“Oh It’s Such a Shame”
Over the years Memphis’s Jay Reatard, proprietor of balls to the walls rock n’ roll, wrote any number of awesome songs. It’s hard to choose just one, but at least for moment I’m doing just that.
‘Untitled (Mary and Children with Sparklers)’ by Robert Frank
The defunct Minneapolis trio, with my friend Mike Koch (a former little baseball teammate) on drums, never broke through to a wider audience. A real shame as they effortlessly combined the rawness of 60’s Garage Rock with the bombastic energy of 70’s Metal and Classic Rock (Sabbath, Deep Purple etc). Regardless this track speaks for itself. It has and will lead off many a mix.
‘Melancholia’ by Charles Corbet
ZABRISKIE POINT (1970) - Michelangelo Antonioni
The visually spectacular final sequence, which features ”Careful with That Axe, Eugene” by Pink Floyd.
“The EMI Song (Smile For Me)”
In 1970 Alex Chilton was twenty and recently freed from The Box Tops. His time in the group resulted in massive hits, their first single ‘The Letter’ rocketed to #1 in 1967 and was named Billboard magazine’s number single of the year but little creative freedom as the direction of the group was determined by its producers Chips Moman and Dan Penn who were eager to capitalize on and duplicate that first success. After the dissolution of the group Chilton went to Greenwich Village for a time but ultimately returned to Memphis where he holed up in Ardent Studios, able now to record his own songs on his own terms. Those sessions resulted in an albums worth of material, including “The EMI Song (Smile For Me)” that was never officially released. Chilton went on to form Big Star with Chris Bell and those songs, many which served as harbinger of the Big Star sound were for many years only available on bootlegs. Ardent released a portion as the now out of print 1970, but you can hear the entire session, including demos on the new release Free Again: The “1970” Sessions.
SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT (1967) - J.L. Anderson
Described as ‘perfect’ by a young Martin Scorsese, it was slated to screen at the 1968 New York film Festival but was bumped at the last minute by John Cassavetes’s FACES. While that film of course came to be regarded as a work of monumental importance, SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT disappeared into nearly a half century of obscurity.
Writing about the film — a complicated and conflicted love affair set in rural south-eastern Ohio — Ross Lippman describes it as a work of American neorealism. Similar in spirit and methods to Charles Burnett’s KILLER OF SHEEP (1979), Kent MacKenzie’s THE EXILES (1961), and Barbara Loden’s WANDA (1970). Like those films “it used non-actors playing themselves alongside trained or semi-trained actors, location shooting with existing-light cinematography, and loose-at-best storylines to depict a gritty underbelly of American life unseen on screens on or off Hollywood.”
Currently it’s housed in UCLA’s Film and Television Archive but funds to restore it have yet to be secured.
A SWEDISH LOVE STORY directed by Roy Andersson (1970)
Andersson’s first film, released when he was only twenty-seven, couldn’t be more different than the later work with which he’s now identified, SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR and YOU, THE LIVING. Loose and naturalistic it sensitively captures the nuances of nascent adolescent romance and heartbreak.
This trailer, constructed for it’s re-release in 2008, is in and of itself a mini-masterpiece. With great economy, it distills the emotional essence of the film in only a minute and a half. It understands the weight and power of small glances and gestures as well as Andersson did and brilliant pairs them with a musical cue by the composer Paul Pritchard.
In a deep remote canyon on the east branch of the north fork of the Feather River, two Germans roll a boulder aside and under it find lump gold. Another couple of arriving miners wash four hundred ounces there in eight hours. A single pan yields fifteen hundred dollars. The ground is so rich that claims are limited to forty-eight inches square. In one week, the population grows from two to five hundred. The place is called Rich Bar.
At Goodyears Bar, on the Yuba, one wheelbarrowload of placer is worth two thousand dollars.
From hard rock above Carson Creek comes a single piece of gold weighing a hundred and twelve pounds. After black powder is packed in a nearby crack, the blast throws out a hundred and ten thousand dollars in gold.
A miner is buried in Rough and Ready. As shovels move, gold appears in his grave. Services continue while mourners stack claims. So goes the story, dust to dust.
From auriferous gravels of Iowa Hill two men remove thirty thousand dollars in a single day.
