Friday, December 28, 2007

Check out the Links List on the right, hours of joy are yours to be had!

Yes, I finally got around to it, and have put up a few dozen links on the right menu. The creative efforts of some of the show's viewers/friends are first, followed by a really big slew of audio blog URLs, and closed off by some recommended sites and blogs.

If you're not familiar with the audio-blog phenomenon in the Blogspot universe, I recommend that you check out any of the links I provide here, and you will have literally hours (I ain't exaggeratin') of entertainment to be had. The blogspot experience is all about moving through the link-lists, so I thought it was essential that I help this process along (as long as you remember to check back here, do the RSS feed, bookmark, whatever). The Internet has made it possible for fans all over the world to share their treasures and in my short little decade sifting through this medium I'd have to say that the two most blissfully positive developments have been YouTube and the audio-blog phenomenon (I was never one for adding a piece of software to obtain my free music). They truly have forged a community out of a disparate bunch of obsessives — and so it should be....

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Berlin Alexanderplatz" exhibition at MOMA's P.S.1 in Queens (with clips from my recent Juliane Lorenz episode)

Last week's Funhouse episode featured the first half of my interview with Juliane Lorenz, who served as Fassbinder's editor and partner during his life, and has become his chief legacy keeper in the quarter-century since his death, as head of the Fassbinder Foundation. I'm very proud of the ground covered in our interview, as we discussed not only the restoration of Berlin Alexanderplatz, but also her work on acquiring, restoring, and re-releasing various other Fassbinder films. We also discussed Fassbinder's very unique manner of shooting and having his films edited (something that is only suggested for the geniuses among us).

As I prepared the episode, I focused so heavily on finding the appropriate clips from the current mammoth release of Berlin Alexanderplatz from the Criterion Collection that I neglected to mention the current exhibition of the film at MOMA's P.S. 1 out in mine own native borough of Queens. The exhibit runs until January 21st of 2008 (all the info can be found here), and includes showings of each individual episode in 14 separate screening rooms (while the whole thing plays on a main screen). I have yet to make the pilgrimage, but will certainly be doing so during the Xmas holiday from office work. I haven't yet considered which episodes I would choose to rewatch over again after having so recently viewed the entirety of this masterwork (which is a dense, brilliant work that is not as blissfully candy-coated as Fassbinder's best known "German woman" films -- it's anguished stuff for long stretches, but exquisitely anguished). I think that, out of context, it would have to be Franz Biberkopf's happier moments: his girlfriend-swapping with Reinhold (ep. 5) and his first meeting with Mieze (ep. 8). But the most re-viewable passages of this overwhelmingly brilliant work would have to be the completely mind-warping fantasies contained in the epilogue, "My Dream of Franz Biberkopf's Dream." In any case, the P.S. 1 exhibit features a reproduction of his storyboards, his own annotated version of Alfred Doblin's novel (which my Fassbinder obsession in college led me to read), and the audio tapes he recorded for the film's narration. A must-visit for cultists like all of us.

And to whet the appetite, I offer this segment of my interview with Ms. Lorenz, on the topic of Fassbinder shooting only one take of most scenes (with two clips from Alexanderplatz and a fascinating making-of docu):

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And a minute of Fassbinder himself talking about the film and its political message (which has interesting echoes for those of us living in the wildly conservative present-day U.S.). This comes from Lorenz's documentary Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz, which is found in the Criterion box:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Merry Happy Holly thing: Dean and Frank

Real holiday cheer is hard to obtain (unless one is disposed to altering one's "headspace" in front of coworkers or relatives -- a bad idea all around...). Anyway, I do associate the Yuletide with variety specials, and so had to share this absolute plum with viewers and blog-reading-type people: the Dean Martin Show Xmas special from 1967 that has Dean welcoming his own family and Frank Sinatra and his three grown kids (no wife, it was gonna be odd seeing young Ms. Mia amidst the family gathering). The show starts off with this rousing bit of infectious goofiness. Dean certainly brought out the absolute best in Sinatra. He was a somber fella on TV, whether as host or guest singer, and it seems that only when he was with Dino did he absolutely brim over with enthusiasm for what he was doing. And so I present to you their opening number, a ditty first sung by Bing Crosby but better known to those in "the rock era" for Darlene Love's version on the Phil Spector Xmas record.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

UPDATE: This clip has been taken down by the folks who own the show, but have no plans at all to actually release the sucker. Perhaps it's because half of it is sublimely delightful and the other half is hardcore kitsch, who knows.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Les Rita Mitsouko, as filmed by Godard

Godard has done some gorgeous work with music over the years, and while his taste seems to run more to classical than pop, he has crafted some unforgettable sequences using rock. The ye-ye moments in Masculin-Feminin immediately spring to mind, as does the “Mao-Mao” bit in La Chinoise, the Madison in Band A Part, some terrific bits in Grandeur et Décadence d’un petit commerce de cinéma. Perhaps the most interesting fusion of his seminal ’60s cinema and seminal ’60s music was his documenting of the recording of “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones in One Plus One. Almost two decades later, in his light (and very strange) comedy Soigne Ta Droite (Keep Your Right Up, 1987), he did the same for Les Rita Mitsouko, chronicling the creation of a few songs from their second album The No Comprendo. In honor of the recent death of Fred Chichin, I thought I would upload some scenes from Godard’s film that feature he and Catherine Ringer in the middle of the “process.” And those who know anything about Godard can guess that no completed songs by Les Rita appear in the film, as he is all about process….

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy birthday, JLG: Godard turns 77

Funhouse deity Uncle Jean has a birthday today, so I thought the best way I could celebrate him would be to do another “survey” post, giving you the best of the JLG clips posted on YouTube. All I have to say is that he is one of the greatest cineastes the world has ever seen, and fascinated by the fact that all of the members of the French New Wave (except Truffaut, who died in his 50s of cancer) have had long, healthy lives and are still making kick-ass cinema in their 70s and 80s. Whatever was in the water in France in the 1920s and ’30s bred some pretty durable geniuses….

Uncle Jean was honored this past weekend in Berlin with by the European Film Academy. True to form, he didn’t show up (we fans remain content that he is as cranky and publicity-shy in his 70s as he was when he was in 30s and 40s).
Here’s a partial translation of a German interview with him (with links to a French TV talk):

And now the links:
The trailer for one of the premier achievements of his “golden” period, Pierrot Le Fou:

The unforgettable “music video” trailer for Masculin-Feminin:

The trailer for my favorite of his “comeback” period, Prenom Carmen:

His Marxist film British Sounds, put up by Funhouse friend and vid-liberator Paul Gallagher

An interview with Godard during his heavy Marxist period, with hair and the growth of a beard (!). Even at his most “wild-eyed radical,” he was still a mellow, thoughtful soul:

Soft and Hard, his exploration of the “battle of the sexes,” starring he and his partner Annie-Marie Mieville:

Godard the ad-man, selling cigs:

Selling jeans:

A bit of cinema poetry, from the anthology film Ten Minutes Older.

