Monday, December 30, 2013

Chapter One

We were lost in the desert. The ship was drinking sand. The parachutes were slowly twisting, out of shape, out of hope. I had a broken foot. I realised my problems had only just begun. The sun was carefully touching the ground. One of the bottles had survived the jump. I drank it with a spoon, then tried to stand up. In the distance I could see the smoke turning around in circles, not knowing where to go. Maria looked at me with no expression on her pale face. She smoked a French cigarette without pleasure.
-Who is the one responsible for the deck chairs?
-I don't know.
-No. And don't ask me again.
She hummed sadly a song I remembered from somewhere. Someone had found enough dry wood to start a small fire. I warmed my blue fingers, tv images of lizards in my head. I sighed. I was tired. It had been a long day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

You The Living

Have you ever wondered what it's like living in Scandinavia? Watch this film. Eugène Ionesco meets Ingmar Bergman meets Edward Hopper. What dreams do we have, what worries do we have? It's maybe not quite the masterpiece as Roy Andersson's previous film, Songs From The Second Floor, but it's still a great film. Mostly static camera, with carefully composed images in grey colour tones, often with a door or a window in the background. Arty movies often have arty dialogue, things normal people would never say. This film is different. It's still arty, but only visually. The dialogues are very simple, anti intellectual, kind of every day exchanges. The ending, as it should be, is haunting.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Science fiction

Top 5 science fiction novels:

1. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
2. Dune by Frank Herbert
3. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Henlein
4. Neuromancer by William Gibson
5. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

The Demolished Man by Bester is also very good.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Films of 2013

I saw four films in the cinema this year, in order of preference:

1. Thor: The Dark World
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. Iron Man 3
4. Passion (by De Palma)

So yes, I enjoyed Thor more than Inside! The scene of Loki being informed about his mother's death I found more moving than anything that happened to Llewyn Davis. I'm sure the Coen film will grow on me, and I'll probably get the dvd at some point, but I had high expectations and ended up a bit disappointed. Before Midnight, Frances Ha and the Jarmusch vampire film (is it out yet?) I'll also just wait for the dvd, no rush. I don't think there was anything else this year that I'm dying to see...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Singin' in the Rain

Some days you want to see Seven, other days you want to see Singin' in the Rain.

It has, at least, three amazing numbers: Make'em Laugh, Good Morning and, of course, Singin' in the Rain. Or five, if you count Fit as a Fiddle and Moses Supposes. Sure, why the hell not! Only the movie within the movie, the whole Broadway Melody part, drags a bit. It doesn't really have anything to do with the main story. Jean Hagen almost steals the whole film, as Lisa Lamont. "And I cayn't stand'im." It's a great comedic performance. I thought she was mostly a dramatic actor. Besides this film, I think I've only seen her in The Asphalt Jungle. What should be put in a time capsule representing the 20th century, to be found by Martians when life on Earth is over? I'd say this film.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jim Woodring

I was looking through some drawers, and found this, a note from Jim Woodring I received after sending him a copy of my comic book, Mjau Mjau. I believe it was nr 1, possibly nr 2, so it was either 97 or 98. It was a pretty big deal for me receiving it, encouraging me to continue making comics. Thanks, Jim!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simple Men

Robert Burke and Bill Sage are looking for their dad. So is Elina Löwensohn. Martin Donovan has a crush on Karen Sillas. Written and directed by Hal Hartley.

Is this Hartley's funniest film? Hot fucking tuna. Why do women exist? Why is that one scene with the hand against the window so memorable? It took a couple of viewings before I realized that the dad in this film and the one in Trust is played by the same actor. There's not enough slapping in films these days. There's nothing but trouble and desire. I can't stand the quiet! You're drunk. And emotional! You can have what you want or what you need, but you can't have both. Don't move.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Peter Weir

Top 5 Peter Weir films:

1. Witness
2. Gallipolli
3. Dead Poets Society
4. Picnic at Hanging Rock
5. Green Card

Still haven't seen Mosquito Coast or The Year of Living Dangerously.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Apparently, someone shoots Liberty Valance. Starring John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin, directed by John Ford.

So okay, it's got the famous line, "Print the legend.", but I find it hard to like this film. All the broad comedy bits get a bit tiresome in the end. It dates the film. Stewart is miscast - too old to be convincing in the flashbacks where he's supposed to be a young lawyer. John Wayne does the John Wayne thing. And then there is Lee Marvin who seems to be acting in a much darker film. There are constant clashes in tone. In the end, it's an old man's film, Ford's more resigned look back on the genre he was most known for.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

So yeah, Jesse James is assassinated by Robert Ford. Starring Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik.

It's like some lost 70s revisionist Western, the little brother of McCabe & Mrs Miller perhaps. It's almost amazing how Dominik got away with making such a slow and moody film. Probably he wouldn't have without Brad Pitt in the lead role. Who's good, but the film still belongs to Casey Affleck. And is it the most beautiful, most Terrence Malicky Western ever made? Roger Deakins' cinematography is some kind of wonder. Possibly the film drags a tiny bit in the middle, but then it gets even more interesting after the death of Jesse James, when we follow Robert Ford who has to live with the conscience and regret of his act. It's one of the few films where a narrative voice actually works. And I like how muted the gunshots are, sounding almost as sad as the sound effects in a Chris Ware comic.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chris Isaak

Top 5 Chris Isaak songs:

1. Wicked Game
2. Back On Your Side
3. Heart Full of Soul
4. Blue Spanish Sky
5. Except The New Girl

Yes, I know, I know, having Wicked Game as no 1 is not the most original choice, but... it's a great song! The video isn't half bad either. The selftitled second album is his masterpiece, though. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


1. Ah, they should have made a film based on Ballad of the Salt Sea. About ten years ago. I think Daniel Day Lewis would have been a great Corto Maltese. Liv Tyler as Pandora. Not sure about who should have played Rasputin... Maybe Gary Oldman or Ralph Fiennes? And directed by Ang Lee or Peter Weir.

2. Watching JFK conspiracy videos on youtube is so yesterday. Now I've managed to get hooked on rewatching old episodes of L.A. Law. It was a pretty good show, yuppie or not. It's more than 25 years since I originally watched it, but there's lots of stuff I remember. Like the gorilla suit episode.

3. Damn, I was a bit disappointed by Inside Llewyn Davis. The film looks great, but the main character was so unlikable. Which is not necessarily a problem: Miller's Crossing being an example. I just never felt a connection to the story, and found the ending to be a bit weak. Too bad... The music was good, though.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Burt Lancaster is Wyatt Earp, Kirk Douglas is Doc Holliday, there's a certain gunfight. Besides Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam in small parts, there's also a young Dennis Hopper. Directed by John Sturges.

The film is closer to the real story than My Darling Clementine, but there are still some simplifications. There is no sheriff Johnny Behan for one thing. And Burt Lancaster doesn't wear the kind of soupcatcher mustache that the real Wyatt Earp had. The real shootout was over in 30 seconds - here it's dragged out to several minutes. There are two women in the film also, the classic good girl and bad girl, but they never really play a big part in the story. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, after all. Lancaster is fairly restrained as Wyatt, it's Douglas who's got the showy role as the terminally ill Doc. Besides being overlit in typical 50s style, it's not a bad film.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some books I've read 13

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway vol. 2
The book covers the years 1923 - 25, leading up to his first novel The Sun Also Rises. There are letters to his family, including still polite ones to his mother, and to friends like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and Scott Fitzgerald. Some stuff about fishing and bullfighting, but he's still not the macho caricature he eventually ended up as.

The Voice Is All - The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson
A sort of companion to Johnson's memoir Minor Characters. This book tells the story of Kerouac up to the point where they met, when he had finished writing On The Road. And that really was the peak of his life. She ends the book there, not going into his slow fall from grace, into a life of alcoholism and living with his mother. More than other biographers she concentrates  lot of time on his French Canadian background and how that influenced his writing.

Savage Continent - Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe
A good book, mostly showing the great picture. And it's not a pretty picture, with lots of violence and killing even after the war ended. I would maybe have liked a bit more following the story of individuals over a longer period. But I guess there are other books that do that.

