I’m sending a shout-out of gratitude to my dad.
I invited my parents to spend six months with me last year. When my American friends hear this, they first feign politeness and then their façade breaks down and they ask me in shock how one could possibly live under the same roof with one’s parents as an adult without going batty. I would’ve heartily echoed this sentiment in my twenties but to paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, time changes everything.
My dad has always been furiously energetic, and is always happier when he has his hands full. So, when they were visiting last year, my parents were always looking for things they could “do for me.” (I’m still trying to find some of the stuff they put away in “a safe place”!)
I have about 1500 VHS tapes that I made off cable, mostly TCM, over a period of about 10 years. As one of his projects, my dad put together a VHS library in an upstairs walk-in closet. He collected the tapes, numbered and indexed them, and arranged them in boxes. Months later, I am now realizing what a joy it is to have this large trove organized and easily accessible.
Before he shelved the tapes away, my dad (always the scientific thinker in the family!) asked me to divide them into three categories (A, B and C) based upon how urgently I needed access to them, thus arranging the tapes accordingly. So, from the relentless listmaker in me, here is a gratuitous sample of “A” items, the films I’d like to get to soon. Maybe I’ll be able to make a serious dent in them over winter break. None of them are available on region 1 DVD as far as I know:
Budd Boetticher (The Tall T, Buchanan Rides Alone, Decision Before Sundown); Frank Borzage (Smiling Through, Strange Cargo, The Mortal Storm, Hearts Divided); among the last few Samuel Fullers I haven’t seen (Fixed Bayonets, The Baron Of Arizona); ditto Fritz Lang (Human Desire, An American Guerrilla In The Philippines); Jean Renoir (La Marseillaise, The Little Theatre Of Jean Renoir; Woman On The Beach); a gang of Tod Browning (West Of Zanzibar, The Unholy Three, The Thirteenth Chair); King Vidor (The Crowd, Show People, The Champ); Glauber Rocha’s Terra Em Transe; Atom Egoyan’s made-for-Canadian-TV Gross Misconduct; Philippe Garrel’s Le Couer Fantome; Youssef Chahine’s Silence, We’re Rolling; Alain Cavalier’s Le Combat Dans L’Ile; Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates; Jean Gremillion’s Remorques; John Cassavetes’ Husbands; Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dynamite; and Frank Tashlin’s Artists And Models.
Yikes, synthesizers on a Led Zeppelin record?! Indeed. Here's one of my favorite Zep tunes, “All My Love” [mp3], on their unfairly maligned “commercial” record, their last studio release, In Through The Out Door (1978).
You know how as the years pass, a song can often fluidly change its appeal, different aspects of it shifting into the foreground and catching your ear and becoming more important for you? What I like best these days about “All My Love” is Jimmy Page’s rhythm playing, something I long heard only in the background. Not at all befitting his hard-rock pioneer cred, his guitar tone here is thin, brittle and stringy, almost ready to dissolve. He alternates (sometimes in the same bar) between a reggae-ish strum and single-note figures bent so strongly that he sounds occasionally like a pedal-steel player. All rhythm guitarists looking to learn how to play fills: look no further!
And then there’s that big, fat and beautiful analog synth solo at 2:35 that is the very essence of simplicity in single-note playing. (It often takes more courage to play simple melodies with forthrightness and respect than it does to play complex ones!) And when the band changes key in the closing moments (at 4:25), we float away on a small wave of 'pop' transcendence….
Coming next week: Roberto Rossellini goes to India.