Saturday, February 28, 2009


dr. frankenstein

director james whale's film, FRANKENSTEIN is 'loosely based' on the gothic novel written by mary shelley. thank goodness as my sister and i never really liked the book. 
whale was a filmmaker with a background in theatre and this film is beautifully artistic. actor colin clive just about breaks your heart as the man who would be god. don't ask bela lugosi what he thinks of boris karloff, at least not if children are present. all i know is i felt for the disoriented and lonely monster even after the little girl is......

role model

forever inspiring

'her and her dark glasses she just sleeps behind 'em
all those jackets she just dreams about 'em
toss her a handkerchief it's so impolite to cry
all those stereotypes she just used to doubt 'em
but something in the way he moved was just so james about him....'
       from the song, 'brailian magazines' by slow children

the mutant king by david dalton

this is literature.

by way of illustration: EAST OF EDEN


the first film i fell in love with was elia kazan's, 'splendor in the grass', otherwise it would have been, 'east of eden' which i saw shortly after.
i don't know who played who, cal trask or james dean. steinbeck wrote 'cal' but god created them both and in the hands of kazan they became one.
kazan is an actor's director like jules shear is a songwriter's songwriter. kazan seemed to have the members of the actor's studio in his pocket. i'm not suggesting they were putty in his hands, but i have read enough about kazan to know that the man was a manipulator. i admire anyone who does what must be done to achieve results like this. 
cal, abra and aron are an eternal triangle. james dean, julie harris, and richard davalos are all great. jo van fleet rules as cal's mom, raymond massey rules as cal's dad and lois smith as the waitress is perfect. god bless them all.

we'll quit tomorrow

writer luke davies begins his book, 'candy' with: 'when i first met candy those were like the days of juice, when everything was bountiful. only much later did it all start to seem like sugar and blood, blood and sugar, the endless dark heat.' 
many writers have described heroin addiction. the good news is maybe they got well enough to write it all down. the film CANDY is based on luke's story of how all the goodness got sucked right out.
heath ledger plays 'luke.' no matter how unthinkable luke's choices, heath keeps us hanging in there, cause he is just incapable of losing our compassion. ours and candy's. heath ledger was great in this, and abbie cornish as the art student, who seems just fine till drugs prove to be the key to unlock her pain, is the real deal. she is beautiful, strong and willing to teach us through her character.
heroin stories leave us with a heavy heart. actors heath, abbie, and geoffrey rush joined hands with luke and director neil armfield to offer, once more, some sense to what seems senseless.
with all due respect to heath ledger, this film belongs to abbie. after you see the film you will know that was just how it was supposed to turn out. 

audrey 1929-1993

by way of illustration: breakfast at tiffany's


there is nobody in the history of movies that is as universally adored as audrey hepburn. every fashion editor in the world knows that it is impossible to top her style. not only was she the real life version of the ballerina in a music box, but she spent her later years tirelessly traveling as a spokesperson for unicef. this was a woman who incurred no malicious comments from those who wished they were her size.
the studio wanted to cut her performance of the song, 'moon river' from everybody's favorite audrey film, 1961's 'BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.' is that not a huge laugh? clearly, they were not aware of the impact this flower of a human was gonna make with her artless rendition. as 'holly golightly', she takes us by the hand as we go up the fire escape and down fifth avenue. george peppard (the bluest eyes in showbiz), patricia neal, and buddy ebsen excel in this wonderful film based on the book written by truman capote. 

writer stefan zweig 1881-1942

stefan standing beside his brother

letter from an unknown woman

stefan zweig was a very successful writer. he was born in vienna and after years of living with the memory of war he chose to end his life in a suicide pact with his young wife in brazil. he wrote amazing novels where the people seemed to exist 'outside' their circumstances. i have read all of his books and i am looking forward to the day when his brilliant 'beware of pity' is brought to the screen. 
'letter from an unknown woman' is based on his 1922 novella. joan fontaine and louis jordan, like characters out of 'proust', float through this story of unrequited love. 

very impressive personalities

no way is this movie going down in serious cinematic history. it is just super nevertheless. the 'V.I.P.s' has many bona fide stars including orson, maggie, robert, and louis, but you know, when richard burton and elizabeth taylor show up anywhere, all of a sudden the paparazzi forget anyone else ever existed. i understand. other than greta garbo, richard burton and elizabeth taylor are the only actors i just cannot grasp. they absolutely elude me. 
part of the mystery of these two is inherent in their very different backgrounds, he a serious theatre actor and she a child of the studios. perhaps i could find some grounding with them apart, but after co-starring in 11 films their togetherness is written in cement. in this movie her composure is maddening till he loses his. this was only the second film they did but they seem like they have loved each other for years. 

the perfect soundtrack

the mercy of age

in the beginning, 'HAROLD AND MAUDE' was not a successful film. time stepped in and secured this film's place very high on 'all time greatest' lists. in my mind's eye i see 'harold', about to drive his self fashioned mini hearse over the cliff, and i know he couldn't care less as he only cares for one thing and that is 'maude.'
ruth gordon is a tiny and tough nut of an actress who you want to put in your pocket so as to always have her there. i love her as 'maude' and i love bud cort as 'harold', who is living out every fantasy you ever had as a troubled teenager. vivian pickles is awesome as his sublimely clueless mom. her voice alone would have you reaching for a weapon, whichever way it pointed.
the soundtrack is as good as this heart winning film directed by hal ashby. 

black is black, he wants his baby back

'kirk.' are people called that anymore? the whole time i kept thinking, she's gotta be saying 'kurt.' anyway, tall, not dark, and disheveled dan duryea as 'kirk' is a handful and a half. in 'BLACK ANGEL', he writes songs that were once sung by his wife that he just can't get over. while she's  living her vida loca, kirk is drowning his sorrows in the local bar where they let him play really good piano.
this actor always pleases me. he made tons of westerns which i am not familiar with but perhaps one day...
till then, he remains one of film noir's most satisfying actors.

too late. 'DON'T LOOK BACK'

bob dylan will not be the last person to dissociate from a project they signed up for. as an outsider i see things he does not see, which sounds pretty arrogant when speaking of the great man himself. interestingly, arrogance is just one of the aspects of his personality revealed in pennebaker's documentary of dylan's 1965 solo tour of merry old england. 
one could throw endless adjectives on dylan and they would all probably ring a little bit true. the bottom line is he has been an extremely constructive force on so many of us. it's fun to see his friends, especially alan price from 'the animals.' marianne faithful, joan baez, and donovan are among the musicians entitled the pleasure of watching several journalists doing their best to not crumble when dylan kindly rips them to shreds. 
i'm on his side.

wild thing

tee shirt painting by pal shazar

by way of illustration: the little foxes

the little foxes that spoil the vines

what do you need to create a monster? my guess is you start with a human being with zero scruples. when there are more than one per family, lock the door on the lot of them and watch from the safety of your own home or, in the case of the film's opening, radio city.
'THE LITTLE FOXES' is a lillian hellman play that will be performed forever. everyone has a great role to play. the brothers, the daughter, and the servants are all well developed characters swimming in the fishbowl of egocentric 'regina.' bette davis was getting great roles left and right cause she could deliver to both studio and her audience. it is a virtue to be good but it must be really fun to play a beast onscreen.
there is really no way to sum up the character she plays. all i know is i felt very bad for her husband, played by herbert marshall, one of my fave actors. watching dan duryea as 'leo' makes you pray that spineless young men are a thing of the past.

Friday, February 27, 2009

by way of illustration: nice and simple

the man who knew too much

peter bogdanovich has participated in so many film commentaries. he is always interesting and he knows..... everything. i wish, 'the last picture show' were his first movie as that would be a really touching detail of this touching film. it was his third and received multi nominations.
not all that long ago i saw it and liked it so much that i wrote a song inspired by one of the characters. 
for a man who adores alfred hitchcock and orson welles, peter bogdanovich created a sweet and unpretentious little jewel starring timothy bottoms and introducing cybill shepherd.

by way of illustration: strangers on a train

public transportation

my mom was fond of frank sinatra, bobby darin, and robert walker. i could not relate to any of them, but in time i've come to appreciate all three.
robert walker, an actor known for playing charming characters, did an about face when he became 'bruno', the nutcase who is one half of the psychotic song and dance team born in a private car. in alfred hitchcock's 'STRANGERS ON A TRAIN', farley granger is good fellow 'guy', listening to and humoring along this chance (and still charming) acquaintance in order to just get it over with, including bruno's account of riding in a jet plane: 'it almost blew the sawdust out of my head.' right on. the man is just getting started.
this was made almost smack in the middle of over forty great movies by hitchcock and i love it.

egon schiele's self portrait reminiscent of mastroianni


if any director can have you shaking your head in disbelief it is luchino visconti. it seems impossible to capture the amount of sheer beauty that this man does again and again. this director's sense of beauty is unsurpassed and he would heighten an already gorgeous scene by placing a perfect shade of turquoise vase on a table.
long before 'death in venice', this black and white gem was created. it is based on a story by dostoevsky and stars marcello mastroianni and maria schell. they are lovely. you will enter a fairy tale of love and prayer christened by snow.


album cover: the velvet underground and nico

by way of illustration: nico icon

the greatest anagram of all

does a falling leaf make an echo? the mournful wistfulness of nico's voice has legions of admirers. james young's biography of nico reads like a bandmate's 'on the road' journal but believe me when i say that it is a work of genius. his words take you into the tour bus, into her 'realm', and oh so sadly, into her non stop scoring. it is both heartbreaking and hysterical.
at 34 years of age, suzanne ofteringer took on the challenge of making a documentary on nico. she did a super job of putting footage together and assembling a whole. combine 'nico icon', young's book, nico's records, and you're bound to get the beautiful picture.

by way of illustration: repulsion

you poor darling

early roman. polanski has come very far in the world's estimation of his talents as as filmmaker. although he made many films prior to 'REPULSION' in 1965, this may have been the first to receive international release. the terrifying study of 'carole' never seems to lose it's appeal.
a one time bartender from nyc's studio 54 (THE club of it's time) claims that the only habitue who took his breath away was actress catherine deneuve. for a long time she was considered the most beautiful woman on earth/celluloid.
catherine's 'carole' is a truly freaked out person who manages to work a job. as a beautician, she comes way too close to her clients cuticles for comfort. then again, that was polanski's gift, turning her terror into mine.

wherefore are thou?

oil painting by pal shazar

forever young

i adored my high school shakespeare teacher, the popular mr. kazan. he took our class to see director zeffirelli's, 'romeo and juliet', a very popular film. there was more color in it than the entire cupboard of tempura paint that i vandalized in grade school. 
even though the actors chosen for the timeless roles were young, it is easy to forget that 'juliet' was in fact thirteen. actress olivia hussey has the face of a child, a voluptuous form and super shiny long jet black hair. leonard whiting as her 'romeo' is her physical equal. even though every element of the film is lavish and a joy to behold, it is lovely to know that this tragedy of youth could break your heart even when performed in a barn.