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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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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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Entries in alex carnevale (162)

Friday
Jan232015

In Which Joseph Cornell Cannot Be Taken At Face Value

Constellations

by ALEX CARNEVALE

After a long detour of dreams, I've learned to love reality a little better.

- Pierre Reverdy

1911. Joseph Cornell's father develops leukemia. Six years later he dies deeply in debt.

1918. The Cornell family moves to Queens.

1945. Cornell asks Marianne Moore to recommend him for a Guggenheim fellowship. She does so reluctantly. He doesn't get it.

1962. Cornell wants to incorporate nudes into his work. He asks his friend Larry Jordan take nudes of young women, including those of his daughter. He returns the photographs in 1970, not wanting them to be found after his death.

1949. The Hugo Gallery presents La Lanterne Magique du Ballet Romantique of Joseph Cornell.

1965. Joseph's brother Robert Cornell dies. A friend says of Robert's battle with cerebral palsy, "He had the minimum amount of body that would contain a soul."



1941. Cornell writes, "A suggestion of that wonderful feeling of detachment which comes over me so often  a leisurely kind of feeling that seems to impart to the routine events of the day a certain sense of 'festivity.' This feeling which I started off the day with was increased by an unexpected letter from Tamara Toumanova written with deep feeling and sincerity. She sends a ticket for her performance of Swan Lake this Thursday and invites me to her dressing room afterwards. Have never seen her dance but she has told me before that it is one of her favorites."

1943. World War II arrives, and Cornell works in a defense plant.

1929. Cornell moves into a house with his mother and brother in Flushing, where he resides for the majority of his adult life.

1962. Cornell meets a waitress on Sixth Avenue named Joyce Hunter. All his thoughts are soon consumed by her. She is a single mother who takes a job as the cashier at Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not Museum in Times Square.

1964. After he nervously begs her, Joyce Hunter moves in with Cornell.

1950. Cornell writes, "Lunch of pancakes a complete sense of peace (rare) before leaving for New York."

1921. Cornell takes a job as a woolen goods salesman for the William Whitman Company. He works there for the next ten years.

1952. He meets the artist Robert Motherwell, who complains that you can never have a conversation with Cornell: "It's always a monologue."

1951. Cornell writes to Mina Loy:

I had a beautiful early morning in the back yard under the Chinese quince tree  very early, in fact not much after five; and I could not help but think of you, looking up at the moon, when the first rays of the sun turn into silver. A long time ago, you may remember, you told me that your destiny was ravelled up somehow with the lunar globe, but even aside from this I have always experienced something wonderful evoked in this mood.

1966. His mother dies in the Hamptons. "What a beautiful child she once was."



1958. "Subway ride home 'people' etc too obsessive. People on subway  preoccupation with faces." Cornell sits for hours in cafes and train stations, picking at a danish, nursing his tea until it gets cold, staring.

1964. Joyce Hunter moves out of Cornell's house. She and her friends take nine of his boxes. Instead of prosecuting her, he makes a box depicting her as a winsome rat with tiny pink babies.

1925. Cornell becomes a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Great Neck.

1958. Cornell hires assistants to begin cataloguing the vast store of boxes housed in his basement. He is absolutely compulsive about the order of them, calling his collections of clippings and illustrations of birds "extensions," and the folders that contain them "dossiers."

1956. Cornell's fascination with young women becomes more important to him. He writes, "Jackie as much personal diary when too harassed to enter properly the events seeming flavored so beautifully by preoccupation as vs. personal obsession but these multiple overtones could not get captured in words." Robert Motherwell later has to prevent an usher at a movie theater from calling the police when Cornell gives her a bouquet of flowers.

1938. Julien Levy holds Cornell's first solo show, and some of his boxes are included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

1962. "Loneliness is stronger than sex."

1944. Cornell has a nightmare about his frail, incapacitated brother Robert. "Dreamed that a crow flew right through the windowpane without breaking it and lighted upon Robert's chest. Took him into the bathroom and opened the window for him to fly out."


1969.
He asks Allegra Kent, a ballerina, to gift him a book on erotic art because he is ashamed to buy it for himself. She does so, but thinks it weird.

