Regularly added bite-sized reviews about Literature, Art, Music & Film.
Voltaire said the secret of being boring is to say everything.
We do not wish to say everything or see everything; life, though long is too short for that.
We hope you take these little syntheses in the spirit of shared enthusiasm.
(directed by Louis Malle) (1981)
Atlantic City, a style-free Las Vegas with saltwater, is the perfect place for Malle to probe America’s dark corners, with Burt Lancaster (a small time chiseller and errand-boy, seeking an emotional resurgence) and Susan Sarandon (a cocktail waitress down on her luck) playing a great pair of losers. How something so seedy can bloom so sweetly is a tribute to the entire cast and crew.
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I have 5 million bells in the post office bank but that old meerkat or whatever he is, is not impressed with the state of my house. Everytime I start doing the place up, inspired by the show houses, I get distrac- ooh look, a new snowdrop! there’s a sheep with earrings! I’d better go sell some fruit. The game does raise some moral questions. I have a second character whom I created solely for the extra storage space. Poor, neglected little Freesia. It’s like having a clone who’s kept only for body parts. A pointless, repetitious, sickeningly cute must-have game for the grrrl gamer.
And another thing:
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“When Lou Reed sings, a child somewhere dies.” This horrible statement, attributed to our good friend Matthew R, has a black truth in it (like all good and unfair epigrams). Reed’s records were not for everyone and definitely not for children.
Jewish, polysexual, extremely troubled as a youth (his parents committed him to shock treatment at a psychiatric hospital when he was 17) and artsy, he spurned the comfortable Long Island existence and devoted himself to his trade. With some diversions, that is: incredibly, after the release of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded, he was working as a typist at his father’s tax accountancy firm and living with his folks in Freeport; this after several years with the Velvets, Andy Warhol et al and just a year before Transformer!
Though his singularly depraved subject matter and casual style seem at times affected, he was uncompromising and unique. His songs could be hauntingly sad (“Perfect Day“) or belly-laugh funny (“I want to be Black”). They could be social commentary or sneer. Many of them were poems of marginal people with very modern problems. They took as long as he liked: he thought nothing of cutting tracks that went on and on, like an acid trip.
Lou Reed wrote drug or drug-infused songs before anyone and his are still the best: “I’m Waiting for the Man”, “Heroin”, “White Light White Heat”, “I Heard her Call My Name”, “Walk on the Wild Side“, “Street Hassle”. There was a voluptuous excess in his songs that still galvanise, despite the production tricks and purple prose (e.g. “The Blue Mask”). His best songs essay sickness and pain, in which he could be dazzlingly sensitive and astonishingly savage.
The VC’s favourite Lou albums are: “The Bells”, “Berlin”, “Coney Island Baby”, “Transformer“. And a special mention for “Metal Machine Music”, a great way of getting unwanted guests to leave the party, with its hysterical liner notes, including the quip “My week beats your year” and of some late, great songs: “I Believe” (“Songs for Drella”); “Power and Glory” (“Magic and Loss”); “Baton Rouge” (“Ecstasy”); “Who Am I?” (“The Raven”); his great, weird version of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and “Junior Dad” (“Lulu”).
Best live stuff: a sleepy, foggy, late night “Sweet Jane” from 1969; a speed of light “White Light White Heat” (“Live in Italy”); “Vicious” (“Perfect Night in London”), “Rock & Roll” (“Rock & Roll Animal”) and a torch-song “Berlin” (“Take No Prisoners”).[Update: Vale Holly Woodlawn, who passed on 6 December 2015 (3.06pm L.A. time). Originally named Haroldo, she came to fame in the film Trash, and was immortalised by Lou in “Walk on the Wild Side”: “Holly came from Miami FLA, Hitchhiked her way across the USA, Plucked her eyebrows along the way, Shaved her legs and then he was a she…”] Continue Reading →
(by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The Great American Novel is an absolute synthesis of all that’s great and rotten at the height of the Yankee century.
America is so accomplished and competitive that one tends to overlook the result: a defeated majority. Hence the American theme of ‘starting over’ in a different place, exemplified in the go-west mantra of the 1800s and the eastern push of the 20th century. Gatsby emblematised this push, a doughboy made ‘good’ in the new desert of Dr T.J Eckleburg’s New York.
Born 1896 in Minnesota, F.S.F. grew into a world of American hegemony but dreamed of earlier times; he had a romantic notion of the world and this romance informs both novel and central character, who is a sort of Minnesota farm boy with pretensions. But whilst romantic, this is no romance. It is a tragedy of complex pattern with a coat of hard varnish. Fitzgerald’s (& Gatsby’s) nostalgic reverie is shattered by a post-war world; the shards are shiny and sharp.
Fitzgerald’s original version, like his prototype Tender is the Night, was big and wordy, called ‘Trimalchio’, for the man (in Petronius’ Satyricon) to whose entertainments everyone wishes to attend, who “has a clock in his Dining-Room, and on one purpose to let him know how many Minutes of his Life he had lost.” His editor, Maxwell Perkins, was able to flitch off the fat, leaving the sparse bones and the lush flesh, a spare work of, in Conrad’s phrase, “light, magic suggestiveness”.
Gatsby is hard to pin down. The list of ungrateful guests at the start of chapter four has been compared to the display of naval forces in the Iliad; yet it stays and what’s more, it works. What appears episodic in Gatsby actually serve as the wheels under his yellow limousine, hurtling towards his violent destiny. Each shedding of his assumed persona combine in an apotheosis of tall poppy syndrome, a decline and fall of a class-conscious Icarus.[NB: the graphic adaptation by Nicki Greenberg, rendering the characters as creatures great and small, but faithfully adhering to the novel, is well worth a look] Continue Reading →
(Le Salaire de la Peur) (dir. H.G. Clouzot) (1953)
Four men volunteer to drive 2 trucks bearing high explosive over rough terrain to help douse an oil fire. It’s a suicide mission but better than remaining stranded in their no-horse town. Real people and real action, gloriously French and politically incorrect.Continue Reading →
(dir. George Sluizer) (1988)
A Dutch couple on their summer holidays fight, then make-up. She goes to get some things from the service station shop and that’s it – gone girl. From there, we work backwards, into the dark canals of human activity.
Forget the 1993 remake; this French/Dutch original version is brilliant – funny, creepy; one of the best studies of men compelled to plumb life’s mysteries, with fatal results.
The Tate’s collection of works by J W M Turner came to Adelaide. Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway 1844 with its ludicrous train and hare is not in this collection, thank god, the picture that doubtless drove Dali, the consummate draftsman, to say “The worst painter in the world, from every point of view, without the foggiest hesitation or any possible doubt, is named Turner.”
This is harsh, considering JMW’s Lorrain-inspired Carthage paintings and some of the more inspired proto-impressionist swishes of colour but really, he never could draw and his vivid whites, yellows and blacks seem like a cheat’s cover to TVC. The varnish over Leonardo’s works, for example, oxidise and yellow as they age, so that replenishment and restoration is perennially required. But with Turner, corrosion enhances what he threw on the canvas. That’d be a concern. But the gallery was full and respectful. We suppressed our sniggers for the sake of public order. But better to have him than not.
*We note that Salisbury Museum in England is showing, till 27 September 2015, Turner’s Wessex: Architecture and Ambition. How neat to set JWM’s renderings in either fantasyland or a place that ceased to exist 11 centuries ago. No problems with accuracy there….Continue Reading →
(dir. Lumet) (1957)
Still the best case against majority verdicts, a stagey but compulsive jury-room drama with Henry Fonda a standout as Liberal Conscience.Continue Reading →