The history of bossa nova starts with this recording:
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.
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.
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”. This also explains why Brauner too is a bit of a cinematic Losfeld who typically financed high art with exploitation.
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).
“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.
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.
Isabel Sarli was an Argentinian model and actress known for her risqué films. As such, she was the Latin American Brigitte Bardot. The first film to show her nude was Thunder Among the Leaves (1957) which has her skinny-dipping from 50:09 to 51:38. There are also nude indigenous females (26:34 and subsequent scenes).
If you are more into the wackier films like I am, there is Carne (1968) with Isabel Sarli as Delicia, a worker in a meat-packing factory; Fuego (1969) with Sarli as a nymphomaniac; and Fiebre (1970) in which Sarli falls in love with a horse when she sees a stallion mounting a mare.
Searching for “Isabel Sarli”, “sexploitation” and “Latsploitation” brings up snippets such as “generally boring sexploitation film about one of those favorite characters in male reveries, a nymphomaniac.” ([on Fuego] in Cue – Volume 40, Issues 1-13 – Page 67 (1971)); “Isabel Sarli breasting her way through further south-of-the-border sexploitation affairs. […] There’s never been a nudie movie queen more amply endowed than Argentina’s Isabel Sarli who simply has to shed her clothing to make things like story and characterization seem irrelevant.” (Film Bulletin – Volume 39 (1970)); “Woman and Temptation is zero as art, but the talents of the buxom Isabel Sarli make this a top sexploiter entry.” (Filmfacts – Volume 12 (1969)) and “While we cannot claim that Sarli’s films would adhere to a feminist agenda …” (Latsploitation, Exploitation Cinemas, and Latin America (2009)).
Actress Sylvia Miles died. She was 94. I discovered her via the book Cult Movie Stars (1991) which I bought the year it came out. It describes Miles as a “quirky, funny, busty blonde New York character actress.”
The 1990s was the time of video rental stores and I after I had read Cult Movie Stars from cover to cover I scoured Antwerp looking for old films. So I saw a handful of Miles’ films including Heat (1972) [above], as well as many other Warhol films. Heat opens with the wonderful John Cale song, “Days of Steam” from the album The Academy in Peril (1972).
Dr. John was an American singer-songwriter best-known for his single “Right Place, Wrong Time” (1973).
There are two songs from his debut album Gris-Gris (1968) on YouTube, “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” and “I Walk on Guilded Splinters”, both have very nice percussion breaks.
Of note is the likeness of “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” to the work of Tom Waits (think Swordfishtrombones, 1983), esp. the aforementioned percussion breaks.
Dr. John is one of these figures one could study for a week, there are so many connections. Below is him reading “Berenice” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Trivia: the beginning of “Right Place, Wrong Time” sounds like the beginning of “Spirit in the Sky” (1969) and the whole of “Right Place, Wrong Time” is very much reminiscent of a seventies groovy soul song with a chorus of “your love, your love” with something added like “is unforgettable” or “is extraordinary”, the title of which escapes me.