Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Question for the Multitudes:
The Lost Keaton Feature (resolved)

I'm beginning to realize that it's a lot easier for me to write on this blog when something crops up unbidden and unexpected, that strikes within me a primal chord, thus driving me up the proverbial wall and back again. Only then, when larger events conspire to irritate the bejesus out of me, does the act of annealing my furies and casting them into words hereabouts seem at all tenable.

Just such a moment arrived today . . . actually in the wee small hours of this morning, while the whole wide world (except me) was fast asleep . . . but before I give full license to my spleen, I should perhaps make an inquiry that bears somewhat upon the matter at hand:

Was anyone reading these words aware that a "a radically different version" of a Buster Keaton feature from the early 20s had been unearthed within the last nine months?

I know this all seems terribly cryptic at the moment but, believe me, it's better for the fortunes of what I was intending to post today that I first get a read on how bloody typical this matter really is.

Update (11/23): It now seems that no detonation from this quarter will be necessary. It had been my suspicion that a rediscovered 46-minute work-print of Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality (which was screened in Muskegon, Michigan on October 3 and has not been heard of since) was falling prey to a very old and depraved and all-too typical impulse. Namely that this once-lost alternate version was, for all intent, about to get itself lost again. I learn now that an intended press release has been held up these last two months due to illness.

There's more detail (not a lot more, but more) in the comment section of this post, but it's of little consequence. I certainly can't prove anything, so I'll table this . . . for now . . . and eagerly await the next stage of this film's public unveiling.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some Remarks On . . .
The David Lynch Liquidation Sale

Watching David Lynch stuff a pair of women's panties into his mouth got me to thinking.

Okay, maybe I should back up for a second.

Yesterday, someone forwarded to me via email a demented YouTube video from about five years ago wherein the aforementioned auteur consumes the aforementioned article of ladies lingerie. God knows I would not have sought it out voluntarily. But it was sent to me with the query, "Is David Lynch a good director?" . . . as if the measure of Lynch as a film artist could ever be drawn from another instance of his growing penchant for half-witted exhibitionism . . . and since I'm such a sucker for the role of Sage Cinephile, I figured I'd at least take a gander at the thing and see what it was that inspired the question before launching into performance mode.

Now, before anyone asks why I was posed such a seemingly elementary question, I should probably point out here that no one I know outside the confines of the internet has a fleeting interest in cinema beyond its diversionary function. It means nothing, less than nothing, to anyone I'm even casually acquainted with; and speaking about it with so much as a particle of enthusiasm . . . as I sometimes do when I'm unable to govern the impulse properly . . . gets you either amused chuckles or uncomprehending stares (take your pick). For all the social good it does, you might as well tell people you've been moonlighting as a part-time carnival geek.

At any rate, I suspect (actually, I know) that the individual who bid me to disclose myself on the subject of David Lynch yesterday was just looking for some cheap amusement on an otherwise slow Friday. Fine by me, captain. So before winding myself up I watched the video I was so graciously sent.

It's not a new production. In fact, I understand that what I saw is someone else's remix (always a bad thing) of a piece that debuted on the Premium section of Lynch's website. Watching it, all I could think was that David Lynch is a filmmaker of true and immense gift who puts an awful lot of effort into acting strange; far more than the task would require if it ever came to him naturally.

From what I can piece together through the remix madness (no, I'm not linking to it here; go run a Google search and it'll come back a hundred-fold), it goes like this: He's sitting in front of a red velvet curtain left over from Twin Peaks, looking for all the world as though he just woke up after eight hours slumber on a park bench, togged out in that trademark black suitjacket and white shirt buttoned up to the adam's apple (an exceptionally hip clothing selection . . . for 1985). There's a girl sitting next to him who I think is supposed to be a fan (probably an actress or somebody who works in his office). He announces that the little lady is going to remove her panties, hand them off to him; whereupon, with nothing up his sleeves, he will stuff them into his mouth. Swell. She gets to her feet, removes her garment (off camera; which is not the only clue that she wasn't actually wearing them), he exclaims with what was once called boyish enthusiasm that they're still warm!! (hubba hubba), stuffs them into his yap, chews them audibly ("num . . num . . num"), and . . .

