Blondie’s New York [2014)

Man…

So much I could say about this one.

But it’s one of the few times where I can say, “I worked with that person.”

Clem Burke.

Probably wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire.

Now.

Because I’m a Trump supporter.

But he was the best drummer I was ever in the same room with.

And drumming was the longest “career” I ever had.

I’ve played drums since I was a kid.

All of them.

The set.

“Traps” ūüôā

Orchestral snare drum.

Marimba.

The whole 4-mallet thing.

Jazz vibraphone.

But when I worked with Clem, I was a bass player.

That day.

That year.

For awhile.

It was the bass that took me to England.

To Scotland.

And to Spain.

And it was the bass that first took me to Los Angeles.

But this is about Blondie.

The band.

And what a band!

Based on my own experiences just mentioned, I can attest to the extremely high musicianship of Clem Burke.

And watching this relatively-short documentary (an hour) convinces me of just how special each of the band members were/are.

But perhaps my favorite part is seeing Mike Chapman work.

The record producer.

What a talent!

It was my dream to be a record producer.

Didn’t really work out ūüôā

Tough business.

Maybe you fuck up.

Or maybe no one helps you.

Or maybe you get one chance.  And only one chance.

But that’s ok.

Because life goes on.

Marilyn Monroe aged.

Lou Reed sang about it on the Velvets’ “New Age”.

And Godard wrote about it.

The aging of Marilyn Monroe must have been a traumatic phenomenon for the first generation of movie goers.

The first generation with that color reality.

And with the television buttress.

And Marilyn…

Even Elton John, a homosexual man, was in love with Marilyn…in a sort of way.

“Candle in the Wind”

Which brings us to Debbie Harry.

The former cocktail waitress from Max’s Kansas City.

Chickpeas and lobster.

Park Avenue South.

And brings us to the album Parallel Lines.

This documentary is almost strictly about that album.

About Blondie’s breakthrough into the mainstream.

Yeah, they were punk…

Had the street cred.

But they transcended.

Mostly due to musicianship.

A bit like the Talking Heads.

The other bands were hopelessly arty.

Of this scene.

My favorite, Suicide.

[R.I.P. Alan Vega]

I met Alan once.

Changed my life.

But Suicide never really had a hit.

[Nooo…you don’t say?!?]

Yeah.

The name.

Whoa mama!

But that was punk.

And my whole mission is a bit of a punk mission.

Pauly Deathwish.

Uh huh.

Not a name I came up with.

But given to me.

I remember that day.

And the personages.

But my mission is also a bit like the mission of Greil Marcus.

And Lipstick Traces.

Now I’d just prefer to read Debord.

Or read Len Bracken on the Situationists.

But Greil tries (valiantly!) to pull it all together.

And I’m a bit like that kind of wanker.

Just hoping to SOUND like I know it all.

And someday have Harvard written on my spine.

But we’ve hardly discussed Blondie.

Or this excellent little film.

Which is currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S.

Again Kino Lorber’s marketing team (?) seems to be absent behind this release.

There’s no Wikipedia page.

And the iMDB page lists the title of this made-for-TV-affair as¬†Blondie’s New York and the Making of Parallel Lines.

Ok, so it’s not¬†Citizen Kane.

But it’s well worth watching!

Directed by Alan Ravenscroft.

He does a fine job here.

It really is a magical story.

Punk.

New York City.

CBGB-OMFUG.

The Fugs! ūüôā

New York, a magical place.

Hell, even mayor Ed Koch is in this.

And he’s much easier to stomach than Bill Clinton.

I don’t care…liberal, conservative…whatever.

Just don’t be a dick!

And if you’re a dick, have the schtick down!!

Like Trump.

He has the schtick down.

He’s learned to lie.

In his many years.

“The babies, the beautiful babies…the innocent babies”…

There were no babies, my friends.

There was no chemical attack.

That footage was in the can for some time.

But it’s a white lie in the world of geopolitics.

It’s like telling your kids that Santa Claus delivered the presents.

There’s no way to explain, “I’ve gotta bomb Syria to make an impression on China. ¬†And the bombing has to happen almost simultaneously with dinner…at Mar-a-Lago.”

And McMaster must be lying too.

