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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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Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

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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 keira knightley (4)


In Which Alan Turing Comes Across As Gay In Name Only

Sweetums and Gonzo the Great


The Imitation Game
dir. Morten Tyldum
114 minutes

The most important thing about telling the life story of any gay man is to never show a penis. Alan Turing presumably had a penis, but we will never really know. Benedict Cumberbatch refused to do full frontal in his role as Turing in The Imitation Game, causing the film's most important scene - the one where he penetrates a code-breaking computer he has named Christopher with the precision head of his Dr. Pepper - to be left on the cutting room floor.

Instead of showing Turing's relationships with men as an adult, The Imitation Game settles for depicting an innocent crush he had on a classmate as a boy. When the object of his affection drops dead of tuberculosis, Turing is briefly upset. Gay relationships are still only palatable if they are completely unrequited, making The Imitation Game the most cowardly biopic in history.

After his codebreaking days in World War II ended, Turing cruised a local bar for a hot bang. This would be a fascinating moment to depict on film, but instead all the exciting parts of The Imitation Game happen offscreen or in montage. The movie has about as much respect for its subject as Angelina Jolie does for the Japanese.

Cumberbatch's spastic overacting reaches a nadir here. The newly engaged actor is fun to watch at times, particularly when he is shaking and crying as he jogs around the small English village that serves as The Imitation Game's main set. Director Morten Tyldum falls on his face by never giving him much to do - Benedict even wears the same fucking outfit for the duration.

Although the period sets are great fun - U-boats steaming through the water, children donning gas masks after the bombing of London - the larger costume design of The Imitation Game is tragically boring, along with pretty much everything else in it.

We never even see Turing with his shirt off: he's one of the good, non-threatening homosexuals, you see. After a police officer terms Turing a "poofter", a man in the audience loudly whispered to his wife, "He's a gay" so that she would funderstand the rest of the movie.

Despite his devotion to never being with a woman in that way, Turing asks Joan (Keira Knightley) to marry him so she can help him crack the German code machine and finish the Nazis off. Because her teeth look like hot garbage and she has little in the way of other options, she agrees. He ties up a piece of twine and presents it to her as a ring. Even though he never kisses or touches Keira, her knowledge of his sexuality never goes beyond, "Alan's a bit strange."

Turing's death was quite poetic, but The Imitation Game does not show that part of Alan's story either. Instead it focuses on a dogshit voiceover; by the end the film is scrolling text across the screen that reads, "Today, we call them computers," treating its audience as a bunch of six year olds. The Imitation Game seems intent on driving anything the slightest bit controversial or unflattering out of the man's story, so much so that I feel I will never know whether or not Alan is a top or a bottom.

As to what actually constituted Alan Turing's genius, The Imitation Game never seems overly concerned with that. It seems he was very good at crossword puzzles. He puts one in a newspaper in order to attract codebreakers, which is how Knightley comes into his life originally. (She has never met a dentist, at least not one she likes.) Those revolting dark eyebrows make her look slightly insane. They should never have allowed Keira to appear onscreen looking like Sweetums from the Muppets.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Portray A Psychoanalyst With Our Usual Aplomb

Jung at Attention


A Dangerous Method
dir. David Cronenberg
94 minutes

The appeal of a fine Jewish woman, the unshiksa, is well known throughout the centuries. Somehow Jesus avoided the temptation, but basically no one else did. Perseus, as he crossed the Grecian plain, had on his mind only a trick named Sheila Wasserstein, who he planned to maybe hang out with and see a movie at some point down the road. When he visited the cinema with his gentile girlfriend, all she did was hold his hand.

In ensuing years, we can only guess how many gentile lives unshiksas like Scarlett Johannssen and Lizzy Caplan have ruined. Ryan Reynolds wakes up every night in a damp sweat, and he doesn't have the knowledge that he is a prominent psychologist in turn of the century Zurich to quell his innate fears. Instead he's just a fucking actor.

In David Cronenberg's new film A Dangerous Method this Jewish ingenue, Sabina Spielrein, is portrayed by Keira Knightley. To make you forget this is the Keira Knightley who has had an agent since she was six years old, she adopts a slight Yiddish accent. She tells her psychiatrist Carl Jung (a childlike Michael Fassbender) that she enjoys adopting a pose in which she kneels and simultaneously attempts to defecate and stop herself from defecating. I tried this after the movie was over and it didn't end as well for me as it did for Keira.

Watching Keira Knightley try to play the part of psychotic Jewish mistress/patient, who, after she is cured, attempts to become a psychiatrist herself, is just as anguishing as it must have been for her to try to play the role. She is working so hard to be a serious actress, to live up to the potential of her part, that she eventually wins us over through sheer force of effort. Her accent is pure shit, and her manic facial expressions are something of a disaster, but who cares? Verisimilitude has never drawn at the box office.

Keira comes into Jung's life, frothing at the mouth, bursting out of her restraints because of the humiliation she suffered at the hands of her father. Jung is in contrast the nicest man she has ever met, played by the magnetic Fassbender as a naive-do gooder turned hypocrite. Jung initially struggles as he tries to cure her madness, almost crying when she refuses his jacket on a cold day.

