1965’s Pop Gear pre-dates MTV by 16 years and, despite this being a theatrical movie, pretty much creates the template for music television. The big difference is the beautiful quality of the cinematography and sets in Pop Gear makes the early days of MTV look pretty cheesy.
Pop Gear (US: Go Go Mania) is a British music review film, directed by Frederic Goode wbhich was released in 1965. It contains live concert footage of The Beatles, and lip-synched films of some of the British Invasion bands, including The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Nashville Teens, Peter and Gordon, Matt Monro, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Honeycombs, The Rockin’ Berries, and the Spencer Davis Group). The material by The Beatles was lifted from a newsreel short The Beatles Come to Town (1963).” Wikipedia.
Mike McNulty does a Nam June Paik number on the Star Wars movies. In watching all six at the same time, the viewer encounters an infinite number of possible correlations and undercurrents of meanings. It’s like a cinematic variation on the I Ching, a Tarot deck, or the collective unconscious of several million hardcore fanboys.
As a non-fan, I prefer this to watching the films individually.
Imagine this on the big screen. It could be lethal.
If there is one word that is often synonymous with the work of Radley Metzger, it is, without a doubt, classy. Whether it is his softcore films of the 1960’s, including such classics as The Lickerish Quartet and Camille 2000, or his adult work under the non de plume Henry Paris, Metzger’s art is the champagne of erotic cinema. Champagne is just the term too, since it goes perfectly with Distribpix’s Rolls Royce of a release for Metzger’s most famous explicit work, 1976’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven.
Using George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion as a loose framework for the story, The Opening of Misty Beethoven is one of Metzger’s lightest films. Our titular heroine, Misty Beethoven (Constance Money), is a hooker working in the City of Lights itself, Paris. Don’t be fooled by the continental decadence, since when we first meet her, she’s bedecked in a bad wig, worse make-up and a tee-shirt slapped with assorted credit card logos. On top of the questionable fashion choices, there’s the fact that Misty is just not very good at her career of choice. While limiting yourself to giving hand jobs to old men dressed up as Napoleon does have a certain old world charm, it is not going to get you far in life.
It is when she, by the sheer touch of kismet, crosses paths with Dr. Seymore Love (the inimitable Jamie Gillis) one night in a porn theater, that her life is forever changed. Along for the ride is Love’s old colleague Geraldine (Jacqueline Beaudant), whom he encounters in a dingy brothel. In Misty, Love sees a delicious challenge. The goal? To take this seemingly passionless woman and transform her into the “Goldenrod Girl,” which is the crowning achievement for all that is female seductiveness and heat. Geraldine’s dubious but game for the experience and is enlisted as one of Love’s guides of sorts.
Along the way, we get a series of cute training sessions, with Misty, her hair pulled back and wearing a jogging suit, training like a champ. Yet, instead of running up stairs, it’s more recumbent bikes, candy colored phallus training and live action demonstrations. She’s slow at first, but soon gets her figurative feet wet when she seduces a homosexual art dealer (played by Casey Donovan, whom also starred in the gay adult ground breaker, Wakefield Poole’s Boys In the Sand, as well as Metzger’s own Score). This starts the wheel spinning for Misty, culminating at famed publisher,Lawrence Lehman’s (Ras Kean) decadent, jet set party. It’s there that Misty not only seduces Lawrence, but his sexy raven-haired wife, Barbara (Gloria Leonard), too, all for the rapt gaze of Lehman’s guests. Misty gets crowned the Goldenrod Girl, but there is a bittersweet tinge, when she overhears Seymour and Geraldine snickering.
It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, which is exactly what happens with Seymour and his protege. There’s a playful twist to the original Shaw work that is a fitting ending to one polished gem of a film.
At the height of the porno chic wave in the 1970’s, there were two films that should have successfully bridged the genre of erotica into the realm of mainstream cineaste acceptance. The first being Gerard Damiano’s 1973 The Devil in Miss Jones and the second being The Opening of Misty Beethoven. The former truly broke ground and paved the way for Misty Beethoven to be highly regarded, not just by the Adult industry but by major critics like Roger Ebert.
Metzger’s work, more so than any other filmmaker of erotica, save maybe Candida Royalle years later, has often been considered to be “couples friendly.” While that kind of categorization depends on the individual couple, given Metzger’s sophisticated eye and touch, the attractive cast, the international locales and characters that are often treated with a semblance of respect, it makes sense. This is doubly so with Misty Beethoven, which is a light pastry of a film, especially compared to some of Metzger’s weightier past efforts, like The Imageand The Lickerish Quartet. Lacking the darker elements that tended to be a hallmark of a lot of the quality adult cinema being made, Misty is more like a delicious, saucy cocktail that is sweet enough to be alluring, strong enough to be heady but not so strong to be threatening.
