1968: Jean-Luc Godard was scheduled to appear as the opening speaker at a movie festival organized by British Film Institute in London. Godard was the fashionable director whose movies, radical chic, and Marxist politics matched the turmoil and uncertainty of the times. The “Summer of Love” was over. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Eldridge Cleaver led a group of Black Panthers on an ambush of police in Oakland. Students rioted on the streets of Paris, demonstrated against the war in Vietnam outside the American Embassy in London. Violence and revolution had replaced the hippie mantra of “peace and love.”
Godard seemed an appropriate fit. He was booked to give a talk about his movies, politics, and thoughts on cinema to kick off the BFI’s John Player Lectures at the National Film Theater. He had just completed Week End his infamous anti-bourgeois movie with its eight-minute tracking shot of a traffic jam and closing credits which announced Godard’s rejection of narrative cinema with a caption that read “End of Cinema.” He agreed to appear. His transport and hotel reservations were booked. Tickets for the lecture were selling well. Everything seemed ready to go. Then, a few days before his scheduled appearance, Godard sent a telegram in which he suggested he might not make it and if he didn’t, well, invite someone off the street “the poorest if possible” to give a lecture in his place:
TS 15/113 LN H0073 XF7964
NEUILLYSURSEINEPPAL 4651 60 19 1210
NATIONAL FILM THEATER SOUTH BANK WATERLOO LONDON
IF AM NOT THERE TAKE ANYONE IN THE STREET THE POOREST IF POSSIBLE GIVE HIM MY 100 POUNDS AND TALK WITH HIM OF IMAGES AND SOUDN (sic) AND YOU WILL LEARN FROM HIM MUCH MORE THAN FROM ME BECAUSE IT IS THE POOR PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY INVENTING THE LANGUAGE STOP YOUR ANONYMOUS GODARD
The organizers were somewhat surprised—what the fuck does this mean? The event was sold out—what the fuck do we do? Then, on the morning of the lecture, Godard fired off another missive—you gotta be fucking kidding me…! His message read:
WILL NOT COME TOMORROW MOVIES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH CIGARETTES AND REALITY WITH SMOKE YOUR UNKNOWN GODARD
The night of Godard’s “no-show,” the movie theater at the NFT on London’s South Bank was packed…
Godard interviewed by Dick Cavett, after the jump…
Eduardo Ugarte, Luis Buñuel, Jose Lopez Rubio, Leonor and Tono at Charlie Chaplin’s house, 1930
Whenever someone voices alarm about the “war on Christmas,” I think of my hero, Luis Buñuel, and smile. In 1930, Buñuel disrupted a Christmas party in Los Angeles by leading an attack on the tree and, when it proved hard to destroy, jumping up and down on the presents. Among the guests was Charlie Chaplin, whose house Buñuel often visited “to play tennis, swim, or use the sauna”; sometimes, he sat by the pool drinking with Sergei Eisenstein.
I seem to remember Buñuel or his son, Juan Luis, saying somewhere or other that Buñuel and his comrades attacked the Christmas tree because they found both it and the custom of gift-giving intolerably bourgeois. In My Last Sigh, however, the director writes that he was offended by a patriotic gesture.
He and his roommate, the screenwriter Eduardo Ugarte, were at the house of the Spanish comedian Tono and his wife Leonor, who had been Buñuel’s companions on the recent voyage from Le Havre to Hollywood:
At Christmastime, Tono and his wife gave a dinner party for a dozen Spanish actors and screenwriters, as well as Chaplin and Georgia Hale. We all brought a present that was supposed to have cost somewhere between twenty and thirty dollars, hung them on the tree, and began drinking. (Despite Prohibition, there was, of course, no shortage of alcohol.) Rivelles, a well-known actor at that time, recited a grandiloquent Spanish poem by Marquina, to the glory of the soldiers in Flanders. Like all patriotic displays, it made me nauseous.
“Listen,” I whispered to Ugarte and an actor named Peña at the dinner table, “when I blow my nose, that’s the signal to get up. Just follow me and we’ll take that ridiculous tree to pieces!”
Which is exactly what we did, although it’s not easy to dismember a Christmas tree. In fact, we got a great many scratches for some rather pathetic results, so we resigned ourselves to throwing the presents on the floor and stomping on them. The room was absolutely silent; everyone stared at us, openmouthed.
