Jeff and Tatiana in a brief discussion about Ridley Scott's House of Gucci (11.24, UA Releasing). A presumably sophisticated (and possibly darkly satiric) nest of vipers melodrama + a serving of Northern Italian wealth porn. Based on Sara Gay Forden's "The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed." Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Salma Hayek, Al Pacino, etc. Login with Patreon to view this post
Not over the fact that this 30th Anniversary Bob Dylan Concert Celebration happened 29 years ago (10.16.92) at Madison Square Garden, or the fact that it was probably the greatest boomer-rocker ensemble performance of all time, or the fact that I betrayed myself by not flying back to New York and somehow snagging a pair of tickets.
But over the glorious fact that there were no wokesters back then, and the Millennials who were destined to bring the terror to American culture (the worst era of witch-burning horror since the early ’50s) were toddlers back then…they couldn’t know and of course we didn’t know either, and everything seemed…well, not untroubled (life’s a constant vale of troubles) but at least the Monsters Wouldn’t Arrive on Maple Street for at least another 25 or 26 years or so and all was relatively “well”, so to speak.
George H.W. Bush was in the White House, Bill Clinton hadn’t been elected yet, Jett and Dylan were 4 and 2 years old respectively, I was driving a spiffy, semi-newish black 240SX Nissan and writing for Entertainment Weekly and the L.A. Times Sunday “Calendar” section and even the N.Y. Times, and my first trip to the Cannes Film Festival had happened five months earlier.
In my just-posted Pig review I asked if HE Patreon subscribers recall a recent (7.27) riff about “how the most interesting films focus on invisible things.” For elaboration’s sake, I’m going to violate the Patreon sanctity and re-post part of that article:
“Most of us are attuned only to life’s tangibles — food, shelter, warmth, money, clothing, pets, guns, cars, shoes, homes, furniture, trees, hills, mountains, oceans, swimming pools, sailboats. Things we can see, touch, smell, eat, wear, boast about and dive into.
“But others, fortunately, are also mindful and in some cases stirred or motivated by invisible things — thoughts, feelings, spirits, ghosts, dreams, intuitions, morality, melancholy, premonitions, memories.
“Any filmmaker can focus on the tangibles. Most of them do, in fact. Movies that are strictly about tangibles are ‘mulch’ movies, a term that I defined earlier this month. Mulch is the source of our shared Hollywood ennui…the muck at the bottom of the dried-up lake…the disease that keeps on infecting…the gas that fills the room.
“Except for a smattering of elite, award-season stand-alones (or festival movies) and select forthcoming streamers like HBO’s Scenes From A Marriage (Bergman remake), Hollywood makes almost nothing but mulch these days. The streaming + re-emerging feature realm is flooded with mulch…empty, inane, meaningless, spirit-less, jizz-whiz “content” crapola that nobody wants to see or cares about, but they’re made anyway because the zone-outs and knuckle-draggers need stuff to watch.
“But only serious directors are able to convey or dramatize the presence of invisible things. The finest films are actually concerned with a mixture of tangible things, which is natural and inevitable in any corner of life, but are driven by the invisibles.”
The reason that critics love Michael Sarnoski‘s Pig (Neon, 7.16) is because it’s saying something about the undercurrent of civilized American life in the year 2021. It’s saying two things actually. Thing #1 is “something fundamental and spiritual is missing in our lives.” Thing #2 is “the reason that fundamental thing is missing is because we’ve exiled it…we’ve shown it the door and shouted ‘get out of our house!…you’re not stylish enough!'”
Pig stars the burly, bearded, bruised and overweight Nicolas Cage, and costars Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin. It’s about a former bigtime Portland chef (Cage’s Rob Feld) who’s quit the restaurant business to become a reclusive-hermit truffle forager in the forest. The plot is about Feld’s pet pig being kidnapped and Feld trying to get it back.
It has soul, Pig does. It conveys a reverence for the unseen. (Remember my recent riff about how the most interesting films focus on invisible things? This is one of those films.) Pig is slow and obstinate in some ways, but it believes in the holiness of earth and nature and fine food and wine, and it’s saying that the urban sophisticated realm that most of us live in is…lacking. “Not real” in certain important ways. Lacking in a holy mystical current, lacking in the solemn fundamentals.
But just because Pig is snail-paced and under-written and filmed in shadows and subdued blue-ish light doesn’t mean it’s a great film. I think it’s definitely an interesting and in some ways a valuable film with the eternal things on its mind, etc. But I didn’t “love” it. I was down with it, but the funereal pace bothered me after the 55 or 60-minute mark. I actually decided to take a break at the one-hour mark because I knew it would maintain this same shuffling gait to the end.
I also got tired of looking at Cage’s bloody, beat-up, swollen face. Okay, his performance has a certain ruined integrity. Beaten up by intruders and left with dried sticky blood on his face and forehead throughout 85% of the film. Long gray ratty hair. No hot water, no shower, no change of socks…a sad forest hermit roaming around Portland as he tries to get to the bottom of things.
But Feld is no dummy, and we’re asked to believe that this 50ish truffle whisperer, who spends most of the film speaking to this and that person involved in the Portland restaurant business, wouldn’t clean himself up before making the rounds. He’s clearly not an idiot, and yet Feld is so caught up in the purity thing that he doesn’t clean the fucking dried blood off his face? You know what that is? That’s filmmaker hubris. Sarnoski is saying “Feld is too much of a truffle samurai to even think of cleaning himself up…he’s too angry, too enraged, too possessed to bother about appearances.” That’s movie bullshit.
Hands down, the most transporting version of Harry Warren and Al Dubin‘s “I Only Have Eyes For You” was recorded in late 1958 by The Flamingos. What makes it work is the reverb plus the background singers doing the old two-part-harmony “sha-bop sha-bop“. But for years and years I thought they were singing “kah-LUCK-kah-luck.”
The reason I was a kah-LUCK-kah-lucker for so long is a brief scene in Billy Wilder‘s The Apartment (’60). Consolidated Life of New York executive Al Kirkeby (David Lewis) is ushering his office girlfriend Sylvia (Joan Shawlee) into the Upper West Side apartment building of C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) for an assignation, and as she climbs the stairs of Baxter’s brownstone Sheila is singing “kah-LUCK-kah-luck.” Sheila’s improv stuck in my mind.
The Apartment was shot in the fall of ’59 — “I Only Have Eyes For You” was released in April ’59, and was pretty much the definitive romantic song of the moment.