31 December 2009


Gnossienne n° 1, an avant-garde composition for piano by Erik Satie, a curious French composer and pianist (the 1890s). The composition is here performed on piano by one Pascal Rogé.

30 December 2009


A video for Ta Douleur, a song by Camille Dalmais (from Le Fil, her 2005 album). Note that hum that resonates, uninterrupted, throughout the album.

29 December 2009

Black desire

Le Vent Nous Portera official video, by a French band Noir Désir (from a 2001 album des visages des figures).

28 December 2009


Tékitoi, by Rachid Taha (Tékitoi album, 2004).

24 December 2009

If that's all there is, my friends...

P.J. Harvey's original (to say the least) take on Is That All There Is?, a song most famously recorded by Peggy Lee in 1969.
No merry bloody Christmas carols on this blog.

23 December 2009

Just one of those things

Bryan Ferry's take on Just One of Those Things, a song written by Cole Porter (1935). The cover is from the As Time Goes By album of Bryan Ferry (1999).

22 December 2009

The Man I Love

Kate Bush's and Larry Adler's take on The Man I Love from Gershwin's songbook (recorded for the Glory for Gershwin album, 1994).

21 December 2009

Ode to Billie Joe

Ray Charles' take on Ode to Billie Joe (originally written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry in 1968). The lady singing is apparently one of the Realettes.

19 December 2009


A magical screen test of Audrey Tatou for Amelie in Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, a French film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001).
Another screen test that cought my attention is this one, with Paul Newman and James Dean.

18 December 2009

The Welshman

Richard Burton narrating (first voice) the original production of Under Milk Wood, a radio play written by Dylan Thomas (1954). Can you resist the enchantment, the lure, the invitation in Burton's voice?
This week we featured the most impressive actors there ever were and are. The actors that actors themselves are awed by.
Is the general public as awed by them?
Spencer Tracy with his unforgettable performances in movies such as Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) or Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), despite his truly monumental talent for acting, never made it 100 percent.
In Hollywood, physical beauties are a girl's best friend.
Marlon Brando, an undisputed physical beauty, crossed over to an excellent actor when much older. James Dean may have outdone him in the Rebel Without A Cause, but nobody could ever match Brando in Godfather. Brando's imaginative creation of the character entered popular culture head-on and to such an extent that the public nowadays knows of the character before it knows of Brando. The character of Godfather, put simply, leads a life of its own.
Zero Mostel is a brilliant, superb actor, who was blacklisted at the height of his career. He gave us a mere trifle of his promise, yet the trifle is bedazzling to no end.
This last one was a toss-up between Richard Burton and James Mason, the two actors whose voices enchant, bewitch me. Both are born narrators and storytellers. I give you Burton only because I posted a narration by James Mason earlier (and we are, after all, speaking about Under Milk Wood here).
But my heart... my heart each time goes to James Mason.
As for the rest, I deliberately chose unusual performances. Spencer Tracy in Adam's Rib acts substantially above the demands of the movie and the slapstick standard; Marlon Brando in the screentest acts out a pansy character for the benefit of (undoubtedly) female or gay selectors; and Zero Mostel's Tevye shines, bedazzles us despite the fact that Tevye wears a tie and sings.

17 December 2009


The unsurpassable Samuel Joel Zero Mostel, performing If I Were A Rich Man as Tevye and reasoning with God in the Fiddler on the Roof, a musical that began showing in 1964 in the Imperial Theatre on Broadway.
And indeed, the unreasonable God who made the lion and who made the lamb:
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan,
if I were a wealthy man?

16 December 2009

Marlon without a cause

Marlon Brando doing a screentest for A Rebel Without A Cause, a film directed by Nicholas Ray who cast James Dean in the lead role instead (1955).

15 December 2009

Actors' actor

A fantastic scene from Adam's Rib, a film directed by George Cukor and starring Spencer Tracy (1949). Two attorneys married to each other appear as opposing attorneys in court. See the scene to the end or, if you are really impatient, fast-forward to 8:40.

14 December 2009


Yet again insanely busy with that other thing I do daily.

