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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 (176)

Thursday
Jul022015

In Which We Find Nicholas Ray In A Lonely Place

This is the second in a series about the life of the director Nicholas Ray. You can find the first part here.

A Dangerous Fault

by ALEX CARNEVALE

He has a dangerous fault in work. You feel that he is thinking a little bit more about himself, and the angles, than the material. This comes out of his uncertainty.

Hollywood in the late 1940s was a dangerous place for anyone who had ever has the slightest association with the Communist party. The director Nicholas Ray had recently married an actress named Gloria Grahame after impregnating her.  He could not afford to be blacklisted; he had to work. So he turned to his friend Howard Hughes.


At RKO, Hughes' mission was to make anti-Communist films — he did not particularly care the politics of the people who made them. Ray refused to direct a movie called I Married A Communist because it hit too close to home — his friend Gene Kelly had done just that. His first film, They Live By Night, had been shelved and  a proper follow-up, starring Joan Fontaine as a miscast bad girl, was something of a mess as well.

He was unhappy with his marriage, too. Grahame was beautiful, but as Patrick McGilligan explains in his masterful biography Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director, Ray admitted he was "infatuated with her: but I did not like her very much." At the start, their connection was mostly sexual, with Ray's friends in awe that he was able to even maintain an erection given the amount of alcohol he consumed.

Gloria loved sex more than her husband. One of her friends suggested that when they were out, Gloria stood behind Ray with her eyes cast to the ground. Ray's gambling and drinking were spiralling out of control — Grahame and her mother would spend hours replacing his cocaine with sugar.

One of Ray's closest friends, Humphrey Bogart, was his star in the legal drama Knock On Any Door. In 1951, they planned to reunite for a picture in which Bogart would play a man with the double life of a screenwriter and serial killer. The working title was In A Lonely Place. Because the Production Code was loathe to approve the concept of Bogart as a multiple murderer, Ray and producer Robert Lord rewrote the script to make Bogart only a potential suspect in the case.


In A Lonely Place is a masterpiece of atmosphere and mood over actual content. Bogart plays his usual caustic individual, but Ray pushes the character into something like a literary supervillain. They had great trouble casting Bogart's love interest-victim until Ray suggested his wife. In order to get the film publicity they drew up a his-and-hers contract where Ray's second wife was forbidden to "nag, cajole, tease or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him" during the film's production.


On set, the real intimacy was between the heterosexual Bogart and the indeterminate Ray. The particulars of the relationship depended entirely on which of them was drinking at the time. "At certain times when I would not drink," Ray later wrote, "when filming, particularly or the preparation before filming, our relationship would alter. In some ways it became deeper, in others, only more formal."

Ray rewrote the novel's ending to reflect the dark nature of the relationship between himself and Grahame. The real-life parallels were all too obvious to everyone on set of In A Lonely Place, and Bogart convinced the studio that it all actually worked, so Ray's new ending stood. Although not very successful at the box office, In A Lonely Place established Ray as a director who was doing new things that other men in the industry could only dream of.


The closeness necessitated by their working together drove Ray and Gloria Grahame even further apart. He moved his things out of their Sunset Boulevard home and slept in his trailer. They kept up the fiction of their marriage in order to protect their young son, but the gossip columnists broke the story. Grahame's deep hurt was expressed on a series of men, while Ray started an on-again-off-again courtship of a younger woman named Marilyn Monroe.

One night Ray walked in on his 13-year-old son Anthony from a previous marriage inside of his soon-to-be-ex-wife. The story followed Ray everywhere. (It only worsened the situation in 1962 when his look-alike son and Gloria Grahame reconnected and decided to exchange vows of marriage.) The betrayal meant more drinking, more drug use, and when he could get it, more of Marilyn.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Crux" - Jean Grae (mp3)

"August 20th" - Jean Grae (mp3)

Monday
Jun222015

In Which Manglehorn Has A Difficult Time Adapting To His Situation

Kitty Kat

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Manglehorn
dir. David Gordon Green
97 minutes

Al Pacino always looked good for his age. He was fifty twenty-five years ago, and he managed to portray the lives of men decades younger. Bouncing around like a hyper Italian Elia Kazan, Pacino stepped into every type of part you can imagine with the same aggravating way of speaking, like he was inserting breaths where there should not be any.

In Manglehorn he plays a dissatisfied old locksmith who meets a bank teller (Holly Hunter). She is the kind of person who wakes up every day exciting for what is to come, she explains, which makes her a very wise 57. She looks way too young for Al, who shows his age by taking a bad spill while tripping over a plant on their first date.

Angelo Manglehorn has a Persian cat named Fanny who eats a number twelve key that he sells in his locksmithery. A veterinarian removes the obstacle from the animal's duodenum; the hospital astonishingly allows 24 hour visitation. Manglehorn uses it as an excuse to get out of the prospect of intimacy on his date with Holly Hunter, who makes the error of suggesting that they see a movie.


