The Duke Who Fell to Earth

Station to Station (1976)

 

Station to Station is the tenth studio album by English musician David Bowie. Commonly regarded as one of his most significant works, Station to Station was the vehicle for his last great “character”, the Thin White Duke. The album was recorded after he completed shooting Nicolas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the cover artwork featured a still from the movie.

It was on the set of his first major film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, that Bowie began writing a pseudo-autobiography called The Return of the Thin White Duke. He was also composing music on the understanding that he was to provide the picture’s soundtrack, though this would not come to fruition. (At Bowie’s recommendation, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas would write and produce all the original music for the film instead.) Director Nicolas Roeg warned the star that the part of Thomas Jerome Newton would likely remain with him for some time after production completed. With Roeg’s agreement, Bowie developed his own look for the film, and this carried through to his public image and onto two album covers over the next twelve months, as did Newton’s air of fragility and aloofness.

The Thin White Duke became the mouthpiece for Station to Station and, as often as not during the next six months, for Bowie himself. Impeccably dressed in white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat, the Duke was a hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonised intensity, yet felt nothing—”ice masquerading as fire”. The persona has been described as “a mad aristocrat”, “an amoral zombie”, and “an emotionless Aryan superman”. For Bowie himself, the Duke was “a nasty character indeed”.

 

Low (1976)

 

Low is the eleventh studio album by British musician David Bowie, co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti. Widely regarded as one of Bowie’s most influential releases, Low was the first of the “Berlin Trilogy”, a series of collaborations with Brian Eno (though the album was mainly recorded in France and only mixed in West Berlin). The experimental, avant-garde style would be further explored on Heroes and Lodger. The album’s working title was New Music Night and Day.

The genesis of Low lies in both the foundations laid by Bowie’s previous album Station to Station, and music he intended for the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth. When Bowie presented his material for the film to Nicolas Roeg, the director decided that it would not be suitable. Roeg preferred a more folksy sound, although John Phillips described Bowie’s contributions as “haunting and beautiful”. Elements from these pieces were incorporated into Low instead. The album’s cover, like Station to Station, is a still from the movie: the photographic image, under the album’s title, formed a deliberate pun on the phrase “low profile”.

Although the music was influenced by German bands such as Kraftwerk and Neu!, Low has been acclaimed for its originality and is considered ahead of its time, not least for its cavernous treated drum sound created by producer Visconti using an Eventide Harmonizer.

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Bogarde’s Ups and Downs

“I suppose the greatest exit which we are called upon to make or which is wished upon us, is our birth; that clumsy, uncomfortable, messy, bewildering affair which brings us often breathless into the long corridor of life leading directly, sometimes indirectly, but always inevitably, to our final supreme Exit, death.”

Dirk Bogarde
Quote from Snakes and Ladders (1978)

 
 

 
 

In his outstanding first volume of autobiography, A Postillion Struck by Lightning, Dirk Bogarde retraced his childhood and early experiences on the stage. In Snakes and Ladders, he continues his memoirs, from the trials of army training camp to the greatest challenge of his film career—the role of von Aschenbach in Death in Venice  (Lucchino Visconti, 1971). Here, Bogarde recounts all the ups and downs and the people he encountered—family and friends, actors and actresses, directors and producers—on his way to becoming one of the finest cinematic actors of our time.

Where the Story Really Starts

The Man Who Sold the World is the third studio album by David Bowie, originally released on Mercury Records in November 1970 in the US, and in April 1971 in the UK. The album was Bowie’s first with the nucleus of what would become the Spiders from Mars, the backing band made famous by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. Though author David Buckley has described Bowie’s previous record David Bowie (Space Oddity) as “the first Bowie album proper”, NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have said of The Man Who Sold the World, “this is where the story really starts”. Departing from the folk music of Bowie’s debut album, The Man Who Sold the World is a hard rock and heavy metal album. It has been claimed that this album’s release marks the birth of glam rock.

The album was written and rehearsed at David Bowie’s home in Haddon Hall, Beckenham, an Edwardian mansion converted to a block of flats that was described by one visitor as having an ambience “like Dracula‘s living room”. As Bowie was preoccupied with his new wife Angie at the time, the music was largely arranged by guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist/producer Tony Visconti. Although Bowie is officially credited as the composer of all music on the album, biographers such as Peter Doggett have marshaled evidence to the contrary, quoting Visconti saying “the songs were written by all four of us. We’d jam in a basement, and Bowie would just say whether he liked them or not.”

Much of the album had a distinct heavy metal edge that distinguishes it from Bowie’s other releases, and has been compared to contemporary acts such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The record also provided some unusual musical detours, such as the title track’s use of Latin rhythms to hold the melody. The sonic heaviness of the album was matched by the subject matter, which included insanity (All the Madmen), gun-toting assassins and Vietnam War commentary (Running Gun Blues), an omniscient computer (Saviour Machine), and Lovecraftian Elder Gods (The Supermen). The song She Shook Me Cold was an explanation of a heterosexual encounter. The album has also been seen as reflecting the influence of such figures as Aleister Crowley, Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche.

