Jean Luc Godard’s trailer for The 2008 Viennale

Written by Joe D on September 25th, 2008

In case you’ve been wondering what JLG has been up to, here’s a trailer he put together for the 2008 Viennale.

2001 to screen at The Edison

Written by Joe D on September 18th, 2008

They’re screening Stanley Kubrick’s mega opus 2001 at the Edison as part of the Jules Verne Fantasy Film Festival right here in downtown LA. Info here. I saw this film in a re-release in 1975 at the Bellvue Theater in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. It was projected in 6 track 70mm. I went to a matinee show with my girlfriend and when we got to the box office the ticket seller said “Wait a minute.” Then she came back and said “OK, the manager said we’ll run it.” We were the only people at that screening! Just the two of us in the gigantic theater with an enormous screen! It was incredible. I knew the editor of 2001. A guy named Ray Lovejoy. This was the first film he edited! He had been 1st Assistant editor on Dr. Strangelove and Lawrence Of Arabia. He told me that Kubrick basically lost his mind making this film. Before 2001 he was a fun guy, great to hang out with. But 2001 was such a gigantic, complicated project and Kubrick was such a perfectionist he lost himself in the overwhelming tide of technical details, personally overseeing every aspect of the film, even ( so I’ve been told) calling every first run theater the film was shown in to make sure it was presented properly! Yow! Oh well, hats off to Stanley Kubrick, Ray Lovejoy, Arthur C. Clark and everybody else who worked on this film and passed on through the Stargate or obelisk or whatever portal to the next dimension.

P.S. I met this guy at the Chelsea Hotel back in the 70’s

Grazie Zia

Written by Joe D on September 16th, 2008

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

Lou Castel as Alvise gets a check-up

and Lisa Gastoni as Aunt Lea.

Beautiful Lisa Gastoni, Fantasy Aunt!

The incredible music by maestros Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai.
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.
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.

Treating his Legs with Magnetic Mud!

He then takes out a rifle with telescopic sight and aims at his Aunt and her husband.
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!

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.
He has created a tabletop reproduction of a battle field, complete with American army base and vietnamese village.
He starts the conflagration, burning the village in a napalm storm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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.

Here’s the party scene via YouTube:

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

Henry Silva

Written by Joe D on September 8th, 2008

Thanks to my pal Mike Malloy I had the great good fortune to meet an icon of Cinema, Henry Silva! Henry started out in the Actors Studio, after passing an audition for Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. A play he worked on at the Studio moved onto Broadway to rave reviews and the rest as they say is history. Henry told of meeting Frank Sinatra , visiting him on the set of Some Came Running at MGM and working with him on The Manchurian Candidate. What a cool guy, but he was being interviewed for a Euro Crime documentary that Mike is putting together and so he mainly spoke of his experiences in Italy and working with great directors like Umberto Lenzi and Fernando Di Leo. I wrote about one of Silva’s and DiLeo’s collaborations in an earlier post, Il Boss. Anyway it was a great pleasure to meet the funny, talented, energetic Henry Silva. Dear Producers and Directors call him, give him a part in your latest epic. He’s great, check him out in Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog.

Here is Henry in the opening of Il Boss

Here’s the trailer for Johnny Cool

French Crime at the Egyptian

Written by Joe D on September 4th, 2008

Saturday September 6 the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood U.S.A. will screen two classics starring Jean Gabin. The Sicilian Clan at 7:30 pm and the ultra-rare Moontide at 9:30. The Sicilian Clan also features two other Titans of Cinema acting, Alain Delon and Lino Ventura. What a great opportunity to see these greats in 35mm! Here’s the trailer!

Moontide features sexy, smart Ida Lupino and the ever popular star of Hollywood epics, Bette Davis melodramas and Italian Space operas, Claude Raines. Go see them! You Must Obey!
Sunday they’re showing the unseen House On The Waterfront a gritty tale of a tugboat captain emeshed in an intrigue involving his daughter, a gangster, a diver and a corpse trapped in a sunken ship that’s about to be salvaged. Then the incredible grandaddy of French noir Touchez Pas Au Grisbi. A great movie ! I reviewed it at length here. Go see it! You Will Love It! Bravo Cinematheque! Here’s the schedule: Cinematheque
It’s all part of a celebration of Jean Gabin and a new book about him : World’s Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin, the author, Charles Zigman will be there as well.