A slice of his brilliant major work Le Histoire(s) du Cinema:

Something I’d never seen at all, unsubbed bit from Cinema Cinemas:

Rare American TV interview:

And, as a finale, his bit from the very hard-to-find (in the U.S., at least) Room 666, by Wim Wenders:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Deceased Artiste: Fred Chichin of Les Rita Mitsouko

I’m pretty sure the American music press is gonna fuck up and completely ignore the passing of the wonderfully talented Fred Chichin, half of the great French pop-rock duo Les Rita Mitsouko (the other half being the lovely and talented Catherine Ringer). Fred died at 53 of cancer, a sad death, since his duo was a kick-ass musical act whose first few albums were golden, and who continued to create memorable, hook-laden tunes until earlier this year.

As is always the case with musical acts, most of their best work is available on YouTube, but I’ll just note that they hit it big with the super-memorable and goddamn bouncy song “Marcia Baila” in 1985, and went on to become major French music stars, she for her great vocals and sexy style, he for his musicianship… and sleazy moustache. They attempted crossover performances, but wisely never did a complete sell-out LP: two albums were produced by “Main Man” Tony Visconti, they performed songs with Sparks on their third album, their newest album has Catherine dueting with the lead singer of System of a Down, and the pair continued to perform tunes sung in English as well as Français. I thought it interesting that they received the same treatment in Godard’s Soigne Ta Droite (Keep up your right) that the Stones had gotten in One Plus One/Sympathy for the Devil. They certainly deserved the dissection, as their music was wonderfully crafted by Fred and the albums are imminently relistenable.

Get hooked into “Marcia Baila”:

Pure pop for now people from Les Rita:

I get addicted with a few notes:

Dance music with a brain:

And I would be remarkably remiss if I didn’t close out with the best last line Les Rita ever came up with
“Les histoires d’amour finissent mal… en general”
(Love stories end badly… in general)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hot Link: Vintage concerts online, all for free

The Wolfgang's Vault site is a collection of free vintage concerts from the 1960s through the 1980s, with some stray recent items. The collection began as the archive of recordings (soundboard recordings, the stuff of pure bootleg wet dreams) from the collection of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham. The site has now made a deal with the folks who produced the classic radio concert series "The King Biscuit Flower Hour" and some other group that was holding performances by some major country artists. So what you end up having, for the time being (I'm wondering how long this can continue at its current diluted strength) is a site that offers free concerts from psychedelia to punk. I have partaken of several of the recordings in the vault (all available for free — i.d. and password required, but they're gratis — as steaming audio; downloads are available, I don't know how that was worked out...). Immediate faves are of course Martin Mull (from his "Fabulous Furniture" period), the Ramones at the Palladium, Van Morrison at the Bottom Line, Laura Nyro (christ, Laura Nyro!), X from a Brooklyn show, and the singer-songwriter gents when they were newer and less prone to professionalism: Randy Newman in 1972 persists in being a wise-ass because his audience isn't seemingly familiar with what he does, and Warren Zevon is 1978 is audibly drunk and playing off-key. Hey man, that was rock 'n' roll, and more importantly live rock 'n' roll. If you want polished, go check out that arena crap.

Well worth your time:
Wolfgang's Vault

"Unabideables": the MTA and winter

“At least he made the trains run on time.”

The number one joke about Mussolini is the above. Why has it stuck with people for so long? Well, if you live in New York City you readily understand why one can make a joke about being able to withstand a fascist administration (oops, I mean openly fascist) if you could just get to where you wanted to go in a smooth fashion. Doesn’t matter how good the book you’re carrying, how superb the music in your portable “device,” how many things you’ve got on your mind, and need time to process — when you’re at a local station and the train you’re waiting for chooses to go express and fly by in the darkness with horn blaring, or the wretched pathetic little tyrant that drives the bus decides to bypass you in the depths of winter (or summer), you might be brought in mind of a younger Benito, and figure that if you ever got control of a country, you’d damned well get the public transportation to actually follow the fucking schedule, any fucking schedule.

In winter, one wants, needs, would love to simply go home.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Norman Mailer on his characters and their penises

Just had to upload one more brilliant little bit from Pennebaker and Hegedus' 1979 Town Bloody Hall (shot in 1971). Here Norman answers a question about the protagonists in his novels that give nicknames to their penises. Germaine Greer — who in more recent years did a stint on Celebrity Big Brother over in England — has something to say about this phenomenon.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Deuce stars in "Times Square" (1980)

Showed this on the recent Jacob Brackman interview episode, as he scripted this picture, which was intended as Robert Stigwood's "punk" picture. The scene is amazing, as it shows what the South side of 42nd St. looked like in 1980 from one corner to the other. A great time capsule.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Jacob Brackman on Terrence Malick

From the Funhouse interview.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A holiday tradition: "Alice's Restaurant"

The holidays are a drag all ’round, but there are certain seasonal rituals I heartily endorse, most of them concerning (take a big heaping guess) culture and entertainment. Halloween may be my favorite holiday and Christmas the one that gets the lion’s share of attention, but Thanksgiving has its own pleasant traditions, the foremost mainstream one being, of course, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast (if you thought I was going to mention football, ya don’t know me very well). One of the finest musical traditions started back in 1967 when Arlo Guthrie delivered unto us his rambling, shambling, hooky-as-hell narrative entitled “Alice’s Restaurant.” If you get through this holiday without singin’ a bar’a “Alice’s Restaurant” (the next time it comes up here on the guitar), or at least humming the tune, you have had an inferior Turkey Day.

In this era of all music being obtained somehow for free, it’s comforting to know that one can hear Arlo’s once and future bit of anti-war spoken-word brilliance gratis on the Net. It’s been announced that the site below will be streaming the song all day long on Thanksgiving. Just consider the fact that friend Arlo was only 20 when he wrote this ditty, and was already a pretty decent tunesmith (and, I believe, damned good comedian) at that tender age. I have yet to see him perform it in concert (the times I’ve seen him he’s one of several performers and, well, you just can’t dig out that titanic saga in the company of other performers), but it has been a tradition for me to take a listen, in some fashion, to his “Massacree” every Thanksgiving.

Click here for the place where Alice can be heard on Thanksgiving this year
And in case, you want to find out something about the real Alice, who’s still around and now is an artist-illustrator.

And speaking of the esteemed Guthrie clan, I was very privileged to serve as proofreader for the extremely classy-lookin’ book that is contained within the deluxe release of the CD called The Live Wire. The CD is a rare-as-hell recording of Woody Guthrie performing live at a community center in Newark, NJ back in 1949. It turns out that, right at the dawn of the blacklist era, Woody would take speaking/singing engagements with his wife Marjorie, who would serve as his “interviewer” in between songs. The performance was recorded for posterity by a local NJ ice cream salesman who caught it using a pre-tape form of consumer wire-recording that proves again (see post below) that analog technology ain’t very pretty in terms of its results, but certainly lasts a long, long, long time….

