29 September 2009

Polanski, wanted.

It could be a scene out of one of his earlier, better films. A man – let's even make him a Jew, better yet, an old Jew closer to 80 than 70, but with a beautiful wife and lovely young children wrapped in the insulation of celebrity and fame -- lands in a faintly sinister country. It's the eve of a holiday his parents celebrated, once, but that he has ignored. He's ready to receive an honor, and to promote, with his customary charm and skill, his latest work.

In a Charvet shirt and designer denims, he strolls across the tarmac as he's done hundreds of times on his way to his second house. Only a slight stiffness in his joints gives away his age.

Suddenly, he's surrounded, booked and jailed for an offence he committed decades ago, the nightmare he must have dreamed suddenly real. All his calls to his lawyers, to ambassadors, to powerful agents, don't work their customary magic.


Ironically, this theme of claustrophobia and paranoia, of enclosure dominated his work. It's as if his own cinematic images struggled to realize themselves in real life.

What Polanski did – drugged and butt-fucked a scared 13 year old girl – can't be brushed aside as a mere kink of some Euro-sophisto. Had it been my daughter, I would've shot him, and been glad to serve the time.

But he made his bargain and did his time, then bailed when it looked like the judge would renege on his deal. While he didn't serve his sentence, he has been in a soft prison.

His name is forever linked with the rape. Look at any lead story – they all start with a variation of "respected filmmaker and fugitive from justice for his rape of a girl. . ." or "Oscar winner and fugitive. . ."  For a man who is also a Pole with a Polish sense of honor, that must bear a sting. Maybe worse is that he's had to deal with second-hand, second-rate crews – the people he used to deride. He moved to Hollywood for a reason: to have access to the best. That door slammed shut. It's not pumping iron in the yard at San Luis Obispo, but it's not a freedom, either.

Some argue he's gotten away with because he's a celeb. That argument's over, now.  Just the contrary: Let's say he was an civilian. No one gives a rat's ass about a working class girls. I doubt it ever would have been prosecuted at all had it not taken place in Jack Nicholson's house. But let's say, for a change, the police did their job. The perp disappears. Do you think the LAPD would show the same zealousness in capturing a fugitive 76-year-old for a 30 year old crime?

What does justice mean in a case like this?

What it doesn't mean is an ambitious prosecutor making a name for himself by squeezing some juice out of an old case and an even older celeb.

Now, it's between her, his victim, and him. She's received a settlement, says she's forgiven him and doesn’t want a new trial. That's good enough for me. If it's straight between the two of them, then screw the bureaucratic apparatus, the moralists and the police. Especially the police.

Meanwhile, nine girls in San Diego were kidnapped, tortured and killed over the last few years. No one cares, because they're brunette rather than blonde, and Hispanic rather than white. They made page 14 on the LA Times, for a day, and rated very little coverage at all, although they died in circumstances baroque in their horror.

It would be nice if some of the outrage and opprobrium dumped on Romik would head the way of the San Diego Police Force and the murderous bastards who have so far managed to get away with their crime.

Family History

He was sturdy, stocky, trustworthy: a dentist. A man you would immediately trust with  your molars, canines, and even your wallet. He spoke in lightly accented English, the Spanish still present. He felt uncomfortable not wearing a tie, he said, because he’d worn one to school every day, and he looked natty – perhaps the best- dressed man in the room.

The medical profession runs in his family, he said. His great-great-grandfather was a doctor. On a visit, he delivered a baby girl. He looked at the baby (and the dentist mimed it, tenderly, rocking his hands back and forth). The good doctor said, “What a beautiful baby. You know, I think I’m going to marry her one day.”  Everyone in the room laughed. But the doctor kept up with the girl, giving her toys, visiting her, making sure she entered the right schools. When the time came, after she had had her quinceanaria, he proposed. She accepted, and became the storyteller’s great-great-grandmother.

