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‘Superstars In Concert’: Jimi, Cream, Rolling Stones, Ike & Tina Turner & more in obscure classic

When the question of “What’s the best/great rockumentary of all?” is asked, the answers can range quite widely obviously, from something like Don’t Look Back or Let It Be to The Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense (which both seem to make almost everyone’s lists) to something totally out of left field and life-affirming like Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King. I really loved the new Pulp: a Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets... and wouldn’t “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” be in the running for all-time best rockumentary? Of course it would be!

It’s an impossible question to answer, but sidestepping it somewhat, if I had to pick the best overall “time capsule” of the rock era to preserve for future generations, it would probably be Peter Clifton’s Superstars In Concert.  Also known as Rock City in a different edit, the film was directed and produced by Clifton (The Song Remains the Same, Popcorn, The London Rock and Roll Show) and is a hodge-podge compiling (mostly) his promotional short films and snippets of concert performances shot between 1964 and 1973 by the likes of Peter Whitehead (Wholly Communion, Charlie Is My Darling, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London), Michael Cooper (who shot Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising), Ernest Vincze (the cinematographer responsible for the 2005 Doctor Who reboot) and Ivan Strasburg (Treme).

Featured in the film are The Rolling Stones (several times), Eric Burdon and The Animals, a typically demure appearance of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Otis Redding bringing the house down, Cream, Steve Winwood, Blind Faith, Cat Stevens (a stark Kubrickian promo film for his “Father and Son” single) , The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Donovan, Joe Cocker, a segment with The Ike and Tina Turner Revue that will bring a smile to your face, Pink Floyd and Rod Stewart and the Faces. Pete Townshend is seen getting in his digs at the Stones for promoting pot use, managing to make himself look like a blue-nosed twat in the process, while Mick and the boys are seen doing “Jumpin Jack Flash” in the (decidedly more evil) warpaint version of that promo film (there were two, this is the one that was NOT shown on The Ed Sullivan Show for obvious reasons) and in their promo film for “We Love You” which features Keef in a judge’s wig, Marianne Faithfull as a barrister and Mick nude wrapped up in a fur rug (a sly joke that if you don’t get, then google “Rolling Stones,” “Redlands,” drug bust, her name and “Hershey Bar.”)

Superstars In Concert came out in Japan on the laserdisc format and that’s how I first saw it, in the late 80s. Since then, other than the various clips showing up cut from the film on YouTube, it’s remained an obscurity. Apparently there was a Malaysian bootleg and then in 2003 a Brazilian magazine called DVD Total gave away the film for free with one of their issues. So far fewer than 200 people have viewed the video.

DO NOT miss what’s perhaps the most intense version of Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe Eugene” ever captured on film. This entire film is absolutely amazing from start to finish, but it jumps off the scale during that part (Otis Redding is no slouch, either!) I highly recommend letting it load first before you hit play, otherwise it’s kind of flickery. If you wait a while, it doesn’t hang up and looks and sounds great.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘The Balcony’: Peter Falk, Leonard Nimoy & Shelley Winters frolic in Jean Genet’s twisted whorehouse

The Savage Eye was an early example of American cinema vérité that began as a film project worked on (over several years at weekends and days off) by three friends Ben Maddow (famed and award-winning screenwriter of Asphalt Jungle amongst many others), Sidney Meyers (radical film-maker and documentarian), and Joseph Strick (successful businessman and ambitious film-maker). Their movie mixed social documentary and drama that told the story of one woman’s (low) life in big, anonymous, brash, modern Los Angeles. It became a major hit at the Edinburgh Festival and won the trio a BAFTA—the equivalent of a British Oscar—in 1960. Encouraged by the film’s success, Strick sought out another project to work on.

