Monthly Archives: July 2019

RIP Rip Torn (1931 – 2019)

Rip Torn was an American actor. To an international audience he is remembered for his roles in Coming Apart (1969), Maidstone (1970), Tropic of Cancer (1970) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1974).

Excerpt of Coming Apart
Famous hammer hitting scene of Maidstone
Tropic of Cancer, full Italian dubbed version
The Man Who Fell to Earth trailer

The book Cult Movie Stars describes his integrity and says that he “took parts only in films that he considered artistic and/or politically correct.”

He was also known for his on-set conflicts. While filming Maidstone for example, Torn struck director and star Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer. With the camera rolling, Mailer bit Torn’s ear and they wrestled to the ground. The fight continued until it was broken up by cast and crew members. The fight is featured in the film.

RIP João “bossa nova” Gilberto (1931 − 2019)

João Gilberto was a Brazilian musician known for pioneering the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s.

The history of bossa nova starts with this recording:

Canção do Amor Demais (1958) by Elizete Cardoso

Canção do Amor Demais (1958) by Elizete Cardoso features the compositions “Chega de Saudade” and “Outra Vez”, both featuring João Gilberto’s guitar beat, which would go on to become a staple of bossa nova.

Then there is bossa nova’s defining moment, the release of “Bim-Bom” (1958), most often claimed to the first bossa recording.

Bim-Bom” (1958)

While researching Gilberto’s death it came to my attention that bossa nova is considered a nobrow phenomenon, i.e. the mixing of high and low culture .

Perhaps Caetano Veloso was the first to make this point in 2013 in The Guardian:

“It [bossa nova] was possibly the first popular music where the themes were existential […] It’s part of what makes it high art. Third-world countries usually produce raw materials that are then transformed into capital by first world nations. This happens in industry, but it also happens in the arts. What was revolutionary about bossa nova is that a third-world country was creating high art on its own terms, and selling that art around the world.” —Caetano Veloso in “Why bossa nova is ‘the highest flowering of Brazilian culture”.

When I further investigated, I came upon this quote by José Miguel Wisnik in Robert Stam’s World Literature, Transnational Cinema, and Global Media (2019) which makes the nobrow point explicitly:

The result within MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) was a perhaps unprecedented synthesis of “high” and “low” culture. Wisnik notes the “permeability established, beginning with Bossa Nova, between so-called culture and popular cultural production, forming a field of encounters that cannot be understood within the binary between music of entertainment and creative and informative music.

RIP Artur Brauner (1918 − 2019)

After the death of Ben Barenholtz, another film producer expires.

Artur Brauner was a German film producer and entrepreneur of Polish origin.

I came upon him by way of Jess Franco (Brauner produced Vampyros Lesbos) and also via the film adaptations of Edgar Wallace (The Devil Came from Akasava, also directed by Franco).

Hollywood Reporter summarizes my sympathy for this man in this soundbite: “while his dramas won awards, it was sex and sensationalism that often paid the bills”[1]. This also explains why Brauner too is a bit of a cinematic Losfeld who typically financed high art with exploitation.

The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960, full film)

The Good Soldier Schweik (1960, excerpt)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970, full film)

Vampyros Lesbos (1971, Soledad Miranda dance)

RIP Ben “midnight movie” Barenholtz (1935 – 2019)

Ben Barenholtz was a film producer who is best-known for financing Miller’s Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991) and Requiem for a Dream (2000).

Requiem for a Dream, one of the best drug films ever.

“Best-know” is a exaggeration, because outside of the film world he is not known at all. I’ve written about my fascination with financing of art films in a blogpost titled the “cinematic Losfeld” in which I compared these film producers with Éric Losfeld.

My comparison to Éric Losfeld is perhaps not optimal, since Losfeld worked in the shadows of legality and Barenholtz worked in the margins but not in illegality.

El Topo, the first midnight movie and an archetypal cult film

When Barenholtz was younger, he was a movie theater manager and film programmer. As such, he was famous for creating the concept of the midnight movie, the programming of cult films at midnight (because of there unsuitability for children) during the 1970s and 1980s, before VCR and video rental came and changed film consumption forever.