A nugget weighing only a little less than Leland Stanford comes out of hard rock in Carson Hill. Size of a shoebox and nearby pure gold, it weighs just under two hundred pounds (troy) — the largest piece ever found in California. Carson Hill, in Calaveras County, is the in the belt of the Mother Lode — an elongate swarm of gold-bearing quartz veins, running north-south for a hundred and fifty miles at about a thousand feet of altitude. There are Mother Load quart veins as much as fifty metres wide.
American miners come from every state, and virtually every county. Others have arrived from Mexico, India, France, Australia, Portugal, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii, Peru. One bloc of several thousand is from Chile. The largest foreign group is from China. Over most other miners, the Chinese have an advantage even greater than their numbers: they don’t drink. They smoke opium, certainly, but not nearly as much as the others like to think. The Chinese miners wear outsized boots and blue cotton. Their packs are light. They live on rice and dried fish. Their brothels thrive. They are the greatest gamblers in the Sierra. They make Caucasian gambling look like penny ante.
Some of the early gold camps are so deep in ravines, gulches, caverns, and canyons that the light of the winter sun never reaches the miners’ tents. If you have no tent, you live in a hole in the ground. Your backpack includes a blanket roll, a pick, a shovel, a gold pan, maybe a small rocker in which to sift gravel, a coffeepot, a tobacco tin, saleratus bread, dried apples, and salt pork. You sleep beside your fire. When you get up you “shake yourself and are dressed.” You wear a flannel shirt, probably red. You wear wool trousers, heavy leather boots, and a soft hat with a wide and flexible brim. You carry a pistol. Not everyone resembles you. There are miners in top hats, miners in panama hats, miners in sombreros, and French miners in berets, who have raised the tricolor over their claims. There are miners working in formal topcoats. There are miners in fringed buckskin, miners in brocaded vests, miners working claims in dress pumps (because their boots have worn out). There are numerous Indians, who are essentially naked. There are black miners, all of them free. As individual prospecting gives way to gang labor, this could be a place for slaves, but in the nascent state of California slavery is forbidden. On Sundays, while you drink your tanglefoot whiskey, you can watch a dog kill a dog, a chicken kill a chicken, a man kill a man, a bull kill a bear. You can watch Shakespeare. You can visit a “public woman.” The Hydraulic Press for October 30, 1858, says “Nowhere do young men look so old as in Calfornia.” They build white wooden churches with steeples.
In four months in Mokelumne Hill, there is a murder every week. In the absence of law, lynching is common. The camp that will be named Placerville is earlier called Hangtown. When a mob forgets to tie the hands of condemned man and he clutches the rope above him, someone beats his hands with a pistol until he lets go. A Chinese miner wounds a white youth and is jailed. With a proffered gift of tobacco, lynchers lure a the “Chinee” to cell window, grab his head, slip a rope around his neck, and pull until he is dead. A young miner in Bear River kills an older man. A tribunal offers him death or banishment. He selects death, explaining that he is from Kentucky. In Kentucky, that would be th honorable thing to do.
- John McPhee “Assembling California”
THE HEARTBREAK KID (1972) - Elaine May
Elaine May’s masterpiece screened a few weeks ago at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as a part of their Hollywood “Jew Wave” series. Alt Screen compiled excerpts from pieces written over the years singing its praises, among them is this summation of it’s many virtues by Chuck Stephens written for Film Comment in 2006:
“Were there film-historical justice in the world, The Heartbreak Kid (72) would be remembered as something more than a finger-jabbed-a-little-too-sharply-in-the-ribs footnote to The Graduate. An excruciatingly hilarious masterpiece of modern misanthropy, May’s second directorial outing stars Charles Grodin as a newlywed who, not five days into his honeymoon, mercilessly dumps his bride (played, with an Oscar-nominated mixture of hapless pathos and a double order of egg salad, by May’s daughter, Jeannie Berlin) in order to pursue Cybill Shepherd’s teenage Minnesota WASP princess. An anatomy of internalized rage, curdled misogyny, and bottomless self-deception, May’s second film-as indeed do each of the four films she directed-deserves better. It deserves a fate in which someone like Manny Farber, back when those sorts of evaluations meant something, would have hailed The Heartbreak Kid as nothing less than Taxi Driver in reverse. That way, the suck-hole of oblivion into which May’s all-too-brief filmmaking career seems now largely to have vanished might long since have been fitted with a plug. Even in The Heartbreak Kid, the one film she directed but didn’t take credit for writing, May managed to shift the shape of Neil Simon’s script in a manner so corrosive as to foretell aspects of Schrader and Scorsese’s psycho-cabbie transubstantiation of Bresson’s country priest.”