Category Archives: art

Still Talking to Myself about Rapture

So, a cautionary note:  If you haven’t yet seen Rapture and think you might like to, you may want to avoid reading further.  This post contains some major spoilers.  I so enjoyed discovering this film when I knew almost nothing about it, and I would hate to deprive anyone of that experience.  If you’ve already seen the movie or you don’t care about that, go ahead and read on.

The booklet that accompanies the Rapture blu-ray

The booklet that accompanies the Rapture blu-ray

My blu-ray of the film arrived today!!!  My poster arrived today, too.  There was a bit of drama, actually, as I’d been tracking my packages and saw that both the blu-ray and the poster were supposed to be on a mail truck out for delivery.  The mail came, and I saw the poster but not the blu-ray!  Hopes dashed!  The mail truck was parked across the street, though, and I saw the mailman take a package that looked about the right size out of the back of the truck.  Sure enough, he crossed the street, walked up the steps, and deposited it in our mail slot.  The blu-ray player was supposed to arrive yesterday, but I wasn’t here to sign for it.  I stayed in all day today waiting for it (well, and working), and, finally, it arrived!  It’s Rapture Christmas over here.  Movie night tonight?  I am so stupidly excited!

In the meantime, I have now read the liner notes on the blu-ray.  I wish I could say that they were particularly enlightening.  Alas, they’re not, and they put forward this idea (an idea I’ve seen around, so I guess it’s a popular interpretation) that Agnes really believes that Joseph is her scarecrow come to life.  That’s not how I view the film at all.  And here is where I will say once again–SPOILER ALERT:  Agnes knows he’s real.  She knows the scarecrow is her creation–she says so many times.  It’s like a child with an imaginary friend.  The child knows that the imaginary friend isn’t real in the sense that the friend isn’t a living person, but the friend is very “real” in another way.  She’s been told she’s mad.  She tells Joseph and Karen that she made Joseph, but she knows that she’s playing a part.  She can want Joseph for herself, and why not?  She’s been denied so much.  She wants to claim him.  He arrives at just the right time for her.  But she knows.  The last line in the film confirms this.  She tells Joseph, “I always knew you were real.  Always.”  And this is part of the point.  He’s the one who knew she wasn’t crazy and told her so.  He’s the one who encouraged her to stop acting as if she were.  It’s a very meaningful thing for her to say to him as he is lying there dying.  To miss this, to me, is to really miss such a key part of the film.

Attempted scan of a tiny production still

Attempted scan of a tiny production still included in the booklet that accompanies the blu-ray

The liner notes also don’t really offer much interesting information about the production.  There is one tiny production still of the director instructing Stockwell and Gozzi that I would love to see larger, but that’s about it.  How do I get someone to talk to me about the real story behind this movie?  It seems terribly misunderstood, which I suppose is all too appropriate.

Last week I realized that Ennio Flaiano is credited with developing the screen treatment of Phyllis Hastings’s novel, which Stanley Mann then turned into the screenplay for the film.  Ennio Flaiano was an Italian screenwriter who co-wrote many of Fellini’s best screenplays, including The White Sheik (1952), La Strada (1954), Nights of Cabiria (1957), La Dolce Vita (1960), and Juliet of the Spirits (1965).  Flaiano was married to Rosetta Rota, the sister of Italian film composer and frequent Fellini collaborator Nino Rota.  I can’t help wondering how this unique assortment of filmmakers (French, American, Swedish, Italian, British; from the worlds of Hollywood, Bergman, Fellini) got involved in this project.  There’s a story here that I would love to dig up.

rapture german poster

German cinema poster for Rapture (1965)

I’ve compared some of the different original cinema posters for the film, and the more I look at them, the more content I am with the one I purchased.  The visual idea and blue color of one German poster I’ve seen around is nice, but the high-contrast treatment of the large image of Patricia Gozzi is a bit unflattering, and the German title–Irrwege der Leidenschaft (“Wrong Paths of Passion,” according to Google)–doesn’t fit my interpretation of the story.  I do like the treatment of the other image on that poster, though.  (Who wants to get me a $70 present–that’s including shipping–from German ebay?  Sigh.)  The most common English language posters for the film that I’ve seen are okay (one looks very similar design-wise to the Spanish language poster I purchased), but I’m not crazy about the typeface used for the title, and the tagline is just silly.  The one pictured here is one of the nicer ones, though the image may not be an original poster since it doesn’t show any fold marks.

