EXCALIBUR AND SPAGHETTI
This is something all creators–writers, artists, even
translators–know. When you’re deeply involved
in your current project, the world around you seems to echo
your work, things start to resonate with your thoughts, and
you find yourself even more immersed in what you do.
A case in point. A few weeks ago, I went to see a concert
featuring the French singer-songwriter named Juliette.
If you’re not French, you may not know how important
“chanson française” is in this country.
You may have heard about the late Jacques Brel,
thanks to a famous musical, or about the still spry Charles
Aznavour, who once sang with Liza Minnelli,
but the French scene is currently bursting with new talents
whose names are unknown to you.
Juliette is one of my favorites. She had released
a new album last Spring and, though I’d not bought it
yet, I was sufficiently interested to book two seats for her
concert in the local theater.
I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed as soon as the curtain
rose, for among the musicians’ paraphernalia stood a
stone with a sword in it.
And I was hooked by the first song. Circe’s story,
as told by the magician herself, and how she used to change
men into pigs. An aside here: along with her new album–which
I bought after the concert–Juliette just published a
book, where she explains the genesis of some of her songs.
LE SORT DE CIRCE was partly inspired by a passage in Homer’s
Talk about getting away from work!
don’t intend to describe the whole show, but I can’t
help mentioning a few highlights: IL S’EST PASSE QUELQUE
CHOSE (“Something had happened”), a very evocative
song in which I recognized a homage to a short story by Dino
Buzzati; LE CONGRES DES CHERUBINS (“The Cherubs
Convention”), a hilarious romp about a convention of
lil’ angels; FRANCISCAE MEAE LAUDES, the most daring
number of the evening: Latino music set to Latin lyrics (adapted
from a Charles Baudelaire poem); and, last
but not least, FANTASIE HEROIQUE (“Heroic Fantasy”),
an epic song inspired by fantasy role-playing video games
(which explains the sword in the stone).
Since Juliette is a computer geek, her web presence is quite
strong, with several sites devoted to her:
The ones where you can have information about her latest
album (MUTATIS MUTANDIS) and her brand-new DVD (FANTAISIE
HEROIQUE–a filming of her current show, as I enjoyed
it live) is:
The ones where you can have information about her life, work
and current schedule is:
Now, what do I do when I’m not busy translating endless
epics or grooving to Juliette’s music? Answer: I watch
a lot of movies. Most especially western movies. Spaghetti
It seems hard to believe now, but the late ’60s and
early ’70s saw the emergence of a whole new movie genre,
cowboys & Indians pictures shot in good ol’ Europe–in
Italy and Spain, to be more specific. The John Wayne purists
hated them, the critics panned them, and a lot of people loved
them. The genre underwent a rapid decadence in the late ’70s,
and died amidst a flurry of farces, the most (in)famous of
them being THEY CALL ME TRINITY, starring Terence
Hill. (Who also starred in a wonderful movie called
MY NAME IS NOMAN… er, NOBODY.)
Nowadays, there is a lot of interest in Spaghetti Western,
mostly thanks to Quentin Tarantino, who acknowledges
their influence, and also thanks to the DVD phenomenon, which
makes a lot of pictures available to movie buffs. The greatest
practitioner of Spaghetti Westerns–a term he loathed–was
of course Sergio Leone, who is now considered
one of the greatest directors ever, and of whom it has been
said he was the first postmodern moviemaker. (Incidentally,
I wish I lived in LA and could visit the Leone exhibition
at the Gene Autry Museum. Lucky Californians…)
But the true aficionado will also praise the works of two
other Sergios, Sergio Corbucci and Sergio
Sollima, whose movies are once again available. Jean-Daniel
says check them out.
the movie I want to tell you about was directed by Ferdinando
Baldi, a little-known master of B pictures. Our story
starts the day General Carrasco, a hero of the Mexican war
of independence, comes back home to his loving wife Anna.
But Anna and her lover Thomas kill him that very day, under
the horrified gaze of Isabel, the general’s daughter.
As for her brother Sebastian, his nurse has the time to whisk
Fifteen years later, Rafael, a childhood friend of Sebastian,
who has fallen in love with Isabel, finds Sebastian, who now
lives in Texas and has forgotten his trauma, and convinces
him to avenge his father. The two of them ride to Mexico…
Sounds familiar? Yep: for General Carrasco, read Agamemnon,
for Anna Clytemnestra, for Isabel Electra, for Sebastian and
Rafael Orestes and Pylades, and so on.
The movie’s called THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO (IL PISTOLERO
DELL’AVE MARIA in Italian), and I urge you to see it
if you can find it. Besides its clever plot, it sports beautiful
photography, leading pretty bad boys Leonard Mann
(alias Leonardo Manzella) and Peter Martell
(alias Pietro Martellanza), a stunning Pilar Velasquez
as Electra/Isabel–see picture–and a wonderful
Piero Lulli as the sadistic henchman of Aegisthus.
A quick search will lead you to several sites devoted to
Spaghetti Western, but I recommend this one:
See you next time, pardners.
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