There Would Be No War

“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.”

Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace

 

River Phoenix reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Photo by Bruce Weber, c. 1992

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Total Eclipse

Total Eclipse is an intelligent look at the relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine and shows considerable insight into the bourgeois and artistic societies of the period as well as a moving understanding of homosexuality.

Christopher Hampton was only 22 when he wrote this play. He studied Rimbaud’s work at Oxford. Hampton became involved in the theatre while at that University where OUDS performed his play When Did You Last See My Mother?, about adolescent homosexuality, reflecting his own experiences at Lancing College. He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses and the awarded film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and also more recently for writing the nominated screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s Atonement.

 

 

Long before there were rock stars, there was rock star attitude, as displayed with spectacular insolence by the teen-age French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s long shadow reaches not only into academe, where the writing he did before abandoning poetry at 20 is still much admired, but also into popular culture, where Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison or Patti Smith would not have been possible without him.

Total Eclipse is a 1995 film directed by Agnieszka Holland, based on a 1967 play by Christopher Hampton, who also wrote the screenplay. Based on letters and poems, it presents a historically accurate account of the passionate and violent relationship between the two 19th century French poets Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio), at a time of soaring creativity for both of them.

River Phoenix was originally attached to the project, but the part of Rimbaud went to Leonardo DiCaprio after Phoenix’s death. And John Malkovich was initially attached to play Verlaine, but pulled out. This movie has Leonardo Dicaprio’s first onscreen kiss (with costar David Thewlis).

River

Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

 

Young and strong Hollywood son
In the early morning light
This star fell down
On Sunset Boulevard
Young and strong beautiful one
One that we embraced so close
Is gone
Was torn away
Let the youth of America mourn
Include him in their prayers
Let his image linger on
Repeat it everywhere

With candles with flowers
He was one of ours
One of ours

Why don’t you let him be?
He’s gone
We know
Give his mother and father peace
Your vulture’s candor
Your casual slander
Will murder his memory
He’s gone
We know
And it’s nothing but a tragedy

Lay to rest your soul and body
Lay beside your name
Lay to rest your rage
Your hunger and amazing grace

With candles, with flowers
You were one of ours
One of ours

I saw cameras expose your life
I heard rumors explode with lies
I saw children with tears
Cry and crowd around the sight
Of where you had collapsed that day
Where your last breath and word
Had been sighed
Where your heart had burst
Where you had died

I saw how they were lost in grieving
All half-believing you were gone
The loss and pain of it
Crime and the shame of it
You were gone
It was such a nightmare raving,
“how could we save him
From himself?”

Natalie Merchant

Track from Tigerlily (her first solo album after splitting from the 10,000 Maniacs)

1995

A Letter Never Sent

The words ‘For River’ are visible in the bottom of the rear view mirror that appears on the song’s single sleeve. Photo by Ian McFarlane

 
 

E-BOW THE LETTER

(Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe)

“Look up, what do you see?
all of you and all of me
florescent and starry
some of them, they surprise

the bus ride, I went to write this, 4:00 a.m.
this letter
fields of poppies, little pearls
all the boys and all the girls sweet-toothed
each and every one a little scary
I said your name

I wore it like a badge of teenage film stars
hash bars, cherry mash and tinfoil tiaras
dreaming of Maria Callas
whoever she is
this fame thing, I don’t get it
I wrap my hand in plastic to try to look through it
Maybelline eyes and girl-as-boy moves
I can take you far
this star thing, I don’t get it

I’ll take you over, there
I’ll take you over, there
aluminum, tastes like fear
adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over
it tastes like fear, there
I’ll take you over

will you live to 83?
will you ever welcome me?
will you show me something that nobody else has seen?
smoke it, drink
here comes the flood
anything to thin the blood
these corrosives do their magic slowly and sweet
phone, eat it, drink
just another chink
cuts and dents, they catch the light
aluminum, the weakest link

I don’t want to disappoint you
I’m not here to anoint you
I would lick your feet
but is that the sickest move?
I wear my own crown and sadness and sorrow
and who’d have thought tomorrow could be so strange?
my loss, and here we go again

