slade’s ex wife now a down and out something in a sleazy bar that is a nice homage to the scene in Kane where the reporter interviews the down and out Susan Alexander Kane in a sleazy bar. There is also a nice little scene using dolls that is reference no doubt to Haynes still banned short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story that uses dolls to tell the story of the doomed singer. Filled with lots of color, a good music score, wonderful costumes and of course glitter and glam, the cast of then young very attractive actors are uniformly gifted and good, including Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Slade, Toni Collette wonderful as usual as his wife and Ewan McGregor as a rock star based on Iggy Pop, and if you ever had a desire to see McGowen full frontal then this is the film for you.
I just saw a marvelous film by the great French director Agnes Varda, called The Beaches Of Agnes which is an autobiographical documentary on her long and interesting life and her many splendid films. I don't think one needs to know her movies to be captivated by this wonderful woman and her world. Married to Jacques Demy until his death from AIDS in 1990, the documentary includes interviews with old friends, family members and neighbors along with recreations of memories and events in her long life + clips from her films. Besides making movies Varda is also a photographer and an installation artist. Easily one of the best films of 2009
I recently finished the first season of “United States Of Tara” which is about an average suburban wife and mother ( another series that places it’s dysfunctional characters in a suburban setting) with multiple personalities. Starring the amazing Toni Collette as Tara.the show is the brain child of the Oscar winner Diablo Cody and also stars the always terrific Rosemarie DeWitt as Tara's sister and the always sexy John Corbett as her understanding husband and did I mention that Collette is amazing? I don’t know if the show has legs and if the public will be engrossed by this eccentric series to keep it going for any length of time.
“A Prophet" from France and now showing around the country was one of the foreign films nominated for an Oscar this year, and is another brutal entry in the prison genre. Directed by Jacques Audiard its pretty standard in it's storytelling, young green behind the ears impressionable youth enters prison for a minor crime and is quickly intimidated by an older hard timer and is forced for his own safety to commit a murder. The film of course is more complicated than just this, and for over 2 hours we are witnesses to the usual brutality and hard life that is the way things are behind bars. The young and handsome youth is an Arab and the the old lion in winter who picks him out for the horrible deed is the head of a a Corsican outfit who runs the prison and ultimately takes over young Malik's life. The film of course is violent and gritty and the two leads Tahar Rahim as the young prisioner and Niels Arestrup as the old bull are terrific. One of the best films of 2009.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Subways Are for Peeing
I have always hated the subways. Whenever I complain about them, someone inevitably says something like “well they get you where you have to go.” True, but I still hate them. When I lived in Manhattan, in Chelsea before it was ruined, I would walk practically everywhere if at all possible to avoid taking the subway but now that I live in Brooklyn its the subways. When I was growing up in Brooklyn we lived not far from the dirty noisy ugly elevated trains or the El as native New Yorkers call them. At one time there were El’s all over Manhattan on 3rd & 6th avenues throwing their darkness along the avenues. Both were torn down in the 50’s, but this could never happen in Brooklyn or the other outer boroughs, as these els are the mode of transportation for thousands of people. As a kid standing on the platform of our Fort Hamilton Parkway el. station I could see the top of The Empire State Building beckoning me, and at 19 I finally left the Brooklyn to live in the city itself. I once had a friend who loved the subway so much that he would ride the thing just for the pleasure of the ride, and even now when he comes back for a visit from the small town in the mid-west where he now lives he’ll spend one day riding the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again. He keeps a small notebook and he jots down his impressions to record on his blog when he gets back home. I’ve never gotten lost on the subway, and I’ve never been mugged although when a teenager, coming back from a night class at The School Of Visual Arts, some black kid accosted me near the token turnstile on 23 street and demanded that I give him some money, when I refused he slapped me across the face, stunning me and the girl I was with. Its so easy to get disgusted with humanity when riding the beast, (that was the nickname in the 70’s of the No. 1 train, because it was so dangerous), but I still use that name to describe the subway in general terms. In the early 1980’s the subways were covered in grit and graffiti, some intellectuals and art people finding them brilliant and colorful. My enjoyment of these moving murals depended on the mood I was in. On the subway there are the litter bugs, who are too lazy to take their McDonald‘s trash with them when they leave the car and I sometimes am so disgusted with them and their trash that I pick it up myself and throw it away when I get off. I shudder to think what their apartments must look like. Then there are the guys who play with themselves without any fear or shame, the stupid teenagers who blast their ipods into their ears, so loud that you can make out the thump thump thump of the songs. Awful music abounds on the train as we natives sometimes refer to the subway. We also have live music at times. The small roving Mariachi bands and the Doo-wop singers that I would gladly give $1.00 to if they just shut the fuck up. The tourists love them. Or how about the women who think the subway is their own private bathrooms, as they slap make-up on their faces, comb out their hair, trim their nails, apply their eye makeup, and balance a hot cup of coffee on their laps. I await the day when one of them pokes out an eye as the subway comes to a screeching halt at the city hall station. Then there are the pigs who sit across from me picking their noses or coughing without covering their mouths. I will move to the other side of the car when one of these creatures sits near or next to me. I make sure to always have something to read and a pair of sunglasses so I can block out the messy masses around me and lots of sanitizing gel. In the 50’s and early 60’s the subways were not air conditioned and the only relief were those slow turning fans that just moved the heat and sweat around. To this day I wonder how we did it. People use to smoke on the subways and in the winter when it was freezing cold to stand out on the exposed platforms people would wait downstairs near the big old pot belly stoves. My uncle, who lived with us, would always have burns on the back of this overcoat from standing to close to the stove while he waited and waited for his train to come. One cold snowy late night as I waited for a train, and I was totally alone on the elevated platform I decided to give myself a quick jerk, dangerous and stupid but I sometimes did stupid and dangerous things back when I was 18. I was wearing just a thin ugly raincoat because my winter coat had been stolen out of a friend’s car. I had left it in the trunk along with other coats because we were going to a frat party and thought the best and safest place to leave them were in his trunk but some thief in the night probably saw us, and when we went to retrieve them we found the trunk open and our coats gone. My mother refused to buy me a new one; she probably had her reasons, most likely no money. “Wear your raincoat, and maybe next time you’ll be more careful.” So I wore this thin ugly thing all winter, and stained it with my baby batter while waiting for the subway that snowy cold night no doubt waiting for the train that would take me to my sister’s house where I sometimes escaped to on late nights to get away from my father’s craziness. Try as I might I could not get the stain off the raincoat, and walked around all winter with this mark from my sexual indiscretion. “What’s that stain on your raincoat?” My mother asked one morning. “Oh I got some glue on it in art class.” “Art class? Since when do you wear your raincoat in art class? “We had no heat that day” I said and I left it and that, and she left it at that. My last indiscretion on the subway was a few years back when I was coming home from Manhattan after an afternoon with my friend Peter. When I got on the subway at Union Sq. I didn’t have to pee, but as we approached Brooklyn the need to drain my lizard became so bad and sudden that I knew if I didn’t get off the train I would pee my pants. So when we pulled into Court Street, I got off. Oh please let there be no one on the platform and unbelievably I was alone. I knew I wouldn’t be alone for long so I quickly walked to the very edge of the platform and let loose of what seemed like a barrel of piss. Oh I felt bad; I had never done such a thing before and offered up an apology to the Court St. Station. “Oh Court Street station please forgive me for what I did today, and I promise I will never dirty your tracks with my urine ever again.”
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Suck My Dix
The newly arrived Otto Dix retrospective at the Neue Galerie here in New York City can be called a dreadful show ,by which I mean that much of the content and the images are indeed dreadful but not the paintings, drawings and etchings themselves, far from it. Dix’s art for the most part is superb, visually exciting but not easy to embrace and although some might find the work of this German Expressionist hard to take I thought it a terrific exhibition. There is a dark small room that is too small and too dark, (I kept tripping over my friend Joe’s foot) that contain his very powerful etchings that he did to show the destruction of war that are very disturbing but splendid ( I almost used the word beautiful) because of his talent and technique as a printmaker. These images were done after Dix had served in World War I and were published in 1924. There are 50 of them and they stand as testaments to the brutality and horror of war that are still pertinent today. But it is his portraits that really held me, most of them are large, richly colored and beautifully painted with many of the sitters having grotesque and distorted faces and hands that are elongated, gnarled knotty and misshapen. What were these sitters thinking when they asked Otto to paint their portraits and what did they think when they finally saw the finished works. “Otto darling you caught the real me.” The works can also be seen as a document of the giddy sexually open anything goes Berlin of the Weimer Republic before it all came tumbling down and Dix along with many of the other artists of the time were classified by the Nazi’s as making degenerate art. The show is a little soiled by the inclusion of several innoxiously sweet and dull landscapes that he did in the 1930’s and seem to be by a different artist. They should have been left out. Funny but as I looked at his drawings and watercolors some of them brought to mind the work of H.C. Westermann, Red Grooms and contemporary graphic artists and cartoonists and if Dix was a artist of the 21st Century I could easily see him doing a graphic novel of his own. The show is a little cramped, the Neue Galerie was a private home at one time, and it's hard to believe that this is the first museum show of Dix’s to be held in North America. This is the kind of exhibition that the Museum Of Modern Art should have mounted instead of what they have been showing for the last few months.
