The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Films’

Staff Picks: Murderous Teens, Mechanical Cities, Message Boards

October 14, 2016 | by


The first thing—maybe the only thing—we all learn about art history is that standards of beauty change. The ideal body gets fatter or thinner, different body parts get emphasized or flattered away—and the fashions of the time serve this ideal. At least, that’s how we usually think. Recently I’ve gone back to Anne Hollander’s 1978 masterpiece Seeing Through Clothes, which turns that way of thinking on its head. When we look at a nude body, Hollander argues, we are always seeing the clothes that aren’t there, whether we know it or not. The big pregnant-looking belly on an early Renaissance Eve is meant to support the heavy woolen gathers of a gown. The “unaccountable hummocks of flesh” on a Rubens nude evoke the satin she doesn’t have on. Whether Hollander writes about dresses or men’s tailoring or classical drapery, she leads us, like no other historian I’ve read, into the erotic imagination of the past. Seeing Through Clothes blew my mind when I first read it twenty years ago, and now it’s keeping me up late all over again. —Lorin Stein

One day during Salvador Dalí’s first visit to New York City in 1934, he woke “at six in the morning … after a long dream involving eroticism and lions.” He was surprised by the insistence of the lions’ roars—the savage cries of his dreams, which were so different than what he expected in a “modern and mechanical” city. Reading this, I thought of the Surrealist master dreaming of great orange cats roaring in his ears. But the roars weren’t in his imagination: he and his wife, Gala, were staying near the Central Park Zoo, and he discovered at breakfast that the sounds were real. It’s amusing to read Dalí’s impressions of the city, which he gives in his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. During his stay, he hops from one cocktail party to another, drinks in a Harlem night club, attends a “surrealist ball,” visits an exhibition of his works, and does a fine bit of walking “all alone in the heart of New York.” Here’s his take on the city’s skyscrapers: “Each evening [they] assume the anthropomorphic shapes of multiple gigantic Millet’s Angeluses … motionless and ready to perform the sexual act and devour one another, like swarms of praying mantes before copulation.” Caitlin Love Read More »

Circumstantial Pleasures

October 6, 2016 | by

Since the late seventies, Lewis Klahr has garnered praise for his collage films, whose use of midcentury imagery inspires what the historian Tom Gunning has called “an interplay of grasping and losing, remembering and forgetting.” A new exhibition at Zurich’s Grieder Contemporary, in association with London’s Anthony Reynolds Gallery, finds Klahr pursuing collage outside of film for the first time; in addition to a new movie, he’s debuting a set of standalone works.

When I first started doing this, in my late twenties, I was really trying to bring my childhood back,” he told Blouin ArtInfo in 2013. “I wanted the world to look like that again. As I aged, and as I grew as an artist, that became not the concern anymore in the same way. Then it was more about memory. Now it’s just a language; it’s a place I like hanging out. It’s this idea of looking at the world with the openness and wonder of a child, so you’re seeing things fresh.”

Lewis Klahr, At Night, 2015, collage on cardboard, 20 1/2" x 8 7/8".

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The Scary Peeper

September 28, 2016 | by

Nothing so appalling …

In Canada today, Home Depot announced that it was pulling a Halloween decoration called “Scary Peeper Creeper” from its shelves. Shoppers were deeply perturbed by the Peeper’s pockmarked, rubbery visage, and for good reason—he’s designed to scare the living shit out of people. “Realistic face looks just like a real man is peering through the window at you,” boasted the description on Home Depot’s website; all that’s missing is the labored mouth-breathing. The manufacturer advises sticking him “on the passenger side of a car window, in a bedroom window, basement window, kitchen window, bathroom window, or garage window … We’d love to hear where you’ve gotten good results with your Scary Peeper!”

The debacle brought to mind Herschell Gordon Lewis, cinema’s very own Scary Peeper, who got very good results with his pictures. He died yesterday at ninety. (It’s been a bad week for voyeurs.) In his forty-one turns as a director, he did more to popularize gore, splatter, and willful puerility than a Peeper in every window could do. His films range from the out-and-out depraved (Blood Feast, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, Miss Nymphet’s Zap-In) to the merely lascivious (Boin-n-g!, Living Venus, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre), but—per the Peeper Code of Conduct—they were always, always in poor taste. Read More »

Aerosol Dreams, and Other News

August 4, 2016 | by

Mmmm ... spray-on food.

