The password to get into the exclusive uber-elite bacchanalia in the country in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes wide shut is written on a napkin by Todd Field (in acting mode) in a New York City Jazz bar. The napkin has to be held down tight by Tom Cruise for the pen to not mangle the fragile tissue, something we’ve all done, but the camera lingers over it, for casual familiarity, nonetheless. It is a minor scene, as the characters will also talk about the password (“It’s a Beethoven opera”) afterwards, but the attention to framing and shooting this scene can still be sense palpably.
Stanley Kubrick’s last (often disputed) masterpiece starring two of the biggest stars of the late 1990s who just happened to be a married couple was released this week in 1999. Kubrick died shortly before this (at 70). The tales and perfectionist stories on the set, casting a veteran and up-and-coming directors in key roles (that would be Sydney Pollack and Todd Field, there is some insight here and here), and a big whopper of an Orgy sequence in the middle which started a censorship kerfuffle involving ‘digital silhouettes’ in the US.
Many found the film tedious and laboured, but it has been winding its way into full-blown cult status over the past decade with strange articles like this one. I revisit the film often enough and come away alternating between love it and leave it with almost each viewing, although recently things have been sliding to the former. Kudos to Kubrick for turning Tom Cruise into an ineffectual doofus though, and several years before Oprah’s Couch cemented it (You are burning in hell Michael Mann and P.T. Anderson for recharging the diminutive actors manliness.)
Back to the film, the gorgeous lighting, the interesting marriage insecurities and the hallucinatory euro-NY. And Leelee Sobieski and Alan Cumming in warm and charming bit parts. The masterfilmmaker went out with a bang, ending his professional career with the simplest and most complicated of words: “Fuck.”
[A continuing series of mixtapes created to evoke the spirit of auteur filmmakers. I welcome suggestions for future selections. The MP3s available here are for sampling purposes only. Please support the artists by buying their albums and going to their shows. If you are the artist or label rep and don’t want an MP3 featured, please email me]
This latest installment of the Auteur Filmmakers Mixtape series is clearly breaking the rules before I’ve hardly start, as far as I am aware Cormac McCarthy hasn’t as much as picked up a camera in his life. His weapon of choice, the written word, has however been fundamental in the development of key film properties as of late, most notably NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, but, for the immediate purposes of this exercise, my gaze lays square upon the two behemoths lurching on the horizon: John Hillcoat’s THE ROAD, and Todd Field’s BLOOD MERIDIAN. The two books, although written at different points in Cormac’s life and partaking of worlds split by generations, nonetheless feel thematically and spiritually part of a continuum, stages of the same moral decay, and as such, the two are blended together into one playlist, the ‘blood’ bleeding into, or onto, the ‘road’.
This mixtape does not aspire to be something of an authentic soundtrack for these films, the bleak and antiquated rigidity that will be required for that goes against my better interests, I rather ferret out the essence using whatever penchant for modern and sometimes pop-like sounds I deem suitable, continuing my mixtape code for repurposing songs to suit new and surprising contexts. If to be of any use other than pure enjoyment, the mixtape is my attempt to capture the mood shifts between the two stories, the carnivorous depths in BLOOD MERIDIAN’s acrid depiction of nineteenth century lawlessness in the Old West, and the hard swallow of hope in THE ROAD’s nuclear winter. Since Hillcoat’s film is pretty much in the can, this mean overgrown apocalypse without end I give to you, Mr. Field.
Notes on the tracks: Cave’s Stagger Lee is perhaps the only song that lives up to the kind of brutality Cormac lays down, and Mr Stagger Lee would be just the sort of species the Judge would collect in his sketchbook. That said, Judge Holden, the epitome of everything wicked in the world, is aptly commemorated with Dylan’s Wicked Messenger (‘he did come, with a mind that multiplied the smallest matter’). The Dead Vine Blues track fits the first plains attack of the Comanche channeled into musical instruments, a piece of bravado I am strangely proud of. The ruminations of THE ROAD in the Tindersticks and Secret Machines tracks, while liberally playing with canon, do hypothesize quite nicely the psychological state of being a walking phantom. Not possessing an MP3 version of Bob Dylan’s original and far superior Ain’t Talkin’, I had to suffice with the lesser alternative track for these purposes. Enjoy.
“THEN IN CAME THE DEVIL, HE SAID I COME TO TAKE YOU DOWN…”
A single streamed version of the mixtape can be listened to here Individual tracks are below but please be patient for the tracks to load up in the audio player, takes a minute.
Fade to black.
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I am not sure how I missed this and why it seems everybody else did too, but apparently Ridley Scott is no longer directing an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal western Blood Meridian. I knew production was at a standstill on it and that Scott was having a hard time with the screenplay, but according to an article Rope of Silicon ran on August 19th (as well as its IMDb page), Todd Field (Little Children, In the Bedroom) is now helming the project.
“No Country’s” Academy Award-winning producer Scott Rudin and “Little Children” filmmaker Todd Field have been developing a “Blood Meridian” movie, and Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik wants to film “Cities of the Plain,” the last book in McCarthy’s border trilogy. Said Field in explaining McCarthy’s appeal: “His work examines our core, the two faces of violence that co-exist in every savage act – brutal strength of purpose holding hands with a desperate and cowering weakness.”
This news seemingly came out of nowhere and surprisingly not too many people have noticed, which is odd since Cormac McCarthy is the hottest thing in both modern literature and filmmaking right now, with last year’s No Country for Old Men and this year’s upcoming and high anticipated The Road.
I am still not sure how I feel about bringing Blood Meridian to the screen at all. It just seems unfilmable, at least with keeping the tone and feeling of the novel intact, let alone some of the events themselves. I’m not sure how I feel with the transition from Scott to Field either, but I guess I wouldn’t know how to feel no matter who was directing. There are many other McCarthy works that I think would work better on the big screen, including the rest of the Border trilogy.
As for Dominik wanting to film Cities of the Plain (the final novel in the Border trilogy), I wrote about that in my McCarthyism article back in April, in which Dominik said he has “a big thing for McCarthy, and it’s a beautiful story” (which it is and I honestly cannot think of a single better man than Dominik for the job), but he refuses to cast big stars in any of the roles and the studio will not greenlight it without big stars attached. Maybe, just maybe if he agreed to have Casey Affleck (who he worked with on The Assassination of Jesse James) on board for the late-20s Billy Parham of the novel, that would be a big enough star for the studio? I want to see this made, but please agree to tackle its predecessor The Crossing too, Andrew!