Wednesday, July 30, 2008

That Sexy Psychopath: Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange"

For over 20 years I’ve had a thing for Malcolm McDowell – or, more precisely, the proudly nihilistic Alex he brought to life from the notorious Burgess book. I first saw “A Clockwork Orange” around the age of ten (note to liberal academics attempting to enlighten their young offspring through art films – Kubrick? Not a good idea) and again later in high school. It was this teenage viewing of McDowell as the violent anarchist leader of a group of hoods, who is ultimately “rehabilitated” by an equally sadistic society, that stuck with me.

For more on the dreamy droog visit my column at Spout.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just Say No

For all of former Bush administration official Thomas Schweich’s talk about the “myth that poppies are grown by destitute farmers who have no other source of income” – while the reality of an insurgency cultivating to wage terror is ignored – in today's "New York Times Magazine" article Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?, the larger taxpayer-funded myth is lost on him. Perhaps the better question would be, “Why is America even fighting a war on drugs in Afghanistan when it’s been losing that same battle at home for decades?” The most surefire way of eradicating the heroin trade does not involve aerial spraying Helmand and Kandahar but (as Schweich alluded to almost as an afterthought) America taking responsibility for its own culpability on the receiving end by reducing its demand. The “old-school Pentagon view that ‘we don’t do the drug thing’” that Schweich writes of so dismissively happens to be plain old common sense.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hot in the City: Body Heat

If there’s one film that epitomizes the power of environment over libido, it has to be Lawrence Kasdan’s directorial debut, the totally-80s noir “Body Heat,” which takes place during a Florida heat wave (does it get any hotter than that?) In fact the balmy weather is a character unto itself, so much so that Kasdan’s production designer Bill Kenney should have gotten top billing right along with the spectacularly sexy duo of William Hurt as smalltime lawyer Ned Racine and Kathleen Turner as the femme fatale Matty Walker, out to wield him as a weapon for murdering her wealthy husband. Never a moment goes by where the third character of heat and humidity isn’t enveloping the pair in a passionate ménage a trois.

For more sweat visit my column at Spout.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Surreal Sex: L'Age d'Or

Thanks to the Museum of Modern Art’s recent exhibit Dali: Painting and Film (through 9/15/08), which features over 130 of the artist’s paintings and drawings, scenes and films brilliantly juxtaposed side by side, I feel I now understand Salvador Dali for the very first time. Though erotic Freudian imagery, sexed up amoebas and disembodied cocks, may be what draws one into the Surrealist’s paintings, it’s his use of lighting and perspective that keeps you coming back for more. For Dali never was a painter at heart, but a man possessed with (by?) a cinematographer’s eye. Within the limits of the flattened canvas Dali’s mind was able to create – see into the future – that which modern day CGI allows for the screen. In fact, both showman and visionary, this master of the bizarre does not even make sense outside of filmmaking! A piece of the puzzle is missing when his paintings are seen alone and static, not in conversation with Bunuel or Hitchcock (or even Cocteau). Viewing Dali’s artwork without a cinematic context is like trying to talk about (his friend and sometime collaborator) Warhol without mentioning The Factory. Now that I’ve seen “The First Days of Spring” holding severed hands with “Un Chien andalou,” I don’t desire to ever view “The Persistence of Memory” again unless Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” is somewhere close by. Or unless the wall it’s hanging on is actually moving.

And for another “eye opening” take on Dali and Bunuel’s classic study in sexual frustration, the erotically surreal “L’Age d’Or,” head trip on over to my column at Spout.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Sexy Tramp: Monsieur Verdoux and Charlie Chaplin as Stud

“Chaplin wouldn’t have been believable mesmerizing his prey in Monsieur Verdoux if he hadn’t finally allowed his natural sexual charisma to shine through. For his entire career up until then Chaplin had been masking his virility beneath a shabby overcoat like a drag queen packing away her package.”

To read the rest of my appreciation of the Little Tramp visit Spout.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

When Bobby Met Ariane: Maitresse

How often do you get Barbet Schroeder, Gerard Depardieu and Nestor Almendros together to shoot a film about a burglar who ends up falling in love with the dominatrix whose dungeon he’s unwittingly tried to rob? In a scene at the very beginning of Schroeder’s exquisitely paced, beautifully executed “Maitresse” the tone is brilliantly set for the relationship – and thus the film itself – through Almendros’ meticulously composed images. His camera captures Depardieu’s fair Olivier and his dark-haired partner-in-crime (whose bad idea it was to burglarize the “downstairs apartment”) in a hornet’s nest of their own making, caught in the act by Bulle Ogier’s “Maitresse” Ariane, and subsequently handcuffed to her radiator and guarded by a vicious Doberman named Texas.

But wait––if this doesn’t sound like a setup straight from the twisted mind of David Lynch I don’t know what does.

To read the rest of my take on the 1976 classic visit Spout.