After he ended the story, an awkward pause met his beaming smile, a silence that was soon filled with the usual reactions of: oh, how interesting.

image: the triumph of galatea by raphael, via

The Rogue Film School

image via

The Rogue Film School will not teach anything technical related to film-making. For this purpose, please enroll at your local film school.

The Rogue Film School is about a way of life. It is about a climate, the excitement that makes film possible. It will be about poetry, films, music, images, literature.

Excerpts of films will be discussed, which could include your submitted films; they may be shown and discussed as well. Depending on the materials, the attention will revolve around essential questions: how does music function in film? How do you narrate a story? (This will certainly depart from the brainless teachings of three-act-screenplays). How do you sensitize an audience? How is space created and understood by an audience? How do you produce and edit a film? How do you create illumination and an ecstasy of truth?

Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.

Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.

Related, but more reflective, will be a reading list: if possible, read Virgil's "Georgics", read "Hemingway's "The short happy life of Francis Macomber", The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee M. Hollander (in particular the Prophecy of the Seeress), Bernal Diaz del Castillo "True History of the Conquest of New Spain".

Follow your vision. Form secretive Rogue Cells everywhere. At the same time, be not afraid of solitude.


25 September 2009

The Rape by Degas


Photo by Dennis Hopper

24 September 2009


"With cinematic flourish, the masked robbers dropped from a helicopter onto the roof of a Swedish cash depot before dawn, broke into the building through a glass pyramid, set off explosions to get to the millions inside and escaped by hoisting themselves and their haul back up on rope lines. All in 20 minutes, and all while Stockholm police were grounded by a fake bomb planted outside their own helicopter hangar."
 They even stole the helicopter they used for the robbery.


22 September 2009


Ted Webster was good with girls. Or at least, better than me, which wasn’t hard then, when I was 15.
For some reason – perhaps it flattered his own wobbly, high-school ego – he took me on as project, sort of a Casanova Junior, to pass along his romantic wisdom.
We went on double dates, he in the front seat. At 16, he had his license, a huge advantage since having a car meant freedom and a place to make out.
He’d sit in front, his date beside him with me and my girl in the back. I’d put on a shimmery, polyester shirt and a corduroy jean jacket and matching blue pants, and we’d go to movies, mostly, end up eating French fries at the Azar’s Big Boy, and then we’d go driving for a little while. And, if we we’re lucky and the mood was right, we’d park in a secluded spot – vacant yards, with the short-grass hills rolling back to the city lights, or a church parking lot that overlooked some bluffs and a highway.
Ted had a secret weapon: a tape of Nat King Cole. This was relic, even then. It was his parent’s tape, I guess, and even for the girls we dated – nice girls in drama and choir and band and ballet – even for them, it was old fashioned.

But in the warm summer nights, with the air moving through the car fragrant with sumac or lilac, and the streetlights slowly ticking by, that tape was magic. The music made me, even in my polyester bellbottom pants, feel like someone entirely suave and ready to make his move. I don’t know how it made the girls feel, the girls smelling of White Shoulders perfume, usually, their hair done up just like Farah Fawcetts’.
But Cole’s voice, so smooth, so rich, touched with melancholy and yearning made them ready to have their hands held, and later, under the starlight, to be kissed and caressed, however clumsily.
I didn’t have stardust memories back then. You can’t really at 15, you only think you do.
I'd move on to different soundtracks, other scenes, less dreamy but more carnal, and other girls, girls who didn't need Nat King Cole to set the mood.
Now, those early dates will come back once in a while: the moonlight on her hair, the rustle and catch of breath, the sudden roughness of fabric after skin, a smile in the shadows of a Chevy Nova.
Thanks, Ted. And thank you, Mr. Nat King Cole.

image (c) carl wooley

Go for it, losers

“It does not bespeak great wisdom to call the film The Bad Lieutenant, and I only agreed to make the film after William (Billy) Finkelstein, the screenwriter, who had seen a film of the same name from the early nineties, had given me a solemn oath that this was not a remake at all. But the film industry has its own rationale, which in this case was the speculation of some sort of franchise. I have no problem with this. Nevertheless, the pedantic branch of academia, the so called ‘film-studies,’ in its attempt to do damage to cinema, will be ecstatic to find a small reference to that earlier film here and there, though it will fail to do the same damage that academia — in the name of literary theory — has done to poetry, which it has pushed to the brink of extinction. Cinema, so far, is more robust. I call upon the theoreticians of cinema to go after this one. Go for it, losers.”
—Werner Herzog discusses Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. 

photo via

21 September 2009

Uncharitable donations

A friend of mine works occasionally for a charitable school that educates poor children. To raise funds, the institution sends out brochures featuring the more doe-eyed of their students.

This works. In the nonprofit fundraising world, it’s apparently a well-known principle that cute kids bring in more dollars than their less photogenic brothers and sisters.

This approach has a downside, though. The school is obliged to keep a full-time employee on staff who screens and investigates the pedophiles who, attracted by the glossy, colorful images in their brochures, try to contact its students.

Recently, they ran a photo of a successful student of theirs: beauty queen, college student, athlete, the works.

She received more than 6,000 marriage offers.

(repeat from old site)

image via

Night of the Hunter

"I can hear you whisperin' children, so I know you're down there. I can feel myself gettin' awful mad. I'm out of patience children. I'm coming to find you."

How to stay goth past 50

Situationists and punk

Guy Debord is perhaps one of the few thinkers to have come to grips with the stinking heap of goods and images that make up our loosely called culture. This is good short film about the movement, with a cameo by that ever charming agent provocateur, Malcolm MacLaren.

18 September 2009

The best thing

image via

Though poor the room was clean, and as usual reminded me more of a doctor's office in a poor Soviet village than a room in the hotel-brothel. Yes, it was both a hotel and a brothel. Coming in, Paula and I met a black mother and child in a hallway. I didn't feel sorry for that child living in a brothel; rather I envied him - an interesting experience...Besides, when he grows up, he won't have all those pitiful superstitions that cost me so much to get rid of.
The best thing is to be abandoned in this world knowing neither your mother nor your father, so you can make of yourself whatever you want....

Edward Limonov, His Butler's Story via

17 September 2009

Let's dance.

Bande à part (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964) Madison dance

For pleasure. For the pleasure of being aware: of your feet, of your breasts. For the pleasure of being unaware, lost in the moment, you and your body and the bodies next to you, in space, arcing and swinging in time. Lost, and profoundly found.
How many moments like these are we granted? How many moments like these do we claim?
"I would not believe in a god who does not dance."
And the pleasure of just shutting up for a change.

16 September 2009

Happy Birthday, Ms. Bacall

A few years ago, when she was nineteen, Lauren Bacall made one of the great -- and most scorching -- screen debuts of all time.

Howard Hawks saw her potential, and like the canny Svengali he was, groomed her carefully before lensing her. But what seems so effortless and so natural is, of course, the product of discipline and a kind of courage.

She told us that she had spent the majority of her life "quaking in fear". Hard to imagine, but true. At every step along the way, she had huge obstacles to overcome - of fear, shyness, self-confidence problems ... She was terrified to meet Diana Vreeland. She was terrified of modeling. She was terrified to meet Howard Hawks. She was terrified of what would happen to her after Bogie died. She was terrified to star in "Applause" on Broadway - the musical version of All About Eve (she ended up winning the first of two Tonys by the way). She is ruled by fear.
Her stage fright is debilitating (always has been) and she trembles uncontrollably. Her head shakes (she mentions becoming aware of it on her first day of shooting To Have and Have Not) ... her hand trembles ... it is beyond her control. The "tricks" she performs on herself, to just allow herself to be up there in front of people (head down, chin down, arm down ... ) - are extraordinary . . . Her "coping skills" (head down, chin down, look up while head is down so head doesn't shake, arm down, cross one arm over the other) - all of that stuff became her "look", her persona, what she was famous for.
No wonder Bogart, although famously anti-Semitic, fell for her.  Who wouldn't?