Broadcasters #9

'Whispering' Bob Harris

Dickens Art #4

The Family Dignity is Affronted
(from Bleak House)
(Phiz; 1852)

Movie of the Week #13

Meetin' WA
(Jean-Luc Godard; 1986)

One of the least remarked upon attributes of Jean-Luc Godard is how thoroughly he mastered the medium of video production. For him Video was not a mere substitute for film, but something separate and distinct, an aesthetic platform all its own to which he brought a heretofore unrevealed dimension in his art; one that subtly informed the work he would later do once he returned to Cinema.

It is, however, somewhat understandable that this pocket of his career should be so little known, given that his extended video works of the 1970s . . . Six fois deux, for example, or the remarkable France/Tour/Detour/Deux/Enfants . . . continue to languish in the limited access obscurity into which they landed with a thud virtually from the hour of their creation. There are those in the fundamentally class-based universe of cinephilia who would not have it any other way, however. I mean, don't let's kid ourselves here. There is, and always has been, a vast amount of social comfort to be derived for Us (the cinephile class) if They (the vulgar herd) have no access to the works we get to see in the cinephile dungeons of large urban centers (after all, if we can't use film to construct a bizarro-world recreation of High School where we are no longer the geeks we once were then, I ask you, what is the point?).

So Jean-Luc Godard's video creations remain militantly inaccessible to all but the small number who've been fortunate enough to see them. And more than any of these works, 1986's Meetin' WA stands as testament to the extraordinary facility he developed with this sub-medium; a faciility harder-achieved in the 70s, when video production was a far more dolorous and taxing enterprise than it is today.

At once sublime and witty, the 26 minutes of Meetin' WA consist of an interview Jean-Luc Godard conducted in 1986 with Woody Allen, the director of What's Up, Tigerlily and Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (and soon to be featured in the final moments of Godard's abortive Cannon Pictures' King Lear). The chat itself is amiable enough; certainly avoiding any conceivable adversarial notes; but this, along with the New York setting (giving Allen the home field advantage as it were) does nothing to prevent a visible anxiety from growing on the part of the filmmaker as the interview goes on.

It's as if it dawned on Allen, right in the middle of everything, that this tape could be . . . used . . . in some way he would not be able to control, that he was talking to a man who long ago demonstrated that he would never be bound to a standard not his own. Gradually, almost anticipating this development, Godard's camera moves in closer and closer, Allen's eyes dart back and forth between Godard and his translator (no less than film scholar and author Annette Insdorf) while questions are asked, the expression on his face bordering at times on open worry; like he's waiting, with only marginal patience, for some sign of what it is he's gotten himself into to manifest itself. It is, perhaps, the only occasion where Woody Allen seems as neurotic as the persona he wrote for himself was always said to be.

The Music is by Count Basie & His Orchestra; from their amazing 1961 Roulette LP The Legend (from the Pen of Benny Carter)

The Art of American Fantasy #2

The Cool Hall of Fame #50

Fred Allen

When Legends Gather #167
Great Moments in Marketing #8

Frederic March and Claudette Colbert hawk Coca-Cola

The Life of John Held, Jr. #2

(April 28, 1927)

Seminal Image #517

Interview With the Assassin
(Neil Burger; 2002)

Broadcasters #8

Eddie Driscoll

I don't expect many readers to know who Eddie Driscoll is; unless you grew up in Northern Maine or the Maritimes in the pre-satellite, pre-digital cable days, you'd have little knowledge of the Bangor-based TV personality who was the public face of NBC affiliate WLBZ, voicing ads and IDs, and, more importantly, hosting the various movie shows, from weekend mornings' Coffee Cup Theatre (in full housewife drag) to the daily Great Money Movie (a kind of cinematic Dialing for Dollars) and the late night horror film fest Weird, and it's revival called, what else, Weird II.

Some of my earliest exposure to the fringes of film came via Driscoll's programs, whether it was an endless parade of Doug McClure films, or the Sandy Frank redub of Gamera the Invincible, or perhaps any number of Elvis Presley pictures. How many times can one person watch It Happened At The World's Fair? You'd be surprised.

Driscoll passed away this week in a Portland nursing home after a lengthy illness, another childhood landmark gone by the wayside. As you might expect, as a broadcaster hosting horror films in Bangor, his biggest influence was on a young Stephen King, who once told Driscoll that he warped his childhood. Glad to know I'm in good company on that score.

(There's a video clip on the page in the link directly under the photo, for a better idea of Driscoll's exuberant TV persona.)

Movie of the Week #12

(The Idea)
(Berthold Bartosch; 1930-1932)

You might not think it true, but film adaptations of so-called Graphic Novels . . . which some may avow is just a modish, jumped-up substitute for the term Comic Book . . . are not without precedent. Beginning in 1930, to cite the most extraordinary case, the animator Berthold Bartosch spent the better part of two years directly adapting L'Idée, a 1920 volume by Belgian graphic artist Frans Masereel, into one of the most poignant expressions in all animated film. It is our offering today.