He tried and failed to option James Joyce’s Ulysses, a project he had long cherished, though he would eventually film Ulysses with Milo O’Shea in 1967, and later produce and direct the big screen adaptation of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with Bosco Hogan and John Gielgud in 1977. Having failed on a first attempt with Ulysses, Strick approached Friedrich Dürrenmatt to option his play The Visit—in which a woman offers her home village money and success at the cost of killing her ex-boyfriend—but was also knocked back. He then approached Jean Genet and asked to option the film rights to his highly controversial play The Balcony. This time he was successful.
Jean Genet.
The Balcony is a brilliant and often disturbing drama, hailed as either the play that re-invented modern theater or the first great piece of French Brechtian theater—take your pick. Set in a high-class whorehouse situated in some unnamed city during an apparent bloody revolution, the play works as a metaphor for the different classes and corrupt structures of society. Genet wrote the first version of The Balcony (and a first version of The Blacks) in the spring and summer of 1955. Over the next ten years, Genet constantly wrote and rewrote The Balcony and between 1955 and 1961 he published five different versions. (There are some—like the play’s editor Marc Babezat—who believe Genet destroyed the script through his incessant revisions.)

In his introduction to the first version of The Balcony, Genet explained the drama’s story:

This play has as its object the mythology of the whorehouse. A Police Chief is infuriated, chagrined, to notice that at the ‘Great Balcony’ there are many erotic rituals representing various heroes: the Abbe, the Hero, the Criminal, the Beggar—and others besides—but alas, never he Police Chief. He struggles so that his own character will finally, through an exquisite act of grace, haunt the erotic daydreams and that he will thereby become a hero in mythology of the whorehouse.

Though Genet claimed he had no interest in films (“Cinema does not interest me”), he agreed to Strick’s offer to produce a movie version of The Balcony. Edmund White in his biography of Genet described the original meeting between French playwright and American film-maker:

Strick first encountered Genet in Milan, where Genet had reserved rooms in two different hotels ‘in case he had to reject my idea—he’s that sensitive,’ said Strick. Genet had seen one of Strick’s earlier films The Savage Eye, the story of a sad, recently divorced woman and her view of the seedy side of California life. Genet instructed Frechtman to speak to Strick for him: ‘Tell him that a lot of the images in his film touched me, but that the plot construction, the under-pinning appeared to me very weak. He doesn’t prove to us that this woman has changed at the end of the film. Now, a film adapted from The Balcony needs a very solid structure. Who will provide?’

While Strick stayed in the luxurious Hotel Negresco, Genet preferred a ratty hotel he called the Horresco. He was clean and neat but always dressed in the same corduroy trousers, turtleneck sweater and black leather jacket. Genet wrote a long treatment, a detailed description of the action without dialogue. Two stumbling blocks were the character Roger’s self-castration, and the whole end of the play, which is not well integrated with the preceding scenes. In the final version the castration was indeed removed. Genet worked four hours a day. Strick wanted Genet to do a shooting script and promised to follow every shot, but Genet didn’t want to invest any more time in the project. He latter told Marianne de Pury that he found the collaboration very irritating. He was still working on The Screens. He did accept, however, the idea that The Balcony should take place in a film studio and not a whorehouse.

Peter Falk as the Police Chief and Shelley Winters as Madame Irma in Strick’s ‘The Balcony’.
Ben Maddow was then employed to write the final script. The movie was then shot a very low budget, with the actors all working for minimum wage. Strick originally wanted Barbara Hepworth as Madame Irma, but she refused working for a minimum fee. Strick therefore approached the Hollywood star Shelley Winters to play the madame. Peter Falk, in only his second movie, agreed to play the Chief of Police, while future Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy played the role of Roger. Ruby Dee reprised her stage role as one of the prostitutes. Though considerably tamer than the Genet’s play, Strick still manages to maintain much of the play’s integrity. However, critics were mixed on the film’s release, with some papers, like The New York Times—quelle surprise—hating it. Watching it now, Strick made a bold and brave venture of a difficult and powerful drama.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Warren Oates and John Boorman at the ‘Point Blank’ wrap party
07:44 am


John Boorman
Lee Marvin

You can read all the self-help and how-to-succeed books you want, but sometimes success comes down to how you get on with other people.