I’ll take you over, there
I’ll take you over, there
aluminum, tastes like fear
adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over
it tastes like fear, there
I’ll take you over

look up, what do you see?
all of you and all of me
florescent and starry
some of them, they surprise

I can’t look it in the eyes
seconal, Spanish fly, absinthe, kerosene
cherry-flavored neck and collar
I can smell the sorrow on your breath
the sweat, the victory and sorrow
the smell of fear, I got it

I’ll take you over, there
I’ll take you over, there
aluminum, tastes like fear
adrenaline, it pulls us near
I’ll take you over
it tastes like fear, there
I’ll take you over

pulls us near
tastes like fear…

nearer, nearer
over, over, over, over
yeah, look over
I’ll take you there, oh, yeah
I’ll take you there
oh, over
I’ll take you there
over, let me
I’ll take you there…
there, there, baby, yeah”

 
 

E-Bow the Letter is the first single from R.E.M.‘s tenth studio album New Adventures in Hi-Fi. It was released in August 1996 just weeks before the album’s release.

Patti Smith sings guest backing vocals on this song. The song’s title refers to the EBow, an electromagnetic field-generating device that induces sustained vibration in an electric guitar string (creating a violin-like effect), and to a “letter never sent” by Michael Stipe. It is believed that the letter in question was written to actor River Phoenix expressing Stipe’s concern for his friend’s spiraling substance abuse with the letter never being sent due to Phoenix’s death. Guitarist Peter Buck can be seen using an EBow in the video for the song at approximately 1:27 to 1:30. R.E.M. has also played the song live with artists including Thom Yorke singing Patti Smith’s vocal part.

“I first saw Patti Smith perform in 1976, and I remember thinking that I would gladly give 10 years off my life to be the bass player for her group. I know Michael was equally as inspired by Patti, and when he came up with a Ronettes-style vocal chorus, it was obvious who we had to call. It was such an incredible experience watching Patti sing this song – a song we wrote! I had all the cliche reactions; chills ran up and down my spine, the hair stood up on the back on my neck, etc. My life did not flash before my eyes, but it was a close thing.”

Peter Buck
(Liner notes for the hits compilation In Time)

The music video can be watched on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

A Wyoming Story

Close Range: Wyoming Stories. (Scribner, 1999). Hardcover of the first edition. It is the second story collection by the author of The Shipping News. Includes watercolors by William Matthews and it’s signed by both Proulx and Matthews on the title page.

 
 

Brokeback Mountain is a short story by American author Annie Proulx. It was originally published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997, and was subsequently published in a slightly expanded version in Proulx’s 1999 collection of short stories, Close Range: Wyoming Stories. The story won an O. Henry Award prize (third place) in 1998. The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for Fiction for its publication of Brokeback Mountain in 1998. The collection was named a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana adapted the story for the film of the same name, released in 2005. At that time, the short story and the screenplay were published together, along with essays by Proulx and the screenwriters, in Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay. The story was also published separately in book form.

 
 

Still from Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

 
 

Two young men who meet in Wyoming in 1963 forge a sudden emotional and sexual attachment, but soon part ways. As their separate lives play out with marriages, children and jobs, they reunite for brief liaisons on camping trips in remote settings over the course of the next 20 years.

Brokeback Mountain is a story told by an omniscient narrator. The narrative is realistic in tone and employs description, metaphor and dialogue to examine the actions, thoughts, emotions, and motivations of its main characters.

The narrative is mostly linear; the story describes events in sequence from a beginning point in time, the year 1963 when the characters are introduced, to the end of the story some 20 years later. Other than the title location, the settings are actual locations in the United States, and the characters are described as real people living in a specific milieu. The story adheres to conventions of modern dramatic fiction; its literary devices serve to present a portrait of recognizable people in familiar situations, without supernatural or metaphysical allusions (while other of the Wyoming Stories do include passages of magical realism).

The story is an episodic examination of conflicts arising from the characters’ interaction with each other and other people in their lives. The story condenses passing years and significant events into brief passages, and employs dialogue to reveal character and conflict:

 
 

They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.”