The Live Wire is a fascinating document of the legendary Woody doing what should be a “packaged” show, but breaking out of the constraints of format and structure that Marjorie attempted to impose on the evening. The result is a rather rambling, shambling, but infinitely entertaining (like father, like son) bit of history that includes some amusing monologues by Woody and absolutely gorgeous pieces of songwriting, from Dustbowl ballads to news- and history-generated songs that haven’t aged a bit in the many decades since they were written (“1913 Massacre,” “Goodbye Centralia”). The closer is a beauty, “Jesus Christ,” which alters the old Jesse James ballad to fit the man from Nazareth. My knowledge of Woody before working on this project was confined to the many covers of his work by 1960s folkies I adore and the tunes resurrected by his old travelin’ buddy Pete Seeger (plus the Billy Bragg/Wilco collaborations). It’s quite another matter hearing the man himself, interacting with his wife in a free-wheeling (yes, Bob copped a busload of the attitude here) and sometimes rambunctious Q&A session — I particularly like his asking Marjorie, who has noted she thinks the acoustic guitar is “too loud” for the audience, “do you want me to turn it down?”

As a “consumer guide” service, I note the CD is available exclusively at the Woody Guthrie Foundation website, which has all kinds of interesting info about the man whose “machine” killed fascists.

A Thanksgiving present for NYCers: no subway fare-hike!

New Yorkers got some very welcome news this morning, a nice Thanksgiving present, with the announcement by Gov. Spitzer that the MTA does not need to raise its fare. Of course, those who ride the fucking things on a daily basis know that they never needed to raise it, the MTA just figures it should keep its riders under heel and at-attention by sporadically raising the fare, even though it literally BLEEDS money when analyzed. There was the wonderful case a few years back when it was revealed that they were keeping two sets of books and had been for some time, but still the fare-hike they had decided on then went through — their excuse was that the turnstiles had already been changed, no going back on this plan…. They’re crooks, the damned trains never run on anything resembling a regular schedule, and most hardened subway commuters spend the better part of their lives waiting on platforms for the eventual overstuffed train that will cruise into the station (or bypass it, if they feel like it).

Conservative critics of the governor (who I am not a fan of, but certainly not opposed to) have said this is Spitzer’s attempt to change his image after the complete failure of his drivers-licenses-for-illegal-immigrants plan; the fact that that MTA HAD enough dough in the first place and never needed the fare-hike is of course ignored (shades of the Dan Rather fiasco where the content of the memos under consideration, saying that Bush evaded military service as best he could, was ignored in favor of the game concerning whether said memos were 100% legit in and of themselves. The neocon agenda is based pretty entirely on the “don’t watch that… watch this!” philosophy. Screw ’em. I don’t think a penny more needs to come from NYC commuters to subsidize a system that is run horribly, answers to no one, and which receives absolute no slaps on the wrist from the billionaire with the HORRID voice who occupies the Mayor’s office.

Now back to our regularly scheduled entertainment….

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Deceased Artiste" Norman Mailer

He was one of a fuckin’ kind, Mailer was. In certain ways a throwback to the Hemingway macho writers of the earlier part of the twentieth century, in others a vitally connected artist who seemed to place himself at the forefront of opinion and behavior in the 1960s and ’70s, he is probably one of the last great aged enfant terribles. He seemed to really hit his prime as a writer-provocateur in his late 40s, and occupied a place in both American letters and American show biz that no one else ever has, with the exception of Truman Capote, who was most likely his polar opposite (and someone he always publicly envied, even decades after Capote’s death, for having truly “understood” how to manipulate and captivate the media). He was a bold guy, a genius who was modest about nothing and possessed the craziness that usually is part and parcel of creative genius. His mind was razor-sharp, but what will ultimately be remembered, for at least the next few decades, was his public behavior. After some time passes, though, his books will the final testament — which is exactly what a man capable of the lean beauty of The Executioner’s Song and the awful excess of Ancient Evenings would’ve wanted.

My own experiences with the gent extend back to hearing about his “acting up” on late-night talk shows, my dad telling me about Mailer verbally sparring with Gore Vidal on the Cavett show (their first and most famous duel being one of the most kinetic hours of television ever, with barely a move being made). When I became fascinated by the Sixties (in the late Seventies, I was a late starter, but also pretty young), I had to read Mailer’s works about the period, as he was a key chronicler. I later read the chapters from The Executioner’s Song that were excerpted in Playboy, the first Playboys I ever got (yes, I was readin’ the articles in between checking out the pics). I still look upon that as one of the best books I’ve ever read, a perfectly spare and controlled work about American crime and celebrity (and, yes, the book is Mailer’s expansion on all the stylistic “leg work” done by Capote in In Cold Blood). His later books were a mixed bag — as noted some were severely rough in their singular obsession and dullness (the Egyptian doorstop), and others had the makings of perfect American sagas that were started but not followed through (Harlot’s Ghost has moments of genius but needed severe paring down — and the never-written second half!).

My one fanboy moment with Mailer was when I spoke to him as he emerged from the subway at Third Avenue and 53rd St. a year or so after his amazing movie Tough Guys Don’t Dance had appeared. I mentioned I loved Tough Guys… and he immediately said “the book or the movie?” I quickly responded, “Both” and he told me how the movie had just won some kind of film festival award for Best Independent Film or something. I shook his hand and told him how I also loved The Executioner’s Song or somesuch, thought he was a great writer, and that was it. I saw him at a few readings and public appearances before and after that, but never again had that 30-second “boy, it felt like I actually met him just now” experience you get at a signing (move along, fella, there’s another guy behind you).

So what, you ask, did I decide to post to honor Mailer? I intend on adding further uploads, but for the moment decided to do a mini-“Deceased Ariste” tribute to the big Norm. First up is a scene from an appearance he made on The Merv Griffin Show right after the March on the Pentagon, as shown on a barroom television set in the documentary Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up? (I nabbed it off a French television docu though). Then comes a slice of Norman in the insanely kinetic Town Bloody Hall(shot 1971, edited 1979), D.A. Pennebaker’s filming of Mailer’s public debate with feminists after the appearance of his article “The Prisoner of Sex” (as slim and oddly-conceived as his book on the moon landing, this bit of prose got him in hot water with women’s libbers, and he responded as he always did, with brash and bizarre statements, expressed with perfect grammar and syntax, in a public forum). Next we’re on to his mind-bogglingly over-the-top melodrama/thriller Tough Guys Don’t Dance, about which I’ve written before (the piece can be found here). I love that movie to pieces. I decided to close out with Mailer reflecting on 9/11 shortly at a public appearance that was broadcast on C-SPAN. More clips will come on this titanic figure of the late twentieth century. You won’t see his like comin’ along anytime soon….

Click here if the above doesn't work.