That’s ok.

Just don’t make a habit of it.

Because then you’re CIA.

And that’s a dark road.

To get wrapped up in lies.

But the white lies are synthetic terror where nobody dies.

Even the Russian/Syrian body count.

Likely false.

Especially the “four kids” detail.

Pithy.

Icy.

The Democrats are really (I mean it, unfortunately) exceptionally dumb.

They only sense the general outline of the conspiracy.

Russia’s faux indignation.

But they don’t understand that their infantile foreign policy made such machinations necessary.

Blondie ūüôā

And Quintilian.

See the documentary.

Forget about North Korea for a moment.

By all means, don’t watch inferior propaganda.

The Propaganda Game?

Great film.

Songs from the North?

Cinematic equivalent of toilet paper.

The Cinémathèque Française knew the value of propaganda films.

Henri Langlois.

Back when they were educating “the five” (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rivette, and Rohmer).

And Godard understood the importance of “good”, well-crafted, persuasive propaganda.

As Jacques Ellul wrote in 1962, “Ineffective propaganda is no propaganda.”

In other words, it has no business calling itself propaganda.

It’s less-than-worthless.

But kick back with some Machiavelli.

And The Art of the Deal.

And remember the unholy marriage of art and commerce that is and was Blondie.

-PD

Sixteen Candles [1984)

If you don’t believe John Hughes was a genius, see this film.

Seriously.

Because I didn’t believe.

Though Hughes made one of my favorite 1980s comedies (Planes, Trains and Automobiles), I didn’t really get it.

It being the John Hughes phenomenon.

While the cool kids had it figured out long ago, I was too contrarian to listen.

Now I get it.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is truly a special film, but Sixteen Candles is transcendent art.

Don’t laugh.

What would André Bazin make of this film?  Or Gilles Deleuze?  Or Christian Metz?

Who cares???

Well, I care…

But what’s important is what YOU make of it.

And in this case, what I make of it.

But let’s get one thing straight: ¬†Molly Ringwald invented the archetype which Thora Birch and Kat Dennings would later appropriate in doubtless homage.

Which is to say, Molly Ringwald is otherworldly as an actress in this film.

It’s no wonder Jean-Luc Godard cast her in his wonderful, underrated, masterful version of¬†King Lear (1987).

Quentin Tarantino famously claimed (√† la Bob Dylan’s conflated biography circa-1962) that he was in¬†King Lear, but Molly Ringwald was ACTUALLY in it.

But enough about QT and nix on the digressions.

So no, I am no Henri Langlois to claim that¬†Sixteen Candles should be in MoMA’s permanent collection, but there is good reason to compare this film favorably to Howard Hawks’¬†Only Angels Have Wings¬†of 1939.

But none of this shit really matters.

What matters is the part in Gedde Watanabe’s hair at the dinner table.

And even more so (big time)–> is the indescribable Anthony Michael Hall.

AT&T gets it.  Which means the seemingly wonderful Milana Vayntrub ostensibly gets it.

But I’m not sure the understanding flows both ways.

Because America has changed.

We are much closer to the year 1984 (as opposed to Orwell’s¬†1984) here in late-2016 than to any other period of American experience.

Yeah, Michael Schoeffling could only come from the Reagan era.

But he’s a great guy. ¬†And a fine actor.

And Sixteen Candles teaches us a lot of stuff.

John Hughes, as a film philosopher, is precocious in his grasp of American society in the 1980s.

The outcast wins.

But the conservative wins too.

Really, everybody wins.

That’s what value-creation will do.

But let’s back to A.M. Hall. ¬†This bloke…

What a performance!

And the real chemistry in this film is between Ringwald and Hall.

In the auto body shop.

And so what do we get?

Romance.  Misery.  And tons of fucking jokes.

We must congratulate John Hughes as much for his writing as his direction.

The previous year he had written¬†National Lampoon’s Vacation¬†starring Chevy Chase.

Years later he’d write a stellar reboot for the series in¬†Christmas Vacation (also starring Chase).

You want more movies Hughes wrote but didn’t direct? ¬†How about¬†Home Alone? [check] Or¬†Pretty in Pink (starring Ringwald)? ¬†[check]

But let’s get another thing straight: ¬†this was John Hughes’ fucking DIRECTORIAL DEBUT!!!

