Thursday, April 28, 2005

Inch on!

Rex Reed wrote the following in the current New York Observer (and I swear this is the last I'll post about the whole Reed-Boy brouhaha):

On Oldboy

Finally, a word about Korea. A few weeks ago, in my broadside against the gory Korean movie schlockfest Oldboy, I apparently raised the hackles of several readers who objected to the way I mentioned the Korean film industry and the fermented Korean national dish called kimchi in the same sentence. I’m not an admirer of political correctness in first-person byline opinion writing, but that doesn’t make me a racist, so if I inadvertently offended anyone who misinterpreted my humor, I apologize. I like Koreans. In truth, I have probably spent more time in Korea than any of the irate letter-writers currently bombarding me. I even lived there for several months while making a movie called Inchon! with Laurence Olivier, Jacqueline Bisset, Ben Gazzara, Richard Roundtree and Toshiro Mifune. We had many happy times, admired the lush landscape and liked the friendly people. We all hated the kimchi.

* * *

I guess this is an apology. I'm glad he likes Koreans. But this clarification doesn't really gibe with what he wrote. As Dizzyhead Nicole (well, I'm not sure that she's a Dizzyhead—she's the wife of Dizzyhead Benno) remarked, "Some of my best friends . . . "

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I didn't realize blood types were seen to be character-defining. I'm not sure what to do with this news.

From what I understand, blood typing seems to be a common plot device in Korean soap operas—e.g., so-and-so can't be your biological parent because s/he's got a blood type that's impossible to tally with yours.

What do you expect from a nation that likes to throw rice, vegetables, beef, and an egg into a hot stone pot — oh wait, now I'm hungry!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A note of encouragement

"You start out with a few simple styles, but as you progress through the game, you will learn to throw flames and transform into a giant toad demon."
—Charles Herold, review of the game Jade Empire, NYT 22iv05

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Letter never sent

On Sunday, MoMA screened all 6-ish hours of Feuillade's Les Vampires. (A few weeks earlier, I was there by chance, and caught some of Fantômas.) The late Edward Gorey spoke of attending Feuillade screenings at MoMA, with the installments sometimes shown out of sequence.

Dizzyhead Benno heroically attended the recent LV screening, prompting me to dust off a "Guilty Omission" I wrote for Mark Peranson's Cinema Scope, back in 2002:

Dear M.,

Thanks for all the letters, also the nice scarf. You asked why I finally saw Les Vampires, and what I thought. As to the first: Like most things, it’s your fault. Remember that night in Paris when we wandered through the rain? You crept along the roof, in that high-octane bondage suit, clutching a necklace thick with jewels. For a moment you’d merged with the spirit of Irma Vep, the feral heart of the ultra-criminous Vampires—i.e., your thankless role in René Vidal’s doomed retooling of Louis Feuillade’s 1915–16 serial, the whole mess captured in Olivier Assayas’s Irma Vep. (But you know all this!) Hélas: my fondness for such vertigo had slacked, and though the snippets of Feuillade tantalized, I put the task of hunting down the nearly seven-hour original on the remotest of back burners.

Then H. moved out of New York, in the process divesting himself of anything bigger than a breadbox. His framed Irma Vep poster promptly went up in my apartment, itself about breadbox-sized. The glass doubled as a full-length mirror, perhaps accounting for my somewhat disordered appearance through much of the late 90s. Several times a day, then, your vacuum-packed form—surrounded by ecstatic pull quotes!—engaged me in a gentle brainwash. Years passed; I was a Mag-Cheungian candidate, if you will, unwittingly waiting for the push that would send me into the arms of Les Vampires. About a month ago I became absorbed in some republished Edward Gorey interviews, and his repeated citation of Feuillade as a singular influence proved to be the trigger—my Queen of Hearts.

Feuillade kicks off the proceedings with news of a decapitation, and borrows the viewer’s head for nearly seven hours of weird menace and happy savagery, spurious messages and labyrinthine ciphers—an impossible night’s worth of solid REM. I have grown haggard this past week, M., not just from watching all 10 episodes, but from searching the shadows as I walk, and from wondering: if "Irma Vep" anagrimes as "Vampire," what rearrangement awaits "Musidora," the name of the actress who plays her? My life has become an extended bout of paranoia and Boggle. Indeed, though Les Vampires is silent, it distorts language as thoroughly as it does the reality of its urban setting.

Unreal city: Is it just me, M., or is Philippe Guérande, the hero-journalist, a dead ringer for T.S. Eliot? Paris is a necropolis, the wartime chaos in the real world oneirically condensed to a secret society of murderous jewel thieves. Under cover of perpetual dusk, the Vampires, like their shapeshifting namesakes, infect the atmosphere, as seamless as air, striking unawares. In a terrifically malevolent scene, poison gas fells a room of tony partygoers, who mistake the odor for a new perfume. (There’s an awful lot of poison here: poison ink; a poisoned letter; poison champagne; a poison ring; a poisoned tack that emerges from a glove and causes a convenient five-minute, you-must-listen-to-every-word-I-say paralysis; a cyanide pill concealed in the ear; a poison spray delivered by atomizer. I should also mention the portable cannon, M., which they fire indoors.)

