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 the amazing city of 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.
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 we'll see if we can find something about that one. See ya soon.
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.
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.
Continental Film Review was a leading voice of foreign film in Britain, as well as a leading source of cheap thrills.
We’re showing you this August 1966 Continental Film Review for one reason—Raquel Welch. She appears in both the front and back of the magazine, and the latter photo was made while she was in the Canary Islands filming One Million Years B.C. That photo session featuring a blonde, windblown Welch was incredibly fruitful, at least if we’re to judge by the many different places we’ve seen frames from the shoot, including here, here, here and especially here. There had not been a sex symbol quite like Welch before, and in 1966 she had reached the apex of her allure, where she’d stay for quite a while.
On the cover of the magazine are Christina Schollin and Jarl Kulle, pictured during a tender moment from the Swedish romantic comedy Änglar, finns dom? aka Love Mates. Inside you get features on the Berlin and San Sebastian film festivals, Sophia Loren, Nieves Navarro, Anita Ekberg, and more. CFR had launched in 1952, and now, fourteen years later, was one of Britain’s leading publications on foreign film. It was also a leading publication in showing nude actresses, and in fact by the 1970s was probably more noteworthy for its nudity than its journalism. The move probably undermined its credibility, but most magazines—whether fashion, film, or erotic—began showing more in the 1970s. CFR was simply following the trend, and reached its raciest level around 1973, as in the issue here. Fifteen scans below.
Veteran illustrator and instructor Vicente B. Ballestar’s pulp art makes the scene in Donostia-San Sebastian.
We love it when readers do some pulp digging for us, especially on a Friday. Here’s an e-mail we got last night from an acquaintance in Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain:
Hola (P.S.G. Pumpometer). Here is some pulp you may like? This exhibit is at Casa Cultura Okendo, which you probably know is in Gros. The art is by Vicente B. Ballestar, a Catalan from Barcelona who painted many pulp covers. I thought the exhibit was quite interesting. There were at least 100 paintings. I have a scan and a few bad photos for you.
So now we’ll fill in the blanks for our friend (and thanks very much, by the way, for sending this to us). Vicente Ballestar was born in 1929, and worked primarily for the German publisher Bastion-Verlag, aka Bastei, where he created many of the often bizarre covers for the popular John Sinclair series. Later he went into fine art, the field in which he still works, and via his internationally published books about painting has become a renowned instructor of watercolor techniques. For someone who has worked steadily for such a long time, is widely read by art students, and has mounted exhibitions in places as far flung as Colombia and Italy, he has a rather minimal web presence. Even his blog is only two pages and hasn’t been updated for a year. But after a search we were able to find a few of his covers, and we’ve posted those below.
Donostia Zinemaldia examines life, death, and crime in America.
The Donostia Zinemaldia, aka San Sebastian Film Festival, is becoming one of the better fests in the world. Its 59th edition ended this weekend in Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain, and for the third year in a row we were there, though not for the festival per se. But we’re posting on it because it was thoroughly pulp-worthy due to the out-of-competition screenings of contemporary American crime films. The subset was called “The American Way of Death” and was restricted to films made within the last thirty years, including Goodfellas, Wild at Heart, Miller’s Crossing, King of New York, New Jack City, One False Move, Silence of the Lambs, Reservoir Dogs, Menace II Society, Red Rock West, Heat, Summer of Sam, Memento, Seven, Fargo, and twenty-five more. In fact, it must be one of the most comprehensive collections of American crime cinema ever screened, and the only significant film from the period they missed, in our opinion, was To Live and Die in L.A. As for the Festival itself, some of the stars who attended included Clive Owen, Antonio Banderas, and Glenn Close,who received a lifetime achievement award. The top prize, called the Concha de Oro or Golden Shell, was won by Los Pasos Dobles—or The Double Steps—by Isaki Lacuesta, and Julie Delpy picked up a special prize for her new movie. If you ever find yourself in northern Spain in September, we recommend passing through Donostia-San Sebastian for the fest. You may not be able to get into the screenings, but the surfing, bars and events are just tremendous, so that should console you.
Basque film festival mines sci-fi classic for program cover.
The organizers of the Basque film festival Fantasiazko eta Beldurrezko Zinemaren XXI Astea, aka the Twenty-First Fantasy and Terror Film Festival, have borrowed a couple of iconic characters from the classic erotic space adventure Barbarella for their 2010 program. The two models above don’t look nearly as good as John Phillip Law and Jane Fonda did in 1968, but then again, who does? The festival starts today in Donostia-San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain.
Giger retrospective taps into sexual obsessions and primal fears.
We’ve always liked the work of biomechanical airbursh artist H.R. Giger—it reminds us of high school, and the anguished sexual obsessions of that time. Most people associate his art with the Alien franchise because he did the production design for the original film, and all the sequels have built upon that foundation. But Giger is about more than just slimy, vicious monsters. For instance, the piece you see above, “Birth Machine,” is quintessential Giger. The crucial clue to its meaning comes from the title. And as we look closely at the piece, we see a pistol in which the bullets are half human creatures who themselves are holding pistols. If we assume each of their pistols in turn contain little bullet men with more guns loaded with more bullet men, we understand that Giger is making a statement about us killing ourselves through overpopulation. In a sense, each of us is a weapon, loaded with deadly ammunition and lacking any sense of restraint that might help us see that our state of perpetual war and environmental destruction derives from the fact that there are simply too damned many of us. Or something like that.
We bring all this up because we saw a Giger exhibit in person at the Kuba Art Gallery in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, and the pieces were extremely interesting. They’re otherworldly, yes. Biologically weird, certainly. Relentlessly vaginal, absolutely. Giger is well known for those things. But there’s also a darkness and density to the pieces that is very impressive in person. Their geometry and the physics implied within are Lovecraftian in a sense, which is why we weren’t surprised when we saw that two of Giger’s early pieces were in fact representations from the great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction. The exhibit also included a larger than life movie alien menacingly perched on a wall, as well as a macabre dinner table with six biomechanical chairs. If a Giger exhibit ever comes to your town, by all means, go. Any effort will be worth the time and energy spent to see this unique master’s nightmarish work in person. We have more images below, and we apologize for their blurriness, but we were too terrified by the art to focus.
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Here’s a little piece of modern pulp we found in a bar in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain. We had just finished a round of tasty apple-flavored shots, and there it was on the bartop at a place called Akerbeltz. The magazine is called Gehitu, and it’s published by a GLBT rights organization based in Northern Spain. The magazine is nicely put together, promotes a cause we respect, and is filled with events information, but what interests us most is their usage of an iconic photo of Ursula Andress, who they’ve given winglike appendages and depicted as wounded but unbowed. If we assume this is a visual reference to Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy, then it’s a poignant and clever rebranding. Since we started this website we’ve discovered that small magazines, flyers and pamphlets are goldmines of pulp styled art. In those media we tend to find creators who truly get what pulp is about. We’ve been picking up these bits and pieces, and with today’s post have shared one of our many finds. We’ll have more for you down the line.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
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