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Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Best 11 Minutes Of The Weekend

Tim Lucas has posted a fascinating eleven minute video of him and Donna opening the first ever copies of his Mario Bava book over at his Bava book blog. For people, like myself, who have been eagerly anticipating this book for years this footage is incredible and really very moving to see.
As I was watching this, I was struck by how rare it is to glimpse an artist seeing their work in its final form for the first time. What a privilege the Lucas' have given us.
The book looks astonishing and I can't wait to be holding my actual copy myself. A great big congratulations to Tim and Donna and thank you for a peak into a moment that typically wouldn't be captured.

There is a direct link over to the video at Tim's Video Watchblog which is linked over to the right.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Odds and Ends #3 (For Your Love Only)

I am having to dispense with my look at the critical reactions to Nastassja's third film simply because I can't find enough to constitute a post for it. As a German tv film there is very little vintage English language information available on it that I have been able to locate. I found a few current paragraph long reviews on line but nothing that really caught my eye enough to re post. I think it is safe to say that FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY is among the most inconsequential films of Nastassja's early career although it did get her noticed and spread her fame in Germany. It is also safe to say that the film does have a certain following in Germany for people who saw it when they were younger and I hope my rather harsh comments concerning it haven't caused any offence to anyone reading this. It works as a TV film from the seventies and it doesn't strive to be anything else, although its current 7.4 rating at IMDB suggests it does for the 227 people who have voted on it.
Outside of some original German promotional material for it in 1977 and some posters for its 1983 brief theatrical release, I haven't been able to find any memorable for FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY.
The film has a major fan at this address:
Here you can find a large number of screen captures from the film featuring many striking shots of Nastassja throughout the film.
The film has never been released on DVD in the United States and the VHS for FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY has been out of print for years, although used copies occasionally pop up on Ebay and Amazon.

Up next I will be looking at Nastassja's forth film, the coming of age feature PASSION FLOWER HOTEL (BOARDING SCHOOL). Material for this film is much easier to find so expect some longer posts than the ones I managed to deliver for FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY.

Thinking Blogger Awards (My Choices)

It is with great irony that it is in my post on the 'Thinking Blogger Award' that I have to admit that I can't figure out how to post a direct link within my text. Sometimes I am incredibly inept at doing the simplest of things so the blogs that I am awarding this honor to are linked to the right under the movie Blogs section. Also linked is the original site that started the award. My apologies for my inability to do something which I should have figured out probably around the second day of starting this blog.
Anyway, here are the original rules for the award:

1. If, and only if your blog is one that is tagged on my list below, you must write a post with links to five other blogs you like that consistently make you think (hence, the Thinking Blogger’s Award).

2. Link to this post so people will know whose good idea all this was. (see above)

3. Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” logo with a link to the post you wrote.

So it seems that I have already broke rule #1, possibly rule #2 and who knows maybe even rule #3. I have also decided to vote on the blog which gave me the honor in the first place which perhaps spoils the whole point of it, but I decided I couldn't make a list of five blogs that make me think without including Cinebeats.
So, without further ado. Here are my choices for the 'Thinking Blogger Awards' which are all again directly linked over to the right.
I am listing these in alphabetical order, as they are all favorites that I wouldn't wish to assign a rank to them.

1. CINEBEATS: Kimberly Lindberg's great blog is one that I look forward to visiting every day. She is incredibly knowledgeable on a vast and diverse field of film and music and has a wonderful writing style that is enjoyable and intelligent without ever being condescending or overly academic. Kimberly has the rare ability to continually write on subjects that are simultaneously of major interest to seasoned cult film fans and also to people who haven't been exposed to less mainstream and more outre works. Her writing and topics work as an ideal introduction for some and a continuation for others. CINEBEATS is one of the best places on the Internet...period.

2. THE BLEEDING TREE: The thing I like so much about filmmaker Neil Sarver's The Bleeding Tree is that no matter how short some of his posts might be they all contain a certain thought or idea that engages me. I always find his blog a most interesting place to stop by and another that has the willingness to deal with a vast array of topics in always a fresh way. He has a great writing style, lots of interesting ideas and runs a top notch blog. It is always a pleasure to stop by and see what is on his mind any particular day.

3. MR. PEEL'S SARDINE LIQUEUR: The first time I clicked on this fabulous blog, the newest post was on John Cassavetes always ignored BIG TROUBLE. I was impressed that someone would take the time to give such an in detail look at a film no one ever bothers mentioning and that continues to be one of Mr. Peel's biggest strengths. Whether it is looking at the obscure James Caan feature FREEBIE AND THE BEAN to a long piece on ISHTAR, Mr Peel always delivers the most unexpected, well thought out and fascinating posts. I also admire how he isn't afraid to also look at more mainstream productions like OCEAN'S 13 and the DIE HARD films, something I also try to do here. Plus he got to meet Barbara Bouchet which automatically makes him great in my book.

4. TOMB IT MAY CONCERN: David Zuzelo's incredible blog is currently doing an impassioned and definitive series of posts on THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE (THEY CALL HER ONE EYE) that has me clicking on his link every day. Add on to that posts ranging from everyone from Jess Franco to Bruno Mattei and you have one of the most informative and solid blogs around. There is always great stuff to be found here and David has a very nice informative writing style that is always a pleasure to read...and like me, he loves him some Christina Lindberg.

5. VIDEO WATCHBLOG: Tim Lucas has been one of this blogs biggest supporters and his blog was the one that initially inspired me to open this one. Like his magazine, Video Watchdog, his blog is a place to visit if you want your cultural landscape opened up. From short information pieces highlighting interesting releases, to personal observations on a variety of topics, to very lengthy looks at all possible styles of films and music, VIDEO WATCHBLOG is one of the Internets best stops. Tim's style, topics and observations are always spot on and VIDEO WATCHBLOG is a perfect companion to the most essential film magazine on the planet. I can't get through the day without clinking on his link.

It was very difficult to narrow these down to five as I have quite a few other blogs that I look forward to visiting everyday. Some of those are linked to the right and are all recommended, these five though provide me with daily inspiration and I am glad to honor them in this very small way. My apologies again for not putting the links directly in the post and for any other rules I might have broken. Six months in and I am still a relative novice at the whole blogging phenomenon. Thanks for your patience with me and now go visit those five great blogs.

