Wednesday, January 31, 2007:

California Soul & The Who-Who Song

Marlena Shaw -- California Soul
Handclaps, a horn section, violins, a backbeat, and impassioned vocals put together in a funky little soul gem people go crate digging for. Luckily you won't have to go digging for it unless you're a vinyl purist. The track is on a few different CDs, including a rerelease of Shaw's Spice of Life and this Northern Soul compilation I picked up on a whim. Shadow and Cut Chemist sampled it on Brainfreeze; it's the second sample from that set that I stumbled onto (the other was an Eddie Bo track).

Jackie Wilson -- The Who-Who Song
Who? Who? Nobody but my sweet baby. You better believe it.
[The Original Northern Soul Selection: 36 Dancefloor Shakers]

I don't know who allmusic are kidding in calling this CD "electronica";I can only conclude that they haven't listened to it. It is in fact Northern Soul, and generally fit to get the dancefloor moving.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007:

Schuman the Human

Schuman the Human
Schuman the Human -- Tow That Line
Schuman the Human is an alt-country band unafraid to experiment. On their debut they serve up a strange and wonderful mix of sounds, from the pop bluegrass "Klutz," to a banjo-accompanied children's singalong reinterpretatiing of the Northern Soul "Oh How Happy" to the lighter-tempting violin-and-backbeat "Dark Regrets."

"Tow the Line" is one I like for its reverberating guitar, elliptical vocals, let's-all-hold-hands protest, and hints of mournfulness giving way to joyous hoedown.

Schuman the Human are Mark Foster on guitar and banjo, Chili Gold on vocals, Mick Frangou on drums and Gordon Maguire on bass and keyboards. Their CD is on SVC Records, record label of Simon from the returned-from-hiatus Spoilt Victorian Child.
[Schuman The Human]
[Schuman the Human's MySpace page]

Also missed, and also returned: Tofu Hut.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007:

body snatchers mix, part 10

Helen Merrill -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1988)
A leisurely paced version with subdued instrumentation giving it a somber and somehow chilly feel. There are a number of ways to deliver the lyrics, with or without the wink; Merrill opts for without, performing it as high drama.
[from Helen Merrill Sings Cole Porter, out of print]

Hank Jones -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Nov 1990-1991)
The bass and drums are steps up a hill; the piano carries the melody them; the strings sprint ahead like a cat, looking back, weaving between the piano's feet, affectionate or maybe just hoping to trip it.
[Hank Jones with the Meridian String Quartet, used for a dollar]

Keely Smith & Nelson Riddle -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (released Aug 1991)
If Shirley Bassey were to sing the song, this is how she'd do it: swinging for the fences, horns and drums like something lifted from the soundtrack to a retro spy film.
[Capitol Sings Cole Porter: Anything Goes]

Mandino Reinhardt and Note Manouche -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (January 1, 1994)
What do I know about Mandino Reinhardt? It wouldn't fill the back of a postage stamp: he's from Alsace; he's a well known guitarist there; he has the same surname as Django. Related? Biologically, maybe. Musically, yes.
[Gypsy Swing From Alsace @ emusic]
A very brief writeup on Mandino Reinhardt.

Dan Barrett -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Jul 23, 1997-Oct 28, 1997)
This is a very muted presentation, and not just in the trumpet. It swings, yes, but it's the swing of a grandfather clock in slow motion. Barrett follows it not with a security guard explaining the rules of the game but with a jog past a lake with distant sailboat and setting sun reflected in ripples, complete with lakeside dog jumping to catch a frisbee.
[Melody in Swing, also @ emusic]

Dick Hyman and Derek Smith -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1998)
Dick Hyman and Derek Smith turn in the spiritual brother to the Freddie Hubbard/Jimmy Heath version, except on piano instead of horn: the two in competition for how quickly they can play while holding a rhythm and how hard they can bang the keys as they do.
[Dick & Derek at the Movies ]

Beegie Adair -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Feb 2001)
This one starts off sounding like it's going to be a typical sleepy approach, but Adair shows more imagination than that, giving it a driving rhythm and dropping bits of the melody as she sees fit. I'm not sure how much of the tune was improvised, but from the starts and stops I get the feeling that some of it was but that she has a perceptive band in tune with each other and having fun.
[Dream Dancing: Songs of Cole Porter]

Lemar -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (2004) describes this one as "swell-egant," which leads me to suspect I'm not a big fan of swell-egance. I hoped for a more dynamic range on the vocals though I'm not sure why: I don't have that reaction to Billy Holliday's version or to Lena Horne's, though they're arguably working within an equally narrow range.

I'm sure it's just a matter of taste; Lemar has a successful career across the pond.
[De-Lovely soundtrack]

And a song not by Cole Porter!
Tom Waits -- Earth Died Screaming
This is a bizarre and sinister track with funky guitar, off-kilter percussion, and snarling slurred vocals proclaiming death and doom: John the Revelator with a sense of melody and a junkyard band.
[Bone Machine]

Thanks again to Girish and Rev. Frost for suggestions and for helping me track down many of these covers.
Siegel (The End)

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007:

body snatchers mix, part 9

Buddy Tate and Claude Hopkins -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (March-October 1960)
If this were a scene in one of the films it would be an extended take from Siegel's version, Miles and Becky in the bar, close dancing and pretending they're not falling in love again, the barman studiously not paying them any mind.
[Buddy and Claude @ emusic]

King Curtis -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (April 1960)
King Curtis was a record producer who started as a session player for R&B groups before moving on to a solo career. He recorded with John Lennon, Billy Preston, Aretha Franklin, and Duane Allman, as well as releasing a number of his own albums, before he was stabbed to death outside his New York apartment.

When I first heard this version of the song I wondered whether Curtis had cribbed from Cannonball Adderley or the other way around. The dates were one clue; the other was that on this track King Curtis has Nat Adderley on cornet.

I think I prefer this version for its concision, though the piano by Wynton Kelly is also quite nice (but, naturally, Victor Feldman on Cannonball's version acquits himself nicely).
[Soul Meeting ]

Cannonball Adderley -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (November 1960)
The rhythm is the same as the King Curtis version, but the tempo sped up, the song stretched out, the group treating the song like a pencilled map they aim to fill in.
[What Is This Thing Called Soul?]

George Shearing -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (June 1962)
George Searing and his group swimming against the tide of bop, turning in a sedate version with the bass riding a groove, the piano swapping between syncopated melody, vamps, and flights of fancy.
[Jazz Moments ]

Carmell Jones -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1965)
Doubletime bass with trumpet (Carmell Jones) and tenor sax (Jimmy Heath) taking turns on the melody over nine minutes, seeing which one of them can blow hard and fast enough to reheat the cup of tea behind the microphone. It bubbles a few times; they give up, winded.
[Jay Hawk Talk]

Freddie Hubbard & Jimmy Heath -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1965)
Eleven and a half minute version with sax and trumpet in competition again, Jimmy Heath trying to outbop himself. By the end of it, the tea has boiled and the ceramic cracked. I imagine the applause at the end is partly gratitude for turning in such an intense performance and partly relief for not killing themselves in the trying.
[Jam Gems: Live at the Left Bank]

Chris Connor -- Love Medley: What Is This Thing Called Love? / You Don't Know What Love Is (Aug 1986)
Chris Connor with a version which is energetic enough on its own but sounds positively tranquil in comparison to the last two versions.

Jessica Williams -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Oct. 1986)
Jessica Williams on a whimsical, agile, and energetic piano rendition recorded live.
[Encounters, Vol. 2]

Mel Powell -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (October 21, 1987)
Mel Powell on his return to jazz after decades as a classical composer, recorded live on a cruise ship. It's a good track; Powell's in fine form; the bass gets a solo which maybe goes on a bit too long; but the group are obviously stretching themselves a bit and having a good time, and they have an appreciative audience.
[Return of Mel Powell]

Well, today didn't go as planned. Still, I think I've probably said all I have to say about the Body Snatchers works, at least without further reading. Next post will wrap it up, most likely with some brief summary of findings about sleep and dreams.

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a geeky non-musical post

Brief technical post for Beta Blogger users using Classic templates (this may also apply to the new templates; I couldn't say, really, as I've left off experimenting with them until they get their XHTML fixed):

If you're sticking with your classic template rather than the newer (non-validating XHTML) templates*, you might be wondering how to get an autogenerated link from the labels pages back to your home page.

Blogger doesn't seem to have a classic template conditional tag that will cover it. The accepted conditional tags for the classic template are MainPage, ArchivePage, ItemPage, and MainOrArchivePage. Blogger shows how to put a conditional tag on your header text (or image) to autogenerate a link from certain pages back to the main page (for, say, people coming in by search engine to a specific post).

