ningyoprints

Notes from ningyo editions studio and gallery

A Little List of Killer Kids in Film and Literature

Image

( From David Cronenberg’s The Brood)

Introduction:

It seems you can’t walk out your own door these days without running into some child or other: they’re in strollers or tied to each other with ropes in wagons so they don’t run off into the streets.  They’re walking in packs with mittens hanging from their sleeves.  I’m also assuming they’re in school.  What’s more, everyone is having them – so it’s not a passing fad.  For no good reason I decided to compile a short list of some of the best examples of the Killer Kid sub-genre.

Some will point out serious omissions: the kid from Steven King’s Pet Cemetery; Thomas Tryon’s The Other, or James’ The Turn of the Screw and it’s beautiful film adaptation The Innocents.  Most of these I don’t feel like re-reading (or re-watching) and so cannot write about with authority.  An incomplete list to say the least, so please post any glaring omissions in the comments. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Reviews, Uncategorized

This Blog’s Mysterious Name, its Origins, A Dialogue

Someone is always coming up to me and asking about ningyo editions or the title of this blog, “ningyoprints”.  I can’t even sit down in a restaurant to a sweet potato quesadilla without some confused, inquisitive busybody asking what ningyo editions was, or what it is, or more to the point, how it is pronounced.  And then the blog, there’s that word again!  Well, Smart Guy, pretend you are learning to read for the very first time.  You sound out the syllables to form words.  Ergo, it is pronounced nin-gyo, just as it sounds: “ning” as in “planning” + “gy-o” pronounced as if you’ve run into someone you initially think you hate so you begin to tell them to “go” but then suddenly realize they’re okay and so you change your salutation to “yo”.

I remind these people that both the press and the gallery are closed, while the blog lives on.  I tell them that I’d rather focus on my own work that facilitate the work of other people, who, wonderful and delightful as they all are, nevertheless saw me busting my ass with little hope of financial recompense.  Then I make a brief comment as if to myself about how all these questions can possible merit interrupting someone’s lunch.  However, people are stubborn as mules and I am like an irritable feline.  A bad combination, but unavoidable, so I put down my fork and engage.  I  transcribe a typical conversation between ME and the typical INQUIRING PERSON.  It runs something like this:

INQUIRING PERSON: What is Ningyo Editions?

ME:  The accurate question would be what was  ningyo ediitons? (Here I emphasize the lower cases).  It was a printmaking studio and gallery in Watertown Square specializing in etching and relief printing.   We published artists’ editions by invitation.  We still offer contract printing and editioning services.  Are you interested?

(silence)

ME:  We closed over a year ago, or about a year ago.  I can’t remember.  These days I’m eating lunch, as you can see.

INQUIRING PERSON: Are you a not-for-profit or a cooperative?

ME:  Again, the word you use should be were, not are.  The past tense, even the imperfect, is acceptable, but, aside from the blog, we are talking about things that have happened some time ago.  (Putting my fork down)  We refer to these times as the past and make linquistic  amendments to our language to account for this.  (Pause)  We were not a not-for-profit only in the sense that, after paying rent and utilities each month, no profit was made.

INQUIRING PERSON: (ignoring the quip, which nettles a bit – I thought it was funny): How big is your press?

ME (blushing):  Well, I haven’t measured, but I haven’t had any complai- OH!  The press!  Right,  well, it’s a 24 x 36” Takach etching press.  It can accommodate a full  22 x 30″ sheet  of paper.  But, you know, it feels bigger than it looks.

INQUIRING PERSON (frowning): What does “ningyo” mean?  Am I even pronouncing it right?

ME:  Yes.   Neen – gyo.  It’s Japanese for “doll”.  It also means a person who is half human/half fish, like a mermaid.  Do you like mermaids?

INQUIRING PERSON: (Ignoring the question) Why did you name it that?

ME: Well, I didn’t want to name it after myself, since I hear my own name frequently enough when I’m scolding myself.  I also didn’t want to name it, say, after the street number (i.e. “Studio 81″) like so many restaurants do, or after the street itself (i.e. “Spring Street Editions”).  So I naturally named it ningyo.