 
 

According to Proulx, her inspiration for the characters did not come from real life, though she mentioned one incident in which she noticed a middle-aged man in a bar, who appeared to be watching only the men playing pool, which led her to consider the life of a typical western ranch hand who might be gay. Regarding the setting, Proulx stated:

 
 

“ Rural North America, regional cultures, the images of an ideal and seemingly attainable world the characters cherish in their long views despite the rigid and difficult circumstances of their place and time interest me and are what I write about. I watch for the historical skew between what people have hoped for and who they thought they were and what befell them.”

 
 

About the story’s main characters, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Proulx said they affected her long after the story was published, and the film version rekindled her feelings for them — an attachment that she had previously rejected. In an interview in The Missouri Review, Proulx called the notion of falling in love with fictional characters “repugnant”.

 
 

Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist)

 
 

Proulx has praised the faithfulness of the adaptation of her story into a feature film. Before the movie was made, she called McMurtry and Ossana’s adaptation “an exceptionally fine screenplay.” Later, she praised the film as “huge and powerful,” writing that she was “knocked for a loop” when she first saw it.

“ I may be the first writer in America to have a piece of writing make its way to the screen whole and entire,” she said. “And, when I saw the film for the first time, I was astonished that the characters of Jack and Ennis came surging into my mind again… ”

Nearly all of the dialogue and descriptions from the original story were included in the screenplay. Few major differences have been noted. Most of the changes involve expansion, with brief mentions of the character’s marriages in the story becoming scenes of domestic life in the film. The narrative sequence is nearly identical in story and film: both begin with Jack and Ennis meeting in 1963 and end with a scene of Ennis 20 years later. One example of adaptation of the story’s dramatic arc arises from a significant memory (of the men embracing by a campfire): it appears in the film as a flashback in the same sequence as Jack recalls it in the story.

Before Ang Lee‘s adaptation, Gus Van Sant had wished to make an adaptation starring Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix. Among the reasons it never made it to production included Damon’s refusal to make a “gay-cowboy movie” immediately after starring in a “gay movie” (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghella, 1999) and a “cowboy movie” (All the Pretty Horses, Billy Bob Thornton, 2000). Damon later named Brokeback Mountain as the “movie [he] didn’t do that [he wishes he] had.”

Music Soothe a Savage…

RCA Advertising Poster

 
 

Elvis Presley

 
 

Fifth and final album by Sonny and Cher, released in 1974

 
 

Nina Simone

 
 

Scenes from Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares for Me music video (Peter Lord, 1987)

 
 

Cover of the second single off Some Girls (1978). It was released along When the Whip Comes Down as B-Side.

 
 

Voodoo Lounge (1994)

 
 

Bridges to Babylon (1997)

 
 

Mick Jagger as a leopard. Photo: Albert Watson for a Rolling Stone Magazine 25th Anniversary cover issue

 
 

Keith Richards

 
 

Front cover for the CD Elton John One Night Only – The Greatest Hits. Artwork by David LaChapelle

 
 

Poster for Cats, the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on a T.S. Eliot’s play.

 
 

Jossie and the Pussicats comic book

 
 

Rick Danko, member of The Band

 
 

Rod Stewart

 
 

Kurt Cobain

 
 

Monster(1994). The album was dedicated to Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix

 
 

Before the Fire (2009)

 
 

Head Down (2012)

 
 

George Harrison

 
 

Debbie Harry

 
 

John Lennon

 
 

Madonna in Express Yourself music video (David Fincher, 1989)

 
 

Versace Ad Campaign by Steven Meisel

 
 

Madonna… again

 
 

Lady Jazz and Mister. Photo: Herman Leonard

 
 

This another Billie Holiday’s portrait was taken by Carl Van Vechten

 
 

Frank Zappa

 
 

Bob Dylan

 
 

Guns ‘N’ Roses

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

1a71Björk in Triumph of the Heart music video (Spike Jonze, 2005)

 
 

The phrase “Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast” was coined by the Playwright and Poet William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697