One of the great joys of watching movies from countries and cultures with which I have maybe, at best, a passing familiarity is discovering their language of film — both in their mainstream as well as their fringes. There is a thrill in discovering how differently one country, one region, one filmmaker can interpret how to employ this medium we love so dearly. How something familiar — a movie — can become something enigmatic, how the concept of what constitutes a narrative and for what purpose it should be employed varies so greatly. They draw on local customs and theatrical styles, local folklore and legends, and of course local tastes. How to frame a shot, how to deliver a line, how to interact with the camera, how to make a set or film on location, what constitutes a cinematic narrative — it’s amazing how many different ways these things can be done.
This is the sort of movie that might spontaneously spawn during a Guitar Wolf concert. Well, this and Wild Zero of course– an oddly apt film to bring up, as the two films share rather a lot besides leather-clad rocker protagonists. It’s over-the-top, anarchic, and every frame is infused with the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll (if not actual rock ‘n’ roll; Redline‘s soundtrack is more thumping techno oriented). It also has a sweet, doe-eyed love story beneath all the engine revving and hair grease — and if you think that is somehow not in keeping with the tough, leather-clad exterior, you might not know many rockers. They are a sentimental lot at their core. Heck, Elvis wanted to be your teddy bear. And Roy Orbison! That dude was all about crying and being sad and taking advice from candy colored clowns we call the Sandman. One of my best experiences after moving to New York nigh those many decades ago was talking an autumn stroll through Tompkins Square Park past an older (than me, at the time) rockabilly couple with arms around one another, listening to The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” on a beat up old boom box. Modern rockabilly may be all about tattoo sleeves and volume, but even beneath that noise beats the heart of a romantic. And beneath all the leather, engine revving, and alien hustlers, Redline is most definitely a romantic and sentimental movie.
The Devil used to have a lot more to do on Christmas Eve than he does these days, having been supplanted more or less in the Christmas time evil business by retail store owners and Black Friday stampedes. There was a time, however, when Ol’ Scratch regarded the night before Christmas as prime soul-stealing time, what with so many panicked, distressed, depressed, or otherwise vulnerable humans ripe for temptation. Depending on whose folklore upon which we rely, Satan’s midwinter rascalry was combatted by a variety of traditional characters. In Mexico, since time immemorial, they have told the tale of how Pitch the Devil was thwarted in his efforts to corrupt the young and innocent by Santa Claus, who lives on the moon and employed the assistance of his most trusted friend, Merlin the Magician. In The Ukraine, which these days is more concerned with contesting the antics of Vladimir the Bare-Chested Yuletide Goblin, the corrupting efforts of the more unsaintly of the famous Nicks had to be foiled by a hearty peasant in a big furry cap.
When I wrote about L.A. Confidential, I confessed that I had never been to Los Angeles (well, other than Disneyland), and had a fascination with the city that could not possibly be the least bit reflective of the reality of L.A., born as it was by my knowingly incorrect assumption that the city is nothing but a strange, hypnotic amalgamation of Raymond Chandler novels, the romance of Old Hollywood, and David Lynch movies — in particular, Mulholland Drive. In many ways, I suppose this makes me very similar to Naomi Watts’ character in this movie, albeit one I hope comes to a slightly less tragic sort of ending. And it’s fitting that all these inaccurate elements should form my amalgamated notion of Los Angeles, because they all come together in Mulholland Drive. This movie is one of Raymond Chandler “Philip Marlowe” novel — only it’s missing Philip Marlowe.
I know, I know. At this point, someone needs to make a guide to gift guides. The next two weeks will see you flooded with them in such volume that finding the right gift guide because even more difficult that finding the right gift. So you will just have to trust me when I egotistically say that if you are planning to by booze for someone, my guide on Alcohol Professor can help you out. Many spirits, many price ranges, and you know I don’t go in for that “this gift is for men! Here’s some Skinny Girl Margarita for you ladies” balderdash.
- Part one: Vodka, gin, tequila, and mezcal
- Part two: Rum, Cognac, Armagnac, and calvados
- Part three: Scotch, American whiskey, and international whiskey
One more article to celebrate the launch of the Bond Vivant website, in support of the book I’m writing of the same name. Dueling Counts is an excerpt from the book about the controversy surrounding the creation of one of my favorite cocktails, the Negroni. Invented by a brave soldier? Or a mad Italian count who dressed up like a cowboy? Either way, we win.
On the Bond Vivant site, I’m taking a look at the espionage life of one of the leading candidates for “the real James Bond.” Popov…Dusan Popov was a Serbian playboy and bon vivant with an intense hatred of the Nazis. In between picking up women, drinking, and gambling, He and his friend Johann Jebsen became two of the most important British double agents of the Second World War.
On Alcohol Professor, it’s a celebration of the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite scotches. Monster of the Moors takes us on a journey through every version of Compass Box Peat Monster, from its genesis as a special request for a single liquor store to its position now as the flagship whiskey of the small but much respected Compass Box.
Over on The Cultural Gutter, I’m taking a look at one of my favorite sci-fi book series from my youth. Return of the Tripods chronicles my revisit as a man grown to John Christopher’s Tripods trilogy: The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire, which I first discovered when they were serialized as a comic strip in Boys’ Life magazine.
I’ve posted another another excerpt from my upcoming book, Bond Vivant, over on the Bond Vivant website. Shaking Martinis with Nick Charles looks at the surprising provenance of experienced on-screen drinkers shaking, rather than stirring their martinis. Special guest appearances by The Bronx and The Brooklyn cocktails. Be sure (sure!) to follow the blog and the Bond Vivant Facebook page for updates on the book.