Intl. Notebook Sep 29 2013
CARAVAN'S END
The learning is in the journey.

Last night’s finale of Cinema Caravan was probably the best evening of the weeklong festival. Organizers screened several short films, then the excellent band Cro-Magnon turned the event into an outdoor dance party, playing in a corner of the plaza as bottles of sake offered up gratis by festival organizers were passed from hand to eager hand. Over the course of the week we learned that Cinema Caravan is well established in Japan, migrating from city to city like a moveable feast for the senses, but that this is the first time it has been held in another country. The Basque Country doesn’t have a very large Japanese community, which made the week a real novelty for many here—the food, the drink, and the excellent music were revelations, but it was watching the films that imparted at least a token understanding of Japanese cultural values. By watching movies people learned what a culture from the opposite side of the planet finds humorous, or erotic, or frightening, or thrilling. If Cinema Caravan were to visit San Sebastian again it would certainly be welcomed with open arms. Meanwhile, there’s another film festival going on right now—the San Sebastian Film Festival, or Zinemaldia, which ends tonight and will bring another crescendo of activity to this city by the sea. We didn’t attend any of that festival’s events, but who knows—maybe next year. Below are a few shots from the week.

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Modern Pulp | Vintage Pulp Sep 26 2013
BETTER THAN FICTION
Hiroyuki Nakano’s sword opera Samurai Fiction challenges festival audience but ultimately leaves it satisfied.


San Sebastian in general and Cinema Caravan in particular are keeping us busy, but we have time for a quick post, so here we go. Last night we attended a screening of Hiroyuki Nakano’s 1998 adventure/comedy SF: Episode One, also known as Samurai Fiction. It’s a quirky movie, imaginatively shot mostly in black and white, and involves a young samurai on a mission to both avenge a friend’s death and retrieve a priceless sword. He encounters an ex-samurai who tries to teach him the wisdom of non-violence, with limited success. The movie is set in 1689 and looks a bit like Kurosawa’s great period pieces, but subverts that similarity with its humor and modern rock 'n’ roll soundtrack. Since it was in Japanese with English subtitles, the mostly Basque audience was perhaps a bit baffled, but even those with language difficulties could enjoy the film’s visual creativity, and ultimately everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Watching Samurai Fiction got us thinking about our many Japanese posters, and because we actually have access to that stuff wherever we go, we decided to share five of the nicer pieces in our collection. In terms of  information on these, time is a little tight to research them carefully, but here’s what we know: poster one—nothing; poster two—Nawa Hada Jigoku: Rope Skin Hell, with Naomi Tani, 1979; poster three—we’re unsure on that one, but that’s definitely Kayoko Honoo in the art; poster four—Kapone no shatei, yamato damashi, aka A Boss with a Samurai Spirit, with Tomisaburô Wakayama, 1971; poster five—nothing. But check back in a week or so and we’ll have added everything we can find out to this post. See ya later.


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Intl. Notebook Sep 25 2013
KONKURITO JUNGLE
Black and White in color.

Cinema Caravan continued last night with a screening of the 2006 anime hit Tekkonkinkreet, which is based on a best-selling seinen manga series by Taiyö Matsumoto about two orphans named Black and White living in a dystopian place called Treasure City. In the main plot, Black and White battle against Yakuza that want to come in and take over the city. From the poster you can get a sense of how dizzingly dense Treasure City’s urban landscape is, which serves as a nice backdrop for various chases, battles with robot assassins, and a confrontation with the dark side of the self in the form of a minotaur. Don’t ask—just see it. The name of the movie (and manga) is a play on the Japanese words for steel reinforced concrete, which is "tekkin konkurito," or something like that. The film may be animated, but seinen manga are aimed more or less at an adult audience, so have no fears about this being like a Disney movie. Anyway, there’s plenty about Tekkonkinkreet online so we’ll stop at this juncture. Tonight, Cinema Caravan screens something called Samurai Fiction, which sounds promising. We’ll let you know how that is. Below is a really shitty photo from the festival. Note to selves: invest in a real camera.

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Intl. Notebook Sep 24 2013
PLANET CARAVAN
Japan invades the Basque Country.