12 December 2009

Needles or pins

An underground cult classic. This Little Red Riding Hood is a short film directed by David Kaplan and narrated by Quentin Crisp. It premiered in 1997 on the Sundance Film Festival.
The film follows the storyline of The Story of Grandmother rather than Little Red Riding Hood (Perrault) or Little Red Cap (Grimm). The Story of Grandmother is a record made by Paul Delarue of a pre-Perrault tale that was retold for centuries by the camp fires in France.
The story is very short. Maria Tatar recapitulated it as follows:
“This Gallic heroine escapes falling victim to the wolf and instead joins the ranks of trickster figures. After arriving at grandmother’s house and unwittingly eating “meat” and drinking “wine” that turns out to be the flesh and blood of her grandmother, she performs a striptease for the wolf, gets into bed with him, and escapes by pleading with the wolf for a chance to go outdoors and relieve herself.”
In the context of its time, this was no tale for children. This was adult entertainment, a running storytelling performance delivered with suspense and crude humour.
For the listeners knew then as they know now that it is completely inevitable. Little Red Riding Hood will get to the Grandmother’s house and encounter a wolf, regardless of whether she takes the path of pins or the path of needles. The duel between the wolf and the little red is expected as soon as we followed her into the woods.
Always the bets are taken and we always play, hoping against hope that she will be more like Sheherezade.

11 December 2009

Werewolf justice

Don't forget that the wolf never got to tell his side of the story.
In the revolting rhymes of Roald Dahl (1995):

"That's wrong!" cried Wolf. "Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I'm going to eat you anyway."
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, "Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT."

And that's not all, by far:

He dialled as quickly as he could
The number of Red Riding Hood.
"Hello," she said. "Who's speaking? Who?
Oh, hello, Piggy, how d'you do?"
Pig cried, "I need your help, Miss Hood!
Oh help me, please! D'you think you could?"
"I'll try of course," Miss Hood replied.
"What's on your mind?" ... "A Wolf!" Pig cried.
"I know you've dealt with wolves before,
And now I've got one at my door!"
"My darling Pig," she said, "my sweet,
That's something really up my street.
I've just begun to wash my hair.
But when it's dry, I'll be right there."
A short while later, through the wood,
Came striding brave Miss Riding Hood.
The Wolf stood there, his eyes ablaze
And yellowish, like mayonnaise.
His teeth were sharp, his gums were raw,
And spit was dripping from his jaw.
Once more the maiden's eyelid flickers.
She draws the pistol from her knickers.
Once more, she hits the vital spot,
And kills him with a single shot.
Pig, peeping through the window, stood
And yelled, "Well done, Miss Riding Hood!"

Ah, Piglet, you must never trust
Young ladies from the upper crust.
For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes,
Not only has two wolfskin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,

10 December 2009


Little Red Riding Hood is really a tale about a bzou (a werewolf). It all began much earlier than our imagination can grasp. For Little Red Riding Hood belongs to the world in which werewolves were believed to roam among us.
Where we find metaphor, our ancestors meant it literally. Little Red Riding Hood, as it was told in France and Italy in the 1300s, does not differ significantly from indictments and judgments rendered against individuals accused of being werewolves. In the 1600s, belief in werewolves was completely backed up by theology. Tens of thousands of werewolf trials took place in the 1500s and the 1600s. Judges believed that accussed werewolves wore their skin turned inside out (with the coat of fur hidden on the inside).
According to the confession of one Stumpp in 1589, he had been given a magical belt by the Devil that enabled him to shapeshift into "the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body, and mighty paws."
The better to grab you with.

09 December 2009


A tiny peek into a Little Red Riding Hood, a photobook by Sarah Moon (2002).
Don't overlook the soundtrack under the photograph: Werewolf by Cat Power (the song appeared on the album You Are Free, 2003).
Press here, if you wish to see and hear Werewolf performed live by Chan Marshall aka Cat Power.

08 December 2009

Howling tales

An excerpt from The Company of Wolves, a wicked film rendition of Little Red Riding Hood directed by Neil Jordan (1984).
Jordan chose to base his rendition of Little Red Riding Hood on a tale - The Company of Wolves - written by Angela Carter. It was Carter that co-wrote the screenplay of the film as well.
As a child, I wondered about that hunter. Honestly, killing the wolf in a horrible (not to mention backstabbing and sneaky) way, and without a fair trial.
In this story, however, the hunter and the wolf are one and the same.
See! sweet and sound she sleeps in granny's bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.

