Daniele Luppi in Variety

Written by Joe D on June 13th, 2011

Here’s a link to an article about composer Daniele Luppi, the photo was shot by my wife Heather D’Augustine and he’s sitting in my car, a 1972 Citroen Maserati. Check it out here.

ROME is coming!

Written by Joe D on March 29th, 2011

danger-mouse-rome.jpegMy great friend Daniele Luppi has collaborated with Danger Mouse to produce an album of cinematic music entitled ROME. Inspired by their love of Spaghetti Western Soundtracks they recorded in Rome at the same studio (Forum) used by Morricone, Bacalov, Umiliani, etc. during the Golden Age of Italian Cinema. They also worked with some of the same musicians that played on the classic soundtracks. They were joined in this labor of love by two magnificent contemporary artists, Norah Jones and Jack White. Incredible. And it was recorded in all analog glory on magnetic tape! I’m getting the record, vinyl that is, I can’t wait. As some of you may know Daniele composed the score for my film One Night With You so I’m very familiar with his work. Here’s a little movie about the project.

Citizen Kane Screens For Free at LACMA

Written by Joe D on December 20th, 2010

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That’s right, here’s your chance to beat the unemployed holiday blues by watching a magnificent film about a super rich guy looking for love and it’s FREE! 35mm projection no less, the Grand Daddy of all Primitive Accumulators, Charles Foster Kane! SEE Deep FOCUS cinematography as pioneered by GREGG TOLAND and his custom made F-stops, hear Bernard Herrmanns first film score. See the great actors of the Mercury Theater. Here’s a piece I wrote about KANE. Here’s the info for the screening. Tuesday Dec 21, 11am LACMA.
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XANADU!!

A Bucket Of Blood, Little Shop Of Horrors, Charles B. Griffith

Written by Joe D on November 16th, 2010

bucket_of_blood_affiche.jpgUnsung hero of Low Budget Cinema! Beatnik wordsmith riffing like Charlie Parker high on Dexedrine, O Charles B. Griffith we salute you.  Roger Corman always gets the credit for these way out films, he deserves some of it, he directed them but they originated in the feverish brain of mastermind C.B. Griffith. Chuck created the characters, Walter Paisley, Seymour Krelboin, Audrey Jr. He even voiced the flesh eating plant, his grandma appeared in both films and C.B. played a hapless burglar in LSOH. He should be lauded, he should be crowned with the laurel wreath and given the Keys to the Kingdom.

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Charles B. Griffith about to be eaten by the plant with his voice

  A Bucket Of Blood starts off in a coffee house, a poet reciting an Ode to Art, Creativity is King, All Else is nothing! “Where are Joe, Jim Jack, jerk, dead!” he intones as Paul Horn improvises along on his Alto Sax.

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Walter Paisley is a nebbish busboy working at the joint, desperately wanting to be an artist so he can be in with the other cooler cats and so he can get with the hot art babe he pines for. 

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So he tries creating some sculpture and in the process accidentally kills his landlady’s cat. He gets results, attention from the hipsters, all he has to do is keep creating but in order to do that he must commit murder.  The end justifies the means in Walter’s limited mind, at first he’s forced by circumstance to kill, he even mumbles Seymour Krelboin’s mantra “I didn’t mean it!” and here’s the point I’ve been wandering up to. These two films are almost exactly the same. They both take place in a ” store”, a commercial space where money is made from the public. Art vs. Commerce, the Eternal Conflict. The main characters are nebbishes desperate for attention, success, so they can “get married”. (The goal of almost every silent comedy).

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They achieve this through murder. They each have an avaricious boss who becomes aware of his hired hands nefarious antics but because business is good and the coffers are filling decides to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans. Gravis Mushnik meet Leonard DeSantis. Both films have a climactic chase through nighttime crummy L.A. neighborhoods and both end with suicide by becoming part of their Art , Walter hangs himself after turning into a sculpture/Seymour jumps into his plant creation Frankenstein ostensibly to kill it but ultimately becoming one of its blossoms. They both feature a score by the amazing Fred Katz, actually they both feature some of the exact same cues, re-cycled by Corman.