The Great Ones Vol.2 (Side A Track Two) Vanessa Paradis

It is a tough job being an American Vanessa Paradis fan. For starters she is known by the majority of people in this country just as Johnny Depp's significant other, and then of course the fact that nearly all of her recorded and cinematic works still remain unreleased in the United States. It is especially hard to be a fan who lives just about an hour away from where Johnny Depp was born as inevitably I am always meeting up with people who have seen or run into Depp and my question is always, "Was Vanessa with him" which always gets me a completely clueless and mystified expression.
I first discovered Vanessa in the early 90s when she released her self titled English language album, one of her only works that briefly made a few waves here in the States. The Lenny Kravitz produced and written album is still a favorite of mine, with it's delightfully retro, nodding nature and striking cover shot of Vanessa looking like she had transported from a dream of what the sixties were supposed to have been. I became so taken with this very warm and extremely talented performer that I spent much of the nineties attempting to track down all of her works, a feat not easily achieved in Southern Kentucky.
Vanessa was born about six months before I was and even though we come from totally different worlds, I have always felt a kinship to her. There is something about the shared cultural radar of people born between 69 and always reminds me of a line from Arthur Penn's NIGHT MOVES where Gene Hackman says, "I bet we saw some of the same movies." Indeed I did grow up with many of the same films and music that Vanessa did, so whether she is involved in returning Delon and Belmondo to the screen together or covering an obscure Big Star song live, I am always right there with her.

The early part of Vanessa's career was a whirlwind of her getting discovered on French tv at the age of 8, to releasing a chart topping album and single at 15, to finally closing out the first part of her career working with none other than Serge Gainsbourg. Her early recordings are the typical light pop one would expect from a teenage French star of the eighties. From the beginning though there was something special about Vanessa. Perhaps it was her voice, a sweet and totally charming untrained sounding throwback to singers like France Gall, or maybe it was that gap toothed smile that would warm the coldest of days. Whatever it was, the young Vanessa Paradis became one of the most recognizable French personalities of the late eighties and her career would quickly morph into something much more than just a teen-pop sensation.
Jean-Claude Brisseau's 1989 feature NOCE BLANCHE isn't a perfect film but it is a daring one and it would show Vanessa as being a young actress of considerable talent. Making her film debut as a troubled teenager who seducers her teacher, Vanessa is extraordinary in her first role. Coming across as a world weary and self destructive nymphet, Vanessa would win her first Cesar for NOCE BLANCHE and it signaled her crossover from teen idol to one of the most serious young actresses in France.
Oddly, Vanessa put her film career on hold after NOCE BLANCHE and went back into the recording studio to record the great VARIATIONS SUR LE MEME T'AIME, her first truly grown up collection and a clear sign that she would be around for a long time. The album didn't sell as well as her previous work, which showed that not everyone was ready to accept the new Vanessa Paradis, but it did gather some critical acclaim and led the way to the Lenny Kravitz project.
I am not a huge fan of Lenny Kravitz's work but I love his production and songs he delivered for Vanessa's self titled 1992 album. They were a couple at the time and their chemistry really shines through on the collection. From the unforgettable opening track, NATURAL HIGH, to BE MY BABY, to the surprising Velvet Underground cover, VANESSA PARADIS has aged very well and it sounds a lot fresher than most of the records that were coming out in 1992. It would be a huge hit all throughout Europe but would fail in the United States. I have always suspected that if it would have been released just a few years later it would have proved a sizable hit here, but the retro seventies cool the album projected was just slightly ahead of its time.
Vanessa would then release a live album documenting the exciting tour that supported her self titled platter, and it is a great live album featuring a confident Paradis and a smoking band. She really started to show her diverse musical tastes in this tour and recordings from this period have her covering everything from Big Star's majestic BALLAD OF EL GOODO to a daring take of The Beatles OH DARLIN.

1995 would find Vanessa returning to the big screen in Jean Becker's underrated ELISA. Working opposite Gerard Depardieu, Vanessa turns in another bold and moving performance that compliments NOCE BLANCHE perfectly. Becker's film is a really fine work that has been seen by far too few people in the States. Vanessa was inexplicably ignored at the Cesars for this role but she did get a lot of critical acclaim and the film was a sizable hit in Europe.
1997's UN AMOUR DE SORCIERE would prove to be the first major slip up of Vanessa's career. This silly and disappointing film could have been an extremely successful and delightful one but it wastes every ones considerable talents, including Vanessa, who at least looks lovely in the role.
Vanessa would recover beautifully with her next role in UNE CHANCE SUR DEUX which would team her up with not just one but two of the most legendary and admired legends in French film history. I wouldn't necessarily call Patrice Leconte's action packed UNE CHANCE SUR DEUX a great film but there are very few moments in modern French film that match seeing Alain Delon and Jean Paul Belmondo together again. Vanessa, playing a thief who finds out that her father is either Delon or Belmondo's character, appears to be having the time of her life and I get so much joy out of watching the three of them together that I can overlook that the film, perhaps, isn't as good as the three of them are. UNE CHANCE SUR DEUX is one of the funnest French films of the late nineties and like the majority of Vanessa's work, remains unreleased in the United States.

The year and a half following UNE CHANCE SUR DEUX would prove a peak time for Vanessa with the release of the magical film GIRL ON THE BRIDGE and her masterpiece album, BLISS.
GIRL ON THE BRIDGE (LA FILLE SUR LE PONT) would team Vanessa again with Leconte and it would be her first film to get a pretty wide release here in the States. I got to see this lovely black and white film on the big screen in Louisville in 1999 and I must admit it to being one of my favorite theatrical experiences. Vanessa is breathtakingly good in this Golden Globe nominated film and its unavailability on DVD is unacceptable. Vanessa and the film received many accolades and she was nominated for yet another Cesar, the film was a huge hit throughout Europe and did surprisingly well in its short run through the States.
Vanessa's album BLISS is one of the great albums of the decade and one of the most little heard. Vanessa would add songwriter to her resume with this striking collection and like everything else she has attempted, she thrived at it. From the startling first single COMMANDO, to the slinky funk of LA LA LA SONG to the most effective ballads she has ever sung, BLISS is an impressive collection. The album would briefly top the French charts but would surprisingly not sell as well as expected.
Vanessa would spend much of the next year preparing for Terry Gilliam's ambitious DON QUIXOTE which would have given her the opportunity to work with her awesomely talented Depp, as well as appearing in a hugely high profile English language production. The film famously fell apart though and a striking looking Paradis can be seen in the incredible documentary documenting its collapse, LOST IN LA MANCHA.
ATOMIK CIRCUS is the one major film of Vanessa's that I haven't seen so I won't comment of it or its soundtrack which Vanessa appears on. I have seen 2004's MON ANGE and while it isn't one of her strongest films, she remains one of the most gifted actors on the planet even when she is working with material clearly not as good as she is.
2007 is shaping up to be a big year for Vanessa and her fans. She has just wrapped up filming of Guillaume Nicloux's much anticipated LA CLE and her new album is due out later this year. The album's title track and first single DIVINE IDYLLE is one of her great tracks and is garnering much attention in Europe. This propulsive and catchy title track to her upcoming album is much like Vanessa herself, an undeniably powerful time capsule of the last forty years in a deceptively simple and small package.

