Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Freak storm looks set to break, and break the record heat spell. That'd be ok w/ the right line breaks.

Frustration: Todd Haynes Superstar is there to be downloaded (along with much other intel-pro-challenging vid-stuff), but it's big and slow and high-trafficked and unreliable. Probably the streaming version is ok, but I want the mpeg. (Link courtesy Harlequin Knights, at left.)

Felt I wasn't getting much out of John Godfrey's Private Lemonade, suddenly began to click a little less than half-way in -- it accumulates, both referentially (light and smoke pass by often, and many poems end in a swerve toward a 'you' that might be a beloved or a pleonasm, depending) and formally (the steppy Williams line that recurs every few poems, though most are in three or four line groups, with the very occasional burst of Ceravolo/Blackburn less-symmetrical shapeliness). Struck by this quietly immense reorganization (reheirarchialization?) of perception, opening "Blush": "The land is/squashed/between/gases and bones," though I'm not doing the spacing. Book seems to get harsher/darker as it goes, but I might not think so if I started again from the top.

Maybe you know a little about the Dutch-born artist Bas Jan Ader, who was based in So. Cal. for much of his working life. I believe he may have taught at Cal Poly Pomona; I know that he was married to someone my father used to work with. (Which I did not know when I first encountered his work.) He was fairly obscure in life; he's among the figures recovered by the last decade's re-evaluation of Conceptual Art (esp. the varieties involving photo-documentation).

He went missing and presumably died at 33, in 1975, during one part of a performance piece entitled "In Search of the Miraculous," in which he set out in a tiny sailboat from Cape Cod, attempting to reach England. (A fuller description.) Not as clearly death-as-art as Ray Johnson, but the age makes one wonder. Or, as it goes in "Dry Spell," a song on the upcoming NPB album: "Bas Jan Ader went to sea/Searching for the mystery." (I try not to talk about my own work here, though maybe I've largely honored this norm in the breach; oh well.) 'Miraculous' didn't scan.

An earlier piece, or earlier part of the same piece, under the same title, is in the Armand Hammer's current "The Last Picture Show," which I'm making my students take a look at. It consists of a series of night photographs of the artists skulking around various Los Angeles streets and alleys. Across the bottom of the pictures, in metallic-marker script, are written the lyrics to the Coasters' "Searchin'," by Lieber & Stoller -- a song I'd been thinking about as a less-overt predecesor to "Is That All There Is?" but didn't mention in my talk. (You know: "Gonna find her...Gonna find her.")

I don't know -- not much of a punchline, which must be why I was putting off this entry, but coming upon it was a strange little clicking-together experience last week. Score one for the inadequacy of (my) language. Score one for me, for not going on longer about (my) song.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

If you visit the various bookstores at UCLA often enough -- in particular, the small law-school/film-school/snack shop near the building in which Philosophy is housed -- you'll find the prices on various remainders going down. And down. What makes it to this little hole from the sale tables in the central commerce center of the school -- also the home of the largest Clinique selection in So. Cal., I'm told -- we're down to Island of Broken Toys levels of unsaleability. Hence today's score of:

($1 each)
Cecilia Vicuna, Cloud-Net (heavily illustrated poems/performance documentation)
Nayland Blake/Dennis Cooper Jerk (one of that Artspace photog + fiction series, list $15)
Kenneth Goldsmith Soliloquy (every word he spoke for a week in 1996)

($2 each)
A.D. Coleman The Digital Evolution (photo criticism)
Alexander Doty Flaming Classics: Queering the Film Canon

Most a bit worse for wear, but still. The Goldsmith, in particular, is the sort of thing I'd pass up for even $6 (and have, since it's been on the same shelf at that price for months), because, what, I'm going to read it?, but for a buck, it at least should have a home. So I'm glad to have these, but what cuts: Is it really true that I'm the only person at this huge university who wants them, even for a dollar? (Note also, UCLA's huge "Festival of Books," co-sponsored by the Times and Target and what have you, was also this weekend -- many of the tents are still up. Since I can park for free, I'd had some thought of hearing Fanny Howe on Saturday, in "Poet's Corner" -- all of the other reading venues are called "Stages," but the poets get a "Corner," as though already literally deceased -- but work, and the undesirability of the drive, intruded.)