I don't think Pacino can sit comfortably for that long. Manglehorn at first seems to be making fun of him, if not Texas. Neither would be in very good taste, except that the vibrant life that surrounds this broken-down person is altogether more interesting than he is. Manglehorn witnesses a six car pileup that is in better shape than his personality. Everyone is perpetually having a more terrific time than he is.

Harmony Korine plays the owner of a male tanning salon, Tan Man. Chris Messina plays Manglehorn's son Jacob, an unhappy broker who offers his father money rather than emotional sustenance. Instead of being pleased, Manglehorn complains about the quality of the dinner his child treats him to — he is a very ungrateful keymaker.

Gordon Green displays everything at arm's length, rarely lingering for a close-up of his subject. This is brilliant, because it gives us the chance of forgetting we are looking at the husk of Al Pacino all the time. The resulting creature envisioned in its own environment becomes something far different than his usual imitation of himself. It is enough that this is not a parody — Green is a lot more tolerable as a filmmaker when he is completely sincere, and Manglehorn is nothing but utterly serious at all times.

In one scene, in order to please his old Little League coach, Harmony Korine treats Manglehorn to a sexual massage. Instead of thanking him profusely, Angelo breaks his lamp and screams, "You don't know me!" This is not played as a joke whatsoever.

A soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky gives a dreamy happiness to Manglehorn's redemption, as if Angelo's dissatisfaction with the world can only help but give rise to the opposite. The cat eventually recovers from its surgery, and Manglehorn ends up giving his son an important loan with money he had been saving for some woman he drove away through endless complaining about the price of food and his mortgage. He burns all the photos of the girlfriend he longed for along with the letters that were returned to sender, and starts fresh.

The script of Manglehorn is nothing much, but Pacino and Messina wring all they can out of it, making you wish the fractious father-son relationship had been a little bit more of the focus here. Gordon Green's art direction is typically superb, and the living spaces Manglehorn inhabits would almost make him feel real if he weren't, you know, a dessicated Al Pacino.

I guess Manglehorn is primarily about FOMA (Fear of Missing Out), which I did not know applied to people over seventy. For this reason, Manglehorn seems like a film about older people written by younger people. It makes sense that we would expect at least some people never really change from their previous selves. A book I read recently suggested we all freeze, emotionally, at one age or another. For Mr. Pacino, it might be that moment has yet to arrive.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Workin' Man" - Neil Young & Promise of the Real (mp3)

"Rules of Change" - Neil Young & Promise of the Real (mp3)

Tuesday
Jun162015

In Which We Dominate Various Rexes At Our Leisure

Radiant

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Jurassic World
dir. Colin Trevorrow
124 minutes

Bryce Dallas Howard resembles a lit candle, hollow and glowing from within. Bryce is the only person on Isla Nublar who hasn't gotten the least bit tan or even burnt. Presumably she applies vast quantities of sunscreen, but we would never know that. We never even see her, or anyone, eat so much as a sandwich in Jurassic World. Once, for only a second, Chris Pratt takes a sip of Coca-Cola.


Bryce's sexuality has begun radiating off her like contagion, suddenly, as she nears middle-age. Pratt wears the tightest clothing possible in corcordance. "I'm the alpha," he tells her about the group of velociraptors he controls with movements of his hands and butt.


Is it any wonder Bryce wants to spend all her time with him? His khakis look like spandex. She ignores her two childish and spoiled nephews during their visit to the park, detecting on some level that they are too ensconced in white privilege to properly appreciate the genetic research and biological study in which her organization is engaged.


None of these people seem to be in very much danger from the dinosaurs. Chris Pratt has befriended most of the creatures, and at one point Bryce engages the help of a tyrannosaurus rex to sedate a crankier dinosaur with longer arms. It is good to see white people at peace with their environment.

There is one African-American handler, but he has like three lines and the rest of the time he just shakes his head mournfully and hides in a pipe.


A few of the dinosaurs get out of their containers, but most everyone in Jurassic World survives the day-long events of the film. Chaos is a minor inconvenience — isn't it after all just a close cousin of excitement?

In one scene, while searching for her nephews, Bryce finds a wounded diplodocus dying in a field, and she makes some time to cry for it, even though her sister's children may be dead. She really loves the damn beasts.

After the disastrously boring shitshow that was Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt has much more fun romancing the stone that is Bryce Dallas Howard's slightly upset countess. He has only a couple of limitations as a performer, but he respects those weaknesses so completely he nearly worships them.

In a completely white outfit, Howard is the central figure. It would probably have been more fun to really get her dirty and disgusting as dinosaurs tracked her through a paddock, but instead she barely rips her shirt. Nothing much is lost by that, since dinosaurs are not really prominently featured in Jurassic World, the way the thing you best remember about the Magic Kingdom is when your sister vomited at a character breakfast.

As a result, it is hard to exactly know whether Jurassic World is more vapid than its deadly serious predecessors, or just as silly as the idea should have been to begin with. Michael Crichton was never much for satire, but more than twenty years later, parody is unavoidable. Jurassic World even uses the exact same music as the original — they probably just should have remade it.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Drift" - Debruit (mp3)