Typically that's done with something like
<ItemPage><a href="<$BlogURL$>"><$BlogTitle$></a></ItemPage>

Since there isn't a classic template tag for labels, one option which seems like it would work is to change the default behavior to be to generate the header link and then to cause MainPage not to link it. Since you can't tell a specific page not to do something, the hack would be to tell MainPage to add an </a> before the header text or image and then to add another start href tag after it (to keep them paired and keep the HTML validating). For whatever reason, that doesn't work: Blogger treats label pages as still being at the main URL and so the link doesn't show up.

What does work is to use a bit of JavaScript to search the URL for the string "/search" and to add a link if that string is present. That code is below:
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
if (location.href.indexOf("/search")!=-1) document.write("<a href=\"<$BlogURL$>\">");
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
if (location.href.indexOf("/search")!=-1) document.write("</a>");

Of course this code won't work in Lynx or in browsers with JavaScript turned off, but according to this page, 95% of users do have JavaScript enabled.

Music post later today.

update: corrected a typo in the second If statement above which was preventing it from closing the tag.

update: modified this again to search the URL for "/search" rather than "search/label/", as the second one doesn't catch people going to a different page on the site through the search box at top left of blogs on *

*Blogger Beta bungles the XHTML validation even on otherwise-good classic templates, failing to encode ampersands in URLs, but two dozen errors is much better than 650 or more.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007:

Roots Canal: Martini Cowboy

Jack Grace Band -- Try Not to Cry

OK, let's take a short break from the old stuff. I went out to my favorite club last night and heard an urban country singer named Jack Grace, who bills himself as the Martini Cowboy. I particularly liked this song, so I bought the CD and I'm sharing it with y'all.

He told a pretty funny story about opening for Jerry Lee Lewis the night before, at B.B. King Blues Club in Times Square. Jerry Lee refused to sign his guitar, saying he only signs pianos. But after the set, Grace said he overheard Jerry Lee tell someone, "He's like that Cash boy, but good."

Oh, well. I guess you had to be there.

Bonus track: I'm pissed off because I looked at the forward calendar and saw that the yodeling banjoist Curtis Eller will be at Barbes this Friday night. I've been waiting for months for Eller to play one of the local Brooklyn clubs, but I have theater tickets on Friday night for a play written by an old friend, so I'll have to miss it. And I'll be out of town next Wednesday when he plays Joe's Pub in the city. Shit. Well, if you're in or near Park Slope on Friday, check it out. I already posted my favorite Curtis Eller song, Taking Up Serpents Again, so here's another song from the same album:
Curtis Eller's American Circus -- Never Hide That Scar

[The Martini Cowboy]
[Taking Up Serpents Again]
Saturday, January 20, 2007:

body snatchers mix, part 8

Art Tatum -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (August 1, 1955)
A leisurely stroll down Vibraphone Lane. I can't help picturing this in a Woody Allen film, one of his light comedies, accompanied by a tracking shot with Allen and his love interest walking through Central Park.
[The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 3]

Art Tatum -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (September 7, 1955)
This time Tatum and his group have eight minutes to play a ten minute song; as soon as the last measure fades out, they throw down their instruments and dash outside to catch a bus.
[The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 5]

Ella Fitzgerald -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Feb - Mar 1956)
Ella Fitzgerald turns in an effortlessly classy big band version, strong and confident.
[Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook]

Tito Puente -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (May 2, 1956)
Puente leads a big band Latin jazz version: sax, trumpets, bass, drums, and piano supplemented with William Correa on bongo and Ramon Santa Maria on conga. The liner notes for this CD are both odd and brief, switching between defensiveness about Puente's body of work and scorn towards towards the perception of multiculti trendiness and the politically correct.
[Puente Goes Jazz]

Red Garland -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Aug 1956)
Red Garland leading his first album with the jazz trio. I enjoy this version more each time I hear it: the drums and bass step in and out at will; Paul Chambers delivers a solid acoustic bass solo; Arthur Taylor serves up two nice drum breaks; and the piano? If it's good enough for Miles Davis I'm willing to pay attention to it to try to figure out why. I'm sure I don't understand as much of it as Davis did, but I'm glad to give it the attention.
[A Garland of Red]