But none of this shit matters.

What matters is Molly Ringwald crying in the hallway.

What matters is Molly practicing her potential lines before reentering the dance.

Molly talking on the phone with the Squeeze poster on the wall.

Molly freaking out and taking flight over fight.

And immediate regret.

What films do this?

Perhaps in 1955 we would have looked at Rebel Without a Cause in a similar way.

And rightly so.

Sixteen Candles is its progeny of uncertain admixture.

Looking through the yearbook.

And seeing the one.

The one who burns in your heart.

In America, this is realism (couched in slapstick and screwball).

Molly Ringwald is the loser who wins.

And Anthony Michael Hall is the hopeless dweeb who also wins…by sheer force of will.

There are genuine moments of panic in this film (as soft as they might be) regarding missed communication.  Telephone calls.  House calls.

And it adds just the right touch of anxiety to keep this film catalyzed and moving along.

But what makes all this believable?  The supporting cast.

John and Joan Cusack (especially Joan, whose life make’s Ringwald’s look like a bed of roses). ¬†And John’s future MIT roommate (it would seem) Darren Harris.

But there’s one of the crew which deserves a little extra credit…and that is music supervisor Jimmy Iovine.

The tunes are right.  The attention to detail is solid.

Sound and image merge (as Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller had impressed upon Godard that they should) into sonimage (a word Godard would use for his production company Sonimage).

Even the cassette spitting unspooling tape onto the pizza turntable is perfect.

The cassette?  Fear of Music by Talking Heads.

Yes, Brian Eno.

And yes, “Young Americans” as they leave the driveway on the way to the wedding before the famous “au-to-mo-bile” scene.

David Bowie.

Even The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra doing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor…briefly. [which lets our minds drift to Chaplin’s¬†The Great Dictator]

Everything is right sonically.

The band instruments on the school bus.

The Dragnet quotes.

The gongs for Long Duk Dong.

“Lenny” by SRV in the car. ¬†Half a car.

It’s so very sweet. ¬†And¬†sotto voce. ¬†And real.

It’s a mix. ¬†It doesn’t intrude. ¬†You gotta unlock the passenger door to your heart to let this film in.

And a little Billy Idol as Anthony Michael Hall negotiates a Rolls Royce and a prom queen.

So rest in peace, John Hughes.  And thank you for this film.

Et je vous salue, Molly!  Merci for the film.

And thank you Anthony Michael Hall for capturing my youth and bottling it up.

Thank you Molly for capturing the one I loved and bottling up all the quirky, quixotic things which I cannot see anymore.

It is the immortality principle of film.

John, Molly, and Anthony…three geniuses of film.

I am profoundly grateful.

-PD

El esp√≠ritu de la colmena [1973)

I have wanted to bring my readers this film for some time.

Therefore, it is an honor to review The Spirit of the Beehive for you.

I first saw this film by chance one night on TCM long ago.

I don’t remember the exact chain of events, but it was either right before seeing this or right after seeing this that I found out I was going to Spain (the country of provenance of this film).

The opportunity to visit Spain was a miracle (as have been all my travels).  Never did I think I would see La Sagrada Família.  Never did I dream of seeing the Guggenheim in Bilbao.  These things were too much to dream.  But they happened.

And this film is the quintessence of that miracle experience.

Two little girls.  Ana and Isabel.

The sonic motif throughout this film is the name “Isabel” whispered by her younger sister Ana.

It is an entreaty.  A putting faith in someone.

Please tell me why this, and why that.

Few films have matched the magic of this one.  If you are a fan of Cinema Paradiso, this film will show you where that template originated.

Before the great Giuseppe Tornatore, there was the equally great Víctor Erice (auteur of the film under consideration).

There is a magic here which is akin to Am√©lie and also Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.¬† It is a na√Įvet√© befitting of Erik Satie…a wonderment which is rarely expressed effectively in film.

For more modern viewers, the best parallel might perhaps be Beasts of the Southern Wild (on the soundtrack of which I had the honor to perform with my old band).

And so there you have it.

