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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which We Walked Through Fire To Save Our Lives

What a Country!


The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
dir. Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell
163 minutes

Imagine making the most rah-rah pro-British film in the history of mankind and the British government preventing your distributors from releasing it outside England for a predetermined period of time. Churchill hated Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, although I have no idea why. Were England not such a bizarre and astonishing place that thrives on such contradictions, this would seem sort of Kafkaesque. Maybe the reason it made him so cross is that the film suggests it is a lot easier to admire England from afar - unless you find that over time you have become English.

There are a lot of jokes about this idea in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Here are some witticisms regarding England that are made in the miniseries-length project, almost all of which I disavow or would insist apply equally to the people of Toronto:

The English can't cook worth a shit.
The English bring England everywhere they go.
The English, when rich, are insufferable.
The English subscribe to their own rules.
The English have poor teeth and limited or awful facial hair.
The English have fantastic women.
The English sometimes patronize or dismiss their fantastic women.

Clive Candy (Roger Livesey) is one hell of a guy with basically zero flaws. He fought in the Boer War, which a soldier in the Great War later dismisses as a skirmish. Upon his return to London, he immediately heads to Berlin to defend England's role in the war. There he meets a woman named Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr). He finds her the utter essence of femininity, and when he observes her body in a striped blue top, he is nearly overwhelmed with a sexuality he expresses by growing a mustache. When she attempts to make Clive Candy jealous by flirting with a German man, Theo (Anton Walbrook), he pretends to be happy for her. She is deeply upset, but because she is English, instead of giving up the game, she marries Theo and bears his two sons. Both boys become Nazis.

In an American film, this would be a serious tragedy that would drive the protagonist to drink or worse. In a Russian film it would be a prologue. In a French film it would be a prelude to a three-way. In an English film, things are likely to get much better – after all, the people involved live in the greatest country on earth!

In the film's second act, Clive Candy is still obsessed with this brainy redhead type. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp flashes forward twenty years to the tail end of the Great War, when Candy sees a nurse named Barbara Wynne (Deborah Kerr again) who looks just like Edith Hunter. He marries her, even though he is 40 and she is 20. They have two adorable cocker spaniels, and live in an apartment in London with eighteen rooms. This was Deborah Kerr's first big role after catching the eye of director Michael Powell, who used her as a walk-on in a previous film, and she is spectacular in it. When she initially appears as Edith, you're just so-so on her, because she has these really awful-looking bangs. As Barbara she only lasts about twenty minutes of screen time, but those are twenty of the most special minutes of my entire life.

This is, of course, a metaphorical ideation of England's glee after the war. Meanwhile, Clive Candy's German friend Theo is utterly devastated by his country's defeat, so he becomes a chemist. His wife wants to come back to England, but he gives her a hot "Nah" and they stay in Berlin. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is mostly savage to the German people, pointing out their salacious methods of war, and ultimately framing the triumph of Nazism as the dominance of one way of thinking over a moral but weak Germanity. All I know is that the only Jew in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is the one who wrote the script.

Emeric Pressburger assimilated himself into one hell of an Englishman. Where he is buried, in Suffolk, his is the only Star of David on any grave. (Then again, Jews most often have their own cemeteries.) Pressburger was of a generation with my grandfather Abe, who left Poland when he was a teenager. (He loathed the anti-Semitic Poland that he fled.) Pressburger's private school education was a side effect of his father's wealth, but after his father died, he was forced to make it on his own.

Abe Bernstein never had even a high school education, although he was widely read and laboriously self-taught. He possessed very strong feelings about Europe in general, and especially Germany. (New Jersey was his new mother country.) No one could have been less English than he was, but he admired the English because he could not conceive of one tiny island creating all that culture. (Some of this benign, naive admiration no doubt passed along to his grandson.) There was also a certain cynicism to his respect, however, since I think he was convinced that Nazism never would have been possible without the English. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp suggests much the same thing.

Although the considerable amount of hair on his body testified to his Jewishness, I don't think my grandfather believed in God, and he had good reason to think God had abandoned his people. There is something of that in this film, too, of how those who are not believers see events differently from those who do. Among the many millions that perish over the fifty years this nearly perfect film accommodates, no one ever says a prayer for living, let alone the dead. Like my grandfather, Pressburger put his faith in an historical-economic view of the world. "We'll need to trade with your country," opines Candy to his dispirited German friend, who had spent the better part of the six months following the end of war in the nicest POW camp on record.

As I mentioned last Monday, the Museum of Modern Art is screening Deborah Kerr's best films through August 31. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a very long movie, and at some point in the film's third hour, a woman cried out, "And it's still going!" Most of the audience was very fucking annoyed with her outburst, since talking is intensely frowned upon at MoMA screenings. I once saw a older woman who spoke actually pushed by another theatergoer, and everyone around was like, "She had to push her, there was no choice." It's a real tough environment.

Kerr pops up again in the third act, where she portrays Candy's driver, Angela Cannon. For some reason, army fatigues really suit her – probably related to the fact that all redheads look good in green. Candy has lost his wife to cancer by then, and he picks Angela as his driver so he can check her out and be reminded of his only love. In the film's key scene, he states that he never got over losing out on Edith, which is quite the admission considering he never contacted her after she tried to troll him by getting engaged to that German fellow.

Anyway, Pressburger gives Angela a few scenes to establish she is really nothing like the ghost of the woman that Candy admired all those years earlier. Her boyfriend is a really intelligent fellow who is clueless as to how good he has it. This angel was fresh and proud, beautiful and free, and English. God damn was she English.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We All Stand For Something Else

Thick Skin


creators Liz Kruger, Matt Wheeler and Craig Shapiro

In one episode of Salvation, Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe) escorts his girlfriend Jillian Hayes (Jacqueline Byers) to her first day of work. As she approaches the entrance, she asks him for a pep talk, since she is very nervous about working for Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera). He shows her Darius’ collection of meteorites, and adds that she is completely unique like each of them. Undeterred by the fact her sexual partner compared her to a rock, she responds, “Damn, you’re good.”

Jillian is the author of a science fiction novel called Shadowside, which she self-published. She has been hired to serve on a committee that will select 160 people to colonize Mars. Her first input to the group is that they will need a fair number of poets, artists and musicians. Everyone looks at her like she is batshit, so she runs to her boyfriend to complain.

Liam is evidently working on something very important — a kind of electromagnetic shield that enables interstellar travel — but he has to go to the snack bar at Tanz headquarters to order to console this increasingly fragile woman. “Don’t beat yourself up about it,” he says. “The guy sounds like a total jerk.” This is how people at MIT talk, you see. Working with a government agent named Grace (Jennifer Finnigan), Liam figures out that Tanz plans to abandon the Earth because it will shortly become uninhabitable as a result of an asteroid strike.

Mr. Tanz is quite the man. He is basically like if Mark Zuckerberg absorbed Arnold Schwarzenegger within his body. At one point he is waterboarded for over an hour and he only looks mildly discomfited. He has this weird workstation where he has to lean over and use an extremely loud mouse in order to operate the OS. In the days that follow his waterboarding, he is extremely cranky, even more so than usual, in a manner reminiscent of when Elon Musk enters his menstrual cycle.

On her second day of work, self-published Jillian is forced to endure the indignity of a security check at the entrance to the workplace. She snaps at one of the security guards, letting him know how displeased she is when it comes to the working environment of Tanz industries. I don’t think she will be lasting long in this job, but who cares? Her boyfriend wears a Joy Division shirt for, like, hours.

When Jillian and Liam have sex, which is virtually every evening and every night despite their busy schedule, he still wears a t-shirt. She is nude, but only from the waist up. In the morning he gets this quizzical look on this face, a combination of not quite knowing where he is, and the fear of being gripped from behind by someone you met in a bar. In response or in repose, Jillian constantly smiles with her teeth.

Salvation is an incredibly cheap-looking show, maybe the worst to ever appear on a major network. The entire thing looks like it takes place in one square mile of Canada. I realize that sometimes Canada has to stand in for the U.S., but in the case of Salvation, there is a lot of foliage and streets that just do not reliably represent the United States.

Things are not all bad. Except for the dolt who plays Liam's girlfriend, the rest of the cast is top-notch quality. Jennifer Finnigan looks exactly what you would expect a spectral ghost to resemble, and her romance with the head of a government task force on the asteroid, a fellow named Harris (Ian Anthony Dale), is quite implausible. Amazingly, she also has time to be a single mom. Will wonders never cease?

