The Gold Rush [1925)

Sometimes a lack of words is sadness.

Down at the dancehall.  “Auld Lang Syne”…

Old long since.

Long long ago.

“Long, Long, Long”

From Robert Burns to George Harrison.

“Standing in the Doorway”

You left me…

Bad as Me.  “New Year’s Eve”…

Yeah, someone noticed.

It’s not as entertaining as “the rolls”.

[lointain]

…wisps of music on the wind with lonely snow.

There are good people in the world.

I can attest to that.

Whether they’re joking or not.

There are little miracles.

Like “the little tramp”…

A light flickering here and there.

In Alaska.

“Caroline Says II”

It takes a long time to watch a movie like this.

It takes a lifetime.

In this fashion.

To see it once…as a kid…in high school…and swoon to the wallflower image.

And now 20 years later (at least).

This time we know “the rolls” are coming.  Buzz rolls.  Open rolls.  Double-stroke.  Scotch snaps.

“Auld Lang Syne”

It is the sentiment of Dean Wareham on that last Galaxie 500 album.

“Fourth of July”

I stayed at home…

Dog biscuit…

This Is Our Music//

like Ornette…

1960.

Ah…I’m skipping around.  Snow blind.

Lost in a flurry.  Of activity.  Or snow.

Mack Swain…Georgia Hale.

And Charlie “Charles” Chaplin.

I don’t remember what version I saw as a kid.

Today.  I learned of a new version.  New being 1942.

Voice-overs by Chaplin.  I resisted at first.

Yet, this may have been the version I saw as a kid.

I don’t remember.  Cinema was just a dream in my heart.

But now I know.

For all the outcasts and underdogs.

I was asserting my personhood.  Making my own choices.  Silent film.  What a rebellion!

And now I know.

The other side of the coin.

It takes a lifetime to watch this film.

In the dancehall.

Invisible.

Leaning on a rattan cane.

The weight.

The world is meant to squash your dreams.

Currently.

Everywhere.

Some dream of Denmark.  Sweden.  Switzerland.

But I don’t live there.

And I don’t live much at all unless I let out a love cry like Albert Ayler.

Up on “Zion Hill”…

It don’t mean a thing.

It could be called Composition No. 173 like Anthony Braxton.

It’s the only way you know you’re still alive.

The only way I know I’m still alive.

The genius of Charlie Chaplin.

We didn’t know such things could be expressed.

And we were fascinated to find that they had been expressed so well so long ago.

-PD

Masked and Anonymous [2003)

Some years ago, San Antonio (my hometown) had a cheeky ad “campaign” which struck a little too close to home…which is to say, it was perfect.

Our neighbors to the north in Austin (my home of some 15 years) have cashed in on a perceived eccentricity which that college metropolis embodies (to a greater or lesser extent):  Keep Austin Weird.

San Antonio’s riposte?  Keep San Antonio Lame.

I shit you not.

And, thus, tonight…Bob Dylan in the Alamo City…and a dream come true for me…sort of.  It took 17 years from when the album Time Out of Mind really convinced me of the man’s continued genius.  Seventeen years.  The amount of time it took Joyce to write Finnegans Wake.  At my pace it will take me as long to read Finnegans Wake.  But I digress…

It was poverty.  I was a musician.  Bob Dylan is/was/always will be my favorite living musician.  I could never afford the exorbitant ticket prices.  Tonight, luck was on my side…sort of.

The hoi polloi at tonight’s concert at the Majestic Theater disgusted me to an extreme degree.  People 30 to 45 minutes late…standing in front of me.  The incessant in and out of thirsty “fans” headed to the bar or shitter.  And to top it off, a brother/sister duo behind me who wouldn’t shut the fuck up.  Their never-ending running commentary finally snapped my patience as I turned around exasperated with a “I give up” look followed by the international pirate sign for throat-slitting.  Sure, I felt bad about it afterwards…but goddamn, I am shocked by the sporting event etiquette which greeted the true poet laureate of the United States to my fair (foul) city.

And so, Masked and Anonymous…

I rewatched it earlier today.  Such a fabulous film.  One of a kind.  Timeless.  There are no words for the cutting dissertation of Bob Dylan in his pseudonym screenwriter persona Sergei Petrov.  Larry Charles tags along as “Rene Fontaine” (cowriter) and as the cinematic auteur in charge of mise-en-scène.

I can’t really sum up how much Bob Dylan (as singer Jack Fate in this film) means to me.  That’s why it pissed me off so much as people filed out early from tonight’s concert to beat the rush…as if the Spurs were down 10 with 30 seconds remaining.  The bourgeois mass which sullied my night epitomize the artless throng which runs San Antone.  Don’t be fooled by the River Walk.  There is no life here.  Looking for the zombie apocalypse?  I can personally vouch that S.A. is chock-full of walking dead.