Bees, bees everywhere.¬† Like Mercury Rev…”Chasing a Bee Inside a Jar”…and “Syringe Mouth” (‘here you come dripping from the hive’).

The hum.  The drone.  Like a subway screeching through the turns in a New York subway tunnel.  And the honeycomb.  Like DNA.

I should add.  A certain sadness.  Like a tawny port.

It was only fitting that this film was kicked to the curb for me, the poor-man’s Henri Langlois, to find at this particular time.

And so I too whisper the name Isabel.¬† Isabel with your hair pulled back behind your ears.¬† Don’t be cruel.

 

-PD

Easy Virtue [1928)

Justice is just ice…frozen water under the bridge of sighs…

It was a long night.

Night of the long knives.  Knives out.

I had the thousand-yard stare.

Easy Virtue is almost an unwatchable movie for any reasonable 21st century human being.  Watching ants roam in lazy lines is more interesting than this early Alfred Hitchcock picture.

Decanter?  I thought he was de Rabbi.

God…what we wouldn’t give for a little Chico Marx in this film.¬† Hell…Harpo would be even more suited to this silent snoozer.

Isabel Jeans looks fantastic…even when she’s taking a tennis ball to the head…dans le Midi.

Sure…there are faint parallels to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari…perhaps a door here and there like Nosferatu or Dreyer’s Vampyr, but this just really isn’t Hitchcock’s bag.

Yes…I grew up to that old adage…people who are bored are boring.¬† Something like that.¬† Well, I guess I’m a spoiled Internet-addicted loser with a paunch…and boring to boot…because this here film bores the ever-lovin’ socks off me.

I could make up some excuse or talk about how great Henri Langlois was (he was!)…but it doesn’t change the Britishness of this dire picture.

Dreadfully sorry…¬† Mercifully ending transmission here.

-PD

Bande a part [1964)

I need a word.¬† Just a word.¬† A word.¬† To start it off.¬† Nothing fits.¬† Frustration?¬† Yes, perhaps.¬† Ferment?¬† That might work even better.¬† It is a feeling.¬† I search for it on the Internet.¬† I cast my net to the blog sea.¬† Ahh, Valentine’s Day…¬† Yesterday.¬† How I wanted to write, yet I abstained.¬† Abstinence.¬† Discipline.¬† Youthful anarchy.

I needed a word.  As so I sought.  Abandoned, abandonment, abstract expressionism.  No.  Alex Chilton, Anna Karina.  Yes.  After two films she was back.  Here.  Anne Wiazemsky?  No.  We will wait for her at the Tout va bien café.

Art house, arthouse, Astruc?¬† Yes. Alexandre.¬†cam√©rastylo.¬† A free-flowing style.¬† Freewheeling.¬† Big Star, Bilinda Butcher?¬† Yes.¬† Feed me with your kiss.¬† Do you know how to kiss?¬† With the tongue?¬† That’s correct.¬† You stick your tongue out and I will kiss you on the cheek.

So I found my word?  No.  I found Bob Dylan, Boise, bored to tears.  A phrase.  Bresson.  Wiazemsky.  No, not yet.  But, pickpocket.  Yes.  Money.  A big stack of money!

Broken heart.¬† Ok, now we are getting somewhere.¬† And how does a heart break?¬† Neil?¬† Love.¬† CSS.¬† No, not the computer language.¬† Language?¬† We are barely passing English class.¬† Romeo and Juliet.¬† Verona.¬† Valentine’s.¬† The world’s shittiest Starbucks.¬† Right by my house.¬† Trust me.¬† I’ve been to Starbucks in middle-of-nowhere Arizona…in a fucking Albertson’s.¬† No, Target.¬† Maybe Wal-Mart.¬† No more depressing than the one by my house.¬† Sure, the buck-toothed high school senior was not much on the eye candy scale, but I am living in the same wasteland. ¬†Neu Mexique. ¬†The place where they tested the bombs.¬† Long ago.¬† Trinity.¬† I have become the destroyer of worlds.

No, the other CSS.¬† Tired of being sexy.¬† That one.¬† And Cary Grant.¬† Yes, my jacket’s at the dry cleaner…and I don’t have any money…so I won’t take off my coat.¬† Tou bi or not tou bi contre votre poitrine:¬† dat iz ze question.¬† Something like that.¬† Claude Brasseur.¬† What a brute!¬† What a fucking asshole!! !

