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Alex Carnevale
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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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Friday
Apr032009

In Which We Explore Existential Carnival Horror

funhouse-poster

LIVE NUDE THRILLS

by JOHN DAMER

The Funhouse

Dir. Tobe Hooper

1981

Directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), The Funhouse is an imperfect horror movie.  It’s ten to fifteen minutes too long, and it features a Psycho reference that would make even Brian DePalma groan.  

funhouse-psycho-reference

Yet because it contains there are genuine and troubling ideas, there's enough in The Funhouse to save it from the junk bin. It’s not a movie that just wants to scare you; it wants you to feel horrible about the nature and existence of exploitative entertainment.  It evokes those pre-code Hollywood horror movies (i.e. The Island of Lost Souls or The Black Cat). It demonstrates that fairground carnivals are grimy hellholes that should be avoided at all costs.  

funhouse-whirlygigFunhouse is standard for a Horror-film: some young people go somewhere and do something for fun, and then terrible things happen (which is also the basic story of Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The young people in the movie are stock characters of the genre:  there’s the main character Amy (Elizabeth Berridge), aka the Good Girl; the Alpha-Male Hunk Buzz (Cooper Huckabee); the Promiscuous One, Liz* (Largo Woodruff); and the Sycophantic Nerd, Richie (Miles Chapin).

*Guess what happens to her.

funhouse-four-teens

The fun activity that these four do is go to a Carnival at night where they (surprise!) hide out in a Funhouse ride and, after witnessing a murder committed by a freakish yet strangely sympathetic ride attendant, find themselves trapped and hunted like animals. (There is also a slight sub-plot of Amy’s younger brother Joey (Shawn Carson) sneaking-out to follow Amy going to the Carnival and getting caught by a harmless carnival hand.)

There's a prologue in which Joey pulls a prank on Amy while she takes a shower at their family’s house.  In a rage, Amy gets out of the shower, finds Joey taking refuge in a closet, curses him, and promises brutal revenge.  During this flurry of vindictiveness, Joey takes Amy’s picture with a Polaroid camera, which falls to the ground. As Joey scurries away, Amy finds this photo on the ground and picks it up. Seeing her angry face reflected in the picture, Amy is horrified by her sadism.

funhouse-discovering-pic

The camera then pans and zooms into a nearby poster of the iconic image of Frankenstein’s Monster played by Boris Karloff, and then there’s a cut to a TV showing the famous moment in Bride of Frankenstein in which the Bride (Elsa Lanchester) is revealed. A visual linking of cruelty to two iconic images of the Horror genre, this is a reflective moment that can be interpreted as an implicit commentary on how Horror is often consumed.  It posits Horror movie viewing as something that is rooted in sadistic pleasure. 

funhouse-bride-of-frank

This associative visual idea signals one of the basic themes of The Funhouse: exploitation, as a means of entertainment, is a dark and twisted practice. (Ironically, this idea does contradict how The Funhouse works on the surface.)  Yet, Amy being shocked at her own likeness signifies another idea that Hooper and many other Horror-directors support:  the Horror Film can be used as a mirror that displays unfortunate yet true aspects of human-nature and existence.

funhouse-creepy-guy

Horrible things are displayed through out The Funhouse.  For instance: I can’t think of any other movie that better renders the sad, seedy world of a traveling carnival.  The movie’s atmosphere is full of skeaze and dread. The carnival worker characters might as well be wearing T-shirts that say ‘dirty carny’.

funhouse-barnyard-announcer

Many traditions of the Traveling Carnival are each given their own scene.  There’s a Barnyard Entities scene where the four teens see a two-headed cow and a human fetus in a jar (both foreshadow a bizarre reveal that happens later in the movie):

funhouse-two-headed-cow

A near-unnecessary Magic-Show scene:

funhouse-magic-show

There’s a scene set in the tent of a Fortune Teller of indeterminable Slavic origin:

funhouse-fortune-teller

There’s a scene set in and around the Nudie Booth:

funhouse-nudie-booth-scene

And of course, there’s the ominous and eponymous Funhouse, where father (grizzled ride operator) and son (creepy Monster-masked son) run the show.