The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn
An interesting book, learning that it was Virgil Earp that was the police chief of Tombstone, not Wyatt, and that the famous shootout didn't even take place at the OK Corral. The backstory is fairly complicated. It's no wonder filmmakers just kept the names of the main characters and then made up the rest.

Palookaville 21 by Seth
I always look forward to a new Palookaville, but I found the Clyde Fans chapter to be a slightly frustrating read. Just when it's getting interesting it stops, and you have to wait a year or two for the next part. More than ever you can see the influence of Chris Ware in his work. My favourite part of the book is in his childhood memoir, Nothing Lasts, where the young Seth slowly realizes that his mother went through a period of mental illness and depression.

Gave up

on page 120: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. I found the writing a bit weak. There wasn't the small details that make the story ring true. The characters never come to life. And 120 pages, but not a single sentence, where you go Wow, and have to read it out loud?

on page 86: Sometimes A Great Notion by Ken Kesey. I found the style, the constant jumping back and forth between the characters, hard to read and not appealing. And constantly having to reread things to understand who he was talking about... Maybe I'll give it a second try later.


Oh no, I've gotten hooked on watching JFK assassination conspiracy videos on youtube. This is the last thing I need! At least I haven't started reading all the books yet...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Frankie and Johnny

Rewatched Frankie and Johnny, directed by Garry Marshall. It's a pretty good film. I like that there is some sadness in it. It's about two real people, so of course they're played by two moviestars, Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, but okay, that's fine, that's Hollywood - and they're both great. The wisecracking gay friend / neighbor has become a big cliché in this type of films, but I guess this was maybe one of his first appearances.

Top 5 romantic comedies even a guy can see without puking:

1. The Fabulous Baker Boys
2. Moonstruck
3. Sleepless in Seattle
4. Before Sunrise
5. Frankie and Johnny

Crossing Delancey and Green Card are quite good as well - hell, even Knocked Up. Groundhog Day? I'm excluding older films like It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday since they're more like classic comedies or screwballs, before romcoms became its own genre and then ruined by Kate Hudson.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Why am I suddenly watching all these superhero films? I don't know. But anyway, I rewatched the first two X-men films. The CGI in the first one looks distractingly clumsy. The second one is a big step forward. Bryan Singer learned how to shoot action between the two films. And compared to a lot of the Marvel films like The Avengers, that look like tv with a bigger budget, Singer actually has the eye of a filmmaker.

Top 5 superhero films:
1: X2
2. Spider-Man 2
3: The Dark Knight
4: Thor 2
5: Iron Man

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

I rewatched the first Thor film and liked it better now the second time. It still has weaknesses, but I was more engaged in the story. It could have used a bit more time on the smaller scenes instead of constantly rushing on to the next fight scene or whatever, but I guess that's the way films are today. Then I watched Thor 2, and it was pretty great, actually.

It was dubbed into French, so I didn't understand everything, but ah, who cares, visually the film is HUGE. The way Asgard was portrayed was much better this time, less shiny - now it's actually a real place that people inhabit. I read some reviews that said the film dragged a bit in the middle, but I was never bored, really. There's lots of eyecandy to look at. The design people did a good job on creating a sort of... norsepunk? The director never does anything too fancy with the camera, he just tells the story. And there are even some good jokes!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Signing / Dédicace

I'll have a signing, together with American cartoonist Ted Naifeh, at the Azimuts comic book store in Montpellier Tuesday November 5, at 15.30.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Veronica or Lizabeth?

Veronica Lake looked great in photos, she's more iconic, but Lizabeth Scott was a better actress, plus she has that husky voice!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Russian children's book illustrations

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fred Zinnemann

Top five Fred Zinnemann films:

1. High Noon
2. The Day of the Jackal
3. The Search
4. From Here to Eternity
5. The Nun's Story

Sunday, October 20, 2013

To buy or not to buy

...that is the question. Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune. You will get Morrissey's side of the story, okay, but do you want to read a lot of bitching about Joyce and Rourke daring to ask for 25 procent of the royalties? That's one side of Morrissey I've never understood. The real money is in songwriting, that he only has to share with Marr. And 50 pages about the trial? I read Tony Fletcher's biography of The Smiths earlier this year, and I think maybe I'll just stick to that one and rather put on Hatful of Hollow or The World Won't Listen, listening to the music they created...