A song you'll never forget: "punk" anthem from "Times Square"

I plan on uploading another clip from my interview with Jacob Brackman, but had to get this weird item uploaded, a scene from Times Squarethe film he scripted which wound being other than what was intended (both Brackman and director Allan Moyle wound up being removed from the pic before it was released, and it is a mess). This song is nearly impossible to get outta your head, perhaps because it's so oddly un-p.c., pretty dumb, and so simple you can hum it. That should make it a punk anthem along the lines of any Ramones tune, but instead it's just... sorta crazy. Enjoy.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Media Funhouse interview with Jacob Brackman

A segment from last week’s episode, part one of my interview with screenwriter/journalist/lyricist Jacob Brackman. He wrote one of my all-time favorite films from the perfect “maverick” period of early 1970s American cinema, The King of Marvin Gardens, with Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern. Here we talk about the film.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

No writer's strike in the Funhouse: last clips from Johnny's 10th

For media-vultures who devour present-day items while still mainlining nostalgia, a disruption in the entertainment biz means more time can be spent sifting through the joys of yesteryear. And so I finish off my trib to Johnny’s 10th anniversary (in 1972)with these two clips:

Don Rickles making his obligatory appearance and shakin’ things up (although being extremely reverent to Benny, as they all were). I recently saw the Rickles docu by John Landis, which will play on HBO at the end of the year. Interesting portrait of a man and a town (it’s all about Vegas), and it does have some primo clips of the pitbull of comedy, but here's a somewhat laidback bit of "panel":

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And a priceless appearance by Jerry, in which he is basically insulted by nearly everyone on the panel, except Joey Bishop. The sound is very uneven on this, but it’s definitely worth watching, for both those who love and those who hate the Jer:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

“Unabideables”: analog lasts and lasts, digital is... extremely pretty

Now, let me get this straight, the analog media that were supposed to have extremely short life spans, audio and video tape cassettes, can still be played years, decades (!), after their supposed expiration date. Who remembers the hue and cry that “video tapes will only be watchable for 15 years!” I’ve got 30 year old ones that ain’t exactly pretty, but can still be viewed and/or copied. These media are sneered at by those who crave the utter perfection inherent in digital media, yet, um… they still work.

On the other hand, I’ve been doing the Funhouse access show using digital media for less than two years now, and have already encountered problems with both of the media favored for us consumers to archive our acquisitions and, more importantly, our creations. When rerunning a show just a few months back, a show that was recorded (oops… “exported”) onto a mini-dv tape just 18 months earlier, I found that the soundtrack now had dropout problems, snaps, crackles, and pops. I was informed by a very wise tech pal that this might indeed have been because I was daring to attempt a viewing/usage of this material during the summer months (which are humid beyond belief in NYC these days), and that the tape might indeed be playable in colder weather. Outside of a climate-controlled locker, it seems that these tapes produce an image that is pretty as a picture, but vastly inferior to the durable-as-hell clunky old cassettes of yore.

And then you have DVD-r, a medium that is cheap if you buy in bulk, and seems, again, to provide picture quality that is startlingly beautiful and crisp. Well, the silver discs are crap, as we all knew from get-go when we were forced to abandon those big, unwieldy vinyl discs for the silver suckers that were emblems of the two factors that seem to drive all of our consumer culture these days: they were miniature, they were portable! And they had snob appeal. You think you’ve liked your favorite album on vinyl? Well, hey, chump, here it is digitally remastered, and it sounds crisp and beautiful, like never before. Then, the worm turns: how to get the idjits to rebuy the same thing again? Why, another remaster, this time back to the mono/vinyl sound that really has a greater immediacy and is, well, better.

Back to DVD-r: I’ve been archiving the show on these discs for, again, about two years, and now I’ve been informed by my webmaster that I was quite unwise to be labeling them with Sharpie pens, as the solvent in the ink can leak into the disc and cut short its already pretty crappy few years of activity. This can be overcome with magic markers that are specifically for CD/DVD labeling, adhesive labels, and the labeling software that requires you to buy slightly higher-priced discs. Et Voila! We hit up on the ultimate curse of digital — unlike analog, it is a capitalist’s wet dream, as it requires buying and buying and buying, and then (secret here) rebuying and rebuying and rebuying. The effect, visual and aural, is so much more impressive, but the time required to re-acquire and re-dub material, plus the money required to spendspendspend to both buy the media and also acquire the updates of/replacements for the media (instead of the old model, which found you repairing what you bought because it was durable and worth preserving), means that the carnies/rubes equation that does indeed rule our culture is in full effect. We consent to rube status every time we eagerly respond to updated technology that has, oh… a few strings attached.

Thus, I delight in the technological innovations that enable free sharing of visual and audio material. YouTube, the many audio blogs, bit torrent, all of these phenomena are the one way in which the vicious circle of high-tech innovation is actually beaten, for a short time at least. Because, as any good fanboy knows, the way in which this material is kept alive is, to borrow an expression dear to the ’90s MST3K crowd, “circulating the tapes”….

Friday, November 2, 2007

Berlin Alexanderplatz: the Criterion version has arrived

A few months ago on this blog, I linked to the following scene I had uplaoded, the most difficult scene to watch this masterpiece, the "Mount Everest of modern cinema," as Sarris called it. The scene is difficult not because of its content, but because it was so damned dark. There was a small controversy surrounding the restoration by cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger, which I went in this previous blog entry.

Here is the scene, before restoration.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And now (drum roll), here is the scene as restored for the Criterion release. It still is dark (Fassbinder wanted that way), but is now a bit more distinct, and the image has been cleaned up). The sound is also incredibly improved:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

I'll be posting more about this major release as I prepare to swim through the contents of the box, and also now finally take steps to air the interview I did with Juliane Lorenz earlier in the year about the restoration of this landmark work by Fassbinder.

Dean Martin, Jack Benny salute Johnny's 10th

Like this blog, the Funhouse cable-access show covers a broad range of topics (high art, low trash, blah blah), and I've noticed that the viewers who prefer one kind of entertainment — be it foreign films, vintage television, old comedians, extremely sleazy exploitation — would prefer that I stick to that topic exclusively. I think certain of these groups are so vocal (hey, I get a few e-mails, more than three, and I've got me a mandate, folks) is because the material in question just isn't represented anywhere, or if it is, it's available exclusively on DVD in a very limited capacity. As the saying goes, nostalgia ain't what it used to be, so I'm happy to provide material here that I was too young to stay up and see, but that I was lucky enough to find on VHS.

First a little Dino saying opening up the Anniversary party:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And then John's favorite comedian, a guy who not only influenced many other comics, but who was the best possible audience/cheerleader for them, Jack Benny:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween: Get Mashin'

Halloween is the anti-Christmas, a time that's terrific for kids, the young at heart, and anyone who still possesses a dram of imagination and nonconformity. I could offer up countless things from the archives, but I'm going to go for one of my recent-vintage favorites, already present on this blog way, way down in the posts. This year the best I do to get seasonal will be to watch a movie with a supernatural tone, but a few years back I did indeed witness a meeting of novelty-record giants: yes, the one-time-only duet of Bobby "Boris" Pickett, the man who had the Halloween anthem as a top 40 hit, with Zacherle, the once and future "Cool Ghoul" who covered it shortly thereafter. Bobby is no longer with us, but Zach is still going strong, and both gents I'm sure know/knew in some corner of their monsterly souls that the fanboy brigade out there loved 'em for the silly entertainment they've given us over the years. Mash good!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween finds 2: Alice Cooper!

