Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 11

Femmes Fatales

Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy, 1950, directed by Joseph H. Lewis

Still my favorite scene in the film.

Too bad no one other than Lewis appreciated Peggy's talents enough to cast in a decent role.

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 10

Femmes Fatales

Who is the more demented in Nick Ray's Johnny Guitar: Joan Crawford or Mercedes McCambridge?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Manituana by Wu Ming (Verso)

History is made by the vanquishers, while the vanquished are left to struggle for their stories to be told. Manituana by the Wu Ming collective concerns Native Americans, specifically the Six Nations of the Iroquois before and during the American war of independence. Celebrating their tragic role during that period, Manituana depicts a people thrown into a cauldron of violence of a kind that might make Cormac McCarthy gasp. Concerning real personages, their story and struggle, it also says a lot about the roots of American colonialism. Wu Ming relates the Iroqois' belief that they were better off serving the King than the colonists- better one King two thousand miles away than 2000 kings a mile away- so certain were they that the latter would steal their land. But this is no heroic tale in reverse. Manituana contains no real heroes, but a situation in which everyone is compromised, and ultimately broken. This is an extraordinary novel, well-researched and heartbreaking, that has clear parallels with the war in Iraq, and the pitting of "good" Muslims against "bad" Muslims, just as Native Americans were used during the revolutionary period, only for the colonists to exploit and devastate both groups. Told in short chapters, it covers a lot of ground, but spans a mere ten years. As the hardest working collective in literature, Wu Ming, have produced a book that, for me, is better, if not more interesting, than Q, and, though not humorous, every bit, if not more, important than their lasting outing, 54. Though Manituana reads seamlessly, it does suffer somewhat from it being written collectively. Despite its intensity, good intentions and historical accuracy, its Brechtian picaresquesness means that it is difficult for the reader to identify with particular characters. But that's a minor criticism, because this book that isn't be missed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 9

Femmes Fatales

The toughest of them all:

Ann Savage in Detour, directed by Edgar Ulmer in 1945
Jean Gillie in Decoy, directed by Jack Bernhard in 1946

With a short documentary on Decoy

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 8

Femmes Fatales

Barbara Stanwyck was more versatile than she is often given credit for. Of course, there's Double Indemnity, and an assortment of noir outings, but I also like her pre-production code work. Not as vulnerable a presence as Gloria Grahame, but there is always the impression that below her tough exterior lurks someone more fragile, whose circumstances have coerced her to adopt one of her many masks.

Night Nurse, directed by William Wellman in 1931
Forbidden, directed by Frank Capra in 1932
Ladies of Leisure, directed by Frank Capra in 1930
Baby Face (trailer), directed by Alfred E. Green in 1933
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (with Liz Scott), directed by Lewis Milestone in 1946
Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder in 1944

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 7

Femmes Fatales

There's no better place to start than with Gloria Grahame. It's hard to pick examples of her best work, so I've stuck with the obvious.

Odds Against Tomorrow, directed by Robert Wise in 1959
In a Lonley Place, directed by Nick Ray in 1950
The Big Heat, directed by Fritz Lang in 1953

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 6

For those, like me, who missed last week's film festival in Lyon, here are clips from some of the rarely seen films that Eddie Muller and Philippe Garnier presented there. As often the case with clips like these, the picture quality is often less than desired.

The Prowler, directed by Joseph Losey, 1951

Woman on the Run, direcgted by Norman Foster, 1950

711 Ocean Drive, directed by Joe M. Newman, 1950

The Sniper, directed by Edward Dmytryk, 1952

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 5

If you haven't seen Thom Andersen's superb LA Plays Itself, you should make an effort to do so. At times it comes close to being the cinematic equivalent of Mike Davis's City of Quartz. Here are a couple of interesting scenes from the film that center on LA architecture in Hollywood movies.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today, October 20th, might be Jelly Roll Morton's 120th birthday.

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 4

Elisha Cook, Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, etc. in Kubrick's 1956 The Killing, with a script by Jim Thompson.

