Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Salut, Poupee

The pop culture Prague Spring that YouTube has brought us has just been crushed by the Copyright Tanks: Many clips have been knocked out of the system in the last few days (including my last French Pop Wednesday clip from Antoine, dammit...)

Well, let's see how long you get to watch such things as my latest finding, Michel Polnareff's amazing song La Poupee Qui Fait Non - on the original album track version of this song, the main guitar riff was supposedly played by none other than Jimmy Page, a session musician on a lot of the legendary french pop songs, many of which were actually recorded in London...

What the world needs now is a nice Polnareff boxset.

(Thanks for fighting the good fight, Citycab!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Brutally Comic, Brutally Tragic: Kings & Queen and the End of the Reps

Toronto is about to undergo a cultural lobotomy at the end of the week. Four of the five theatres in the Festival Cinemas repertory theatre chain will close this Friday (June 30th), including the Revue, which has been open since the 1910s, and the Royal, an art-deco-tinged jewel, where I once had the privilege to show my feature-length tribute to late night commercials, Infomercial Night. These theatres were home to more than just second-run movies - they were used by smaller film festivals and such beloved institutions as my friend Colin's Kung Fu Fridays screening series. It just got a little harder for a cineaste to labour for love in this town.

I know it's partly my fault that these places where I spent years of my life getting my film-going education are closing shop - I don't go very often anymore. DVDs have kind of ruined going to the movies for me. And the window between a film's theatrical release and its DVD debut is down to about four months in most cases, so people tend to go rent the disc when it comes out instead of seeing them second-run. I remember a couple of years ago when the two Kill Bill films finally played as a double-bill, at the Royal - I had assumed there were lots of film nerds like me who had held off seeing them, waiting for the opportunity to see them both together in the theatre, in one evening, so I arrived early expecting a line-up around the block...there were about 50 people there in total. I should have known then that the end of the reps was near, and now here it is.

The same night the reps are mostly closing, Cinematheque Ontario will be showing one of the bona fide masterpieces of this era, Arnaud Desplechin's Rois et Reine (Kings & Queen) from 2004, which once upon a time would have been an art-house staple, but in this day and age went straight to video except for the major US markets. Not even an unexpected placing right behind A History of Violence in the Village Voice's 2005 critics poll stirred up much interest in it - it played at TIFF in 2004 but is only now popping into a theatre in Toronto for a couple of nights. Better than nothing, I guess.

Desplechin made a film in the mid nineties called Comment Je Me Suis Dispute...(ma vie sexuelle) which was a three hour film about a young French intellectual's chaotic love life and stalled academic career which I loved loved loved to pieces. I took an aisle seat when I went to see it at the festival in 1996 in case I couldn't take it and had to bolt but quite the contrary - it was one of the few movies I've seen that I didn't want to end. And I thought it was just me who felt this way, because of the few people I know who did see it, most bolted. Desplechin's newest film didn't knock me off my feet to the same extent, but it haunted me ever since and seeing it again once it eventually showed up on video sealed the deal.

When Desplechin was putting the film together, he pinned to the wall a maxim of filmmaking that motivated Francois Truffaut - "One minute: four ideas". Desplechin's films are jammed full of detail and ideas and life - tons of tiny yet fleshed-out roles for actors, allusions to art, literature, psychoanalysis, myth, and different film genres and music - Kings & Queen's soundtrack ranges from classical to klezmer to hip-hop to Randy Newman and Henry Mancini - almost too much detail for an audience to take in on first viewing. Kings & Queen is basically two movies in one - a tragic storyline that evokes the "women's pictures" of the forties and fifties, steeped in melodrama and dilemma, and a burlesque, slapstick storyline involving a musician's descent into madness, that are somehow, in Desplechin's hands, made to co-exist. Emmanuelle Devos plays the woman, and one of my favourite actors of today, Mathieu Amalric (he was the lead in Comment Je Me Suis Dispute... and the dandyish French informant in Munich), plays the man. There are emotional moments in this film that I recognize from life but didn't think could be captured in movies. There are two monologues of unadulterated candour late in the picture, one shocking in its cruelty, the other stunning in its generosity, which floored me.

If you're in town, see it now, because it's not going to the reps.

UPDATE: Not only is Kings & Queen getting a first-run release in Toronto after all (it opens at the Carlton July 7th), but also it seems the Royal Cinema will survive in some way, shape or's being turned into a post-production facility by day and movie theatre by will be closed for renovations this summer, though. (June 29th - JH)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Place To Stand

Ontario just became a little bit more dull. Our provincial government has quietly dropped our iconic trillium logo (minted in 1964 and respected ever since) in favour of... something boring. Something more unremarkable. Something that might wind up on your windscreen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Marketing 101: Sex Sells

For sale in Chinatown...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hartford Me To Say I'm Sorry

Let me be the first to congratulate the Hartford Whalers on their first Stanley Cup championship. I think it was very cool of them to rip off their Carolina Hurricanes jerseys as soon as the Cup was in the bag, reminding the 'hometown' crowd of their true lineage.

I would also like to point out our classy new masthead - lovingly rendered in Data 70 by Richard Shouldice of the exciting new web design/international espionage firm, The Brokerage. The Telekino logo was designed by Tad Hozumi. Much thanks.

This Thursday night at Buddies is a down-and-dirty retro cabaret called 'Can't Stop' - in amongst the raunch and revelry there will be a 5 hour Telekino montage projected throughout the's eyecandy of the highest order - breakdancing lessons, aerobics videos, 80's shampoo commercials, MS-DOS training videos and generous commercial breaks from Japanese television.

I have a friendster account now.