1940. He works for Vogue and House and Garden, contributing some freelance design.

1951. Robert and Joseph Cornell visit their sister Elizabeth at her farm. They continue to go there often in the summer.

1956. "Satie music. This seemingly almost miraculous accomplishment amidst vile days of sluggishness — expressing lethargy."

1963. The poet Charles Henri Ford  Cornell's friend by way of correspondence  brings Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist for a visit to his house. They are absolutely flabbergasted.


1964. Joyce Hunter is found murdered in a West Side hotel room.

1966. "My recent reading: Gadda's Pasticiaccio, Foucault's Madness and Civilization. Sontag's Against Interpretation. I had not been au courant with the pieces as published. They are the most meaningful things I've come across lately." Cornell pursues strange, intimate correspondences with the young daughters of his friends.

1972. Cornell dies a virgin.

1959. "Recurrent obsession to make objects move."

1956. The dancer Carole Schneemann occasionally goes out to Flushing in order to visit Cornell. "He would have everything set up like a little tea party, and it would be enchanting, like something out of a poem. But he'd get very upset if I said anything real."

1948. Objects by Joseph Cornell is shown in Beverly Hills.

1966. Letter to John Ashbery: "I have certain dossiers capable of a high potential for someone like yourself but it needs a very close rapport and empathy  they are past my own labors and have been so for a few years now."

1957. In a letter to Ford: "The sunset mingling the past and present with a special grace."

1967. "What seemed special at the start of writing all this may seem commonplace, taken for granted by many."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. Visit our mobile site at http://thisrecording.wordpress.com.

"Game That I Play" - Jessica Pratt (mp3)

"Strange Melody" - Jessica Pratt (mp3)

Thursday
Jan082015

In Which We Still Dream Of Orgonon

Running Up That Hill

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Clouds of Sils Maria
dir. Olivier Assayas
124 minutes

She is tired, actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is, of watching movies set on other planets. She takes a role in the revival of a play that is set on earth. Her personal assistant (a more generic looking than usual Kristen Stewart) tells her that even if the settings of these fantasy films are unfamiliar, the emotions and themes are basically the same.

Stewart smokes throughout Clouds of Sils Maria. Between cigarettes she opines, at length, on the difficulties of being Kristen Stewart. The hardest parts are as follows:

1) Being on the news for cheating on your boyfriend

2) See No. 1.

By the thirtieth cigarette, an intense disdain for everything outside of the stunning Swiss mountains of Clouds of Sils Maria washes over us. The only thing moral in the movie are the environments themselves; the actors and actresses that populate the landscape are purposefully positioned as transient fog.

Binoche plans to take the senior role in the play that began her career as a precocious 20 year old. She runs the scenes with Stewart, rehearsing the text of this fictitious play about a lesbian who dominates and is dominated by her secretary. The text of the stage play and conversations between the two women from different generations run into each other in an amusing way that almost makes us forget how the play-within-a-play is as decidedly impotent as the actual drama occurring. Played off each other, the maelstrom creates a far more riveting narrative than either offers in isolation.

Binoche harbors a muted sexual affection for Stewart's douchey assistant that is never consummated. Because her ego is too large, she can't see the world from any other perspective but her own. She is forced, against her better instincts, to take a thankless role opposite Jo-Ann Ellis (a rather one note Chloe Moretz), a young starlet in the the vein of half Jennifer-Lawrence and half Stewart herself. (The shots at Lawrence in Clouds of Sils Maria's savage X-Men parody are a bit unnecessary, but what the hell.)

Moretz's Ellis breaks up the marriage of a novelist and his artist wife, bringing even more attention to Binoche's production. The suffering wife attempts suicide. We experience the only real tragedy of Clouds of Sils Maria as she google image searches a view of the man's nearly dead partner, to find out what kind of person would make a decision of real consequence in a world without any.

Binoche holds the entire movie together as much as she can through sheer force of will. She is better than almost every actress of her generation at the difficult trick of dying and coming alive again in a single scene. We are always able to see the whole story in her chastely wrinkled face, but like any true professional, she keeps us blind to the twists and turns, never broadcasting or telegraphing her inner turmoil.