INQUIRING PERSON:  I notice you keep using lower cases.  You clearly felt no need to capitalize the name, but never mind that.  What about the rabbit?  The logo is a rabbit. It’s still on your door.  Shouldn’t ningyo mean “rabbit”?

ME:   (reflecting) …perhaps it should,  but I cannot change the Japanese language.  I haven’t looked into it, but the red tape, you know.  Nevertheless, you are correct, the rabbit has nothing to do with the word ningyo, nor does a rabbit relate in any way to a mermaid.  Do you like mermaids?

(Ignored again!  Then silence, frowning, obviously still confused.  My quesadilla has grown to room temp.)

ME:  Well now, if you’ll excuse me I-

INQUIRING PERSON:  Of course, sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Curcio, and good luck in your future endeavors.

ME: Thanks so much for your interest!  (then incomprehensible, disgruntled muttering, sotto voce)

This concludes the exchange.  I hope that this imaginary yet accurate conversation has helped explain the completely ambiguous nature of the name of my deceased gallery and current blog.  No doubt as time goes by I will continue to construct new rationales and raisons d’etre for an etching studio, gallery and blog with a name that, to my chagrin, the public found so hard to process or even pronounce.  For now, excepting the fact that I have just written about it, it is the last thing on my mind.

Bored Now

Bored Now

Filed under: Uncategorized

Edvard Munch’s Groundbreaking Contribution to Printmaking

Before Munch’s famous breakdown of 1909, the great Norwegian threw himself into printmaking with a fervor shown by very few of history’s great artists: not only as a master printmaker in the tradition of Rembrandt, Goya, and Cassatt (among others) but as an innovator of striking originality whose influence on subsequent printmakers still resonates, primarily but not exclusively in woodcut.

"In the Brain of Man" woodcut, 1897
“In the Brain of Man” woodcut, 1897

Drypoint

Munch took up drypoint in 1894 – the first of the mediums he was to conquer – for he seemed to have a natural instinct for all available printmaking methods, before taking up etching and lithography on a few weeks later.  Copper was probably the easiest substrate to work on as he could carry it around with him, along with needle in pocket, and draw on site at the gatherings of artists at Zum Schwarzen Ferkal (The Black Piglet, the famous watering hole to the Berlin Bohemia).  Drypoint also made sense as an introductory print medium for its simplicity and lack of chemicals.  Munch’s main focus, however, was on further developing his established motifs from his The Frieze of Life series (which included his most famous early works including The Scream, Jealousy and Puberty among others) in print form.  He seemed to grasp the medium immediately, with a delicacy that his patron Julius Meier-Graefe (the most famous German art-historian of the day, biographer of Dostoyevsky and the first to encourage Munch to try his hand at printmaking, publishing of Munch’s first portfolio of prints), when describing the drypoint version of Night in St. Cloud, wrote: “Like all decent engravings,” (in this case drypoints/etchings) “these prints appear colorful, without any color.  One must be blind – or highly cultured – if one cannot recognize this effect… all of them with the same subject as exceptionally good paintings, which one does not miss here.”

edvard munch, david curcio, death and the maiden, drypoint
Perhaps Munch’s very first drypoint, Death and the Maiden of 1894, with subject matter alluding to sexual attitudes propagated by his fellow tortured bohemians: the Polish writer Stanislav Przybyszewski and the Swedish playwrite/misanthrope August Strindberg.  The fetuses at the border would become an important theme in Madonna and other later print work. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Edvard Munch, Edvard Munch: Lecture, , , , , , ,

Lobby Card #10: Caligula

david curcio

Lobby Card: Caligula (woodcut and drypoint on paper with embroidered border)

Caligula is one of the great train wrecks of film history.  Based on a screenplay by Gore Vidal, directed by Italian soft-porn director and ass-fetishist Tinto Brass and starring Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and a scabby, syphilitic Peter O’Toole as Caligula’s predecessor Tiberius… what could possibly go wrong?  Read more Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Lobby Card Series, , ,

