Friday, July 27, 2007

Ingmar Bergman sells soap

I haven't done many tributes on the Funhouse TV program to this Old Master, but I do love his work. It may have become fashionable to bash him, but Persona is still one of the great modernist mindfucks of all time (as much as it's been copied) and, curiously enough, you can see the seeds of that film in these soap commercials Bergman made from 1951-1953. One doesn't want to put the auteurist magnifying glass too close to these, but shorter, commercial enterprises have always served as "laboratories" of sorts for their makers, and so here we can see Bergman's love of old silent comedy (and I do mean OLD silent comedy, of the Melies and "trick film" variety), his habit of having performers appear in the foreground to grab the viewer's attention, and his devotion to the stylings of classical theater. The sense of humor found here does manifest itself in some of his movies, but is a bit overdone in his only full broad comedy All These Women(1964).

Here are the three best of the bunch:
His evocation of early cinema

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A wonderfully strange one in which the first half of the commercial is played back in the second half. Fragment it, Ingmar!

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And this wonderfully playful item, in which a 3D gal comes right out at the viewers to sell them, what else, "Bris"!

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All eight of the spots can be found

Don Rickles sings and dances with other "nice guys"

Words really will spoil this one. Suffice it to say it just gets stranger and stranger, but the variety shows and primetime specials of yesteryear were founded on such moments. Lose your mind.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Since this clip truly was a revelation, I must salute the gent who put it up. Check out his fine selection of clippage, including boffo clip s of Tiny Tim, Tony Curtis, and a host of others.
PastaPlanet5's Picks on YT

Arch madness: Andy Milligan's Seeds

Grindhouse madman Andy Milligan made some really questionable pics. The ones I've caught have been pretty unexceptional, but the excellent bio The Ghastly One does inspire on to check out his other works, especially, this excellent bit of baroque camp, Seeds. Milligan is like the Kuchar Bros, but meaner and with more melodramatic pretention (and without the insanely brilliant Kuchar sense of humor, which provided the blueprint for John Waters).

Click here if the above doesn't work.

What the Swingin' Sixties did to Busby Berkeley (and Nelson Eddy for that matter)

This muscial number from the pretty much entirely forgotten Roseland from 1970 evokes the great movie musicals of Hollywood's Golden Era, on a shoestring budget and with a wonderfully bent sense of humor. The guy doing the Eddy-like vocal turn looks a helluva lot like Howard Kaylan of Turtles/Flo and Eddie fame, but it's his moves that really sell the bit. Dig it.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A recent unseen film by Kenneth Anger

Anger is one of the most influential and important filmmakers ever, but his public persona has eclipsed that for years. His classic body of work, which actually runs altogether less than 2 1/2 hours but was made over a period of 30 years, is an achievement that will last beyond him. His last few videos and films have been items that seem like novelties and concepts rather than wicked visual "indulgences" and "trips" like his classic works. They keep showing up on YouTube, so I have to recommend them, if only because they're so hard to see. The latest to crop up on the site is The Man We Want to Hang (2002), which is a montage he made composed entirely of the art of his hero, the "beast" Aleister Crowley. Part one is below; part two is retrievable if you press the URL link below it and follow the poster's link.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

I would recommend you to Scorpio Rising,Anger's masterpiece, on the 'Tube, but the good postings of it have been taken down and the only one up presently is the one (see post below) that slices it into small shards. I recently got to see the film on a big movie screen for the first time (Anger's work lived again in the 1980s, thanks to the Mystic Fire series of VHS releases), and it is a complete mind-blower, which can be enjoyed in almost any fashion it is seen, but it really shouldn't be seen in such short segments....

