Ken Russell’s Altered States

We’re all try­ing to ful­fill our­selves, under­stand our­selves, get in touch with our­selves, face the real­ity of our­selves, explore our­selves, expand our­selves. Ever since we dis­pensed with God we’ve got noth­ing but our­selves to explain this mean­ing­less hor­ror of life.”
–Eddie Jessup

It’s a tes­ta­ment to the sheer will­ful­ness of John Corigliano’s chal­leng­ing score that dur­ing a view­ing of Altered States (1980) the sound­track mirac­u­lously holds its own against Ken Rus­sell’s visual orgies of Para­janov­ian icono­graphic tableaux, each esca­lat­ing in insan­ity as we delve head-long (and nightmare-deep) into a highly sub­jec­tive hero’s jour­ney from hope­less­ness towards redemption.

Though Paddy Chayef­sky’s script cov­ers sev­eral years in the courtship, mar­riage, and sep­a­ra­tion of two dri­ven Ivy league aca­d­e­mic pro­fes­sion­als, pro­tag­o­nist Jes­sup (William Hurt) painfully and glar­ingly can not bring him­self to say “I love you” to his part­ner until the last line of the movie. If the L-word’s con­spic­u­ous absence hangs over the resul­tant daz­zlingly brazen hal­lu­ci­na­tory pro­ceed­ings, Jes­sup is haunted in his state of arrested devel­op­ment by another word that fills the wounded neg­a­tive space left in a soul lack­ing love: “ter­ri­ble,” both a defin­ing word and world­view that Jes­sup declares at the film’s out­set of hav­ing con­tracted dur­ing his father’s drawn out death of cancer.


One day I thought I heard him say some­thing. I got up and leaned over him, my ear an inch away from his lips. ‘Did you say some­thing, Pop?’ Then I heard the word he was des­per­ately try­ing to say, a soft hiss of a word. He was say­ing… ‘terrible.’…Terrible. So the end was ter­ri­ble, even for the good peo­ple like my father, so the pur­pose of all our suf­fer­ing was just more suffering.”

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Lis­ten­ing to Corigliano’s tracks on their own, divorced from Russell’s ver­tig­i­nous com­pli­men­tary imagery, it is easy to imag­ine that you are lost within a con­found­ing, con­fus­ing, cold, and harsh uni­verse that may never truly make sense.

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I Dream Of Wires

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I Dream of Wires” (IDOW) is an upcom­ing, inde­pen­dent doc­u­men­tary film about the phe­nom­e­nal resur­gence of the mod­u­lar syn­the­sizer – explor­ing the pas­sions, obses­sions and dreams of peo­ple who have ded­i­cated part of their lives to this eso­teric elec­tronic music machine. Writ­ten and directed by Robert Fan­ti­natto, with Jason Amm (Ghostly Inter­na­tional record­ing artist Sol­vent) serv­ing as pro­ducer and co-writer, IDOW is set to receive it’s fes­ti­val pre­miere, May 2013.

If you’re a fan of music, you’ll want to keep this doc­u­men­tary on your radar as it talks about the his­tory of the elec­tronic syn­the­sizer in mod­ern music. Lots of old gear (that still works!) and tons of experts at cre­at­ing music and sounds with the synth.


Emil Cioran, Party Pooper Extraordinaire

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World his­tory is noth­ing else than a rep­e­ti­tion of cat­a­stro­phes wait­ing for a final cat­a­stro­phe.‘
Bly me!

Dur­ing the begin­ning of the ethe­real yet gritty doc­u­men­tary Apoc­a­lypse Accord­ing to Cio­ran (1995), the exceed­ingly morose quote “World his­tory is noth­ing else than a rep­e­ti­tion of cat­a­stro­phes wait­ing for a final cat­a­stro­phe” appears on the screen among real war scenes of death and destruc­tion. Those famil­iar with Roman­ian philoso­pher Emil Cio­ran’s work will be any­thing but sur­prised by the quote, but for the ini­ti­ated, such a quote might seem a tad bit mis­an­thropic. Also dur­ing the intro­duc­tion, Cio­ran makes an appear­ance with his headed tilted down and with his hands cov­er­ing his head, is in his typ­i­cal and vir­tu­ally life­long state of despair; a cursed gift that enabled the Romanian-turned-unenthusiastic-Frenchman philoso­pher to write a num­ber of books that are often con­sid­ered the last great philo­soph­i­cal works of the Occident.

Cio­ran has been described as the “King of pes­simists”; no doubt a title that he deserves as he both wrote and prac­ticed his dis­dain for liv­ing for most of his adult life like no man before nor after him. In the film Apoc­a­lypse Accord­ing to Cio­ran, fel­low Roman­ian philoso­pher (of a later gen­er­a­tion) Gabriel Liiceanu (who also wrote a book on his elder) vis­ited Cio­ran dur­ing his last year on earth at his hum­ble apart­ment in Paris, France; a city the Roman­ian philoso­pher had been liv­ing in since a self-imposed exile 53 years ear­lier and described as an “Apoc­a­lyp­tic Garage.”