English language poster for Rapture (1965)

English language poster for Rapture (1965)

Of the three, the tagline on the Spanish language poster, while still perhaps not quite right, comes closest, I think, to fitting the film–though what it implies about the ending is perhaps unwelcome and possibly even a tad misleading.  It reads:  “la historia de una muchacha que descubre un mundo enteramente nuevo… pero no pudo enfrentarse a él” (the story of a girl who discovered a whole new world … but could not face it).  I guess film poster taglines are the thing I cannot face.  But seriously… I’m glad I saw the film before I read any of those taglines.


Sunday at the Museum

Our friends Jen and Simone stopped at our place over the weekend on their way to Vermont, and on Sunday we all went to catch the last day of the Amy Sillman exhibit at the ICA.

The Egyptians, 2003, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. © Amy Sillman, 2013

The Egyptians, 2003, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. © Amy Sillman

We don’t get to see Jen…                                                     Or Simone

Simone, also photographed in the wild

Simone, also photographed in the wild

Jen in the wild (OK, the Mediateque)

Jen in the wild (OK, the Mediateque)

…very often.  So this was good.

First, we ate here:

The Water Cafe (I had the soup.)

The Water Cafe (I had the soup.)

Then we explored the museum.

Thing I Saw

Thing I Saw

Museum Explorer

Museum Explorer

Then Ez and Rainer took advantage of the weekly Make/Made program at the Art Lab.

Free with admission, kids!

Free with admission, kids!

Here’s their final creation:

Origami paper and glue on canvas

Origami paper and glue on canvas

Jen and Simone, both artists, were good enough to do some coloring projects with Rainer.

The House that Jen & Rainer Built

The House that Jen & Rainer Built

Simone and Rainer's Sea Creature

Simone and Rainer's Sea Creature

I think this last one is my favorite.  If Simone ever publishes a coloring book, I’ll let you know.

Simone and Rainer's Flying Housecats

Simone and Rainer's Flying Housecats

Dolores Del Rio

Watching Flying Down to Rio on TCM, I was moved to check out more about the film’s star, Dolores Del Rio. In my search, I came across some strange, wonderful, and sometimes creepy images.
(Photographer for the above two images: Slim Aarons)

A restyled doll by Juan Albuerne

And a beautiful one…,%2520Dolores%2520(Joanna)_02.jpg

And a fabulous one…

Overanalyzing Pretty in Pink–beware!

Most people have a favorite teen movie from their youth. Mine would have to be Pretty in Pink. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it. I saw it with a bunch of school friends (all girls–many of us were teary-eyed as we exited the theater) when it was first released in 1986. I’ve owned the video (VHS) for at least 16 years. It’s been a little while since I last watched it, but it was on AMC the other day–slightly and amusingly butchered–and watching it again I was reminded of some of the enduring reasons that I like it, even now. I also noticed–in some cases for the first time–some of the ways in which it doesn’t work. When you’ve seen a movie countless times, it’s hard not to pick up on editing gaffes, plot inconsistencies, and the quality of the acting–both when it’s bad and when it’s, maybe surprisingly, pretty decent.

The set designer must have had a lot of fun doing this movie. Even now, even with the overabundance of pink, I still like Andie’s bedroom. This time around, I noticed that she has at least one–maybe two–Mondrian prints on her walls. I can’t say whether that influenced me as a teenager, even subconsciously, to check out Mondrian myself, but it’s entirely possible. Iona’s Chinatown apartment is fun, too–though the kooky retro 50s/early 60s black and white stuff isn’t really my taste.

