MEEK AT THE MOVIES —- Lovelace ( 2.5 STARS )

^ Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace in “Lovelace”

—- —- —-

Well I remember back in college (and no, I was not in college when “Deep Throat” was released in 1972) my dorm neighbor having a poster on his door of an old man with a shit-eating grin on his face and a T shirt saying “I choked Linda Lovelace to death.” At the time — pre-Viagra time — I found the image devilish and perverse, now I find the notion sad, ironic and somewhat misogynistic, sentiments reinforced by the new bio-pic “Lovelace,” which details the infamous porn star’s story from the POV of her controversial 1980 memoir, “Ordeal.”

For those not in the know, Linda Lovelace (born Linda Boreman) was the first adult performer to become a household name and a regular punchline for Johnny Carson and other late night talk show hosts as the free-love ’60s melted into the commercialism of the ’70s. Part of that was because she was simply the star of one of the first adult films with high quality production values and a (ahem) plot—one where Lovelace’s ingénue can’t find her clitoris because it’s in the back of her throat. The film caught fire (it would make 600 million, all Lovelace got was $1,250). Hugh Hefner (played with avuncular smarm by James Franco) was a fan, Lovelace got the red carpet treatment and some even embraced the film as an anthem of female sexual liberation, but behind closes doors, was a different story — one of abuse at the hands of her husband, Chuck Traynor.

As Lovelace, Amanda Seyfried (Les Misérables) smoothly carries off the tricky dichotomy of sex kitten and battered spouse, and not just as a victim or shooting star, but as one caught up and swept away by something momentous and out of her control. Peter Sarsgaard, taking on the thankless role of Traynor, adds some adroit and menacing flourishes, but the role’s a one-note and one of the many minor flaws that addle this film.

Over the years many have doubted Lovelace’s spin, so much so—and it’s depicted in the film—that the publishers made her take a lie detector before printing “Ordeal.” Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman, who collaborated on “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk” and “The Celluloid Closet,” play the bio-pic straight up and pedantic, much like they did with “Howl,” though in telling Linda’s story, they piquantly delve into the business side of the industry, which oddly enough, is not as sleazy as you’d think. All the sleaze that there is in the film, is heaped on Traynor who shills out his wife out for quickies and worse. (Traynor, who it seems was addicted to porn stars, would later go onto marry Marilyn Chambers).

Lovelace herself only made a handful of adult movies and later joined with Gloria Steinem to speak out against the porn industry. She never hid from what she did and in that, Epstein and Friedman capture the soul of a woman caught between two extremes and unable to escape her past, yet able to come to terms with it as a mother, wife and daughter (of very conservative parents). It’s an intriguing and touching portrait that owes much to Seyfried. Like Lovelace, who died tragically in a 2002 car accident, she proves she’s more than just a pretty face and capable of so much more.

The eclectic array of pop-up cameos include Chloë Sevigny and Sharon Stone, two women also known for pushing sexual boundaries in film : Stone for her panty-less leg cross in “Basic Instinct” and Sevigny for performing full on fellatio in “Brown Bunny,” the same act that made Lovelace a worldwide sensation.

—– Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies



^ selfie music

—- —- —-

We have watched house music and techno develop, as pop music genres must, over the past 27 years or so since these genres first grew a name. Of everything that house and techno first came to me, however, nothing remains except for one aspect : it’s solo stuff. Yes, there are DJ duets, a few of them superb. They are exceptions. To probably everyone who imagines a DJ, the image is of one person, earphones on, commanding equipment that sends out good vibrations, good rhythms.

It was not that way in rock and roll, nor, for the most part, in jazz. Rock and roll was played by bands — mostly three or four musicians, sometimes five or more. If a rock band featured a soloist — and many did — he or she was always, always of that band, never by him or herself. In jazz, the small combo and the big band were the rules. Solo performance arose from ensemble performance and took place within it.

As ensemble genres, rock and roll and jazz signified community, demonstrated common interests, rose above the glitter of self, its smell, its gimme’s. Yet of course the urge to spotlight rumbled within the music and often burst through it. Stars arose aplenty and took over, nailed the fans, made their names immortal — backing band or no backing band. Yet even then, even with Elvis or James Brown, as elephantine as any egos that have ever walloped an audience, the music needed several players to build its arc, give context, outline the star’s temper and contours.

With DJ music there’s none of that. the audience is the context the setting the temper. There is one music maker and one only; he or she does it all. No previous pop music, except maybe the blues, has ever presented so singly. Yet the blues is best played within four walls, or on a front porch. It is also music of pain — maybe joy and pain (in the immortal phrase of a great song by Maze) — and of one person and nobody else. Blues is as personal as a toothbrush. DJ music, on the other hand, though almost always solo, is hardly ever singular, and though much house music cries pain as often as not, the pain it cries is the fans’ pain. (It may also be the the DJ’s pain, but only as he or she is of the audience as much as at the mix-board.

The art forms closest to what DJ music does are painting and photography. Here the presentation is exclusively the artist’s — hermetically so. If it speaks to those who look, it speaks to them all, equally; or to none. Paintings and photographs do not — cannot — send a message only to one fan, or a few. For how can the photographer or painter know who will look ? The most popular DJ music does the same. It sends the DJ’s message — and his or hers only — to everyone everywhere. There is no locality in big-arena DJ music, no observable bounds, no contour or temper. It contains no private messages, no communal come-ye’s.

If the most popular DJ music has no definitions, why does anyone like it ? Yet a lot do. All over the world millions love big, beachy, smiley DJ music. Why ? There is, of course,. never a simple answer to why anyone likes a work of art, expression, entertainment. Some like them because their friends do. Some are snagged by the rhythm, the squiggles, the giddy glee. This writer is tempted, however, to conclude that people who like big-name DJ music do so because the music is its own mirror, its own photograph; a “selfie” sound track.


^ selfie at work

The “selfie” — a smartphone snapshot, usually, of the person taking the snapshot, usually holding the smartphone up to her or his face — is as much the watermark of DJ society as the hot rod was of rock and roll, the two dancer twirl and leaps of jazz, the packed-tight dance floor of disco. At the disco, no one thought of being just a self; one melded into a crowd, sweat to sweat, thigh on thigh. People went to jazz dances in pairs, foursomes, whole busloads. Rock and roll was rebel music, but a soften as not, the rebel of it was an entire generation of young people. At huge DJ gigs, however, the fans exult the music by taking “selfie” of themselves — all of them the same “selfie,” but who’s counting ? The only number that matters in DJ music is ONE. Sound familiar ? it’s the politics we live in, the music we live by.


^ the selfie icon ?

This is not to say that there are no DJs who play to contours and communities. What today is called the “underground” features plenty of masterful DJs who play joy and pain, message and aspiration, struggle and stride, and a vast dome of images frightful, mechanistic, bellowed and screeched. It’s solo music, but solo is not the message. Friends, competitors, alliances, imagination — these are the messages often carved by “underground’ DJs. Still, the “underground” gathers a fan base maybe one-fiftieth as big as the solos who populate big DJ gigs by the tens of thousands. Is it surprising that one encounters hardly any “selfie” snap-shooters at “underground” DJ sets ? When you are one of 20,000, it is you and only you swimming in a sea of bodies. You’re very, VERY much alone, and you know it; and the “selfie” is an icon of aloneness as lonesome as any such this writer has ever seen.


^ a selfie = alone = lonely

On the other hand, when you’re on a dance floor with less than 200, every shoulder next to you and leg on the other side of you become real people who matter. There the self has allies warmer than a selfie pic.

—– Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere