From the East Village, ‘Ten Talk New York’

Kim Harris in 'Ten Talk New York,' a film directed by Simon J. Heath

Thanks to Clayton Patterson, "the great connector," I met his friend Simon J. Heath the other day. Simon is an Australian-born filmmaker who's in love with New York City. The latest evidence is "Ten Talk New York," a fast-moving flick that features interviews with New Yorkers thinking out loud about sex, love, race, and death. They all tell stories, great stories. But for sheer entertainment ... ... if I had to pick a favorite in the truth-telling department, I'd go with Kim Harris who identifies herself as "a black Jew from the Upper West … [Read more...]

Three Expats and One Reporter Explain It All For Us

In about five minutes, starting roughly 45 minutes into a conversation with NYT reporter David Carr, Edward Snowden explains why President Obama -- or for that matter any American president -- is captive to the intelligence community and what it means for democratic values. Carr leads him into the explanation by remarking that the Obama administration is "the worst administration in terms of transparency that I've ever covered. What I wonder about is -- you're kind of a spook -- did the spooks get to him? What happened?" David Carr … [Read more...]

Beckett But Not Beckett: ‘Being Human’

BEING HUMAN (credit-1)

It begins in blackness with whispers. Jumps to a face with eyes closed. The eyes open. Words form: "I was almost human. But then something went wrong. I was a human being. But then I became a victim. I was almost a human being but then I ran out of time." I wish I could embed the YouTube video here, but the embed function has been disabled. To see the video click the image. If "Being Human" brings to mind Billie Whitelaw doing Samuel Beckett’s “Not I,” there's nothing wrong with that. … [Read more...]

Leonardo’s Notebooks: Seeing Him in His Drawings

Notebook Drawing of a Fetus [Leonardo da Vinci]

The opening of the new 3-D flick "Inside the Mind of Leonardo da Vinci" grabbed me right from the start and had nothing to do with its "stereoscopic" quality. We follow a librarian on a winding trail to the vault at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy, where the drawings in Leonardo's notebook collection, the Codex Atlanticus, are kept. We watch as the vault is opened. The door to the vault could pass for a subterranean hatch to the center of the earth. It looks secure enough to muffle the explosion of a nuclear bomb. And when the ancient … [Read more...]

The Reviews Are In: How Many Tomatoes for ‘Algren’?

Nelson Algren (photo illustration from 'Algren')

I took a survey of viewers who saw "Algren," the new documentary that recently had its world premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival. Here's what they said: Reviewer #1: Really interesting and fast-paced. It gives me a great sense of the guy without being pious. I’m unsure about the kitschy style. The fast edits and fake newsreels and animations keep things lively -- but it’s tough to think they will age well. Maybe that’s not the point, though. Maybe the point is to repackage Algren for today and let it be the books that age … [Read more...]

Long-Awaited ‘Algren’ Documentary to Open in Chicago

'ALGREN' a documentary by Michael Caplan

Is this Nelson Algren's moment? If it is, I don't think he'd give a damn -- not personally -- considering he's gone and how long ago that was. I also don't think he'd appreciate what has become a cliché of the Algren myth -- the forgotten writer. Sure, he's forgotten. Most writers are. And of those who are remembered, many are less worthy than Algren. But let's not forget that in his time he had moments of glory that even the worthiest writers may never have. Maybe the cliché will be retired at least for a little while with the premiere of … [Read more...]

‘Burroughs in London’ by Heathcote Williams

Transatlantic Review 14

Now that the Burroughs centenary has moved into high gear -- marked by a massive new biography, a lecture series, a remastered movie, all kinds of performances, an art exhibition (more than one, actually), and what have you (including a major conference in Indiana, of all places, and an academic gathering planned for April in New York) -- it suddenly dawned on Heathcote Williams that he'd known the man on and off for more than half a century. 
I first met William Burroughs in 1963. I was working for the now-defunct literary magazine … [Read more...]

Liam O’Gallagher’s Psilocybin ‘Chinatown Trip’

Liam O'Gallagher's 'Chinatown Trip' (CLICK TO WATCH AND LISTEN)

Poking around the web the other day, my staff of thousands came across an old movie that Michael McClure once made of Liam O'Gallagher taking psilocybin, in 1962, in a San Francisco Chinatown loft. The original, shot in color on 16mm film stock, was basically a short piece of silent documentation -- an amateur bit of cinema verité, if you like. Nearly a half-century later, Kevin Wallace, the director of the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, in Ojai, California, digitized and added new footage, along with a soundtrack that combined … [Read more...]