Lobby Card #9: Videodrome

david curcio

Lobby Card: Videodrome (woodcut and drypoint with stitching and embroidered edges)

In the great canon of horror films, David Cronenberg invented his own sub-genre, aptly dubbed venereal horror .  His first film (Shivers, 1975) depicted a sexually-transmitted parasitic slug that turns a deluxe, self-sufficient condominium complex into a hive of ravenous, murderous sex fiends.  From here he went on to ever-more visceral body horror: a rabies outbreak in Toronto spread through bites and sexual contact (Rabid); a clinic wherein emotional disturbances are manifested into grotesque, physical, sometimes murderous form (The Brood); bad pregnancy pills that imbue offspring with mind-controlling abilities (Scanners, and yes, that’s the one with the exploding head); a brilliant meditation on disease (particularly the AIDS epidemic) in the gruesome remake of The Fly; twin gynecologists who develop tools for performing on the deformed (Dead Ringers); a more-than-admirable swipe at Burrough’s The Naked Lunch (with a typewriter, part insect and part anus, who talks like an old Jewish man)… and the list goes on. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Lobby Card Series, ,

Lobby Card #8: The Night of the Iguana

david curcio

Lobby Card: The Night of the Iguana (woodcut and drypoint with embroidered border)

The Night of the Iguana features Richard Burton at his most manic as the disgraced, defrocked Reverend Shannon.  Veiled allusions to statutory rape suggest the cause of his ostracism, reducing him to a job he  he considers his last grasp at existence – leading bus tours in Mexico.  It is for him the final stop before that “long swim.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Lobby Card Series, , ,

Lobby Card #7: Hellraiser

david curcio

Lobby Card: Hellraiser (drypoint and woodcut with colored pencil and embroidered edges)

Hellraiser may be the culmination of the “dissolution of the nuclear family” genre of horror films that dominated the 1980s. Spurred by developing class divisions, soaring divorce rates and reports of domestic abuse, and the fear that the picket fences and urban sprawl we surrounded and protected ourselves with in the 50s and 60s had become our prisons and our hells, we came to fear that the danger lurks at home (this brand of the genre was arguably started by Wes Craven, and came to ripe fruition in stellar 80s horror classics like The Stepfather, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and even the dreadfully campy Mommie Dearest – in my thinking more horror than drama).  Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Lobby Card Series, , ,

The Real Man Behind Bob’s Discount Furniture

Jocko, currently of Bob's Discount Furniture

Jocko, currently of Bob’s Discount Furniture

Bob’s Discount Furniture has gained an almost maniacal fan base, mostly due to the enginuity Bob has shown in passing the savings onto the customer for shit dinette and bedroom ensembles made across the sea by Chinese people getting about $.50/day.  He gained the adoration of millions, many of whom have tabled their love of Justin Beiber, Oprah, Ellen and Edvard Munch to spend time idolizing the furniture magnate. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Levity, , , ,

Lobby Card #11: My Dinner with Andre

david curcio

Lobby Card: My Dinner with Andre: “We’re ghosts, we’re phantoms.  What are we?  And that’s to face the fact that you’re completely alone.  And to accept that you’re alone is to accept death.”

With no plot as such, My Dinner with Andre uses one of the most simple concepts imaginable – two people having a conversation – and crams it with enough ideas to chew on for a lifetime, or at least to keep us coming back for multiple viewings. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Lobby Card Series, , , , ,

Lobby Card #6: Bad Lieutenant

curcio david

Lobby Card: Bad Lieutenant, 1992 (d. Abel Ferarra)

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/david/Desktop/lobby%20card%20text/badlt.doc

