Archive for December 14th, 2016


 © 2016 by James Clark

      When is a vampire movie not a vampire movie? When it’s a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie! You want to take the blood-drinking as part of an unearthly frenzy, and you’re dead on arrival.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) is, in its very title, a megalomaniac declaration—the kind of stimulant-driven delusion stemming from the likes of rock and roll gods, self-styled inextinguishable heroes for the ages. “Our powers and influence will never die,” they desperately opine. And in that distemper they are a species (a metaphorical species) of the nonsense of undead vampires, a motif winched up by Bela the New American smart guy, in Stranger than Paradise; Roberto the fixer, in Down by Law; Elvis-mad Mitsuko, in Mystery Train; a platoon of soothsayers in Night on Earth; aboriginal mystic Nobody, in Dead Man; samurai-junkie Ghost Dog, in the film taking his name; Don, the spirit of the (flabby) times, in Broken Flowers; and the think-tank-assassins, in The Limits of Control.

Adam and Eve, our protagonists, mete out their days based on Adam’s having been, years ago, one of those rare pop musical hopefuls whose every hope for fame and fortune came to pass. Having, since Day One of their partnership, an eye, a nose, a touch and an ear (sort of like Don’s IT Midas Touch) for what the cravings of their scene would lavishly reward, the first residue we see of that long-ago coup is the city of choice of each of them—Eve’s powerhouse being the erstwhile hipster litmus test, Tangiers, Morocco; and Adam’s peerless realm of funkiness as to 21st century apocalypse being the uber slum of the solar system, Detroit. (After a decades-long romp around Cleveland, now the spotlight of biting irony touches down upon Motown, already a much-despised musical target in earlier works like Mystery Train and Broken Flowers.) That they no longer live together but instead occupy widely separated and significantly differing homelands, is one thing. That the exigencies of their rage to be all the rage (forever) devolve to a diet of blood supplements is something else—being another litmus test, more about basic sanity than cool. Here our helmsman has, as the ante of discovery gets more and more subtle and rough, embarked on a grown-up form of chicken as the heart of his communicative motives. And here I am accordingly compelled to blow that rather preciously hidden clan predilection for the sake of an understanding too important to be left underground. (And, however, on the other hand, this step might be the adjunct to his very expensive and therefore populist-seeming constructions.) As we go forward with this shell game, I’ll issue a little taunt to stand as a challenge: If you really think the central figures are hundreds of years old, and have a long record of sharp-toothed murder, I’ve got some Florida swampland I’d love to sell you at a decent price. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.              -Ralph Waldo Emerson

From the rapturous cover of a fox on the prowl for rabbits, frogs croaking around a stream and crickets bringing  some special measure of authenticity to the book’s title, by way of a fancy current red in cursive to the oval back cover of a boy fast asleep in his bedroom, Cricket Song may well be the year’s most intoxicating picture book.  Anne Hunter’s ink and watercolor art is not only astonishingly beautiful but sensory, evoking as it does a place governed by reverberating sounds and a scents as keen as anywhere in the natural world.  Geographical, aquatic, and metaphysical kinship are established early on, and Hunter subsequently chronicles this initial flirtation and eventual immersion with nature, the most integral aspect of lives separated by a vast ocean.

The fox is again seen in the title page spread, applying his senses acutely while stalking his prey.  The opening burst of lyricism marvelously opines that the “evening breeze” rises to meet the night that began upon the setting of the sun.  A hilly terrain along the water is spied by crickets perched on blades of grass with the shadows of trees negotiated in cross pattern.  A small house is set back slightly as dusk is yielding to nocturnal atmospherics.  But the breeze has another function, one that supersedes weather related responsibilities – the breeze is a vessel for the song of the crickets which wafts through an open window of a room adorned with dark blue walls, stars and planets.  The boy snuggles with a sea otter, while a cat sleeps at the foot of the bed.  The painting hanging on the wall bears thematic kinship with the rectangular paintings that run across the bottom of each subsequent page in the book.  While there is no audible competition for the cricket song indoors, it is quite another story in the wild, where the kreck kreck kreck of the frogs in the stream brings a second instrument to this outdoor evening concert in this sleep inducing canvas. (more…)

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