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Bucket didn’t perform very well at the box office and Corman had to be convinced to try another comedy but didn’t he know he was making the same film? Maybe the addition of a man-eating plant made the project appear more commercial. Dick Miller star of Bucket was offered the role of Seymour Krelboin in Little Shop but turned it down. I think the failure of BOB was such a disappointment to him, he couldn’t go through it again. Miller believed in Bucket Of Blood, he blamed it’s flopping on the cheap production value and when he heard Corman made a bet he could shoot Little Shop Of Horrors in two days he passed. He did appear in the film as flower eating Burson Fouch. A few other Charles Griffith notes, the wheat germ bagels and odd health food favored by the Beatniks and Seymour ‘s mother’s medicinal cuisine. Jack Nicholson skimming through PAIN magazine at the dentist office. Griffith had funny fake magazine in his opus Dr. Heckle and Mr. Hype. So here’s to Charles B. Griffith as Quentin Tarantino dubbed him, The Poet Laureate Of The Drive-In.

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Here is the great opening poem accompanied by Paul Horn blowing a cool Alto.

2 Scenes from La Dolce Vita- Trevi Fountain and The End

Written by Joe D on June 25th, 2010

Here are some scenes from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the likes of which we’ll never see again, Mastroianni, Ekberg, Fellini, Nino Rota’s music, B&W Scope. The shots of Ekberg in the fountain, her blonde hair cascading down her back like the water behind her, some of the greatest in Cinema! And the mysterious ending, dialog no one can hear, looks , gestures on an existential beach with all the sound added later, so atmospheric, so lovely and sad. Enjoy!

SALTO

Written by Joe D on May 6th, 2010

A black leather jacketed, sunglass wearing amnesiac Beatnik Jesus shows up in a small town in post WWII Poland and turns on the townsfolk with miracles and music. Novelist/filmmaker Tadeusz Konwicki conjurs up Salto from his novel A Dreambook for our Time. It expresses the inexpressible remarkably. Once again the proto Beatnik figure is seen as a semi Messiah, as in Cocteau’s Orphee. This was the psychic build up to the creative explosion of the 60’s. But just watch this clip, I dare you not to be impressed.

Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451

Written by Joe D on January 24th, 2010

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A film of overwhelming moods, everything in this film seems filtered through a veil of sadness. Visually stunning, the art direction and cinematography are wonderfully rich. The colors jump off the screen in beautiful compositions. Director of Photography Nic Roeg really outdoes himself here. And Bernard Hermann’s music sinks you deeper and deeper into a state of lugubrious drugged oblivion, like a person slipping deeper and deeper into a bottomless vat of viscous oil. The powerful rhythms and images of dream logic make this film even more effective. For example the woman who burns herself with her books and Montag’s nightmare.

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Also I love films made in the 60’s yet set in the future for their take on design, it’s the 60’s taken to a super cool extreme, like they had reached the apogee of design and then found a way to show that somehow in the future it would be improved upon in interesting ways.

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The firetruck, the monorail, the doors that slide open on their own. Big flat panel TV’s hanging on your living room wall.Truffaut didn’t like this film that much although Ray Bradbury did. I think Truffaut is not always a fair judge of his own films since he didn’t like The Bride Wore Black either and to me that’s one of his best films. A fascinating depressing work of Art, check it out on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The opening credits are spoken over images of TV antennas, no writing allowed in the future! Montag forces a group of his wives friends to listen as he reads from a book by Charles Dickens, an emotional passage about the death of the writer’s wife. One woman breaks down in tears, the rest say he’s disgusting, “people aren’t supposed to upset other people, that’s why they did away with books in the first place!” This sounds to me like our politically correct society of today where you can’t say anything slightly off center without being pilloried. Also everyone takes massive amounts of prescription drugs, the whole population is medicated! The mindless totalitarian society hypnotized by Television and since there is no writing allowed, there can be no scripts for the actors on TV, sounds to me a lot like Reality Shows. Now The that the Supreme Court has allowed Corporations to spend as much as they want on political campaigns Fahrenheit 451 doesn’t seem so far away. I just heard that it will be re-made with Tom Hanks as Montag, Ray Bradbury is in frail shape this could finish him off. So check it out and see what you think, it is a very unique, disturbing film.

Influence and Controversy- More Performance

Written by Joe D on December 25th, 2009

I bought the dvd of Performance and this cool documentary was on there. Jack Nitzsche. Jr. is interviewed and a lot of other interesting people. Frank Mazzola’s interview is informative and deep. Jack Jr. says his father got one of the 1st Moog synthesizers for this score ( the 9th one made), how cool is that.

