ningyoprints

Notes from ningyo editions studio and gallery

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, but much more expensive than an actual train wreck.  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 »

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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 we always hid from in fact lurks at home (e.g. “The call is coming from inside the house!”) This strain of the genre was arguably started by Wes Craven and came to fruition in stellar 80s horror classics like The Stepfather, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and even the campy Mommie DearestRead the rest of this entry »

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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 »

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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 »

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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  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 was released in 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 elegiac and brutal 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, who he alternately berates and begs forgiveness from, despite his wobbly sense of security in the salvation department due to his Catholicism (“I’m blessed… I’m a fuckin’ Catholic” he tells his bookie).  The drug-addled religious epiphany (though everything he does is drud-addled) prompts him, against his better judgment (thought that’s not saying much) to forgive the nun’s rapists after they all smoke some crack at their arrest and, in a maddeningly 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 a 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 great user) to the tune of $60k.  Having burnt all his bridges, none of his efforts can stop him from exactly what he has coming to him.

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) of the 70s “rape revenge” sub-genre.’  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 annoying journalist Nick Tosches, and a bit suspect as Tosches had just published his own biography on Dino).  Keitel did not initially want the role 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 all the trappings of Ferarra’s gritty, pre-Guilianni New York.  The uptown apartments, Central Park foliage and wide avenues of Woody Allen are of another planet above the claustrophobic streets of the Lower East Side of the early 90s, where the streets were still littered with crack viles.  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 grime, seething violence and eerie silences of New York 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 helps drive home the realism and brutality – much of it was shot without permission – and dozens of unpaid extras (including some staff at Bellevue Hospital and one NY Transit cop) are oblivious to the drama, much less the filming, unfolding before them.

To say that a director is only as bad as his worst film would be unfair to every working director. An artist’s job is to take chances. Some don’t always pan out.  In some cases the output of bad outweighs the good. Ferarra has made a number 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 and projects where studios meddled too much (or he was too coked out to give a shit).  Let’s watch the good stuff and remind ourselves that while he is not a genius, he is an original with at least a few masterpieces under his belt.

curcio blog

Bad Lieutenant, 1992.

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Lobby Card: #5 : Short Cuts

david curcio

Lobby Card: Short Cuts

An “Altman-esque” film on every level (giant ensemble cast with lives and plot lines intersecting  unexpectedly ),  Short Cuts is (loosely) based on six Raymond Carver short stories and a poem.  Altman moves the action from Carver’s Pacific Northwest to sun-drenched LA, turning the city into a microcosm of humanity, where butterfly effects abound and the interactions of the disparate characters have repercussions of which they are wholly unaware, sometimes with devastating consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lobby Card #4: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

david curcio

Lobby Card: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

     The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a gloomy, cheerless and ultimately heartbreaking story of the lugubrious, slow-paced monotony of real life espionage.  Based on the early John Le Carre novel, Richard Burton plays Alex Lemus, a British agent during the Cold War waiting for his marching orders: to defect to East Germany and provide false information to an odious German anti-Semite working as a British double-agent.  In the meantime, he lives out his lonely, booze-soaked life in England. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lobby Card #3: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

David Curcio

Lobby Card: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

A freakish, baffling anomaly of a film, Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans is Werner Herzog’s vague reimagining of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 masterpiece, albeit perhaps in name only (he denies having ever seen Ferrara’s version, although a few variations on certain scenes indicate he knew key scenes and plot points well enough).  Nicholas Cage , in a career-saving, dignity-restoring performance plays Terence McDonagh (Keitel’s character of the original- which is the subject of another Lobby Card – is unnamed), a cop who develops a Vicodin habit after harming his back as a result of an act of  valor during Hurricane Katrina. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lobby Card #2: Time Bandits

david curcio

Lobby Card: Time Bandits, 2013 15 x 11.5, drypoint, woodcut, colored pencil and embroidered border

I was nine years old when I saw Time Bandits, and what I saw were arms being ripped off then thrown into a giant pile of other arms; old ladies getting punched in the face with full and brutal force; a man hanging himself by accident; a villain who destroys his obsequious, moronic sidekicks for the most naive infractions.  And of course I was riveted, albeit with one foot cocked for a quick escape should things get really ugly.  And they did, right up to the final shot when our young child-hero’s parents are blown to bits by a smoldering piece of Evil, but I never even considered leaving, even to take a piss.  This story spoke to children in a way Superman or Raiders of the Lost Ark never could, because, unlike the messages inherent in those films, we really weren’t certain that things would turn out alright.  And of course they never quite do. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lobby Card Series #1: Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

lc_whos_afraid

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was director Mike Nichols’ first movie, and it locks the viewer into a claustrophobic train wreck of an evening fueled by booze and long-simmering resentments (which in turn are fueled by more booze).  The college president’s daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) and her brow-beaten, pathetically under-achieving husband (Richard Burton) whose years in the history department have reduced him to academic deadwood seemingly do nothing but drink, fight and banter.  When a new, young biology teacher and his meek simp of a wife stop by for drinks at 2 am, the night veers into hissing recriminations and devastating revelations for all involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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