Even though Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors and a guy that I consider one of the coolest on the planet, I have to admit that if I ever do run into him on one of his Kentucky visits that my first thought will be, 'is Vanessa here.' For two decades Vanessa Paradis has been one of the most fascinating figures in popular culture to me, the unavailability of her work in America is baffling and more than a little troubling. Hopefully one day that will be rectified, in the meantime her import dvds and cds often pop up on ebay reasonably priced and there are several online importers that also carry her work. I recommend BLISS or her live AU ZENITH album as a perfect introduction to her music and GIRL ON THE BRIDGE as the ideal first look at her as an actress.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises Trailer

Thanks to Tim Lucas for noting that this trailer had been posted online. This looks amazing and I am so excited to see Naomi Watts in a Cronenberg film. Watts is, in my opinion, possibly the finest actress to come out in the past ten years so the idea of seeing her in one of David's films is very exciting.
EASTERN PROMISES is due out in September and also stars the great Vincent Cassell as well as returning Cronenberg star Viggo Mortensen.
I always feel like celebrating upon the arrival of a new Cronenberg picture, so press play and mark your calendars for September.

An Artist and Muse Double Feature #23 and #24

I really like my ongoing 'Artist and Muse' series. It allows me to post some of my favorite behind the scenes photos and highlight some remarkable artistic relationships where both parties are equally and simultaneously 'artist' and 'muse'.
Today I was inspired by Cinebeats birthday tribute to the powerful Isabelle Adjani to offer up my first double bill of this series.

Adjani's performance for Francois Truffaut in THE STORY OF ADELE H. is one of the the greatest I have ever seen. Searing, intense and finally heartbreaking, the 19 year old Adjani delivered arguably the greatest performance anyone ever did for Truffaut which puts her ahead of some very strong competition.
I love reading Truffaut's accounts of the teenage powerhouse on his set, at times he seems nearly frightened by the emotion and dedication that she invested in the role and his close ups of her remarkable face are among my favorites in screen history. Adjani would receive her first Oscar nomination for THE STORY OF ADELE H. and in my view she should have won it.

Adjani's follow up to THE STORY OF ADELE H. was Roman Polanski's masterful THE TENANT. Long one of Polanski's most underrated masterpieces, THE TENANT features Adjani in a relatively small but extremely effective role that would show that she was capable of playing anything delivered to her.

Adjani would unfortunately never work with either Francois or Roman again but these two performances would kick start one of the great careers in modern cinema. Isabelle would soon be working with directors ranging from Werner Herzog to Andrzej Zulawski and can still frankly wipe the floor with most of modern cinema's greatest actors. I'd like to join in and wish her a, day late, happy birthday and I hope that one day she decides to return to the cinema screen again.

Shooting Kinski #3 The Magazine Years (Part 1)

I decided with this installment of 'Shooting Kinski' that I wouldn't focus on a particular cinematographer since I didn't find the work done for Nastassja in FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY to be very satisfying. Instead I thought I would post a bit on a phase of Nastassja's career that pushed her further into the spotlight but is often overlooked.
Around the time of FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY, and as Nastassja's fame in Germany began to increase, she began appearing in many German magazines as a model. There are hundreds upon hundreds of various shots of Nastassja from this period in the late seventies that were taken by various photographers for German film and men's magazines. Some are very provocative, some quite innocent but they are all manage to capture Nastassja at a particular moment before her international career really took off.

Here are a few samples from the period, a google or yahoo search will bring up many more for those interested and various magazines featuring Nastassja often pop up on Ebay.

Nastassja would continue to model in between film projects throughout her career and I will occasionally be posting some shots of her from various publications as the blog goes along.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

3. "Tatort" Reifezeugnis (For Your Love Only) 1977

Before he achieved international fame as the director of such films as DAS BOOT, IN THE LINE OF FIRE and TROY, Wolfgang Peterson worked heavily throughout the seventies in German television productions. One of the most notable shows he worked on was the popular and long running series, TATORT and undoubtedly the most famous episode he ever directed from it was REIFEZEUGNIS.
REIFEZEUGNIS, which I will be referring to in it's international title FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY, is an episode that was highly anticipated by German television viewers when it premiered in 1977. Outside of the fact that the series TATORT was so popular, viewers were especially keen to see what Klaus Kinski's daughter Nastassja could bring to the tragic role of the 16 year old Sina Wolf.

Nastassja's third feature is one of the least successful of her early films, a mostly bland and very predictable television film that eventually did make it to the theaters in 1983, well after Nastassja had become an international star.
Wolfgang Peterson brings little of his later flair to the direction of this rather flat and predictable film that falls into pretty much every tv movie trapping possible. Co-written with Herbert Lichtenfeld, whom had previously written several TATORT episodes, Peterson's script is FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY'S biggest downfall. It is a very tired and meandering story that has been told much better many times before. Focusing on a young teenagers destructive and secret romance with her teacher that leads to a murder and then boring criminal investigation, FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY is really only notable in that it gives Nastassja her first leading role.
Working with popular German actors Klaus Schwarzkopf, Judy Winter and Christian Quadflieg, Nastassja is easily the best part of FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY and manages to inject what could have been a by the numbers role with a real sense of longing, confusion and finally humanity.
One of the biggest problems with FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY is just how uninvolved the filmmakers are with their material. Peterson's flat direction really lets his actors down and it is to all of the leads credit that the film has any life at all.
The directors of photography were mostly just involved in these German television productions and it shows as the look of the film is mostly un-dynamic and as lifeless as Peterson's stilted direction.
I don't mean to be too hard on FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY, as a typical tv film from the seventies it is perfectly acceptable. It is very much a product of its time and medium and it doesn't attempt to break out of either. I should point out also that I have only seen the older 93 minute VHS of this film. IMDB reports that there is a 108 minute version although I frankly can't imagine what that extra 15 minutes could bring to it outside of making it longer and possibly giving Nastassja more screen time. Who knows, perhaps my view of the film would change with a sharper picture and more footage, but I kind of doubt it.
As I said before, Nastassja is the best part of the film. She is totally believable in the role of the young Sina who is having an affair with her married professor and accidentally kills her ex-boyfriend when he finds out about it. The 16 (or 17) year old Kinski is stunningly beautiful here even though the lifeless direction and look of the film don't even attempt to compliment her. Perhaps the most important thing about FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY is that it showed that Kinski could shine no matter if she was working with poor material and uninterested filmmakers. It is unfortunately something that she has had to do at various points throughout her career, specifically in the last ten years.
Highlights of the film, outside of Nastassja's performance, include very sympathetic turns by Winter and Quadflieg as a married couple whose relationship is rapidly deteriorating due to the husband's inability to control himself. Also worth noting is an above average score, for a tv film, by Nils Sustrate and a pretty effective final act that manages to stay within the tv movie genre and yet still slightly seems to elevate it.
Nastassja is especially effective in her final few scenes when a combination of guilt, fear and abandonment causes her to have a near complete breakdown . Her final shot in the film, sitting next to a lake with her clothes soaked after failing to drown herself, is undeniably effective and could have left little doubt to anyone watching that Klaus Kinski's daughter had most definitely inherited his considerable talents.
FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY was a popular film among German tv watchers in the seventies. It would have been the first time that many of them would have seen the young Kinski, and for that reason alone it is a valuable addition to her filmography.
I suspect that for a lot of German people that came of age with this film, FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY probably feels a bit like THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE does for me. Something that you saw when you were young that struck a major chord and introduced you to someone incredibly special. So for some it is probably a case where nostalgia buries the fact that this is little more than an average tv film from the seventies that just happens to star one of the great actors of the period. It is essential for fans of Nastassja but as a film it is of very little consequence