The YouTube poster with the strangest approach to putting up movies

I am in constant amazement at what people put up on YouTube. In some cases, I am infinitely, eternally grateful to them; in many other cases, I just scratch my head and move along. Here's an example of a person who has spent weeks and possibly months putting stuff up, but may someday get nabbed by the "three strikes" copyright rule that constitutes the sum and substance of YouTube's enforcement policy (it makes no sense, it's not fair, it doesn't actually combat copyright violation in any way, shape, or form — but then again, they don't allow any sort of nudity but permit extreme violence and wild-ass cursing, so who the hell knows what they're up to). This poster is putting up entire feature films, feature films that have actually been released on DVD in the U.S., but is doing it rather oddly: a scene or two at a time. Instead of posting the maximum 10 minutes at a time, or just springing for a director account, where you can post long stretches of video, this person is posting His/her specialty is Marianne Faithfull (thus the nick) and Debbie Harry (one of the most glamorously bored performers ever to grace the music world, but I still do love her in her prime). He also puts up entire episodes of Reba, has put up the entirety of Hairspray (the John Waters original), and several Catherine Deneueve movies, including The Hunger and Belle De Jour. All the films look curiously squeezed, and every one of them is represented by several dozen posts (Performance took him/her 4 dozens posts). This is a very dedicated person, but perhaps the times at which this posting-a-few-minutes-at-a-time is positively ANNOYING is when underground films, that are not on DVD, are sliced and diced. Jonas Mekas' portrait of Andy Warhol, Warhol's own Symphony of Sound with the Velvets and Nico, and Kenneth Anger's indelible and pretty much perfect Scorpio Rising are all present — for the moment — on YT, but in little shards that completely the break the films to shit. Thus, I salute this person's dedicated approach, but gotta ask the question: why?

UPDATE: Of course, the blade fell, and this poster was thrown off of YT. A shame because it would be great if we could still share some of the material he/she shared (I wonder if the Warhol people were as adamant as the majors — it's happened before....). Putting up entire mainstream-release features? It's only a matter of time....

A '60s Childhood in NYC: Soupy, Sandy, and Chuck

I was born just a few years too late to have experienced these gents when they were doing their insanely mod, anarchic thing on local NYC TV stations, but they definitely elevated the kiddie show into the status of cult viewing for college age and older. They used vaudeville and burlesque bits, had a tech-crew in-studio that seemed to adore them, and they never, ever talked down to their viewers, whether they were 6 or 60. They acknowledged the hoariness of some of their gags, but in some cases they stole from the best (from Laurel and Hardy to Kovacs), and that's why you can watch their "children's shows" today and still be amused and amazed at what they did with no budget.

Here's an interview the late, much missed cranky Ch. 5 reviewer Stewart Klein did with Sandy, Soupy, and the "commercial ranger" on Captain VIdeo (with some awesome clips!):

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Here's just one sample of the SOUP, how we love him in the Funhouse (one rendition of the "Mouse," babies!). Why won't this one be appearing on DVD anytime soon? The Bela Lugosi mask sported by an onlooker (betcha Bela Jr. would want a clearance on that!):

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here's a sample of Sandy

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and one of the Chuckster, a man among men, and a gagster supreme:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And here's the contributions of the gent who posted all these lovely material (full shows of all three of the above):

And, finally, let's hear it for the '70s, the decade where I grew into some kind of youth. A clip from Bob McAllister's Wonderama. This stuff was really intended for kids, as you'll see:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Music in odd places

No greater joy than finding music clips I never knew existed. Here are two that fit the bill. A Tom Waits cartoon, in the Ralph Bakshi rotoscope mode:

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and a sexy Dole Banana ad featuring Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" from Dark Side of the Moon. Psychedelic fetish madness!

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How could we ever have missed this? Rare Phil Spector track, and a "pop clip" featuring Lucy

A Lucy Show episode where she visits mod, swinging London Town. The show degenerates into a "promo film" for a song called "Lucy in London" written and sung (!) by Phil Spector.

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Pat Paulsen explores ethnic humor

If there is one thing I LOVE about the '70s is the insane slew of un-"p.c" humor that arrived once the twin comic poles of Norman Lear and National Lampoon were arrived at. Here is one of the mellowest comedians of all time doing his part, this is beyond comprehension:

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Pippi wrestles Tor! In color, and talking!