You might also want to see my playlists at my Youtube page. My favourite collection these days is Where Your Children Are, a tribute to local news anchors. I hope to be posting videos of my own there shortly.

PS: Two people have found this blog based on the Google search "Chocolate makes me think of jazz".

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gagnez Un Rendez-Vous Avec Tad Hamilton

I'm not one to complain about the french on the Corn Flakes box, but sometimes there are disappointing things about living in a country that enforces bilingualism on packaging. Most DVDs that are released in Canada that have a french language audio track now sport bilingual packaging, so you look at the cover and it says Batman Begins on the top and then in smaller text underneath, Batman: Le Commencement. That touch takes away from the grandeur, I think. Sometimes they have to distort the original studio artwork to impose these french graphics. And then they also print both the english and french title of the film on the spine of the case. So now when I go to inspect my collection I see on the shelf such films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers/L'Invasion des Profanateurs or The Warriors/Les Guerriers de la Nuit. Casino is titled Casino/Casino on the spine. Why? I would hate to meet the bureaucrat who could answer this question for me.

I can't see the french consumer being thrilled to have this bilingual packaging anyway - the use of French is usually crudely photoshopped into the original cover art, like an afterthought or an obligation. I don't know why they don't offer consumers either reversible packaging (english and french on either side of the cover insert) or use alternate french language artwork on 25% of the print run. I was thrilled to come across a used Quebecois copy of Femme Fatale ("de Brian De Palma, Le Maitre Du Suspense Erotique"). The french packaging is the cherry on that particular cake.

Anyway I find this enforced and bland bilingualism on domestic videos irritating for the most part. But there are exceptions. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls came out on DVD last Tuesday. I was considering ordering a copy from the states just so I would have a pristine english only package of a very eagerly anticipated release. Until I found out the french title of BVD is Orgissimo.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Kiss of the Hippies

French Pop Wednesday - time for some naff psychedelia - featuring Brigitte Bardot, Sasha Distel, and a very special guest rocking out on the electric sitar. It may look like it was first broadcast on Iranian state television but it actually hails from BB's 'Bardot Show' TV special from 1968.

(Merci bien, Videonostalgie!)

Friday, June 09, 2006

C-30 C-60 C-90

"Chocolate makes me think of jazz."

"Welcome to the World Wide You."

-- two incredibly bad soundbites from a current ad campaign for high-speed internet service.

I like commercials better when they didn't talk so much.

(Via Jcz1978.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Are We There Yet?

Attention movie stars: You can't all be Vincent Gallo. You can't all be renaissance men.

Take Ice Cube for example. The actor from such family-friendly comedies as Are We There Yet? and the upcoming big-screen remake of Welcome Back Kotter, has decided to take a page out of the LL Cool J playbook - he's putting out a rap album.

Isn't he a bit old for this sort of thing? I guess he's desperate to shake off his affable image - now he's all Mr. Tough West Side gangbanger on the cover of his "rap" debut, Laugh Now, Cry Later (ooh I'm so scared! What are you gonna do, Cube - pull a drive-by on me in your station wagon? With those brats in the backseat?)

To make matters worse, his label, desperate for a gimmick, is outrageously promoting this thing as his "7th album". Who does Cube think he is, Chris Gaines? You think a makeover and some pretend 'discography' cooked up by the marketing department is going to fool us? Nice try, Cube, but you can't pull the Kangol over our eyes - we've seen the Barbershop films. We know who you are.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Avec Anna, Tout Est Possible

Vive le French Pop Mercredi Libre!

Here's another slice of Pierre Koralnik's Anna, which was the first colour film made for French television. This thing came out on DVD in Japan but, so far, not in its country of origin, which seems to me to be a cultural oversight.

(Merci encore, Pollyscake!)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Give the Devil His Day

Round up all the male babies born today and check their's 06/06/06.

I was watching The 700 Club this morning to see how they would handle it and their weird newscaster on their weird news segment made mention that there was only a 1-in-a-100,000 chance the world would actually come to an end today - then they shot back to Pat Robertson in the studio who added it was actually a 1-in-a-trillion chance that today would be the day of reckoning. They seemed pretty sure of themselves.

In case of Devil, break glass.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Gorgeous Ladies Of Rapping

The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling were not only Queens of the Ring, they were the Queens of the Mic, bustin' out gold fronts like popcorn, and drainin' sucka MCs like Drano.

(Thanks, Lamp2av!)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fred Seagal

Steven Seagal is more of an ideapreneur than even Vincent, he hasn't thought to offer his services as a male escort, but he has launched an ambitious on-line store where you can buy his films, preview tracks from his second album of patchouli-stained bluesrock, Mojo Priest (featuring the promising-sounding track 'Talk To My Ass') or just order dozens of cans of his very own Lightning Bolt energy drink.

The store is a work-in-progress: the front page says, somewhat ominously, "The complete line of DVD's, oils, music, drinks and more are coming shortly."

Not sure where the oil ends and the drink begins, however...and this video doesn't exactly clear things up.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Gallo: Gigolo?

From Vincent Gallo's merchandise website...

"I, Vincent Gallo, star of such classics as Buffalo 66 and The Brown Bunny have decided to make myself available to all women. All women who can afford me, that is. For the modest fee of $50,000 plus expenses, I can fulfill the wish, dream, or fantasy of any naturally born female...female couples of the lesbian persuasion can enjoy a Vincent Gallo evening together for $100,000. $200,000 buys the lesbos a weekend. A weekend that will have them second-guessing."

Thursday, June 01, 2006


The truth® campaign (sic), the youth smoking prevention initiative run by the American Legacy Foundation that fights cynicism with cynicism, have just changed their pitch up...last week they launched a five-month ad campaign that appears to be designed to get me to start smoking.