After he makes a mentor/protege visit to the father of his field, Sigmund Freud, it takes Keira about ten minutes of screen time to not only cease her illness, but take up the task of psychoanalysis herself. It's only the tendency of Knightley to slightly jut her jaw out that lets us know she's still a crazy nutbag. Naturally, the married Jung finds his gorgeous Jewish patient irresistible, either as a consequence of Freud's method or in spite of it. Her bushy eyebrows — Cronenberg's idea of a Semitic affectation — do nothing to dim her appeal to the entranced analyst.

the tweezer was invented in 1994

Viggo Mortensen was Cronenberg's second choice for Freud (after Christoph Waltz), and his laconic portrayal is more along the lines of what we expect in a period film. The action is set in a Swiss hospital around the turn of the century, and we meet Freud when Jung appears in Vienna for a visit. The two bray and honk at each other for 13 straight hours, detailing their hopes and dreams for the future of their profession. Their discussions come across more as impassioned exclamations of pop psychology than serious discourse. Either that, or there is no such thing as psychology, only pop psychology.

It doesn't take long for the younger doctor to be uncomfortable in Freud's shadow. Freud sends him a lecherous patient (a scene stealing Vincent Cassel) and Jung manages to not only worsen his condition, but allows him to escape the sanitarium. Jung speculates that Freud is so obsessed with sex because he doesn't get any, and almost immediately begins to disregard his mentor's advice in favor of a spiritual understanding that will allow his patients — and himself — to escape the roles life has written for them.

around 1902 a public HJ from your pregnant wife was de rigeur

Jung is married to a rather boring gentile woman who has a lot of money. She buys him a lovely estate, and also a cute sailboat. They take naps in the cabin together like chaste siblings. It is never mentioned that she herself also became an analyst. Even after ten years have passed, they don't age her with makeup one bit, so as not to give Jung any excuse whatsoever for cheating on her so flagrantly, for not exhibiting the slightest bit of guilt. She is simply an unwanted beautiful thing.

Carl takes out his frustrations on his Jewish friends. Henry Kissinger is not available and The Prince of Tides hasn't yet hit local theaters, so Freud himself bears the brunt of his anguish. (I'm not sure what I was doing, probably practicing my jiu-jitsu.) There is never a shouting match between Freud and Jung. The most evocative moments of conflict occur in monotone readings of their letters to each another, which is great fodder for blog posts, but somewhat inadequate for a visual medium.

Freud's wife bought him a toy sailboat

When the two eventually reunite for a trip to America, Freud believes the closeness between him and Jung will not ebb, and is shocked that Jung's wealthy wife has booked him a first class cabin while he labors away on a manuscript in the middle decks. Celine Dion refused to score the soundtrack unless Cronenberg apologized for making his 1999 film eXistenZ, so no music outside of a random note here or there adorns the ship's arrival in Manhattan.

near, far, wherever you are

Instead of watching the two psychoanalysts stroll the streets of SoHo, it's back to Europe again. Cronenberg's disgust for the period makes A Dangerous Method more amusing than the staid stage play it is based on. He doesn't bring the past to life, quite the contrary: he murders it again and again. Europe holds no glory for him; even a magnificent Swiss vista absorbed by Jung in his waning years symbolically represents only another personal tragedy. The fact that Europe is so much older than his own country is a point of regret, not an enticing feature of its history. In this landscape, we are forced to be continually reminded of that continent's many disappointments, foretelling the genocide to come. (Sabina Spielrein herself was ended by a SS death squad.)

Strangely, Freud comes across as the only sympathetic figure in the film. This is half due to Viggo's dreamy, sad eyes, and half a consequence of the fact that he is the only person in the film not to behave abominably. In fact, he doesn't behave at all — he smokes over 82 cigars in the movie, one for every scene he is in (I counted out of boredom) and the only time he moves more than an inch is when he collapses after a panic attack. The idea is to subtly associate the staidness of his psychoanalytic viewpoint with his literal motion, but the end result is so dull you can't properly appreciate the meme.

a relationship that spans space and time

I don't know why Cronenberg, usually the purveyor of such cinematic excitement, tension and pain, chose this project. Perhaps he wanted to zig instead of zag. A sanitarium would seem to be the perfect setting for scares and frights, and none are in evidence here. There is nothing to suggest that the same man who directed A Dangerous Method also wrote and directed a horror film about the psychosomatic offspring of a mutant woman, or one about sex after car crashes. The underlying message here is that none of us can afford to live in the past; as Jung himself puts it in the film's final scene, "Sometimes you have to do something unforgivable just to be able to go on living."

Until the very end of A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg resists nearly all the trappings of period films: the maudlin crossfades, the montages connoting the passage of time, the dreamy/sweeping score, the Mad Men trope of exposing the outrageous conventions of the time to modern eyes. Cronenberg prefers instead to focus on the psychic unraveling of deeply misguided individuals. It's true that this has been his subject before, but the analysis never came to such a hopeless conclusion.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Cut Me Out" - MNDR (mp3)

"I Go Away" - MNDR (mp3)

"Jump In" - MNDR (mp3)

historical moment as sabina receives first ever crap e-mail from a dude


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.

"Green Grass" - Tom Waits (mp3)

"Motel Blues" - Bombay Bicycle Club (mp3)

"Modern, Normal" - Memoryhouse (mp3)