Thursday, September 30, 2010

Golden Boy

For Tony Curtis, acting, and by close association, life, was supposed to be fun. A star in over 120 films, he brought an essential joie de vivre to them - his participation rescued the more banal and ordinary, his professionalism and early recognised 'star' quality' contributed enormously in making some of the great films he was in, just that.

From early films, regularly alongside Piper Laurie, Curtis quietly grew into the assured performer that he became. His filmography is well known, but special attention should be paid to his 1950's output - 'The Sweet Smell of Success; The Vikings; The Defiant Ones; Some Like it Hot,' and, in 1960, the role of Antoninus in 'Spartacus.'

Curtis was more than just the prettiest of faces. One of his greatest roles; and a role for which he, in the public's eyes, appeared particularly unsuited, was that of Albert DeSalvo in Richard Fleischer's 1968 film, 'The Boston Strangler.' Although the film received mixed reviews at the time, Tony's performance stands dramatic test of time - assured, artistically uncompromising - an unflinching portrayal of a brutalised man.

For all of his films, and for his contribution to making life for those who only knew him on the big and small screens that bit better, thanks Tony.

'Sweet Smell of Success'

'Some Like it Hot'

'The Defiant Ones'

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sex Happens...

It is very welcoming indeed to see the publishing again of Marshall Berman's seminal work on modernity, 'All that is solid melts into air.' Berman spent ten years writing his defining work - a treatise on the multifold aspects of modernism and modernity, specifically, but not entirely, concerning itself with the social and economic conflicts created by it. As Berman asserts in his introduction, 'to be modern is to live a life of paradox and contradiction.' That he attempts to illustrate and demonstrate these through interpretive literary devices - examining Marx and Marx's writings, for instance, to illustrate the inherently self-destructive nature of modernism - without self-aggrandizement, gives the book one of its many accomplishments. It is, quite simply, unique. Verso are to be congratulated for this re-issue.

'Preservation Institute

Friday, September 17, 2010

Same as it ever was...

Although 'Fear of Music,' is rightly acknowledged as one of the defining albums of the 1970's, 'Remain in light,' released almost 30 years ago, stands as Talking Heads' greatest artistic statement. The album was recorded in the Bahamas and features a stellar alumni - with Byrne, producer Brian Eno and engineers Stephen Stanley and Dave Jerden melding the disparate musical elements together into a cohesive genre defying, genre creating whole. Listening to the album again now it's impossible not to be struck by how little the album and its individual artistic concerns has dated. The music sounds as joyously alive as any music created since, whilst the lyrics retain a forbidding prescience that contorts and confounds as it inspires.

'I'm ready to leave-I push the facts in front of me'

'The Great Curve'

'Remain in Light...'

Monday, September 13, 2010

The big subject...

Claude Chabrol was more than just a film director. In many respects he was the originator of a new kind of cinema - turning away from the traditions of contemporary French films towards a more realistic depiction, free of studio restriction and the unmitigating shackles of the uncompromising star system. Chabrol was instrumental in the careers of many of his fellow Cahiers du Cinema writing contemporaries: Rohmer, Godard, Rivette and Truffaut, to name a concelebrated few. His own work reached its zenith in the late 1960's/early 1970's when he made a number of oustanding films - many starring his wife Stephane Audran - culminating in the classic, Hitchcock influenced 'Le Boucher;' for many his defining moment. Chabrol was ultimately a conventional film-maker but one who took sensuous delight in examining and satirising the very conventions that made his films so watchable, so unique, and so quintessentially French.

'La Femme Infidele' 1/9

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An intelligent attention

John Szwed is a highly regarded academic and writer. For almost 15 years he has been writing, fairly exclusively, about music - from an ethno-musicological point of view and also straight biography - some readers may be familiar with his scholarly, yet eminently readable books on Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Jelly Roll Morton - for which he won a Grammy award. Most recently, Szwed has turned his attentions to one of America's most important musical anthropologists - Alan Lomax. In, 'Alan Lomax: The man who recorded the world,' Szwed examines Lomax's legacy: from the early field recordings of rural music, to the 1930's/40's, when many of the artists he championed, both black and white, gained their greatest recognition. Written with authority, clarity and not without humour, Szwed's book is an entertaining account of an, at times, controversial figure, but, undoubtedly, an extraordinary one.

'American Folklife Centre'

'Association for Cultural Equity' is a wonderful site.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I ain't nothin but a gorie hound...

Twat Bubble loves The Gories. Formed almost 25 years ago they were/just about still are part of Detroit's golden age of rawk. That they rock and blues more than any other sonic funsters on the planet - including Dead Canary's Bassholes, the fabulous Dirtbombs and, hey, hey, The Cobras themselves is no small cheat. Check out the video below featuring Mick Collins and some fellow Detroit musicians...

+ (Gratuitous/Tenuous)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yes Yes Yes

Always the bears knees when cover versions of classic songs are made - especially so when there is ample potential to hack and piss off a sizeable majority of people. Zola Jesus have been around for a while now - check out their/her website/myspace site.

'No No No'

Zola Jesus@MySpace


She loves me, she loves me not...

Oh, and the fourth series of Mad Men starts on September....

This is an exceptionally interesting and entertaining article written by Adam Curtis for his BBC blog. Curtis is one of the most insightful documentary film-makers currently making insightful documentary films - the peerless, 'The power of nightmares,' being just one of his investigative cinematic forays into our increasingly unreal world. Curtis is obviously a fan of Mad Men - how could you not be? His interest goes further and deeper however, recognising the appeal of nostalgia and reminiscence for a disjointed, unreassured public - the 'old wound that doesn't heal,' whilst examining more closely today's telegraphed infatuations with the banal, the freakish, the striving to overachieve. Now, where did I put that TV Guide....

'Don Draper's book shelf'

'Man in the grey flannel suit