Conventional wisdom would say that Charlie Rowe really missed out by losing to Tom Holland for the role of Spiderman, but since Spiderman was such total shit, he probably did his career a favor. He is an exciting young actor, unique both in his t-shirt wearing modesty and his staggering assembly of reaction faces to whatever is going on. Watching his cheekbones is like being told a very broad and general bedtime story. 

Despite these exciting, nay, groundbreaking performances, nothing can feasibly alleviate the mental dustbowl required to sit through Salvation. It is not even that things are exactly boring, since the show keeps a brisk pace. It is more that nothing makes any sense whatsoever — like, how many murder subplots are necessary before Earth is obliterated by a large rock?

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which We Have Returned To The Red Room Of Our Youth

Place to Hide


Twin Peaks: The Return
creators Mark Frost & David Lynch

The only place you know is real is the town where you live. The bank, the trailer park, the diner. The police station, the bed and breakfast, the residents that only get older, never younger. Oh god, the residents. Recently I found myself watching older episodes of Twin Peaks. Although they are in general sloppier and substantially less satisfying than the precise brilliance of Twin Peaks: The Return, probably the best thing that has ever aired on American television, they are not really all that different.

The major difference is the subplots. In the original Twin Peaks, the subplots were sort of a lazy, soapy gauze around the main storyline. In Twin Peaks: The Return, they are merely reflections of something we can never exactly see. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that David Lynch would feature Kyle MacLachlan as a mentally deficient shell who merely echoes back whatever the people around him say, and that it would work for a solid fifteen episodes.

In a season full of haunting moments, probably the most haunting were the twin delusions of Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). In her fever dream, which is never explained or put into context, she is confined in her home with her husband Charles (the fantastic Clark Middleton). She wants to leave, but she cannot. She asks her husband if he has ever felt like he is two people. He tells her that he has not, that he has always been himself and knew this to be true.

Mental illness has always been major theme of Twin Peaks. The idea that there is something about our own personalities that we can recover from, like an illness, is not only fascinating, it is wildly optimistic. Whether or not this can be accomplished in our hometown is a matter of significant question in Twin Peaks: The Return.

I never found the original Twin Peaks alike to darkest noir, probably because of television broadcast standards at the time. Whenever it delved into the particulars of various drug crimes or the seedier elements, it felt so goofy or scary, but not at the level of darkness we have been experiencing this summer. Kyle MacLachan's "other" performance as Evil Agent Cooper is ridiculous when he assume the echoes of the earlier character, serious enough to give us a rotund chill. Lynch goes for a lot of laughs here as well, such as the decisive moment where Cooper kills a man with a single punch to the face. Watching all Lynch's favorite actors cheering an arm-wrestling battle on was hysterical, but the interrogation scene that follows was more chilling than amusing.

Why are you not watching Twin Peaks: The Return? What excuse could you possibly have? Your response to my entreaty falls on deaf ears.

Forget the production design, which is one of its kind and will be reproduced forever. Ignore the sound design, which Lynch handles himself and makes listening to Twin Peaks: The Return the best radio play in the history of mankind. I can't think of another production that has ever had the sheer volume of perfect acting performances Lynch coaxes out of his regulars and newcomers on Twin Peaks: The Return.

Particularly amazing are Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is so suited to the dialogue of Lynch and Frost, Jane Adams, who deserves a spinoff of sorts, Robert Knepper's bungling mafioso, and Fenn herself, who probably should have had a much better career than she did.

Traded and exchanged between this massive cast is a story ostensibly supernatural, but a tale which at its heart is more of a MacGuffin than ever. It does not really matter who evil inhabits, or the nature of evil itself — the question is of how to deal with this eternal challenge. Lynch passes along as few answers as ever, though he gives us the courtesy of a few, bracing moments as relief in the mind-blowing musical performances that conclude most episodes.

This last week, James Marshall performed David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti's marvelous hymn "Just You" while a woman looked on and cried. It told the story of several conversations over the course of many years. It completely removes a self-reflective irony, such a recurrent plague on both American comedy and drama over the last decade, and shows the world for how sincere it is. The town that knew you before you knew yourself, and you hated it for that. Years passed before you realized.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.