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Jack Nitzsche, a genius at creating music that made films come alive

Mazzola talks about intercutting the opening sequences and how “everything they tried worked” or “was right”. I know from experience that sometimes in the editing room you can reach a state of consciousness, some times from exhaustion or ingesting mind altering substances, where the energy flows right through you into the film, the film becomes alive on the editing machine, it seems to breathe on the picture head, the characters get off the screen and walk around on your flatbed editing machine.

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Besides being a great editor Frank M. was also an actor, that’s him on the right in Rebel Without A Cause. Dig That Crazy Pompadour!

If you want to experience that kind of editing watch the opening of Performance, actually the entire film but the opening is particularly strong. Mazzola said they worked from 7 at night to 5 in the morning, I think they cut it at Warner Hollywood in Sam Goldwyn’s old office.

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Get Out Of My Office!

Funny to think of Goldwyn’s ghost watching these two visionaries making this psychedelic poem of violence, sex, drugs, music, polymorphous perversity that was like a bomb going off in Hollywood and Midnight Movie house across the world. Like a virus of decadence infecting the minds of the stoned out audiences in movie theaters in middle class suburbs. What a trip!

Donald Cammell, Performance, Jack Nitzsche, Frank Mazzola

Written by Joe D on December 12th, 2009

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Here for your viewing pleasure is a documentary about Donald Cammell, director of Performance , a hugely influential film that captures the drug infused psychedelic culture of 60’s London like no other. I knew the composer Jack Nitzsche for a long time, this was one of his greatest scores. He told me Mick Jagger had gotten him the composing gig on this film. When the Rolling Stones first came to America, they sought out Nitzsche because they loved his arrangements of the Phil Spector produced hits and wanted to work with him. I guess this was payback. It’s a unique score calling on a rostrum of enormous talents, Ry Cooder, Merry Clayton ,The Last Poets, Randy Newman, Lowell George, Mick Jagger to name just a few and Jack was the connective tissue that brought them all together. I must comment on Frank Mazzola’s editing as well. it’s groundbreaking, hallucinatory, fracturing reality like a broken mirror then putting the pieces back together in a beautiful, psychedelic way. Once again hugely influential although there is no one today following through on the potential revealed. Like a real Fairy Tale where Magic is beautiful, fascinating but dangerous, potentially deadly or perhaps capable of driving one mad.

Maurice Jarre

Written by Joe D on March 30th, 2009

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The great composer, Maurice Jarre, has died. A giant on the landscape of film music, his scores enhanced every film they accompanied. Legendary producer Sam Spiegel saw the film
Sundays and Cybele and was so impressed by the score that he hired the young composer to write for his epic production Lawrence Of Arabia, and created a historic director/composer association by introducing Jarre to David Lean. Jarre also scored Franju’s incredible Yeux sans Visage (USA Eyes Without A Face), Frankenheimer’s The Train and many, many more films in all genres, Westerns, Adventures, Dramas, etc. I edited a film that was scored by maestro Jarre, Michael Cimino’s The Sunchaser. He was a pleasure to work with, a good natured, passionate genius, loved by all the musicians in the orchestra. A great artist and a wonderful man. Cinema is missing a true creator, an irreplaceable force, darken all the marquees tonight. We will never see another like him.
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Sundays and Cybele

Written by Joe D on March 4th, 2009

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This is a beautiful film, a model of economy and feeling, with an amazing score by the great Maurice Jarre, a few years before he did Lawrence Of Arabia. I had the great good fortune to work on a film Mr. Jarre scored, Michael Cimino’s The Sunchaser. He was a pleasure to work with. But check out Sundays and Cybele, winner of he 1962 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film . You can watch it on YouTube, here’s the first part.

Grazie Zia

Written by Joe D on September 16th, 2008

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A great but flawed film, the likes of which we may never see again. Grazie Zia ( Thank You Auntie, USA) has many incredible elements, the acting, especially by the leads- Lou Castel as Alvise
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Lou Castel as Alvise gets a check-up

and Lisa Gastoni as Aunt Lea.
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Beautiful Lisa Gastoni, Fantasy Aunt!

