Dream of Fair to Middling Women

A Novel by Samuel Beckett

Book Blurb

Dream of Fair to Middling Women is Samuel Beckett’s first novel which he wrote in a fever pitch at age 26 and could not get published in Ireland due to it’s salacious content. He kept it under wraps his whole life and it was published posthumously a little while after his death per his wishes. He referred to it as “The chest into which I threw my wild thoughts.” It is a tour-de-force in rhetorical bombast and a great deal fun to read, small on plot, strong on wordplay.

Le Samourai (1967)

Movie Blurb

“There is no solitude greater than that of a Samourai.”

Le Samaurai poster

Le Samourai is a brilliant evocation of minimalist movie making in the neo-noir tradition. The first ten minutes there is no dialogue. When there is dialogue it is spare. Even with the subtitles there is never a time when you don’t know the score. The picture is told almost entirely in visuals.

Alon Delon in Le Samourai

Le Samourai, directed by Jean-Pierre Mellville, is one of the most influential films in movie history. I immediately recognized the similarities in one of my other favorite films, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) directed by Jim Jarmusch, also about a hired killer working for the mob who lived by the strict code of the Samurai. Similarities included hot wiring of cars to drive to the hits to keen attention to detail of technical aspects of the job. In the final scenes (spoiler alert) of both movies after the showdown after both killers were gunned down it was revealed that their guns were empty. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this film has been imitated many times before.

Lethal Force

Lethal Force

Her eyes were wanton

Black, piercing

From her throat down to her toe

She was lethal

“I’m going to tease my hair,”

She said

“Why don’t you scare it when you’re done,”

I said

She laughed

I laughed

We all had a good laugh.

Late Spring (1949)

Movie Blurb

 

Late spring poster

The more films I watch by master director Yasujiru Ozu the more enamored I become of him. His gentle style of storytelling and film making touches the soul and transcends the mundane world he is depicting as his characters move through their everyday lives and reaches a spiritual dimension. From the opening scene in Late Spring, which just portrays leaves on trees and bushes blowing softly in the breeze as the camera loving lingers on, to the final scene of waves gently lapping the shore this film of a dutiful daughter devoted to her father tugs at the heart strings.

Late Spring

The Curious Case of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery

Doctor, Mother and Baby in Childbirth Case All Die

Dateline Louisville, Kentucky, Friday, November 3, 1944

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815 Cecil Avenue

Physician Falls Dead at Bedside of Woman  

A childbirth case ended in a triple tragedy here yesterday. While attending 36-year-old Bessie Ford, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery, age 64, of 815 Cecil Avenue, a general practitioner here for thirty-five years, was stricken by a heart attack and found slumped over the woman’s body at 2:30 pm at her home at 3130 New High St. She was under general anesthesia at the time. She died a few minutes after her ninth child was born dead.

Neighbors Were There!

The mother, Mrs. Bessie Ford, died at 8:10 pm at St. Joseph Infirmary, where she was taken after Dr. Woolery’s death.

Jess Ford, Bessie’s husband, was an employee of Armour Creameries here in Louisville. He said Dr. Woolery had been attending his wife since 1:00 pm. His wife was under the influence of anesthetic and knew nothing of the physician’s death until effects of the anesthesia wore off, he said. He and several neighbor women were in the room at the time.

Husband Calls Police!

“After the doctor died, I was running around so much I don’t know just what I did,” Ford said later at the hospital. He explained that he rushed to a nearby grocery store and telephoned in quick succession City police, General Hospital, St. Joseph Infirmary, and the Ambulance Service Company in an effort to obtain proper medical treatment for his wife.

Making the run to the Ford home in four minutes, ambulance driver William Rakestraw, formerly with the Police Emergency Squad, had Mrs. Ford at the hospital within less than an hour after the physician’s death.

A score of children, including some of the Ford family, crowded around the small frame cottage, and in the dusty dirt road near the doorway as police cars and the ambulance jolted up the drive way to the Ford home.

Native of Indiana

Dr. Woolery, a native of Bedford Indiana, was a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine and worked as a medical examiner at the Goodyear Engineering Corporation, Charlestown, Indiana.

 Met Son at Station

Mrs. Emma Woolery said her husband was called to the Ford home immediately after he had met his son at the station, Musician 2nd Class Ernest Woolery, 27, US Coast Guard, who was home on furlough.

He is also survived by two other sons, Private Orville Woolery, and Carrol C. Woolery; a sister, Mrs. Alice Forbe, of Mitchell, Indiana; a brother, Marshall Woolery of Bedford, Indiana, and six grandchildren.

Funeral services for Dr. Woolery will be held at Lee Cralle’s, 1330 S. Third Street.

