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Mia Nguyen
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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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Monday
May172010

In Which This Dad Doesn’t Make French Toast

Sending Your Kids For Groceries

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Daddy Longlegs

dir. Josh and Benny Safdie

97 minutes

In one photograph of my father's, he asked my brother and I to sit on a set of stairs in Soho as he focused his Minolta for a stranger. I was eight, it was July, and the stairs, embossed with round metal bumps, were hot. Irritated by his impulsive need to document, we complained as he handed his camera to the stranger, Just click, just click, and hurried to sit between us. In this picture, my arms are resting on my knees as I look directly at the camera; my face red and sun-tired, my lips dipping into a snarl. Both my brother and my father somehow missed the cue entirely and are looking away.

I remembered this moment last night as I stayed for the Q & A that followed Benny and Josh Safdie’s Daddy Longlegs. Joined by the whole cast, the two brothers — both writers and directors of the film — answered questions that refreshingly had nothing to do with budget or the idiosyncrasies of technique, but focused more on story and the relationship between memory and film. As was the case in my childhood, their father too, stood mostly behind the lens; hundreds of home videos he shared with them in later years, prompting the narrative for Daddy Longlegs. (The original title was Go Get Some Rosemary.)

Benny Safdie described the urgent and unexpected sensation of deeply relating to a film no matter how foreign the content, the family, the place, the generation. Like having a stranger identify your secrets, and instead of violation, feeling quiet vindication. Despite memory’s delusions — both corrupted and wistful — our inexplicable closeness to something we’ve read or seen can become the most pressing and perhaps most honest fabrication of our own recall.

Spilling over with a staccato mix of Cassavetes compassion and confusion, panicked love and rage, Lenny Sokol (Ronnie Bronstein) is given custody of his boys Sage and Frey for two weeks in the year. Lenny’s madcap parenting and incoherent choices are so easily condemned. He sends his kids out alone for groceries, he foul-mouths school principals, he deals with pharmaceutical mix-ups, a frenzied temper and a short fuse. Though Lenny's life seems eternally at odds between ecstasy and dejection, he still elicits empathy despite his failures to find resolve.

Shot on 16mm, Daddy Longlegs evokes the grainy agitation and melancholy of a New York City now forgotten. The film’s desperate mix of heartbreak and happiness is made authentic by Benny and Josh’s direction. They endow the city’s spiralling and often bullying temper with intuitive touches of intimacy: small apartments and makeshift beds, sugar highs, magic tricks and morning cereal.

In one scene Lenny is on a date with his girlfriend at a Chinese restaurant. He explains the tension and roving itches that live inside his head by alternating between sips of soda and water, back and forth, back forth, soda, water, soda, water. The film’s tone is equally erratic. One minute Lenny is arguing about shifts at work with another film projectionist, “I have no flexibility!” The next, he’s running wildly down the street, late to pick up Sage and Frey from school, and then back to the cinema, where the two boys find a photocopier and print one thousand copies of a comic they drew.

Later, as they leave the theatre, the boys’ bag whips open and the copies fly out; Lenny curses their drawings, “What is this? What is this?” while the boys giggle and enjoy the tornado of flying papers. This image, like so many in the film, captures the strained vitality of a father whose edge and unhinged gait is tested and sometimes complemented by his two sons. Despite or because of their embittered parents, they live gloriously in a world of anticipation.

But when hope dwindles — Frey’s drooping shoulders as he refuses to help his father unexpectedly move; Lenny’s unanswered phone calls and messages to his girlfriend — the story shifts into a reality so palpable and near that my own memories were stirred. I am suddenly reminded of the first time I witnessed the demoralized wilt of my father as he longed for something (or maybe someone) from his past, or the cheerless way my mother would hide behind a dinner party.

The Safdie brothers’ recognition of memory’s frame, sometimes strong, bold and lovely, and other times fragile and disjointed, is awake in this story in a way that while pulled from many influences (“The Holy Grail of father-son films,” as Josh described during the Q&A) is uniquely theirs. And still, as often as it happens, I am always thrown by the associative influence of someone else’s material, memory, and autobiography; so seamlessly it guilds with my own, inspiring a moment from my past like the metal stairs in Soho that warmed at my thighs as I watched my father focus his lens.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She tumbls here.