Andy's bedroom
Andie in her bedroom with her dog, Ace. Sadly, this is one of the best pictures I could find of her room–doesn’t show much, but you can see one of the Mondrian prints on the wall in the background.

Iona's apartment
Iona (Annie Potts) and Andie (Molly Ringwald) in the kooky 50s/60s room in Iona’s apartment. Andie is wearing a pretty nice Chinese jacket.

Trax, the record store where Andie and Iona work, makes me all nostalgic! I mean, did we all know someone who had that Smiths poster, or is it just me?
Iona at Trax
Iona at Trax

Of course Andie’s outfits are fun. That’s a little part of the point, right? She makes a lot of her own clothes… the film is even called Pretty in Pink. Some of it probably looks a bit goofy to someone watching the movie for the first time today, but I still like some of the pieces and combinations. Some of the colors are great. I like the vintage blue cardigan she wears at the record shop, and I especially love that lace top (can’t find a good picture of it, of course).

I’ve always liked John Cryer in this movie, and this time around I spotted some specific places–besides the classic Otis Redding scene, of course–where his acting really is pretty good. When he realizes Andie is going on a date with Blane (the major appliance), the hurt look on his face is perfect. Most of his acting in that part of the film really works, keeping in mind that he’s supposed to be in high school…

Andy and Duckie
Andie and Duckie at the record store, when Duckie realizes that Andie is going on a date with Blane

James Spader is just great as Blane’s ridiculously snotty friend Steff. His affected voice, the way he saunters around like he owns the place, his thick sleepy eyelids… he totally nails it. The bit at the end where Blane tells him off is classic. “You couldn’t buy her, though, that’s what’s killing you, isn’t it? Steff? That’s it, Steff. She thinks you’re shit. And deep down, you know she’s right.” Melodramatic? Yeah, perhaps. But for a John Hughes movie, that’s a pretty good zinger. James Spader as Steff
James Spader as Steff

Even Andrew McCarthy, who turned out to be rather less of an actor than he might have been, has a couple pretty good moments here and there. Possibly the best scene in a lot of ways is the one where Andie confronts Blane in the hallway at school. McCarthy’s character is doing a lot here–he’s squirming, for sure. He ends up doing the wimpy thing–but he’s crying. It’s not easy for him. (I’ve watched this scene many times, of course, and I think it’s really pivotal for how the film was supposed to end–but I’ll get to that in a second.) Duckie watches this whole scene unfold, and sees the aftermath of their exchange, where Steff tells Blane that Andie “was, is, and will always be nada.” I think Cryer again does a pretty good job here, and of course there’s some good John Hughes movie triumph involved when Duckie tackles Steff and they scuffle in the hall, with Duckie tearing down the prom banner after a few teachers come out of their classrooms to break it up. Steff’s reaction to the whole thing is great, too. It’s largely physical–refluffing his fluffy hair, spitting on the floor, dripping smooth disdain.

The filmmakers have been pretty open about the fact that they changed the movie’s ending after test audiences were disappointed that Andie and Blane did not end up together. In the original, Andie and Duckie end up together. I can see why test audiences felt the way they did. You want the film’s message to be that love conquers all–that class differences are superficial and don’t matter, and you want the characters to be strong enough to get past them. Andie and Blane’s romance gets built up, and even though the viewer sees just how much Duckie likes Andie, there’s not enough (at least, not that made it into the final cut) to show that Andie could see Duckie as much more than a friend, though there is one very purposeful shot at the prom where they take each other’s hands. That got left in, and I can’t help thinking that the filmmakers hoped it would serve a different purpose in the final cut than it did in the test version. To me, it looks like it’s supposed to show that they’re growing closer–maybe romantically. Perhaps the filmmakers decided to leave it in to signify that Duckie and Andie had reconciled and to show their unity as they confront Blane together.

Andie and Blane
Andie and Blane, selling BMW.