Julie London -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1958)
I wish I had Girish's ear and could say something clever about this song's construction. It seems over before I expect it, and I'm at a loss as to how to describe the guitar.
[Julie London Sings Cole Porter ]

Anita O'Day -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (April 1959)
Anita O'Day delivers the line with a frantic melody, followed by some improvisation, scat and drum breaks, a sudden slowing and outro.
[Anita O'Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May]

Mel Tormé -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Apr-Aug 1959)
This is not an unexpected delivery from Tormé, though if the date on this is correct I think it is an unexpected performance from his backup singers: the vocal style is a throwback to twenty years earlier (a style I enjoy quite a lot, but find in short supply for most post-WWII music).
[Night and Day: The Cole Porter Songbook]

Bill Evans -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1959)
If music is the space between the notes, Evans is a master of feng shui, playing the melody like a familiar face in newsprint dots.
[Portrait in Jazz]

Apologies for posting so many tracks at once; this is not how I usually do it but I've started this mix so I want to finish it, and I'm feeling increasingly ready to move on to talking about songs which are not by Cole Porter.

In thinking of Ferrara's Body Snatchers, it occurred to me that Marti for some reason never attends school like her little brother, which led me to wonder why she was still at home, which in turn led me to wonder why I should assume that if she's old enough to have graduated then she should have moved. It's a cultural assumption about something that's not always true even in the U.S. Yet it's a useful assumption, insofar as it leads to questions about the various Body Snatchers works' inherent Americanness.

Siegel's 1956 version has been selected to the National Film Registry and honored by the American Film Institute, and yes, it seems informed by a distinctly American political landscape, whether the film serves as a metaphor for Communist or McCarthyist fears. But what about the other two films, and the text versions? I'm reminded of Stephen King's note in Danse Macabre that The Exorcist made little money in Germany, but that ticket sales for Dawn of the Dead were through the roof. King takes that as a sign of different culture: Germans were not particularly troubled by flower power and rebellious teenagers and so, lacking the cultural backdrop of The Exorcist, found the film uninteresting, yet Romero's satire of commercialism hit home. I wish I knew how the Body Snatchers films performed in other countries compared to other American releases. More than that, I wish I'd found some thoughtful writing about the cultural implications of the later two films, but most of the writings I've found on them either take the cultural background for granted or treat it in brief detail in service of a larger point.

I wonder, for instance, how a Japanese Body Snatchers might look, or what themes a Body Snatchers in The Netherlands would explore, or for that matter a Body Snatchers set in an English boarding school (think If.... as a horror film). I think the closest we got to that was Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty, based on an entertaining but hardly horrifying Kevin Williamson script.

Williamson makes the odd choice of having one of his characters accuse Finney's story of being a blatant ripoff of Robert Heinlein's Puppet Masters, another Cold War novel about an alien invasion. I haven't read the book but from conversation with Sean at Said the Gramophone, and from various readings about the book, it seems apparent that the novel's Cold War setting is as far from subtext as it is from tasteful. Yet Body Snatchers and Puppet Masters have some apparent differences: in Puppet Masters the aliens are parasites which attach to humans to control their minds; in Body Snatchers the aliens replicate the human bodies and memories and destroy the originals. The Faculty, in its alien-parasite/mind-control angle, shows more similarities to Heinlein's Puppet Masters than Body Snatchers does, and so its accusations against Finney come off as a bit cheeky (which is perhaps to be expected from the screenwriter of Scream).

Of the three official film versions, Ferrara's is the only one to have a sympathetic psychiatrist and, as it turns out, the main character in the The Invasion, played by Nicole Kidman, is also a psychiatrist. As mentioned in an earlier post, The Invasion was originally based on Finney's story, yet after a number of plot changes the producers decided the film was no longer based on Finney's work. But imagine if it still were--or, for that matter, imagine other settings the story might have to allow some easy commentary about our culture and what it means to be human.

1) An intern working in a mental hospital--ostensibly studying schizophrenia but secretly studying confirmation bias in diagnosis and treatment--finds that the ward's patients mysteriously become completely sane, one by one.

Ferrara's version at the end notes that the human experience is much more complicated than simply allowing love; imagine a Body Snatchers unafraid to tackle existential despair. Prior film versions have had characters, horrified, rejecting the notion of a world without love; this one asks whether to reject a world without hate, impulsiveness, despair, and paranoia. And what about mankind's fundamental freedom to do anything at all, including make unwise decisions?

