A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.
Michael Delaney (Steve McQueen)
McQueen is not the only worthwhile reason to watch this laconic racing classic. Italian film junkies should be happy to note that the film also features La città gioca d’azzardo / Gambling City and L’uomo senza memoria / Puzzle star Luc Merenda.
Selvage Yard has a great post with even more photos here.
The Toronto Port Authority is screening Creature from the Black Lagoon tonight as part of its sail-in cinema program. Tickets are free (and still available). Viewers are invited to bring their blankets and treats and watch this Universal Studios classic in glorious black and white from the shore as the film is projected onto a floating screen on Lake Ontario. It’s hard to think of a more perfect film (Jaws?) to show in this manner. With the forecast for tonight calling for clear skies, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. For more details, go here.
One of the more exciting things to happen to Toronto in the last few years has been the reopening of the Golden Classics Theatre on Spadina as the Toronto Underground Cinema. Since opening, the Toronto Underground set itself apart by screening classics and offbeat fare like Heavy Metal, Infernal Affairs, Deep Red, The Beyond, Cowboy Bebop, and Detroit 9000, scheduling monthly burlesque shows and programming truly awesome events like the original Batman screening / Adam West Q&A. When the theatre announced in July that it was closing for August for renovations, most of us thought that the theatre would only come back stronger and better. However, John Semley for the Toronto Star reports that the Underground will be reopening shortly only to close for good in mid-September. Definite bummer.
It’s hardly an amicable breakup, but the Underground crew knew it was a gamble going in. “We were never working with a reasonable budget to do what we were trying to do,” says Woodside. “And we just decided we were going to do it anyway.”
The Underground will screen its last double-bill Sunday, Sept. 16: fittingly programmed screenings of the cult doomsday flick Night of the Comet and The Band’s 1976 farewell concert film The Last Waltz. Both films will be projected in 35mm.
The writer, Masaru Baba, began with a novel by Shintaro Ishihara. His approach was apparently conventional, and he disagreed sharply with Shinoda about the gambling scenes. “We just write ‘they gamble,'” he told the director. Shinoda nodded, kept his peace, and used the novel as a basis for shooting the extraordinary card games. The film makes no effort to explain how the game is played, but is visually acute about the details: The goading rhythm of the croupier, the ritual of a card withdrawn from concealment and folded within a cloth, the placing of bets. Shinoda gives great attention to the implacable faces of Muraki, Saeko and (at a greater distance) Yoh. The gambling scenes are not about the game but about the emotional signals being exchanged by these three; Shinoda has little interest in the other players.
Dangerous Minds has posted a collection of artist David Pelman’s iconic covers for the penguin paperback collection of JG Ballard novels. I’ve been collecting these editions for awhile. They’re usually pretty easy to find and can be picked up on the cheap.
Ballard’s work seems to bring out the best in graphic designers. Two others that come to mind are Jerry Bauer’s mirror-like cover for Cocaine Nights and Chris Foss’ enjoyably over-the-top covers for Crash and High Rise (not ideal for subway reading?).
For those still interested, read this interview with Rick McGrath on collecting Ballard novels.
Phantom of the Paradise is a unique accomplishment. Directed by a pre-fame Brian DePalma, starring the ever-talented and beautiful Jessica Harper (the lead actress in Suspiria) and the truly unique William Finley (in a career best performance), and featuring the amazingly multi-talented Paul Williams (balladeer, Smokey and the Bandit scene stealer, and Daft Punk collaborator), the film is if nothing else a one-off. Watch it for DePalma’s visually ambitious directing, its hilariously cynical plot or Williams’ pitch-perfect send ups of Jan and Dean-esque surf and Alice Cooper-era glam, and you won’t be disappointed.
Jessica Harper singing Old Souls.
William Finley singing Faust.
Phil Brown wrote a worthwhile piece in online magazine the Toronto Standard on the Phantom‘s unique appeal.
The Phantom of the Paradise was never a mainstream hit for a reason. To appreciate the movie requires a background in all of the high-and-low-brow cultural obsessions that tickled De Palma and Williams in the ’70s, as well as a healthy sense of camp and irony. The film is an assault on the senses in a delightfully excessive ’70s way. If it speaks to your guilty pleasures, there are few films out there more riotously entertaining. If not, there will be no film you find more irritating. However, I choose to ignore the screaming voices of the latter audience on this one. The film is a riotous explosion of ideas, goofs, and images, its two collaborators given a blank cheque by a studio to bring their wacko vision to life.
Anyone who is interested is urged to see it tonight or Monday at the Bloor Cinema.
In Then and Now, a series of articles detailing the history of Toronto night clubs, respected writer Denise Benson has a feature on the El Mocambo during its 1989-2001 years. Interestingly, Benson bypasses the club’s more famous earlier years to make the case that the club was just as vibrant at the turn of the century. One of Benson’s great strengths as a writer is her ability to get quotes from those who were there. This article is no exception with interesting insights from among others promoter Dan Burke, past owner Enzo Petrungaro, and DJ Davy Love.
“I’d quickly learned that, as a new player in the field, I had to tap into acts, labels, and booking agents that weren’t already sewn up by established competitors,” Burke writes in an email interview. “So that’s what I did—and very deeply so—once I was at The El Mocambo. Whatever was cutting-edge—The Toilet Boys from N.Y.C., stoner rock acts from Man’s Ruin Records, nerd heroes like Wesley Willis, electroclash ensembles like Chicks on Speed, Japan’s Zoobombs and The 5,6,7,8s, Montreal’s The Dears—I got the best of them, and made the El Mocambo an important international club again.”
The Deadly Snakes, The Sadies (sometimes with R&B legend Andre Williams), Danko Jones, Sum 41, and Peaches were among the local favourites booked by Burke. He was also responsible for repeat visits by Japan’s Zoobombs, who recorded their album, Bomb You Live, at the El Mo in April 2000, and released it on Toronto’s Teenage USA label in 2001.
“Being a show promoter is like gambling,” says Burke. “When you win, sometimes you also get to see a great show. When you lose, sometimes you get to see a great show. It’s the greatest job in the world if you can keep going.”