funhouse-facade

And to bolster the scopophilic nature of what The Funhouse is about, throughout the movie are Point-of-View shots that show what characters see as they spy on sex and violence through holes or cracks between floor-boards. 

funhouse-pov-shot

The Carnival functions as a microcosm for the graceless world of adulthood that a teen like Amy becomes become an autonomous person.  Shown at the beginning, Amy and Joey’s parents are the only ‘clean-cut’ adults in the movie; all of the other adult characters are are threatening, run-down, and depraved in nature.

funhouse-old-lady
Also taking into consideration that Amy loses her virginity to Buzz when the teens first hideout in The Funhouse, it becomes clear thatThe Funhouse is also about someone’s (Amy’s) Innocence not so much being lost but being ripped-away from them during one disturbing and violent night.    

Extending off of this, there is a chilling scene late in the movie in which Amy sees her parents retrieving Joey to bring him home after he snuck out.  However, she sees this while trapped in the Funhouse and through one of the rides’ operating industrial fans, and her subsequent cries for help aren’t heard over the noise. If they don’t already, it’s a moment that intends to remind the viewer that he or she will one day no longer have their parents to rely on for any form of support.  This is a sobering, even terrifying fact of growing-up.

funhouse-screaming-through-fan

The final scene and shot of the movie is similar. The following morning, traumatized Amy emerges from the Funhouse after enduring the terror inflicted by the ride operator and the ride attendant.  Out of her friends, she's the only survivor

funhouse-amy-distraught

As the camera cranes up to a bird’s eye view to reveal that the carnival is being torn down, Amy stumbles away. Creepy carnival music comes on the soundtrack, and the movie ends with a fade to black.

funhouse-final-shot

As a coda, this final shot is as unsettling and haunting as anything in The Night Of The Hunter

funhouse-final-scene

Out of all of Tobe Hooper’s movies, not much else comes close to the classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  (And if you’re thinking Poltergeist, then its time for the truth to come out:  it’s obvious that Spielberg at least co-directed that one.)  Nevertheless, because it’s a horror movie that has something interesting and thought-provoking going on beneath its surface, the film indicates that the man isn’t just a one-trick pony as a filmmaker. The Funhouse is Hooper’s near-masterpiece; 

funhouse-laughing-lady

John Damer writes The Blog Of Imagination.

This is his first piece for This Recording.

Thursday
Apr022009

In Which We Really Wish We Didn't Know

knowing-movie

Albino Aliens Destroy My World

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Nicolas Cage's receding hairline has contributed to some of the finest discoveries of our time. Despite moving to the equator of his scalp in its latest mission — the Alex Proyas retarded thriller Knowingit is more perceptive than ever. Knowing ascended to the top of the box office because Hollywood literally could not be troubled to make anything more challenging than an alien movie with this bald fuck for a weekend in March.

knowing-nic-cageIt is a challenge to make a movie this stupid; it is an almost impossible feat without some kind of help from the government or Roger Corman. Cage's character is a professor of astrophysics at MIT. In one of the film's early scenes, he's teaching his class. Whoever wrote this scene has to not only be completely unaware of what astrophysics is, he also has to never have attended a single college-level class in anything. As such, we can only assume this film was written by Jerry Bruckheimer and/or a sleeping german shepherd.

In Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, we witnessed an unprecendented series of events. An otherwise intelligent person created a feature-length movie that absolutely no one could enjoy without the benefit of LSD. Even under the influence, The Fountain almost exploded of its own stupidity. This was a movie so painful the studio that released it dumped the idea of a director commentary.



Here the achievement is far more impressive. The creators of this film must never have even seen anything more complex than a music video. They must never have fathered a child. They probably did watch The Fountain.

knowingJohn Koestler (Cage) has fathered a child, although we know he is not really the father of a child. He finds out the location of three coming transportation accidents. Like any good father, he heads right toward them. He's a single father, mind you.

The trouble began when a precog named Lucinda Embry started hearing whispers in her head. Despite the fact that major wars on this planet have taken lives in the hundreds of thousands, a bunch of aliens have taken notice of small house fires as a precursor to the apocalypse.

