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Archive for September 5th, 2021

Screen capture from Todd Stephens’s “Swan Song”

by Sam Juliano

Labor Day 2021.  The summer will not officially be over until a few weeks from now, but for all intents and purposes the season has passed us, and schools are opening this week.  One can only speculate how this will proceed what with the variant still gaining momentum and threatening to send everything into virtual mode once again.  Some of us may son be receiving our booster shots, while others are not anywhere close to that at the present time.

The Russian film polling will continue until Friday at 5:00 P.M. EST.  Many thanks to those who have submitted ballots so far.  Each one is fabulous in its own way.  J.D. Lafrance published a splendid review of Scattered Glass at the site this week.  Nothing has changed with my own upcoming publication of Paradise Atop the Hudson.  I wrote a bit more of the second novel Irish Jesus in Fairview, but my Caldecott review series is taking up a big chunk of my available writing time, a fact my dear friend Valerie Clark has rightly pointed out, for as much as she greatly appreciates the series.  But I am still juggling, and will manage to get both in, even with the business of the international polls and watching movies.  And now school intrudes this week.  Ha!  Speaking of the Caldecott series, what a thrill to get a glowing comment from artist and former New Jersey resident Melissa Sweet under my review of her magnificent work Unbound: The Life + Art of Judith Scott.  Similarly, it was so heartening to have the author-artists of the other three books I reviewed share them all over Facebook (Jeff Gottsfeld, Matt Tavares, Wendell and Florence Minor, Matthew Cordell).

My oldest daughter Melanie’s favorite film professor during the time she spent at Manhattan’s School of the Visual Arts was “Todd Stephens”. Last month she proudly informed me his new film “Swan Song” was scheduled to open in theaters and via Amazon Prime. This is not Stephens’s first film but after watching it at home last night with Lucille I feel it is his best. It is not perfect, but overall a solid work first distinguished by its irresistible irreverence and lead performance by Udo Kier as retired hairdresser (and sometimes drag queen Pat Pitsenbarger) who chain smokes Mores and disarms everyone (including a clerk at a convenience mart in a particularly memorable scene) as he attends to the hair of a female friend who died. “Swan Song” is sometimes hysterical, but its also elegiac and in tune with its subject, funereal. For me it is 4/5 and well worth seeing. Roughly the same reasonably favorable recommendation is sent on by my great pal and former English teacher, Patrick J. Shelley. (more…)

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