 
 

The original 1970 US release of The Man Who Sold the World employed a cartoon-like cover drawing by Bowie’s friend Michael J. Weller, featuring a cowboy in front of the Cane Hill mental asylum

 
 

 
 

The first UK cover, on which Bowie is seen reclining in a Mr Fish “man’s dress”, was an early indication of his interest in exploiting his androgynous appearance. The dress was designed by British fashion designer Michael Fish, and Bowie also used it in February 1971 on his first promotional tour to the United States, where he wore it during interviews despite the fact that the Americans had no knowledge of the as yet unreleased UK cover. It has been said that his “bleached blond locks, falling below shoulder level”, were inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Swan’s Way

Blazon

For the Countess of Peralta

 
 

The snow-white Olympic swan,
with beak of rose-red agate,
preens his Eucharistic wing,
which he opens to the sun like a fan.

 

His shining neck is curved
like the arm of a lyre,
like the handle of a Greek amphora,
like the prow of a ship.

 

He is the swan of divine origin
whose kiss mounted through fields
of silk to the rosy peaks
of Leda’s sweet hills.

 

White king of of Castalia’s fount,
his triumph illumines the Danube;
Da Vinci was his baron in Italy;
Lohengrin is his blond prince.

 

His whiteness is akin to linen,
to the buds of the white roses,
to the diamantine white
of the fleece of an Easter lamb.

 

He is the poet of perfect verses,
and his lyric cloak is of ermine;
he is the magic, the regal bird
who, dying, rhymes the soul in his song.

 

This winged aristocrat displays
white lilies on a blue field;
and Pompadour, gracious and lovely,
has stroked his feathers.

 

He rows and rows on the lake
Where a golden gondola waits
For the sweetheart of Louis of Bavaria.

 

Countess, give the swans your love,
for they are gods of an alluring land
and are made of perfume and ermine,
of white light, of silk, and of dreams.

Ruben Darío

 
 

Photo: Bruce Weber

 
 

Carmen Dell’Orefice by Norman Parkinson, 1980

 
 

Swaroski logo

 
 

Bathyllus in the swan dance, Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Henri Matisse making a study of a swan in the Bois de Boulogne, c. 1930

 
 

Advertisement illustrated by René Gruau

 
 

Illustration to Garcia Márquez’s short story Bon Voyage Mr. President, by Josie Portillo

 
 

Still from The Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

 
 

Anna Pavlova

 
 

Still from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Bill Condon, 2011)

 
 

Helena Bonham Carter

 
 

Laetita Casta. Photo: Mario Testino

 
 

Uma Thurman and Mikahil Baryshnikov as The Swan Prince. Photo: Arthur Elgort

 
 

Truman Capote styled his beautiful and wealthy female friends “swans”

 
 

Accompained by Lee Radziwill and Jane Haward

 
 

With socialité Babe Paley in Paris

 
 

Escorting CZ Guest

 
 

Capote and Gloria Vanderbilt Lumet arrive at New York’s 54th Street Theatre for the opening performance of Caligula., 16 Feb 1960

 
 

Gloria Vanderbilt ad campaigns

 
 

Ludwig II (Luchino Visconti, 1972). He was sometimes called the Swan King

 
 

Mirror, Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)

 
 

Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)

 
 

Leonardo di Caprio. Photo: Annie Leibovitz

 
 

Madonna. Photo: David LaChapelle

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Ad campaign featured in Vogue, January 1997

 
 

Tory Burch swan-print wedge sandalias

 
 

Swan Evening dress by Charles James, 1951

 
 

Kate Moss wearing a Givenchy gown by Ricardo Tisci, Spring-Summer collection 2011

 
 

Giles Deacon Spring-Summer 2012 collection

 
 

Erin O’Connor wearing a gown by Alexander McQueen. Photo: Tim Walker

 
 

Eglingham Children and Swan on Beach, Tim Walker, 2002

Beware the Wolf

“I love fairy tales because I think that behind fairy tales, there is always a meaning.”

Monica Bellucci

 
 

Italian actress and model Monica Bellucci posing as Little Red Riding Hood

 
 

Red Hot Riding Hood (Tex Avery, 1943). Animated cartoon short subject

 
 

“The magic of Tex Avery’s animation is the sheer extremity of it all. The classic Avery image is of someone’s mouth falling open down to their feet, wham, their eyes whooping out and their tongue unrolling for about half a mile: that is the most wonderfully liberating spectacle. Avery would just stretch the human body and face however he liked, and the result was unbelievably funny. There is no hesitation in his work, no sense that you can go too far. I think that nowadays they should put on Tex Avery festivals as an antidote to political correctness. There is also a childlike sense of immortality and indestructibility in his work; people get squashed, mashed, bashed, bent out of shape, whatever, and they bounce back. In essence, it is like the myth of eternal life.”

