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Friday, May 20, 2011

The best crime film to involve Beethoven's birthplace...

DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET (1973)
d. Samuel Fuller
Starring Glenn Corbett, Christa Lang Fuller, Anton Diffring, Eric P Caspar & Stephane Audran

I had a chance to check this out thanks to a friend in UCLA's film archives graduate program who had it screened with Christa Fuller (the star and Fuller's wife) talking about it afterwards. This hard-to-find Fuller film was actually shot for German television in the 70s as a TV movie version of a German policier TV show. The effect is rather like finding out that von Trier directed an episode of Law and Order, with all the attendant weirdness.

Furthermore, Fuller, who had little familiarity with 70s West Germany, decided to that he'd throw the street-level "realism" of the TV series out the window and just have some fun.

To be fair, the people involved with this lark of a movie had great pedigrees. Jerzy Lipman, a Polish cinematographer who'd worked with Polanski on Knife in the Water, was Fuller's cinematographer, and art-rock band Can did the score.

The plot, about a call girl (Christa Lang Fuller) and a gang of extortionists taking incriminating photos of politicians and the American private eye (Glenn Corbett) who decides to take them down when they kill his partner, is fairly standard stuff.  But Fuller displays a great deal of wit in the execution.

There's a fair number of meta-film jokes that liven up the film, like a brief detour where Corbett's character follows Lang into a movie theatre showing a German-dubbed version of Rio Bravo, so we can luxuriate both in the awesomeness of that film and the strangeness of a German-speaking Dean Martin imitator. For that matter, Claude Chabrol's wife Stephane Audran pops up in a small role as a former extortionist named Dr. Bogdanovich. Lang's own appearance in Godard's Alphaville is even excerpted as evidence of her character's failed film career!

Beyond the in-jokes, Fuller plays around with the conventions of movies and the policier/noir genre. A shootout takes place in the nursery of a hospital's maternity ward, images of the gunfight intercut with images of sleeping babies, mocking any pretensions of realism the viewer might approach the film with. As one blackmail victim examines his photo, the expected ominous sound cue appears, but the next shot reveals that the sound cue is coming from a band in the same room as the character.

In some moments, the absurdity of Fuller's approach to the story circles around and becomes ominously threatening. As the streets of Cologne fill with Carnival celebrations in the film, the events of the film become seriocomic like an Elizabethan mystery play. Eric P Caspar, as a clown-suited henchman, runs through the streets, confetti covering his lips, muttering drugged-out nonsense as he closes in on Corbett and Lang, and everything resolves into eerie surrealism. Much like in Losey's Modesty Blaise, where Amsterdam's Carnival offers a site where the funny becomes dangerous, Fuller's film develops an unresolved tension from the impossibility of predicting which mode (comedy or thriller) it will end in. As a result, the ending, which brings us back to the beginning and the title, has the gut punch of a particularly well-told sick joke.
Knife in the Water: The Criterion CollectionDead Pigeon on Beethoven StreetA Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking (Applause Books)Eclipse Series 5: The First Films of Samuel Fuller - The Criterion Collection (The Baron of Arizona / I Shot Jesse James / The Steel Helmet)Modesty Blaise

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The American healthcare system failed me...

This post has nothing to do with art. I'm sorry. I promise to resume posting on the stuff most people like to read about here soon. But this is something I've needed to say for a long time.

American health insurance has failed me again.

I've heard all the arguments for and against reforms to American health insurance. I've heard a lot of arguments for and against almost each specific reform. I'm not an economist, I'm not a politician. But I do know that health insurance is failing me, personally.

Tonight, I received an e-mail from yet another health insurance company telling me they will not accept me.

Until last summer, I worked a job that provided health insurance. When I left that job to move West, I continued that through COBRA. When the government allowed people under the age of 26 to get on their parent's insurance, I went back on my parents' plan. I turn 26 in June. I'm now looking for private health insurance. But I can't get any. I'm too high risk.

Of course, I'm "high risk" in insurance company terms. I'm the right weight for my heigh, I have low blood pressure, I don't smoke, I rarely drink more than 1 serving of alcohol a night. I haven't even ever gone to the ER since breaking my arm at 14.

However, I do have two pre-existing conditions. They're fairly mild (I've never needed to be admitted to the hospital for them) and I manage them with a few prescription drugs (all of which are on the formulary). In fact, I take a total of 3 prescription drugs, 2 of which are available as generics.

Apparently, this puts me beyond the pale for health insurers in the state of California.

Now, I haven't set high standards for health insurance. The plan I was just turned down for had a deductible of $1000 (and a prescription deductible of $7500, if memory serves). It didn't cover psychiatric treatment, or chiropractors or any other "controversial" treatments. I just wanted something that would cover me in case of an emergency and pay for a couple of regular doctor visits a year. And to pay less than $400 or $700 (those are the figures that COBRA ran me and the "High Risk" pool info I've received quoted me).

However, I'm too big a health risk for that.

I'm not asking for the government to pay for everything. I'm not asking for a handout. But I notice that the "free market" is failing me pretty consistently. And that everything that has been labelled government "interference" is what's keeping me from falling into that great big group of uninsured people that exist in the US.

If the free market can't provide options for a guy like me. then maybe the government should step in.

And if you think the stuff I've mentioned above are reasons I should be denied insurance, then you know where you can go.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A special treat for Mr. K fans...

I fly to Chicago tomorrow. I'm going to be gone for a week, and probably without internet access for most of that week.

But I do have a special treat for you. I was volunteering at Cinefamily last week for a special event they did with clothing label Stussy. They screened Punisher: War Zone and clips from a bunch of obscure Marvel multimedia (including the Japanese live-action Spider-Man and that Turkish film where Captain America and El Santo are pursuing an evil Spider-Man). I got some neat Stussy-designed pins of Marvel Comics characters and they took some pictures.

I'm the guy in the blue polo shirt and khakis midway down the page. Too bad you can't see those pins. They're pretty awesome.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another blog post about blogging...

Once again, sorry for the huge gaps between posts. I'm co-producing that short film I mentioned last post (new content on our official website, along with the trailer), I've been volunteering at the amazing Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre a lot (buy me a drink and I'll tell you about the angry mob at the Natural History Museum), and I've been writing and revising a scene for an alumni showcase that's being performed the week we start shooting Women and Men and Women. On top of that, I'm obviously still trying to write a new screenplay and find a permanent day job. Finally, I'm going to the Midwest for about a week next Wednesday to meet The Best Girl Ever's family.

Just typing all that has me exhausted. I'm hoping I can get back to posting more regularly once I get back in mid-May. I might even fit in a post or two before then. No promises, though.

And check out the Women and Men and Women website!