"Rules Don't Stop" - We Are Scientists (mp3)

"Pittsburgh" - We Are Scientists (mp3)

"Jack & Ginger" - We Are Scientists (mp3)

Sunday
May162010

In Which This Also Happened On That Other Show

The Angriest Men in the World

by ELEANOR MORROW

Justified

creator Graham Yost

No one can be a hard ass all the time. In Deadwood, Timothy Olyphant did a damn good job of trying. In one of the show's most famous episodes, he lost his son and stayed relatively calm. Now he's on a new show and he doesn't even have a son but he still seems pretty angry.

Deadwood was the greatest western done in the television medium, although both Lonesome Dove and Bonanza had their moments. It was usually described as "dark," and while the various indignities the show detailed including sexually transmitted diseases, the death of young children, the murder of several innocents, and the prostitution of almost everyone, it was an optimistic show for the protagonist, Seth Bullock, and his Jewish partner. Bullock didn't just survive on the frontier, he thrived from the first and became the ethical master of all that surrounded him.

The Honolulu-born Olyphant's face is itself a swarming projectile. Pauline Kael would have loved him. Desperate to make Justified slightly different from his last show — set 100 years earlier — he's grown a washed-out goatee and now scrunches his face up over 50 percent more often. Tim's never been much of an actor, but there's something new inside the ludicrously-named Raylan Givens.

what a fascinating criminal! Of course, Deadwood had the magical advantage of an ensemble cast to die for, with the best ever roles of Ian McShane, Keith Carradine, and scores of other thespians. Raylan Givens is not quite as lucky, although Raymond J. Barry, M.C. Gainey and Nick Searcy might be recognizable to insomniacs. They did bring back W. Earl Brown, who played Al Swearengen's brilliant second-in-command but Keith Carradine probably died the same moment his character on Dexter did, and Ian McShane is probably in a home somewhere. The leftovers pop up on Justified from time to time.

The best writers in television wrote Tim's banter then, now it is supplied by the spiritual descendants of Elmore Leonard, whose story "Fire in the Hole" supplied the inspiration for Justified. Leonard is the type of writer who thinks a person whose name doesn't reflect how they look (think a giant named Tiny) is a worthy substitute for actual perceptiveness. Creator Graham Yost is attempting a weekly return to the kind of moments Leonard was fastidious about creating — a woman in the trunk of a car, a man in a women's dressing room, the love of a good hat.

f. gary gray's questionable 'be cool' Leonard tried to make his cops as entertaining as the criminals he clearly loved better, and Justified has Raylan Givens relate better to people who live in a moral vaccuum than his ostensible colleagues. The portrayals of the criminals are invariably sexist, as was always Elmore Leonard's wont, and they take up a lot of the show's time — Raylan's soap-ish personal problems are sacrificed to the ongoing pursuit of justice, usually for himself or someone he's putting his penis inside of. Raylan is not a very good U.S. marshal, but he does have uncanny accuracy with a sidearm and a passion for passive-aggressive widows.

"you've never heard of The Shield?" Despite the show's predilection for convenient criminal intrigue ("the loan shark with the heart of gold! the real estate agent in with the wrong people!"), it has created three great villains, and all Olyphant has to do is play off of them.

The first of these evil charlatans is Raylan's ex-wife Winona. (She is the only person in Kentucky named Winona without a sense of humor, evidently.) When Raylan unwillingly returned to his ancestral home in the show's premiere, he paid a visit to the house of his ex-wife and her new husband, waiting in the dark with a Miller Lite. She told him he was the angriest man she's ever known and refused to apologize for going with a Jew the second time around. (Didn't this also happen in Hung? Is the new Jewish caricature to seduce midwestern housewives?) Fittingly, Hung's Natalie Zea plays Raylan's ex-wife. She looks like a very respectable blowfish.

Raylan's second enemy is the Crowders, father Bo (M.C. Gainey) and son Boyd (Walter Goggins), paragons of white supremacy. It always feels better after you kill someone if you rip open their shirt and see some kind of tribute to Adolf Hitler, or anything from Twilight. No one knows this better than Raylan, who is constantly waiting to spring into violence no matter how placid the surroundings. White supremacy feels topical again for some reason, and the Crowders are a disturbing mix of religious men and demons.

The last of the villains is Raylan's own father Arlo Givens, a career criminal who spent years in business with drug cartels. The show sets up future episodes in a rather routine fashion, and Raylan's father looms large, as the highlight of the first season so far has been the long con his father and stepmother ran on him. Seeing Raylan so vulnerable reminded me of a bear with an ingrown toenail.

The proliferation of dramas on cable has allowed for some different types of storytelling. Justified wants to be darker than dark, but it's afraid of showing the audience dirt poor Kentucky for fear they won't be able to enjoy the finer things, and men. We are told Raylan is very angry, but we can't see that in him yet. It's early, though, and there are things out there in the dark we can't imagine.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about The United States of Tara.