Terry Gilliam

The 10 best animated films of all time

The Guardian, Friday 27 April 2001

 
 

The Brothers Grimm (Terry Gilliam, 2005)

 
 

The Brotherhood of the Wolf/ Le Pacte des Loups (Christophe Gans, 2001)

 
 

French director Christophe Gans drew inspiration from manga, comics, and video games as well from filmmakers like Luchino Visconti or John Woo. “I know there is no link between them, but the truth is that the movie is very eclectic and I like to blend cinematographic genres”, he stated.

Fotogramas Magazine, issue number 1896
October 2001

 
 

Little Red Riding Hood Meets the Wolf in the Woods by Walter Crane

 
 

“The better to see you with”, woodcut by Walter Crane

 
 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

 
 

Karen Elson, Red Cape and Gun. Photo by Tim Walker, 2008

 
 

Dakota Fanning

 
 

 Little Red Riding Hood. Lanvin ad illustrated by Remy Hetreaul, 1945

 
 

Woodcut by Gustave Doré

 
 

The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to versions from various European countries and more than likely preceding the 17th century, of which several exist, some significantly different from the currently known, Grimms-inspired version. It was told by French peasants in the 10th century. In Italy, the Little Red Riding Hood was told by peasants in 14th century, where a number of versions exist, including La finta nonna (The False Grandmother). It has also been called The Story of Grandmother. It is also possible that this early tale has roots in very similar Oriental tales (e.g. Grandaunt Tiger).

The theme of the ravening wolf and of the creature released unharmed from its belly is also reflected in the Russian tale Peter and the Wolf, and the other Brothers Grimm tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, but its general theme of restoration is at least as old as the biblical passage Jonah and the Whale. The theme also appears in the story of the life of Saint Margaret, where the saint emerges unharmed from the belly of a dragon, and in the epic The Red Path by Jim C. Hines.

The earliest known printed version was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge and may have had its origins in 17th century French folklore. It was included in the collection Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l’Oye), in 1697, by Charles Perrault. As the title implies, this version is both more sinister and more overtly moralized than the later ones. The redness of the hood, which has been given symbolic significance in many interpretations of the tale, was a detail introduced by Perrault.

The story as Rotkäppchen was included in the first edition of their collection Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales (1812)). The earlier parts of the tale agree so closely with Perrault’s variant that it is almost certainly the source of the tale. However, they modified the ending; this version had the little girl and her grandmother saved by a huntsman who was after the wolf’s skin; this ending is identical to that in the tale The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, which appears to be the source.

D&G’s Neorealism

Dolce & Gabbana SS 2013 Collection Ad Campaign

 
 

Movie Poster

 
 

Antonio Arcidiacono as ‘Ntoni

 
 

Stills from The Earth Trembles

 
 

Styling & Photography: Domenico Dolce Stefano Gabbana

 
 

Parodying the infamous Fascist slogan quoted in Visconti’s movie, we could say “Dolce and Gabbana are always right”.

 
 

While I was preparing the previous post and looked intently at the swimsuits worn by some of the characters depicted in Scène d’Été, by Frédéric Bazille I was reminded of the stripes from Dolce & Gabbanna’s Spring Summer Collection 2013-2014.
 
The Italian duo had a very specific inspiration for the whole concept; a neorealist movie, La Terra Trema / The Earth Trembles (Luchino Visconti, 1948). Is an adaption for the screen from I Malavoglia / The House by the Medlar Tree, originally written in 1881 by Giovanni Verga. This author was one of the precursors of verismo, a literary or painting movement and opera style which were in many ways the basis for neorealism.
 
The first neorealist film is generally thought to be Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943). But in Toni (1935), Jean Renoir made a notable use of non-professional actors and location shooting, two of the main characteristics of the Italian neorealism. Visconti worked in that movie as a Jean Renoir’s assistant.
 
There was a strong reason to film outdoor. During the World War II the film studios had been damaged significantly. All this movement came about in the post-war right after Benito Mussolini’s government fell.
 
Although they were filmed with nonprofessional actors, in a number of cases, well known actors were cast in leading roles. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana followed those unorthodox rules.
 
“With Taormina (Sicily) as a setting and supported by “real” people, Bianca Balti, Monica Bellucci, and Bianca Brandolini D’Adda –genuine Italian Graces, portray many of the values upheld by Dolce & Gabbana. Pomp and ceremony are juxtaposed to quaint familiar portraits of everyday life. Jovial dancing and singing complement moments shared and families brought together by love and food. Characters busy at lace making, embroidering, cross-stitching display the crafts utilized to decorate the collection. The gold embroidery and floral tapestry stand out against the colorful majolica synonymous with Sicilian pottery”, it was said about the concept.