Saturnine September 2022: Reading, Viewing

School started again, the weather started to cool off. Could open the windows again and ultimately think about shutting them (when it became cold in the evenings).

Participated for the upper-teen-th time in the City to Shore MS150, from the Philly-NJ suburbs to Ocean City, NJ. More than other times, the … ugliness of cycling gear for non-cycling bodies stood out and made me self-conscious. When I began back in the early 00s, a crew of friends came together. We didn’t ride together, at least, not the whole way. I rode a steel 1985 Specialized Sirrus with a 105 groupo, but that didn’t keep me from riding with a few pace lines (and pulling admirably).

Now I ride a titanium 2003 LeMond Arrivée with an Ultregra group and rare 180 mm Dura-Ace crank. Alone. Most recently, Galen Campbell, who was very likely the only person from the early days who might have been interested in joining me, died at the young age of 50. And therefore was unable to join me.

Reading-wise, I consumed most of the Lord of the Rings books. Having never read before.

Film-wise, I viewed Carlos Saura‘s The Hunt (1966). According to Criterion, Saura is the biggest thing in Spanish film between Buńuel and Almodovár.

Greatest hits of September: Lord of the Rings, He Who Gets Slapped (1924), Isle of Dogs (2014), The Hunt (1966)—and I finished James Joyce’s Ulysses!

A still from He Who Gets Slapped (1924) of the title character played by Lon Chaney
Lon Chaney as HE

He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
If you know me, then you’ve heard me tell the clown joke (okay, my mother may not have heard the clown joke). It could have very well, in its origins, been taken from this very early Lon Chaney film. The latter plays a scientist/professor? whose discoveries are stolen by his benefactors, along with his wife. Something like madness leads him to the circus where he becomes famous for a routine in which, as you might have guessed, he gets slapped. He gets his revenge.
The film is based on very popular 1915 Russian play by Leonid Adreyev.
Watch the film at the Internet Archive, if you wish.

A still from He Who Gets Slapped with Norma Shearer, someone, and Lon Chaney
Norma Shearer (who I think is dreamy), someone, and Lon Chaney

J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Rings, 30 pp.
Started reading this after accidentally reading a Quora answer to some question about whether Arwen truly appreciated the significance of her committing to Middle Earth …
I find it a compelling read.

— Tolkien, 50 pp.
Death in Venice (1971)
There’s a lot to say about this film, and I’m not sure that I’m the one to say it. I’ve written here about Dirk Bogarde before, whom I esteem. I’ve also written about another film by Luchino Visconti, namely the 1963 film The Leopard, starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale.
Cannot say that I like this film as much as the latter. Moreover, the last time I read a Thomas Mann story it really made me think I needed to read more Mann before I could say more (“Death in Venice” is famously a story/novella by the German writer Thomas Mann. I think I read it in Paris, in the spring of 2001).

A still of the character Tadzio in the Visconti film Death in Venice
Tadzio in Death in Venice

Everything sort of depends upon the character of Tadzio, played by the young actor Björn Andrésen. By everything, I don’t simply mean the film, but even the judgment of the critic, its posterity. An idle thought this morning wondered if it was not until everyone involved in this film had died before it would be appreciated.

A striking still of fires in Venice from the 1971 film Death in Venice
Primitive public health efforts in the city, creating a striking image of Aschenbach stalking Tadzio

But I’m genuinely not sure if it’s worthy of such appreciation. I suspect this is a case in which the cerebral content cannot be transmigrated into celluloid.

Panic in the Streets (1950)
Directed by Elia Kazan, stars Richard Widmark,  Barbara Bel GeddesJack Palance (in his film debut), and Zero Mostel.

Fellowship, 40 pp.

Fellowship of the Rings (2001), 1.3 hrs
Fellowship, 40 pp.
— Finished Ulysses

That’s right, I just finished reading James Joyce’s incomparable modernist tome Ulysses:

it’s possible that I am now better than you

Isle of Dogs (2018)
Wes Anderson‘s ninth film is also his second stop-motion animated film (after 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox). Bryan Cranston take the role of the main character along with the usual suspects of Anderson films (Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, etc.).
Had been wanting to see it and then learned it was available on Disney+. Thought Lucian would like it. He did.
Fellowship, 20 pp.

Why do you like Wes Anderson so much?

Do I really like him that much?

Saw Rushmore (1998) in the theaters with a few grad student friends (guys) and we all thought it was hilarious. But I think part of what it made it so strong for me was also the sadness of the main character, Max.
Suspect that this film and others are phalllogocentric, if you will, perhaps despite themselves. That wouldn’t seem true in respect of the privileged role that women play in nearly all of his films. They are almost never fools whereas the men are always foolish, libidinal boys. But these man-boys are also artisans, meticulously organizing and cataloguing their surroundings. They are ambitious as well.