“Luis,” Tono’s wife finally said. “That was unforgivable.”
“On the contrary,” I replied. “It wasn’t unforgivable at all. It was subversive.”
The following morning dawned with a delicious coincidence, an article in the paper about a man in Berlin who tried to take apart a Christmas tree in the middle of the midnight Mass.
On New Year’s Eve, Chaplin—a forgiving man—once again invited us to his house, where we found another tree decorated with brand-new presents. Before we sat down to eat, he took me aside.
“Since you’re so fond of tearing up trees, Buñuel,” he said to me, “why don’t you get it over with now, so we won’t be disturbed during dinner?”
I replied that I really had nothing against trees, but that I couldn’t stand the kind of ostentatious patriotism I’d heard that evening.
Below, the French TV series Cinéastes de notre temps catches up with Luis Buñuel in ‘63 or ‘64.
Dennis Flemion, Mark Arm, Kurt Cobain, and Jimmy Flemion (via Matador)
When Everett True recalls watching “videos of puppet sex created by insane Midwest band The Frogs” on Nirvana’s tour bus, he means Toy Porno, this two-hour video the Flemion brothers made for Kurt Cobain in 1993. It depicts the erotic adventures of a group of polysexual knickknacks, which are intercut with live performances by the Frogs. There is no mistaking the brothers’ sensibility: both the toy porn and the rock numbers delight in jokes that are in questionable taste, especially if you happen to be Rich Little, or the estate of Joseph Cotten.
Fun fact: The title of Love’s Forever Changes album, according to Arthur Lee himself is actually Love Forever Changes, inspired by a story that Lee had heard about some guy who had broken up with his girlfriend. She told him “You said you would love me forever!” and he apparently replied, “Well, forever changes, baby, forever changes.”
As anyone lucky enough to have seen Arthur Lee live in concert can tell you, it was a very special experience. I saw Arthur in performance three times myself, including an early 90s gig at the fabled Palomino Club in North Hollywood with Baby Lemonade where the electricity went out and he did an intimate candle-lit (literally) “unplugged” set without the group. Pure magic. The entire audience was grinning from ear to ear. To this day it remains one of the very best shows I’ve ever seen.
The second time I saw Arthur Lee play was even more memorable. After spending 5-1/2 years in a federal prison as a result of California’s harsh “three strikes, you’re out” sentencing guidelines, Arthur was released and in 2003 he began a tentative series of performances around Los Angeles playing Love’s classic 1967 album Forever Changes in its entirety, again with the members of Baby Lemonade.
The night I saw him do that set, at a packed Henry Fonda Theatre, Lee looked tiny, frail, old, and just plain scared. He stood in the wings as the band started playing, but he was visible to me where from I was standing and I could see the “oh shit” look on his face as he sized up the audience. When he walked onstage his long fringe suede jacket looked way too big for his slight frame. Everyone was pulling for him, we all wanted this to be amazing and triumphant, but frankly it didn’t look very promising. Within seconds however, he had strapped on his big hollow body electric guitar, smiled broadly, stood straight up and he became the great Arthur Lee before our very eyes. It was like watching Clark Kent turn into Superman and it was another truly magical musical event. Lee’s voice had lost none of its beauty and range during his prison stint; the songs none of their power over the decades. Audience members were moved to tears. It felt like a holy moment, it really did. (Of the third occasion, a tragically ill-fated show at UCLA in front of an audience that included some major celebrities and rock stars, the less said the better.)
Around that time, a friend of mine told me that Arthur ate nearly every day at a Mexican restaurant in Studio City called Casa Vega, which was near where I lived and sure enough when I walked in one day, curious if this was true, there he was sitting at the bar by himself. There were only two other people in the place. I told the waiter to please tell the gentleman seated at the bar that I was a huge fan of his work and that he should bring Arthur’s tab to me. The waiter informed him and Lee swiveled around on his barstool, held up his water glass and nodded to me. When I left I went up to him to pay my respects and said some fanboyish things—among them that Forever Changes was my #1 favorite album of all time and it was the album that I had played the most in my lifetime. He told me that an English tour was being set up and humbly how he was just so grateful that people still cared so much about him and his music. Before it got awkward I said goodbye, but believe me when I tell you that I was thrilled to have met him. Just to thank him for what he’d given to me. How often do you get a chance to do that?