God-damn, the stuff you find on YouTube is weird. Witness this clip from a Pippi Longstocking show that finds our young ginger-headed heroine "wrestling" Tor Johnson at a carnival. The phrase "whathefuck" barely begins to cover this.

Go to 40:00 for the big match:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Uncle Jean (Godard) in Rivette's first feature

I couldn't fit this into my episode on Rivette a few months back, so I now offer it up in the spirit of rarity. The recent festival at the Museum of the Moving Image showed us how simply amazing Jacques Rivette's work is, and how pathetic it is that none of the first two decades of his work is available on DVD in the U.S. (including the films that do have official U.S. distributors, who are currently sitting on them). This first feature is the full-blown beginning of his presenting "conspriracies" which are gradually unravelled — but almost never solved — by a protagonist (usually a woman). Here in Paris Nous Appartient (Paris Belongs to Us) (1960), our intrepid lead seeks information from a ladies man (still with hair, and sporting the infamous shades and cigarette), played by JLG. We NEED these films in good copies, legally distributed in the U.S.!

In the meantime, you can find much brilliant reading matter on this artiste supreme at

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Bemoaning a lost YouTuber

I am uploading my own material to the YT site on a regular basis to "illustrate" this blog and am also linking to the posts of others that particularly tickle my fancy, amuse me, educate me, and just plain warp my mind. I had planned on linking this eve to the wonderfully industrious work of one completely amazing poster who was calling himself "ZeroCrowell" but, sadly, his work is all come down! ZC was a true cinematic revolutionary, and had put up ALL of Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinema, which is currently unavailable in the U.S. and may never be, as Uncle Jean put it together with "No (Copy)Right," not clearing any of his clips and doing the most poetic work of his career in terms of imagery, using other's images and his own superb sensibility. ZC also put up countless rare works by one of the subjects of our show this week, Chris Marker. Marker's work is WILDLY underrepresented on U.S. vid/DVD shelves. For a long time only two films have been out legally, and now those same two have been preserved in an absolutely terrific Criterion Collection entry (La Jetée/San Soleil). In the meantime, Marker's other major works — La Joli Mai, Grin Without a Cat, Level 5 and countless others — are either being held back from DVD release (one company owns a number of them and is just plain sitting on them for some reason) or are completely without a distributor in the U.S. Perhaps the Criterion release will inspire future Marker films to come out on DVD in America, but with the way that our culture has become reduced to a "canon" of accepted books/films/albums/shows/etc, it is doubtful. Marker continues to make sublime work at the age of 85, but perhaps it will only be well after his passing that we get a look at what a genius he's been for all these years. ZeroCrowell, I salute ya, and for my link this time I can only send you flying into the several posters who have commemorated La Jetée, which I do consider one of the most rewatchable films in history, but which is actually only the very TIP of the Marker iceberg.

Memory and time await you here.

UPDATE: I was contacted by ZeroCrowell himself, who indicated that the American distributor of a number of Marker's major "missing" works asked him to take particular clips down that they do indeed distribute — and if he didn't, they'd report him in general. Given that this is all about the work of a man, Marker, who advocates free expression to the maximum and is a devotee of all new media that have shown up in the last 50 years, it is indeed rather odd that the company in question does not issue commercial releases of the films on DVD, They make them available on disc, but at prices ranging from 225 dollars to near 500 (depending on the length of the film in question), and are intended for acquisition by institutions like colleges and libraries. This also reflects back on YouTube's rather odd and arbitrary policies regarding complaints. They will honor complaints from companies, whether they are complaining about their own copyright, or simply attempting to sink a rather intrepid "secret sharer" of brilliant, rare material (which, as it happens, they don't even own). Chris, how did you let these guys get ahold of your work? If, as our poster here indicates, this is an effort on the man's own part to keep his films "hidden" for some reason, perhaps it would be better to simply go the rarified Matthew Barney route and just make them available as limited editions in nicely designed cases ... that (I got news for ya, Matthew, you wild billion-dollar surrealist you) wind up getting bootlegged anyway (not by me... I'd have to stay awake for that). Give us the Marker!