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Until We Meet Again"

Thirty years ago tonight at Indianapolis's Market Square Arena an exhausted, disillusioned and sick Elvis Presley stepped onto a stage for the final time. He would be backed by his James Burton led TCB band, a band often described as one of the greatest live bands ever assembled, and he would perform 21 songs from all parts of his remarkable 23 year career. The reviews of the Indianapolis show were among the best of that emotionally and physically devastating 1977 Summer tour but the reality is that it is like many of the shows from that year, a combination of a tired artist walking through some songs while investing others with explosively spiritual readings that would show the last things to leave Elvis Presley were his voice and heart.
Much has been written about Elvis in that final fateful year of his life. It has always baffled me as to how people can take such glee in cruelly making fun of someone who was in such an obvious state of emotional and physical turmoil, but that is exactly what the last thirty years have brought. Whether it be the ill conceived CBS television special that was aired to pay off Colonel Parker's gambling debts, or the factually and spiritually corrupt Albert Goldman assignation job of a book in 1981 to people who have no conception of how important culturally and devastatingly talented this man was; 1977 and the years since have taken much away from the legacy of Elvis Presley.
The thing that strikes me most about that fateful final year is just how, even at his most vulnerable and damaged, great Elvis Presley remained. For all of the rushed through and lifeless performances that he gave that year, each show would also feature some of the most powerhouse vocals of his career. I'm not an apologist for Elvis in 1977. The man was sick and needed to be in a hospital and not on the stage but there are moments, like when he is singing HURT, HOW GREAT THOU ART, BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER and especially a exorcising UNCHAINED MELODY, that the most powerful aspects of Elvis come out. Also noteworthy is that this was clearly a man who was remembering something special from his past and the spirited performances of TRYING TO GET TO YOU, LITTLE SISTER and an acoustic driven THAT'S ALL RIGHT all point to the fact that Elvis seemed to be finding solace in much of the rock music of his youth. A planned rock and roll studio album was being discussed for late 1977 and with people like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and David Bowie clamoring to write and produce for him, the late seventies could have been a most glorious time of renewal for Presley.
But it wasn't meant to be and as tragic as the final year of Elvis Presely's life was, it is hard to imagine things any other way now. The site of Elvis Presley's final show was a sports arena built for the Indiana Pacers in 1974. Elvis had played there before but in that final show it has been reported that the 18,000 people that saw him thirty years ago tonight was the most the arena could hold.
The show was pretty typical for 1977 with the aforementioned THAT'S ALL RIGHT being the opening song after the 2001 theme played. The beguiling and always powerful CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE closed the set which included readings of songs ranging from YOU GAVE ME A MOUNTAIN to LITTLE SISTER to a surprising, for 77, I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU. The final words Elvis Presley spoke on stage were, "Until we meet again, may God bless you...adios."
The Elvis Presley of 1977 was the same Elvis Presley who had stunned people in his legendary 1968 comeback special, just like he was the same man who had made millions of people happy in his 31 feature films, and the same person who had inspired every major rock artist of the sixties and seventies with his work in the fifties...and finally the Elvis Presley of 1977 was the same little boy who grew up in poverty stricken Mississippi dreaming he could reach something else. The career of Elvis Presley can be split up into parts but it should never be forgotten that this was the same man all the way through and there was still a lot of that young dreamer left in him even at the end. Elvis in 1977 is often described as 'old Elvis' which is a mistake because Elvis Presley never had the chance to grow old, he was just 42 when he died.

Like many landmarks Americans take a weird satisfaction in destroying, Market Square Arena was imploded a few years ago to a crowd of hundreds; a crowd that erupted in a mixture of boos and cheers when the destruction happened. It has always reminded me of a line Lou Reed wrote in 1989, "Americans don't care too much for beauty, they'll shit in a river and dump battery acid in a stream..then complain that they can't swim." There is a strong element in our country that takes a certain sick satisfaction in tearing down our landmarks and idols. Certainly for the last thirty years they have tried to do it to Elvis Presley and yet somehow he remains; like some sort of indestructible reminder that you can't kill a dream that millions of people have ended up sharing.

Elvis Presley was often described, throughout his life, as someone who wanted nothing more than to make the people around him happy, and up to those last moments when he walked off that Indianapolis stage he was still doing just that. His ultimate sacrifice for making people happy was finally his own life, which perhaps says as much about the world we live in as anything else ever could. Ironically, even thirty years after he sang those final notes, Elvis Presley continues to make millions upon millions of people happy...whether you are a fan or not, that is a fact that should be celebrated.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Moments With Jane Birkin

Since my last Monday with Jane was so wordy, I thought I would just let a few choice pictures express everything this week. Here are some lovely shots of Jane, Serge, Lou and Charlotte at home in the Seventies. Plus a bonus shot of Serge and Charlotte in the eighties.
Next Monday will bring a longer piece on Jane but for now enjoy these extraordinary shots.