Chris Bell.  The singer.  The white one.  Yeah.  Dead.  No.  Cinémathèque Française.  O-kay!  Now we are getting somewhere.  But I keep searching.  The English classes are not enough.  Maybe the Chinese will prevail.  Sami Frey is betting Chinese:  5-2.

Cocteau.¬† Yeah.¬† We’ll sit in the car and listen to the radio.¬† No, I’m not allowed to do things like that.¬† Hey, how old are you anyway!?! ¬†Conlon Nancarrow?¬† Yes.¬† And the last time Michel Legrand on the big screen [English broken].

When it should be sad, the jazz kicks up impossibly happy.¬† Happily.¬† Hereusement?¬† I don’t know.¬† I am on the other side of the pond.

Crying.  Depressed, depression, depress-o-rama.  And then she feeds a tiger.

Doldrums.¬† No.¬† The other ones.¬† Not the horse latitudes.¬† Ennui.¬† Yes. She is bored, but she doesn’t know she’s bored…until she’s not bored anymore.¬† Euros Childs.¬† No.¬† Completely inappropriate.

Farfisa.¬† Maybe.¬† Pasolini.¬† Frankenstein.¬† Rasputin.¬† Claude Brasseur.¬† What’s your family name, Arthur?¬† Rimbaud, like my father.¬† But he’s dead.¬† As I pump a bull’s eye into the midway target.¬† Can I keep my chart?¬† [Crumples and throws away.]

Leave no traces.¬† Like the Situationists.¬† No more poetry.¬† Arthur Craven.¬† Shitty family.¬† It’s no joke.¬† We need that money.¬† I was in Indochina.¬† Don’t fuck with me.¬† Like Raoul Coutard.

Back to black and white.  Truly a film noir. Série noire .  Gallimard.  Says so at the end.  Dolores Hitchens.

Forlorn.¬† Ooh!¬† That’s a good one!¬† Any catch?¬† French cinema.¬† French film?¬† Harmony Korine.¬† No.¬† Later, later.

Henri Langlois.¬† Yes.¬† Now we’re back on track.¬† A name.¬† We needed a name.¬† Like Tarantino.¬† His production company.¬† Like the car scene with Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.¬† Same thing.¬† They’re talking about nothing.¬† But they are incredibly rude.¬† Crude.¬† Blow a fucker’s brains out.¬† 2.0

But the travesty is that Godard is forgotten in France.  ;that Quentin is cooler than Jean-Luc.  Quel dommage.

Howard Hawks.  To Jean-Luc.  And then who?  David Lynch?  Not very often.  Too many misses.  Same with Harmony Korine.  But those two are as good as it gets now.

Balls.¬† Giant figurative testicles.¬† The Madison.¬† Joseph Beuys balls.¬† Wolves and coyotes and felt and fat and goldleaf.¬† Heathen child youthful anarchy.¬† La D√ľsseldorf.¬† Klaus Dinger?¬† Motorik.

Driving like madmen.¬† Park on the curb…like Billy the Kid.¬† Drive on the sidewalk.¬† The Simca.¬† Do wheelies…no, donuts.¬† The mud.¬† The giant spools for wire.¬† Tightrope.

Lovelorn.¬† Ooh!¬† Nice!!¬† Lovesick.¬† Mauricio Kagel.¬† Yeah, now we’re getting somewhere.¬† Because, obviously, there’s a smokin’ hot girl out there in blog land into Mauricio Kagel.¬† Good strategy.

We are Sami Frey, here at Dossier du cinema.¬† We are Anna Karina.¬† We are schmucks.¬† We haven’t learned yet to embrace our inner Claude Brasseurs.

How ’bout that M√ė chick?¬† Yeah, like her!¬† Except……………….monotony.¬† Morose?¬† Yeah, book it!¬† Nerval.¬† Hanging from the streetlamp.¬† Certainly.¬† Oph√ľls?¬† Nothin’.

Psychogeography.¬† Clichy.¬† The Louvre in 9:43…surpassing Jimmy Johnson of San Francisco.

AND THE SUBWAY SCENE!!!

Regret, rejection?  Yes.  Print it.  The man sleeping on the sidewalk.  Teddy bear or TNT.  Richard Hell or Richard Lloyd.  Routine.  Buy groceries.  Aunt Victoria.  Like the Queen.  And a big pile of money upstairs with the door unlocked and just a jacket draped over it.  200 million francs perhaps.  In 10,000 franc notes.

Silver screen.¬† It has to be silver, you fucks!¬† Spider Man does not qualify.¬† It has to be Louis Feuillade.¬† Jurassic Park does not cut it.¬† Did you see her thighs?¬† So white.¬† Black stockings over your heads.¬† Undo the garters.¬† It’s like Le Petit soldat all over again, but this time the terrorists are up and walking around.¬† That’s what terrorists do.¬† They terrify.¬† Burglers burgle.¬† Etc.¬† No torture…handcuffed to the robinet.

I don’t have time for this shit.¬† Shortcut.¬† Dying.¬† “Cheat death on the other side.”¬† J. Spaceman.

Someone to be nice to¬†me for like five minutes and then I’ll leave you alone.¬† This was Jean-Luc “Cinema” Godard on fire.

-PD

Notorious [1946)

The key in Ingrid’s hand.¬† The ring on Grace’s finger.¬† It’s not her key.¬† It’s not her ring.

Rio is beautiful…even in black and white.¬† Only Hitchcock could make it so.¬† Christ of the Andes.¬† The greatest creator of forms of the 20th century.

Icy.  Pithy.  Notorious is stoic Cary Grant.  And this shall be a terse dispatch.

It’s a very fine vintage…1946…1940…1934.¬† I pity the sommelier assigned to this house of horrors.¬† God forbid he pick the 1934.¬† You can tell, old man, when a seemingly-polished chap makes a completely inappropriate choice of wines. ¬†Strangers on a train bound for Zagreb.¬† Yes, a keen eye for detail is certainly not to be underestimated.

T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) knows every trick in the book.  When to bluff.  When to kiss.

It is only when matters of the heart come into play that the C.I.A. has no official manual.¬† It will never be declassified.¬† Because it doesn’t exist.¬† The manual is Petrarch.¬† Shakespeare’s sonnets.¬† The manual was written long ago.¬† It is no secret.¬† Only a mystery.

We will kill her off slowly, they say…on the installment plan.¬† She will gargle in the rat-race choir.¬† Until Devlin comes with his pointed threats to bluff with scorn and Claude Rains is left like a groom standing at the altar…except it’s not his wedding, it’s his funeral.

It’s the way they killed Sindona in Voghera.¬† Poison in the coffee.¬† C.A.B.A.L.¬† It’s not a Fleming invention.¬† Far older than that.¬† And I.G. Farben…not a fanciful name plucked from Hitchcock’s imagination.

Mata Hari.  Theda Bara.  Arab Death.

MacGuffin.  Mackintosh.  Scotland Yard.

This was the first time Hitchcock was really in charge.  Byb-bye David O. Selznick.

Ben Hecht.  Clifford Odets.

This is really loose crap.

That’s a quote.¬† ” ”

This is a puzzle, dear friends.  This is your dossier.  Jigsaw.  Fragmented.

It is Vivre sa vie.¬† The back of a head only.¬† Cary Grant’s black hair.¬† A man, as yet, with no name.

Susan Sontag was on a different mission.  We defer to Cahiers du Cinéma.  To Henri Langlois.

These are our agents.¬† Our “Wild Bill” Donovans.¬† Our O.S.S.

She may not sniff it through a cane on a supersonic train, but it still makes me laugh.  Murnau more now than ever.

A full 360¬į.¬† The subjective, drunken camera.¬† We have suspicion of Grant from the start–is that fizzy aspirin or a glowing glass of milk?

The con man exploits your trust.  What was the bait?

It is like Dostoyevsky.  We feel sympathy for Norman Bates just as we do Raskolnikov.

Yes, sometimes…Mother Sebastian, we are protected by the enormity of our stupidity.¬† Forrest Gumption.

The key was stolen.  The key brought such luck.  The key was passed on.  And now, Mr. Hitchcock, the key has been returned.

Thank you.

 

-PD