It is a prison.  And only a shrill voice can pierce the malaise.

In so many ways, Masked and Anonymous is a prescient film.  The flag.  North American Union.  The Midas-Judas Building.  Dr. Benway:  Psychiatrist.  And John Goodman as a thinly-veiled Albert Grossman:  Uncle Sweetheart.

Yes, the music industry is fucked.  It is a wonder that Bob Dylan gets out there every night and slogs it out.  In some ways, he is analogous to our Tim Duncan here in San Antonio (yes, our one pro sports team is truly the sole saving grace of this shithole…because they have class and are not obnoxious prima donnas).

Let’s give due to those vets who acted for the minimum recompense here:

Jeff Bridges as a slippery rock journalist.

Bruce Dern in a pithy role (powerfully acted) as Bridges’ editor.

Jessica Lange as a smoldering TV producer.

Penélope Cruz (so goddamned good in this) as a paranoid yet feather-light religious zealot.

Luke Wilson as Jack Fate’s old roadie.  [Side note:  I once walked up to Wilson in a Whole Foods and told him how much I appreciated his performance in this.  As I was wearing a white, polyester suit in the dead of Texas summer, it goes without saying that I probably shocked the shit out of poor Mr. Wilson.  He was, however, a good sport about the whole thing.]

Cheech Marin in 30 seconds (?) of pure genius…especially paired with the droll acting of Dylan.

Ed Harris as…Emmett Miller???

The list goes on and on…Chris Penn, Giovanni Ribisi (great segment on the bus), Christian Slater, Val Kilmer (slithy toves), Angela Bassett…

Of special note is Mickey Rourke as a bizarre mashup of George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales.

Somewhere between the positively fuck street of “Pay In Blood,” the agony of “Long and Wasted Years,” and the exiled ecstasy of “Autumn Leaves” Bob Dylan managed to transcend tonight at the Majestic.  Maybe he was channeling his old buddy Doug Sahm.  Nothing but a beer joint with a cloud machine.

-PD

Vertigo [1958)

Lovesick.  To know love is to know vertigo.  The great French composer Olivier Messiaen described love as a dizzy feeling (I paraphrase).   To quote the great Bob Dylan from his best album (1997’s Time Out of Mind), “I’m sick of love.”

When I first saw Vertigo I didn’t particularly like it.  I was a neophyte cineaste and I suppose it went over my head.  Indeed, the film did not really click for me until I saw a 70mm restored print as part of the Paramount Theater’s summer film series in Austin, Texas some years back.  I finally began to appreciate the cinematography of Robert Burks…the way the city of San Francisco comes to life in front of the lens he shared with Hitchcock.  As a rather naïve film lover I had once seen Life Is Beautiful several times in the theater upon its release and there was something in the mise-en-scène which gave me a wonderful, cozy, rich feeling…an ambiance which I drank in with each successive viewing.  It is this aspect of film (mood) which really makes Vertigo go.

Bernard Herrmann’s music was never more important to a Hitchcock film than to the one at hand.  The whole production almost becomes a music video during Scottie’s initial trailing of Madeleine.  There is not a word of dialogue from the flower shop to the cemetery to the art museum.  I will not regale you with scholarly milliseconds, but I’m willing to guess that approximately five whole minutes go by completely buoyed by the photography of Burks and the music of Herrmann (all, of course, framed by the voyeuristic passage in our story…and all, likewise, under the watchful eye-of-eyes:  Hitch).

Suffice it to say that I now recognize this to be one of Hitchcock’s best films (if not the best) and therefore one of the best films ever made by any director.  Alfred Hitchcock seems to me as the Beethoven of cinema, but he might just as well be the Bach.  Of other analogies he might be considered our Rembrandt…and almost certainly our Shakespeare.

And so it is that the main protagonist in Vertigo is mood.  What mood?  Which?  Not just any, is it?  It is the mood of Tristan und Isolde…Wagner…that painful longing for love.  Bernard Herrmann borrowed nicely from old Richard in the rich, autumnal, self-consuming harmonies.  Other times, by the sea for instance, we are brought into the sphere of La mer by Debussy.  Whether at Fort Point or floating down endless San Francisco automobile inclines, the weightlessness is also reminiscent of the same composer’s Pelléas et Mélisande.  Herrmann even seems to reference Ravel in the pensive motif which seems like Carlotta’s Iberian clock (ticking to bolero snaps of the second hand).

Yes, Vertigo is a film which will send critics into an orgiastic dither from now till the end of time (I suppose).  My contribution is simple.  Watch it.  Then watch it again.  And then watch it yet again.  There are secrets in this tapestry.  It is pure mystery.

-PD