Quick-like. Smell show a little better than I'd hoped, though already one person has told me they tried to come but were unable to negotiate traffic redirected b/c of early Cinco de Mayo events. I'm afraid I don't have a cogent assessment of Eileen Talios' poetry, as I was distracted by trying to remember the lyrics to my songs. (Of course, the flyer read, "Music (by a poet)" in my case, so in this instance, I guess a music stand wouldn't have been too out-of-place") But I traded Cat/Queen for her Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole, so I should be able to get a better grip -- there was one poem inspired by Richard Tuttle, which is cooler because it probably wasn't written just because Steve Malkmus mentioned him. Gong music (not gamelan but the Filipino equivalent?) backing her was lovely. I played acceptably, except for dicking up the last verse to Peter Blegvad's "Special Delivery."

Plan to back The Stranger arts ed/Harvey Danger/Long Winters member Sean Nelson on 3 Harry Nillson tunes (from his upcoming Nelson Sings Nillson, not joking) on Monday fell through -- some sort of oddball cabaret night at Tangiers on Hillhurst, plus some huge mp3s didn't get to my box in time. Too bad: Musically, I get as much satisfaction out of these random session-cat moments as anything else. Isn't there a Dave Frischberg song, "I Wanna Be a Sideman."

ok -- now I have to promise future posts on Bas Jan Ader, Battle Hymn of the Republic (that is, standing for it), and Mervyn LeRoy's Latin Lovers (1953).

And it cheeses me off that John Kerry has to hide the fact that his French is excellent on the campaign trail.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Dassin double feature excellent, though not in a way that makes me want to see Never On A Sunday next weekend. Most of what I might say seems dutiful, forced. Barry Fitzgerald masterfully ingratiating in The Naked City, terrific Stieglitzy bridge photography, brief scene where detective stops for a root beer on a corner on the Lower East Side, served in one of those cone-and-cup set-ups that's disappeared from everywhere I know of but The Apple Pan, sidelong moment where society lady says of her jewelry "...It's a fixation." Skimpy attire of cop's wife makes you feel that you're seeing something you're not supposed to; is that what they used to call a sunsuit? Didn't know there were still icemen and horse-drawn delivery carriages anywhere in New York in the mid-'40s; wouldn't know it from normal studio movies. With such dogged pursuit of naturalism, why the heavy-gauge reaction 'takes' every time someone hears there's been a murder.

Night and the City something of a revelation, claustrophobic and gorgeous, everyone terrific except maybe Gene Tierney, who doesn't have much to do. Widmark and Googie Withers nail it; makes me want to see the former in Roadhouse again. Also, inventively plotted, which is something I almost never notice; maybe because it's rarely the case. Is it commonplace to pair this w/ The Sweet Smell Of Success, which it equals and possibly tops in cynicism? There are possibly about 4 lines too many of comment on Widmark's character flaws ("No one works harder than you...but always on the wrong things."), but what's effective is his own pathetic assessment of what he almost 'achieved' ("I could have controlled wrestling -- in all of London," spoken as though he'd just bought Andromeda). Wonder if the crooked beggar-chief was someone's reference to Peachum in Threepenny. Not that I minded, but why is the wrestling scene so long, and so much brighter than the rest of the movie?

Picked up piece of paper in crosswalk after movie, courting serendipity; flyer for reading by...David Lehman.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Experiencing a rare sense of respite -- perhaps it's not surprising that this is accompanied by a lack of anything contentful to write. That said:

1) Anyone want to come see the Jules Dassin dbl feature (The Naked City, the location-shot charms of which I can attest to, and Night and the City, which I keep missing) on Friday at LACMA? You know how to reach me.

2) I'm performing (songs, solo, still under the name I was born with, despite my best efforts) on Sunday sometime between 6:00-9:00 at The Smell in downtown L.A. -- here are directions to the infamous alley between Main and Spring. It seems that there's some confusion about who else is on, though The Urinals, I hear, are out -- this is the first of a last Sunday-of-the-month poets-and-one-acts-and-music thing they're doing. But hey, it's $5 tops, and not ridiculously late. Give it-me-us a try. (Some of you will get an email about this, sorry.)

3) Buying a shrinkwrapped, S/F-J-less NYer in Sea-Tac, noticed the first person I have ever seen buy pornography at an airport newstand. However, she appeared to be doing research. At LAX, on the other hand, heard the following side of a cellphone conversation w/in minutes of disembarking: "Well, if he says it's a calling, and then wonders if it's really a calling, you can just tell him -- look, you know how God created man? Well, before he did, he probably stepped back and said, 'Is this such a good idea'?"

