Richard B. Woodward (The Paris Review) pays tribute to the Oscar-winning sound designer who helped create the otherworldly environments of David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Blue Velvet
“It’s too bad Ronnie Rocket never got made,” says Alan R. Splet about one of several David Lynch scripts still tied to Dino De Laurentiis’s bankruptcy. “There was lots of heavy electricity, amplified power in the script. It went back more toward the Eraserhead side of things. Maybe David feels he’s moved beyond that.”
Splet starts to laugh nervously, almost maniacally, as he recites all the kinds of electricity he could produce if called upon by Lynch. “There’s snapping, humming, buzzing, banging, like lightning, shrieking, squealing …”
As the sound engineer who has worked with Lynch since The Grandmother, their AFI student film completed in 1969, Splet saves up noises that he thinks his friend will like and sends them along on cassettes for Lynch to use or enjoy. (more…)
The Criterion Collection profiles the many sides of the epic filmmaker
For many cinephiles, the name David Lean signifies grand moviemaking—sweeping epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. But the long and eclectic career of this legendary British director encompasses arresting intimacy as well, as evidenced by the films of his in the Criterion Collection. Among those are pictures that he was responsible for editing, early on in his work in film: some of his national cinema’s greatest hits, including Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard’s Pygmalion, Gabriel Pascal’s Major Barbara, and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 49th Parallel. In the forties and early fifties, having moved to directing, he made several luminous films, including adaptations of such classic and important contemporary works from the stage and page as Harold Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice, Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit and Still Life (Brief Encounter, in the film version), and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. All are graced by evocative, shadowy black-and-white cinematography and elegantly restrained compositions. Summertime, his gorgeous 1955 Technicolor trip to Venice with Katharine Hepburn, marked a turning point in his career: the sun-dappled location shoot was galvanizing for Lean, and the remainder of his films, from The Bridge on the River Kwai to A Passage to India, could be considered outdoor spectacles. Yet Lean’s deep interest in complex characters, his brilliant way with actors, and his classic sense of storytelling were never trumped by scale. [More at The Criterion Collection]
Around the time I began writing book reviews, I read that reviewing was “what lice will do, when they have no more blood to suck.” If so, the only blood I’ve ever tasted is mine. Early on, I already knew that my writing wasn’t entirely about the books “under review” so much as my internal “reading experience” – though that term might be misleading. In suggesting that my reviews reflect something of my “self,” I’m not about to recount my life story, let alone resort to that fashionable form, the “confessional” essay. On the contrary, literary subjectivity isn’t always aligned with autobiography. Right now, I’m writing this in the first person, but I perceive that person as a perfect stranger.
Put simply, I’ve never known who I am. Nor do I feel securely in sync with the world. I intersect with it at an abnormal angle – my link with life is dislocated. Of course, this condition isn’t uncommon. I mention it only to emphasize that an initial alienation led me to literature. Part of me is predisposed to treat reading as, to quote Houellebecq, a practice that pushes “against the world, against life.” At the same time, I don’t see reading as simply a passive escape from reality. As Kafka famously says, books can be “like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of oneself.” Reading is really a dual movement: books allow us to withdraw from the world, while bringing us back toward it. In reading we disappear, and yet we resurface. (more…)
Introducing a new series of publications from Ibidem
Samuel Beckett in Company is a new series from Ibidem that seeks to place Beckett within an array of contexts – literary, historical, geographical, philosophical, theoretical and institutional – yet with the overarching rationale of tracing the relations of which Beckett is the centre.
Through a career that spanned prose, poetry, theatre, literary criticism, radio, film and television over a period of some 60 years, Beckett was influenced by, negotiated with, and then came to influence, a host of artists (both literary and non-literary), media and their associated institutions. By placing Beckett at the centre of such relations, the series aims to trace influences on Beckett, but also to investigate how he influenced subsequent artists, movements, media and institutions. Submissions that focus on new or previously neglected relations are particularly welcome. (more…)