• Music

    Fights over Rachmaninov

    So this happened: Andrei Gavrilov refused to play the Rachmaninov D minor in Moscow last  night. The audience was told that he was not feeling well. Gavrilov posted something else on his Facebook page: They didn’t play the Rachmaninoff. They played the notes that did not even reminded me of Rachmaninoff. It was playing at the level of sick chickens, incubator imitating nightingales. In the end Alexander Ghindin took over for him, because, he was in the audience, and… why not? More melodrama and a response from the orchestra at the link.

  • Film

    The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

    Lon Chaney’s phantom is a creature that Shakespeare’s Richard III, would have been comfortable with. Someone who, because he cannot prove a lover, is determined to prove a villain. But his villainy is not in pursuit of power, but rather in pursuit of truth, an artistic truth so blindingly real that the woman he loves would have to bow down and admire him. The film is appropriately operatic, both in Lon Chaney’s performance, and in the little touches of scene and scenery. The ballet dancers twirl in fear, the underground chambers are dramatic labyrinths, and one gesture from the monster is enough to make his enemies cringe. The peak of the…

  • Film

    Frankenstein (1931)

    Frankenstein (1931) is a film about a young black man who is lynched, risen from the dead, and then lynched again. That Frankenstein’s monster was black – if not literally so, at least metaphorically so* – is widely overlooked, but it is quite clearly in the film. There are references to the American tradition of lynching in the very first scene, where Frankenstein (the scientist) recovers a body that has been hung up and abandoned in the graveyard. The brain is one that a phrenologist has determined is abnormal. Then, of course, the climax is a straight forward lynching, which would be more or less recognizable to anyone in America…

  • Film

    The Raven (1935)

    Bela Lugosi plays a doctor obsessed with death, who has a large collection of torture devices modelled off the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. He saves the life, and then falls in love with, a girl engaged to be married. When he tells her that he loves her, she spurns him, leaving him brooding in an anger descending to insanity. Torture shows up in a lot of Bela Lugosi works, and he’s quite good at it. He gets a gleam in his eye when he is performing the inflicting of pain. The house is more reminiscent of H.H. Holmes than Poe. The best part of the film is the relationship…

  • Film

    The Black Cat (1934)

    This is up there on the list of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. Inspired, but in no way based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, the Black Cat begins with a newly married couple meeting Bela Lugosi on a train to Hungary. The trio then get on a bus to their final destinations: for the married couple, a romantic valley honeymoon destination, and for Bela Lugosi, a modernist mansion owned by Boris Karloff and built on the ruins of a World War I battlefield. (there’s a complicated backstory here). Long story short, the bus gets in an accident, and they’re trapped at Boris Karloff’s house, who is a devil…