It is hard to make a sincere satire, but it is fun to watch Assayas, probably the most exciting director working today, give it his all. Assayas doesn't get much out of the young actresses at his disposal, which is perhaps the point. If either of them were any good, it would prove we have no need for Binoche's Maria Enders at all.

Stewart struggles here for the most part. Her understated style suits the quieter scenes well, but she has difficulty projecting anger or discontent as anything but a lame sulk. Her body is exposed a few times as a temptation for Binoche's character; but nothing ever materializes from it, probably because Stewart's sexuality is diminished by our knowledge of the type of person she actually is. When she disappears from Clouds of Sils Maria; it is supposed to be heartrending, but it is something more like a relief.

Still, Clouds of Sils Maria is so technically brilliant that it overcomes the unlikeability of these people through sheer enthusiasm for superior composition and design. The Hollywood parody is as tired and broken as a superhero movie, but themes of passing and aging manage to triumph. In some ways Clouds of Sils Maria is more like watching a nature documentary about human beings than a mannered industry satire about the essential lack of empathy that comes, instinctively, with any kind of wealth or power.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Everlasting Muse" - Belle and Sebastien (mp3)

"Enter Sylvia Plath" - Belle and Sebastien (mp3)

Friday
Dec052014

In Which Jake Gyllenhaal Excludes Gluten From His Diet

Jacob's Camera

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Nightcrawler
dir. Dan Gilroy
117 minutes

Did you know the cause of everything bad that has ever happened in human history was the media? When the black plague broke out, Channel 7 News was on the scene. One of their cameramen got affected and showed up at a Wendy's in Bruges and a lot of people got really sick.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) looks like a pug flattened by a tire. Modifying his body for roles is all JG cares about now. On a smaller frame his face looks even more cartoonish; he could believably play Bugs Bunny. Nightcrawler, the directorial debut of Rene Russo's swarthy husband Dan Gilroy, rests entirely on his performance.


Gyllenhaal is at his best when he stops modulating his voice like a Muppet. When he gives over to the effect in this movie, which concerns the filming of car accidents and other crimes for local news broadcasts, he sounds like the demon love spawn of Olaf and Travis Bickle. He is having so much fun that Nightcrawler turns into a spastic comedy where you can't wait to see what this too-thin sleeve of a man does next.


I recently rewatched Taxi Driver. Jodie Foster looks like a trembling gerbil; I couldn't understand why Cybill Shepherd never became the biggest star in the world. The novelty of the lone crazed psycho has sort of worn off - you couldn't surprise people by showing the level of one man's unhappiness anymore. Besides, he's a man: why is he unhappy?

Gyllenhaal's Bloom is actually the polar opposite of that. He finds a secret pleasure in everything. In Nightcrawler's climatic scene, he follows a pair of homicidal drug dealers in their car and films one of them being shot to death. Throughout he has a disturbed smile on his face, because he is able to distance himself from events. It was sad to watch Travis Bickle, but when it comes to Bloom, you can't help but be a bit happy he has found something that he enjoys.


You'll be shocked to learn Nightcrawler suggests that there is something macabre and wrong about this entire business. In order to keep getting the kind of quality footage that anchors an evening newscast, Nina (Rene Russo) agrees to sleep with Lou.

Nina doesn't do everything he asks in the bedroom, but she does perform most of it. The reason she does it is because higher ratings allows her to keep her job at the station. Somehow this bit of misogynistic cynicism is glossed over because Gilroy quickly cuts to his bread and butter: Jake's being creepy again, look!


At some point during the not-especially meaningful montages of cable wires running up house, broadcasting relevant information, I actually wished he would leave these poor journalists alone. Some of Nina's coworkers are reluctant to show Lou's more graphic footage, which is kind of like leaving a little fluid at the bottom of a tiny juice-box. Just finish it.

There isn't anything in the way of grey area in Nightcrawler, rendering the fallout from Lou's all-nighters somewhat predictable. Surely there must be greater villains than the people producing this stuff, but if you watched Nightcrawler or anything by David Fincher, you would not know it. Although there is a rumor that David Muir killed a guy.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Driver (crossfaded version)" - Bastille (mp3)

"Fall Into Your Arms (crossfaded version)" - Bastille vs. The Gemma Sharples Quartet (mp3)