“Under the Volcano” (1984)

October 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm (Cinema, Reviews & Articles)

A review of John Huston’s 1984 film, Under the Volcano, by Janet Maslin of The New York Times, June 13, 1984. Albert Finney gave a brilliant performance, filled with pathos, as well as humor…

By the time Malcolm Lowry had finished filling Under the Volcano with ”signs, natural phenomena, snatches of poems and songs, pictures, remembered books and films, shadowy figures appearing, disappearing, and reappearing,” according to Douglas Day, Mr. Lowry’s biographer, the book ”finally became not a novel at all but a kind of monument to prodigality of vision.” Certainly it evolved, as Mr. Lowry expanded his short story of the same name into the 1947 novel, into one of the most haunting and difficult works of modern fiction. 

That this densely allusive work is also tantalizingly cinematic has made it an Everest of sorts, from the film maker’s standpoint. The book, aside from an opening chapter that dissolves into flashback, spans only a 24-hour period (the Day of the Dead, in November 1938) and involves few principal characters: Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic former British Consul living in a small Mexican town; Yvonne, the Consul’s estranged wife, who has just returned to him, and Hugh Firmin, Geoffrey’s rakish young half-brother, with whom Yvonne has had an affair. Read the rest of this entry »

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President Obama’s Weekly Address (Oct. 15, 2011)

October 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm (Life & Politics)

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Van Dyke Parks – “Arrangements Volume 1” (2011)

October 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles, Van Dyke Parks)

This is actually not a Van Dyke Parks album, per se. It’s really a “various artists” compilation featuring Parks’ brilliant arrangements and orchestrations.
This review comes from the Pitchfork Media website, by Jayson Greene, Sept. 22, 2011…

In 2008, I had the opportunity to briefly interview Van Dyke Parks. It wasn’t long after his collaboration with Joanna Newsom on Ys. brought him some fresh headlines, but I mostly asked about his long, itinerant career as arranger for three decades of rock musicians, from Brian Wilson and the Byrds to Rufus Wainwright and Frank Black. After amiably answering my questions, he signed off, semi-sardonically, with “Thank you, Jayson, for celebrating a position that perhaps serves best in its anonymity.”

The remark seemed half self-deprecating jab, half mission statement: Parks has a career-long acquaintance with anonymity. His most well-known association is with a record that, for thirty-odd years, was famous for never coming out. His solo records, starting with 1968’s confounding Harry Nilsson-meets-Charles Ives opus Song Cycle, are subjects of fervent cult adoration but known to few. His arranging work, meanwhile, has put an inimitable stamp on American pop, though the vast majority of music fans have no idea when they are listening to his work. He is the quintessential liner-notes hero, in other words, which makes the overview of Arrangements Volume 1, on his own label Bananastan, that much more gratifying. Read the rest of this entry »

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