The English director John Boorman had only directed one (flop) film, the sub-Beatles Dave Clark Five flick Catch Us If You Can, when he met Lee Marvin to discuss working on a film together. Marvin was at the top of the tree having just won several awards (including an Oscar) for his performance in Cat Ballou. The actor was in England working on his latest feature The Dirty Dozen when he had a discussion with Boorman about the possibility of making a film together based on Richard Stark’s novel The Hunter. There was a script, but neither Marvin or Boorman liked it much, both preferring Stark’s hard-edged loner Parker from the book, or as he was renamed in the screenplay, Walker.

For whatever reasons, the novice film director and the experienced actor hit it off, and Marvin agreed to appear in Boorman’s film—there was only one thing, he just didn’t want that script. In an interview between Boorman and Steven Soderbergh, the director recalled how the actor called a meeting with the film company’s head of studio, the film’s producers and himself, where Marvin asked if he had script approval? They told him, he did. Then Marvin asked if he had approval of the main casting? Again he was told he did. Then Lee Marvin did something extraordinary:

He said, “I defer all those approvals to John.” And he walked out. So on my very first film in Hollywood, I had final cut and I made use of it.

This is how John Boorman was able to make Point Blank the way he wanted to make it. The film established him as a powerful and visionary director, while his movie Point Blank was hailed by critics as a masterpiece, which has grown in reputation over the years, and is now listed as one of those [Pick a number] Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Success comes not from any dime store self-help book but from who you are and what talent you have, and sometimes from the people who like you.

This selection of seldom seen photographs come from the wrap party given for Point Blank at the Zoo club in Los Angeles, 1967.
Lee Marvin arrives at the Zoo club with drink and cigarette to hand.
Lee Marvin, John Boorman and Michelle Triola—who would later (unsuccessfully) sue the actor for palimony.
Steve McQueen with then wife Neile McQueen (short dark hair). Note Burt Reynolds cuttin’ a rug.
Marvin and Boorman horse around with Keenan Wynn.
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Wattstax’: The ‘Black Woodstock’ music festival

The Watts Riots are often referred to by lefties as “The Watts Rebellion.” While both are technically accurate descriptions, “rebellion” is considered the preferable word by sympathists, since “riot” has a negative connotation. For me, the word “riot” lacks any moralist stigma, since rioting has historically played a necessary role in the resistance of oppressed people. I also think “riots” paints a more identifiable picture.

In addition to less explicit economic discrimination, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles was plagued with racist attacks from both white gangs and and a militarized police force (sound familiar?). The 1965 events that incited the riots are convoluted, but (briefly) a black man was arrested for driving under the influence, his brother (who was was a passenger), left to inform the man’s mother, who showed up to the arrest. There was a physical altercation, all three black citizens were arrested, and onlookers from the neighborhood began throwing things at the cops.

Eight days later, 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries and 3,952 arrests. 600 businesses were destroyed and over $40 million was done in damages over a 46-square mile-area.

In 1972, Stax Records put on a concert featuring their artists to commemorate the riots. Tickets for the Wattstax music festival (held in the massive L.A. Coliseum) were sold for $1 each to keep the event affordable for working class Los Angeles residents. Mel Stuart, who had just directed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (a box-office bomb, despite its classic status), documented the concert in Wattstax, the electric results of which you see below. Wattstax has been shorthanded as “The Black Woodstock,” but it’s so much more.

The film is something greater than a record of fantastic concert footage, though the performances from artists like The Staples Singers, Isaac Hayes and The Bar-Kays are mind-blowing. It’s the interviews with Watts residents, who reflect on their lives and politics and what has and hasn’t changed since the riots, that really make the film. Richard Pryor serves as a kind of Greek chorus, and his interactions with the crowd are hilarious and full of humanity. You’ll notice that nearly the entire audience defiantly stays seated during Kim Weston’s rendition of the national anthem.