Not the first film to be drawn from one of his 'novels in woodcut' (Walter Ruttmann had taken much of the visual inspiration of his film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt from Masereel's 1925 book, Die Stadt), Masereel had been connected with the project in the beginning, but soon withdrew, reportedly after getting a taste of how painstaking and protracted the creation was going to be. As an artist committed to the spirit, if not exactly the forms of Anarchist social belief, Masereel (I'm guessing) felt he had not the time to stand around and watch Bartosch fuss with layer after layer of transparent paper and glass plates and common soap and cardboard; forging the more than 40,000 separate, exquisite images that breathed abundant life and lyric into Masereel's already remarkable series of woodcuts. He no doubt wanted immediate action (or its closest equivalent), but Bartosch was more intent on pouring into the work everything he had . . . from his formal training as an architect to his apprenticeship in film under Lotte Reiniger in the 1920s . . . as if he somehow knew in advance that it would be the only film bearing his name that would survive him.

Which, sadly, is exactly what it is.

Ben Shahn's American Life #2

The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (1932)

Robber Barons #5

Charles Tyson Yerkes

When Legends Gather #165

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Emile de Antonio

Seminal Image #514

(Alan J. Pakula; 1971)

They Were Collaborators #205

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Ricky Nelson and Lorrie Collins

The Art of the Centerfold #28

Dianne Danford
(Miss November, 1961)

When Legends Gather #164

Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King and Dorothy Day

Seminal Image #513

Wholly Communion
(Peter Whitehead; 1965)

Tricky: Scenes from a Life #28

Tricky is mistaken for someone else (1972)

They Were Collaborators #204

Groucho, Chico and Zeppo Marx

Collect 'Em All #11

Michael Bentine
(#33 of 48 in Merrysweets' Telegum TV Stars series)
"Son of a Peruvian research scientist, he was educated at Eton and destined to follow his father's profession, but decided to take up show business as his career. Was 6 years with B.B.C during which he created 'The Bumblies' for children and took part in the Goon Show. Appeared on I.T.V. in 'Yes, it's the Cathode Ray Tube.'"

Seminal Image #512

Wings of Desire
(Wim Wenders, 1987)
Nick tells us about the girl.

Musical Indulgence #2

Where the Wild Roses Grow
(Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with Kylie Minogue; 1996)

Today is the birthday of Nick Cave, so I thought in keeping with the house style at 'If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger...' I'd make a few posts in tribute to an artist who has embraced several musical styles, put out some of the most interesting albums of the past twenty years, starred in several films, composed soundtracks for films and published several books including one novel.

From the 1996 Murder Ballads album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, this is a rare appearance insofar as a) it wasn't already uploaded to YouTube and b) this single was released at the height of the Brit Pop phenomenon, hence you will see Hale and Pace the two 'Comedians' that introduce them wearing Oasis T-shirts. It's hard to imagine in some ways a more out of place duet at this time in our recent musical history yet Nick Cave is an engaging artist always exploring, developing and essential. I'm sure this was seen by some as some sort of attention grabbing publicity stunt by some (see below excerpt from one of our red-tops at the time 'reviewing' a live appearance) but for me it just seems to fit into the whole Cave master plan and part of a great tradition of pop duets alongside greats like Nancy and Lee.

The clip is from the now defunct BBC pop music TV show, Top of the Pops.

Kylie in Sleazy Shocker
exclusive by Lee Harpin

Sugary pop princess Kylie Minogue stunned fans at a London
gig when she launched into a raunchy X-rated stage romp with
rocker Nick Cave.

Kylie strutted on to the stage in a sexy see-through dress and
the pair groped each other throughout the red hot routine.

The pint sized sex-bomb, who scored a smash with fellow Aussie
singer Cave when they teamed up on hit single Where Roses Don't
Grow, [sic] banned photographers from snapping her during the act.

She insisted that only the photos she had personally approved would
be released.

One startled member of the audience says: "I turned up to see Nick
Cave and couldn't believe my luck when Kylie walked on stage.

"She's come a long way since her clean-cut days as a soap star.
Now she really knows how to turn a crowd on."

Kylie who's been dating video producer and celebrity photographer
Stephane Sednaoui since late last year, has recently been working on
building her acting career.

Source: Daily Star, 'Rave' column edited by Linda Duff, Monday August 19th, 1996, p11.

They Were Collaborators #203

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The Birthday Party

Self Portrait #1

(original hosted image deleted by scoundrels at Photobucket)

26-09-06 - update - He's back!

They Were Collaborators #202

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Nick Cave and Polly Jean Harvey

Before and After #41:
Nick Cave

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They Were Collaborators #201

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The Boys Next Door

Artists in Action #103

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Nick Cave pleads