Table of Contents: Movies


Women in Trouble

Stills from the fantastic opening credits from the flick Women in Trouble, directed by Sebastien Guterrez, just out on DVD. Very reminiscent of the work of Los Angeles based collagist Alexis Smith. Smith is among my absolute favorite artists – inexplicably examples of her work are really scarce online. (That will be addressed, soon, in a future post. For now, a smattering here.) Basically she’s the Hannah Hoch of Hollywood, using the deadpan Dada grammar of collage to reconfigure and re frame shards of entertainment culture in poignant and profound ways…. which is what I love about the Women in Trouble credits. Gorgeous!

Anyway, the movie follows the intertwining bottle rocket trails of 8 or so LA women in the course of a single madcap day. One reviewer compared it to George Cuckor’s the Women if it were directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Right on, broadly speaking. The debt to Almodóvar is deep, explicit and acknowledged – strong sexy female leads, bracing vulgarity, and genuine pathos, all swirling in a melodramatic bisque. It’s really good – not one for the ages, but a fab, saucy entertainment with heart.

It’s charm, however, is burnished by unexpectedly satisfying details in and surrounding the flick… The design in support of the film is excellent – besides the credit sequence, the title type and the  sixties pop inspired poster are particularly good. Oh, and the the soundtrack is by pop-psych legend Robin Hitchcock.

The biggest surprise, however, is this whole Carla Gugino/Elektra Luxx thing. Let me explain. Gugino has had a solid string of TV and movie roles, playing an agent on Entourage, and the lead role in the detective drama Karen Sisco. She’s also known for the small but geek-fave role as the original Sally Jupiter in the Watchmen adaptation… In Women in Trouble Gugino plays blue movie star Elektra Luxx.

So, ostensibly to promote Women in Trouble, she launches a blog behind the persona of Luxx. So far, standard viral promo fare, right? Well, during the past year she’s saluted cats as disparate as Modesty Blaise actress Monica Viiti, Bedazzled director Stanley Donnen, Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb, and synth maestro Geogrio Moroder. She penned a mash note to beloved Rochester garage legends the Chesterfield Kings, and is breathlessly awaiting the release of the new New Pornographers album. She clued readers into the obscure lo-fi psych of the Capstan Shafts. She posted the single best pictures of Linda Carter as Wonder Women ever. And she celebrates every weekend by posting glamour shots of, at first, Anita Ekberg, and now Sophia Loren. And, in an uncanny overlap with this here blog, posted not only about God Help the Girl, the distaff spin off of Belle & Sebastian, but a wrote an appreciation of the obscure Fellini/Manara comic Trip To Tullum.

All in all, a staggering level of hep-ness… As a result, my enthusiasm for her enthusiasms certainly gooses my enthusiasm for the movie. In any case, Women in Trouble is well worth seeing, the credits deserve a huzzah for thier artfulness, and Carla Gugino/Elektra Luxx’s blog is well, well, worth visiting regularly. Good show all around!

He & She

He & She is a lost classic, a fizzy cocktail of a sitcom, with an easy going, effervescent sophistication, and starred one of the most appealing couples in showbiz… I caught wind of it after doing some digging around about Paula Prentiss after seeing her in The World of Henry Orient (itself a real gem of a flick, a quirky mid 70’s Upper East Side lark about two precocious teenage girls that form a crush on a caddish conductor played by Peter Sellers.)

It ran on CBS in 1967. Prentiss co-starred with real life husband Richard Benjamin as a young, smart and more than a little goofy New York couple. Benjamin portrayed Dick Hollister – cartoonist and creator of a popular comic strip and TV character called Jetman. Prentiss played his wife Paula, a social worker. In the annals of great screen couples they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles. They’re that good – hilarious, effortlessly stylish with an infectious, natural rapport.

Equally distinguished was Jack Cassidy,  Shirley Jones’ husband, and, of course David and Shaun Cassidy’s dad. He played Oscar North, the obliviously egotistical actor who played Jetman on TV. His every appearance is a veritable one man symphony of flamboyant hamminess.

The show itself is a sheer delight. Great set ups, witty dialog, and a deft mix of comedy, ranging from literate banter, absurdist humor and sheer slapstick. It was cancelled after just one season but in it lay the DNA for everything from the Bob Newhart Show and Mary Tyler Moore all the way to Fraiser. The world is a brighter funnier place for its existence. Also, Prentiss and Benjamin are still together, which adds a really sweet overtone to watching the show.

Sadly, it’s never been in circulation on DVD. It floats around in scratchy, ghostly, glitchy versions lovingly compiled off of old broadcasts and VHS tapes by fans. One version can be gotten here, from the amazing folks at modcinema, but searching around is recommended.