Cio­ran would spend his nights wide awake. In fact, in Apoc­a­lypse Accord­ing to Cio­ran, Cio­ran cites insom­nia as the unwanted inspi­ra­tion that sparked his despair and irreg­u­lar­ity; the two uncom­fort­able states that would help develop and fine tune the prowess of his poetic pes­simistic phi­los­o­phy. As Cio­ran explains in the doc­u­men­tary, insom­nia stirs lucid­ness and con­flict in the suf­ferer, hence­forth cre­at­ing a wholly atyp­i­cal and con­flict­ing per­spec­tive in the individual.

Dur­ing his youth, Cio­ran made a mor­bid hobby of col­lect­ing human skulls and using them as soc­cer balls, which is indu­bitably a purely coin­ci­den­tal metaphor for his pes­simistic yet often humor­ous and strangely joy­ful writ­ings. Nat­u­rally, prophets of doom tend to have a dis­tinct and refined sense of humor for such indi­vid­u­als would find life totally unbear­able if they were unable to find amuse­ment in things that also hap­pen to be stab­bing at their lost souls on a 24 hour basis. As he makes bluntly clear in Apoc­a­lypse Accord­ing to Cio­ran, futil­ity and death are the two themes that can be found in all of Cioran’s works and have haunted the unro­man­tic Roman­ian for most of his life.

Apoc­a­lypse Accord­ing to Cio­ran fea­tures a sound­track rem­i­nis­cent of the score fea­tured in Herk Har­vey’s sur­re­al­ist hor­ror mas­ter­piece Car­ni­val of Souls (1962) which might sound strange to those read­ing this review but it is undoubt­edly noth­ing short of com­pli­men­tary when con­sid­er­ing the real-life hor­rors and despair Cio­ran lived and wrote about on a day-to-day basis.

As one would expect from a doc­u­men­tary about Cio­ran, Apoc­a­lypse Accord­ing to Cio­ran is not an embar­rass­ingly emo­tional sen­ti­men­tal­ist look at the nihilist priest but a com­pli­men­tary cel­e­bra­tion of his rel­a­tively unevent­ful life and irre­place­able work.


RuPaul’s Can I Get An Amen

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The queens test their vocal abil­i­ties as they sing in RuPaul’s 1980s “We Are The World” inspired char­ity sin­gle. This Band Aid/USA For Africa-inspired par­ody is the lat­est viral video to come from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” star­ring RuPaul along with this season’s top eight queens: Alyssa Edwards, Coco Mon­trese, Jade Jolie, Ivy Win­ters, Jinkx Mon­soon, and Rox­xxy Andrews, Alaska, and Detox, aka “Rolaska­tox.” And they weren’t lip-synching for their lives, here: This singing was live.

This  awe­some faux charity-single does indeed have a lot of heart and humor and is actu­ally not faux at all, since sales of the bizarre song, avail­able now on iTunes, will ben­e­fit a very wor­thy orga­ni­za­tion: the L.A. Gay & Les­bian Cen­ter. Can I get an amen up in here?

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Lukas Vojir’s Life On Mars

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From the tal­ented hand of Lukas Vojir comes this retro-propaganda 30-second short. The Czech designer wrote, directed, designed, mod­elled and ani­mated his inter­sti­tial in the style of a retro­fu­tur­is­tic news­reel, and every­thing about it — from the color palette to the ebul­lient voiceover — is just spot on.

The 3D mod­el­ing tech­niques add a nice, unob­tru­sive con­tem­po­rary touch. The geo­desic Mar­t­ian land­scape, the uplit ter­raform­ing infra­struc­ture, and rapidly assem­bling pre­fab apart­ment build­ings blend per­fectly with the short’s aes­thetic. Great stuff.


Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring

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Emma Wat­son is a good girl gone bad in the upcom­ing Sofia Cop­pola directed film, The Bling Ring, and today we have a teaser trailer to get us excited for the movie. Now, teaser trail­ers are pretty much just what their name says: a tease or hint at what is to come. Also, it is based on “actual events,” which makes this movie even more enticing.

What we see is our beloved Hermione Granger actress, 22-year-old Wat­son, dressed as a Cal­i­for­nia socialite com­mit­ting crimes. Are you hooked yet? Well if not, she keeps mak­ing sex­u­ally charged expres­sions through­out the whole trailer. That one might have hooked you. This is def­i­nitely a huge step away from her Harry Pot­ter days and the fact that Sofia Cop­pola directs it will ensure some career suc­cess for the young starlet.


John Waters Introduces ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’

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The Girl Can’t Help It is the gar­ish acme of Cin­e­maS­cope and DeLuxe Color, mon­u­men­tally loud and bla­tantly exploita­tive —a ver­i­ta­ble Parthenon of vul­gar­ity and a supremely unfunny com­edy that is pure eau de Fifty-Six. This satire of Elvis and Mar­i­lyn (or rather, of their clones) shim­mers with radioac­tive pinks and cobalt blues; at once stri­dent and sta­tic, the movie defines the atomic-Wurlitzer chrome– tail­fin Fontainebleau-lobby look. Producer-director-co-writer Frank Tash­lin is one of the very few Hol­ly­wood direc­tors who broke into movies as an ani­ma­tor and, like the Dean Martin–Jerry Lewis come­dies that pre­ceded it, The Girl Can’t Help It is some­thing like a live-action Looney Tune.