The ending that did make it into the film is almost too John Hughes-y. It’s too easy, too quickly thrown together. Of course, when I saw it in 1986 (I was 12, I think), I thought it was perfect. Heck, it made me want a BMW. But watching it now–not so much. There’s this whole thing between Andie and Blane earlier in the film where she tells Blane that she can’t believe in anyone who doesn’t believe in her. At the prom he tells her that he always believed in her but she just didn’t believe in him. Well, duh Blane… you wimped out on her! You started out all brave, taking her to your friend’s party and saying you were above it all, but then you caved! You didn’t return her calls! You backed out on the prom! Something there just doesn’t compute. And pairing Duckie up with some random girl at the prom is just silly. It reduces his role in the film.

I could probably go on, if anyone else is freakish enough to want to continue the discussion…

EDIT: Ah! But YouTube saves the day. Pretty vintage blue beaded sweater is at the beginning of this clip. And oh look–she’s wearing the lacy top thing under it. Around 2:20 she closes a door and we see the aforementioned Smiths poster, and then the scene shifts to her bedroom–Mondrian prints, pretty kimono on the wall, etc. Unfortunately, John Cryer’s good expression when he finds out that Andie is going out with Blane is split over two clips. Most of it is at the beginning of this one. It’s better when you see his initial reaction, though. Molly Ringwald is really kinda so-so compared to Cryer in that scene. Sorry, Molly.

The confrontation scene mentioned above starts around 4:45 here. Great stuff from Spader and Cryer… at least, great for a John Hughes movie.

For now I’ll save the rest for when I’m asked to provide commentary for a special edition of the DVD. (Hyuck hyuck.)

(Feels like) a long weekend in New York

It’s been a long and very good weekend.  Ez and I spent Friday and Saturday in New York.  On Friday Ez worked and I wandered around, checking out Tinsel Trading Company and spending a couple of happy hours browsing (and eventually buying) at The Strand.

Spotted after lunch

On Saturday Ez was kind enough to walk with me to the vegetarian cafe S’Nice in the West Village, where I know they have delicious steel-cut oatmeal with all the trimmings.  There I ate said oatmeal with dried fruit and honey and enjoyed one of the tastiest glasses of apricot-orange tea ever.  We went to The Strand again because Ez needed to get his fix (he didn’t really have to twist my arm to get me to spend more time there), and then Ez took me to the Chelsea Market, where the New York Lux office will soon be moving.  It’s quite a nifty building.  I’ll have to upload a picture or two.

I fell in love with this spot at the Chelsea Market.

Then we met up with Ezra’s old friend Jen Williams in the Cooper Union area (Jen went to Cooper Union and now teaches there).  I’d never met her before, though I’d heard a lot about her.  She seems pretty great, and we had a really nice time chatting with her, wandering around the Lower East Side, popping into a small gallery to check out her friend’s show, and just basically hanging out.  For dinner, the three of us went to the tasty Pan-Asian vegetarian (and largely vegan) restaurant Wild Ginger (it’s just as good as Ez and I remember).  We’re hoping it won’t be another 10+ years before we see Jen again.

And oh, hey, the Steelers won their NFL record sixth Super Bowl (that’s about 14% of all Super Bowl games that have been played).  And the game was actually exciting.  I am not a big NFL person, but we’re Steelers people in this house.  (And, incidentally, it was a day of more pleasant sports news, as PSU men’s basketball upset ninth-ranked Michigan State, the Celtics won again, and Rafael Nadal beat Federer to win his first Australian Open title.)

Every time I go to New York I want to spend more time there.  I like its energy and pervading spirit of creating new things.  I think it improves my health to be around that vibe more often!


Goodnight, Opus.  I’m sad, as I’d held out hope that maybe Opus was returning to Bloom County, but it looks like he really is done. *sniffle*

Goodnight McCain in Pennsylvania!!  I’m hoping my wishes on that front are a little safer.  Note that does show McCain making a little bit of headway in PA (gasp!… It’s still leaning Obama, though).  Come on PA, don’t blow it!!