Thanks To Cinebeats For The Thinking Blogger Award

I got a very nice surprise this morning when halfway through my first cup of coffee I saw that Kimberly Lindbergs at the towering Cinebeats had voted my blog as one of five deserving of the "Thinking Blogger" award. This really means a lot to me and I wanted to post a special thanks to her here. Kimberly is a really wonderful writer and has an awe inspiring knowledge of cinema and music, so I'm especially thrilled to get such a strong vote of confidence from her.
If I am understanding the process, I believe I am now supposed to choose five other blogs now to bestow the same honor on. This will be especially tough as I don't think I can put a vote in for the blog that honored mine. I will try to get my five selections up later this week after I do some serious thinking about it and reviewing the rules. There are so many great, well written and knowledgeable blogs around that it will be hard to narrow it down to just five.
Thanks again to Cinebeats for all of the support and for making the beginning of my week much sweeter. To paraphrase a thank you from one of my favorite films, let me just say that 'I'm going to keep on rockin' and hopefully the blog will keep improving.

Cristina Martinez and Boss Hog at Xholdesert

The xholdesert blog (linked to the right) continues to be one of the best places around to find some of the most fantastic out of print music around. Featuring everyone from Danielle Dax to Opal, this blogger really knows their stuff and is doing a service by featuring so many unjustly out of print acts.
Xholdesert are really topping themselves this week with a series on my much loved Cristina Martinez and Boss Hog. I paid tribute to Cristina back in January and I am glad to see that I am not the only one who remembers this phenomenally talented and underrated artist.
I'm not sure how much Xholdesert will post but as almost all of Cristina's catalogue is out of print (and with no re-issues in sight) these downloads are the best thing going...check them out and then try to track down the actual records. I miss Cristina and wish she would make her return...thanks to xholdesert for paying tribute to her.

oh and in case it comes up, I don't support the illegal downloading of available music but I do support these small sites that keep the out of print catalogues of unjustly neglected artists in circulation. These albums are extremely hard to find so right now this is the best route, use it as an introduction and stepping board to tracking down the actual records and discs, not as a substitution...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Ambitious Failure Blog-A-Thon: Tears In Rain. Thomas Vinterberg's It's All About Love

William at This Savage Art is hosting a most interesting Blog-A-Thon this weekend focusing on ambitious cinematic failures. I am a bit conflicted about the film I have chosen simply because I don't consider it a failure, but considering it is one of the worst reviewed and ridiculed films of the decade it seemed like a pretty good choice. What follows is my tribute to a film that I consider to be among a small handful of truly great films this decade, and a film that I am close to being alone in my love for.
After his much acclaimed film FESTEN (THE CELEBRATION) in 1999, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg spent nearly three years writing the screenplay for what would what would become his 2003 feature, IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE. For the film, Vintenberg would abandon all of the Dogme rules FESTEN had embraced and make IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE as cinematic as possible.

Featuring a cast of American stars with music by frequent Kieslowski collaborator Zbigniew Preisner and cinematography by award winning Anthony Dod Mantle, IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE was a much anticipated film upon its arrival at The Sundance film festival in January 2003. Halfway through the screening though people reportedly began leaving the theater and as the credits came up, the attending Vinterberg and his star Claire Danes were loudly booed by the entire remaining audience. Danes was said to have broke down in tears and IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE became the folly of the festival, a film that everyone seemed to relish hating.
Vinterberg continued to take his film around to different festivals with more of the same happening, although it was awarded three awards for it's striking look at the Robert Festival. The reviews started flooding in and they were universally negative and at times overwhelmingly cruel. A quick look at the film's Rotten Tomatoes score will show a sore of 14 with 24 of 28 reviews being very negative. At Metacritic it has a score of 32 and a brief glancing over the reviews finds words like, 'Awful', 'Incomprehensible', 'Silly' and 'Garbage' popping up. Filmgoers reaction weren't any better and the film quickly vanished from theaters and didn't appear on American dvd until two years after that initial Sundance disaster.
So what is it about this film that affects me so much? Why do I hold it among the best film's of the decade? I'm not sure if I can really answer those questions but I will just give a few thoughts on it and hopefully someone reading might search it out on their own, as I think the worst thing that has happened to this film is that it just hasn't been seen by many.

It was my mother who actually introduced me to the film. A couple of years ago she called me and asked if I had heard of a film called IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE starring Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn. I admitted I hadn't and she said that she was going to watch it that evening on, ironically, Sundance. She called the next day and asked me to watch the film and tell me what I thought. I didn't get Sundance at the time and she had to supply me of a copy of it, in the couple of weeks period before she could get it to me she watched the film a few times through, something my mom doesn't typically do.
My initial reaction to the film was to be struck by its look and how odd it was. I didn't necessarily love or hate it, I was just intrigued by it. I couldn't stop thinking about it though and that night I sat awake in my bed with certain images from it running through my head. I ended up watching it probably three times within that first week and finally decided it was some sort of visionary masterpiece and the most moving science fiction film I had seen since BLADE RUNNER.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE is set in a future where everything, including the human heart, is freezing over. People routinely are falling dead in the street due to loneliness and isolation. It is snowing in mid summer, and once or twice a year everything freezes. There is also a most strange event occurring in Uganda that is causing members of the population to literally float away, at one point in the film a Uganda native speaks directly into the camera and says, "I don't want to fly, we are human beings."
The plot centers on a travelling businessman named John who has been estranged from his famous figure skating wife, Elena. He has been called back home to sign divorce papers as she is preparing her final performance. In the meantime, John's brother Marciello has has taken a pill to get over his fear of flying and he is in a plane throughout the film. Marciello, at times, seems to be talking to John on the plane's phone but mostly he is just recording his thoughts on a recorder. It soon becomes apparent that the plane will not be able to land as the section of world it is flying over has frozen completely. All it can do is fly until it runs out of gas and crashes, something everyone on board seems perfectly content with.
The film becomes more and more complex with several cloned Elena's attempting to take her place and a final snow covered escape section that is among the most moving things I have ever seen in a film.
Vinterberg's work is centered on two characters, played with beautiful fragility by Phoenix and Danes, who once loved each other very much but at some point collapsed into a world of lies, coldness and deception. They both seemed to have chosen the world of their careers and money over each other and their once strong love disintegrated because of it. Vinterberg lets this relationship, and the possible renewal of it stand in as a symbol for the soon to end world around them. We like them, want them to escape but we realize, that at least in Vinterberg's future world, it is much too late.
The film is a joy to look at and listen to. Even the most hateful and despising critics of it seem to acknowledge the work of Mantle's photography and Preisner's score. I would argue that Mantle's work in the final scenes of this film are the best stuff he has ever done and Preisner's heartbreaking score the equal to his work with Kieslowski.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE is filled with so many striking sequences that a mere plot synopsis won't due, it really does just need to be seen. Particularly noteworthy is a strange, and totally compelling, act of sudden violence that occurs while the Elena's are skating; while the eerie final shots of the tied down floating Uganda people is like nothing else even thought of in modern cinema.

