Marie writes: I love illustrators best in all the world. There's something so alive about the scratch and flow of pen & ink, the original medium of cheeky and subversive wit. And so when club member Sandy Kahn submitted links for famed British illustrator Ronald Searle and in the hopes others might find him interesting too, needless to say, I was quick to pounce; for before Ralph Steadman there was Ronald Searle... "The two people who have probably had the greatest influence onmy life are Lewis Carroll and Ronald Searle."-- John LennonVisit Kingly Books' Ronald Searle Gallery to view a sordid collection of wicked covers and view sample pages therein. (click to enlarge image.) And for yet more covers, visit Ronald Searle: From Prisoner of War to Prolific Illustrator at Abe Books.
Click above to REALLY enlarge...
UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...
Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.
In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)
The opening shot of Robert Aldrich's "Kiss Me Deadly."
You want dark? How's this for dark: Matt Zoller Seitz chillingly sets the scene before plummeting headlong into the moral darkness of Robert Aldrich's noir masterpiece "Kiss Me Deadly" (Opening Shot Project dissection by Kim Morgan here), as part of Dennis Cozzalio's "Robert Aldrich Blog-a-Thon": It defines the difference between cynicism and nihilism, then throws down with the nihilists, if for no other reason than to show you what it means to live in a world where nothing matters. Cynics expect the worst of humanity and are rarely disappointed, but in their hearts, they hope for some evidence that humans are innately kind and that morality is more than a sucker’s game. Cynicism is pre-emptive disappointment; you can’t be let down by anyone or anything unless you secretly nurse a kernel of hope. A nihilist, on the other hand, knows that the difference between cynicism and optimism is a matter of degrees. Like Neo in "The Matrix" blocking the agents’ bullets and then suddenly understanding, truly and deeply, that the world he's long accepted as "real" is just an intellectual prison built of ones and zeroes, the true nihilist has had his moment of cosmic disillusionment, and his accompanying realization that democracy, religion, equality -- hell, the Golden Rule itself -- are all just scam jobs sold to sheep by wolves; that everybody’s mainly concerned with playing the angles and getting ahead in the here and now, even if they pretend otherwise. After realizing that morality and ethics, religion and philosophy, good and evil are illusions of various sorts, and that there’s no percentage in decency, guilt and shame vanish and life becomes a present-tense proposition, a zero-sum game played by beasts that wear suits and drive cars.In "Kiss Me Deadly," you might say the smoking gun comes in the shape of a mushroom cloud. And after watching last night's "Frontline" ("The Lost Year in Iraq") I'm still trying to decide whether the Bush administration is, in addition to stupid and incompetent, either cynical or nihilistic. I'm leaning toward the latter. It's a sign of our times: They just don't give a shit about anyone but their own insiders.
View image: Mickey Spillane Strips Down to Naked Fury!
Mickey Spillane, the creator of hard-fisted private eye Mike Hammer, has died at the age of 88. Several of his kiss-kiss, bang-bang pulp novels -- including "I, the Jury," "The Long Wait" and "My Gun is Quick" -- were made into movies, and Spillane himself played Mike Hammer in the 1963 picture, "The Girl Hunters" ("Trapped in a Quicksand of Love...").
But the Spillane movie masterpiece is, of course, "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955), directed by Robert Aldrich and scripted by A.I. Bezzerides. It is considered one of the bookend landmarks of the age of full-blown film noir, beginning (roughly) with Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" (1944), and one of the most florid examples of that post-war style.
Recently, we featured Kim Morgan's appreciation of the opening shot of "Kiss Me Deadly," which is worth re-visiting. As Kim describes this crazy Pandora's Box of a movie (the inspiration for the glowing MacGuffin/Great Whatzit suitcase in "Pulp Fiction"), it's filled to bursting with "stark, hard-boiled cruelty, paranoia, insanity and psycho-sexual angst." That's a great capsule description, not only of this particular film, but of the Spillane sensibility in general.
Likewise, Roger Ebert summed up essential qualities of the world created by Spillane and his chain-smoking, wise-cracking partners in crime in his brief "Guide to Film Noir": Film noir is . . .
1. A French term meaning "black film," or film of the night, inspired by the Series Noir, a line of cheap paperbacks that translated hard-boiled American crime authors and found a popular audience in France.
2. A movie which at no time misleads you into thinking there is going to be a happy ending.
3. Locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places, of apartment buildings with a high turnover rate, of taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all....
Enlarge image: Slapping flesh and heavy breathing.
From Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun:
When reading the request for greatest opening shots, the first film that popped into my head was immediate and almost too easy — “Kiss Me Deadly.��?
And then I reflected more.
There are so many masterful opening shots, some I find works of genius or some I simply love. But the more I thought about it, the more I drifted back to where my mind always manages to drift back to — stark, hard-boiled cruelty, paranoia, insanity and psycho sexual angst — so there it was again, “Kiss Me Deadly.��?
But for good reason. Robert Aldrich’s masterful noir hits you with a hysterical bang that sets its frenzied tone with such balls-out experimental élan; you can’t believe the film was released in 1955:
Before any credit sequence, the film begins with a pair of naked feet running down the middle of a highway in the black of the night.
Q. Why is there a double standard regarding male vs. female nudity in the movies? Why are women seen naked so much more often than men? Do you suppose, as directors keep pushing at the taboo envelope, we'll have more full frontals in our future? Is the small-but-growing number of female directors changing this equation at all? (Martha Barnette, Louisville, Ky)
"How high are we?" Robert Mitchum asked. "Sixth floor? I guess that's safe." He took a sip of his Scotch. "You know," he said, "at high altitudes this stuff can kill you. Drinking in a place like Durango is a serious business. You got an altitude of five, six thousand feet, you can get drunk by accident. Get sick. Of course, that's one of the best ways to lose weight. Getting sick.
Fourteen months we were trying to get someone to believe in that picture," Raymond Stross said. "We had our own money in it. All of our money. Everything except the house. And all the time people were telling us, make a Hollywood picture. Make a commercial picture. 'The Fox' will never make a dime."