Friday, April 02, 2010
La reine Margot (Queen Margot) 1994 directed by Patrice Chéreau is the complex and sometimes confusing story of the court of King Charles IX in 16th century France and the murderous conflict between Catholics and Protestants which lead up to the horrible slaughter of 6,000 Protestants in what becomes known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre which is depicted in the film in explicit gut-wrenching scenes. The film is ravishing with a great cast of actors led by the beautiful Isabelle Adjani who plays Margot the somewhat sluttish daughter of the scheming Catherine de Medici played with cold blooded relish by Virna Lisi who gives a superb perfomance. There is enough betrayal and intrigue in this film for 5 movies and the screen literally sweats blood (as does one of the characters). Visually stunning with lots of color and a marvelous cast of young French actors including Vincent Perez, Daniel Auteuil and above all Jean-Hugues Anglade who is brilliant as the weak willed and easily manipulated King Charles. The superb costumes received an Oscar nomination and be warned that the version now out on dvd is not the original 161 minute version but the 145 minute American cut still this is a compelling historical drama. Look for a very young Asia Argento as Charlotte de Sauve, and for all the bookdealers out there, a rare book on hunting plays an important part in the scheme of things. Highly recommended.
Saw "Sweet Bird Of Youth" for the first time in many years, and although stagy and somewhat static it's still enjoyable and easy to embrace, although at an arm's length. The Story by now is familiar to most, aging movie star (Geraldine Page) hooks up with a young handsome hustler (Paul Newman) and wind up in his home town which is literally owned by the corrupt politician Boss Finley played with over the top flair by Ed Begley who won an Oscar for chewing up the scenery. Begley does not like Newman who in the play gave his lovely daughter Heavenly (Tennessee was great with names) VD but in the movie it's only an unwanted pregnancy which leads to an abortion. Heavenly is played by the lovely Shirley Knight (Oscar nominated )who of course is still in love with Newman, and who can blame her. Everyone is on the make or on the made, including Page who is a druggie and drunk and is running away from what she thinks is her failed movie comeback and Newman who wants her to take him to Hollywood so he can become a movie star. There are some laughable moments with hashish, and Page with her potato face is somewhat unbelievable as a glamorous movie star, (even a fading one at that). I would have preferred seeing Ava Gardner in this role, even though Page was the Superior actress and was nominated for an Oscar. My favorite scene is when the great Madeleine Sherwood who plays Begley's floozy girlfriend gets her finger crushed in a jewelry box by the irate Begley because of what she wrote on a public bathroom mirror about him. The play ends with a Castration but in 1962 the movie had to have a somewhat happy ending with Newman only getting his pretty face smashed and riding off into the sunset with Heavenly. How great was Tennessee Williams.
Another strong complex film seen last night by the late master Japanese director Shohei Imamura. "Vengeance Is Mine" which is based on a real serial killer case in Japan. Made in 1979, Imamura begins his film with the capture of the killer, and then goes back and forth in time to cover the killers 78 days on the run and his troubled life. This is not an easy film to watch, it has an over 2 hour running time, and a few of the murders are graphic and disturbing, not only for the violence but because it is never clear as to why this man is doing what he's doing and Imamura does not point any fingers. The lead performance by Ken Ogata is brilliant, subtle and not an Anthony Hopkins in sight. This is a man filled with anger and emptiness. I have no doubt that David Fincher viewed this film many times before he made Zodiac. Filmed in wide screen and color and rich in detail the restored print is now on dvd from Criterion.
So Marianne Faithfull (yes that Marianne Faithfull who by the way is 64) plays a sad grandmother in London whose grandson, (the love of her life) is dying, and in order to save him he has to be flown to Australia for an experimental treatment. The family has no money so Maggie gets a job one two three in a very sleezy Soho sex club helping patrons with a helping hand. Get the picture. She is given the name Irina Palm and is the hit of the place. There are complications, but everything works out ok at the end. A bit cheeky and sentimental but if you want to see a very lovely performance from Ms. Faithfull and a few chuckles along the way check it out. P.S. she does not sing.
A few weeks back I saw a rare screening of Joseph Losey’s The Prowler at the Film Forum and wish I could say that I liked it more than I did. This is an early work by Losey from 1951 made right before he was blacklisted and left the country. My main problem is with the casting of Van Heflin who is unattractive and unconvincing as a cop gone bad. I did like Evelyn Keyes who gives a weary and worn out performance, (she was married but getting divorced from John Huston at the time which might explain her worn out look) but I just couldn't buy Keyes falling for Heflin. The film is nicely made up with lots of 1950's L.A. style and location shots and the cars are amazing. The screenplay was by Dalton Trumbo of course written under an alias and cinematography by the great Arthur Miller. And look out for an uncredited bit by hunk George Nader as a newspaper photographer. What begins as good and promising eventually falls apart in the last half when the plot finally becomes too ridiculous.