I’m on a bit of a French Revolution kick, mainly because I’m reading that Tom Reiss biography of Alex Dumas, French revolutionary era general, ex-slave, hero, and dad to the novelist, Alex Dumas. It’s proving to be a pretty great read.
One thing that surprises me is the fact that no one’s ever done a Cthulhu mythos, French Revolution mash-up. So much of it seems like it would fit together: secret societies (the Jacobin clubs), the Cult of the Supreme Being, the master/pupil relationship between Saint-Just* and Robespierre. I could see it working and am surprised no one’s done it.
One thing I did find is this old costume drama from the 1940s called The Black Book. It’s one of those pictures where time and space can be conquered simply by showing a single silhouetted rider cross the screen while the music score swells. “… and he made full speed for Strassburg.”
What’s cool about it is that it’s directed by Anthony Mann. Mann started as a b-movie director, specializing in Film Noir and went on to make westerns and epics. The Black Book is made right in the middle of his Noir phase, so it plays out less like an epic of the revolution and more like The Maltese Falcon. Robespierre hires a special operative to find his missing black book. Several other factions want the book. There’s a femme fatale, a shady cop adept at picking locks, and double crosses. Yeah, it all descends into mad coach rides and women-in-peril, but at seventy-five minutes I won’t complain.
* According to wikipedia, Saint-Just wrote an epic poem in the style of Orlando Furioso, except with dollops of the Marquis de Sade heaped in. Yet another reason he’s perfect as a Lovecraftian anti-hero.
I finally saw Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer, and without so much as a spoiler alert I’ll say it mixes chem trails, John Galt the Social Darwinist, a wonderfully absurd school room scene, lots of ultra-violence, some fey aegyo, Tilda Swinton doing a creepy malevolent Ms. Marple the School Marm impersonation, and a nod to Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” all together to make a satisfyingly bleak action picture. Not to mention it has characters who are actually characters instead of character-shaped holes that set pieces go BOOM! around. (*cough* Pacific Rim *cough*)
Hopefully this talk about cutting twenty minutes from the picture’s US release to make it more “understandable” winds up being nothing more than horseshit. Unfortunately I doubt it, and the ending I saw won’t be the ending my friends see back in the USA.
Back at the beginning of this year Beneath Ceaseless Skies published a story of mine called “Shadows Under Hexmouth Street”. (That’s the link to it. You can read it later.) One of the inspirations for that story was an article I read about subterranean rivers in Greenwich Village. The article included an apocryphal story of someone fishing for blind crayfish through a manhole cover in the basement of their apartment building.
Today I found out about a documentary called Lost Rivers.
“Once upon a time, in almost every city many rivers flowed. Why did they disappear? How? And could we see them again? This documentary tries to find answers by meeting visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world.”
It sounds pretty neat.
The Avengers opened up here in Korea last week. Apparently this makes me the King of Spoilers now, because it hasn’t opened yet in the States. I liked it. I went in expecting Loud, Stupid, and Obnoxious — I should say I haven’t liked a lot of recent superhero movies — and was pleasantly surprised that it was only Loud.
First, say what you will about Joss Whedon he does do team stories well and this is a team picture, so it never feels like Iron Man or Captain America and these other people.
Second, jeez, a lot of people take spoilers and superhero pictures seriously. Between the online shouting from friends when I start to tell them about one scene, to the folks watching all the other movies leading up to this one. Pfeh. Can’t say I’m particularly bothered that I never saw Iron Man 1 or 2 or Captain America or the Hulk. I don’t care a whit about any of that.
That was the tagline for the film version of The Friends of Eddie Coyle. The book was tangentially in the news earlier this year with the arrest of fugitive gangster Whitey Bulger (who might be the basis for the character Peter Boyle plays in the movie). Anyway track it down. It’s a great read. You’ll be done with it in a weekend, if not an afternoon. And, yeah, check out the movie too.
What’s fascinating to me is how almost all the conversations in the story adhere to one of two types.
Type 1: Top-down, I’m the fucking boss, so I know what’s best and you better do what I say or else. Type 2: That guy doesn’t know shit and I better cover my ass because I don’t want to be left holding the bag when all this shit comes down.
It’s depressing how many conversations in real life can be slotted into either type.
Wu Xia was great. If it plays near you, go see it. And I say that even without having a clue what anyone was talking about the whole time. It looked like Shane meets Rashomon meets Sherlock Holmes meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and if you squint you can totally see how all that could work together. (Hero does something heroic, which makes cold emotionless detective curious how such a thing could be possible, which uncovers hero’s buried past as villain, which leads to hero’s villainous former associates tracking him down, which leads to kung fu.)
Anyway here’s the breakdown of who else watches wuxia movies in Korea that aren’t advertised for except on the internet and play only on one screen three times a day in a small city.
- Two other male-female couples.
- Old dude in factory work clothes (navy blue cap and overalls). He resembled the type of guy who says shit to my wife and I when we walk down the street together, but that’s me pigeonholing. He could possibly be a secret martial arts master or at least a pretty decent guy.
- Young guy on leave from the army with his dad.
- Older dude we saw earlier in the bookstore down the street asking if they had the current issue of some Socialist periodical. After the film he stood outside the theater shouting into his cell phone because his son had failed to meet him outside.
- Five well-dressed young guys who later mimed martial arts moves at each other while waiting for the elevator. Local university students? Film geeks? Martial arts geeks? Geek geeks?