"Bye Bye Icarus (alternate version)" - Lightspeed Champion (mp3)

"Island (Bedroom demo)" - Lightspeed Champion (mp3)

"Madame Van Damme" - Lightspeed Champion (mp3)

Thursday
May132010

In Which We Are Half-Delighted With Franz Kafka At Last

Kafka's Inner Plight

There is no one here who wholly understands me. To have one person with this understanding, a woman for example, that would be to have a foothold on every side, it would mean to have God.

Franz Kafka holds two major distinctions in twentieth-century life, neither of which is recognized nearly as often as it should be. By virtue of his eye-opening diaries, he was the first blogger. He was also one of the finest flakes of the twentieth century, as those diaries prove. He was terrific with excuses, finding exactly the right thing to say to avoid facing one obligation or another. Here are some of the finest excuses he made to his best friend Max Brod:

max & franz Dear Max

I am now half delighted that I am actually studying at last, and for that reason will not come to our cafe this week. I would very much like to be there, because I never study after 7 o’clock; but if I do take a little change of this kind, it disturbs my studies all day the next day. And I daren’t waste any time. So it’s better for me to read my Kugelgen in the evening, a splendid occupation for a little mind and for sleep when it comes.

Love to you

Franz

Dear Max

Now, dear fellow, I shan’t be able to go out anywhere for a bit. The Dean has been so irresponsible as to fix my finals a little earlier and as I was ashamed to be more cautious than he, I’ve made no protest.

All my love,

Franz

from steven soderbergh's 1991 movie
Dear Max

Forgive me for yesterday evening, please! I shall come to your place at five o’clock. My excuse will be a little comic, so you are quite sure to believe it.

Franz

My dear Max

I am a completely useless person, really, but nothing can be done about it. Yesterday afternoon I sent you a letter by special messenger: "Here in the tobacconist’s in the Graben I beg you to forgive me for not being able to come tonight. I have a headache, my teeth are falling out, my razor is blunt, I am an unpleasant object to look at. - Your F." And now in the evening I go and lie down on my sofa and reflect that I have made my excuses anyhow, and that there is again a little order in the world, but as I am thinking it over, I suddenly remember that I wrote Wladislaw street instead of Schalen street.

Now, please, I beg of you, be annoyed about it, and don’t speak to me any more because of it. I am utterly on the downward path, and — I can see far enough for that — I can’t help going to the dogs. Also I should love to cut myself, but as that is impossible, there is only one thing I can rejoice about, and that is that I have no pity on myself, and so I have at last become egoistic to that extent. We should celebrate achieving this height — you and I, I mean; just as a future enemy, you should celebrate it. It is late. I should like you to know that I wished you a very good night tonight.

Your Franz

My Max

I am in such a bad way that I think I can only get over it by not speaking to anyone for a week, or as long as may be necessary. From the fact that you won’t try to answer this postcard in any way, I shall see that you are fond of me.

Your Franz

The Happy Ending of Franz Kafka's "Amerika" by Martin Kippenberger
In 1914, Kafka was 31. He was about to enter into the first of his unsuccessful engagements with Felice Bauer, who worked as a representative for a dictaphone company. What follows are excerpts from his diary entries during this period:

January 14 1914

Quite some time ago A's sister was told by a fortune-teller that her eldest brother was engaged and that his fiancee was deceiving him. At that time he rejected all such stories in a rage. I: "Why only at that time? It is as false today as it was then. She hasn't deceived you, has she?" He: "It's true that she hasn't, isn't it?"

March 8 1914

There is no doubt that I am hemmed in all around, though by something has certainly not yet fixed itself in my flesh, that I occasionally feel slackening, and that could be burst asunder. There are two remedies, marriage or Berlin; the second is surer, the first more immediately attractive.

w/ felice bauer March 17 1914

Sat in the room with my parents, leafed through magazines for two hours, on and off simply stared before me; in general simply waited for ten o'clock to arrive and for me to be able to go to bed.

March 27 1914

On the whole passed in much the same way.

April 8 1914

Yesterday incapable of writing even one word. Today no better. Who will save me? And the turmoil in me, deep down, scarcely visible; I am like a living lattice-work, a lattice that is solidly planted and would like to tumble down.