This week the ever-growing San Sebastian Film Festival in the Basque Country of Spain kicked off with the usual round of premieres at the city’s Kursaal and celeb walks along the seafront on Zurriola Beach. But in the city’s old quarter in a plaza tucked between an old church, some residential buildings, and a wooded hill, a group of Japanese deejays, musicians, foodies and cinephiles launched a weeklong festival-within-a-festival they’re calling Cinema Caravan. Last night the bill included a classic Nikkatsu roman porno, the 1973 Tatsumi Kumashiro comedy Yojôhan fusuma no urabari, aka The World of Geisha, starring Junko Miyashita. The film was projected outdoors while a Bedouin-style tent served as a bar/club, and two Japanese bodegas dished up soba noodles and fish. Before and after the movie the Japanese singer Naoito played beautifully, and the rest of the time world-class deejays spun tunes. All this in a plaza redecorated to resemble to a Japanese garden.
 
The San Sebastian Film Festival is a worthy event, and this year’s version has stars like Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall, but it’s also expensive and chic and probably off-putting to some. Cinema Caravan, by contrast, is intimate and inclusive and everyone can feel a bit important. The event’s website says it best: Unfurling a screen for outdoor viewing in the different landscapes of our journey, we set the stage of non-routine experience in an everyday place. And in the process, we learn from those we meet on the road, their wisdom on how to live, and experience their varied cultures. Pulp Intl. is here all week, and if you’re in this part of the world (interestingly, our analytics tell us Spain is Pulp Intl.’s fifth most popular country) then consider stopping by. The festival runs through Saturday night with more movies, food, deejays, live music, dance, and fun. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 18 2013
MANSION OF MADNESS
Aiiieee! I can’t stand the clutter!

You can find plenty of amateur reviews of La mansion de la niebla, aka Murder Mansion, aka Maniac Mansion around the internet, so we won’t add another. We watched it, though, and basically, it’s about a bunch of people stranded in a fogbound manor house, and a plot to frighten one of them to death. Hope that didn’t give away too much. What really struck us was the poster, which was painted by an artist who signed his work Mac. Mac was short for Macario Gomez, and for four decades beginning in 1955 this Spanish painter created posters for such films as Dr. Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More, El Cid and others. Gomez’s effort for La mansion de la niebla is a bit cheeseball, but we rather enjoy the numerous elements he managed to fit in, including a disembodied face, some skulls, a ribcage, a full moon, assorted gravestones, some random ironwork, a spider web, a bare tree, a couple of bats, and, of course, copious fog. Faced with all that, it’s no wonder the central figure is fleeing for her life. But just to show that Gomez really does have top tier talent, we’ve shared a few of his more successful posters below. La mansion de la niebla, an Italian/Spanish co-production, premiered as Quando Marta urlò dalla tomba in Italy, and in Spain six weeks later, today 1972.

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Hollywoodland Jul 15 2013
MEXICO GETS JINXED
Tourist board taps gringa to lure gringos across the border.

The above photos of American actress Jinx Falkenberg show her posing in costume for her film Tahiti Nights, and she’s holding a Mexican tourist poster for which she had modeled around the same time. This isn’t as a much of a mismatch as you might think. Falkenberg was actually born Eugenia Lincoln Falkenberg in Barcelona, Spain. Being Spanish-born (her parents were American) is of course not remotely the same as being Mexican, but it’s worth mentioning. The truth is she was probably chosen for the poster simply because she was the most famous young Hollywood star associated with Mexico in the consciousness of the American public. She spoke Spanish, of course, and had gotten her start in Spanish films like El carnaval del Diablo, but we doubt average Americans had a clue about that at the time. But once she reached Hollywood she continued to act in films with ethnic themes. For instance, in 1943 she starred in Two Señoritas from Chicago, in 1944 she played an islander in the aforementioned Tahiti Nights, and the next year she played a Mexican girl in The Gay Señorita. So when you add together her birthplace, language skills, and movie roles, she isn’t just some random gabacha the tourist board dug up. While it’s possible it might have been more authentic to use Delores del Rio or Lupe Velez, both of them were much older than Falkenberg, and in any case, maybe they were asked and said no. Below you’ll notice that we managed to find that travel poster, and whatever the reasoning behind its creation, it sure came out looking good. The photos date from 1944, and the poster was used for the years 1944 and 1945.  


