Within its own ravishing and diseased realm, Vaclav Marhoul‘s The Painted Bird is a certain kind of “great” film — exquisitely made, but utterly hellish to the core in terms of its depiction of the human condition. Which makes it a tough sit.
I saw it last night and holy moley holy fucktard. It’s about a little Jewish kid (Petr Kotlár) trying to survive all on his own in eastern Europe during World War II, and man, does he suffer the drawn-out pains of hell. So did I in a manner of speaking.
I’m calling The Painted Bird a “beautiful” highbrow art film for elite critics and cineastes who have the fence-straddling ability to enjoy magnificent b&w cinematography (all hail dp Vladimir Smutny) and austere visual compositions while savoring the utmost in human cruelty and heartless perversion.
The vile, animal-like behavior is unrelenting; ditto the highly sophisticated monochrome arthouse chops. Marhoul is quite gifted, determined and uncompromised, and quite the bold cinematic painter. He is also, as Kosinski was, one sick fuck.
I mean that in a good way as Marhoul is a Bergman-like in the application of an unrelenting clinical eye; he never panders or tries to soften things up for the mom-and-pop schmuckos — he’s totally playing to Guy Lodge and his ilk. This is a movie about some awful, horrific, beastly people (Harvey Keitel‘s priest and the kid’s father excepted), and what agony it can be to suffer under them on a prolonged basis.
I read Kosinski’s “The Painted Bird” when I was 22 or 23, and I somehow absorbed all the horrific sadism and cruelty and lonely agony without incident because of the dry, matter-of-fact Kosinski prose. It’s quite another thing to hang with that feral, dark-eyed little kid who doesn’t talk for the entire film.
What is the perverse obsession with people and animals being hung upside down by ropes? What was so terrible about servicing that hot-to-trot farmer’s daughter (Jitka Cadek Cvancarova)?
The instant you see white-haired, beard-stubbled Udo Kier, you go “oh God, here comes another cold, maniacal, salivating monster performance.” Harvey Keitel is totally subservient to the mise en scene — just playing an old, white-haired priest who coughs a lot and then dies. Julian Sands plays a total salivating beast. Barry Pepper (who was young 20 years ago but no longer) is interesting as a Russian soldier with no love for Communism or Josef Stalin.
From “Bari Weiss Takes a Flamethrower to The New York Times On Her Way Out The Door,” subheaded by “Finally, the Call-Out Machine got Called Out.” Posted late this afternoon.
…you must be some kinda clueless whitebread whose mom never served Spanish dishes. I’ve loved Spanish-Mexican-TexMex cuisine in restaurants all my life, but over the last four decades I’ve never even glanced at a can of Goya beans while shopping. Not once. Until the Trump-Ivanaka thing came up I’ve never considered the option. In any event, cancel Goya beans! Send that company into bankruptcy! I’m serious. I shouldn’t say this as I despise cancel culture, but every rule is subject to amendments.
Two and a half years ago I wrote that I was “almost teary-eyed with nostalgia for the time I spent in New York City during the 2013 Christmas holiday.” That nostalgia has double-downed over the last few months, or since the world more or less slammed to a halt last March. And now with the “live free or die” red-state assholes and under-40 party animals having taken us all back to square one in terms of fighting the silent scourge, I’m pretty much weeping for a life that I used to take for granted.
My New York holidays were a regular thing, but seven years ago the furlough felt extra-special. It lasted six or seven days. Christmas isn’t really Christmas unless you’re roaming around midtown and lower Manhattan at night, and then maybe taking a train to visit friends in the suburbs for a day or two. (I seem to recall Jett and I visiting my mother, who passed in 2015, at her assisted living facility in Southbury, CT.) Or if you’re roaming around London, which I was lucky enough to do in December of ’80. Nippy weather, overcoat, gloves, etc. The chillier the air, the better the holiday.
The high point was when I took a friend to see The Wolf of Wall Street at the gone-but-not-forgotten Ziegfeld on a Saturday night. An alert, decent-sized crowd in attendance, and it was just heaven. Especially during the quaalude scene. The whole night was glorious. The energy, the air, the aromas…all of it.
Remember those dim-bulb Academy members who harangued Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio after that first Academy screening because they didn’t get the satirical thrust behind all the coarse vulgarity (which was delivered both literally and within “quotes”)? And how Scorsese and DiCaprio had to attend screening after screening and patiently explain that they were depicting the louche adventures of Jordan Belfort and his cronies to make a point about the character of the buccaneers who have fleeced this country and will definitely fleece again? Remember the brief shining moment of Hope Holiday?
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. I would have that life again. Perhaps I will someday. Or maybe not.
Richard Starkey turned 80 about a week ago. I wasn’t paying attention at the time, but the ticking cosmic clock never quits. Yesterday I happened to listen to Peter Frampton‘s solo YouTube performance of “It Don’t Come Easy“, which was posted as a birthday greeting on 7.7.20. The 1971 song, first performed at the Concert for Bangladesh, was co-written by Starkey and George Harrison.
Four thoughts about the Frampton video: (1) This is not only the best cover version I’ve ever heard of “It Don’t Come Easy” but the best version ever, especially if you listen on headphones; (2) Frampton appears to be in excellent physical and spiritual shape but my God, he looked like a 16 year-old on that cover of “Frampton Comes Alive” (’76) and looked like a happy 40something in Almost Famous, but now he looks like his own grandfather; (3) The landscape outside Frampton’s apartment (or wherever he recorded the video) looks hellish — glass and steel high rises, busy highway, hazy smog; (4) Frampton has excellent teeth for a guy his age.
Late yesterday Paul Schrader (The Card Counter, First Reformed) ranted against an imagined (or real?) Elia Kazan cancel culture campaign. But even in his defense of the legendary helmer of East of Eden, On The Waterfront, Wild River, Via Zapata and A Streetcar Named Desire, Schrader passed along a misunderstanding that needs clarifying.
I’ve always understood (partly based on a 2005 Kazan bio by Richard Schickel) that Kazan didn’t “name” names but confirmed them. Specifically, according to Janet Maslin‘s 11.14.05 review of Schickel’s book, Kazan “gave names that were already known to the committee, [and] two individuals [who] were dead anyway.”
Some may argue that “confirming” and “naming” belong in the same ignoble bin, but the difference is worth noting
Amy Ferris‘s reply to Schrader is wonderful. It not only captured the Kazan contradictions but the contradictions that apply to just about every creative person on the planet — past, present and future.
Consider an excerpt from an August 2018 HE post (“Kazan Trip“):
“Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones‘ A Letter To Elia (’10) is a delicate and beautiful little poem. It’s a personal tribute to a director who made four films — On The Waterfront, East of Eden, Wild River and America America — that went right into Scorsese’s young bloodstream and swirled around inside for decades after. Scorcese came to regard Kazan as a father figure, he says in the doc. And after watching you understand why.
“Letter is a deeply touching film because it’s so close to the emotional bone. The sections that take you through the extra-affecting portions of Waterfront and Eden got me and held me like a great sermon. It’s like a church service, this film. It’s pure religion.