The cast is top notch, featuring a typically strong performance from the dark prince himself, Jamie Gillis, as the Henry Higgins-esque Seymour Love. Here, Gillis gets to shine bright as the handsome, erudite Professor. He brings a breezy sophisticated charm, lacking some of the violent sleaze that became synonymous with his other roles. Love or hate him, there will never another like Jamie. Jacqueline Beudant, in her only role, is very earthy as the worldly and world-traveled Geraldine. Rounding out the main cast is Constance Money, as the titular Misty Beethoven. Money, whose work prior to Misty, amounted to a couple of loops and the 1975 film, Confessions of a Teenage Peanut Butter Freak, Money is initially not given a whole lot to do, with her character being more of a blank slate. Misty in the beginning has all of the lusty warmth of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but gradually grows more passionate and comfortable with herself. Money not only conveys this but also displays hints at some good comedic timing. It’s too bad that she only ended up doing a tiny handful of films before retiring in the early 1980’s, because she definitely had the right mix to transcend the cult star status that she has to this day.
One star that emerged just as bright and in fact, even bigger than Money was Gloria Leonard. Any ill informed individual who assumes that women who acted in adult films back then were either victims or bimbos would have their ignorance demolished, if not flat out incinerated by Leonard. In addition to being one of the first notable older women in erotica, she has a background that includes copy writing for a then burgeoning Elektra records, working on Wall Street and serving as publisher for 14 years of High Society magazine. Even better, she is currently a chartered member of the non-profit group, Feminists for Free Expression. This is a whole lot of detail to illustrate the simple fact that Gloria Leonard is an inspirational badass.
Making a suitable companion to the glamorous Leonard is the enigmatic Ras Kean, as the ridiculously handsome and devil-may-care catalyst for Misty’s Goldenrod Girl status. Misty also has some notable actors in smaller roles, including the brilliant Michael Gaunt, who was so incredible in Roger Watkins American Babylon years later, as an escort of Geraldine’s. In a very small, non-sex role is character actor Mark Margolis, who has gone on to act in everything from 1977’s prison film Short Eyes all the way to TV’s American Horror Story.
One trademark of Radley Metzger’s work is how impeccable his films look. It’s not just the attractive cast, international locations and great set design, though all of them have these qualities in spades. But in addition to all of that, there is the cinematography, which is exquisite. When you can make something as wrinkly and awkward as a scrotum look lovely and refined, then you have more that done your job. All low-hangers talk aside, every frame in this film looks like art and really, it is. Not enough kudos can be heaped onto Paul Glickman, whose terrific work as a cinematographer can also be seen in Metzger’s equally lush looking Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, as well as the Dennis Hopper character study, Tracks.
Speaking of kudos, Distribpix have done another stellar job, giving The Opening of Misty Beethoven every ounce of the love, respect and attention to detail it deserves. The restoration work that went into this transfer is beyond perfect, not to mention the cornucopia of extras, including the highly informative director’s commentary, with the man himself, as well as a separate one for the “cool” aka cable TV ready version of the film with Gloria Leonard. On top of that, there’s trailers, ephemera, a wonderful making of documentary and much more. This release is swanky in all the right places.
The Opening of Misty Beethoven is one fun, light-as-meringue film. While it may lack the plot and character layer that other Metzger films possess, it more than makes up for it with an old world charm, a new world sense of freedom and a polish to be envied.
As a fan of Harmony Korine’s over-the-top, raunchy, apocalyptic fun fest Spring Breakers and Lena Dunham’s brilliant TV series Girls, I unreservedly dig this mash-up put together by The Hollywood Reporter. By bouncing the unselfconscious, anything goes, fuck you approach of Korine’s film off the the over-analytical, to the point of paralysis, psycho-babbling Girls we end up with a third entity: hipster gangsta angsta.
They’ll be plenty of people hatin’ on Spring Breakers. I say ignore them. The movie is pure trash of a very sublime sort (purity is in short supply these days). Imagine a Girls Gone Wild video directed by Gaspar Noe and Godard. Harmony Korine’s critique of reality TV, gangsta shit and pop culture’s commodification of tweenybopper celebs is as scattershot as the gunfire at the movie’s climax, but when it hits its target it draws blood. Beach Blanket Bingo for the comfortably numb.
Since when did THP get into the mash-up business? I had no idea they had this level of coolness in them.
Film director, writer and actor, Peter Bogdanovich gave critic Michael Billington a brief introduction to his father, Borislav Bogdanovich’s art work in this short clip from 1979.
Born in 1899, Borislav Bogdanovitch was a Serbian Post Impressionist / Modernist artist, who was one of Belgrade’s leading artists, and exhibited alongside Jean Renoir and Marc Chagall. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, Borislav relocated with his family to New York, where he continued to work, though less successfully, until his death in 1970.
