Thursday, October 18, 2018

"I Emphatically Deny These Charges"


Mr. Rob Clark (The Lone Gunman) with the finest and deepest understanding of Lee Harvey Oswald I know of, in print or audio. Here Rob blows open a door which is usually kept shut by the community, of whatever take, for too many people look at 11/22/63 with a cold eye, despite it being one of the most monstrous acts of the 20th Century. A young man, the most famous and powerful man in the world, seated next to his wife, both of them the parents of two small children, has his head blown off. FROM BEHIND. (So they say.) That is not the act of a nut, of a political ideologue, of a closet homosexual (Norman Mailer tended toward that nitwit interpretation), or of a lovelorn husband. It is the act of a monster. The act of someone capable of child murder, of mass murder, of Auschwitz. Of course, that sort of evil was not too hard to find within the US National Security State, a sort of death-worship which was the daily bread for the likes of Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, David Phillips, David Morales, Tracy Barnes, Des FitzGerald, and many others. As it is in our own day with the monsters who blow up women and children and wedding parties from within their air-conditioning drone-strike studios somewhere in Virginia or Nebraska or the Oval Office. But where is there any evidence of this sort of psychopathology in the life of Lee Harvey Oswald? Oswald, as Clark details, was never alone. He was a man who loved his family. Loved his wife, however difficult a time she seemed to give him. And who dearly loved his daughters. Baby daughters, the youngest one only weeks old when JFK was killed. So Oswald that day was not only killing Kennedy, he was killing himself, and the lives of his children as well, destroying lives that had only just begun. There is NO EVIDENCE he was that sort of man. None. Mr. Clark reminds us of that in a brilliant, funny, passionate, and unique way.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Oswald.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Dream Killers


Where have Drive-Ins, Revival Houses, Movie Palaces, and Independent Cinema gone?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Evil


Chris Floyd:
Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tana: You haven’t got any.
Quinlan: Hmm? What do you mean?
Tana: Your future’s all used up.
A grotesquely bloated, corrupt cop stumbling through a self-created mire of lies and death, sick of the world and his own ugly, irredeemable self. Glints and flecks of a better person, far in the past, appear, reflected not in his own time-assaulted visage but in a despised Other, a strong brown man with a beautiful wife, the kind of glamorous woman he used to have. A lowly Other, as he sees it, an inferior creature putting on airs … yet embodying the gritty nobility and thirst for justice that he, the bloated one, the one whose soul is already rotting in its putrescent flesh, once held in his own heart as his ideal. This comes out every time he speaks the Other’s name, in a slurred drawl that mixes loathing and yearning in equal measure: “Vargas.”
Orson Welles’ portrayal of Capt. Hank Quinlan in his 1958 film “Touch of Evil” is perhaps the most courageous self-immolation in cinema history — even Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now” makes sure there is a kind of ruined beauty and grandeur in his portrayal of Kurtz. But Welles —himself once a glamorous golden boy of American culture, at one time married to one of the most alluring women in the world, Rita Hayworth — cuts himself no such slack. There is no ruined grandeur in the jowly, sweating, loathsome wretch he pushes at the audience — often in large, intense close-ups. This is what we can come to, he says, using himself as a canvas of human degeneracy. Perhaps, he hints, this what we are — this is all we are — at the core.
To cover up his own long-term corruption, Quinlan tries to frame both the upright Mexican detective, Miguel Vargas, played by Charlton Heston (not a brown man at all, of course; but then again, the Other is always a fiction, generated by a fearful mind) — as well as Vargas’s new wife, played by Janet Leigh. (This “mixed marriage” is another rumbling undercurrent in the film.) In the end, Quinlan is shot by his disillusioned partner, and dies in a pool of industrial wastewater. 
Just before this, Quinlan visits a brothel-keeper, with whom he once had a relationship. He’s now so rotten and bloated that she can barely recognize him. She’s played by yet another person once considered one of the world’s most alluring women: Marlene Dietrich. He thinks she’s reading cards for fortune-telling —she says she’s just doing accounts — and he asks her to tell his future. That’s where the dialogue above comes in.
This exchange comes to my mind more and more as I read the staggering farrago of the daily news. In this light — or rather, in this darkness visible — Quinlan increasingly appears not just as an emblem of universal, institutional and individual corruption, but as a prophecy of America’s present reality… and its destiny.
As many have noted, Donald Trump’s presidency does not represent some kind of aberration in the nation’s politics, or in its character; it is much more of an apotheosis. Or perhaps a long-simmering impostume finally swollen to the bursting point, dousing us all with fountains of rancid pus, built up over many generations. Trump has held a mirror up to America’s nature — and shown us, in its reflection, a gigantic close-up of Quinlan. 
The chronicle of a nation’s death is oft foretold, of course, without the prophecy necessarily proving true. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that we are now in uncharted waters, with the ship of state fatally holed. Just as Trump is bringing the country’s racist, grifting, shallow, violent, psychosexually disturbed quintessence to the fore, we are also witnessing the collapse of almost every institutional force that once stood as a bulwark — or at least a light brake — against our worst instincts.
The political opposition is utterly enfeebled, clueless, corrupt and compromised. The media is, if anything, even worse: vapid, ignorant, juvenile, and largely in the hands of corporate behemoths and oligarchs; its main act of “resistance” has been the resurrection of a rebooted McCarthyism that paints America as the innocent victim of a Kremlin ogre, while letting Trump skate on the manifold and manifest ordinary crimes this cheap hood and his ilk have perpetrated over decades. Academia? Also on its knees to corporations and oligarchs. The justice system? Forget it. It’s now a killing machine running wild in the streets, combined with a shakedown operation looting the people with fines, fees, bail and confiscation. Hollywood? You mean the industry making movies with the military and the CIA, when it’s not bludgeoning us with vigilante superheroes and mind-numbing CGI spectacles, all of them featuring dehumanized, demonized Others who deserve destruction? (They also slashed up “Touch of Evil,” then relegated it to B-movie drive-in fare.)
No one can see what’s yet to come. But the image we see in the American mirror today – a corpulent, desolate wreck, sinking into poison water, grunting out his last breaths of humanity – makes one fear the nation’s future is indeed all used up.
Touch of Evil (1958):