I was scared by Alice as a kid during his heyday with the Alice Cooper group (aka the band called "Alice Cooper"), but around 1974 became a true believer after seeing him do some shtick on The American Music Awards co-hosting with Diana Ross, and doing his full "Unfinished Sweet" number on a Smothers Brothers' "comeback" summer replacement series in the mid-'70s (where I also first discovered the blessed Fr. Guido Sarduchi). I've been following the Coop in the three-decades plus since with some ups (the albums that were great, but nobody bought; the latter-day recognition as a theatrical-rock pioneer) and a few downs (the whole "metal" period in the '80s; the acknowledgement of his devout Christianity, which has seemingly removed the twin elements of danger and insanity that characterized his best musical and stage work). Alice had once mentioned when he was in the doldrums that he wouldn't mind being just "dragged out for Halloween every year" or somesuch, and so I honor his important contribution to rock, stage rock, and just generally great cinematic pop with this post. I thought I'd provide a little "walking tour" through his career, as presented on — take a guess, why dontcha — YouTube. I only had the chance to sift through the first 600 or so hits, so I never got to the second thousand, but this is a pretty good cross-section.

First, the great band known as Alice Cooper when they were signees to Frank Zappa's Bizarre label, seemingly free-form weirdo musicians, but already with an ear towards the pop perfection that Bob Ezrin brought out of them for good in 1971:

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The Cooper group doing a raw version of "Is It My Body?"

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An extremely rare old-style video-camera recording of the group at a club, which has been identified as both the Stone Pony in NJ or a club somewhere in Detroit. When I scored a copy of this a few years back it was the Holiest of the Holies, now it's available fer free on YouTube. Here the band covers the awesomely upbeat "Sun Arise" (co-written by the terrific Rolf Harris, the man who gave us "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport"--huzzah):

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The single best introduction to the wild AC stage show of the early '70s is the concert movie Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper, which is weirdly available in two versions on the bootleg market: one in which the band does cheesy comedy skits that try to approximate Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, and another in which the incredible concert sequences are intercut with old movie clips. This is the trailer:

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The Alice Cooper Group only made two or three "publicity films" (what we now know to be the precursors to music videos). This is the best, just because it's the least disciplined, and shows Alice on the streets of NYC, "Elected.":

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A number of Cooper group fans feel that when Alice went "Vegas" (or "Hollywood," depending on how you care to look at it) with his LP and stage show Welcome to My Nightmare, the journey was effectively all over. That's actually the time when younger fans like me came in, so I watch items like his TV special "The Nightmare" with a major fascination. The great filmmaker Alan Rudolph collaborated on the special, and I believe it's still available only on old VHS tapes:

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During his Hollywood period, Alice chummed up to Groucho and Mae West, and was often seen hangin' with the likes of Benny and Burns. You can find Alice's song from Sextette on YouTube, but I thought I'd link instead to his appearance on the comeback series of one of our Funhouse favorites, Soupy!

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Alice went New Wave at the turn of the '80s. The period (actually, only two albums) is written off by most folks, but I love those records. Here's his appearance on the suitably scary PInk Lady and Jeff with his biggest New Wave hit "Clones" (later covered by Smashing Pumpkins), which is his humble tribute to the Prisoner TV series (listen to the lyrics).

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Alice looks insanely unhealthy in the preceding clip (listen for a description of how his look makes him the "original punk" in Rudolph's movie Roadie), but here is him at his stangest-looking, an appearance on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show. This was from his "leather geisha"/Special Forces days. A very fucked-up look, to say the least:

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He looks exceedingly thin and scary here, but is still in New Wave (and geisha) mode, in a special from French TV, doing his ACG classic "Generation Landslide." One of his finest youth-rebellion anthems. The second clip is him interviewing himself in pigeon French, and doing his finest kick-ass '80s tune, "Who Do You Think We Are":

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Two more items that I never knew existed, revelations of YouTube. Alice's strangest incarnation may have been the leather geisha, but he had earlier done a neat turn away from his skullface-makeup image (or is it a dead Pierrot/Harlequin?) with a hardboiled private-eye persona that only lasted for one album ("Lace and Whiskey") that simply reeks of the '70s in some wonderful ways (ah yes, top 40 radio!). There was a big ballad that even was sung by Sinatra, but I have to give the nod to this astoundingly dopey publicity film made for his sorta-disco sounding (it's actually close to the "Philadelphia soul"/orchestral pre-disco sound) "No More Love (at Your Convenience)." Dig the Bogart, Lorre, and Cagney posters, and those crazy, fucked-up, long-ago '70s! (book me a flight on the rocketship)

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And, just because this is Halloween, we need to close off on some classic Coop doing a seasonally-themed beauty, "I Love the Dead" (with full guillotine shtick):

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The conclusion of Breathless: translating the untranslatable

In conjunction with my review of the terrific Criterion Collection release of Godard's classic Breathless on this week’s show, I offer this montage of three different English translations of the famous last lines of the film. The French dégueulasse is an untranslatable word that can be taken several ways. It can be “repulsive,” “shitty,” “[that] stinks,” “nauseating,” “sickening,” and the three choices provided below. The most accurate translation would seemingly be the simple ol’ English word “disgusting.”

Thus, we have the standard, original translation, which unfortunately has Belmondo cursing out poor Jean Seberg — it’s not at all clear what he’s saying, but most Godardians go with c’est dégueulasse (this is disgusting/this stinks). The use of “bitch,” thought not strictly correct, does make for a very good American-English equivalent of the word-play going on here. The second version is the worst translation of all time, a nice shot of NYPD Blue–era 1990s America: the immortal “scumbag.” The last is the newest translation which gets super-literal on us: the word dégueulasse comes from the French verb that means to nauseate someone, to make them puke, thus we have Jean Seberg now asking what “puke” means. Ah, the joys of translation….

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Friday, October 19, 2007

"Son of a gun!": Death of "the Bish"

So we come to the end of the Rat Pack on this mortal coil. The last remaining member of the “Summit at the Sands” grouping has kicked off, and while that does leave Henry Silva as the last “Rat Pack satellite” survivor, the core group is now gone for good. Of course, Bishop was a relatively minor figure in the mythology, a comedian who was never indispensible, but did supply lines for his pallies — he reported that he had come up with Dean picking up Sammy and saying, “I’d like to thank the NAACP for this award….” (a gag that Jerry stole for the outtake reel of Smorgasbord, aka Cracking Up) He did have a pretty good run on TV for a Borscht Belt-type comic: a hit sitcom for a few years, a challenge-to-Johnny late-night talk show that toppled after a short run, but then he was allowed back on the The Tonight Show as a guest-host, which was extremely rare. He also continued to appear on game shows, variety shows, and talk shows throughout the '70s and part of the '80s (until all those outlets started to go off the air).