The Illustrated Bond, Part I

Macario Gomez, Spanish 39×27, 1963
Boris Grinsson, French 63×47. 1963
Averardo Ciriello, Italian 79×55, 1965
Robert McGinnis, British 30×20, 1971
Robert McGinnis, British unused art, 1971

Noir Yorker

I have long adored this pair of New Yorker covers, illustrated by Owen Smith, for their attention-getting va-va-voom-ishness. The thing with Smith’s pulp derived work, though, is that it always has this aspect of impressionistic exaggeration to it, this bulging massiveness. In the past it always reminded me of social realist illustrations of the 20’s and 30’s – boxers and laborers, etc… And that thing being not my thing, that thing was always a hang up for me with Smith.

Looking again at these covers recently, his iconic flame haired femme fatale recalled something very different – the iconic flame haired femme fatales in Dante Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings. This got me thinking… The Pre-Raphaelites rejected the classical stiffness of academic painting. They wanted to re-infuse high art with passion, detail, drama – visceral aesthetic heat. The human embodiment of that desire was more often than not a full lipped, square jawed, voluptuous, red haired fox.

That’s more like it. The echo of Pre-Raphaelite foxiness makes me like the covers even more, sure, but it also elevates them beyond “Look! Pulp! Sexy! Must not be the old starched collared, monocled New Yorker anymore!” They’re more of an articulated rallying cry – similar to the one their movie critic Pauline Kael made in the late 70’s when she titled her review collections Going Steady,  I Lost it at the Movies, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. They insist that our encounters with culture should be lusty and passionate as well as rigorous and cerebral. Well, yes. Agreed. (This notion also happens to be the overarching theme of Rush’s song suite Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres, but that is, of course, another post….)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) Lady Lilith
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) The Bower Meadow

Made in USA

The stills above are taken from Jean-Luc Godard’s Made in USA. Made in 1966, it was an unauthorized adaptation of Donald Westlake’s the Jugger, featuring the adventures of Parker, a hard-boiled thief – the same character played by Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s 1967 classic Point Blank. (Parker was also recently adapted by Darwyn Cooke in an amazing graphic novel, the Hunter)

The movie is a squirrelly one. On the one hand, visually, it’s perfectly captivating. It is composed like a comic book, all bright colors shot rigidly against stark backgrounds.The stills speak for themselves – Scene after scene, the movie is farrago of pop art, mod fashion, and commercial signage. The dialog can i buy vicodin over the counter in canada could be in Tasmanian and it wouldn’t matter a smidgen – it’s still a flat out sock knocker.

Which it might as well be, because the movie scarcely makes any sense at all. It’s confusing, deadpan, stiff, meandering, and plot-wise, essentially indecipherable. A decoder ring is provided on the Criterion Edition DVD in the form of a short interview with two Godard scholars. According to them, the flick is simultaneously a passionate love letter to, and a fierce rejection of, American films and culture, as well as a record of the disintegration of one of two concurrent love affairs. It is also, obviously, French. Enjoy it any way you see fit.

The Notorious Landlady

notorious_poster

Four main dollops of delight here. (1) the world can’t have enough stylish, romantic, witty, caper movies. The Notorious Landlady is as fine an entry in the genre as you could hope for – excellent “did she or didn’t she” suspense, fab London locales, winsome romance, frothy dialog, and the funniest and most artful runaway wheelchair sequence ever filmed. (2) Jack Lemmon is, as always, good nature personified, a zephyr of good cheer (3) Sure, Kim Novak is foxy, flirty, etc… here she also directed her own costuming/wardrobe to wonderful effect. She alternates buy generic vicodin online between slightly wacky fashionista and a survey of late 50’s pinup styles – two modes which give the flick a tony flair with a consistently sexy icing. (4) Fred Astaire delivers one of the great hand talk performances of all time. I can only surmise that since he has no actual dance sequences he sublimated his moves into his hands – they are constantly in motion and once you notice them they are mesmerising, little miniature dances that embroider every scene he’s in. Top shelf entertainment, folks.

Liaisons dangereuses awesome

dangerous2

dangerous1

Over here, we are big, big fans of Stephen Frears’  Dangerous Liaisons… The diabolical vicissitudes of seduction and betrayal, the costuming, the alabaster powdered decolletage, the Malkovich, all (with a Keanu shaped exception) awesome… Anyway, we recently watched Milos Forman’s competing interpretation, Valmont – meh… dramatically flatter, and while Colin “Darcy” Firth works for those with Firth shaped affections, not really feeling the Annette Benning/Meg Tilly/Fairuza Balk troika. However, this did lead to further research on the original book and other adaptations and…. goodness gracious jackpot!

The French recently staged a sumptuous new adaptation. The setting has been brilliantly transposed to the mid 1960’s. Mid century modern cars, furniture, costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier. A sultry and rapacious Catherine Deneuve and a smoldering, pouty, Adam Ant-y Rupert Everett preside over the lurid machinations, Nastassja Kinski (!!!), and a surprisingly sexy Leelee Sobieski are the innocents consumed and corrupted. Filmed as a TV mini-series, the longer running time allows for more dimension and nuance, which heightens and intensifies an already rich stew of hothouse melodrama. The new standard. Netfix link here.