Thomas Vintergberg's film is a bold, ambitious and completely honorable film that focuses on the dangers of isolating ourselves too much from each other. The talented writer and director is really wearing his heart on his sleeve with this work and I suspect he knew that he was going to be ridiculed for it. As I sit here alone in my own little world writing this for other people to read probably alone in their own, I am struck by how relevant Vinterberg's message of not forgetting how important human contact is. I am going to shut off the computer after I write this and go out with a friend and enjoy the day amidst other people. Never in history has the possibility of total self contained isolation been so possible, Thomas Vinterberg's bold film suggest what can happen if we give into it completely.

There is a moment towards the very end of this film where Sean Penn's character Marciello, who has clearly been speaking from Vinterberg's point of view himself, says simply that, after finishing a report on the state of the world, he has decided that, "It's all about love and that's the way it should be." Vinterberg isn't just giving his film a title here. He is saying something so obviously true and important, and apparently something that modern day film audiences don't want to accept. Watching these final few moments of the film gives me the same feeling that Rutger Hauer's famous last speech in BLADE RUNNER gave me. It is one of the most effective and moving last few lines of dialogue that I have ever heard...and I will be eternally baffled how anyone could have booed a film so well meaning and extraordinarily rendered.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE is available on Region one dvd in a bare bones presentation featuring artwork that attempts to make it look like an action film. It remains one of the most ambitious and timely films of the decade to me and one of the most visually astonishing films I have ever seen. See it for yourself and make up your own mind about its merits, chances are you will either hate it or be moved completely by it.
I suspect the dvd will soon slip out of print and this film will probably disappear much like the 'tears in rain' that Hauer spoke of at the end of BLADE RUNNER. I honestly believe though that this strange and wondrous film will eventually find its audience. It might be in ten years or maybe twenty and it might be a small audience but I suspect we will be extremely loyal to it. Lost or found, seen or unseen...Thomas Vinterberg's film will remain perhaps frozen in time as a work of art that lets us know that it is, indeed, all about love. I can't imagine a more truthful and important statement for our increasingly cold and shut off is not an idea or film that Vinterberg should ever apologize for.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rare Scans #1 (Nastassja, Klaus and Ruth)

Occasionally I will try to post some scans from my own collection that I haven't seen online. Pardon the poor quality of some of these as many are very old and my scanner at times leaves a lot to be desired.
This first shot is of a young Nastassja, her famed father and mother in the mid to late sixties. It originally appeared in a 1960's German magazine but this particular photograph is from a later 1980's article, as you might notice the smaller shot of Nastassja and her mom in the corner.
I really love this picture and I thought, that even in this poor quality, it was worth posting.

Artist and Muse #22

Congratulations to both Michael Winterbottom and Angelina Jolie for receiving some of the best reviews of their career for the just opened, A MIGHTY HEART.
Winterbottom has become one of my favorite modern directors in the last ten years and I am glad to see one of his films getting so much acclaim.
The once unbelievably kinetic and intense Jolie was, at the beginning of her career, one of my favorite American actresses, but it has been almost a decade since she really seemed to push herself in a role. As much as I have come to admire her as a person, I have really missed the excitement her early work generated. I am happy to see that apparently she has found a role that might remind people, and perhaps herself, of how good she can be.
I plan on seeing the film this weekend and the talented Winterbottom has rarely let me down so I am looking forward to it.

I saw A MIGHTY HEART yesterday and it is one of the best film's Michael Winterbottom has ever made and the best performance Angelina Jolie has given since GIA ten years ago. Highly, highly recommended.

Odds and Ends #2 (To The Devil A Daughter)

Nastassja's second film was very loosely based on writer Dennis Wheatley's 1958 novel TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER. Wheatley reportedly hated the film adaptation which in its final form had very little to do with his book. For an exhaustive and interesting guide to Wheatley's world I would recommend
TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, the novel, is still in print and it makes for a most interesting read.

Unfortunately it seems as though there was never a proper soundtrack for TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER released. One of Paul Glass' musical cues is available on the fine HAMMER FILM MUSIC COLLECTION VOLUME 2. I hope that some more of the film's music appears someday.

TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER received a great deal of promotion upon its release and a large amount of international lobby cards, pressbooks and different poster designs can be found. I am especially fond of the original U.S. one sheet, with its striking shot of Nastassja, and that along with some other designs can be seen below in my review of the film.

There are many books, fanzines and magazines that have been dedicated to Hammer horror and those interested in the film are advised to search these out. is probably a pretty good place to start.

Critical Reactions #2 (To The Devil A Daughter)

Here are a few various samplings of critical reactions to Nastassja's second film.

"A somewhat belated attempt by Hammer to hitch themselves to the EXORCIST/ROSEMARY'S BABY results are rather confused, despite the best efforts of Lee as the demonic Father Michael and a top notch supporting cast...Sykes's direction has a certain flair to it and makes good use of the film's London locations."

"Poorly calculated attempt to cash in on THE EXORCIST...muddled, proving the studio was not up to the groundbreaking standards they set in the sixties."
-Richard Hilliard, Chiller Theater Magazine-

"The audience is treated to bizarre almost psychedelic dream sequences and a gory childbirth scene that imitates some of the most gruelling moments of THE EXORCIST and foreshadows the 'chest burster' from Ridley Scott's ALIEN....The delineation between the forces of light and darkness is always clear and lacks the moral ambiguity suggested by a film like ROSEMARYS BABY. In that sense, more than any other, it feels like a 'classic' Hammer horror film."
-George Watson, Screen Online-

"the film's demonology is still literally written, much better than the usual occult films of the period...17 year old Nastassja Kinski brings her custom earthy Gypsy sensuality...Particularly standout is Christopher Lee who gives a performance of towering, lascivious evil that dominates the whole film."
-Richard Scheib, Moria Review-

"Clammy, unnerving atmosphere...graphically unpleasant....also well made and enjoyable. The performances help a lot...Kinski was only 15 when the film was made and she does extremely well, already radiating the Mittel-European mystique that was used to such good effect in CAT PEOPLE."
-Mike Sutton, DVD Times-

"More, in terms of ambition; less, in terms of achievement...most over directed exploitation movie I have seen in a long time."
-Roger Ebert-

"The film's unlikely trump card is Richard Widmark...who romps through the proceedings with a disarming's a good deal more interesting than the rest of the possession cycle, but still a disappointment."
-Time Out Film Guide-