Before his death, Borislav saw Peter’s first major movie—the modern urban horror, Targets:
‘I don’t think he said more than 4 or 5 words about it, but he had obviously been very moved by the experience. It was a heavy movie, it was a tough movie, and it wasn’t very pretty about life in Los Angeles, or America, and he felt it was a tragic picture. I could see it on his his face what he thought about it—he didn’t have to say much.’
The film, which starred Boris Karloff, marked the arrival of Peter Bogdanovich as a highly original and talented film-maker, who was exceptional enough to direct, co-write and occasionally produce films as diverse as the superb The Last Picture Show; the wonderful screwball comedy What’s Up Doc? with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal; to the excellent Ryan and Tatum O’Neal comedy/drama Paper Moon; and the the greatly under-rated (and hardly seen on its release) Saint Jack with Ben Gazzara.
But Bogdanovich is magnanimous in his praise for others (see his books on Orson Welles and John Ford) and claims, at the start of this interview, that it was his father who was a considerable influence on developing his film-making skills:
‘I think it is unquestionably true that whatever I did learn, in terms of composition, or color, or the visual aspect of movies, I certainly learned from my father through osmosis—it wasn’t anything he sat down and taught me. The thing that my father was extraordinary, he had this way of influencing people—getting things across without saying, “This is what I am trying to teach you.” It wasn’t like that at all. My father wasn’t didactic in anyway, he was casual.’
From being one of the most interesting and original film-makers of his generation, Peter Bogdanovich has rarely had the opportunity to make the quality of films he is more than capable of producing. Last year, in response to the Aurora shootings, Bogdanovich wrote an article for the Hollywood Reporter in which he lamented the loss of humanity in films:
‘Today, there’s a general numbing of the audience. There’s too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible. Back in the ’70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, “We’re brutalizing the audience. We’re going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum.” The respect for human life seems to be eroding.’
Latrice Royale onstage at The Castro Theatre, photo by Robby Sweeny.
NOTES FROM THE NIALLIST
If you have not seen Paris Is Burning, you’re just not doing it right. I’m talking Life, honey.
I’ve written about Paris Is Burning before, and referenced it in my recent ballroom piece for Boing Boing, but the truth is that the impact of this film on gay culture, and by extension culture at large, cannot be overestimated. That a film about underground drag culture and voguing resonated so strongly amongst gays should not be a surprise, but what is surprising is how far its influence has spread in “straight” circles. Its language and imagery are now common parlance, and it won a recent PBS “best documentary” poll by an overwhelming landslide.
Which is why I was so delighted to see Paris Is Burning get recent a Midnight Mass screening in San Francisco, hosted by the queens Peaches Christ and Latrice Royale. Barring stars of the film itself (most of whom have sadly passed) I could not think of a better pair to present it. Peaches Christ is a legendary San Francisco performer and the regular Midnight Mass movie hostess, and is so obsessed with films, ickiness and camp that her boy alter ego, Joshua Grannell, recently directed the future-cult-classic All About Evil, starring Natasha Lyonne, Mink Stole and Elvira. Latrice Royale, meanwhile, was a competitor on last year’s season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and through a combination of straight-talking and motherly warmth, went on to win the show’s “Miss Congeniality” prize, and has become one of the most popular contestants that Drag Race has ever seen.
I couldn’t waste this opportunity to ask two legends of drag about this legendary drag film, so I sent them both a set of questions to answer.
Peaches Christ and Latrice Royale
THE NIALLIST: When did you first discover Paris Is Burning?
LATRICE ROYALE: I believe it was 1995.. I know a little late, but again I was very new to the lifestyle at this time in my life.
PEACHES CHRIST: I was a junior in high school and the movie was such a huge indie hit in the urban markets that Miramax did a wide release, which meant it played at the local Maryland mall where I grew up. I remember going to see it with my closeted lesbian friend and my hands were literally shaking when I went to purchase a ticket—I was a closeted queen and was terrified someone would see me buying a ticket to the movie—that my secret would be revealed. I watched it wide-eyed and in awe and while there is clearly a tragic element to the film, especially ending with Venus’ murder, I found it to be inspiring, creative, loving, and it really showed me that there was a way people like “us” could find a family, create a world for ourselves, and that the world could be imaginative, unique, and FABULOUS. I went to see it three more times in the theatre and each time I did, my hands shook a little less when I bought a ticket.
TN: What kind of an impact has it had on your career, and how has it influenced you personally?
LR: Well from my own personal experience in life, I totally could relate to these young kids. As I was one of them. I was too scared to come out after being outed by my brother. But I did learn that you could rebuild your family with people to your liking.