Sight Unseen, a Plug for Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Visitors’

2002: "Naqoyqatsi," meaning "life as war," was the third in Reggio's qatsi trilogy. 1988: "Powaqqatsi," meaning "life in transformation," was the second. 1982: "Koyaanisqatsi," meaning "life out of balance," was the first. Reggio's latest, "Visitors," with another score by Philip Glass, will be released in 2014. … [Read more...]

An Amazing Act of Filming


I'm late on this, but I can now say that the widespread praise for this revelatory documentary is deserved. It is not -- yes, NOT -- an exploitation flick, but if you're innarested in kinky you MUST see it. "The Act of Killing" is kinky to the 10th power. Not sex kinky but life-and-death kinky with all sorts of pop kinky tossed in. It is an exposé of smiley-face killers and their culture of genocide. Yet the bizarre reality of the Indonesian death squads of the '60s that it puts on record, let alone the evidence that they are hailed as heroes … [Read more...]

This ‘Auteur’ Made Some of Hollywood’s Best Films

William Wyler

I just caught a screening of "Dodsworth" at the New York Historical Society, where Catherine Wyler mentioned in a pre-screening interview with AMERICAN MASTERS creator Susan Lacy that there are two new Wyler books due out soon: one by Gabriel Miller, the other by Neil Sinyard. She hoped it signals renewed interest in her father's work. I hope she's right. It might even give a boost to sales of my Wyler biography A Talent for Trouble, which was published back in 1996. (Miraculously, the paperback is still in print. Here's the NY Times … [Read more...]

Typography Meets Country Music

CLICK FOR THE VIDEO [Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: "Love Has Come For You" ]

Hat's off to the designer whoever that is. The kinetic typography put me in mind of the clever card sequence in D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 documentary about Bob Dylan, "Don't Look Back." The design is more ingenious now, and of course the technology is far more sophisticated. But you get the idea. As to the stylish use of those primitive hand-written cards 46 years ago, Pennebaker says: "Dylan came up with the idea of cutting a lot of things written down on pieces of paper. We didn't think about what you're gonna do with them. But he had … [Read more...]

Two Artists, Two Video Trailers: Ungerer and Mc Neill

'Observed While Falling,' a memoir by Malcolm Mc Neill

Here are two video trailers, totally different from each other -- one for a new movie about the peerless Tomi Ungerer, "Far Out Isn't Far Enough," the other for a dance inspired by Observed While Falling, a spellbinding memoir by the incomparable Malcolm Mc Neil. Many years ago Burt Britton kept a self-portrait by Ungerer in an archive of drawings he had collected by the hundreds. And for many years Britton kept those drawings private until he was prevailed upon to publish them in the book Self-Portrait: Book People Picture Themselves. … [Read more...]

Death of a Mensch, Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

Once Upon a Time at the Chicago Sun-Times

Rick Kogan has written a fine obituary, "A film critic with the soul of a poet," with a beautiful lede: It was reviewing movies that made Roger Ebert as famous and wealthy as many of the stars who felt the sting or caress of his pen or were the recipients of his televised thumbs-up or thumbs-down judgments. But in words and in life he displayed the soul of a poet whose passions and interests extended far beyond the darkened theaters where he spent so much of his professional life. Kogan, at the Chicago Tribune for many years now, used … [Read more...]

Who Is Heathcote Williams? Not for Sale, That’s Who

Heathcote Williams, in "Wet Dreams" [1974]

"He is one of a few of genius who did not sell out and who peaks in (relative) old age. That’s quite something nowadays." -- Gerard Bellaart +++ "Fame is the first disgrace because God knows who you are." -- Heathcote Williams, "The Local Stigmatic" +++ The videos comprise Parts 1 and 2 of a semi-sendup documentary from Channel 4, "Every Time I Cross the Tamar, I Get into Trouble." It was broadcast in 1993 as an account of some of Heathcote Williams's work and Al Pacino's obsession with his writing, and includes an interview with … [Read more...]

Godfrey Reggio’s Vision of ‘Life Out of Balance’

A day in February, 1983. Godfrey Reggio is standing in front of the old Reichstag in Berlin. A tall, gaunt man with pale blue eyes and a graying beard that looks like stubble, he has just presented Koyaanisqatsi at the Berlin Film Festival. The notices have been gratifying. One critic called it "a masterpiece . . .  the highlight of the festival." Trained from adolescence in the ascetic self-effacement of the Christian Brothers, a rigorous order of Catholic teaching monks, Reggio nonetheless has a self-indulgent urge. He wants to bask in the … [Read more...]