Zappa scores a TV commercial (1967) with some rather strange noises

It's a rough pass at Lumpy Gravy here in a 1967 Ludens commercial, animated by Ed Seeman. Ah yes, a commercial that can fuck with your mind....

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Lennon joins Cook and Moore, in a skit unseen in the U.S.

We must all be EXTREMELY grateful to the posters on YouTube for supplying mighty rarities. In this case, a skit that was intended for the U.S. VHS release of Not Only... But Also, the compilation of rediscovered vintage BBC Cook and Moore programs, but was cut at the very last minute because Yoko forbade it (she apparently owns John's likeness). This information (as to why it was cut) was included in an interview I read with Dudley Moore; he was asked about the skit because a photo from the skit appeared on the VHS box and it wasn't contained in the actual program. It did air in England, though, and some wonderful fan who names himself "The Drinking Man" (I owe ya a round, buddy) put it up on YouTube:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

It's very far from the funniest Cook and Moore bit (it's a riff on the then-popular "Ad Lib Club" in London), but it does contain Beatle John (after Revolver I believe) in his only on-screen encounter with offscreen friend and conversational rival Peter Cook. The official bio of Cook by Harry Thompson gives us a very colorful picture of Cook's dinner parties. It seems that in the mid-'60s Pete would hold a party with his wife, with partner Dudley in attendance on piano, while Cook and Lennon (who occasionally brought Paul) competed to see who would dominate the proceedings talk-wise. It's noted that as they bowed to each other (only one could be talk-king at any gathering, the guest roster would include Terry and Julie (Stamp and Christie), "Ken" Tynan, young model "Charlie" Rampling, and a host of other insanely talented folks. John and Peter would shut up in the presence of certain elder statesmen of gab, including Peter Ustinov and the sainted madman Spike Milligan. Ah, to have been a fly on the wall... (then again, we saw how flies were treated in Bedazzled....)

Here is a link to the amazing bounty of 150 (!) clips put up by the mighty Drinking Man.

A rare underground pic featuring vintage '60s NYC, and one of my all-time fave Donovan tunes

Since I'm on a '60s kick with these latest posts, I link to a wonderful bit of vintage NYC footage from filmmaker Robert Steinbrecher. The film is called "What the hell is this?" and is scored to one of my extreme faves, Donovan's "Epistle to Dippy," a film that sounds extraordinarily trippy, but "Don" himself claims it merely was intended as a note to a childhood friend he hadn't seen in a while. "Looking through crystal spectacles/I can see you had your fun...."

Click here if the above doesn't work.

21st century Scopitones — and a new yé-yé rocker!

Had never heard of the lovely and talented Mareva Galanter before the YT explosion of clips. Here is here modern take on the Scopitone:

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And here is a terrric pop-rock number that reflects a little White Stripes/Stooges in its nasty guitar — sublime!

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Jodie Foster sings Gainsbourg

I've recommended this clip to many, many folks over the past few months, but now that I've got a forum to directly link to it, I can't avoid the joy that is Jodie in her "in-between" phase tackling one of Serge's most joyous duets — and doing the male part of the duet, at that! This is what YouTube is made for.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Deceased Artiste Liz Renay: the Funhouse interview

As a tribute to the late, great Liz Renay, this week I'm reshowing my interview with her, done at the Chiller Theatre con back in 1999. She was one of the friendliest guests we ever had on the show (to the extent that she holding my wrist to emphasize what she was saying), and had no problem talking about her personal life. In fact most of our conversation was about just that, as her movie roles didn't seem to interest her, except for her big "comeback" in John Waters' Desperate Living.

I've uploaded two clips from the interview. The first is about her affairs with Brando and Lancaster, and a non-amorous encounter with Sinatra (a peculiar story here).