PC: I kind of feel like there are two drag worlds- the one pre-Paris Is Burning and the one post-Paris Is Burning, because after the movie came out and was widely distributed, queers sought it out, understood it, embraced and appropriated its culture on all levels of queer culture. It’s effect on our language, style, dance, etc. can not be underestimated. Whether people know it or not, it changed queer culture and then of course popular culture because it’s my belief that most of the best parts of popular culture start with the queers.
TN: How do you feel time has treated the film?
LR: Knowing what I know now, and seeing how bullying is such the trend.. We need to have a world wide revival of this movie. So many are unaware of a crucial part of our history.
PC: I watch it today and am again- blown away by how much of everything we do and saw comes from this seminal film. It’s timeless.
TN: What would you say to younger queens who haven’t seen the film?
LR: Well as I stated earlier we need a revival!! Our youth should be aware of just how far we’ve come, while realizing we still have so much further to go. But with knowledge comes power, and hopefully our youth will learn that they too, have a voice.
PC: It’s a must see of course. Completely required viewing. I’m actually teaching a class in 2014 at the SF Art Institute that’s essentially “Drag In Cinema” and I’m building the course around this film.
Peaches Christ as Dorian Corey, photo by Nicole Fraser-Herron
TN: Who is your favourite character in Paris Is Burning?
LR: Pepper LaBeija LEGENDARY MUTHA!!
PC: I can’t choose one- seriously. I’m obsessed with Dorian Corey, Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Venus Xtravaganza, and Octavia St. Laurent. I love them all.
TN: Peaches, could you tell us about the process of getting Paris Is Burning to the big screen again?
PC: I’ve wanted to do a Peaches show around Paris Is Burning for years and years but really needed to do it the right way and create a show that felt authentic- so it took some time but I was able to seek out members of the West Coast ball scene who came on board to create the show with us. I reached out to Latrice because I really feel like she embodies the true spirit of the film—inspiring a new generation of queens to perform with style and grace, understanding their history while also serving it to audiences—making them eat it. I have been in touch with Jennie Livingston, the film’s director, and she’s been so supportive and WONDERFUL and we’ve been talking about how this Paris Is Burning zeitgeist will hopefully lead to more projects, more longevity, more celebration, and that this community’s legacy will live on forever.
TN: And finally, Latrice, how was the Paris Is Burning Midnight Mass screening?
LR: I must say the whole experience working with Peaches Christ was one thatI will never forget!!! So brilliant, and such an honor to be apart of more history in the making.
TN: History indeed!
To end, here’s another bit of history, the original 1991 TV trailer for Paris Is Burning, complete with that guy doing the voice-over:
For more info, and to view the picture gallery of images form the screening, visit PeachesChrist.com.
Some great shots of Bruce Lee during his competitive dancing years. The man was dashing in every endeavor, wasn’t he? There’s even a bit of footage, proving the versatility of his elegance and grace beyond fight choreography.
Miloš Forman discusses One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Denis Tuohy from 1976, where the multi-award winning director explains his views on Politics, Art and Film-making.
Tuohy appears not to be aware that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was based on the novel by Ken Kesey, instead, he digs for some personal, East-West political subtext that relates to Forman’s past life in Czechoslovakia. (Though it’s not mentioned here, Forman’s parents died in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War—his mother in Auschwitz in 1943, his father in Buchenwald, 1944; while after the war, Forman lived under the country’s brutal Communist rule.)
Was the film a metaphor about society? asks Tuohy. To which Forman replies, it was more ‘a metaphor for any kind of modern society today,’ as it revealed ‘how far has the power the right to crush an individual who is questioning the rules.’
‘The power has Politics on its side. Let the Art be on the side of individual.
Forman, who had left Czechoslovakia in 1968 to make films in Hollywood, describes himself as ‘apolitical’ and believes there is a division between Art and Politics.
‘I like to tell the stories of the society I live in. I don’t have an ambition to give advice, of how the society will be transformed or changed—probably because I have seen so many disappointments.
‘I am apolitical person. For somebody that is trying to make so-called Art that is political—is crippling. Because Art is always, should be objective, should be trying the best of being objective. Once you adopt a political doctrine that, well, you can call Art, but it is propaganda type of Art.’
In the above letter, Martin Scorsese asks New York’s city planners to protect the “grittiness” of the Bowery. As someone who has made Manhattan’s unique character an essential element in his films, Scorsese must be deeply saddened as the city continues to lose its glorious star quality to the encroaching blandness of chain stores and soulless glass and metal monstrosities.
Listen you fuckers, you screwheads. Here’s a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit…”
Substitute “dogs” and “cunts” with “landlords” and “Realtors” and suddenly Travis Bickle’s rant starts to sound sane.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.