"Many Hammer films are fairly quaint chamber pieces, this film has a more modern, expansive feel to it...includes one of the earliest roles of future sex kitten Nastassja Kinski...according to Peter Sykes, she was hired merely because the German co-producers insisted on a certain percentage of German talent...stellar cast, impeccable production values and stylish direction, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER comes close to being a very great of Hammer's finest, most underrated films. It certainly is one of their most chilling too, and in this department it blows THE DEVIL RIDES OUT right out of the water."
-Troy Howarth, DVD Maniacs-

"Hammer goes out with a bang. Not a classic, but enjoyable."
-Bob Bloom, Lafayette Journal and Courier-

"Shockingly bad adaptation of the Wheatley novel."
-Ken Hanke, Ashville Mountain Express-

"Famous largely as the last Hammer horror film, but for most of its running time it shapes up as one of their stronger thrillers until a lame conclusion frustratingly knocks it down several notches. But for a while there, it’s a winner, and proof that Hammer could have competed in the world of late-’70s genre filmmaking."
-Matthew Kiernan, Fangoria-

"A bizarre film, which is actually far more of its time than something like DRACULA AD 1972 because of the serious approach it has, To The Devil... A Daughter may be occasionally unwatchable, but it's a fine way for Hammer to bow out. It's just a shame they did, as for a last film, it promises much for the future...undoubtedly a classic."
-British Horror

"When I see the film, I'll probably cover my eyes."
-Nastassja Kinski around the time of TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER'S RELEASE-

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Mellowing Of My Most Extreme Tastes

The legendary Throbbing Gristle have a new studio album out. It is their first studio work in nearly thirty years and it is getting mostly very positive reviews. There was a period in my early twenties when Throbbing Gristle were among my favorite bands but I haven't been able to listen to them in years and am wondering whether or not I will get the new album.
It is funny that while my taste in films has perhaps gotten more and more extreme, I have found that my likes in literature, painting and especially music have really mellowed out. At any particular day in my early to mid twenties you could have found me listening to bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Diamanda Galas or The Swans while reading something like the most abstract cut up work of Williams Burroughs.
I was really obsessed with artists who were really willing to push a form to its furthest extremes and I was more than willing to take their journey with them.
Looking back at my early twenties I now realize how depressed and confused I was much of the time and my taste in music and art definitely reflected that. I loved and admired so many of those people though like Lydia Lunch, Genesis P. Orridge, Diamanda Galas and Brion Gysin. I think that their extreme and at times extremely cynical world visions probably helped me get through a most sticky time period, even if at the same time I was letting them add to it.
I'm in a bit of a weird mood today which I guess is why I am writing this. I listened to some samples of the new Throbbing Gristle this morning and I must admit that it sounds very good but I just don't think that I have it in me anymore to give myself over to it.
I remember once during my Freshman year of college I played part of Throbbing Gristle's first album for a girlfriend and she started sobbing. It really shook her up and she was upset for days after. I had never seen music or art that had that kind of an effect on somebody and it made a big impression on me. She asked me several times after that how I could listen to it and made me promise to not play it while she was around anymore.
It is to Throbbing Gristle's credit as artists that they could cause such a disturbing reaction in someone but it is hard for me to imagine being able to enclose myself in that kind of art anymore. I have the utmost respect for artists like Throbbing Gristle, Lydia Lunch, Michael Gira or anyone who is willing to push a medium to its furthest extremes no matter the cost but I just can't follow it anymore.
I'm not sure why my tastes in film haven't mellowed but a filmmaker like Gaspar Noe, who could be called the cinematic equivalent of a band like Throbbing Gristle, remains a favorite. Maybe it has something to do with things that I connect to a certain period of my life, I don't know.
I hate the word mellowing and I certainly hate to use it in relation to myself. It represents a defeat of sorts, a sign that I am not willing to go as far as I used to. I suppose it is natural but occasionally I have to pull out something like Teenage Jesus or Throbbing Gristle to remind me that art doesn't always have to be safe and pleasant. There are, and have always been, certain artists who are willing to go and explore the darkest aspects of human nature. Our society needs them and they are to be held in the highest of esteem for their courage and willingness to go to these places...but for the most part it is a journey that I am unable to take these days.
I might get the new Throbbing Gristle as I am curious to hear it but I doubt that I will play it much. Their return should be celebrated though as our modern culture is overly saturated by safe art and artists who skirt over dark terrains. Throbbing Gristle will not ever be a safe band skirting over anything, their home is deep inside the very dark places most artists wouldn't even consider going near. I wish them luck in their ongoing journey even though it is one I can't continue with them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shooting Kinski #2: David Watkin

Kent born cinematographer David Watkin is among the most important directors of photography in British Cinema history. He has lensed an astonishing number of wildly diverse and legendary films such HELP, THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT, THE DEVILS and OUT OF AFRICA.
Born in 1925, the Oscar winning Watkin initially got his start working as a cameraman in many British documentaries and commercials. A fateful meeting with director Richard Lester would change everything for him and he was hired for Lester's wonderful THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT. He would continue to work with Lester throughout the years on films like HELP, HOW I WON THE WAR and THE MUSKETEER movies.
Noted for his innovative work with lighting, Watkin has always demonstrated that he can shoot any kind of film in seemingly any kind of condition. Chief among my favorite films that he has shot are Ken Russell's THE DEVILS and THE BOY FRIEND. Shot back to back for the legendary Russell, it is hard to think of two films more different in the great directors filmography and yet Watkin handles them both with an astonishing range. THE BOY FRIEND stands as one of the great examples of how well Watkin can use color while THE DEVILS is perhaps one of the ultimate examples of how light should be used in a film.
Watkin worked with Nastassja twice, first on 1976's TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER and then on 1984's THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Watkin's work on TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is quite striking and among its most obvious highlights. Much like Robby Muller he seems to have an inherent understanding of how much power Kinski's face could project and he photographs her wonderfully in TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER.
Even better is his work on Tony Richardson's THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, an underrated and striking film that features some of the lushest and most pure photography of his life. I actually prefer his work on this film to his Oscar winning OUT OF AFRICA from a year later. Speaking from a total layman's point of view when it comes to the art of photography, there is just something really warm about his work with Richardson. Kinski's Susie The Bear is one of her great roles and I have always loved how she is photographed in the film, with Watkin's understated style helping to bring out all of the vulnerability, doubt and finally emerging self confidence that Kinski projects.
Watkin would go onto to shoot many films throughout the late eighties and nineties but unfortunately he has never worked with Kinski again. He shot some lovely underrated films in the nineties including JANE EYRE but he will undoubtedly be most remembered for his work in the sixties and seventies with directors such as Lester and Russell. His last film according to IMDB was the little seen Kirsten Dunst feature, ALL FORGOTTEN. Ironic title for his final film considering the term 'forgotten' will never be used in describing the incredible career of David Watkin.