And it’s true what I told him about how Forever Changes being my favorite record. I’ve played it in the thousands of times. Not hundreds, but thousands of times. I’ve probably played it over a dozen times so far in 2018. It’s an album for virtually any mood. One that never loses its power after that many listens. It’s one of the best albums to drive around Los Angeles listening to ever made. It’s a masterpiece of a ridiculously high caliber and it’s being feted by Rhino in a new deluxe box set which features a new digital remastering by the original co-producer Bruce Botnick which is on CD, an LP cut by Bernie Grundman and on a DVD as a high resolution 96/24 file. Additionally the little heard mono mix of the album is present, along with a host of alternate versions, non-album cuts and the video for “Your Mind And We Belong Together.”
One of the things included in the new box set that I wanted to point out is the alternate version of the Forever Changes’ closing number “You Set the Scene.” If this is my favorite album, this is my favorite song on my favorite album. First heard on the 2001 CD release of the album, the alternate version, which clocks in about fifteen seconds longer, contains a sort of shouted/sung proto-rap skat singing double-tracked call-and-response section at about the six minute mark. If you know this song well already, and have never heard this alt version, be prepared to be stunned. A song that is already soaring so high and then it soars A LOT HIGHER at the very end? The first time I heard it was like a mental orgasm (not trying to be arch here, but trying to describe a sincere mental explosion of pure “Holy shit!” psychedelic righteousness the song’s extra moments engender. Can it really be as good as I say? You’ll just have to listen below won’t you?)
But WHY did they not release THIS version on the album? I think it’s better than the canonical version. It’s certainly not worse, that’s for sure. The only reason I can think of is length, that it was edited for time constraints on a 33 1/3 rpm record album. First pressings of the album are known for their excessive surface noise. At 42 minutes, Forever Changes had to be mastered very quietly due to its length, dynamic range and stereo separation. Fifteen seconds might have made a real difference at the end of side two. It’s just speculation, but I’m guessing that the reason for the “alternate version” being jettisoned for the classic version—which isn’t exactly inferior, of course, I don’t want to imply that—probably came down to a compromise like that. Really, how else to explain not using this amazing version??? Imagine an extra section section of “Hey Jude” or “I Am the Walrus” or “Good Vibrations” or something like that that had to be cut out.
Fifty years ago today, Stanley Kubrick’s singular motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey, recently styled the “strangest blockbuster in Hollywood history,” was presented to general audiences for the first time. The movie was released during an unusually eventful week: Just four days earlier, Lyndon Johnson had announced that he would give up presidentin’ due to the increasing unpopularity of the military conflict in Vietnam. A day after the premiere, a bullet from the gun of James Earl Ray would end the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1965 Kubrick hired a well-known British magazine illustrator named Brian Sanders to document the making of 2001. Sanders was given complete access to the production, to document the creation of the remarkable sets and so forth. Sanders would spend two days a week on the set drawing sketches and spend the rest of the week at his studio working on larger paintings. Kubrick singled out Sanders as the only person permitted to take photographs on the set.
Of his collaboration with Kubrick, Sanders said last year:
It was a wonderful brief to be able to draw on the set and go back to the studio to paint the bigger pictures. I could do whatever I wanted and it was absolutely lovely not working to a tight brief.
Also when I saw what Stanley had built, it was just incredible. There was the centrifuge, which you see the inside of in the film, with people running around the ceiling and various parts of it. That alone must have been 30 feet high. I remember when it started up for the first time, all of its lights were connected to one big console and they began to pop!
So he was very much in new territory, obviously in collaboration with other people but he invented new concepts such as a mounted camera where the actual camera itself would revolve. The invention was amazing, I was quite young at the time so to be able to work with him on the set was really incredible.
Many of the photographs would remain unseen for several decades. Secretive Stanley took the images from Sanders and did nothing publicly with them—only two images ever saw the light of day during the movie’s initial run. Sanders was disappointed, saying later that “the works never appeared anywhere in the end—it was a terrible anti-climax. I understood how the actors in A Clockwork Orange felt when he withdrew it from show.”