The Vampires are as much actors as twisted plotters; equal-opportunity impersonators, they masquerade as nobles, doctors, receptionists, maids. (Irma Vep is first seen singing—or just declaiming rabidly?—onstage.) This is art with artifice as its subject, M. Further convolutions: Our hero unwinds by going to the theater; unfortunately, the play is about murder and stars Irma Vep and her crew. A ballerina not long for this world dons wings for her performance in a dance with a title identical to that of the movie we’re watching. In another episode, a character declares, "I’m a film fanatic!"; after attending a movie called A Race to the Abyss, he gets erased and abyssed. Imagine, M., the collective chill that ran down the spines of the flesh-and-blood spectators. Did they look both ways as they left the Gaumont Palace? Jarring, too, is the habit of Guérande’s sidekick (the jolly opportunist Mazamette) of addressing the camera, in a style both proto- and postmodern…

But I should sign off here, M. Thanks again for the scarf. One last thing: The eerieness of silence, in audio and moral terms. Did you know the movie was banned briefly, for glorifying crime? The villains do not repent, and the triumph of order is patently a tissue. Les Vampires, heretofore my "guilty omission," is, among other things, a satisfyingly pure example of an omission of guilt.

Best, E.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Rex is comedy

A parody of Rex Reed's take on Oldboy and Korean cuisine appeared in the Voice last week.

Gawker picked up on it, as did the New York Post's Page Six—which credulously read the spoof as real reportage (and published a picture of Reed).

This incited further commentary from Gawker.

Still no apology or retraction from the Observer or Reed, as far as I know.

* * *

Postscript: Dizzyhead Akiva has sent us this link, to Slant Magazine's blog. Slant mentions the Voice piece, and draws our attention to Reed's latest less-than-sensitive swipe:

"In his 'On the Town' column this week (page 22 for those who read the paper in print), Reed points out that Matthew McConaughey in Sahara 'can scarcely say "I'll find the bomb, you get the girl" without the need for subtitles.' Describing Penélope Cruz, the writer states the actress 'is right at home with her co-star because she can’t speak coherent English either.'"

Monday, April 11, 2005

Ear, ear!

Dizzyhead Brent has been deluging me with snippets from the master—Robert Bresson!

Here is something from an interview:

S: You told Godard that you prefer as often as possible to replace image by sound. Why?

B: Because the ear is profound, whereas the eye is frivolous, too easily satisfied. The ear is active, imaginative, whereas the eye is passive. When you hear a noise at night, instantly you imagine its cause. The sound of a train whistle conjures up the whole station. The eye can perceive only what is presented to it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Revelation #3

Three notes from *Diane Arbus Revelations*, now at the Met:

1. A grandmother is patiently explaining the photos to her quite young granddaughter. I wince as I pass the one in which a dominatrix poses with her foot atop the back of a paunchy, shirtless man, face obscured by a mask: What will grandma say? Without missing a beat, she reads the title aloud ("Dominatrix With a Kneeling Client"), seemingly unimpressed, and notes succinctly to the tyke, "Some people like other people to do that to them." Moving on . . .

2. Reading some wall text about Arbus's husband, Allan Arbus, a know-it-allish woman says to someone (younger relation? foreign exchange student? complete stranger?): "He was an actor. Have you ever seen that show M*A*S*H*?" "I . . . I think maybe . . . reruns . . . " "Do you know the psychiatrist? That's him—Allan Arbus."

3. "It is dizzying and if you have further counsel I will gladly listen." —DA to Walker Evans, upon receiving a Guggenheim.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Wonder of You

Thanks to Dizzyhead Brent for this fun/depressing site, which tells you what music topped the charts on the day you were born.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A bullet-in!

Our friend John, down in Little Rock, recently sent out a message explaining why he's been so out of touch. A gripping tale told with his usual charm, it also contains a reference to dizziness. Enjoy!

* * *

[. . . ] Flash back about three weeks to 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It was a hot day in the city--too hot. The perfect day for hitting yourself over the head with a rubber truncheon and buying a whole case of Blue Blocker sunglasses. (Actually, I don’t remember what the weather was like.) There I am sleeping on the couch, having fallen asleep the night before watching TV, and I wake to what sounds for all the world like a sudden burst of firecrackers. Getting up, I hear some commotion out in the parking lot outside my door--what sounds like a number of people talking excitedly.

Not entirely awake and, honestly, perhaps not completely sobered up from the night before, I go outside to check out what exactly the dealio is. Come to find out that the not-particularly impressive pop pop pop that I had just heard was gunshots from a "maroon Cadillac" (or did my neighbor-slash-eyewitness say "maroon Chevy"? I wasn’t entirely on top of my game, I repeat) that has just driven through the lot. My neighbor, his girlfriend, as well as a fellow who lives upstairs all are outside, quite abuzz with what has just happened, and it is only at this point that one of them points out to me that there’s a hole in my bedroom window.