 
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Vintage Pulp Jun 14 2013
FEDERAL HEAT
The FBI’s ten most wanted.

Above, a mix of ten covers of F.B.I. and F.B.I. Selecciones, published by two Spanish companies, Bruguera and Ediciones Rollán, during the 1960s and early 1970s. Art is by Prieto Muriana and others. Also, you may notice that cover three is modeled after a famous portrait of James Dean, and, though we aren't 100% sure, cover ten, just above, looks like it was based on Monica Vitti. 

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Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique May 7 2013
THE GUNMAN IN HIS LABYRINTH
Police Gazette gets readers up to date with Ava Gardner but it’s their Castro story that leads someplace interesting.

Above are a couple of scans from an issue of The National Police Gazette published this month in 1963 with cover star Ava Gardner. Gardner had been living in Spain and hadn’t been in a movie in three years, but was about to appear in the historical war drama 55 Days at Peking with Charleton Heston and David Niven. The Gazette discusses how she’d gotten fed up with the U.S.—particularly the American press. She had been particularly annoyed by the rumor that she was involved with Sammy Davis, Jr., a story that took flight after several magazines published photos of the two holding hands. When asked why she was returning to Hollywood after being out of circulation for so long, Gardner, in typically blunt fashion, replied, “I need the money.”

Moving on, we’ve pointed out that the Gazette made a longstanding habit of using Adolf Hitler on its covers, but his wasn’t the only face that moved magazines. After Fidel Castro assumed leadership of Cuba, the Gazette regularly wrote scathing stories about him. We’ve already learned that he let Viet Cong killer squads train in Cuba, and that he planned to “arm southern Negroes” in order to foment revolution in the U.S. Well, now we learn he was also a rapist. Figures, right? He might have been supreme leader of an island filled with beautiful women, but people always want what they can’t have—in this case, a teenaged ship captain’s daughter named Lisa. Gazette writer Bob Hartford cranks up the melodrama:
 
Castro laughed drunkenly as he weaved his way into Lisa’s sitting room.
 
“Have you changed your mind, my pet?” he demanded.
 
“No,” replied the brave but frightened girl.
 
All Castro needs at that point is a Lacoste sweater and a fraternity paddle and his transformation into pure evil would be complete. But as fanciful as the story seems, Lisa really did exist. Her real name was Marita Lorenz and she was Castro’s live-in mistress for several months in 1959. While Lorenz herself never suggested she was ever raped by Castro, the two did have a falling out around the issue of her unplanned pregnancy, which was terminated in its sixth month. Lorenz later said the abortion was forced on her while she was drugged; Castro’s associates claim that she wanted it. Lorenz went on to join anti-Castro activists in the U.S., and on a fundraising visit with the deposed Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, became involved with him. She was still traveling to and from Cuba, and was recruited by the CIA for a Castro assassination attempt. But instead of poisoning his food, like she’d been instructed, she abandoned the plot, supposedly because she still felt strongly for him. Lorenz later wrote about all this in two autobiographies.
 
In 1977, Lorenz told the New York Daily News that she met Lee Harvey Oswald in autumn 1963 at a CIA safe house in Miami. She claimed she met him again weeks later along with a group of anti-Castro Cubans and they had Dallas street maps. We all know what happened next. Lorenz eventually testified about this before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, but her story was deemed unreliable. We suppose bouncing between two dictators and acting as a double agent will tend toraise a red flag with American congressmen, though these things have no bearing on whether she was telling the truth. It’s interesting though, isn’t it? You’d think that if a single man of his own accord assassinated another man the surrounding circumstances wouldn’t be so… labyrinthine. Yet lurking near the supposed black swan event of the Kennedy killing were double-agents like Lorenz, spooks like E. Howard Hunt, underworld figures like Eladio Ceferino del Valle and others. Just saying. In any case, we’ll have more from the Police Gazette and more on Fidel Castro soon.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2013
PSYCH WARDH
Vice and virtue in Vienna.