4) Just saw my ethnomusicologist friend Angela Rodel and others perform some jazzed-up Bulgarian music in the atrium of UCLA's folklore museum. All very nice, but the clocktower going off bigtime at 7 p.m., coinciding almost exactly with the length of a double-bass solo, easily topped the rest.

More on Bas Jan Ader later, I swear.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Just came back from Edward Mast's Peach Blossom Fan, dir. Chen Shi-Zheng, music by Mr. Stephin Merritt, downtown at Redcat. Phil. Dept. colleague Thi Nguyen (a big M. Fields fan) and I had planned to go Thursday, but there were only student/rush tix available tonight. The funny part about this -- funny to anyone who recalls the punchline to Stephin's "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure" -- is that it meant missing something else I'd been looking forward to: A rare live (instore) appearance by Lamont Dozier.

It gets a little stranger: Driving home, flipped on an oldies station instead of the news, immediately heard "My Guy" (not Holland/Dozier/Holland but Smokey), and HDH's "I Can't Help Myself" (a.k.a. "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch"). Then, in the lobby, before performance, there's this "self-service karaoke" [non-critical] set-up that wasn't there before. Turns out this is sort of a prequel to the performance: Two of the show's chorus of courtesans some out in the lobby and start singing (actually, screeching at mic-distorting levels) various oldies: HDH's "Stop! In The Name of Love" (which the girls tried to drag poor Thi into on the chorus), Lieber/Stoller's "Love Potion No. 9" (a more sophisticated song, musically, than its utter naturalness suggests), and...."My Guy."

Feels like the great songwriters of the age are following me around (possibly also mocking me for not having written a song in about 2 mos.) Oh...and Ange Mlinko had the perspicacity to uncover "The Sentimental Units" as the O'Hara poem mentions Lieber.

Oh, the show? Well, it's an translation/update/something of a trad. Chinese opera, with a strongly pictorial staging and some attempt to get Western actors to work in a different, highly stylized tradition, w/ mixed success. The one Chinese-trained actor, Zhou Long, kicked ass over everyone else. As David Patrick Kelly, from Twin Peaks and, I read here, a bunch of Richard Foreman plays, was pretty good too.

I was quite impressed with Stephin's music, which, although it does sound like Magnetic Fields songs arranged for double bass, marimba, percussion and yanqin (the huge Chinese dulcimerish thing like Tara from Amps for Christ plays, you'd know it if you heard it) it is defintiely a score, despite a few indulgences like the song that starts "Ukelele Me-kele, 1-2-3-kelele." Various characters introduce themselves to the same tune, a ballad from halfway through comes back at the end to good effect, "Floating Pavilion" moves the plot along. The rhyming is good w/ a few moments that didn't work (but which I've already gotten), better-turned lyrics overall than the new MF (though I haven't listened enough, why does he let a 'face/disgrace' rhyme pass on "I Looked All Over Town"), but even here he does that one thing that drives me nuts, given the kind of song I thought he was trying to write -- stressing the wrong syllable. Dude, seriously, I can cope w/ offrhymes Hart/Porter/Sondheim would have tossed, even w/in musical theater ("Billion"/"Brilliance") but if you're gonna be the next-X, I can't understand why you won't play by this particular craft-rule. Takes me right out of the song -- I know, I know, I'm the only human being under 60 who cares. Rant (that some of you have heard before) over -- it really is a solid piece of work, a couple of the songs might be more durable than the show, but most are wedded to the material admirably, and I'm surprised there's no OCR yet.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Top Ten seems like a reasonable format for recapping the EMP conference, right? Entries in chronological order, 10 points to each, no distinction between 'singles' and 'albums.' Understood, I hope, that informal conversation, hanging-out, and eating top the list, globally and non-quantifiably.

1) Arriving at Sarah Vowell's keynote presentation a bit late, straight from the taxi, and hearing, the second I walk in, Jon Langford singing part of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins: "All you have to do is use your little finger."

2) Robert Christgau's guerilla copyediting of Lester Bangs, Anthony DeCurtis, and Susan McClary -- you wouldn't sit still for this, probably, coming from just about anyone else, but it was fascinating to watch him fire off opinions about the smallest decisions in prose with no apologies. Not to mention a couple of brilliantly lucid paragraphs on the ways dancing is about architecture.