Bishop was cantankerous in his later years. A friend of mine, Jay Hopkins, attempted to interview him at various points by phone, and the old gent would talk rather amiably for minutes at a time, then suddenly wonder what he was doing on the phone answering questions, get sarcastic, and then hang up. The last TV appearance I saw was a tribute to Johnny on Larry King where Bishop kept trying to talk over the other guests — which was an impossibility, given that he was on one of those awfully stilted delay satellite feeds. He had wild hair at that point, and came across as a rambunctious old know-it-all: imagine Leonard Bernstein with an attitude and not much true knowledge. He had dubbed himself “a mouse in the Rat Pack,” and never did write the tell-all autobio that probably could’ve attracted him some latter-day attention. He essentially was a very lucky guy to hook up with Frank, Dean, and Sammy, and he knew it.

My tribute to him are three uploads I personally placed on the old ‘Tube:
First, he and his sidekick Regis Philbin on a 1968 episode of his late night talk show, chatting about their new Nehru jackets.

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Then a bit with the man who encouraged them to get said jackets, Sam the Man! Here Sam kids Joey and Reege, and also shows a roach clip on network television, without using that term (and pretending that it’s for tobacco cigarettes….).

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And last, the piece de resistance, Joey in full suck-up mode, on Johnny Carson’s 10th Anniversary on Tonight. I don’t know why this historic episode hasn’t been made available by the folks who hold the rights. It’s an historic show that obviously has survived the ages, if dubs of it have been offered through various “fan circuits.” Joey jokes about being put on “alphabetically” and it’s true — he comes after Jack Benny, and before George Burns. The show’s other guests were Don Rickles (he’s out of alphabetical order), Jerry Lewis, Rowan and Martin, and Dinah Shore (the latter two acts are cut off of the tape that circulates on the “underground,” most likely a copy of a ¾-inch tape of the first two-thirds of the show. For those who don’t know, ¾-inch tapes ran one hour exactly, and were distributed to the press for important TV specials that were taped ahead of time).

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Some YouTube finds I didn't uplaod:
Wobbly versions of other clips from the sublime Bishop Show episode, including a terrific "tap challenge" between Sammy, Sammy's dad, and Joey's brother Moishe, can be found here:

Tap-dance challenge, part one
Tap-dance challenge, part two
Joey's birthday! with b-day cake food fight

A classic little bit of shilling for Hai Karate by Joey and Regis:

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An ad for Joey's stint replacing Mickey Rooney in the Broadway show Sugar Babies:

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Jerry Schatzberg on his photography

A segment from my last episode, concluding my interview with legendary photographer-filmmaker Jerry Schatzberg. Here he talks about his work with '60s rock icons Dylan, Nico, the Mothers, and the Stones. Schatzberg's site is definitely worth checking out for samples of his work in all genres:

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Leos Carax clip "retrospective": my interview and several scenes

In conjunction with our vintage episode this week on-air, I thought I’d post some fragments of my 2000 interview with cult French filmmaker Leos Carax, and two of his finest music-driven sequences.

Thus far in the 14 years I’ve been doing the show I’ve covered a lot of the filmmakers whose work I love, but none has been a greater puzzlement than Carax: a young tyro who made two terrific lower-budgeted movies and then seemed to hit a Coppola-like impasse on his third, the wonderfully romantic Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991). The film makes up a large part of his “mythos,” as he went over-budget, shot for a long period of time, and actually recreated an actual Parisian bridge in a studio. The result is a deliriously (dare I say it again) romantic film, but it seemingly sealed his fate working with French budgets, and he didn’t make a fourth film until 1999 with the challenging and even abrasive Pola X.

I interviewed him on the NYC opening of the film (and also spoke to its star Guillaume Depardieu). Pola seemed to work against a lot of what drew cinephiles to his first three films: it was missing a “music-video” moment like the ones below, the storyline had ambiguities (the "Pola" in the title actually stands for Pierre, ou les ambiguities). The initial trio are brimming with life and an enthusiasm that is very reminiscent of early Godard, whereas Pola set out not to entrance viewers but to keep them awake and slightly disoriented.

In any case, I was just thinking about Carax, and wondering if he is working on anything these days. Thus, I present two clips from my interview:
The first has him discussing the clash of styles between the first three films and Pola (includes a very cool silent-movie moment from his second film Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood, 1986), which exemplifies his initial “cinephile” stylization, great stuff.

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The second is a brief discussion of the financing he was forced to find for Pola since he wasn’t exactly an odds-on favorite for funding in France after the failure of Les Amants:

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Next are the two clips that solidified my love for Carax’s work, as if I didn’t already dig his pure enthusiasm for filmmaking, and devotion to sanctifying beautiful actresses in the manner of Godard (Mireille Perrier in Boy Meets Girl is a perfect gamine figure, but Juliette Binoche is transcendent in both of her pics with Carax; the two were a real-life couple, and Carax even scratched a dedication to her in the emulsion of one of them!). The first is visualization of a song from David Bowie’s Anthony Newley period, “When I Live My Dream” from the first Carax film Boy Meets Girl (1984).

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The second is the most exuberant fuckin’ scene I can think of: Denis Lavant (the tiny, athletic star of Carax’s first three films) is in love with the very Anna Karina-like Juliette Binoche in Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood, 1986), so he winds up running/dancing through Parisian streets to Bowie’s “Modern Love.” Something I’ve shown many times on the show because it’s a testament to the use of music in movies, Carax’s New Wave-ish enthusiasm for filmmaking, and Lavant’s incredibly deft physical skill.

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Some things I didn’t post: the original French trailer for the splendid Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (Bowie ain’t the focus here, but one of his songs is heard). This movie is available on U.S. DVD as Lovers on the Bridge.