If you want a good clip to sample, there’s a fantastic bit starting around the 38:30 mark where Richard Pryor riffs on black identity (and pork). It then cuts to The Bar-Kays (looking like a heavenly choir from outer space), who do a blistering version of “Son of Shaft.”

Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Behind-the-scenes of the ‘Star Wars’ Cantina bar set
10:25 am


Star Wars

Raiders of the Lost Tumblr has turned up a trove of behind-the-scenes shots of sets, models, sketches and costumes from Star Wars’ ultra seedy and memorable Mos Eisley Cantina scene. If you’re one of the very, very few living hominids who hasn’t seen the film, that scene was notable for showcasing an abundance of admirably insane character design, which served to underscore the impending over-the-rainbow life change awaiting the film’s naive farmboy hero.

The diversity of species on display even inspired a literary anthology of short stories starring characters from the scene, some of whom appear onscreen for all of two seconds. Sci-fi geeks, I doff my cap to you; you are a breed apart. The scene also boasted some darkly lunatic but indelibly catchy jazz, and served as the setting for the world’s introduction to Han Solo. No insipid “who shot first” debates here, please. It was Han. STFU, George, we have proof below.








It’s a worthwhile trivia tangent to note that a hell of a lot of these characters were designed by Ron Cobb (seriously cool design and illustration gallery at that link, I urge you not to skip it). Though he’s probably best known as an editorial cartoonist—in fact, I credit him with the creation of one of the single most powerful and durable images in the long history of that form, the man searching for a place to plug in his broken TV set in a post apocalyptic landscape, reproduced below—Cobb played a large role in the design of the films Dark Star and Alien. He’s also the creator of that wonderfully shambolic psychedelic aircraft on the cover of The Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s.






While you’re here, check out this early rough cut of the Cantina scene. This was once findable on the now long out-of-print Star Wars: Behind the Magic, a 1998 CD-ROM. Yes, CD-ROM.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
C-3PO rapping, but don’t worry, your childhood was already dead
12-hour ambient music pieces from ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ and ‘Star Wars’
Alec Guinness, a.k.a. Obi Wan Kenobi, kind of hated ‘Star Wars’
Behind-the-scenes photos of prototype Boba Fett costume, 1978

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Behind-the-scenes photos of ‘Barbarella,’ 1968
11:21 am


Jane Fonda
Roger Vadim

Here are some fun behind-the-scenes of the 1968 science fiction film Barbarella. I’m primarily posting these images because of the amazing costumes and because everyone is just so gosh darned gorgeous. Talk about intergalactic glamor. How could it ever be topped?

Sci-fi babes and boys at their finest.

Jane Fonda and director (and then husband)  Roger Vadim

Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda

Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda
More photos after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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End of an era: NYC’s legendary cinephile paradise Kim’s Video closes (1987-2014)
09:27 am


Yongman Kim
Kim's Underground
Kim's Video

For anyone who hung out in the East Village between 1987 and 2010, the various Kim’s Video locations, which would sprout up and disappear depending on the economic vagaries of the moment, constituted an essential cultural landmark. Founded by Korean businessman Yongman Kim, initially when he rented out part of his Avenue A dry cleaning store to a fellow with a large collection of VHS tapes and then opened up a store down the street for him to manage. Kim’s Video lasted through the days when Napster reigned supreme and even after LPs made a comeback. When you stood in a Kim’s Video, it was easy to imagine that you were existing in an idealized community of punks, freaks, and artists, you could watch Stranger Than Paradise, After Hours, The Brother from Another Planet, or Do the Right Thing and know that those movies were shot in this same city and that the filmmakers themselves might walk through the door any minute.

Yesterday, August 25, was the last day of the last remaining location of Kim’s Video, at 124 First Avenue. For a certain kind of scruffy video-literate New Yorker, it was a sad day indeed.

