Archive for May, 2014



by Duane Porter

The life of Adele. Every morning Adele comes out the door, adjusts her pants, and hurries down the street to catch the bus that takes her to school. In class they are reading from La Vie de Marianne, “Ideas take hold of me. I am a woman. I tell my story.” The passage being discussed considers the possibility of ‘love at first sight’. Adele is enchanted, she loves this book and is immersed in the life of Marianne. Wide eyed, her mouth perpetually half-open, she has an insatiable desire to experience life, particularly the life of Adele.

Between classes, the girls like to talk about boys. They are all sure that one of the senior boys, Thomas, has eyes for Adele. She pooh-poohs the idea but she is obviously intrigued. Then, one morning, Thomas sits by her on the bus. They talk about the weather. They talk about the book Adele is reading, La Vie de Marianne. And they talk about what kind of music they like. She likes all kinds, she says, except hard rock with long hair and screaming. He is a musician, he teases her saying hard rock, heavy metal, is what he plays, but then he reassures her that he doesn’t and says he’d like to play for her sometime. That way they can meet again. (more…)


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Written by Jon Warner

Once is one of the defining romantic films of the new millennium, and the most touching elements are the chemistry and song writing skills of the two leads in the film. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova had known each other for years, performing together as a folk duo prior to any involvement with this film. Hansard, as lead singer of The Frames, met Irglova back in 2001 in the Czech Republic when her father had organized a music festival, inviting The Frames to play there. Hansard, a veteran of the Irish music scene for years, began supporting Irglova and her piano career. Hansard and Irglova soon decided to join forces as a duo to write and record and play live as The Swell Season, releasing their self-titled debut album in 2006. On the album appears the seeds of Once, with the tracks Lies and Falling Slowly seeing their initial release. It would be on the backs of these and other songs, a real-life relationship unfolding, and the chemistry of hope and promise that would spur on this film that is touching, romantic and bittersweet and one of the best musicals of the modern era. It’s also a film that positions romance not necessarily defined by sex or declaration, but by inspiration, openness and friendship. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1928 115m) not on DVD

No honeymoon

p  Pat Powers, Jesse Lasky Jnr, Adolph Zukor  d  Erich Von Stroheim  w  Harry Carr, Erich Von Stroheim  ph  Hal Mohr, Ben Reynolds, Ray Rennahan  ed  Frank Hull, Josef Von Sternberg, Julian Johnson  md  Carl Davis (including various classics)  art  Erich Von Stroheim, Richard Day  cos  Erich Von Stroheim, Max Ree

Erich Von Stroheim (Prince Nicholas Ehrhart Hans Karl Maria Von Wildeliebe-Rauffenberg), Fay Wray (Mitzi Schrammell), Matthew Betz (Schani Eberle), Zasu Pitts (Cecelia Schweisser), Maude George (Princess Maria Immaculata Von Wildeliebe-Rauffenberg), Cesare Gravina (Herr Schrammell), George Fawcett (Prince Ottakar Von Wildeliebe-Rauffenberg), George Nicholls (Schweisser), Dale Fuller (Frau Schrammell),

The opening caption to Von Stroheim’s romantic folly confirms that it is “dedicated to the true lovers of the world.”  That in itself might seem a supremely romantic statement, were it not for the fact that Von Stroheim is referring not just to physical romantic lovers, but to true lovers of any aesthetic, in this case Von Stroheim’s beloved Vienna.  He’s not the only master director to create love letters to that most imperial of cities (Max Ophuls did so many times a few decades later), but Von Stroheim’s films have an altogether grander quality.  They are follies, but also amongst the most grandiose statements in silent cinema history.  None of his classics can be seen as originally intended; Greed, Queen Kelly and Foolish Wives only survive in grossly butchered states, and The Wedding March is actually only part one of a story which was continued in The Honeymoon, which is now probably the most sought after lost film of them all.  Originally the second film finished on a note of doomed romance.  As it is, minus the second stanza, this poem to romance leaves a somewhat cynical but in some ways more realistic aftertaste. (more…)