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A true oddity that I’d never seen, which of course had to surface on the invaluable YouTube, Carax’s making-of about Pola made for the Cannes film festival, quite a weird little number, with much silent-movie imagery:

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Some gent’s nicely assembled “best of” montage of Carax’s work thus far (including the above-mentioned short), scored to (what else) “Modern Love”:

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And, as a last blast (literally): Carax’s short offering showing “his last minute”:

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Friday, September 28, 2007

My latest upload: RIP Alice Ghostley, woman who inspired sarcastic god Paul Lynde

Have to pay tribute to this grand old character lady, who kicked off the other day at the ripe old age of 81. She is best known to a generation for her ditzy, wacky role as Esmeralda on Bewitched, but she started out thoroughly legit: she debuted in the New Faces of 1952 and won a Tony in the 1960s as Best Featured Actress in a Lorraine Hansberry play. What do I offer here? Well, I’ve uploaded something that directly relates to her most permanent contribution to the history of camp TV, in my opinion. When Charles Nelson Reilly was interviewed a few years back in TV Guide, he was asked about that “hl-hul” chortle he had, and he attributed it to Ghostley, whom he said had actually also given her ‘tude to Paul Lynde. I had never considered this before, but the proof is in the clippage: here we have her with her male mirror image, the inimitable Mr. Lynde, in Joan Rivers’ bad-taste comedy Rabbit Test. The film is Joan trying desperately to be Mel Brooks (back when Mel was at his peak of popularity), and it has a host of guest stars, including folks like Paul that Joan must’ve met while doing Hollywood Squares. It’s godawfully arch, but when acted by pros like this, it’s certainly worth your time.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Plato's adventures in variety-land

I complete this quartet of YT posters obsessed with very specific show-biz personalities with a Sal Mineo fan who has put up some mind-warping entertainment. First of all, I knew that Sal sang during his '50s heyday, but had no idea that he kept going up until the Shindig era:

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The most interesting thing about these singular-obsessed YouTube posters is that they sometimes don't bother to post the names of the other celebs appearing with their fave-rave. In this case, the Mineo fan didn't bother to post the names of the astounding group of panelists (Lee Marvin, Louis Nye, *and* Gypsy Rose Lee?) that accompanied Sal on the very short-lived The Celebrity Game.

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And the piece de resistance has to be this rock 'n' roll show that Mineo hosted, that appears to have either extreme short-lived or just a pilot. The poster only vaguely mentions Sal's cohost (one hint: he's on trial now for murder, da-doo-run-run-run).

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Ode to Bobbie G.

The same poster who is Lennon-obsessed (no, not John) has a smaller trove of clips featuring '60s variety show appearances by sexy country babe Bobbie Gentry. I have very fond memories of Bobbie, mostly of course for "Ode to Billie Joe." These are much more interesting appearances, tapping into that Ann-Margret sexiness that seeped into much '60s TV entertainment featuring female singers.

And this wonderful bit from The Johnny Cash Show. Now why don't the ladies dress like this anymore?

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In case that didn't sell you on her, here's another song, I believe from the Smothers Bros. show (c'mon, Tom, release 'em on DVD!).

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And since the joy of variety shows always came when the "old" slammed up against the "new," here's Bobbie and the blessed Tiny Tim warbling with Der Bingle (we need more of the Bing/Tiny stuff too!):

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Head bone connected to the...mind?

Since I'm currently fascinated by posters on YouTube who are only putting up clips of one particular artist, I must mention this one lady who has put up a whole raft of songs by and interviews with the Lennon Sisters. I have to admit I have no interest in them per se, but when a clip like the one below is discovered, it definitely needs to be shared.

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Angry Black, Angry Gay, Angry Woman: They Love Liberty

Sure, we still have crap TV (just switch it on, anytime), but there was something about the death throes of the variety show and TV "special" in the 1970s that went beyond the the simple term "kitsch," and wound up in an area that was so stunningly misguided it still can cause jaws to drop. The featured find here is from one YouTube poster's stash of rare Patty Duke footage, that also includes this bit of wonderment (Patty sings in Japanese while Morey Amsterdam looks on).

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The piece de resistance for me, though, is this stunning bit of us-lefties-can-be-patriotic too claptrap from a 1982 Norman Lear-produced TV special. We of course must bless the poster for turning this thing up: it's an ode to the "angry" side of America that includes Angry Woman (Patty), Angry Black (LeVar Burton), Angry Latino (Desi Arnaz Jr.), Angry Native American (Michael Horse), and everyone's favorite, the Angry Gay (Rod Steiger). Need we even add that that "average angry American" (Dick Van Patten) is on hand to lend his voice? This stuff is priceless.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Bless me, Ingmar, for I have sinned

Couldn't shoehorn this into my Bergman Deceased Artiste tribute on the show this week, so I decided to place it online. A scene from the very strange and hypnotic (and kinky and disturbing) Bergman TV film The Rite (1969). The great filmmaker himself plays the priest.

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Brion James on the shooting of "Flesh + Blood"

Another clip from my very fun talk with the late character. Here he candidly recounts what it was like to make the strange 15th-century action picture Flesh + Blood for "madman" director Paul Verhoeven.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

More of the incredibly rare "Miss Arizona"

The lowdown on this one is in the post below. I will state here, just for the record, I did say that this movie is super-rare, not super-good. But it's such an odd item, and its stars are charming in anything, so it deserves an airing in the U.S.

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This last is by far the strangest clip, a bit of very '80s New Wave costuming that is supposed to evoke '30s Expressionism (I don't think so...). The song is pretty dreadful, but Hanna is as radiant as ever.

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Hanna Schygulla singing, Nazis coming to power, and ... Marcello in blackface?

One can find the strangest stuff in the "used" bins of old video stores. For instance, for some unknown reason the "Blowout Video" emporium that used to be in Times Square in the '90s (on the same block that now is best known for its throngs of screaming kids yelling up to the TRL window) used to carry Japanese VHS tapes, presumably used rental titles. Where they got them, I don't know. I was sifting through them one afternoon and found among the bad American titles (yes, Kirstie Alley comedies were released in Japan), the occasional rarity like the item you see below, in several clips I've uploaded to YouTube.

The film is a very corny Italian-Hungarian coproduction that never, ever was released in the U.S. (and has never played in any of the NYC retrospectives devoted to either of its two stars). It was released in both Italian and Hungarian-dubbed versions in Europe (the Italians being the masters of the art of dubbing), but I was lucky enough to find that the tape I bought was dubbed in English by its two stars, Marcello Mastroianni and Hanna Schygulla! And, since it was a Japanese release, every single minute has prominent Japanese subs.

I've only selected the musical numbers, as they will be of the most obvious interest, but might as well provide a tiny synopsis here. The film stars Mastroianni as a Jewish-Hungarian entertainer (not a very good one) who takes under his wing a widow, played by Hanna, and her kid. They travel around, having formed an onstage trio that finds Hanna doing her Dietrich-best (Fassbinder's influence is everywhere here, but his finesse is nowhere apparent) while Marcello frequently wears blackface. Yes, the dean of all Italian romantic actors is seen here as a sambo minstrel struttin' his stuff for the fledgling fascists in Italy and Hungary (he even causes a riot in one scene here).

The ever-radiant and entrancing Schygulla's musical numbers, and the always game Marcello's corked-up face, thus supply the motivations to check out these super-rare scenes. The songs aren't that hummable, and the melodramatic frames for the numbers are pretty meager, but you ain't seein' this one anyplace else.

Two scenes that set up the characters (Hanna's first song!)

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Marcello in blackface, doing a full-out number, feast your eyes:

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And why can't a man in blackface cause a riot among fledgling fascists?