  • A lot of things keep me up at night. Lately it’s all the forgotten potential of Cheez Whiz and Reddi-Wip—the beauty we lost when mankind turned away from aerosolized foods. As Nadia Berenstein writes, “Push-button cuisine is one of the great, unrealized dreams of postwar food technology. In the 1950s and 1960s, food manufacturers, along with their allies in the container and chemical industries, imagined a world of effortless convenience, where, in the words of one 1964 newspaper article, ‘entire meals … can be oozed forth by a gentle push on a few cans’ … Starting in the late 1950s, an avalanche of new push-button food products made their way to grocery stores. There was Whisp, a Freon-propelled vermouth spray, for that extra-dry martini. Sizzl-Spray, an aerosol barbecue sauce designed for seasoning burgers and steaks on the backyard grill, itself a 1950s innovation. Tasti-Cup, an aerosol coffee concentrate, for the office worker too busy for instant.”
  • While we’re on the mechanisms of publishing: a season’s biggest titles will arrive worldwide on nearly the same date; translation is built into the production process. In a new book, Rebecca L. Walkowitz “argues that these new conditions of production have altered the very shape of the contemporary novel. Many literary works today do not appear in translation, she proposes, but are written for translation from the beginning. They are ‘born translated.’ Adapted from ‘born digital,’ the term used to designate artworks produced by and for the computer, ‘born-translated literature approaches translation as medium and origin rather than as afterthought. Translation is not secondary or incidental to these works. It is a condition of their production.’ ”
  • Everyone loves a “lost” book—the thrill of the forgotten, of rediscovery, has fueled some of publishing’s most major events the past few years. The only problem: most of these books aren’t good. Alison Flood writes, “It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Publish as much as possible of a beloved author’s work, because the fans will lap it up, or exercise a fierce quality control? It’s a question that I was pondering only this week, on reading the forgotten Dr. Seuss stories in Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories to my children. We are regular readers of Horton Hears a Who, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas—and were looking forward to it. And … it just wasn’t as good. The Grinch wasn’t the right color, he wasn’t very funny, and there were only two pages of him. Horton wasn’t as charming.”

We’re All on Location, and Other News

June 29, 2016 | by

From the set of Intolerance.

  • D. W. Griffith’s film Intolerance is a hundred years old. Its lavish sets—replete with plaster elephants, ornate ten-story walls, and all manner of Babylonian spectacle—testify to a creepy brand of movie magic that has long since leaped from the screen: “Intolerance is where fake movie architecture began its complicated dance with the real thing, affecting how audiences perceive the past, reconfigure their present, and anticipate the future … Even though it’s largely vanished from movies, the attraction of a reality that is recognizably phony and yet honest-to-gosh exists has hardly vanished from our culture … Increasingly, shopping malls, hotels, and the like do their best to emulate the same effect. We’re all on location, baby, even when we’re just shopping or hunting for a bite to eat. Intolerance anticipated many things, and one of them was Disneyland. In turn, Disneyland anticipated a lot of the modern environment we live in—not just at the multiplex or while on vacation, but full time.”
  • The journalist Suki Kim went undercover as a teacher in North Korea and wrote a book about what she witnessed there—but her publishers decided to call it a memoir, thus exposing one of the industry’s many fault lines. She writes, “As the only journalist to live undercover in North Korea, I had risked imprisonment to tell a story of international importance by the only means possible. By casting my book as personal rather than professional—by marketing me as a woman on a journey of self-discovery, rather than a reporter on a groundbreaking assignment—I was effectively being stripped of my expertise on the subject I knew best. It was a subtle shift, but one familiar to professional women from all walks of life. I was being moved from a position of authority—What do you know?—to the realm of emotion: How did you feel?

With Some Help from My Invisible Friends, and Other News

June 17, 2016 | by

Georgiana Houghton, Glory be to God, ca. 1868.

  • In 1871, Georgiana Houghton debuted her “spirit drawings,” a set of abstract watercolors that she made with the encouragement of her “invisible friends.” People were scared: “What she put on display was unlike anything any Western artist had made, or any member of the British public had ever seen. The watercolor drawings, a little larger than A4, were intricately detailed abstract compositions filled with sinuous spirals, frenetic dots, and sweeping lines. Yellows, greens, blues, and reds battled with each other for space on the paper. The densely layered images appeared to have no form, and no beginning or end. There was no traditional perspective to enjoy. There was no mythological subject to interpret; no moral narrative to read, and no hint of portraiture or landscape to scrutinize.”
  • It’s been a while since we thought about how worthless most literary depictions of sex are, so let’s think about that some more: “Literature about sex, no matter who has written it, is almost always terrible, and everybody knows it … In writing my own book full of sex, there was almost no one I could turn to for inspiration. There wasn’t a single book I looked to and thought, ‘What I’m trying to do is write sex like she did or like he did.’ There weren’t even movies and TV shows I felt had handled it the way I wanted to see it done. You know what movies and TV shows are really brilliant at capturing? Bad sex. They’re great at doing awkward, depressing, uncomfortable sex scenes where everyone is sort of strangled in the sheets … The other thing that movies and TV shows are good at nailing down is the kind of phonily intense sex scene in which the involved parties are grabbing fistfuls of hair and grunting and slamming each other around because their passion, their chemistry, is so overpowering it can’t be softened by courtesy, affection, or fear of causing actual physical harm.”
  • To read the medieval poem “Pearl” requires a fairly sophisticated knowledge of the New Testament. But just go ahead and read it anyway. You will still like it, as Josephine Livingstone explains: “There is something about the very strangeness of the poem that magnifies its emotional power. When we look at a Byzantine mosaic, for instance, we may not grasp the precise meaning of its images without scholarly help—but that remoteness lends such artworks the marvelousness of something just beyond our understanding. In his new translation of ‘Pearl,’ Simon Armitage, who is currently the Oxford Professor of Poetry, conveys that feeling of the almost-but-not-quite comprehensible, the feeling that can make medieval art at once eerie and wonderful.”