Monday, October 8, 2018

Japanese Girls at the Harbor


Silent and wonderful and very strange. Director Hiroshi Shimizu -- one of the forgotten masters of classical Japanese cinema -- invented his own film language and here it is used to create a series of free-floating emotional tableaus, either in support of, or not, a story. (I can't tell.) It seems to be about two Yokohama high school girls who go their very separate ways, one called Sunako, the other Dora. (Dora in 1933 Japan?) Yes ~ for the movie cuts with an anti-Western edge, as it opens with foreboding scenes of foreign ships filled with non-Japanese passengers: we see foreign cars, a Christian church, gangsters right out of Scarface (1932), and the names Dora, Henry, and the troubled Yoko Sheridan. (Henry and Dora later get married and live in a thoroughly Western house.) The main character (and the movie's troublemaker) is Sunako (played by the rather limited Michiko Oikawa, who looks forlornly at the ground quite a bit). Sunako yearns for Western-style bourgeois respectability, while mistreating (and eventually tossing out) her devoted Bohemian boyfriend; and while yearning for the cheating ex-gangster husband Henry, who breaks his own devoted wife's heart. (Dora is played by Yukiko Inouye, who for some reason reminds me much of Renèe Faure in Les Anges du Peche.) As we move along, many questions arise. Why is there no emotional weight given to the artist boyfriend? How did Sunako escape after shooting Yoko Sheridan? How did Yoko come to such dire straights? What crime did Masumi commit? What exactly is Yoko guilty of, besides getting shot by Sunako?

We don't know. Shimizu never tells us. But his language is so his own that you won't care and all you'll remember are the sequences: the disappearance dissolves; the shooting in the church; the slow track to the left revealing who Sunako's new neighbor is; the unraveling ball of string; the montage of "where we used to walk together"; Masumi's arrest; Sunako's bar search for Henry; Sunako's recognition of her neighbor; the ending's visual exhiliration.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Monday, October 1, 2018

October

If one would ask how the monumental can be tender, October in New York is the answer. The city then recalls us to the brutal and to the awesome. Her wood and asphalt and brick skin becomes luminous in any pale light ~ it also reflects the shadow of the rock: New York in such shadow on a sunny day, the glass of her eyes has the blue of the sea. Days and nights slow down, people seem much readier to recognize others, before the Transfiguration of Christmas. New York October: when the magnificent blue sky glows like sapphire, after the sun sets. Streams and ponds and lakes of water flash blue. Great lines of silver-grey poplars rise and make avenues ~ or airy grey quadrangles ~ across the Park, their top boughs spangled with gold and green leaf. Sometimes gold and red, a patterning. A bigness ~ and nothing to repress the romantic spirit.

Monday, September 24, 2018

A Tale of Two Boo-Boos

Yogi and Boo-Boo Bear, fifty years ago.



From more recent times -- Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

You Don't Know What Love Is

John Coltrane does. Happy Autumn in New York.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Atone This



Jeffrey St. Clair with the deep background.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Greatest Sequence in Movie History?

The husband has tried to kill her. Worse, he has broken her heart.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Your 21st Century US "Left"

"To be ultra is to go beyond. It is to attack the sceptre in the name of the throne, and the mitre in the name of the altar; it is to maltreat the thing you support; it is to kick in the traces; it is to cavil at the stake for under-cooking heretics; it is to reproach the idol with a lack of idolatry; it is to insult by excess of respect; it is to find in the pope too little papistry, in the king too little royalty, and too much light in the night; it is to be dissatisfied with the albatross, with snow, with the swan, and the lily in the name of whiteness; it is to be the partisan of things to the point of becoming their enemy; it is to be so very pro, that you are con."             
-- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Monday, September 10, 2018

By the Fire

Three of the most beautifully intimate scenes of classical Hollywood, all scored by Bernard Herrmann.

Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins, and Anne Baxter.



Ryan and Lupino.



Novak and Stewart.

Friday, September 7, 2018

On Fire

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

First Day of High School???

Oh, God. . . .

Monday, September 3, 2018

Brothers

On this Labor Day, a tribute to three of the greatest Americans of the 20th-century.