Appro­pri­ated by John Waters some 15 years later as the only suit­able way to intro­duce his 300-pound gender-blur Divine in Pink Flamingos.

Grotesque stereo­types col­lide with billboard-sized car­i­ca­tures. This proto Pop Art pathol­ogy might be too painful to con­tem­plate were it not for the exotic life forms flour­ish­ing around its periph­ery. Cli­max­ing with a rock show per­formed for an audi­ence of teenage white zom­bies, The Girl Can’t Help It is pop­u­lated by all man­ner of failed honkers and would-be cool cats—as well as Fats Domino, the Plat­ters, a gospel-shouting Abbey Lin­coln.

The coolest pres­ence ever recorded by a Hol­ly­wood cam­era may be Lit­tle Richard, first seen stand­ing entranced before a piano—as if won­der­ing whether to pul­ver­ize or incin­er­ate it.

In Alba­nia, is any­thing so bad it’s good?” “Lit­tle Richard was “…the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.“
Here, our beloved Pope of Trash intro­duces Frank Tashlin’s gem­stone for every­one to enjoy.…

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Liberace — Behind The Candelabra

Steven Soder­bergh is in the midst of his final jaunt behind the cam­era, in pro­duc­tion on the Lib­er­ace biopic “Behind The Can­de­labra”, with Michael Dou­glas as the famed per­former and Matt Damon as his young lover. Lib­er­ace was famed for being the world’s highest-paid enter­tainer at one point, and enjoyed his for­tune with an extrav­a­gant lifestyle. Soder­bergh revealed that while plans are still com­ing together for the movie, which is set up at HBO, he hopes to take it to Cannes on May 2013.

The movie is based on the book “Behind the Can­de­labra: My Life With Lib­er­ace” writ­ten by Liberace’s lover Scott Thor­son who met him when when he was sev­en­teen in 1976. Lib­er­ace had promised Thor­son, who was raised in fos­ter homes, that he would adopt and care for him and even­tu­ally the per­former incor­po­rated his lover into his lav­ish Las Vegas stage performances.

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Liberace’s story is tragic and his rela­tion­ship with Scott Thor­son was not less extrav­a­gant than some of his out­fits. Lib­er­ace always pub­licly denied that he was homo­sex­ual and insisted that Thor­son was never his lover. He went to great lengths until his dead from AIDS to cover his sex­u­al­ity. To get an idea of how eccen­tric their life was, read the fol­low­ing excerpt from an inter­view with Scott Thor­sonon on Larry King Live that aired on August 12, 2002:

Thor­son: Well, he brought the sur­geons in. I picked him up in my Rolls-Royce. I drove. They were in Las Vegas. I picked him up and brought him to a Las Vegas man­sion on Shirley Street. And Lee was intro­duced to the doc­tor and he says, “I want you to come with me.” And Lee walked him through — went into the — you know, into the bed­room and said — there was a pic­ture of Lib­er­ace. Oh, I guess he was prob­a­bly in his 30s, Larry. He says, “I want you to cre­ate Scott to look like me when he was younger; so he looks like my son.” He wanted me as his son. But at the same time, he wanted me as his lover.

The romance ended due to the pianist’s sex­ual promis­cu­ity and Thorson’s drug addic­tion, which led him to con­tract Hepati­tis C. In 1982, Thor­son filed a $113 mil­lion law­suit against Lib­er­ace, with the pal­imony suit being the more famous part. But in 1986, the pair report­edly set­tled out of court for $95,000, two cars, and two pet dogs.

Scott rec­on­ciled with Lib­er­ace on his death bed, and a year later pub­lished the book Behind the Can­de­labra: My Life With Lib­er­ace on which the film is based.

Watch below a short clip of Liberace’s Entrance to a las vegas show, fea­tur­ing all the glam­our and glit­ter only Lee Him­self could pull off.… Frea­tur­ing Scott Thor­son as the lim­ou­sine Driver.

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Leonard Weisgard’s 1949 Alice in Wonderland Illustrations

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Here’s the beau­ti­ful 1949 edi­tion of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land and Through the Look­ing Glass, illus­trated by Leonard Weis­gard — only the sec­ond ver­sion of the Lewis Car­roll clas­sic, and the first with color illus­tra­tions. The vibrant, tex­tured art­work exudes a cer­tain mid-century bold­ness that makes it as much a time­less cel­e­bra­tion of the beloved children’s book as it is a time-capsule of bygone aes­thetic from the golden age of illus­tra­tion and graphic design.

A vibrant mid-century homage to one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.

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” Alice was begin­ning to get tired of sit­ting by her sis­ter on the bank, and hav­ing noth­ing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sis­ter was read­ing, but it had no pic­tures or con­ver­sa­tion in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’ thought Alice, ‘with­out pic­tures or conversations?’”

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