You know, there's really something wrong with this guy. David Lynch, I mean. A few years back, when he put out a series of ringtones (ringtones?!?!) on that website of his . . . the one where he sells hats and t-shirts and mugs like some paranoid major market disc-jockey who thinks it's all going to vanish into thin air tomorrow, so why not cash in now (what kind of waterhead, I ask you, spends ten bucks on a Dumbland coffee mug?) . . . I remember being somewhat unconvinced that this is the sort of thing a filmmaker of his caliber ought to be spending his time on. After all, it's not as if our cinemas are about to be crushed under the weight of all this great filmmaking we've been getting lately. We could use a little bit more, at least. I know that if I were advising Lynch I'd say, "Look, maybe you should forget about moving the merchandise for a while and . . . I dunno . . . make movies or something; since you seem to do that tolerably well. Granted it may not be as creatively fulfilling as taking twenties off your audience for hats with ERASERHEAD embroidered across the front, but I'm sure it has its rewards."

I won't even go into the TM pimping or dragging a cow hither and yon to promote Inland Empire, or the rest of that arrant foolishness he engages in routinely now, except to say that it's all in keeping with something like that video I bore witness to yesterday. In another forum where I was discussing this crackbrained stunt, someone who will almost certainly wish to go unidentified here wrote the following:

Watching the bonus material on the Inland Empire DVD I was
struck how Lynch's gimmicky celebrity weirdness, his marketed schtick,
might look contrived but he gives off the aura of someone who,
underneath all that, really is odd and maybe not all that likeable.
It's like the Lynchian strangeness we've come to know and love all
these decades is cover for some Lynchian strangeness we might not like
as much.

Maybe. Of course a comprehensive examination of that would require closer analysis of Lynch than cinephilic discourse could ever bear; and anyway, who in hell wants the thankless task of rooting around the interior of that skull? Personally I think this is simply the way David Lynch has chosen to market himself; literally going into a kind of creative liquidation as he enters the autumn (if not the twilight) of his years. I just wish he did it with a little more dignity. Jesus. I mean, if Carl Dreyer were still with us, you think he'd be spending his days working on a line of Ordet screensavers?

Yeah. I don't either.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Personal Indulgence:
Hands Across Iraq (2008)

Hands Across Iraq
(Tom Sutpen; 2008)

This is a mere trifle I cooked up in March of this year to commemorate the fifth anniversary of US agression in Iraq. I post it here because . . . well, why not? When I put it together I posted it on the other blog I'm connected with; might as well get it out of the way on this one as well.

It is what it is.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Film Audio: Loving Leni

In this adventure in Q&A conducted at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage in May of 2007, unrepentant Dietrich biographer and former United Artists Production chief . . . before he unleashed all vengeance in his book Final Cut . . . Steven Bach discusses the life, times and cinema of Leni Riefenstahl; the only woman on earth to give Dr. Goebbels a hard time (read that however you wish) and live to tell the tale. The discussion is moderated by Gabriel Sanders, former associate editor of the Jewish Daily Forward.

Note: An interval -- during which the diving sequence of Riefenstahl's Olympia 2. Teil: Fest der Schönheit is unfurled in all its breathtaking majesty before the assembed audience -- has been edited from this recording (I mean, I love Herbert Windt's score; but without the images, it's music that's really only good if you're getting psyched up to conquer Poland).

Update: Yes, I'm aware that this is perhaps an unconscionably cheap way of generating content for this blog, but given my chronic inability to construct a sentence that is of even remote interest to anyone (myself included . . . I might even say myself principally), it was either this or something in a similar vein. You have my apologies on that score . . . and no other.