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© 2014 by James Clark

      In the 1950s, actress Giulietta Masina starred in two films deriving from her husband, Federico Fellini’s, internationally consequential cinematic reflections. In one of them (La Strada) she richly embodied a young woman having run away to join a (ramshackle) circus act; in the other (Nights of Cabiria), she brought to glowing life a low-rent prostitute. Each of these movie charmers came replete with a kinetic repertoire directly transmitting not simply a strange gusto for life but an unmistakably (though undefined) dangerous gusto. Fellini’s researches into that danger came—after the steps that were named La Dolce Vita and –upon a means to exploit Masina’s former effervescence along lines of totally extinguishing it, giving us a figure bereft of kinetic/carnal cogency, namely, the Juliet of the movie in question here (from 1965). The upshot is a cinematic experience remarkably hard to warm up to, its attendant riot of sybaritic flare-ups notwithstanding. This package has inadvertently dragged along, for the sake of scuttlebutt in lieu of comprehension, a tide of marital and Jungian and Surrealist baggage, not to mention a charge of creative comeuppance for a lazy but canny millionaire. (As to that latter point, it is ironic that producing this attenuated horror vehicle nearly bankrupted the supposedly play-it-safe fat cat. That Jonathan Glazer’s recent minefield, Under the Skin [2013], could be seen as featuring a vastly [though plausibly] changed Samantha hitherto from Her, excitingly speaks to the endless investigative dimensions of the problematic of avant-garde film, which does not abandon history for the sake of the scientism of classically imprisoned perceptual phenomena.) (more…)

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Wings (1)

by Pedro Silva

“For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted.” in the words of Nick Cave on his lecture The Secret Life of the Love Song.

The romantic genre generally goes around a central love story and tends to come to an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending trying to ignore the dangerous path that waits the few souls that have courage enough to love truly and unconditionally, and most times fail to create trustfully love stories.

Nick knows all about Love Stories, and his performance of “From Her to Eternity” on the punk-cabaret club where Marion wonders alone couldn’t be more appropriate. The title resumes the film and the lyrics of the song even refer to a man that reads the diary of his lover as Damiel hears the thoughts of Marion. Again “The Carny” lyrics and darkness are perfect to emulate her feelings about this particular moment in her life. The contrast is evident between Jürgen Knieper’s celestial score on the library scenes against the gothic darkness of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. (more…)

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Jillian Juliano after receiving Confirmation outside of Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church Thursday evening.

Jillian again outside OLG

by Sam Juliano

Memorial Day 2014.  Always the entrance point for the hot stuff and treks down to the beaches.  Today promises to be ideal for barbecues and outdoor family get-togethers.  I say “today promises” because I am posting on Sunday afternoon a day in advance to stay behind the scheduled Number 96 romantic countdown essay that will automatically appear sometime in the middle of the night as set by the author.  Speaking of the romantic countdown, we completed the first week of its multiple month run, and are settling in to the routine we well remember from the prior genre countdown, most recently the one that considered westerns.  We are very pleased at the number of comments and page views and are anticipating a steady spike.  Thanks to all who have taken the time to participate in one way or another.

I want to again thank our very dear and constant friend and guardian angel Dee Dee for navigating the sidebar and adorning it with lovely reminders of Memorial Day, and for keeping ahead of some of the terrific noir venues nationwide.

Our friend Pat Perry is back from her trip to Germany, and is posting photos on her Facebook page.  Both Tony d’Ambra and Terrill Welch are still in Europe with their spouses, engaged in priceless visits to many scenic locations in France, Germany and Italy.  I’ve heard from both and am thrilled at the expected wrap up report when they return.  Some of us can only dream of such a journey. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?  That she was beautiful.  And brilliant.  That she loved Mozart and Bach.  And the Beatles.  And me.  Once, when she specifically lumped me with those musical types, I asked her what the order was, and she replied, smiling, “Alphabetical.”  At the time I smiled too.

Thus begins the novella that took the country by storm in 1970, leaving some macho men blubbering and enhancing the stock of tissue companies everywhere.  The year’s #1 bestseller with five-and-a-half million copies sold was a debut work written by a Yale graduate named Erich Segal.  People read it in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, on the buses and subways, and even in some schools.  In short order it became a pop-culture phenomenon.  I first encountered it at age 16, choosing it from a reading list in my sophomore English class.  My teacher, Patrick J. Shelley, who is now retired and living in Connecticut, was one of the coolest educators I’ve ever had the fortune of connecting with.  Our semester grade was determined by how many pages we read from an extensive reading list that included some choices that most teachers wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  The list included stuff like Portnoy’s Complaint, Mickey Spillane, the Mack Bolan “Executioner” series, and even The Godfather, which published in 1969.  One of the hot topics that school year was the infamous “Page 28” which graphically described Sonny Corleone’s tryst.

