• Film

    The Old Dark House (1932)

    The Old Dark House, is a 1932 Universal comedy-horror film. The film centers on two groups of travelers who are caught in a storm, and have to stay over night in a country manor filled with characters who range from eccentric to lunatic. Boris Karloff plays a deformed sexually frustrated alcoholic who protects the family from the crazy guy in the attic. There’s also a girl in a slip. The film is a riff on the 19th century syphilis drama, best known from Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, and the Arthur Conan Doyle story “The Third Generation“. The genre is based in the incorrect belief that congenital syphilis is passed on from father to…

  • Film

    Dracula

    If it wasn’t for the quiet, the silence, the fear wouldn’t be so great. But he approaches in the dark, without sound. It’s like going to sleep, there’s only some rustling in the dark, then an embrace, like death. Dracula (1931) is one of the few horror films from this period that is authentically creepy. While many of the old Universal horror films are fun and intellectually playful (anything with Boris Karloff is great), Dracula is creepy. The main reason is the sound design. Very little is said in the movie, few noises are made, there are few screams and those are usually short and unresolved. There’s only the sound…

  • Film

    Hotel Du Nord

    Two lovers lie in their rooms quietly and happily discussing the logic of suicide. Outside is full of life, as a prostitutes and blood donors discuss local scandals and the joy of wine. A shot rings out, the boy runs from the room, only seen by one man, who has his own reasons for hiding what he saw. Cafe Du Nord is about people who make self-destructive choices in the pursuit of some sort of truth. While that truth often takes the form of a young woman or a handsome man, the relationships rarely approximate love. The characters instead have a peculiar sort of responsibility to one another, often, the…

  • Film

    Hometown, Kenji Mizoguchi

    Her heart is slightly broken, with tears on her disheveled face as her man walks out the door. The camera pulls out, only to cut back in, unable to leave her crying. Hometown, Kenji Mizoguchi’s first sound film (it was actually about half silent), involved a lot of fancy camerawork in search of a plot. The story was about a man who gave up his art and his wife in search of fame and fortune. It was unclear how being a famous singer was getting in the way of his singing, but it was quite clear how his rich patroness was getting in the way of his home life. He eventually…

  • Art,  Religion

    Sleeping Beauty, Kiev

    From Kiev: A Ukrainian-Canadian artist is presenting an interactive art projectcalled “Sleeping Beauty,” in which five attractive young women take turns sleeping under dim lights in Kiev’s top gallery, each under a pledge to marry the visitor who wakes her with a kiss. Any unmarried museum-goer can kiss the woman in the hope of making Beauty fall in love and awaken. There was an awkward man from a provincial Ukrainian town, who knelt down before one Sleeping Beauty and wept because she didn’t wake up from his kiss. It seems there is a religious metaphor in here.

  • Ephemera,  Myth

    If I was a rare book collector

    Abebooks has posted a list of the 10 most expensive books it sold in 2010. Some highlights: 1. Arabic Manuscript of Al Wajaza Fi Sihhat Il Qawl Bi l Ijaza – $45,000 This is an important work on Hadith methodology (narrations concerning the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) that was originally written in the 10th century AD. This copy was published in the 12th-13th century A.D. and contained an ownership mark on the title page from a well known scholar called Ibrahim B. Sulleymanb Muhammad B. Abd Ul Aziz Al Hanafi Al Jinini, who bought it while living in Damascus in 1659 A.D. 6. Ottoman Atlas – $19,500 Published…

  • Film

    Flesh and the Devil

    Flesh and the Devil is an exercise in framing Garbo. An effort to make you feel the closeness of her body, in a way that could make a man tremble. The movie is about a woman, created so beautifully and with such passion, that you would give up friendship, happiness, you life, your soul, just to be with her. She is the personification of sin. Or maybe just a sort of desperateness you get when you know that God is not real, and every moment not spent with her is lost forever. A celebration of paganism, and of women with curly hair and smoldering eyes. Louise Brooks said this about…