Monthly Archives: February 2009

cover art

Zabriskie Point appears on the cover of Sight and Sound more than a year before its release.

cute couple alert

Elvis Costello and Bebe Buell. (careful with that link, it’s nsfw)

She said: “He was my Clark Gable.”

He said: “At best we were strangers with a coy and theoretical entanglement…However, she turned up with eight pieces of luggage like a mail-order bride…and I was too stupid and vain to resist. She’d later claimed to have inspired most of the songs on [Armed Forces]-all of which were already written when we met…It is a tragic delusion about which I could say: ‘I shall not dignify that with a response’ but ‘dignity’ doesn’t come into this story.”

God, that Elvis has a way with words.

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Marx and Mae

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The National Film Theater Summer 1966 season.

bogdanovich picks the classics

Every ten years since 1952, Sight and Sound Film Magazine has asked a selection of international film makers and critics to compile lists of what, in their opinions, are the ten greatest films of all time. These lists serve as ballots for the supposedly authoritative top ten list that the magazine publishes. It is Citizen Kane‘s chart-topping dominance on this survey since 1962 that, I believe, has lead to its reputation as The Greatest Film Of All Time. Kane didn’t even crack the top ten in 1952. It fell into the runners up catagory with the dubious likes of Chaplin’s Verdoux.

1952

In addition to publishing the “winners” list, the magazine also prints all of the ballots, which usually make for more interesting reading than top ten. Often, the compilers cannot resist writing a short note either apologizing to films or directors excluded or explaining that had they been asked another day, they’d have compiled a completely different set of films. Here are the ten films that were blowing up Lotte Eisner’s skirt in 1962 and her brief note explaining why she chose what she did (she was still carrying a torch for Verdoux!).

eisner

Fast forward ten years and Peter Bogdanovich, whose films I quite like up to and including the great They All Laughed (which ranked on Tarantino’s 2002 Sight and Sound poll), is asked to weigh in. Along with his top ten films, he added what is without a doubt the most pretentious note in the fifty years of the poll.

bogdanovich

Bogdanovich must have thought that that sounded pretty good because he made virtually the same remarks four decades later when AFI made the mistake of asking him what his favorite film is.

zabriskie point

antonioni on the set

Oh, boy! Tonight, I finally got to see Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 feature Zabriskie Point. I generally like Antonioni’s films and I have been wanting to see this one for ages. It was his first film made in the United States (MGM payed the bill). While I liked the look of some of it, the film as a whole left me cold. I’m not sure exactly what Antonioni was getting at (it seemed to be a criticism of American consumerism–yawn) but as far as I’m concerned the film can be summed up with a quote from a black revolutionary character in the opening scene: a mix of jive and bullshit.

Anyway, the production stills were taken by photographer Bruce Davidson. Here are some scans. I might add more if I can find some.

the two bland leads

Mark Frechette, Michelangelo Antonioni and Daria Halprin

the cops

no words

It seems as though shooting in the States wasn’t exactly a picnic for Antonioni:

waste

Here is the final scene of Zabriskie Point. It is by far the most exciting bit of the film.

Along with Zabriskie Point, I also received Antonioni’s Red Desert, which I will hopefully watch later this week. Expect a post on it sooner or later. Also, I should mention that even though I didn’t quite know what to make of Zabriskie Point, it is still not my least favorite Antonioni film. That distinction goes to one of his supposed “masterpieces,” The Blow Up. I hated that one on every level.

vintage jam (ole 184-7 edition)

Guided By Voices just before they went irrevocably down hill. The first single from their Under the Bushes, Under the Stars LP.

nine six shit

racist garbage

tar baby

From the deepest recesses of my book shelf, I bring you some scans of a book that caused me deep confusion as a child. This was almost certainly a hand-me-down from my older siblings. Can you believe that my parents even let me have this? Anyway, below are pages from a storybook based on a segment of the now nearly disowned 1946 Disney feature Song of the South. Those faint twos on the left of the title I think are evidence that I was practicing my penmanship.

The story goes like this, Brer Fox and Brer Bear want to eat Brer Rabbit but he is too fast for them to catch. As anyone in their situation would, they build themselves a “tar baby”–as the name suggests, that’s a baby made of tar–and set it along side a path upon which Brer Rabbit travels.

brer fox

brer bear

Brer Rabbit comes bounding down the path and offers a friendly hello to the tar baby who says nothing in return. Keep in mind that the tar baby is really just a lump of tar with a hat and coat on. The book assures us that Brer Rabbit it a pretty bright fellow but he doesn’t see through this obvious trap. Brer Rabbit, disgusted with the tar baby’s insubordination, gets aggressive and roughs up the tar baby succeeding only in getting himself caught in the tar from which he is unable to free himself.

they meet

violent racist

now he's mad

Below you can see the exact moment when Brer Rabbit realizes he’s been duped.

stuck

As the fox and bear close in, Brer Rabbit uses a little reverse psychology on his predators and totally changes the subject (the subject up until this point is that he’s covered in tar and is about to be roasted and eaten) by begging not to be thrown into a nearby briar patch. The fox can’t resist doing the exact opposite of what the rabbit says regardless of the fact that a few moments earlier he and the bear had been building a fire to roast the rabbit over. Brer Rabbit has the last laugh though, the briar patch is the place of the rabbit’s birth and he feels at home there. Conveniently, briars are apparently harmful to both bears and foxes but not to rabbits. It is never explained how he got the tar off of himself or how the fox and bear planned on extracting the rabbit from the briar patch if the impact killed the rabbit.