Film Music Blog-a-Thon (Francis Lai, Emmanuelle 2)

Damian over at the Windmills Of My Mind blog is hosting a Film Music Blog-A-Thon and I thought it would be fun to join in. Many of my all time favorite albums are soundtracks so the idea of selecting just one to write about was extremely difficult. My mind immediately started to flip through my internal database of favorite albums and lp's ranging from Colin Town's FULL CIRCLE to Air's THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. Then I started thinking about individual moments in films that use certain pieces of music to remarkable effect like Bobby Womack's ACROSS 110th STREET in JACKIE BROWN or Moby's GOD MOVING OVER THE FACE OF THE WATER in HEAT. I decided finally though that I wanted to post on an album and film that typically induce disdain and snickers rather than respect. So the following is my tribute to one of my favorite lps, composers, actresses and yes, films.

Francis Lai will forever be linked to two particular themes that he wrote; The first for Claude Lelouch's masterful A MAN AND A WOMAN and the second for the piano based piece for Arthur Hiller's LOVE STORY. While those two themes are incredibly powerful they have often overshadowed just how prolific and consistently brilliant Lai has been. Scoring well over 100 films since the mid sixties, Lai has contributed solid work to pretty much every imaginable genre for directors ranging from Michael Winner to Rene Clement. Excelling in everything from violent crime films to romantic comedies, Lai is most masterful at composing themes representing desire, seduction and erotic love. He was never more successful at this than he was in in 1975 when he was asked to deliver the score for the follow up to the most financially successful French film of the seventies.

It is hard to overestimate just how popular and important Just Jaeckin's EMMANUELLE was in 1974 and how big of a star it made Sylvia Kristel. With the flood of hardcore films films filling French and American theaters by the mid seventies, Jaeckin's film played as a barnstorming reminder of the power of suggestion and true eroticism in film, with Sylvia Kristel becoming the face and body of a movement that seemed steeped in tradition as well as being totally progressive.
First time director and famed photographer Francis Giacobetti had his work cut out for him when he got the assignment to direct the sequel to Jaeckin's film. With the obvious thought that the follow up and had to top the first film in nearly every respect, Giacobetti began shooting what would turn out to be one of the most audaciously erotic films ever lensed, as well as a film that would push the limits to what was acceptable in a mainstream release.
Along with the jaw dropping images and incredibly lush photography that Giacobetti delivered for EMMANUELLE 2, a film which Alex Cox called one of the greatest ever made, there are two things that make the film not only better than the first but also one of the best films of the mid seventies.
Sylvia Kristel and Francis Lai were both in their absolute primes in 1975. Kristel was getting a landslide of offers from directors all over the world and would soon be appearing in films helmed by everyone from Claude Chabrol to Alain Robbe-Grillet. Francis Lai was just a couple of years past winning the Oscar for LOVE STORY and was one of the most in demand film composers in the world. Lai's soundtrack for EMMANUELLE 2 would be the perfect compliment to Giacobett's erotic imagry as well as a tribute to the beautiful and talented Kristel, an actress of considerable skill and a culturaly important figure that history typically tries to look over.

Lai's music for EMMANUELLE 2 is an intriguing and always beguiling mix of classical orchestration and surprising electronic textures. Paired up with the talented Christian Gaubert (with reported help from Catherine Desage) as arranger and working with some of France's top session musicians, Francis Lai's EMMANUELLE 2 has the clear distinction of sounding very much of its time but it still progressive sounding. The album is filled with Lai's typically spare piano pieces mixed in with Gaubert's innovative arrangements, but it becomes among Lai's finest works in the moments where he matches the eastern locations of Giacobetti's film with a series of still astonishing synthesizer pieces.
One of the highlights to the film and album is the acupuncture sequence. Here Lai's music seems to become a character in the film and the track is nearly overwhelmingly hypnotice with it's cross cutting of LOVE STORY like piano parts, sweeping orchestrations and irresistible drugged-out electronic sections. Listening to this track, with or without the film's striking imagery, has an incredibly strong dreamlike pull that few pieces of music in my collection can match.
Along with the above section, the key track to the album and film itself is the unbelievably cool and seductive title track sung by Sylvia Kristel. L'AMOUR D'AIMER is one of my all time favorite songs and every time I hear Sylvia Kristel's breathy and inspired rendition of it I am transported back in time to some hot and exotic locale with her. I posted previously on this track and how wonderful I think it is and the shots I have of Kristel in the studio with Lai are among my favorite photographs. The two clearly appear to be having fun in creating one of the greatest and most undervalued movie theme songs of the seventies.

The title track is available in two versions, both sung by Kristel, with one being in French and the other in English. While it is hard to match the original French version, Kristel's more hesitant English vocal is a real favorite and it is unfortunate that it isn't available on the soundtrack lp or cd.
The single was a minor hit in France and Japan and the great 45 of it often pops up on ebay and is highly recommended. The soundtrack lp is one of the great near lost treasures of the seventies. It was released to coincide with the film but quickly slipped out of print. It briefly resurfaced in Japan on a highly collectible cd in the 90s but that too is currently out of print. It occasionally pops up used on ebay or amazon but expect to pay a high price. A google blog search for it might provide a pleasant surprise if you choose to look though.
My favorite shot from EMMANUELLE 2, and one of my favorite closing shots in screen history, is the final freeze frame. After the final love scene Giacobetti pans away from the explicit action and cuts to a triumphantly powerful looking Kristel, and as Lai's remarkable title theme begins Giacobetti freezes the frame on one of France's great faces and then the credits role. It remains for me a chilling, exhirlirating moment and a bold reminder that the human face can be among the most erotic things in the world.

Obviously Francis Lai, Sylvia Kristel and Francis Giacobetti didn't win awards or much respect for EMMANUELLE 2. The film opened, got savaged by most critics and didn't do as well as the first one financially. I suspect too that the above rhapsodizing post on it will no doubt draw a few snickers also but that's okay, I am unapologetic about my love for this film, actress and music. It remains one of the great marriages between image and music in screen history. As the film's slightly notorious ad campaign stated back in 1975, "Nothing is wrong if it feels good" and all of these years later Francis Lai's music in this film still makes me feel very, very good.

Moon in the Gutter (Month By Month)

BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.