Budget: $15 million.
Key scene: a bipolar woman accepts the alien assurance of a world without misery.
Direction: a cross between Mario Bava and Ingmar Bergman.
Tomatometer: 73%
Cultural influence: film geeks remember it fondly; the film is mentioned in a footnote in a Master's thesis in mass communications submitted in 2012.
Recoups investment: two weeks into French release.

2) The Faculty suffers a few flaws, not least that the plot is fairly predictable and that the characters occasionally act more like chess pieces than people. Still, a high school or middle school would be a fantastic place for a Body Snatchers film, exploring what Ferrara touched on: adults don't listen to children, and children have little power. This remake sets the film in a typical U.S. high school and asks the audience to imagine a put-upon main character dealing with constant harassment, mounting anxieties, indifferent teachers, and unhelpful parents.

Budget: $25 million.
Key scene: The bullies allow the geek to eat his brownbag lunch without addenda, confrontation, or even a sidelong glance.
Direction: like a less careful but more cosmopolitan Steven Spielberg.
Tomatometer: 58%
Cultural influence: carvings on 3% of the nation's middle school desks.
Recoups investment: opening weekend.

3) The congregation of a Southern Baptist church loses its passion for Hallelujahs and Praise-the-Lords. They have dinner on the grounds; Mrs. Johnson fails to comment about the amount of onion in Mrs. Smith's casserole. Tithes go up as everyone begins contributing the 10%; SUVs become less common in the parking lot as carpooling increases.

Budget: $14 million.
Key scene: "Oh Hallelujah, Mrs. Sullivan! You had your baby already!?"
"Oh, no; Harold and I decided we didn't want it. Isn't that right, dear?"
"Yes, dear."
Mrs. Sullivan gets solemn, approving nods from most of the choir.
Direction: wildly variable, with a script that critics wish were a subtle satire.
Tomatometer: 6%
Cultural influence: The Unitarian Universalists condemn the film and Pat Robertson praises it, in both cases for being homophobic and witless.
Recoups investment: Twelve years after theatrical release.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007:

Roots Canal: You Can't Catch Me

The Blues Project: You Can't Catch Me
Chuck Berry: You Can't Catch Me
While we're doing covers, let's switch from Body Snatchers to auto catchers. I've always loved this cover by The Blues Project of the great Chuck Berry song, You Can't Catch Me.

Is Chuck Berry one of the world's most underrated lyricists, or what? It's not just his amazing guitar work, or his duck walk. His lyrics rock. I just love it on his original version when he stretches out the syllables, "When you get too close, I'll be gone like a cool breeze."

Danny Kalb was a lightning-fast guitarist who founded The Blues Project in 1965, but the band didn't take off until it was joined by Al Kooper, fresh off his studio gig providing those unforgettable organ licks on Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. For a while, The Blues Project was the hottest band in Greenwich Village. They seemed to headline just about every weekend at Cafe Au Go-Go, which despite its funky name was the top rock venue downtown at the time (before Fillmore East opened). They mixed blues and folk and rock'n'roll in a big psychedelic jam; they used to be considered the East Coast equivalent of the Grateful Dead. They broke up in '67 when Kalb had a bad acid trip and Kooper left to found Blood, Sweat & Tears (apparently, Kalb wouldn't let him add a horn section to The Blues Project).

You Can't Catch Me comes from The Blues Project's only studio album, Projections, recorded in 1966. It's also included on a 1997 anthology of their music called, simply, Anthology.

Bonus Tracks:
The Blues Project: I Can't Keep From Crying
Al Kooper: Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes
On the subject of covers, here's an unusual one: Al Kooper covering himself. The first version is from the same Blues Project album, Projections; the second is from an amazing compilation album released the same year called What's Shakin' with songs by Kooper, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Lovin' Spoonful, Tom Rush and a band called Eric Clapton & The Powerhouse, which is actually John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. I'm not sure whether they couldn't use Mayall's name for contractual reasons, or they just thought Clapton was a bigger star.

Which is the original and which is the cover? I have no idea.

[What's Shakin']
Monday, January 15, 2007:

body snatchers mix, part 7

Carol screams (Ferrara, 1993)
Carol screams (Ferrara, 1993)
(a.k.a. "You! Problematic director! Front and center!")