In Other News of the Day

 Bus driver kills wife and self in Richmond, Kentucky. He shot her then turned the gun on himself. She filed for divorce and was planning on moving out of the house today. Man, 70, robbed and burned in a cabin in Beattyville, Kentucky. Fire destroys hotel in Morehead. James Park, Republican nominee for the US Senate, warned of disunity is Roosevelt is reelected. Three negro women attack a City police officer in an incident at a local factory in Portland. Instigator fined.

News from Around the World

 Auschwitz begins gassing inmates. Roosevelt re-elected November 7, 1944. US bombers on Saipan begin first attack on Tokyo November 24, 1944. First open-heart surgery performed November 29, 1944 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Battle of the Bulge rages on. Nazis surrender February – May 1945. Japan surrenders June – September 1945.

That is all. Goodnight and good luck!

Note: This is a true story based on an article from the Louisville Courier Journal published November 3, 1944. Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery was my Great Grandfather and namesake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Grande Illusion (1937)

Movie Review

Grand Illusion poster

La Grande Illusion, directed by Jean Renoir, is a must-see film for anyone who is a serious film lover. It is considered to be Renoir’s masterpiece and has made many critic’s lists of best films ever made, including mine.

The film is about a group of French prisoners of war in two German camps during World War I. There are officers in the group that includes an aristocrat, a wealthy Jewish banker, a music hall actor and a mechanic. Pretty much a cross section of French society.

La Grande Illusion

These officers make several escape attempts. Their last attempt to tunnel out is interrupted when they are transferred out to another camp before they can complete the tunnel. They are sent to a fortress called Winterborn from which no one has ever escaped. This camp is run by a German aristocrat named Captain von Rauffenstein (Eric von Stroheim).

The French aristocrat de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) forms a bond with Captain Rauffenstein but sacrifices his life in order to help his fellow officers, working-class Maréchal (Jean Gabin) and the wealthy Jewish banker Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) finally escape. These class distinctions are essential to the story and are part of the overall theme of the illusion of class barriers which artificially separate men in society. The themes of race and ethnicity are also explored. The men are rescued by a German widow, Elsa (Dita Parlo), and eventually make it across the border to Switzerland.

Two other famous movies were directly influenced by La Grande Illusion: The Great Escape and Casablanca. The digging of the tunnel in The Great Escape is performed in the same way as in La Grande Illusion including the way the prisoners hide the dirt from the tunnel in their pants and shake it out on the ground during their exercises period. The singing of the “Marseilles” to enrage the Germans in Casablanca can also be found in La Grande Illusion.

La Grande Illusion is an anti-war film in which the main thesis is the futility of war. It relies heavily on ideas from the book The Great Illusion by Norman Angell published in 1909. Angell argued that the cost of war was so great that no one would risk starting a war because the result would be disastrous. Of course, this proved to be illusory.

The title of the movie seems to have multiple layers of meaning. The futility of war, the artificial boundaries between men in class distinctions and even the artificial and invisible borders between countries. In the last scene of the movie as Maréchal and Rosenthal make their escape into Switzerland across a snowy mountainside a German patrol spots the men and fires shots at them. The order is given to stop shooting as the prisoners are over the border into Switzerland. The camera pans down the mountain side to the two men. Marechal asks, “Are you sure we are in Switzerland, it’s so alike?” Rosenthal, who has a map, says, “Of course. You can’t see frontiers. They were invented by men. Nature doesn’t care.”

This is a movie that has definitely stood the test of time in every way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detour (1945)

Movie Review

Detour

Detour, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, is a classic “B” movie in the Film Noir genre straight out of Pulp Fiction Hell. Shot on the cheap in four weeks it packs a wallop! This Criterion edition film is beautifully restored in glorious black and white. It is worth seeing just for the visuals alone. The story is as cheap as the characters it portrays. The writing is a little weak but the performances of the unknown actors more than compensate.

The story is told in flashbacks from an opening scene in a diner somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

The main character, Al Roberts (Tom Neal), is an out of work down on his luck pianist from New York City. He hitchhikes out to Hollywood to join up with his girlfriend Sue (Claudia Drake) who is a chanteuse, also from New York City, who went out west earlier to find her fame and fortune. Along the way he is picked up by a guy named Haskell (Edmund McDonald). Haskell tells him about another hitchhiker he had picked up earlier. A young female who turns out to be a real hell cat who put some deep scratches in his hand when he had tried to make advances on her. “There oughta be a law against dames with claws,” he says. Later he dies of a heart attack. Al panics as he thinks the cops will think he killed the guy. He hides the body and takes Haskell’s clothes, money, identification and drives away in his car.

He meets a girl at a gas station and offers her a ride. She falls asleep in the car then suddenly sits bolt upright and demands, “Where’d you leave his body? Where did you leave the owner of this car? Your name’s not Haskell!” About this time Al realizes he has picked up the same girl that Haskell had picked up and she turns out to be the femme fatale of all femme fatales. She berates him all the way to Los Angeles.