3) Christian Marclay's Video Quartet, a labor-intensive collage of musical moments from Hollywood movies, shown at Marclay's retrospective at Seattle Art Museum), which I'd missed in L.A.. (Also, a very simple piece called "My Weight In Records," which I have to assume refers to Felix Gonzales-Torres' candy-scatters.) The performance of his Musical Graffiti piece later than evening was less exciting, though I'm convinced I have to learn more about pianist Robin Holcomb, one of the highlights of the Randy Newman tribute in January.

4) Best Philosophy/Theory: Charles Kronengold's theory of 'accidents' in pop, invoking Aristotle on essence and accident. I disagreed with much of this, but, importantly, a framework was given with which one could at least take issue in a way that moved the discussion forward.

5) Best Musicology: Bob Fink, tracing orchestral sounds in electronica from Trans-Europe Express through Bambatta's Planet Rock to "the techno-minor-triad."

6) The civil-rights/anti-war protest video shown by Caryn Brooks, which accompanied The Dixie Chicks' performances of "Truth No. 2" on their 2003 post-controversy tour. I had some problems with how the video itself is to be read -- why is it sepia-toned? -- but the song, which I admit I'd never heard, is terrific.

7) "Under The Bamboo Tree," a 1902 novelty song about how the Zulus woo, as performed at lunchtime Saturday by ex-Holy Modal Rounder Peter Stampfel and Jeannie Scofield. (This is one of the songs used as period, well, color in Meet Me In St. Louis; I'd never heard the verses.)

8) Douglas Wolk's detailed and hilarious exploration of 'fake Beatles' records, designed in many cases to fool parents, from early '64 -- The Buggs, The Liverpools, "The Beetle Beat" -- usually consisting of inept covers of "She Loves You" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," plus a few originals or public domain tunes. Not to mention The Wyncotte Squirrels -- a Chipmunks knockoff playing Beatles knockoffs. (Observation for those who heard it -- doesn't "Hey! Quiet Down There" sound more like a Coasters (i.e. Lieber/Stoller) rip than a Lennon/McCartney one?) And, yes, Douglas, we noticed that the moderator called you 'Doug' about seven times.

9) The entire "Critical Karaoke" panel -- talking over what each writer thought at some moment 'the best song ever' for exactly the length of the song -- from Joshua Clover's introductions ("Greil Marcus is a newcomer to rock criticism....") to the pieces themselves, including but not limited to Daphne Brooks on Journey, Ann Powers on a Johnny Mathis version of "Alfie," Oliver Wang on Betty Davis, Marcus on "More Than This," Joshua not referring to his backing mashup at all while describing trying to fuck on Ecstasy, and Angie Mlinko on a Elliot Smith performance, backed by a bootleg of the very show she'd been at in Providence several years ago. A revealing glimpse at the personality and method of each participant, thanks to the compression of the form. (Made me think of other people I'd like to hear do this at least once, many of whom aren't even critics.)

10) Putting faces to names: Some of the above, plus Amy Phillips, Sara Dougher, Lindsay Waters, J-Shep, Paul Bresnick, the tiny Rebecca Brooklyn Powers/Weisbard (an infant, if that's not clear), Puncture Verse Chorus Press' Steve Connell. When I told the last that "Is That All There Is?" had been based on a Thomas Mann story, he instantly responded: "Oh, 'Entaeuschung'?"

Presentations I heard good things about and oughtn't have missed: RJ Smith on Eden Abez and "Nature Boy," Max Hechter (who gave me the 7" he pressed for the occasion anyway), Seth Sanders, Jeff Chang's interview with Benjamin Menendez, and another lunch performance piece called "Classical Puts Me To Sleep." I'm not going to pretend that there weren't talks that disappointed or enervated, but I'm feeling too boostery to name them -- well, ok, I wasn't too excited by some loosey-goosey talk about 'the sublime' at a panel on same (but I missed the first paper).

About my own talk, I can only say that I was gratified when I got as big a laugh as I had hoped from Guy Lombardo's version of "Is That...." Completely serendipitous discovery, as of two weeks ago, courtesy of my UCLA dept-mate David Sanson.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Soon, soon.

Passed a truck yesterday marked "animal-grade molasses."

This isn't the time to try to explain my father's younger (by 20 years) brother, but the strangest moment of my family's Easter Sunday came when I realized he was playing Dylan's "I Want You" on our piano as I was hiding out in my old room, stuffed with ham and chocolate (not the room), reading Barry Malzberg. (Earlier, I had attempted a stride "Peter Cottontail" earlier, and of course "Easter Parade," before moving on to various non-seasonal songs from the various fakebooks I grew up with, e.g. "Waterloo" and "Save The Bones for Henry Jones.")