Kim’s was one of the country’s great video stores, part of a community that included such hallowed places as Four Star Video Heaven in Madison and Scarecrow Video in Seattle. If you wanted to watch an Ozu movie or a Kenneth Anger film in the days before DVD, you had to go to a store like Kim’s. Kim’s ordered their shelves by filmmaker—the Godard shelf had a sign that read simply, “God”—and for hard-to-get movies that had never had an official release, they were perfectly content to stock bootlegs (this tendency would eventually get them into trouble). The only time in my life I had a 9-to-5 job in New York City was between 1997 and 2001, and those were also, not coincidentally, my prime Kim’s years (not that I used Kim’s for videos all that much—I lived up near Columbia University, where there were more convenient options). I can remember renting, over a period of a few weeks, the entire oeuvre of Errol Morris as well as selected early masterpieces by Wong Kar Wai. In my mind the quintessential Kim’s movie was Superstar, Todd Haynes’ 1987 movie that used Barbie dolls to tell the Karen Carpenter story and ended up getting withdrawn from circulation after Haynes lost lawsuit filed by Richard Carpenter.

In the late 1990s and into the 2000s it kept getting raided by the FBI for bootlegs, which were often displayed blatantly. I remember visiting one of the stores one day and learning the next day that a serious raid had occurred a couple hours after I left. Kim’s was legendary for its condescending clerks, but my only good Kim’s story involved a considerate and helpful clerk, so whatevs. (I received my share of eyerolls, I’m sure, but I must have shrugged them off.) I was visiting the Kim’s Underground location on Bleecker (formerly the site of both the Bleecker Street Cinema and the Cafe a Go Go), and at the time I was obsessed with the band Spoon, who disappeared for a couple years there after Elektra dropped them in 1998. I made it a habit of checking the CD bins for Spoon releases, and I was invariably disappointed. On this occasion I asked the music clerk (this location emphasized movies more than the others, and the CD section was pretty small) about Spoon, and he indicated that he had a stack behind the counter of perhaps a dozen copies of a newish promo, the “30 Gallon Tank” maxi-single, that Elektra had obviously given up on. The clerk reached back and gave me one, no charge.

Be sure to check out this detailed oral history of Kim’s at Bedford and Bowery. It does a far better job of filling in the blanks than I ever could. I didn’t realize that so many prominent people worked there as clerks—for instance, Todd Phillips, director of the Hangover movies. Here’s a choice quote from Louis CK about Kim’s you can read in there:

“When I first moved to New York there was a place next door to my apartment called Kim’s Video which was a sort of artsy video store. Instead of arranging the videos by title, they had them arranged by director or even photographer, so I educated myself. I went through the Godard section in one week and then Pasolini.”

Today the huge Kim’s video collection is languishing in Italy and the last of the stores is no more. I moved away from New York City last December for related reasons. New York’s still a great city but without places like Kim’s around, I’m not really sure who it’s there for anymore.






Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Peyote Queen’: Storm De Hirsch, the woman who made movies without a camera
08:14 am


Storm de Hirsch

Storm De Hirsch is one of those avant-garde goddesses without much name-recognition outside of underground film circles, but her influence and dynamism has always been lauded by peers. Jonas Mekas, for example (often referred to as the “godfather of American avant-garde cinema”), called her psychedelic classic, Peyote Queen, “among my favorites ... beauty and excitement.”

