. . . Fritz Lang

. . .

And so ends the story of: HATE, ZIP-POW!, and REVENGE

The Comics Journal message board supplies a surprising addition to the short list of "Krazy Kat" / film noir crossovers (and Fritz Lang / Jonathan Lethem connections):

Fritz's parting present to me was a collection of his favourite comic strips by George Herriman.... he wrote on the flyleaf:
Dear Jan

May you acquire Krazy's philosophy which makes a brick on his - (her?) - noggin the purveyor of true love. For the Krazy's of this world there are no austerities.

Sept 29th - 47 Fritz Lang

. . .

Leslie Cheung  
Here Comes Trouble
1956 - 2003
  Late on Thursday, I attended Leslie Cheung's farewell concert. (The funeral was scheduled for even later, I guess.) It was a small venue, and I was seated fairly high in the balcony. That turned out fine, because it happened that Leslie Cheung was startlingly tall -- eight or nine feet tall, at least! (He looks much shorter on film.) We made eye contact!

After the show, I was happy but a little drowsy, so I stopped at an unreconstructed diner for coffee. I must've nodded off, because next thing I knew, it was morning. I asked the proprietor behind the counter -- a gruff old guy -- what I owed.

He said "25 cents."

"25 cents? That's impossible. I know I had more than one cup, and what about the other people at my table?"

"It's 25 cents."

I gave him five bucks and told him to keep the change, but he insisted on giving it to me, in the form of a bundle of micropayment traveler's checks and coins mounted in cardboard.

"This alone must be worth more than five dollars," I said, trying to return one of the coin collections.

He stood there with his gray-haired arms folded.

As tributes to Leslie Cheung go, that one was less odd than the one accorded by our newspaper of erasure, the New York Times. In a fit of shame, they've removed access, but, if memory serves, it was buried at the bottom of a puff for an MTV movie, mentioned Chow Yun-Fat as much as the deceased, relied on pre-1997 press clippings for information on his sexual identity, and ignored most of those roles noticed even by the NYT over the years.

My own list surprises me, once assembled, by the range his consistently self-pitying timbre was able to cover:

  • the epitome of teenage angst in Nomad
  • bumbling wimp in Chinese Ghost Story
  • idealistic cop in A Better Tomorrow
  • the infatuated rich kid of Rouge
  • damaged cocksmith in Days of Being Wild
  • sword-wielding assassins tragically reformed and cynically resigned in Bride with White Hair and Ashes of Time
  • turning drag farce to grand opera in Farewell My Concubine
  • the misty gigolo of Temptress Moon
  • and Argentina's most dysfunctional boyfriend in Happy Together
Surprises, I think, because, although he was central to the success of all these movies, he was never the point of them in the way that other stars might be.

The sheer daring of HK actors can make it difficult to come up with Hollywood comparisons. But in a boyishness that verged on the cadaverous, in his perfectionism, and in his persistent cold distance, as if all his masks, no matter how varied, were carved from a single unbreachable shell of loneliness and disdain, Cheung reminds me of Henry Fonda. A Fonda who skipped John Ford and went straight from Fritz Lang and Preston Sturges to Sergio Leone.


. . .

The critic as necrophile

I performed legal services for the Institute for Social Research. At first I was a lawyer and wrote stories. Only afterwards did I concern myself with film. Horkheimer and Adorno did not take me seriously as an author. They said, "He is a first-rate lawyer, we like him and are friendly with him, but he just should not make films, and in no event should he write any stories." After Marcel Proust, one can no longer write stories any more. That was Adorno's opinion. He sent me to Fritz Lang in order to protect me from something worse, so that I wouldn't get the idea to write any books. If I were turned away, then I would ultimately do something more valuable, which was to continue to be legal counsel to the Institute for Social Research.... I handled their reparations claims, among other matters....

For his mother nothing was enough for him, and she protected him from his father's cheapness. Adorno became a very sensitive man who knew music but couldn't ride alone on a streetcar. He led the impractical life of a very protected child.... When he was waiting for a streetcar, he changed into Franz Kafka and believed that it would never come. His wife always had to drive him around. It was, among other things, because he had to travel, first in England and then later in the United States, that he got married.

... he had no knowledge of the production sphere. He did not deal with it. He was interested in what Marcel Proust did, with what music did. He never really saw a factory, and that is why he sees society as a factory. That is why I never believed Adorno's theories of film. He only knew Hollywood films. He went with Fritz Lang, Brecht, and Eisler together as friends to Hollywood. They offered scripts nobody wanted. Fritz Lang made Hangmen Also Die. He did not need Adorno for such a film.

- "On New German Cinema, Art, Enlightenment, and the Public Sphere:
An Interview with Alexander Kluge
by Stuart Liebman, October 46 (1988) (via Mubi)

There are two sides stretching from the frozen moment, two fears guttering our desire for the immobile:

The fear of loss, the hoarder's fear that the beloved will be wrested from us before we're done. And by choice we only desire what we can never be done with; anything less would be, what should we call it, a waste of time.

And the horror of process, that the Queen of Brobdingnag eats and Celia shits, that sausages are made even if one isn't completely sure how, that toys don't spring ex nihilo from Mother Christmas's hands.

(I suppose his injunction against new poetry is more quoted than his injunction against new fiction because fewer people want to read new poetry.)


George Clinton kindly writes from 1978:

Lunchmeataphobia: The fear of being eaten by a sandwich.

Josh Lukin kindly writes more recently:

Incidentally, I long associated noticing and critiquing the Horror of Process with radical arguments (Marxist, feminist, Tory, Raydavisian); but now the Oxford Internet Institute has set me straight.

Yorick Wilks, ladies & gents, and who sez they don't make Tories like they used to?


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.