In short, every movie set should have its own documentarian illustrator.
Harrison Ford wanted his character, Han Solo, to die in Return of the Jedi. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan agreed. Kasdan thought Solo’s death would freak out the audience and make ‘em appreciate no one was safe. George Lucas nixed the idea. Lucas wanted Return of the Jedi to deliver a huge payload from merchandising and as Ford later explained, “George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”
Merchandising was certainly one influence in making of Return of the Jedi. Stars Wars merchandise had given Lucas a “Golden Ticket” and he was determined to use it to get everything he wanted. Lucas had ambitions to use this money to fund his dream of an independent studio, Skywalker Ranch. It’s long been discussed by fans as to just how much Lucas changed things to help him achieve his ambitions. Keeping Solo alive was one. Changing the Ewoks from butt-ugly lizards to cutesy teddy bears was another. As were the multiple feel-good endings—something probably inspired by the double-ending of Oscar-winner Chariots of Fire. At one point in its development, Return of the Jedi closed on Luke Skywalker wandering off into the sunset like a war-weary samurai. In another, he turned to the Dark Side after the death of his father Darth Vader. These were a bit too downbeat for Lucas who wanted to make a “kid’s film.”
Aside from the merchandising and “Nub Yub,” Lucas had some far-out suggestions for the film’s director. He originally wanted Steven Spielberg, which is understandable, but then he offered the film to David Lynch and then David Cronenberg which would have been pretty awesome if one or the other had signed-up. They both turned the offer down. It was eventually given to BBC TV director Richard Marquand to helm, as Lucas wanted a safe pair of hands as he thought movie-making really happened in the cutting-room. It’s also been long rumored Marquand didn’t direct all of the film as he had a difficult relationship with the cast.
Return of the Jedi merchandise made Lucas gazillions. It may not be the best of the first three Star Wars movies made but it is a damned sight better than some of those that were made afterward.
As any fule no, during a movie’s production, make-up and wardrobe take Polaroids of cast members in their different costumes and slap to ensure continuity. Here’s a little collection of continuity Polaroids featuring Luke, Hans, Princess Leia, and co.
Everything would look better if it were made in the ‘90s, right? No? Nostalgia for the heartwarming simplicity of early technology has, in recent years, had many of us reimagining what our lives would look like if certain present day inventions or creations had existed just a decade prior. You may recall the tongue-in-cheek parody commercial on “The Facebook” that came out a few years ago. Presented in late night television “friend-helping-friend” format, the ad explores the hypothetical, crude components of the social media platform pre-DSL, pre-selfies, even pre-Cambridge Analytica.
Retro-nerd YouTube channel Squirrel Monkey has captured the very essence of nineties-style “new technology” videos with its latest presentation on the online movie platform, Netflix. Founded just two years after the spoof is intended to take place, in 1995, the video is a how-to introduction to streaming movies through the website. Obviously, things would have been much different back then and this video does a pretty excellent job of capturing the nuances of the not-so-distant past. In a nutshell, in order to watch your favorite films online, you will need a fast computer (Windows ‘95 preferable), a reliable dial-up connection, and have to sign up to receive their Welcome Package, an homage to the free AOL CD-ROMS that littered the decade. But after everything is said and done, don’t expect to “Netflix and Chill” at ease. As you would probably predict, the quality of the stream would either be indistinguishably slow, or it would take nearly half the day to load!
Watch Squirrel Monkey’s ‘Streaming Netflix movies in 1995’ after these stills:
Dario Argento’s 1975 giallo film, Deep Red (Profondo rosso), stands as one of the auteur’s greatest works. It’s been given the 4K treatment, and the restoration is about to be released on Blu-ray in the US for the first time. We’ve got a preview in the form of a clip, and it’s one of the highlights of the picture. Creepy, scary and so sadistic it’s painful to watch. But in a good way!
Well-known British actor David Hemmings plays Marcus Davy, a professional pianist, who witnesses a brutal murder. Daria Nicolodi is journalist Gianna Brezzi, who, like Marcus, wants to know who committed the murder. As Marcus learns more and more about the case, the body count mounts.