Changing seats in the Egyptian last Saturday, after a lengthy Q & A with screenwriter Stanley Rubin (wrote the first draft of Sternberg/Ray's Macao, which I skipped b/c I forgot Gloria Graeme was in it), caught the tail end of a morbidly obese man's attempt to engage Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman in conversation. "Nice to see you, Irma," he called as they left, before correcting and cursing himself. I was seated by then, and he lamented to me that he wasn't going to get back from the bathroom before the next feature, that being:

Decoy (1947) -- buried and starpowerless Warner Bros. B-grade nastiness, with a pleasingly excessive central performance by Brit actress Jean Gillie (laughs in a cop's face on her deathbed, moments after she asked to be kissed before she passes to the next world), and an SF-noir premise involving the resurrection (and subsequent re-murder) of an executed thug, for the sake of a map to his loot.

I have to say, over the course of this year's noirfest, I was confirmed in my preference for the cheapos, even when they're not much cinematographically, to over lusher numbers like Fallen Angel, which is no Laura, and may have the only David Raskin music I've ever disliked. The sort of movie where even plain blank office walls have a sfumato look. The 'twist' (it's the cop!) is visible miles away, but the performance isn't nearly as unsettling as Regis Toomey's at essentially the same plot-vertex in the much more obviously contrived I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes, which I also found vastly more entertaining.

This isn't to say I'm blind to the visual pleasures of the Anthony Mann-John Alton machine -- Raw Deal is sort of interesting for making Claire Trevor the real emotional focus (it's possible that her voiceovers were a late addition to move it towards "woman's picture"), but more so for imagery. There's one shot with Trevor, veiled, in profile plus a clock like a moon that's the equal of Shanghai Express. As for T-Men, yes, there's the kind of action-direction that Farber championed (less unequivocally later), but I saw it again for the Dragnet quality of the semi-doc narration. Most redundant voiceover in history: "The agents hoped their plan would work." And someone-must-have-known dialogue:

(Actual government official, near top of film): "These are the six fingers of the Treasury Department."

(Undercover T-man, to fellow agents): "Have you ever spent a week in a Turkish bath looking for a man?"

It should become clear in the next 24 hours whether my EMP talk will actually make a discernable point, or merely string together some (I think undeniably interesting) factoids that aren't generally known. Hey, Jerry Lieber telling a story about Marlene Dietrich is better than nothing.

I do expect to be back in this space more often in the weeks to come, though likely not daily; what my committee members expect of me before signing off is fairly cut-and-dried, and quite reasonable. Real work, but not nail-biting madness. (I've done about 2/3 of my chair's revisions already.) Was hoping, as of January, to have filed before going to Seattle; no go, I'm still 2 or 3 weeks out, still close enough to drink to it w/ people I may not see again for months, right?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Rice sounding, at a few moments, as though she is this far from a Perry Mason-style crackup. Worrisome phrase: "Freedom deficit." Annoying: The verb "to task" -- sometimes, but not always "to task with." It doesn't sound like the grammar has settled down on this one.

Thrasymachus to Plato: "What more can I do? Am I to take my argument and pour it into your mind?" (Republic Bk. I, trans. Grube.)

Dreamed last night that I googled the word "cygnosis," and got a screen I'd never seen before informing me that this was the first time the engine had searched for that string, and asking if a presumed definition was correct. (Of course, I don't remember the definition.) When I actually do this, it asks if I meant "cyanosis."

Currently five movies behind: Donkey Skin, of which a digitally restored new print happened to be screening last weekend, and 3 noirs. The Chase, I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (both quite rare, apparently), and Preminger's Fallen Angel. We'll see if I get back to these -- as you might guess, I'm juggling, and frantically figuring out which things I can put off and which I can't. Mind, if not schedule, may clear slightly this weekend.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Veronica Lake: "I flipped a coin. Heads, I go to Malibu -- tails, I go to Laguna."
Alan Ladd: "What happens if the coin rolls under the davenport?"
Vernoica Lake: "Then you go to Long Beach."

(from Raymond Chandler's screenplay for The Blue Dalhia (1946).)

