Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jack Smith's Early Experiments with Color and Communality

I follow the lead of the source for these photographs and credit Mary Jordan for their being here to be seen, as these or close variations were used decisively in her very fine documentary on Jack, his life, his society, and his work.  About a week ago I was talking with three friends who knew Jack Smith, and the one who knew him best (and appeared in a fair amount of his photographs and films as model or performer) made a point of telling me that there was always a narrative behind the images that Jack constructed, that he always had a specific story to tell, even if he didn’t make it explicit in the telling.  This tallied rather well with what I’d always suspected about them, what I learned through looking, what I felt about them, or even already knew, and why it always bothered me whenever some scholar referred to Smith as a non-narrative film maker.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rocco, el Jardinero

There was something about Rocco that got him cast in the role of gardener in the sort of films where a designated outside occupation wasn't really necessary, though I suppose it added to the intensity of the fantasy depicted.  No doubt there was an attempt to joke about his having a big hose (but, then why not cast him as a fireman?)  It may be that he actually made his real living doing landscaping.  I can't pretend to know much about him, but I have made inquiries of people whom I believed would know the real story, but to no avail.  I sometimes wonder if he really was from Italy, if he might have been, instead, one of those Michoacanos of Italian ancestry.  He certainly looks Italian. 

I don't even know if Rocco is still among the living.  More than twenty years ago I crossed paths (near the corner of Castro and Market in front of the Cigar & Magazine Store) with Melchor Diaz, the fellow whom I believe was his final co-star (in a video named Life Guard, a porno promoting condom use, and meant to show just how much fun sex could still be in the Age of Aids.)  This guy was obviously near death, and I heard not long after of his passing.  I know that Rocco played both top and bottom, unprotected, with Al Parker, who also died around that time.  (It's hard to know, however, as with cancer, whether the patient died of the disease or the treatment for it.)  I hope that Rocco Rizzoli (not his real name, or even his only porn name) is still alive.  I've heard that he was bisexual, that he had a wife and kids.  I'd like to think that he lives in Italy, somewhere far out in the country.  Of course, Pasolini would have laughed at such notions as foolishly sentimental, and they are.  I mean, my only real connection to this guy is that I still occasionally wank while watching his image flicker across a screen. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Immortal Story (Une histoire immortelle) by Orson Welles

1968, from the story by Karen Blixen

I had a few lines from this great film stuck in my head for a while, a few years ago, and just recently I’ve had reason to contemplate them again. “It is very hard on people who want things so badly that they can’t do without them. If they can’t get these things, it is very hard. And when they do get them, surely it is very hard.”  The film itself may seem very slight.  Certainly, it was generally dismissed out of hand by all the respectable critics when it was released in this country.  I’ve read the reviews.  Even Jim Hoberman said it was the only one of Welles’s films that he doesn’t much like.  I think it is one of his very best.

The other night I listened to an interview with the director of photography, Willy Kurant, who shot it.  The Immortal Story was the first color film by Orson Welles to be completed and released.  (As Kurant points out, Orson shot the carnival sequences in It’s All True in color, back in the early forties.)  After listening to what Willy had to say, I watched the film again (though in a fairly poor quality video transfer.)  The images are gorgeous, but more than anything it’s the tone of Roger Coggio’s voice that haunts me.    “I have heard it before…long ago. But where?”