Fellowship, 40 pp.
The Beatles: Get Back (2921), 1
— A visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I am obligated to go see Cy Twombly’s “Fifty Days at Illiam” — a happy necessity

Fellowship, 30 pp.

We Are The Best! (2013)
Brilliant film about teen punk girls in the early 1980s. Hilarious but also prescient, affirming. “Hate the sport!”
— Finished Fellowship
The Two Towers, Chap 1.

Seven Thieves (1960)
 Edward G. RobinsonRod Steiger (with hair!), Joan Collins and Eli Wallach in a casino heist film. Directed by Henry Hathaway, of Niagara (1953), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), and True Grit (1969) fame.
Two Towers, 30 pp.

A scene with actors Oscar Issac and Tiffany Haddish from The Card Counter (2021)
Oscar Issac and Tiffany Haddish in The Card Counter (2021)

The Card Counter (2021)
A Paul Schrader film — whose been having a renaissance as of late after First Reformed (2017) — starring  Oscar IsaacTiffany HaddishTye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe.
Schrader is probably most well-known as the screen writer of Taxi Driver (1976), one of those essential and eminently watchable films of New Hollywood era. He has also directed some quite strong films of his own.
The Card Counter is essentially an Iraq War film, about a former soldier who served at Abu Ghraib. In this respect it is interesting, namely, that it’s a film about guilt for what Americans did in Iraq. Yet insofar as it is restricted to Abu Ghraib there is still some bad faith.
Reflections on the Iraq war seem to be about the toll on American soldiers. The Card Counter is one of those, in part. Films about Vietnam eventually were able to take responsibility for what a catastophic mistake our involvement was there. How long will it take for us to see Iraq this way?
Maybe I need to watch it again, but in the end I wasn’t impressed by Oscar Isaac. I want to like him a lot because his character in Ex Machina (2014) was so vital, nuanced. He was also excellent in Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). But nothing since then. I genuinely believe the Star Wars sequel films (2015-2019) were bad for him.
Two Towers, 30 pp.

Two Towers, 220 pp.
Wretched of Earth, 40 pp.

— NYRB on lit crit
Two Towers, 40 pp.

A young Bill Duke in his film debut as "Abdul" in the film Carwash (1976)
A young Bill Duke in his film debut as “Abdulah” in the film Carwash (1976)

Car Wash (1976)
Among the choices that I made during years syracusa, I do not regret having purchased the VHS of Carwash. It’s a hilarious, fascinating film. Somehow that VHS got lost in the many relocations I’ve conducted.
Have becoming increasingly interested in the actor Bill Duke, who had his debut in this film but is also known for a role in Predator (1984) and a few other action films. He also directed television and some film.
The Beatles: Get Back (2021), 2

Two Towers, 30 pp.

Rode 75 miles that morning as part of the MS150 (an annual charity ride) and 99 the day previous, so permitted myself to totally veg out when I returned to my cozy domicile.
Get Carter (1971)
Can anyone explain how Britt Eckland got such high billing when she has less than five minutes in the film? Actually a good film. Pretty sure I saw the remake with Stallone but have no recollection. Not convinced it could be any good.
Narrow Margin (1990)
Dreadfully boring, preposterous.
Two Towers, 25 pp.
Squid Game (2021), #1-2

Two Towers, 20 pp.

— Jorge Luis Borges, “The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan,” “The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette,” “Uqbar, Tlön, Orbis Tertius,” “Death and the Compass

The Predictable Idiosyncrasies of the Marketplace

Covers of two different editions of the one-volume version of the Lord of the Rings (before and after the films)
Covers of two different editions of the one-volume version of the Lord of the Rings (before and after the films). Notice that the title of the book has been resized, much larger than the name of the author, which was not the case for the other. They are basically the same edition, but the pagination has changed a little. The left copy is from the Free Library of Philadelphia; right was recently purchased at my local literary purveyor. Wish I could have found the left version.
It is a reasonable question why one of the Ring-wraiths was included on the cover of the book. I really hate the script that Peter Jackson chose for the title of LOTR. It’s dreadful.

— Finished The Two Towers
The Bad Guys (2022)
Got this (a DVD from Netflix!) for Lucian … he liked it a lot, which is sort of predictable.
Meh. Made me wonder about the state of Sam Rockwell‘s career these days.

The Hunt (1966)
Knowing nothing about Saura but intrigued in part by the effects of the Spanish Civil War on the characters. Certain camera choices stand out.
Return of the King, 30 pp.