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Alex Carnevale

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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.

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Circle what it is you want

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Felicity's disguise

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Entries in eva mendes (2)


In Which We Watch Her Hands For Clues

Cheating on Keira Knightley


Last Night
dir. Massy Tadjedin
90 minutes

In many ways, Massy Tadjedin's Last Night is an exercise in how to make cheating look like the right thing to do. After all, a cast anchored by such unblemished actors — Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet — clouds the film with a perfumed haze, leading us to contemplate their couplings agreeably, if not approvingly. There are no reinforced protagonists or antagonists, only choices amongst the beautiful.

Knightley and Worthington play a married couple - Joanna and Michael Reed - who met in college and married a few years down the line. Canet plays Alex, the guy who came in between the two stages of the Reeds' relationship; Mendes plays Laura, a designer for Michael's real estate development projects, and an attractive wedge in their otherwise quotidian marriage. The film centers around the various shades of cheating that arise when husband and wife are separated by a business trip, and both parties are confronted with an excess of desire.

Exploring a theme painfully common to relationship-oriented dramas, a film on infidelity often finds tropes hard to eschew. Secretive, erotic, unnecessarily elaborate — to our relief, Last Night is none of these things. It's straightforward, simple and, although predictable, surprisingly insightful. Most notably, it's — to the extent that still allows for unfaithfulness — honest.

Joanna dissects the impossibility of a relationship with Alex: "Oh, what I wouldn’t give to tire of you." She is frank in ways that are almost cruel; the film is stitched with these moments of disclosure. The characters’ respective bearings give depth to the otherwise routine plot. Instead of exploring the infidelity landscape, Tadjedin opts for a macro lens, a study of the minutiae. This sense of privacy, like the kind of bond forged after a confession, incites our empathy.

Last Night operates upon this surplus of information: although the four main characters are all astute, earnest and admirably introspective, they are also overdetermined. If happiness is not to exclude temptation, honesty does not prescribe morality. Being earnest does not mean knowing what to do with that honesty, if the choice is yours at all. Their frankness means unfaithfulness is discussed and resisted before being consciously and deliberately carried out. Last Night reveals the often-eclipsed ramifications of infidelity: awareness, acknowledgement, history, isolation, circumstance. Nothing is disavowed.

A film so visually interested by the personalized gestures between individuals certainly does not fail to utilize them as delineations as well. There are many complementary shades of affection in this movie: the almost-had-you embrace and the almost-lost-you reconciliation; the contemplative bleariness of guilt, and that of love's loss. Her guilt is manifested in the nervousness of her hands; his guilt is revealed by his taciturn responses.

The love between Joanna and Michael is a love that has aged into a refined rapport, an understanding of each other’s motivations no longer requiring demonstration. Much of their relationship has been internalized, and as such, there is ritualistic intimacy in everything: brushing teeth, snacking at midnight, taking the time to say "I love you." He intuits her silences as his own shortcoming. She reminds herself not to forgive easily. Their impulsions towards each other, as with gravity, have reached weightlessness.

No two bodies respond to each other with the same motions, and Joanna's relationships are no different. Her relationship with Michael exists in its own affective dimension, as does her relationship with Alex — with few overlaps.

She is aware of the polarity of her relationships, if not grateful for its perpetuation; it invites multiplicity, an alternative reality. Despite condemning Michael for craving novelty, she adorns herself in his absence: for Alex, she puts on lipstick, moisturizes, dons a pair of heels.

As that alternative, Alex and Joanna share an intimacy that is equally enviable, something that the director portrays beautifully. They have retained the cuteness of a new couple: the compulsion to smile, the inability to keep your hands off each other.

Alex knows Joanna through states of retrospective permanence: fixed addresses, memorized phone numbers, the writer's propensity for coffee in the morning. The frames of their relationship, developed in sparse windows of time across years — an e-mail here, a party there  — are welded to nostalgia. Their affection is most salient through reminiscence; after all, memory has always been a trigger for dormant desire. She tells him that their love is "something that doesn't change", something to hold on to. It doesn't lessen, doesn't become diaphanous with time. But how could it? There is no escape: a photograph kept in the dark barely fades.

the director with her stars

What Last Night exposes is not a series of acts of infidelity, but the rueful choices of individuals plagued with another reality, what Joanna astutely calls "the in-between", the episodes in which one can live outside of oneself. Its sadness lies in the inability of these characters to be content with a singular possibility, to put their decisions to bed and lie in it, unclothed, undisturbed.

