Archive for Jerzy Kosinski

Page Seventeen IV: Fury Road

Posted in FILM, literature, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2022 by dcairns

I cannot deny that what I had learned about the Mirocaw Festival did not inspire a trite sense of fate, especially given the involvement of such an important figure from my past as Thoss. It was my first time in my academic career that I knew myself to be better suited than anyone else to discern the true meaning of scattered data, even if I could only attribute this special authority to chance circumstances.

I had been fortunate enough to qualify for scientific training, an invaluable protective device which I planned to eventually turn to my own advantage. In the State’s eyes, I was its property. The State had even decided on the service I would perform to repay the cost of my education. According to the identity card I always carried, I was a researcher at one of the most important political and scientific institutions within the State Central Academy of Science.

In my drugged state this happening did not induce in me the same surfeit of bewilderment and incredulity that would normally, I believe, have been my reaction. Astonished I certainly was. It’s not every day that one’s chess set shows a life of its own, or that the pieces remain so true to their formal nature as laid down by the rules that they move from one position to another without bothering to traverse the spaces between. Not, let me add for the sake of the record, that the pieces showed any carelessness or laziness, or that they took shortcuts. In order to move, say, from Qk4 to Kr4, a castle was required to manifest himself in all the intervening squares to show that he came by a definite route and that the way was unimpeded — because, naturally, in a game of chess there is no ‘between adjacent squares.’

I felt a shiver run over my flesh. Last night, in the wild dark of the storm, this had been a place of gods and destiny, of power driving towards some distant end of which I had been given, from time to time, a glimpse. And I, Merlin, son of Ambrosius, whom men feared as profit and visionary, had been in that night no more than the god’s instrument.

As we drove away from the beauty parlour, I saw what looked like a teenage boy on the front hood of our car, leaning on his arms with his feet up in the air. He stayed there for about five minutes. Even when we turned he stayed on the hood of the car. As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, he ascended into the air, up against the building, and stayed there until I got out of the car.

With a sigh, I turned the prow of my craft down stream, and with mighty strokes hastened with reckless speed through the dark and tortuous channel until once again I came to the chamber into which flowed the three branches of the river.

Here the terrain was generally steep, with scrubby trees and bushes, bramble patches and rocks of broken concrete. In places there were branches to swing on and small smelly waterfalls that glugged out of the ends of pipes and flowed down muddy gorges to the brook below. But there were also precipitous paths that led to dark leafy bowers where, in summer, one could sense stillness, feel oneself far from civilisation and even hope to see a rabbit. These sylvan glades, so near to home but so different, were awesome and full of magic.

Life has been pretty busy since they put me in charge of page seventeen of the internet. These are seven extracts from seven page seventeens found in seven books I own.

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works by Thomas Ligotti; Cockpit by Jerzy Kosinski; The Exploration of Space by Barrington Bayley, from New Worlds 4 edited by Michael Moorcock; The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart; Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks; The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs; Seeing Things: An Autobiography by Oliver Postgate.

Out of the Blu

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on November 28, 2020 by dcairns

Slow news day today as I’m frantically trying to finish my first ever commentary track. Perhaps foolishly, I’m trying to reinvent the form, because, let’s face it, commentaries are not usually very interesting. I may have found a way to make them dazzling, or else irritating, we’ll see.

But, out of the blue, a care package from Masters of Cinema. Very excited about the Honda films, which I’ve never seen. Nervous about THE PAINTED BIRD (having read the book). And thrilled of course about WAXWORKS. Will try to write more about these next week, when I’ve finished commentarying.

Pardon Me But your Heels Are In My Back

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2014 by dcairns

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“Eroticism is when you use a feather; perversion is when you use the whole chicken.” Joke told by Roman Polanski to Peter Coyote when offering him BITTER MOON.

I think everyone kind of groans a bit whenever Polanski makes something “sexy.” I was kind of glad to more was heard of his plan to make an animated movie of Milo Manara’s porno comics. Is a sexy film from a convicted sex felon (whatever his level of actual guilt) really an attractive proposition? But I can’t deny the prurient interest, at the same time.