Les Paul -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (June 1950)
Les Paul with some overdubbing experimentation, second guitar like a dream where someone is shouting in a windstorm, sound snatched away, yet somehow you understand and it's all okay.
[The New Sound]

Dave Brubeck Octet -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (July 1950)
Brubeck's version starts somber, melancholy, and cautious, exploring a cage by lanternlight, then the lights come up and it's not a cave at all but a milquetoast ball at a military installation. The band strives to be polite, wanting very much not to meet the MP.
[The Dave Brubeck Octet]

Charlie Parker -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1950)
Is it silly to say about a Charlie Parker song that you like the saxophone? Hm, then I won't. Instead I'll say I like the strings, and the brushed drums with the occasional kick, and the piano skipping down the street, and how Parker plays around all of them, and how the audience seems maybe unsure of what to expect but willing to go along with it.
[available on Charlie Parker with Strings]

Charlie Parker -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (March 25, 1952)
Parker and the band doing their damnedest to blow the roof off (Parker is a gunslinger, see; he uses the first half-dozen notes or so, then shoots holes in the melody until it's alive but barely recognizable. And that's how he leaves it, so its loved ones can identify the corpse in full realization that it was not as badass as it thought).
[digitized from The Verve Years (1952-1954), VE-2-2523, now available on Confirmation: The Best of the Verve Years]

Frank Sinatra -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (1953)
There are a lot of ways I could have imagined the song. This isn't one of them.
[Hello Young Lovers]

Frank Sinatra -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (April 1954)
Sinatra tries again, this time taking a much more melancholy approach to the song which probably suits it better.
[In the Wee Small Hours]

Charlie Mingus -- What Is This Thing Called Love? (Dec. 1954)
Some time in the mid 1990s, I read someone disparaging jazz by saying it was what happened when four different people played four different songs at the same time. I don't think I ever heard a jazz track that fit that definition until I sought out this one for this mix. The back of the LP tells me that what we have here is John LaPorta on alto sax playing the title track, Thad Jones on trumpet playing "Hot House," and Teo Macero on baritone sax playing "Woodyn You." Very strange, frequently dissonant, and 100% wonderful. Sorry for the few rubs on the LP though.
[Digitized from Everest Records FS235, which has since gone out of print; also available on Jazzical Moods.] [--thanks, Jason!]

(more Body Snatchers discussion: spoiler warnings still in effect)

Rereading "Genre and Closure in the Seven Versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Finney ('54, '55, '78), Siegel ('56, '56), Kaufman ('78) and Ferrara ('93)" I'm struck by how similar my take on Ferrara's film is to Robert Shelton's, but I suspect that Shelton is the more perceptive reader. Shelton notes that the pacing in Ferrara's film slows "when Marti (played by Gabrielle Anwar) has no clothes on," which includes both her leisurely bath and the scene later when she's been taken to the hospital for some very un-Hippocratic treatment. I'd noticed the slowed pace the first time, missed it the second. In the hospital, pod tendrils snake into Marti's nose and mouth and the pod figure sits up, nude, back arched and mouth open as if in rapture, and then turns to Tim and strikes (and holds) a rather seductive pose, speaking to him in a soft tone. All of these are behaviors we have no reason to expect from a pod person. I'd be tempted to relate the pod's indifference to her public nudity to the alienness of the pod people, as in Kaufman's version, except that it's not, really; it's saddled with an imitation of human behavior which Marti's pod has no reason to indulge in. At this point in the film Tim is surrounded with enemies who will gladly and permanently subdue him, so the nudity seems to be there for reasons other than story-logic, which is already saddled with the stipulation that Marti survive and that (nearly) everyone else is expendable.

Shelton also points out the "idiot plot hole" of the General allowing Marti and Tim to leave: "Let them go," he says, "no one will believe them." As Shelton notes, "When the equivalent of this remark was made in Siegel's 1956 version, a solitary, unarmed, exhausted small town doctor was being 'let go'; in Ferrara's 1993 version, General Platt has just 'let go' an armed attack helicopter and pilot."

All of this suggests (to me at least) that Ferrara's film is what a feminist would call "problematic," yet I have to admit that it's also successful on somewhat unexpected terms: I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Maybe that ties back to Rosenbaum's notion that a great film doesn't have to be a good film (or, stated another way, that the quality of a film is distinct from how much it causes the audience to think). I'm not sure if Ferrara's film is a great or even a good film but it's definitely been a thought-provoking one.

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