this makes perfect sense

I figure that it is probably for the best that the Disney company keep this one in their vault, but, to their credit, they haven’t edit it out of their official history the way that they have some things. Bootleggers keep the film available (look at this pathetic website–there’s nothing official looking about it) and I was able to find this ridiculously thorough history and memorabilia website. While digging up information on Song of the South, I began thinking of that scene in Dumbo with the singing crows. I figured for sure that that business surely wouldn’t fly in this day and age but it seems as though Dumbo was released on DVD as recently as 2006.

crows

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Don’t Look Now. Nicolas Roeg. 1973

years after the event (january 26, 1969 part three)

ringo and paul

The tape picks up again after lunch. Much of the next hour or so is devoted to extremely lengthy instrumental improvisations. When the jamming begins it seems as though the fabs are going to work on George’s “For You Blue” because they are on the appropriate instruments (Paul on piano, Ringo on drums, George on guitar, Billy on organ and Lennon on slide guitar) and Lennon plays a bit of the song’s intro. An thorough work out of “For You Blue,” far from my favorite song that the fabs endlessly rehearsed during these sessions, would have come as a welcome substitute for the uninspired noodling that the band engage in. The Beatles, as it turns out, aren’t the strongest “jam band” out there. While this instrumental goes on and on, Yoko can occasionally be heard very faintly doing that caterwauling shit that she does but thankfully it seems as though she is singing into a microphone that is switched off. No one in the control room bothers to tell her that the mic is off.

After the jamming ends, Paul seems to want to work on “Let It Be” some more but after five renditions, none any better or worse than the ones that they had done before lunch, the band decide to give that one a rest chiefly because Lennon wants to “give up singing [the harmonies] for a bit.” Heather uses this down time to cease the microphone and imitate Yoko’s vocal approach to Lennon’s amusement. Before the band can decide what song they’ll play next, there is more jamming. This time Harrison takes vocal duties and extemporizes typically grouchy lyrics (“I told you before not to come knockin'”) to another bluesy instrumental. Heather occasionally joins in with some moaning. This goes on for twenty-five minutes.

lennon not looking so hot

Finally, the fabs get back to serious business. Paul begins to play the opening of his “The Long and Winding Road” and this signals a transition back into rehearsal mode. John, again on bass, is still largely unfamiliar with the song. “What key is it in?” He asks. “E flat! Fucking hell, you must be mental.” Even though it is quite late into the sessions, this is the first occasion that the band devote much time to rehearsing this song. Up until this point, it had only been played by Paul alone, usually on days when he was the first to arrive at the studio.

There is a moment of debate as to whether the fabs should even bother recording this song at all as it seems to be something that needs a string quartet, which might require overdubs–something that the band had swore off when beginning these sessions. Paul is of the opinion that the song should really be given to Ray Charles. Despite this, the band work on the song for the next two hours.

harrison lennon

The band make short work of getting familiar with the song and, like “Let It Be,” come reasonably close to nailing it but, also like “Let It Be,” they would not record the version used on the LP until the last day of the sessions. In the mean time, Macca and Lennon amuse themselves by imitating the announcers of some televised ballroom dancing program (“Rita and Thomas Williams…He’s wearing a dark beard and a sombrero…Her husband is wearing a crinoline skirt which he made himself.”)

“The Long and Winding Road” is another song from these sessions that has never been a favorite of mine, but it works a lot better here in the almost lounge-y arrangement that the fabs give it rather than with all of the shit that Spector hung on it (some of these rehearsals have the feel of Air’s “Playground Love“). The fabs weren’t treating it as a powerful enough song to require all of Spector’s bells and whistles. Despite repeating many times that he hates Spector’s mix of the song–even going so far as to name its corruption in the lawsuit that dissolved the band (Macca is so fucking awesome!)–Paul plays it in the Spector arrangement to this day in concert.

Mr. Sock in center

As the day comes to an end, the fabs and their producers pile into the control room for playbacks of the material they just recorded. Georges Martin and Harrison and Paul discuss the arrangement of “The Long and Winding Road” while Heather proposes marriage to Glyn whom she calls Mr. Sock while asking him to pull off her socks. She then kills him and then brings him back to life (“I see you’ve been dead and I’m the queen…”). There is still some question as to how to handle playing “The Long and Winding Road” live without overdubs. George Martin asks if he should book The Mike Sammes Singers, a white bread vocal group upon whose services the fabs occasionally call when they need some extra voices. That’s them singing “stick it up your jumper” and “everybody’s got one” at the end of “I Am The Walrus,” they’re also on “Good Night” and all over Paul’s Thrillington album. They never appear during these sessions but someone calls them in for postproduction. Paul abruptly announces that he and Linda are going home to put Heather “back in [her] box.” Heather will not be returning the next day because she has school. With the day’s work behind him, George Martin decides to have a drink–there is plenty of booze around.

billy at apple

The last bit of the tape features Harrison having a conversation with the seldom miked Billy Preston. They seem to be discussing plans to record a Billy album. He was signed to Apple a few days earlier. George tries to think of who is free to record some songs with Billy. He suggests Ringo (if he can squeeze it in with his work on Magic Christian) and Paul. Lennon isn’t mentioned. The very last thing on the day’s tape is Harrison explaining to Preston that he has to “go into hospital” after the Get Back sessions for some dental surgery. “You see I’ve got a tooth–and it’s a bad one…and they have to cut through the gum and scrape out all this shit and it’s very bloody…” and there the tape ends.

paul yoko george

That’s the end of the Get Back sessions posts for now. Maybe I’ll do more someday. I also plan on doing a post or two on Paul’s 1980 arrest in Japan and maybe some other fab-related things.

stroszek

Bruno S wearing scarf and cowboy hat.