When they get to Los Angeles, they cook up a scheme for Al to impersonate Haskell, the long-lost son of the elderly rich father who they read about in a newspaper is dying. They plan to inherit his estate when he dies. Waiting to execute their plan, they sit around in an apartment, drinking, playing cards and fighting. Al’s not playing ball to suit the drunken Vera and she threatens to call the cops. She runs to another room with the phone and slams the door. Al grabs the phone cord and pulls on it. He pulls and pulls. Finally, the line goes slack. He goes in the room to find Vera has become entangled in the cord and is accidentally strangled on it. Now Al has another corpse on his hands that just might point to murder.

That’s when he heads back east and we find him in the diner. In the final scene he is walking out on the desert highway and gets picked up by the cops. His last line is delivered in a voice over, “Fate, for some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me, for no good reason at all.”

Most reviewers of Detour take Al’s story at face value. But I have a different view. Al is an unreliable narrator and tell us what he wants us to hear to make himself  look good. He more likely is a psychopath who has committed both murders and is caught by circumstance or fate as he likes to say.

Famed film maker Errol Morris said of Detour, “It has an unparalleled quality of despair, totally unrelieved by hope.” A pretty apt description.

 

WORD OF THE DAY – DECIMATE

Kill One in Ten.

Originally from the Latin: decimatio (decem – ten). Historically decimation was a form of military discipline used by senior commanders in the Roman Army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions.

It has since come to mean to kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of, as “the project would decimate the fragile wetland wilderness.” Or more recently, “the hurricane decimated everything in its path.”

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Graham Greene wrote about this concept, in the historical sense, in his novel, The Tenth Man.

A group of Frenchmen were being held hostage in a Gestapo camp. A German officer enters the cell one afternoon and announces that there were three murders in the town last night. He is ordered to shoot one in ten of them in the morning. There are thirty men in the camp, therefore three men must be shot. He doesn’t care who. They choose. They chose by lot. Louis Chavel was the tenth man.

Things get tricky from there, but Greene supplies a heavy dose of irony as the plot unfolds.

The Barnes Foundation – Philadelphia

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On a recent trip to Philadelphia I had occasion to visit the Barnes Foundation with my friend Winter. This is a wonderful collection of art from around the world and from different time periods. It is housed in a magnificent building  that is an architectural wonder. The photographs in this post are my impression of my visit and in no way exhaustive of what I saw.

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The following information from the brochure will give you some more facts about the collection and the philosophy behind it. I must say I was not prepared for what I saw and my jaw was agape from the time I walked into first gallery until the last.

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Top Picture: Models. George Seurat, 1886-1888

The Barnes is home to a world-class collection of impressionist, and early modernist paintings, with especially deep holdings in Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso.  Assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes between 1912-1951, the collection also includes important examples of African Art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, and wrought iron metalwork.

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The Card Players. Paul Cezanne, 1890-1892

The minute you walk into the galleries you’re in an experience like no other. Here you will find paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, And Pablo Picasso, hanging next to ordinary household objects: a door hinge, a spatula, a yarn spinner. On one wall you might see a French medieval sculpture displayed with a Navajo textile. Dr. Barnes chose to combine objects from different cultures, genres, and times to create diverse displays he called “ensembles.”

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Bather Drying Herself. Pierre-August Renoir

These ensembles, each one carefully put together by Dr. Barnes himself, are meant to show the surprising similarities between objects we don’t normally thing of as belonging together. He arranged the works according to light, color, and space-principles that he called the “universal language of art.”

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Bathers in the Forest. Pierre-August Renoir, 1897

Dr. Barnes believed that art had the power to improve minds and transform lives. In 1922 he established the Barnes foundation as a school for learning how to see and appreciate art. He had a gallery built on Merion, a Philadelphia suburb, to house his growing collection. He held classes in the gallery so that students could learn directly from the art.

In 2012, after much controversy, his collection was moved to Philadelphia.

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Luncheon. Pierre-August Renoir, 1875

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Sailor Boy. Pierre-August Rodin, 1883

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Bather and Maid. Pierre-August Renoir, 1900-1901

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Woman with White Stockings. Gustave Courbet, 1864

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Before the Bath. Pierre-August Renoir, C. 1875

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Two Women Surrounded by Birds. Joan Miro, 1937

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Winter at the Barnes

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Studio with Gold Fish. Henri Matisse, 1912

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In the Galleries

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Leaving the Conservatory. Pierre-August Renoir, 1876-1877

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Girl with a Goat. Pablo Picasso

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The Music Lesson. Henri Matisse, 1917

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The Dance. Henri Matisse, 1932

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Mussel-Fishers at Bernal. Pierre-August Renoir

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Jean Hebuterne.  Amedeo Modigiani, 1919

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Two Standing Nudes. Jules Pascin, 1914

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Outside the Barnes

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Reflecting Pool Outside the Barnes

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Art on the Avenue