No, wait, make that four holes. And as I’m walking back inside my apartment, I realize that there are holes in my hallway as well and...wait...holes in my front door, too! The final, official count will end up being four 45 bullets through the bedroom window...five 22's through the door. As I’m walking through the apartment with my understandably rubbernecking neighbors in tow, I realize that the four big bullets have gone through the bedroom window, through the bedroom wall, across the living room and into and through the opposite wall, where there’s a sliding glass door that opens out onto my balcony. There’s a big bullet hole in the glass and, as will be eventually determined, one bullet has even managed to find its way across the back parking lot and into the building opposite.

"Are you going to call the police?" one of my neighbors ask and, yes, I decide that would be a good idea. The response time is surprisingly quick, which is good because at least I can say one nice thing about the ultimate police response I ended up getting. The "investigation" involves, basically, getting my name, looking over the damage, and asking me if I know anybody who would want to kill me.

No, I say, I can’t think of anyone. (How boring to have no arch-enemies.) At one point as we are standing in my apartment, I point to one of the bullets that is lodged in the living room wall. "I guess you’ll want to take that?" I say to the not particularly interested-looking officer. "Oh, yeah," he responds, and I get the strong suspicion that he wasn’t really planning on doing so until I mentioned as much.

Departing, the officers tell me that I might get a call from some detectives. "Might?" I think to myself. I do receive a call about a half hour later (from the "station," I guess) and am told that, no, I shouldn’t be expecting anybody else to turn up. "So I should go ahead and start cleaning up?" I say. Yes, they reply, but give us a call if you see that car again. I don’t bother mentioning that it was my neighbor, and not I, who ever actually saw the car, as it’s becoming quickly apparent the level of official interest the incident is going to generate. (And I didn’t even make into the newspaper "police blotter," either--what a rip!)

More than a little dazed, I can at this point think of nothing better to do than to go to Burger King. It has occurred to me, yes, that--if you were wanting to kill me, 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning is not the likeliest time in the world to expect me to be up and about--but had I been making an early-morning bathroom run (a very legitimate possibility), then things could have turned out quite differently. This does not affect my appetite however and, returning from BK, I am disappointed to find that my string of bad luck is continuing as they have gotten my order wrong. Tator tots? Damn, can't a guy catch a break?

At this point I’ll shift into long-story-short mode. After discussing things with my girlfriend Jennifer--who puts it into perspective with a simple question: "Are you really going to be comfortable still living here?"--I decide that, no, I probably won’t be. All that I can assume is that whoever did the shooting had my apartment confused with another...but how do I know if they will or will not eventually realize their mistake? "Let’s go take another crack at that sumbitch in apartment 126!"

My dad and stepmother, when I call them later, are understandably not too jazzed to hear the whole story. They want me out--right now, they say, and, well, really, who am I to argue? So, over the next day or so, I end up hauling all of my junk over and sticking it in their living room--especially since I have become, now running on a high level of paranoia, convinced that if I move out quickly, somebody’s going to come and rob the place of my remaining possessions while I’m gone.

What followed then was a week-and-a-half or so of living in the old house (particularly stressful when you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re a cigarette smoker from your hosts after an incident that makes you really, really want to smoke!) and looking for a new apartment, which, I’m pleased to say, that I was able to find fairly quickly. I did end up frustrated, though, with my property manager Rector Phillips Morse, who apparently don’t think that near-death is a valid reason to move out before the end of one’s lease. (After much wrangling, I ended up agreeing to pay for the leftover part of April that marked a 30-day-after point from the day of the shooting. Bloodsuckers.)

So now I’m at a new address [. . . ]. It’s one of the off-shoots of the Lanai Apartments complex and is a pretty decent place, a bit bigger, although also a bit more expensive than the old one. [. . . ] I would have been able to share this story sooner but a week ago I--first the shooting, then the Burger King mixup, now this!--came down sick with what would be eventually diagnosed as a sinus infection and spent the whole week home from work lying around on my couch surrounded by boxes that needed unpacking. (Every time I did start trying to get to them, I’d get so dizzy I’d have to lie back down again.)

So that’s the story and why I’ve been so out of touch. When I told the apartment manager at the old place that the police had not seemed particularly interested, she wasn’t surprised. Apparently Crestwood Manor has been getting an ever-worsening reputation as a haven for drug dealers (about six months or so ago, we got a memo from the office asking us to, in effect, "please stop smoking and selling drugs in the parking lot," which I guess should have been a warning sign). And, so, the official diagnosis of the police was probably, well, whoever it was that shot my place up, I most likely had it coming. [. . .]

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bold, yo

My father weighs in on the Oldboy brouhaha:

"Rex Reed. It sounds like he is losing his marbles. As you said, he can
write anything he desires about the movie, but has to be very careful
not to stereotype another country and its culture or, say, its
cuisine. Kimchi is an interesting and exciting food which is enjoyed
by countless people all over the world. He is distinctly deprived in
culinary experimentation. Maybe he doesn't know how cheese is being
made either."

View My Stats