Another great character actor:

Timothy Carey, who also appeared in The Killing, from his 1962 World's Greatest Sinner (music by Frank Zappa):

Coming next: Femmes Fatales

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 3

Thieves Highway, or Thieves Market, is one of Bezzerides' finest novels. Here is the trailer for the film, directed by Dassin in 1949 with a script by Bezzerides.

Next: Elisha Cook Jr., the greatest and most recognizable of all film noir character actors. This is the weird and famous jazz band scene from Siodmak's 1944 Phantom Lady, adapted from Cornell Woolrich's novel.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 2

More Bezzerides

On Dangerous Ground, directed by Nick Ray, starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino.

Today's short: Harry Smith's Early Abstrations (11), with a soundtrack by Thelonious Monk

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lee Horsley's The Noir Thriller (Palgrave, Macmillan) should be perused by all readers of noir fiction. It starts at the very beginning of the genre and manages to bring it all up to date with discussion of the likes of Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, Jason Starr, Charlie Stella, Jess Walters, etc.. Moreover, it does so in a stylish fashion. Particularly impressive are his delineations and ability to historicise into large but comprehensible categories. His chapter headings alone are indicative of this: Fatal Men; Fatal Women; Strangers and Outcasts; Players, Voyeurs and Consumers; Pasts and Futures, etc. Concentrating on the poetics and politics of noir fiction, The Noir Thriller might be a bit academic for some, but no one is going to go away from this book empty handed. There are very few omissions that I could find, as well as a handful of writers I've yet to read. So far one of the best books on the subject. Highly recommended.
Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival

Day 1

The first in a series of films written by AI "Buzz" Bezzerides

Kiss Me Deadly

Plus a short feature
Stan Brakhage's The Dead

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter is about to be published with an introduction by George Pelecanos. See my September 8th, 2008 comments regarding this American classic.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I-Pod Shuffle

The last ten tracks of the day:

1 Dock Boggs, Danville Girl

2 Moon Mulligan, Give Me My Dime Back

3 Billie Holliday and Lester Young, The Man I Love

4 Lightnin' Hopkins, Don't Think Because You're Pretty

5 Lennie Tristano, Line Up

6 Little Walter, Mercy Baby

7 Bob Dylan, Cry a While

8 Rainer Ptacek, Time Slips Away

9 Mose Allison, That's All Right

10 Serge Chaloff, I've Got the World On a String

Also, anyone care to offer their opinion on a piece of music that best personifies noir. My vote goes to Frank Honeyboy Patt's Bloodstains on the Wall: "Sheets and pillows torn to pieces, bloodstains all over the wall/I know when I went out this morning, I didn't leave the phone out in the hall." Then, "Better come clean baby, I soon will find out/the detectives will be hanging around my door, they want to know what it's all about/Tell me baby what's those bloodstains on the wall/I know there weren't any there this morning/Didn't leave the phone out in the hall..." Though those latter lyrics come from Lazy Lester's version, slightly more comprehensible than Honeyboy's (who, I think, sings "I wasn't injured this morning" rather than "when I went out this morning"), though not nearly so intense.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 17

The final day.

Lap guitarists

Jerry Douglas
Harry Manx and Greg Leisz
David Lindley
Kelly Joe Phelps

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 16

My favorite contemporary Manouche guitarists

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 15

More piano players, but from out a slightly different genre(s).

Hoagy Carmichael, Gene Austin, Moon Mulligan, Ivory Joe Hunter

Monday, October 05, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 14

New Orleans Piano Players

Nobody plays piano like these guys do.

Eddie Bo
Tuts Washington
James Booker
Professor Longhair
Allen Toussaint

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 13


Lonnie Johnson
Mance Lipsomb
Skip James
Mississippi John Hurt

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 12

Little Walter, with Hound Dog Taylor, then with Koko Taylor

Coming soon: The Heartbreak & Vine Film Festival.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 11

Time to bring things up to date.

Two contemporary guys. Or close to it.

Guy Clark with a gothic tale and the late Rainer Ptacek putting a little reality on the box.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Heartbreak & Vine Music Festival

Day 10

Blues from the Delta: Fred McDowell and Bukka White.

I was privileged enough to know both of these great newsmen.