This is the first Argento movie for Nicolodi, who went on to be a regular in his films. Argento and Nicolodi also became a couple, with their daughter, Asia Argento, arriving a year after they met.
For his co-writer, Argento chose Bernardino Zapponi, a frequent cohort of Federico Fellini. It was Zapponi who came up with the idea of incorporating relatable injuries, like begin scalded by hot water, and banging your head.
Argento fans might notice that the theme of faulty human memory, a concept first explored in his debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, is also the central motif of Deep Red.
Alfred Hitchcock was an early influence on Argento, and Psycho most certainly comes to mind here, while the original Italian poster recalls Saul Bass’s artwork for Vertigo.
Argento was disappointed with the Giorgio Gaslini’s score for Deep Red, so he asked Pink Floyd if they’d come aboard; they declined. The director was subsequently given a demo tape of an Italian group called Cherry Five, and was so impressed he hired them. The band would soon change their name to Goblin. The jazz rock score the unit composed and performed for the film is fantastic, and went on to sell millions of copies on vinyl. Argento and Goblin would work together on other pictures, including the director’s follow-up, Suspiria, which resulted in one of the scariest (and most stylish) movies ever made.
Obtaining the original cut of Ken Russell’s The Devils is still a royal pain in the ass. But it’s easy to see this gorgeous TV movie of Penderecki’s first opera, Die Teufel von Loudun, a 1969 studio production with the original cast, conductor and orchestra, subtitled in English.
Penderecki’s opera is based on the same stage play as Russell’s film: John Whiting’s adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun. All concern the real-life Satanic panic that gripped the French village of Loudun in 1632, when a whole house of Ursuline nuns was possessed by the devil, or so it was said, and their priest, Urbain Grandier, was burned at the stake for witchcraft.
Frank Zappa named the record of this production of Penderecki’s opera—in particular, the exorcism by enema in Act II—as one of his favorites in a 1975 interview with Let It Rock:
The Devils Of Loudon: Krzysztof Penderecki. Because it’s also an extremely well-produced album and I think it’s an excellent piece of dramatic music. And also because Tatiana Troyanos who plays the main nun sounds absolutely marvellous during the enema scene. The story is about a hunch-backed nun who’s possessed by the Devil and has to have an exorcism. The exorcism involves the nun being given a hot herbal enema. In live performance the exorcism takes place behind a screen and you hear Tatiana singing and screeching whilst an orchestra plays enema music. You also hear the Devil chuckling from inside the nun’s bowel.
Ken Russell’s ending is quite special, of course, but Penderecki’s is no less terrifying. Cardinal Richelieu’s boys pull a reverse Wicker Man. Get ready to feel deeply uneasy!
I wish I could take my dog everywhere with me. Recently, I ran into a man on the street protesting our local 7-Eleven. He claimed that the popular convenience store wasn’t “pet friendly” enough; that they wouldn’t allow his dog “Snowball” inside with him while he shopped. I don’t believe Snowball was fit to be a service dog or anything. It’s just nice to have the company every so often. And I’m sure our dogs would prefer the company, too.
I’m fairly certain that my dog Bella gets lonely when I’m not around. It really sucks to look her in the eyes before I leave the house. I mean, who knows what kind of crazy shit is going on inside her brain? There exist several remedies for pet separation anxiety and, in an age where we can have basically everything we want, there’s now a cable channel called DOGTV.
The concept is pretty self-explanatory. DOGTV is a 24/7 television network made exclusively for our canine friends. Designed by animal behavioral specialists, the station’s programming supports a dog’s natural everyday patterns with its original, ASPCA-approved content of three different categories: Relaxation, Stimulation, and Exposure. Each episodical segment is 3-6 minutes long and has been color-adjusted to appeal to a dog’s unique eyesight. Common everyday scenarios such as a visit to the park or a ride through town are accompanied by a soundtrack of healing frequencies, positive affirmations, and relaxing music. The programming is even considered educational. By use of gentle, low volume exposure, unfamiliar sounds are slowly introduced to the viewer, thereby “training” him or her to grow more comfortable. DOGTV has produced over 2,000 original programs to date, including The DOGTV Hour, which is intended to be enjoyed by pets with their owners. Honestly, I enjoy the dog programming much more than I do the human programming.