The incredible music by maestros Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai.
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The Vietnam War as viewed by an Italian proto-adolescent. Beautiful B&W cinematography by Aldo Scavarda and excellent direction by Salvatore Samperi. The story centers on Alvise, a young man with a mysterious medical condition that’s paralyzed his legs, forcing him to ride around in a motorized wheelchair. Alvise travels to his Aunt Lea’s country villa for a rest. He reads comic books obsessively especially Diabolik.
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He is also obsessed with the Vietnam War, going on at the time this film was made. Alvise’s Aunt Lea obviously cares a great deal for her nephew even though her millionaire husband dislikes him quite a bit and with good reason, Alvise is just shy of being a sociopath. First we learn that he can walk. His mysterious paralyses is fake.
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Treating his Legs with Magnetic Mud!

He then takes out a rifle with telescopic sight and aims at his Aunt and her husband.
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Later during a small party a sexy young blond flirts with Alvise, singing to him, dancing up to him, embracing him. He responds by biting her like a mad dog!
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Party Italian Style!

But for me the most amazing scene is where Alvise plays his war games. A radio report drones on reciting casualty figures in the Vietnam conflict. Alvise dutifully records these updates on a bulletin board that lists living and dead Viet Cong, Americans, lost arms, legs etc.
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He has created a tabletop reproduction of a battle field, complete with American army base and vietnamese village.
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He starts the conflagration, burning the village in a napalm storm.
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He salutes a fallen American toy soldier, yelling at a Viet Cong that ” He’ll never drink Coca-Cola again!” This strange tableaux, accompanied by an anti-war Italian pop song is very moving.
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Most of the Americans sent to Vietnam were barely out of their teens. They should have been reading comic books and chasing chicks rather than spraying napalm and Agent Orange, having their legs blown off and suffering acute psychological damage. The guy that re-stuccoed part of my house told me his story. He shipped over to Nam just out of high school. He thought it would be fun, adventure. As his plane was coming in for a landing at the American base he saw puffs of smoke down by the runway. The Viet Cong were mortaring the base. He thought ” Wait a minute, this doesn’t look good!” It went downhill from there, one trauma after another.
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Another guy I knew back east had been captured. He spent 3 years in a wooden cage displayed as a weak American. When he got back he could barely speak to anyone. It took about 2 months before he said hello to me. My Laotian friend told me that he was shocked to see the Americans were sending “kids” over to fight trained soldiers. He couldn’t figure it out. This movie makes this point in a powerful way.
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The story evolves and Alvise seduces his Aunt. Now this part of the film I didn’t enjoy as much. Simply because Alvise is such a jerk and his Aunt is a beautiful mature sexy woman. Charming, classy, first rate. I found it hard to believe that she would fall for this guy. But maybe she did out of love for him, not passion but the desire to let Alvise realize his fantasy with her. The film is in Italian with no subtitles so I may have missed some nuances.
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It’s still great and worth watching. As I said at the begining of this piece, we may never see films like this made again. Why? It’s a very personal film, dealing with anti-war sentiments, incest, a charming/repellant hero, not a marketable crowd pleaser and Thank the Gods Of Film for it’s existence! We need more filmmakers willing to take a chance, try something out of the ordinary, break free of the stupid conventions of storyteilng where everyone knows whats going to happen next.
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Take Me To A Screenwriting Class!

Stop going to these idiotic screenwriting seminars to learn cookie cutter film structure! Take a chance and make a bold visionary film or better still support these films by renting, buying, going to see them! The world needs artists more than ever to present other views than the media crap force fed to everyone. Get out there and make it happen!
p.s. the score for this film is pure genius. Morricone and his ex-partner Bruno Nicolai created a unique sound for this film. Those guys created so many different sonic palates, it’s incredible. Compare this score to Citta Violenta or Il Mercenario, they’re all very different. p.p.s I checked out Lou Castel on IMDB. This guy has had an incredible career! He’s in some of the greatest films of all time. Including some Fassbinder, Viscounti, Wenders,the excellent Irma Vep, etc. etc. and he’s still acting! Also Lisa Gastoni has had an illustrious career. She appeared in a film by the sublime Fernando Di Leo-(La Seduzione) and interestingly enough she appeared in a film called Amore amaro ( Bitter Love) with my pal Leonard Mann. When I interviewed Leonard he spoke fondly of this film but admitted he had never seen it! I found a copy on ebay and turned him on to it. He bought it( it was expensive) and now I need to borrow it so I can write about it. In Closing. Bravo! to Salvatore Samperi, Bravo Lou Castel! Brava Lisa Gastoni! Bravo Morricone, Niccolai! Bravo to all involved in making this film.
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Here’s the party scene via YouTube:

And here’s the title sequence so you can hear some of the score.