The aliens manifest themselves on Earth first in a car, where they hand Cage's son a smooth stone that we later come to find out lacks any meaning at all. The aliens are albinos, perhaps in tribute to the albinos of Africa, many of whom were slaughtered for their body parts about which there existed a number of superstitutions.

The aliens desire Cage's son to restart humanity on another world. It's unclear why exactly humans are valued as a sentient species. Maybe it's because of the ease with which they perish in tragic accidents.

Knowing_CageByrne_galAfter realizing you paid for a film this stupid, you look for someone to blame. Much like Bernie Madoff is taking their entire responsibility for our economy's collapse, Steven Spielberg must be held responsible for this raging piece of shit. Without him, would we really have to endure interminably long movies that justify their existence by the alien spacecraft descending to Earth at the end?

We can also hold Francis Ford Coppola to be somewhat at fault. Without his tacit endorsement of his young nephew Nicolas Coppola's career, we wouldn't have to deal with this film or the prospect of a third National Treasure sequel.

And in fact those movies, searchingly obtuse though they may be, have the genial fun that is missing from the pretend seriousness of this dreary film. In fact Knowing is a secret laugh riot. We watched the film with a drunk black guy who was keen to comment on the hair on Nicolas Cage's son's balls. Fortunately the death of everyone on the planet was loud enough to drown him out by the end.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbles here.

rose-byrne-knowing

"The Trial" - A Jigsaw (mp3)

"Six Blind Days" - A Jigsaw (mp3)

"Return to Me" - A Jigsaw (mp3)

A Jigsaw website


Thursday
Apr022009

In Which The Allures of Françoise Need Not The Internet

More Talented Than Jane Birkin

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

I don’t want to say it’s all about the bangs. But when it comes to Françoise, it’s all about the bangs.

I think we’d all like to believe that our infatuation with certain celebrities has some sort of redeeming quality beyond the sun-kissed coif of Jennifer Aniston or the all-too romantic curls of Patrick Dempsey, but that would be a lie. For some, the personal style trumps artistic merit (no matter how large that merit may be).

There are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of young, waif-like females parading around street corners and down back alleys. Hours spent browsing websites online for inspiration, although most likely misinformed by a slew of images culled from Google; they immediately find comfort in the image of Françoise.

Her eyes are large, round and warm. Her beauty, natural and graceful, is a respite from plasticized and inorganic expectations for the modern females. Their slender physiques are clothed in dark black pants and striped tops. And their hair? Full of shine, it's sleek, so memorable that one can’t help but admire the staying power. The undeniable and effortless chic that Françoise defined over forty years ago.

That’s not to say that Françoise was and is not a symbol of female ingenuity, talented beyond compare. Of all of the fascinating women of her era, Françoise seemed to best embody the characteristics that made the 1960s memorable.

Her songs were of the ye-ye style, yes, but she never abandoned her musicianship for the sake of quaint, sometimes simplistic French pop music. “Comment te dire adieu,” remains one of her best known songs as well as a critical favorite (especially among the hipster set).

As the ye-ye style eventually lost popularity, Françoise merely expanded her musical horizons. Although she is arguably the most well known ye-ye artist beginning with her first record, Tous les garçons et les filles, the end of the ‘60s saw a richer, more realized phase of her musical career (with songs recorded in French, German, and English) by way of over 20 albums recorded in the following three decades.

The modern Francophile, however, seems to skim over this point.

Here’s a good starting point. Here’s another. And in case it all seems to confusing, remember that Träume (1970) is lush and warm and meant for fall, Gin Tonic (1980) is the re-emergence of the “hard-to-pin-down” cool that made Françoise Françoise, and Clair-obscur (2000) is the comeback, the re-awakening and the reminder that some things just get better with age.

Brittany Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls at britticisms and blogs at glamabella.

ENJOY THE MUSIC OF THIS SPECIAL ONE

download the album comment te dire adieu here

"Le Temps de L'Amour" - Francoise Hardy (mp3)

"The Rose" - Francoise Hardy (mp3)

"C'a Rate" - Francoise Hardy (mp3)