Abel Ferarra’s detached detailing of the last four days of a corrupt New York Lieutenant’s life will doubtfully never lose its shock value, or the bloodless but emotional violence that earned it its NC-17 rating in when it came out 1993.  Harvey Keitel is the lieutenant in question, and his apple’s rotten to the core.  After a slow, mournful dance with a hooker and a tranny in a squalid room in the Mayflower Hotel, he unsteadily pours himself a glass of vodka, places the glass down and drinks half the contents of the bottle until the liquid spews from the sides of his mouth, then proceeds to stagger about in his most honest and bemusing full-frontal nude scene to date (and there have been a lot).  He spoons coke into his nose after dropping his kids off at school; he jerks off in front of two Jersey girls while one of them is forced to mimic giving head; he is a gambler, a junkie (“…killer… cop” as the tagline has it), and to recount his reprehensible acts here would take up too much time and space, so suffice to say the litany is not brief.  A desperate attempt at salvation following the investigation of a nun’s rape culminates in a religious epiphany/breakdown and hallucination of Christ, whom he alternately berates and begs forgiveness from (despite his wobbly security in salvation due to his Catholicism (“I’m blessed… I’m a fuckin’ Catholic” he tells his bookie).  The drug-addled religious sentiment (if his mind is capable of sentiment as such) prompts him, against his better judgment (thought that’s not saying much) to forgive the nun’s rapists (after sharing a bowl of crack with them at their arrest) and, in a sadly misdirected attempt at religious forgiveness and redemption (not to mention ill-advised policing), he lets them go free.

The movie tracks his final days as they play out during the Mets-Dodgers world series: convincing his fellow cops to bet on the Mets, who he is sure will lose, he gets ever-deeper into the hole as he sinks money he does not have into the Dodgers (particularly Daryl Strawberry, another famous drug-addled mess) to the tune of $120k.  None of his efforts can stop him from getting his brains blown out in the final reel.

curcio blog

A tense World Series on the car radio.

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/david/Desktop/lobby%20card%20text/badlt.doc

Ferarra wrote the screenplay with Zoe Lund, star of his early film Ms. 45, a cult classic and among the first (and far and away the best) in the 70s sub-genre that has come to be known as ‘rape-revenge.’  He supposedly had Dean Martin (!) in mind for the lead role (this is according to an Esquire article on Keitel from the early-mid 90′s by the journalist Nick Tosches’ and a bit suspect as Tosches had just published his own biography on Dino.)  Keitel did not want the role at first but eventually came around, throwing himself into it – true to his method roots – with his entire soul.

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/david/Desktop/lobby%20card%20text/badlt.doc

The movie has the gritty New York feel of so many Ferarra films.  The uptown apartments, Central Park foliage and wide avenues of Woody Allen cede to the claustrophobic streets of the Lower East Side of the early 90s, when it was still littered with crack vials and gangs.  Ferarra is known primarily for a handful of films he did with Christopher Walken - The Funeral, The Addiction and (a close runner up for his masterpiece after Bad Lieutenant) King of New York.  His films capture both the chaos and eerie silences of New York better and more consistently than any director I can think of (a few film that have a similar seedy, filthy ‘New York State-of-Mind’ are Larry Fessiden’s Habit, Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Scorsese’s Mean Streets.  The cast of Bad Lieutenant is populated with locals and real-life cops playing small rolls, as well as Ferarra/New York regulars Victor Argo and Paul Calderon.  The film’s shoe-string budget seems to help drive home the realism and brutality – much of the film was shot without permission – and the real life (unpaid extras) New Yorkers are oblivious of the drama, much less the filming, unfolding before them.

It can be argued that a director is only as bad as his worst film, but that would be unfair to every working director, for it is an artist’s job to take chances that don’t always pan out.  In some cases, however, the output of crap outweighs the good, or a director seems to lose his touch.  Ferarra has made a handful of dreadful films, but it is best in the case of this director to focus on his great works, of which there are many (all set in the New York he knows so well), and take a patient approach to his failed experiments or projects where studios meddled too much (or he was too coked out to give a shit).  In short, best to watch the good stuff and remind ourselves that while he is not a genius, he has certainly had his moments and masterpieces.

Punishing, bemusing, occasionally sickening and always riveting, Bad Lieutenant stands today as both Keitel and Ferarra’s mutual and respective masterpieces and, pound-for-pound, this writer’s personal favorite film.

curcio blog

Bad Lieutenant, 1992.

Filed under: Lobby Card Series, , ,

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