The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2022

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NOV 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

26. 1965, Los Angeles

We’re in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s where two film student friends (one in graduate school, the other an undergraduate senior) enroll, in successive years, in the same course on film aesthetics taught by a legendary but now retired émigré Austrian director. Both of them love his films and are entranced by the sultry German actress who stars in several of them. They discuss her persona in great detail, and endlessly analyze the director’s distinctive mise-en-scène (especially his dramatic lighting effects) and his knack for charging his languidly-paced movies with psychological tension. Not surprisingly, their own films show his influence. For example, one shot in the undergrad’s final project, which is essentially a string of boldly nonlinear sequences, features a blonde German girl dressed in a black slip, black stockings and high heels dancing on top of a sturdy television console. Clearly, she is meant to evoke the émigré’s leading actress of the 1930s. As the camera rolls, loud rock music is playing, over which the young director shouts, “turn the TV on.” The cameraman reaches out and does so, flipping the dial a couple of times until a documentary about the Second World War comes on the screen. “Leave it!” the novice director shouts. Alas, the faculty is unimpressed with the completed film and don’t select it for the annual public screening of the best student films. This means that at the end of the year the film is tossed out with some 300 other failed efforts. Six weeks after graduation, the two friends, now unemployed aspiring filmmakers, run into each other on Venice Beach and, almost spontaneously, decide to start a rock and roll band. Some 30 years later, long after their band has become famous around the world (famous enough, in fact, to itself become the subject of a Hollywood movie) and long after the younger man has died in Paris at the age of 27, the older survivor describes how he ultimately came to realize that those lengthy discussions about their teacher’s films were nothing less than a preparation for the ground-breaking recordings and riveting live performances of their band, for what he calls “the art form of the future.”

(Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison, Josef von Sternberg)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2022

All Issues