So, quite by coincidence there’s another movie we watched recently that also premiered today, though thirty years later than The Shanghai Gesture (see below). The movie is Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh, which would translate as “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh,” but was released in the U.S. as Blade of the Ripper. This flick is considered one of the best gialli ever made, and it’s tough to argue the point. It’s intricate, absorbing, unpredictable, colorful, and shot in an array of amazing external locations and inside one of the greatest mid-century modern apartments ever conceived. It also has Edwige Fenech, whose gifts are well known. Taking place mainly in Vienna and climaxing in Sitges, Spain (which happens to be one of our favorite towns in Europe) Signora Wardh is a taleof obssession and infidelity wrapped in a murder mystery. Mrs. Wardh does indeed have a strange vice, but that’s just window dressing. It’s her that’s being hunted throughout the movie—either by a serial killer, a demented ex-lover, or both. Or neither. They say that the only way to keep a secret is if no more than two people know it and one of them is dead. But the only way to commit murder is if the killer has an iron clad alibi, and for that he often needs help. Rule one conflicts with rule two, and that’s the fun of Signora Wardh. Above you see a rare and wonderful Italian promo poster painted by Giuliano Nistri, the younger brother of equally talented Enzo Nistri. We'll get back to both Nistri brothers a little later. Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh opened in Italy today in 1971.

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Intl. Notebook Dec 6 2012
MODERN 1947
It was a year to remember.


Above is a photo of Manhattan, New York City, in the year 1947, looking from Battery Park toward midtown. Here you see everything—the Staten Island Ferry Building at bottom, Wall Street to the right, the 59th Street Bridge crossing Welfare Island at upper right, and in the hazy distance, the Empire State Building—at that time arguably America’s most recognized symbol. In the aftermath of a war that had destroyed Europe’s and Japan’s industrial capacity, the U.S. was the unquestioned power on the planet, with massive economic might, a military that had taken up permanent residence in dozens of countries, and a growing stock of nuclear weapons. Two years later the Soviets would detonate their first nuclear bomb, shaking the American edifice to its core. Meanwhile, all around the world, the seeds of change were taking root. Below is a look at the world as it was in 1947.


Firemen try to extinguish a blaze in Ballantyne’s Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand.


American singer Lena Horne performs in Paris.

The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and the aftermath of the execution of Hisakazu Tanaka, who was the Japanese governor of occupied Hong Kong during World War II.


Sunbathers enjoy Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and a military procession rumbles along Rua Catumbi.


Assorted Brooklyn Dodgers and manager Leo Durocher (shirtless in the foreground) relax at Havana, Cuba’s Estadio La Tropical, where they were holding spring training that year. Second photo, Cuban players for the Habana Leones celebrate the first home run hit at Havana’s newly built Estadio Latinoamericano.


Thousands of Muslims kneel toward Mecca during prayer time in Karachi, Pakistan.


A snarl of traffic near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.


The city hall of Cape Town, South Africa is lit up to celebrate the visit of the British Royal Family. Second photo, during the same South African trip, the royals are welcomed to Grahamstown.


A wrecked fighter plane rusts in front of Berlin’s burned and abandoned parliament building, the Reichstag. Second photo, a shot of ruins in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter, near Rousseau Island.


A crowd in Tel Aviv celebrates a United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.

Men and bulls run through the streets of Pamplona, Spain during the yearly Festival of San Fermin.


Fog rolls across the Embarcadero in San Francisco; a worker descends from a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Detectives study the body of a woman found murdered in Long Beach, California. Two P-51 Mustang fighters fly above Los Angeles.


Danish women from Snoghøj Gymnastics School practice in Odense.


Tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo demonstrate against the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.


A beauty queen draped with a sash that reads “Modern 1947” is lifted high above the boardwalk in Coney Island, New York.


A woman in Barbados holds atop her head a basket filled with fibers meant for burning as fuel.


Mahatma Gandhi, his bald head barely visible at upper center, arrives through a large crowd for a prayer meeting on the Calcutta Maidan, India.


Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson is hounded for autographs in the dugout during a Brooklyn Dodgers game.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.

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