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Close-ups and subtitles, or Liv Ullmann's mouth

I’ve been rewatching Bergman’s films for an upcoming tribute on the Funhouse. I had forgotten how visual intrusive subtitles are on his films. Of course you need ’em if you don’t speak Swedish but — with the possible exception of Cassavetes and Dreyer — few filmmakers depended so consistently on close-ups to tell his story.

When I used to see the Bergmans, they were being shown in horrible-looking, white-on-white subtitles, barely readable in the prints that were sent around to rep houses by Janus films and other distributors during the 1980s. The films still had the power to blow one’s mind (Persona is of the ’60s and yet it is timeless, as are The Silence, Hour of the Wolf and Shame). What’s odd is that now that we possess absolutely pristine prints of these films on DVDs with imminently readable subtitles, the subs are still extremely intrusive because they haven’t been MOVED DOWN on the image. Granted, Bergman did work for the most part in the 1:33 ratio (read: square, box-like, the TV ratio), but I just watched The Passion of Anna tonight, which appears to be 1:66 with small letterboxing, and the DVD company (in this case, MGM-UA, who did a phenomenal job otherwise on these ’60s classics) has kept the subs where they always where — namely, on Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow’s mouths.

I attended the “Tutto Fellini” traveling festival in NYC about a decade and a half ago, where perfect prints in Italian were screened, with English subtitles present on LED lettering. The effect was slightly odd, like the operas that do the same: you feel like you’re watching the absolutely most sublime print of the film in the world, and yet you’re reading the dialogue off of a robotic “crawl.” Nonetheless, it is a good deal more preferable than the placing of subtitles on the bottom portion of the screen, when the filmmaker in question is, like Bergman, obsessed with the landscape of the face. I’ve noticed that this method has never been used since in the NYC area for film; I in fact was even told by one major museum curator that “our viewers have complained about it, they hated it,” leading to the institution in question to show un-subtitled prints rather than copies with LED subs. (I would bet that these same complainers were the people who wander into the auditorium, not knowing what film they’re attending….)

I know my tiny voice carries no weight whatsoever, but as a film fan, I think it’s time to reconsider LED technology for these films. At least for the theaters that can afford it — and, I have to ask, how come the wonderful Anthology Film Archives could afford to do it some years back for a great print of Bunuel’s Cela S’Appelle L’Aurore (Sunrise), and the two main institutions in town that show absolutely brilliant rep and have major arts funding behind them have never done it?

And for the DVDs, when letterboxing is involved, could you guys PLEASE move the fucking English subs just a few centimeters/inches down so we can see the actor’s mouth when they’re speaking and not have words sittin’ right over their faces?

And the fact that white subs are still being used in digital-land when there are several other methods available (yellow subs, greying the letters, providing a dark band behind the words) is a subject for another rant sometime in the future. If you want to know how ridiculous it can get see the end of Assays's Les Destinees, where a character imparts the "secret" of his life and it is seen in the print available over here on white subs that can't be read over his bed clothing. C’mon it’s 2007, people!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jerry Lewis Live in Brooklyn, getting PISSED OFF at some ballsy kid

I must thank Funhouse viewer and major Jerry fan (no matter what he says) Stephen Kroninger for this lovely clip of Jerry just WHIPPING the mic out of this kid's hand and delivering a phrase that has stuck with me for years. The kid crossed the line and Jer was ready for him....

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Nothing can possibly folllow that, but here are three jokes from his act. I think they speak for themselves. The handicam is shaky, but does it matter?

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Jerry at full throttle

A clip from this week's show, seen at greater length: the Jer goin' nuts with singer Helen Traubel, from his ill-fated (and stunningly egomaniacal) 1963 Saturday night live variety show.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Panic in Needle Park" behind the scenes -- the Funhouse interview with Jerry Schatzberg

Had a great time talking with filmmaker/photographer Jerry Schatzberg about his fascinating career. Here we speak about probably his best known film (besides Scarecrow), The Panic in Needle Park, the film that launched the movie career of Al Pacino.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

A "lost" Sixties gem: "Puzzle of a Downfall Child"

As a supplement to this week's on-air Funhouse episode, in which I present the first part of my interview with filmmaker Jerry Schatzberg, I offer three clips from his first film, which has yet to see a release on either VHS or DVD (c'mon Universal, let it outta the vault!). The film stars Faye Dunaway as a "past her prime" model who's had a nervous breakdown. It is a brilliantly subtle and underplayed character study, drawing on Mr. Schatzberg's own background as a fashion photographer, that features several visually dazzling moments, three of which are below.

In which a classic photographer-shoots-model-in-NYC-setting montage is interwoven with narrative info:

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In which our heroine talks about an early affair (and appears very cute in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit):

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and a wonderfully edited "roleplay" scene in which Dunaway's character leads her photographer friend into a motel tryst:

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For the full picture of Mr. Schatzberg's accomplishments, I highly (highly!) recommend you check out The Panic in Needle Park and Scarecrow on DVD (plus his later titles, available on both DVD and some old VHS releases). Also, visit his website, and check out his work as a photographer, which includes several iconic portraits he took during the Sixties, including the cover of Blonde on Blonde. The "personalities" portion of his site reads like a "Who's Who" cross-section of Sixties celebs from Nico, Andy, and Edie, to Catherine Deneuve, Polanski, and Claudia Cardinale, to Hendrix, the Stones, and Zappa (he also did the cover of We're Only In It for the Money), to Fidel Castro, the Duke of Windsor, and Funhouse all-time fave Terry Southern.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brion James, character actor extraordinaire

I posted two clips on YouTube (yes, it's posting a whole lotta this stuff I'm putting on this blog, folks) from my interview with the late Brion James, one of the most colorful gents I've ever had the occasion to interview. First, him speaking about his memorable part as "Leon" in Blade Runner:

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and about his being typecast as a "barnyard heavy":

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Merv makes a racist remark (in jest! he's kidding! really!)

How could I have forgotten that I plopped this gem on YouTube when Kurt Vonnegut died. It's quite something, and gives an indication of how really bad the film Slapstick of Another Kind really is.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Merv interviews Orson, parts two and three

Actually, these are parts three and four to the interview with the great god Welles, as the second part is on the DVD box set of Merv's Greatest Guests, or whatever it's called. This chat with Orson was conducted literally the eve of his death — he returned home from the Griffin show and never woke up the next morning.

Part two has him talking with Merv about his recently passed 70th birthday, old age (he quotes DeGaulle, "old age is a shipwreck"), and reflections on Rita Hayworth. In the third part, they are joined by Barbara Leaming, whose bio of Orson had just come out. The chat is very amiable, almost silly, but it's interesting to see Orson "protesting" Merv and the giggly Ms. Leaming gossiping about him, when you know he's really eating it up (if there was anything he knew well, it was self-promotion).

The visual quality isn't terrific, but this was taken off of rabbit-ears television the first (and, to my knowledge, only) time it aired. Gotta be thankful to my mother for taping this one while I was off at college. Thanks, Ma.

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In this final portion, Orson is maneuvered into talking about Kane, Chimes at Midnight and The Third Man.

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