07 December 2009


James Spader in Wolf, a film directed by Mike Nichols (1994). The wolfy character of James Spader is - as one critic put it - "a roguish delight".

05 December 2009

It's four in the morning

Famous blue raincoat, a letter sang by Leonard Cohen (1971), recorded for the Songs of Love and Hate album.
Tori Amos arranged and recorded an excellent rendition of this letter-song. Indeed, it is hard to believe that it is not hers.

Dear reader,

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening

I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear

Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife

Well, I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake -

She sends her regards

And what can I tell you, my brother, my killer?
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Well, your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good, so I never tried

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear


L. Cohen

03 December 2009

Leonard Cohen songbook

This week ends where it began. You are looking (or about to look) at the official video of Dance me to the end of love. This song from Leonard Cohen songbook first appeared on his own album Various Positions (1984). Quickly becoming a standard, it has since been covered by many artists in various arrangements and styles.
According to Cohen himself, Dance me to the end of love is not about a passionate surrender to a beloved, but instead about a passionate surrender to death.
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin...
Cohen stated that death represented a consummation of life, and poetry an evidence to life. "If your life is burning well," he claimed, "poetry is just the ash."
He explained that he was inspired to write and compose Dance me to the end of love by the string quartets in WW2 concentration camps.
Be that as it may, I find it difficult to connect with this reading of the song. My preference goes to the laid-back cover by Madeleine Peyroux as posted at the beginning of this week.
Other Cohen songs, posted earlier this week, were I'm your man (as performed by Nick Cave), Hallelujah (as performed by Jeff Buckley) and The stranger song (as performed by Leonard Cohen in McCabe and Mrs. Miller).
The choice of songs and artists was arbitrary. There were many excellent covers to choose from that were performed by artists such as Jarvis Cocker, Suzanne Vega, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Tori Amos, John Cale, k.d. lang and Laurie Anderson, to name only a few.
Can you imagine a more fitting crowd of performers?
A tower of song.

A man

I'm your man, as performed by Nick Cave (2005). Admittedly, the video is no winner. The song on the other hand is just that.

If you want a lover
I'll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I'll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner
Take my hand
Or if you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I'm your man

If you want a boxer
I will step into the ring for you
And if you want a doctor
I'll examine every inch of you
If you want a driver
Climb inside
Or if you want to take me for a ride
You know you can
I'm your man

Ah, the moon's too bright
The chains too tight
The beast wont go to sleep
I've been running through these promises to you
That I made and I could not keep
Ah, but a man never got a woman back
Not by begging on his knees
Or I'd crawl to you baby
And I'd fall at your feet
And I'd howl at your beauty
Like a dog in heat
And I'd claw at your heart
And I'd tear at your sheet
I'd say please, please
I'm your man

And if you've got to sleep
A moment on the road
I will steer for you
And if you want to work the street alone
I'll disappear for you
If you want a father for your child
Or only want to walk with me a while
Across the sand
I'm your man

If you want a lover
I'll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I'll wear a mask for you

02 December 2009

Baffled king

Hallelujah, performed by the late and dearly missed Jeff Buckley. This song also appeared on his debut album Grace (1994). And it was Grace that David Bowie named as one of the 10 albums he would take with him to a desert island.

Well, I heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do ya?
Well, it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Well, your faith was strong, but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Well, baby I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew ya
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Well, there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you?
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Well, maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who'd outdrew ya
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen in the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

01 December 2009

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

The opening scene of McCabe and Mrs. Miller, a western (one of the best there are) directed by Robert Altman (1971).

It's true that all the men you knew were dealers
who said they were through with dealing
every time you gave them shelter
I know that kind of man
It's hard to hold the hand of anyone
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender
who is reaching for the sky just to surrender

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
that is so high and wild
he'll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger

And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
an old schedule of trains he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger

But now another stranger seems
to want you to ignore his dreams
as though they were the burden of some other
O you've seen that man before
his golden arm dispatching cards
but now it's rusted from the elbow to the finger
And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter
Yes he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter

Ah you hate to watch another tired man
lay down his hand
like he was giving up the holy game of poker
And while he talks his dreams to sleep
you notice there's a highway
that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder
that's curling up like smoke above his shoulder

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
that is so high and wild
he'll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger