Saturday, August 30, 2008

La Goulue and the CanCan at Le Moulin Rouge - Louise Weber (1866-1929)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec - Poster for Le Moulin Rouge and La Goulue (1891)

YouTube is truly an amazing resource!

I was playing round with things like 'Le Moulin Rouge' and 'cancan' and up came three clips (from andrasmblack, arbrerouge7 and gazabo) about Louise Weber - the famed La Goulue. Each with footage of this famed identity in middle age, executing a few dance steps.

La Goulue c1910

Dubbed 'La Goulue' (The Glutton) for her habit of downing the drinks off tables as she danced past, Louise Weber was THE cancan dancer of Le Moulin Rouge, and the highest-paid performer of her day.

Perhaps Jewish and from L'Alsace, Louise Weber settled into the Paris suburb of Clichy, and began working in a laundry with her mother. Even at 16 she revealed her daring - borrowing clothes put in for cleaning to go to the dance halls at night.

There she met Auguste Renoir, who introduced her to nude modeling for artists and for photographers such as Achille Delmaet ...

... and from there she found her way into the dance clubs and halls of Montmartre.

Immortalized by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ...

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec 'La Goulue arriving at Le Moulin Rouge' (1892)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec 'La Goulue and Valentin' 1895

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec 'La Goulue'

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and la Goulue at Le Moulin de la Galette

... this vibrant, audacious and gutsy sensualist would high-kick the hats off male customers' heads with a toe during her routine, ...

... dance on the table tops, and flash a red heart embroidered on her under garments.

She formed a dance partnership at Le Moulin Rouge' with Jacques Renaudin (1843–1907), a wine merchant who danced under the name of Valentin le Désossé or Valentin the Boneless. Doing the 'chalut', an early version of the cancan.

This footage of La Goulue around 1910 is touching for a number of reasons.

Determined to capitalize on her considerable fame, she broke with Le Moulin Rouge in 1895 to set up her own dance hall ...

Barraca de La Goulue, la nº 10 de la Feria del Trono de 1895

... and when this venture failed, she traveled about fairgrounds as a belly dancer, with her own booth ...

... only to fail again, and end her days in alcoholic destitution. Hinted at in the clips by her being reduced to a caravan home and torn and mended garments.

It's impossible not to respond to her efforts re-capture some of the vitality and abandon of her Moulin Rouge days. There is still some of the delicious and vigorous fluidity and the rhythmic abandon, but in the gentler mode of old age. And still the beautiful placement of body, arms and legs.

Like in a creaky old melodrama, La Goulue was finally reduced to support herself selling peanuts, cigarettes and matches - unrecognized and on a street corner near the Moulin Rouge!
Annual Migration of Golden or Cow Nose Rays

Two metres across, the Golden or Cow Nose rays circularly migrate: western Florida and the Yucatan Peninsular, Mexico. In schools of up to 10,000.

These images were taken by Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer.
Peggy Lee - 'When the World Was Young'

Everyone knows Peggy Lee for 'Fever' and 'Boy from Ipanema' and whatever.

But in 'When the World Was Young', Peggy seems at her very best - reflective, self-aware, alive, intensely expressive and 'in the moment'.

A song about the wisdom that looking back can bring.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Flapper Wink

How often do you get a wink from a real 1920's flapper!

This experience has transcended time and space - courtesy of some footage of the period on YouTube from Aaron1912 ... and the vibrant personality of this archetypal flapper.

A larger portion of the clip reveals ...

... exactly what your grandmother might have really been doing in the second decade of last century!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alla Nazimova (1879-1945) and 'Salome' (1923)

Born Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon in 1879 in Yalt, the Crimea, Russia, Alla Nazimova played the central role in 'Salome' (1923), from which these stills are taken ....

... and of which the 'Veil Dance of Salome' clip below is part.

Having studied in the now famed Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theater, Nazimova became a major star in Europe, before emigrating to the States where she was a huge hit on Broadway, and then a power in Hollywood from 1917 to 1922, as an actress, screenwriter and producer.

She had that great sense of creative purpose that drove Serge de Diaghilev in masterminding the Ballets Russes. And there is a parallel in the drawing together of so many important artistic elements, in the production of this daring film - from Natasha Rambova's designs from Aubrey Beardsley to the text of Oscar Wilde's play.

The acting and movement has a stylization and exaggeration that, while often typical of the period, is highly appropriate to this essentially aesthetic-movement-meets-German-expressionism material.

Great thanks must go to 'MaidMarian' for this upload to YouTube! Her choice of music is perfect - at times I imagine it as an original sound track!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Matthew Mitcham - Olympic Gold Medal Winning Diver and Proud Aussie Gay

I was browsing my Queerclique friend Kevin's page and, checking out his post on Matthew Mitcham, realized I couldn't resist doing something similar.

Matthew won a gold medal for diving at the Beijing Olympics.

Great to see a gay guy out, and out there doing so well!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Nat King Cole - 'Nature Boy'

Think this is the best version of 'Nature Boy' - it's all paired back to essentials so the meanings of the lyrics are more potent, and the line of the music and voice more intelligible. The black and white footage, and sparsely orchestrated arrangement with few instruments. Nat King Cole looks amazingly fresh! And sounds so velvety.

I love the idea of understanding something of such great importance from an unexpected source - a wise mysterious enchanted younger person, 'a little shy and sad of eye'.

'The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return'

Haunting and thought-provoking.

Thanks Alan for reminding me of this great song!


Derek just commented he preferred John Leguizamo's version in 'Moulin Rouge', so I've posted it here too.

Sam Cooke 'A Change is Gonna Come'

Though well before my time, it's hard not to respond to the sentiments through the music in 'A Change is Gonna Come' by Sam Cooke.

And I love this clip, with the lyrics overlay, and images of Martin Luther King Jr and the protest marches of the 50's and 60's.

Makes you believe that change is possible. Don't wanna get too cynical here!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Two Crocodiles Were Sitting at the Side of a Lake

Two crocodiles were sitting at the side of a lake.

The smaller one turned to the bigger one and said, 'I can't understand how you can be so much bigger than me. We're the same age, we were the same size as kids. I just don't get it.'

Well,' said the big croc, 'what have you been eating?'

'Politicians, same as you,' replied the small croc.

'Hmm. Well, where do you catch them?'

'Down the other side of the lake near the parking lot by the Parliament Buildings.'

'Same here. Hmm.. How do you catch them?'

'Well, I crawl up under one of their Lexus cars and wait for one to unlock the car door. Then I jump out, grab them by the leg, shake the shit out of them and eat 'em!'

'Ah!' says the big crocodile, 'I think I see your problem. You're not getting
any real nourishment. See, by the time you finish shaking the shit out of a politician, there's nothing left but an arsehole and a briefcase.'

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Borat Meets David Letterman

Just wondering, guys, how you see the phenomenon of Borat.

I saw this clip of him being interviewed by Letterman in the States ...

... and I was curious to know whether his sense of humour translates in your countries. Or gets lost.

I howl - lots. But that's partly just me. I love the way he goes to the edge ... and then way way over!

So how is it for you?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Film about Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy

Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy - David Hockney, 1968

Lately and at odd moments, I've been working my way through YouTube and DailyMotion for footage of well-known people - for those that I felt I'd get some better idea of from hearing their voices and seeing them move and gesture. I think these things can reveal a surprising amount about character. Or not!

So I've been just putting in a bunch of names to see what turned up.

At one point, 'Christopher Isherwood' went in and up came a trailer for Guido Santi and Tina Mascara’s documentary 'Chris and Don: A Love Story' (2007).

I missed the film on release, mainly I think cos I was traveling for the better part of that year. Usually my Isherwood-Bachardy radar is pretty well tuned! So this is a post about a film I haven't seen. Apart from the trailer above. And what I've only read -
Stephen Holden's New York Times film review and Kevin Thomas's for the Los Angeles Times.

I've devoured most of Isherwood's books - from the Berlin stories to 'Down There On A Visit' and beyond. And have posted about him - 'Christopher Isherwood - A Gay Role Model' (2 December 2006). And seen a fair number of Don Bachardy's portraits in various media.

Self portrait, 2003

Christopher Isherwood, Pen and Ink on Paper

Dan Castle, 1998

But I haven't much considered them much as lovers ...

Don, 16 and Chris, mid-40's - 1950's

... and life partners ...

... the subject of this 2007 movie.

In a very general way, I've always admired the way Isherwood and Bachardy were so completely 'out' at a time (the 1950's) when it was much more difficult than it is now. And out as a potentially long-term couple where there was such a large power differential - of age, education, fame, social class and self-awareness and identity.

Something for which they made no apologies but worked through - maybe somewhat serendipitously rather than by conscious design. Though Isherwood took certain planned steps, for example, when he realized Bachardy's talent for portrait painting. And Bachardy gained a greater sense of who he could be by mimicking Isherwood's style of speech, social mannerisms and attitudes, and so on - when you don't know who you are, copying can be a great first step to self-discovery.

While not diminishing the value of Isherwood's contribution to us in this, it should be pointed out that being 'other' in so many ways was very much of the well-spring of his literary output and its dynamo.

I also admire the way the couple dealt with some of the issues confronted by long-term couples, such as Bachardy's 'mousing' or extra-martial sex.

And Bachardy's extra-ordinarily beautiful attentiveness during Isherwood's final illness.

There is so much to be engaged by in the lives and relationship of this gay couple - and the real strength of the film for me is the footage of Isherwood and Bachardy so intensely together at different stages of their life together.

My views about Isherwood and Bachardy have come about from bits and pieces picked up from David Hockney's writings, Isherwood's own work, W H Auden's writings and so on. But now I'm off to the 'The (Gay) Bookshop' to buy the DVD of this documentary so I can consolidate my sense of them as a partnership.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Poem Animation - Morphing a Photograph into a Film

I've just been on a most curious journey.

It started with noticing, on YouTube, two newly discovered and unique film fragments of Vaslav Nijinsky, the great Ballets Russes dancer, performing in 1912 in 'L'apres midi d'un faune' (Music: Claude Debussy, Choreography: Vaslav Nijinsky):

And the journey continued when I serendipitously found archival footage of William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Abraham Lincoln ... just to name a few!

And I suddenly understood I'd discovered the wonderful software world of 'poem animation' - Jim Clark's term. You can find an extended selection of his work at: and

Jim Clark

Here is Jim's animation from a photograph for Abraham Lincoln:

Paintings work (nearly) as well as the base material, as this one of William Shakespeare shows:

Now this tale has an unexpected twist. Some of these poem animations use the voice of the actual person represented.

So here are animations for two great gay artists - Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde - using their real voices, taken from early wax cylinder audio recordings.

So the possibilities of course are endless. How bout Cleopatra? Moses? Genghis Khan? The pharaoh Tutankhamun? Who do you want guys?

But I must say guys that, with the actual voice of the person, these constructions seem to move (just a bit) beyond animation!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

'Shortbus' - A Gay-Themed Film That Has It All

I seem to be getting a bit stuck on gay-themed films here! But ... .

When you start playing 'Shortbus', you'll be forgiven for thinking you've mistakenly (?!) rented out some (very high quality) porn film. Lots of big hard dick, and sucking and fucking and rimming ... men-to-men, men-to-women and women-to-women. In pairs and way beyond.

In one of the opening scenes, from which the still above is taken, you think:
  • what a hot guy
  • wow, he's naked !
  • wow wow, he's really getting hard !!
  • far out, he's gunna pretend to cum in his own mouth !!!
And it keeps coming.

With the super cute toy boy of the two main protagonist gay lovers having 'The Star Spangled Banner' sung into his butt hole while he's getting rimmed - cos he wants more noise. Understandably, he's inspired to join in himself, using a dick as his mike.

New Butt Hole Version of 'The Star Spangled Banner' (Photo Enlarges - BIG!)

And all with some pretty sparkling dialogue, and one-liners:

'I used to want to change the world, now I just want to leave the room with a little dignity'

But I would do a disservice to the film to just dwell of these aspects - cos it's so much more than the sum of these (abeit hilarious) parts - I'm going to risk sounding like a film industry PR man!

'Shortbus' is full of authentic but not narrowly stereotypic gay (and straight and inbetween) characters.

From the central gay couple (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy) ...

... the drag queen and wise 'oracle' MC (Justin Bond) of the 'Shortbus' salon ...