Around the same time, also in Malibu, Theodor Adorno and Charlie Chaplin are at a party:

"While Chaplin stood next to me, one of the guests was taking his early leave. Unlike Chaplin, I extended my hand to him a bit absent-mindedly, and, almost instantly, started violently back. The man was one of the lead actors from The Best Years of Our Lives, a film famous, shortly after the war; he lost a hand during the war and in its place bore practicable claws made of iron. When I shook his right hand and I felt it return the pressure, I was extremely startled, but sensed immediately that I could not reveal my shock to the injured man at any price. In a split second I transformed my frightened expression into an obliging grimace that must have been far ghastlier. The actor had hardly moved away when Chaplin was already playing the scene back. All the laughter he brings about is so near to cruelty; solely in such proximit to cruelty does it find its legitimation and its element of the salvational."

(Quoted in Witkin, Adorno on Popular Culture; the source is Adorno's brief tribute on Chaplin's 75th birthday. The unnamed actor/veteran is Harold Russell; Wyler's film (also 1946) was his only role until one movie apiece in the '80s and '90s. Cf. the steel plate in downed flyer Willam Bendix's head in The Blue Dalhia; because of his injury, he can't bear 'that monkey music' -- that is, jazz.)

Much earlier (1896), Adorno's eventual fellow emigre Thomas Mann writes a story called "Disillusionment": "So this is what it is like for your house to be on fire." Much later (c. 1986), this directly inspires Leiber & Stoller to write "Is That All There Is?"

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Looks like the pro-life crowd have been hiring some highly strategic and evil persons trained as bioethicists, huh? It's two crimes, see, because....'Diabolical' seems apt.

So: It seems I've engaged in my own personal rite of spring -- the nearly annual losing of my (analog, actual marks on paper) phone book. And no, this isn't an April Fool's joke, though I know of one person in Toronto and one three blocks away that are laughing at me already. In any case -- if you're a reader who now and then hears from me by phone or mail, you might want to send your digits my way. Thanks.

Speaking of the greater Canada area, here are some pictures of a park. Very Clarence John Laughlin, except for the caption style.* And the presence of color.

*Can't resist, 'cos I see a book of his right here on the shelf: According to CLJ, the most literal-minded Surrealist in history, "The Ego-Centrics" (a 1940 photo), "--presents the simulacrum of those whose narrow greeds and vanity form a frame about them, isolating them from all else, and leading directly to the confusion and cross-purposes in contemporary society, which is symbolized by the jumbled mass choking the window. Such cross-purposes and confusing make impossible any widespread social betterment; and any consistent attempt to humanize our society." You tell 'em.

Sorry, nothing from the cultural desk today, unless you count hearing ABC's "Be Near Me" in the grocery store, which I do. Diss copyediting, light Peggy Lee research, no actual writing. I'll be seeing as much of The American Cinematheque's annual film noir series as work allows, which may not be much, starting tomorrow. Tip for locals: Don't miss Anthony Mann's T-Men (4/9), or I Wake Up Screaming (a.k.a. The Hot Spot, 4/11) -- even Victor Mature can't take away from the glory that is Laird Cregar. And: Skip Mask of Dimitrios (4/9, but a separate ticket), surprisingly dull for a mid-'40s Warners with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. I know, it sounds good, but you've been warned.

Gah. I just wrote about 1000 words about Pretty Poison, Welles' Confidential Report (aka Mr. Arkadin) and The Big Brass Ring, a 1996 adaptation of a late Welles script -- and then the browser suddenly quit on me. I can't do it over, so:

PP: Not profound, but tightly controlled, Weld better than in Lays for my money, Perkins enjoyably twitchy. Not a waste of time.

CR: Filmic genius under budgetary constraints -- some scenes as lush as Ophuls, ending sparse as a '50s TV drama. Plot schmot, theme schmeme -- this film is about character actors (Mischa Auer as a flea-circus proprietor), even unto Welles himself.

BBR: Please avoid this. Movie about a political campaign with no politics; script as shot has a few florid speeches that are recognizably Welles', offset by hamhanded allusions to Kane, Chimes at Midnight, Twain, and Conrad. I have to assume that Welles, even in decline, did not write the line "Here's to living with yourself, Dark Heart." This, and much else of similar portent, is placed in the mouth of an insensibly bad Irene Jacob, who cannot do a line reading in English for love or money -- to think I was going to call my 'band' The Double Life. (And if John Hurt's governor-to-be is the future of American politics, why is Jacob the only press following him around?)

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