De Hirsch was actually a published poet before transitioning to film, and as such didn’t have ready access to a camera early on. Her first improvisational techniques were innovative manipulations of whatever film was just lying around at the time, making her as much a “sculptor” of celluloid as a filmmaker. The results of her experiments are now recognized as foundational films in avant-garde cinema. In an interview with Mekas, she spoke of her early work, like Peyote Queen, saying:

I wanted badly to make an animated short, but I had no camera available.  I did have some old, unused film stock and several rolls of 16mm sound tape. So I used that—plus a variety of discarded surgical instruments and the sharp edge of a screwdriver — by cutting, etching, and painting directly on both film and [sound] tape


De Hirsch continued making films into the 1970s, and though she eventually got ahold of a camera, it’s what she accomplished without one that most baldly represents her creative drive. She was dedicated to the work and its preservation, even hand repairing the raw film itself, (which one would assume was left very delicate after her initial artistic mangling). One of her former intern even remembers her hand-coloring the fading frames of Peyote Queen with magic marker in 1973, restoring the splashy, electric feel you see below.


Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The return of the ‘Drugstore Cowboy’
08:26 am


James Fogle
Drugstore Cowboy

Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy, based on author James Fogle’s autobiographical novel about his lifelong addictions, adventures, and crimes, was an unexpected cult success. However, it did not lead to the publication (authorized, anyway) of Fogle’s other works or more films. 25 years later there is a sequel in the works, Drugstore Cowboy (Backside of a Mirror), written by Drugstore Cowboy screenwriter Daniel Yost with input from Fogle during his last years.

“The original film is almost all Fogle (though, of course, beautifully directed, acted, and photographed), as it came from a novel he sent me with the story intact and lots of dialogue,” Yost says. “The sequel started with an idea that came to me when I woke up one morning and couldn’t resist. I wrote it, then asked Jim to send me a couple of things, one being the experience of going through withdrawal. On screen this will be harrowing, rivaling what Gene Hackman’s character went through in French Connection II.”

It was Yost who first introduced then-fledgling filmmaker Van Sant to Fogle’s work and he has been an ongoing champion for its publication and development ever since. Over the years Fogle sent Yost several novels and short stories, but prior to meeting Gus Van Sant Yost was unable to get Fogle’s short stories published anywhere, even after editing and tidying them up himself.

Fogle could have become a Burroughs-like anti-hero or even a triumphant artist like Jim Carroll in 1989 upon Drugstore Cowboy’s release. He certainly had the opportunity to makeover his existence and enjoy the rewards of minor celebrity. But despite multiple attempts at clean living, his self-destructive streak remained. Much to the frustration of his friends and family, Fogle became something of a folk hero in the Northwest, with multiple arrests for (of course) expertly robbing pharmacies, with the last two times occurring in Redmond, Washington and Seattle in 2010 and 2011. All of his stories and novels were written in prison, where he spent nearly fifty of his seventy-five years, and he found it impossible to write elsewhere. At the time of his death in prison in 2012 he had been writing another novelized autobiography.

In an email interview Daniel Yost recently answered a few questions for Dangerous Minds about his experiences working with James Fogle and his plans for Drugstore Cowboy (Backside of a Mirror).
More after the jump…

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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David Bowie should be in every video game
02:46 pm


David Bowie

While I strive to be a Bowie completest, I feel like I’m constantly coming across some weird little project he did on the side, many of which are more intuitive than others. Somehow I entirely missed that he partially scored and had a small voice-over part in the 1999 adventure game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Frankly I’m a little surprised he never got into video game acting earlier—he has a great speaking voice, and is there a rocker more sci-fi than he? And that face! Those chiseled cheeks are perfect for 3-D animation.

The plot of Omikron even reads like a concept Bowie came up with. The player enters an alternate dimension to investigate murders in a futuristic city, eventually liberating citizens from a fascistic techno-government while attempting to evade demons trying to steal their soul (you know, script number 3). Bowie wrote some decent pop tunes for the soundtrack and played an underground revolutionary. He also makes an “appearance” as a singer for a band that plays illegal concerts. It’s all very much the cyberpunk “vive la résistance” aesthetics à la The Matrix, which came out the same year.

Where it falls flat is the attempt to divine a music video from the not-so-slick game animation—a rare miss from Bowie’s aesthetics. I mean, it’s not “Dancing in the Street” bad, but it’s no Labyrinth either.


Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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