In order to get full credit for the books you read you had to pass an “interview” with Shelley at his desk.  To this day I remember some of the questions he threw out at me to confirm I had read Love Story.  One was to identify the actual focus of Oliver’s attention when he watched Jennifer Cavilleri study (her legs), another, what Oliver called his father (sonavabitch) and still what Jennifer said to Oliver after he refused to pick up the phone to speak to his father (“You are a heartless bastard.”)  At the time we were excited to read curse words in books we read for class, but years later it is easy enough to see that the populist Segal was hopelessly coy, and that Love Story as a novel is rather shameless.   (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The premiere of one of the world’s most popular operas, Madama Butterfly, was staged at Milan’s La Scala on February 17, 1904.  It was an unmitigated diaster, despite the employment of first-rate singers and technical craftsmen.  At the opera’s conclusion it was reported there was a stone silence that yielded to cat calls and boos, and even screams of “La Boheme again, we’ve heard that already! Give us something new!” and derision over Cio Cio San’s pregnant appearance after her kimono billowed in front of her.  After the fiasco, a furious but undaunted composer Giacomo Puccini -who had barely survived a car accident months before, told friends: “It is I who am right.  It is the finest opera I’ve ever written.  You must have been dismayed at the vile remarks of an envious press.  But never fear!  Madama Butterfly is full of life and truth, and soon she will rise from the dead.  I say it, and stick to it, with unwavering conviction.”  The composer made cuts and divided the second act in two before the “second premiere” three months later proved a sensation.  It was later speculated that the initial debacle was orchestrated by jealous rivals who stacked the audience to do some mischief.

It is generally thought that the literary origin of Madama Butterfly dates back to 1887, when a Parisian writer named Pierre Loti published a semi-autobiographical novel titled Madame Chrysantheme, which concerns a temporary union between a French naval officer and the title character, who is a geisha.  The work was enormously popular and was made into an equally successful opera by Andre Messager in 1893.  Five years later, John Luther Long’s story “Madama Butterfly” appeared in the American Century Magazine.  Long’s sister had lived in Nagasaki, and was able to furnish her brother with some anecdotes and authentic details.  Hence, Long made some adjustments to Loti’s original story, adding his sister’s tale of an abandoned geisha, thereby transforming the maudlin trappings into a far more emotionally potent story of tragic realism.  Pierre was turned into B. F. Pinkerton, a heartless opportunist who sets in motion unconscionable heartbreak when he abandons his unsuspecting geisha lover.   Madame Chrysantheme is changed into Cho-Cho-San, an innocent and trusting child-bride who meets her doom after the poisonous one-two-punch of desertion and infidelity are revealed a few years after she gives birth.  The work was a worldwide sensation, and after numerous offers Long collaborated with the American playwright David Belasco to create a one-act dramatic adaptation that essentially commences after Act 2 has begun, at the point when Pinkerton has left Japan. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

No other romance in the culture has been depicted on stage or screen more often that of the star crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s 1591 Romeo and Juliet.  The Bard’s play, which probably vies as his most popular with his later masterpiece  Hamlet, was in turn based on the Italian verse tale The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567.  At least 27 operas have been based on Romeo and Juliet.  The earliest, Romeo und Julie in 1776, a singspiel by Georg Benda, omits much of the action and most of its characters, and concludes on a happy note.  The most celebrated is Gounod’s 1867 Romeo et Juliette, a French work with a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michael Carre that was an unqualified critical hit when it first opened, and is still frequently revived today, even at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera and other world famous houses.  Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto work I Capuleti e i Montecchi is also revived on occasion, but has been unfavorably assessed by some because of its perceived liberties with Shakespeare.  The charge isn’t altogether fair, as Bellini and his librettist Felice Romani worked mostly from Italian sources.  Hector Berlioz’ towering “symphonie dramatique” Romeo et Juliette, a choral and orchestral work in three parts for mixed voices, and Tchaikovsky’s ravishing Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet, featuring one of classical music’s most beautiful melodies (the “love theme”) are other notable compositions that adapt Shakespeare.

The eternal fascination with these characters has spilled over into musical theatre, jazz and ballet, with the most famous by far West Side Story with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  Made into the famed 1961 film version that won ten Academy Awards, it is one of the most popular works of the twentieth-century in any form.  The stage work and subsequent film of Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific and the films Sayonara and Elvira Madigan are thematically connected as well.  One of the most popular and performed ballets is Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, written in 1935.  It is speculated by many that Romeo and Juliet is the most filmed play of all time (Franco Zeffirelli’s sublime 1968 version for varying reasons is the most famous) and even the word “Romeo” is synonymous with male lover in the culture. (more…)

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