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And one of her most famous revelations, a very interesting encounter with Jerry Lewis:

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Fassbinder Foundation fracas

There’s very little that called be called “gossip” in the hardcore film-fan — dare I call it “auteurist” — community. Whatever anecdotes you’re likely to hear are things that pretty much confirm what is already known about a filmmaker’s personality, albeit with a new, anecdotal twist (like the recent Fritz Lang biography that sorta, kinda said he might’ve been involved in the offing of his wife). Thus I was actually a bit surprised to read this particular news item about a current film-fan controversy in Germany over the stewardship of the Fassbinder Foundation by former Funhouse guest Juliane Lorenz:

For full disclosure’s sake, I’ll note that I’ve interviewed Ms. Lorenz on two occasions for the show, once in 1997 and again just a few weeks back. The latter interview is being prepped for air by yours truly and should appear during the summer months on the Funhouse. On both occasions, she was exceptionally forthcoming about her relationship with Fassbinder, impressing me with the depth of her love for the man and his work; the latter is something that is obviously highly personal and her own affair, the latter has been demonstrated by her steadfast work at getting his work out to the public. The evidence is available on video store shelves: about 27 RWF titles out on DVD currently in America, 25 of which were instigated by her (and, I’m sure, she’d have gotten us better prints of the other two that she couldn’t obtain the rights to). Thus, I may be seen as slanted towards her in this current “controversy,” in which certain Fassbinder folk have gotten a petition together to attempt to oust her from the Foundation — I really wish the blogger above had given us the names, am curious who they are, but I’m not sure if he had access to them; I’m grateful in any case that he has given us a précis of the affair, since none of it is available in English yet).

Anyway, the first accusation involves something she said way back in 1992 to the effect that Fassbinder was never gay. This is a preposterous statement, and whether she ever believed it or was just really in a pissed-off mood when she said it, I can’t imagine she ever truly believed it. I know she’s never said anything to that effect in the materials that have been translated (even the sleazier bio that is so far the only “personal” portrait we have of RWF in English sadly, Love is Colder than Death). By the time of my first interview with her in ’97, she was saying the following in a very impassioned statement I’ve been very impressed by over the years:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Fassbinder was of course a man who was primarily gay but who had affairs with women. We can’t speculate on his private life, except for what we hear from his intimates (his central male lovers are now all sadly dead, two of them dying tragically during his lifetime), and most of that is presented with a personal agenda, good, bad, or indifferent. What we do have is his work, which does present an incredibly consistent view of relationships, whether they be man-woman, man-man, or woman-woman. From his best films, we can see that he believed that there is a balance of power, an “exploitation” of emotion (and, obviously, love) in relationships, and he remains one of the cinema’s greatest developers of this theme. He also deeply felt for some of his characters (a question I asked Ms. Lorenz in our recent interview):

Click here if the above doesn't work.

So, the best I can read what occurred in ’92 is that Ms. Lorenz said something on the spur of the moment, something she’s later countered in all of her public statements. The blog entry above notes that she also has downplayed Fassbinder’s drug use: this is a characteristic I think that is common to most lovers/relatives of addicted artists. Note the fact that John Cassavetes’ evident alcoholism, an aspect that did nothing to diminish his incredibly massive talent and innovation, but which clearly manifested itself in elements of his work, is entirely swept under the rug by those closest to him, and has been “written out” of his life by them. I think that some of the overwhelming aspects of Fassbinder’s art, as well as the dreamier aspects of it, seem to emerge from his drug use, and in fact, when one considers the mere stamina of the man, his ability to do so much work, such consistently good work, one knows that he was involved with chemical stimulants to be able to keep up the pace.

I can venture no opinion on how any other person could run the Fassbinder Foundation — it has been her baby since the organization’s inception, and perhaps some other lover of RWF’s work could’ve run it equally well, but it is an inescapable fact that she has given over much of her life to keeping his work in front of the public, so one can’t possibly question the tangible results of her work.