Today in the coffee-house with Werfel. How he looked from the distance, seated at the coffee-house table. Stooped, half-reclining even in the wooden chair, the beautiful profile of his face pressed against his chest, his face almost wheezing in its fullness (not really fat); entirely indifferent to the surroundings, impudent, and without flaw. His dangling glasses by contrast make it easier to trace the delicate outlines of his face.

May 6 1914

My parents seem to have found a beautiful apartment for F. and me; I ran around for nothing one entire beautiful afternoon. I wonder whether they will lay me in my grave too, after a life made happy by their solicitude.

May 29 1914

Tomorrow to Berlin. Is it a nervous or a real, trustworthy security that I feel? How is that possible? Is it true that if one once acquires a confidence in one's ability to write, nothing can miscarry, nothing is wholly lost, while at the same time only seldom will something rise up to a more than ordinary height? Is this because of my approaching marriage to F.? Strange condition, though not entirely unknown to me when I think back.

Dostoevsky's letter to his brother on life in prison.

June 6 1914

'Don't you want to join us?' I was recently asked by an acquaintance when he ran across me alone after midnight in a coffee-house that was already almost deserted. 'No, I don't,' I said.

July 5 1914

To have to bear and to be the cause of such suffering!

berlin

August 2 1914

Germany has declared war on Russia - Swimming in the afternoon.

August 3 1914

Alone in my sister's apartment. It is lower down than my room, it is also on a side street, hence the neighbours' loud talking below, in front of their doors. Whistling too. Otherwise complete solitude. No longed-for wife to open the door. In one month I was to have been married. The saying hurts: you've made your bed, now lie in it. You find yourself painfully pushed against the wall, apprehensively lower your eyes to see whose hand it is that pushes you, and, with a new pain in which the old is forgotten, recognize your own contorted hand holding you with a strength it never had for good work. You raise your head, again feel the first pain, again lower your gaze; this up-and-down motion of your head goes on without pause.

August 29 1914

The end of one chapter a failure; another chapter, which began beautifully, I shall hardly - or rather certainly not - be able to continue as beautifully, while at the time, during the night, I should certainly have succeeded with it. But I must not forsake myself, I am entirely alone.

August 30 1914

Cold and empty. I feel only too strongly the limits of my abilities, narrow limits, doubtless, unless I am completely inspired. And I believe that even in the grip of inspiration I am swept along only within these narrow limits, which, however, I  then no longer feel because I am being swept along. Nevertheless, within these limits there is room to live, for this reason I shall probably exploit them to a despicable degree.

October 7 1914

I have taken a week's vacation to push the novel on. Until today - it is Wednesday night, my vacation ends Monday - it has been a failure. I have written little and feebly. Even last week I was on the decline, but could not foresee that it would prove so bad. Are these three days enough to warrant the conclusion that I am unworthy of living without the office?

October 15 1914

I have lived now calmly for two months without any real contact with F. (except through correspondence with E.), have dreamed of F. as though of someone who was dead and could never live again, and now, when I am offered a chance to come near her, she is at once the center of everything again. She is probably also interfering with my work. How very much a stranger she has sometimes seemed to me these latter days when I would think of her, of all the people I had ever met the most remote; though at the same time I told myself that this was simply because F. had been closer to me than any other person, or least had been thrust so close to me by other people.

Leafed through the diary a little. Got a kind of inkling of the way a life like this is constituted.

November 12 1914

Parents who expect gratitude from their children (there are even some who insist on it) are like usurers who gladly risk their capital if only they receive interest.

December 31 1914

Have been working since August, in general not little and not badly, yet neither in the first nor in the second respect to the limit of my ability, as I should have done, especially as there is every indication (insomnia, headaches, weak heart) that my ability won't last much longer. Worked on, but did not finish: The Trial, 'Memoirs of the Kalda Railway,' 'The Village Schoolmaster', 'The Assistant Attorney', and the beginnings of various little things. Finished only 'In the Penal Colony' and a chapter of Der Verschollene, both during the two-week holiday. I don't know why I am drawing up this summary, it's not at all like me!

Franz Kafka died of complications from tuberculosis in 1924. You can find more of his diaries here and you can purchase them here.

"The Flame" - Fine Young Cannibals (mp3)

"She Drives Me Crazy" - Fine Young Cannibals (mp3)

"Johnny Come Home" - Fine Young Cannibals (mp3)

I do not envy particular married couples, I simply envy all married couples together; and even when I do envy one couple only, it is the happiness of married life in general, in all its infinite variety, that I envy - the happiness to be found in any one marriage, even in the likeliest case, would probably plunge me into despair.

I don’t believe people exist whose inner plight resembles mine.