A Shortbus Salon Show

... and the young independent new-thinking toy boy (Jay Brannon) - 'I like to think that a model is like geometry - it's all lines and angles' ...

... to straight and experimenting (?) characters, like Sophia (Sook-Yin Lee) ...

Sook-Yin Lee, actor, and John Cameron Mitchell, the film's director

... and the drag kings and deliciously-moustachioed and gender-reconstructing gay women.

All just presented as part of this 'scene'. Inclusive politics at its best and least unforced.

There's a liberality of thought that doesn't let things to get fitted into cliche and politically correct film outcomes.

And all in a feel-good package - what more could you ask for!

Monday, August 11, 2008

'Shelter' - A Gay Film Directed by Jonah Markowitz

Zach (left) and Shaun

Just seen a great award-winning gay film - 'Shelter', directed by Jonah Markowitz and starring Brad Rowe and Trevor Wright.

I watch a lot of gay films, as we all do, cos they're about gay rather than cos they're good films. But this is not one of those. It even has high production values! All of which makes it feel like a major Hollywood effort, not that we always cringlingly wanna be part of mainstream cinema.

The story is about two guys in a small California town. Zach and Shaun. Who become partners.

One living on the other side of the tracks and not realizing his dream of going to art school. Zach has a long term girl-friend (hyphenated, advisedly) and not fully come out even to himself.

And the other back from LA to the better side of the tracks to chill from a broken relationship with a bloke.

The two are friends from childhood. And revitalize their friendship through, among other stuff, their love of surfing.

What is particularly engaging about this film is the way the plot unfolds is ways which do not tremble and shake with cliche. I kept feeling I was being presented with real actions and reactions. Situations I've encountered and had to deal with, often in ways that are not ideal.

The characters are complex - not simply constructed as good or bad. Zach's sister has a five-year-old boy but in the end leaves the child with Zach and Shaun to take her chances with a drifter. However this is presented in the film in ways that do not disturb your sympathy for her - no minor achievement!

Happily, the dialogue makes meanings that do not necessarily flaunt themselves on the surface but dart about as currents underneath.

Sadly, the sex in the film is not at all good - more than a bit frantic and rushed at. Though there is great sweetness in their first kiss. One of the great screen pashes in my estimation. There is the moment of hesitation before and then Shaun takes the initiative to move into it. Gentle and lingering ... but sexy. All at just the right real pace.

Four and a half stars out of five?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olga Spessivtzseva (1895-1991) - Dancer of Absolute Perfection

Olga Spessivtzeva in 'La Chatte' (1927)

Born in Russia, ballerina Olga Spessivtzseva left the Mariinski Theatre in St Petersburg in 1916 to join the famed Serge Diaghilev Ballets Russes company on their South American tour.

Along with Vaslav Nijinsky ...

Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Le Deux Bleu' (1912)

... Tamara Karsavina ...

Tamara Karsavina in 'Les Papillions' (1914)

... and a number of other now legendary dancers!

There is only one record of Spessivtzseva's dancing - amateur footage of her in 'Giselle' at the Savoy Theatre in London in 1932. From this you have an idea of her exquisite technique. Perfect in its easy gentle and poetic precision.

The 'mad scene' at the end of Act One of the ballet is (unexpected) powerful - it unfolds slowly and inevitably, inexorably drawing the audience to the tragedy. Apparently Spessivtzseva wanted to visit madhouses to be able to make the expression convincing and true.

Though it might seem a tad melodramatic today, it was moving and real for its time, as Anton Dolin, her partner in the ballet, notes as the talking head of the second clip.

Sadly, Spessivtzseva suffered a nervous breakdown in 1943 and was institutionalized till 1963, when her mind cleared somewhat and she settled into the Valley Cottage on the Tolstoy Farm, a Russian community in Rockland County outside New York. She died aged 96.

My thanks and acknowledgment to 'goldenidol' who uploaded these fragments from the more complete film to YouTube.

Hope you weren't too confused when you start reading this guys, thinking perhaps you'd opened the wrong blog!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Now Here's the Question

Okay guys, now here's the question.

What's the connection between the set of images above ... and the two sets of images below?

Set 1

Set 2

Hope it's not rocket science!

This last picture is just a distractor! Sorta.