Then we come to the last charge in the piece above: that she was party to the so-called “brightening” of the first episode of Berlin Alexanderplatz. This troublesome part of the first episode — in which Franz Biberkopf talks to two rabbis in a bedroom for some time — is an exceptionally dark scene for television (I mean literally, it’s hard to see!).

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Schwarzenberger has eloquently defended his actions in the supervising the restoration on Criterion’s official blog:

What should be brought up, though, is the fact that the current Criterion release of Army of Shadows has a discussion with the film’s cinematographer Pierre Lhomme, in which he reveals that he brightened one scene he had always felt was too dark. This may seem like a wildly obnoxious thing for a d.p. to do well after a filmmaker’s death (esp. when the filmmaker in question wanted the scene to be only vaguely perceptible by the moviegoer). But then we come to the inescapable fact that most people are going to view these films in their digital format, on a home screen. Lhomme notes that he wanted the viewer to be able to make out Lino Ventura in the darkened room, and presumably Schwarzenberger wanted viewers to see what was actually occurring in Biberkopf’s room (in the blog entry above, he notes that inferior prints were used for TV airings and film transfers in the first place). It can be validly argued that it is not their place to decide how a film should be altered but, again, we have to be honest and remember that films are altered all the time without us realizing it, and if any of us can actually remember our moviegoing roots, we watched the absolute shittiest prints of movies that directors were utterly horrified by (Budd Boetticher had noted to me after I interviewed him that the “pink” copy of Seven Men from Now that was in circulation disturbed the hell out of him). I’m not justifying the alteration of the brightness in a scene, but I can completely understand it — even doing the local cable program I’m doing, I realize that the viewer has to actually see what’s going on, so in the case of certain clips (including one from Army of Shadows that I used two weeks back!), I have had to change the brightness, since: a.) I’m aware that the pristine muted colors of a DVD don’t completely transfer over from the disc to digital tape to a computer editing system; b.) I’m aware that my show is broadcast on a particularly dark channel. Thus, I “play” with the brightness of certain clips on the show on a regular basis, in order for people to be able to see what’s going on in them. Of course, I do this for short clips and not an entire lengthy scene’s duration, and I’m not a person who is altering the master-print of a film, but I will say again that I do understand this impulse, and the fact that filmmakers now know that the bulk of their audience (let’s be honest, you insane couch potatoes!) will be seeing the creation they worked so hard on, on a TV screen of some sort.

Thus, I know that while some of the charges made against Juliane Lorenz seem valid and especially “juicy” (there is a gossip component here, namely the whole question of her marriage to RWF and subsequent emergence as the main heir-keeper to his legacy), her wildly devoted work to the cause of keeping Fassbinder’s work in front of the public cuts her a lot of slack for the RWF fanboys among us. And that, considering the crap representation some great European directors have on American DVD (Rivette, just to throw out one name), is no small achievement.

And just in case you’ve forgotten how magical Fassbinder’s work was at its best, here’s a compilation of short clips I put together when Fassbinder’s main music main Peer Raben died. These moments clearly illustrate what RWF was capable of:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Thanks to Steve Erickson for the GreenCine link.

Batman does wrestling mic work — and faces a regal heel!

Couldn't pass on sharing this one. A moment from '70s wrestling where Adam West, appearing at a Memphis, TN, car show, appeared on the local wrestling program and traded words with one of the great all-time heels, Jerry "the King" Lawler, decked out as supervillain "Superking." This would predate Lawler's feud with Andy Kaufman, and is a sublime piece of footage. I have no evidence whether West is drunk, as the YouTube poster hints, or if he's got a cold. In any case, a sublimely silly clip, and meeting of low-rent immortals..

For you people keeping score of the tapestry we're weaving here, Lawler also hosted William Shatner on Monday Night Raw when Big Bill was promoting his "Tech War" series of USA. Thus, "King" has met both stars of the forgotten milestone Alexander the Great.

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