There was an interesting BBC documentary about Polish author Jerzy Kosinski. The author’s sadomasochistic lifestyle was mentioned, and one of the interviewees was Kosinksi’s friend, fellow jetsetting Holocaust survivor Roman Polanski, who casually remarked to his (female) interviewer, “That’s not what I’m into, so I can’t really comment on that. I can very easily tell you what I *am* into, if you like!” There was one of those pauses where time seems to  grind its brakes, and then she quickly moved on to another question. Can’t blame her — Polanski’s kinks would be too off-topic, and besides, he was obviously toying with her, as my cat toys with my hand before killing it. But one couldn’t help but swear a little, because it would be quite interesting to know what RP is into. You can’t take the legal evidence as any guide, other than that he likes ’em rather too young, because the testimony on that matter is fraught with implausibilities.

Polanski affects to dislike comparisons of his films to his private life, which I can understand (Mark Cousins had quite an argumentative interview with the Great Man where he kept harping on this troublesome point, with Polanski at one point resorting to a loud snoring noise as rebuttal), yet his films seem to tease us with deliberate self-portraits. The new one, LE VENUS A LA FOURRURE, has as hero a French theatre director with an Eastern European name, playing opposite Polanski’s own wife, Emmanuelle Seigneur, and it’s a disquisition on themes of sexual dominance.

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Firstly: it’s beautifully shot (by Pawel Edelman, RP’s DoP since THE PIANIST), with the theatre setting affording a more free and spacious feeling than previous chamber piece CARNAGE — it never feels remotely stifling. The dance of camera and actors is unobtrusively elegant. Nice bit where the actors mime the serving of coffee and the soundtrack obliges with faint clinks of spoon on cup, which put me in mind of Adrian Brody’s phantom piano, but also of Polanski’s previous mime experience, playing in Steven Berkoff’s play of Metamorphosis, which requires the star to impersonate a cockroach without the aid of makeup (no great stretch, RP’s haters would argue). And I really liked Alexandre Desplat’s score — filmed plays, like regular plays, seem to require special care in the use of music (I don’t think any of Altman’s theatrical adaptations got this right, though I love some of them).

The piece opens with a glide down a Parisian avenue, veering off to enter a theatre — all those CGI-assisted doors creaking open for our invisible presence recall THE NINTH GATE, Mr & Mrs Polanski’s last collaboration, but this may also be the POV of a goddess coming down to earth like Ava Gardner.

Mathieu Amalric and ES are great together, giving their dialogue a screwball ratatatat — the plot even borrows a popular comedy trope, providing Amalric with an offscreen fiancée who may be usurped by this mysterious newcomer. Seigneur as a fetish-friendly version of Hepburn in BRINGING UP BABY, here to shake things up? Polanski has, it may be admitted, allowed himself theatrical license in his casting: plays often cast actors obviously too old (or too fat, if it’s opera) for their roles, but movies are supposed to be “realistic.” Various lines make it clear that Amalric’s character is meant to be older than Seigneur’s, but the actors are close contemporaries. Ideal casting might have been the Polanskis as a couple twenty years ago, but I don’t see why it should matter too much. Hoist that disbelief on your shoulders and trudge on: Seigneur is certainly quite capable of embodying the icy bitch-goddess of legend, and if the bratty actress aspect of the role stretches plausibility, she’s still fun to watch.

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The most intriguing echo of Polanski’s past work comes when the character trade roles, with Seigneur applying lipstick to Amalric just as Francoise Dorleac does to Donald Pleasence in CUL-DE-SAC, echoing also Polanski’s distressing cross-dressing in THE TENANT. This recurring image could suggest new avenues of intrusive film criticism, which would at least make a change from interpreting each Polanski film as a response to his second wife’s death or as evidence for his interest in little girls. Polanski tends to hide behind his source material, claiming for instance that he chose MACBETH because he thought the violence would be attributed to the famously bloody play, not to him (he couldn’t have anticipated the crazy, awful review that compared him to Charles Manson for having made a movie). The battle of the sexes informs a lot of Polanski movies, notably BITTER MOON, and abused and often raped underdog women have featured a lot (REPULSION, ROSEMARY’S BABY, CHINATOWN, TESS), nearly always as sympathetic characters whose POV the director takes. If one knew nothing of Polanski himself one might easily take these as feminist texts, yet he seems to be an unreconstructed male supremacist.

Mr. Polanski, what  are you into?