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Ugly American from Hong Kong

The Ugly American, by George Englund.:
It's the Cold War. Marlon Brando has a moustache and smokes a pipe. A slow and talky film, not very exciting or visually interesting, but Brando is pretty good and gets to do some real acting, in contrast to a film like Desirée.

A Countess from Hong Kong, by Charlie Chaplin:
A screwball-ish comedy, with Marlon Brando trying his best to do chaplinesque physical humour. It's not a good film, and feels pretty dated, but the doorbell gag, where everybody jumps up and runs to the bathroom is somewhat funny. Sophia Loren looks great, though. I think this is just the second film I've seen with her, the first being Arabesque that she did with Gregory Peck. I'm sure she must have done some better films.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Reading the collected Nick Fury comics by Jim Steranko. The stories are re-coloured, but thankfully they've kept the original flat colours, giving it a popart look, not doing the darker, graded colours often found in recolouring. Superheroes meet James Bond, a lot of fun.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Marlon Brando is Napoleon, Jean Simmons is... Desirée! Directed by Henry Koster.

Those big cinemascope films from the 50s today seem to have been a step back for film. Okay, the screen was double as wide as a tv-image, but the films were more about perfect compositions and that vase in the background than they were about the characters - the opposite of  the chaos of real life. Close-ups weren't possible, so there's a constant feeling of distance, both between the characters and between the characters and the viewer. The film has none of the impressive fight scenes that you after all could find in War and Peace. Thank god it doesn't last three hours. I'm sure Brando could have been a good Napoleon, but this is not that film.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Last Tango and Peace

Last Tango in Paris:
The film looks great, with cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, but has dated badly and frankly it's a lot of arty drivel. Brando is at his most charismatic - just him looking at a wall is somehow fascinating - and of course, some of his dialogues are really about himself. Maria Schneider's character on the other hand is pretty annoying. Brando doesn't take her seriously, so why should the viewers? The parts without Brando, just about her and Jean-Pierre Léaud as a film director are less interesting. It's a weakness of the film that Bertolucci couldn't, or didn't want to, create a female character that was Brando's equal. But by all means, go get the butter.

War and Peace:
The film feels pretty stiff and dated. There are actors saying lines, not real characters. The second half gets a bit better. The big scenes, like the retreat from Moscow and the fight scenes are impressive, the smaller scenes mostly lack intimacy. Henry Fonda is probably miscast, his character never seems convincing. Audrey Hepburn brings some real charm and life to her part.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lloyd Cole

Top 5 Lloyd Cole songs:

1. Perfect Skin
2. 2cv
3. Lost Weekend
4. Four Flights Up
5. Undressed

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Night of The Following Day

Marlon Brando is part of a team kidnapping a woman. Directed by Hubert Cornfield.

Maybe not a masterpiece, but an effective little thriller - slow and filled with tension. Claustrophobic as well since a lot of the story takes place within a beach house. The rain, heavy clouds and sounds of the waves in the background add to the mood. Best of all, the story is unpredictable, and almost a bit coenesque towards the end, partly because of the kidnappers' unnecessarily complicated plans for picking up the ransom. Brando apparently didn't get along with the director, but is very good in his part. Also, what was the first film to put a camera under the plane for the shot of the plane landing?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Farewell, My Lovely

Robert Mitchum is Philip Marlowe. Also starring Charlotte Rampling, Harry Dean Stanton and in a small part a young Sylvester Stallone, directed by Dick Richards.

Mitchum is ten years too old to play the part, but an older, more tired Marlowe fits the character. Rampling was born to play a femme fatale. One problem with filming Raymond Chandler is that you lose the language. They keep the voiceover, but what works as written often sounds too clever when spoken. The timeperiod, 1941, is beautifully recreated, but visually it's not the most exciting film ever made - it needs a bit more style. Polanski's Chinatown and Altman's The Long Goodbye, that came out around the same time, work better as movies.

Saturday, September 21, 2013