Sweet Smell Of Success & The Lost New York

Written by Joe D on September 1st, 2008

SSOS just showed on TCM as part of a Tony Curtis retrospective.

Sidney Falco on the threshold of Success, the entrance to “21”

This time it really brought back memories of Lost New York. Some of the spots are still there but they’re not the same. First off, this is an incredible movie. Great classic performances out of Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Great dialog, “Match me Sidney.” ” I’d hate to take a bite out of you, you’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

One of Burt’s Greatest Roles
There’s more quipping in this movie than any other that I can think of. ” Here’s your head, what’s your hurry.” It does not stop. James Wong Howe’s cinematography is amazing, they went for a reverse, long lenses to shoot long shots, exteriors of NYC stacked up in a telephoto lens, wide angle lenses for close ups, distorting, paranoid, powerful images of the characters and this technique works incredibly well. The characters jump off the screen at you with all the dynamism of a Steve Ditko comic.

Pure Genius!
The environs of New York never looked better. Great locations! Shots of a bygone NYC. There’s a scene at A Times Square hot dog stand, you can picture Jack Kerouac walking in. It reminds me of Papaya King, a stand I used to frequent. Two dogs and a papaya drink for $1.50! That was a deal!

Time Travel via HotDog Stand!

Hey Kerouac! Pass The Mustard!
All that stuff in midtown, the 40’s and 50’s , the “21” club, the Ed Sullivan Theater, the crummy offices, the streets, J.J.(Burt Lancaster) lives in the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway. I used to work there, there were a lot of editing rooms in that building. Saturday Night Live had offices there, I once had a run in with a belligerent John Belushi on the service elevator.

Sidney in the lobby of The Brill Building, 1600 Bway was right across the street
Reverse on the Brill lobby. This was it, Tin Pan Alley!

Across the street was 1600 Broadway, the National Screen Services Building. They had a ton of cutting rooms in there as well and it was one of the last buildings in the city to have elevator operators! Next door was the Rincon Argentina, a great restaurant, full of editors at lunch time, half a chicken, french fries, salad for $3.59, plus a demi boutee of house red for a buck! Those were the days. So to see J.J. and Sidney cruising my old neighborhoods blew me away. I worked up the street at my friend’s company “CineHaven”, 254 W.54th street. Rumor had it that Marlon Brando and Wally Cox were roommates there in the 50’s.

I used to work (and crash) right up the street!

Just up the street from Studio 54 and Trans Audio , a mixing studio with a lot of cutting rooms. But back to SSOS, the bar that Martin Milner plays at when Sidney sets him up, I think it’s by the old West Side Highway, the location is so cool, Sidney up on the overpass signaling Kello the bad cop to get Martin. Incredible!

West Side Highway Location?

Evil Cop Harry Kello beats up Jazz Guitarist Martin Milner
Life imitates Art, Miles Davis was beaten up by a cop on 52nd Street while standing outside a gig

The great Chico Hamilton Quintet appears in the film and they are excellent. Great score by Elmer Bernstein, great screenplay by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets, great direction by Alexander Mackendrick.
Chico Hamilton on drums, the guy on cello is Fred Katz, he wrote the super cool score for Roger Corman’s Little Shop Of Horrors!

Great characters, supposedly J.J. was based on Walter Winchell, the influential columnist. It’s an interesting character, he wraps himself up in the flag spouting a lot of rhetoric about patriotism, all the while spewing vitriol on everyone he doesn’t like, and if anyone complains, they’re un-American! A petty tyrant whose motivations are his personal vendettas and small minded attacks pretending that he’s doing it for the good of his “60 million readers”. I think this is a very timely character, as relevant now as back then, even more so. We’ve got a J.J. Hunsecker in the White House, only without the witty quips. The movie introduces the wonderful Susan Harrison, what happened to her?

If you want to get a feel for that old lost New York check out this guy, Jean Shepherd. He had a late nite radio show broadcast from NYC, I’d listen to him when I was a kid. Sometimes he talks about NYC and it doesn’t get any better than this. He also wrote the Christmas Story film. Here’s a link to some of his shows. Here it is : Jean Shepherd Shows
flatiron.jpgI used to live around the corner from the Flatiron Building, an early structural steel building in NYC courtesy of Chicago architect Daniel Burnham