As a result, the sting of Joanna and Alex’s night together is soothed by its own tenderness; the carnal grace of Michael and Laura's night is obstructed by his guilt.

There are instances of this life that we will into being, and those that materialize as consequence. As Joanne acutely confesses to Alex, "I don’t know that this would be what it is on its own." And really, what is? Her word is true of this and all stories, and all that we do. What we wouldn’t give to tire of the impossible, to accept the future without referencing the past, to be contented with the everyday without the unexpected to punctuate it? But we can't: we need absence to be sure of presence. Love only exists in comparison.

Tracy Wan is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Montreal. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here.

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In Which A Spirit Rises And Falls

This Man Killed The Spirit


The Spirit

102 minutes

dir. Frank Miller

There are three things necessary for a movie to be a genuine disaster. First is that it must be tremendously, titanicly misunderstood by critics and casual viewers alike. Second is the inevitable lack of financial success given the film's inappropriately gargantuan budget. And third and usually ignored is that the film must be awful without directly saying so — in other words, it must have some elements of being memorable, but fuck them up so badly as to be irredeemable.

Anything that came from legendary Jewish comic artist Will Eisner has to have some promise on its face. If you have never read The Spirit, don't let the fact that Frank Miller was dropped on his head as a child prevent you from seeking out the comic.

More than anything else, Will Eisner's The Spirit is hilarious. Its foppish hero is cause for guffaws, with a revolutionary bent in how he approaches women and evil and evil women. The Spirit is a comedy, a broad comedy with something for everybody, finding the fun in everything. So it seems all the stranger that the most humorless man in comics would be the one to redo The Spirit.

frank miller is the bane of my existence

Frank, moron that he is, isn't the only culprit. Whoever cast this film should be doomed to spend the rest of their days casting the contemporary update of the classic ABC sitcom, Step by Step. Every single actor in The Spirit is wrong for their respective role, starting with the personality-free lead. Gabriel Macht's career was hopefully ended by this sexless hero jaunt.

Well, surely Johnny Depp or Clive Owen or Jude Law could have gotten at least one laugh from the most ludicrous hero-story ever done in comic book form.

Still, The Spirit doesn't succeed or fail on the basis of its lead; he also needs a full supporting cast. First to go was the borderline racist ways of Spirit's African-American sidekick, Ebony White. That's a forgivable omission given the politically correct times we live in, but somehow along with Ebony's departure goes all the humor and mayhem he brought from the original. I barely understood a word Scarlett Johanssen or Eva Mendes said in the movie, although I did gather that Eva photocopying her ass was supposed to substitute for a major plot twist.

The "story", such as there is one, is that The Spirit's nemesis the Octopus wants to become immortal. Since recapping any more of the plot would likely make my pituary gland explode in Frank's favorite bloody display of gore, I will stop now. No more people need know what happens in this piece of shit than is necessary.

Robert Rodriguez, in between banging leading ladies (Rose MacGowan, Dakota Fanning), co-directed the adaptation of Miller's best ever work in any genre, the adaptation of his comic Sin City, and was able by sheer virtue of his kinetic directorial brilliance to make the film good — so good that Miller would be offered The Spirit, guiding it to a domestic gross of around $17 million. Yikes. We can only hope someone got fired as a result of that decision.

Having deprived The Spirit of his comic foil, Miller has to replace the airtime with something. He gives Octopus a young femme scientist and casts Scarlett Johanssen to play her. Despite her utter lack of acting ability, Scarlett is sometimes useful as eye candy or comic relief, but Miller's script does her no favors. He is clearly in love with her, but like most men he has no idea what, exactly, to do with her.

Given The Spirit's roster of interesting women, it's an incredible feat that Miller reduces them all to boring, fawning stereotypes. He wouldn't know a strong woman if she flashed him in the face. Instead the women of Center City are consigned to lavish black and white backgrounds and vibrant lips, instead of any interesting drama or comedy. This is barely a movie. It is more like a trailer, and it doesn't even do a very good job of encouraging you to watch it.

So Frank Miller made a piece of shit that no one saw, you say. Big deal. What you don't understand is how much there was to make into a movie, how funny and action-packed The Spirit the comic is, and how its characters even within their tiny frames loom larger than life.

There's a flashback to The Spirit's younger days as Denny Colt that gives us a taste of what this movie might have been - the thrill of the unexpected that Sin City gave a glimpse of when it wasn't lovingly photographing Bruce Willis' bald head. Miller shows us The Spirit as a younger man, before he died and came back to life. He's like any other boy, except something great is going to happen to him. The problem is that something never comes.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here.

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