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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

BrianWallis presents … 17 recommended documentaries about 50+ mostly recommended poets

 

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Aliona van der Horst Boris Ryzhy (2009)
‘The Russian poet Boris Ryzhy was handsome, talented and famous. So why did he take his own life at the age of 26? A quest to find the answer takes the filmmaker to the criminal neighbourhood in the cold industrial city of Yekaterinenburg where Boris grew up. Through conversations with family and friends, she pieces together a picture of passionate and complex life of the poet. What emerges is a penetrating portrait of the perestroika generation, who lost all certainties, becoming a generation of criminals and bodyguards. Above all, it is a haunting film about Boris’love for life. Through his poems, pain is transformed into grace. Directed by Aliona van der Horst. Cinematography: Maasja Ooms. In co-production with VPRO.’ — VPRO


Trailer

 

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Jonas Mekas Scenes from Allen’s Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (1997)
‘This is a video record of the Buddhist wake ceremony at Allen Ginsberg’s apartment. You see Allen, now asleep forever, his close friends, and the Buddhist monks conducting the cere- mony, preparing Allen for the travel into the spirit world. You also see Allen being wrapped up and removed from the apartment to the Buddhist Temple. I talk to Peter Orlovsky about Allen’s last days. Later I tape the final farewell at the Buddhist Temple, 118 West 22nd Street, New York City, and many of Allen’s friends, Patti Smith, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Le Roy Jones- Baraka, Hiro Yamagata, Anne Waldman, and many others who came to say last good-bye to Allen.’ — Jonas Mekas


Excerpt

 

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Kate Crash Eruptions of Poetry: Anna Homler, LA Woman (2011)
‘Anna Homler is a poet and vocal, visual and performance artist who has been known to invent her own languages; she often plays her collection of antiques, toys and curios thru a variety of digital delays/FX. She is included in Kate Crash’s current interactive documentary created with EZTV’s Michael Masucci. The film, LA Woman, (2011) premiered as part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative sponsored by the Getty Research Institute.’ — collaged


Excerpt

 

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James Brih Abee Full Blossom: The Life of Roberts Blossom (2000)
‘Despite his long legit career, the poet and actor Roberts Blossom is probably best known for his role as Old Man Marley in the Chris Columbus film Home Alone. He also appeared in Slaughterhouse-Five, The Great Gatsby, Escape From Alcatraz, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Quick and the Dead, Always and The Last Temptation of Christ. He also starred in a horror film, 1974’s Deranged, that was based on the life of serial killer Ed Gein. He was also a published poet, writing every day for 60 years. A documentary on his life, Full Blossom: The Life of Poet/Actor Roberts Blossom, was made in 2000 and featured Ed Asner, Peter Brook and director Robert Frank, as well as members of Blossom’s family.’ — Variety


Trailer

 

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Aristede Craig Jr. Aristede the Poet Documentary (2013)
‘Aristede Craig Jr. uploaded a video.’


the entire film

 

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John Dullaghan Bukowski: Born into This (2003)
‘Director John Dullaghan’s biographical documentary about infamous poet Charles Bukowski, Bukowski: Born Into This, is as much a touching portrait of the author as it is an exposé of his sordid lifestyle. Interspersed between ample vintage footage of Bukowski’s poetry readings are interviews with the poet’s fans including such legendary figures such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joyce Fante (wife of John), Bono, and Harry Dean Stanton. Filmed in grainy black and white by Bukowski’s friend, Taylor Hackford, due to lack of funding, the old films edited into this movie paint Bukowski’s life of boozing and brawling romantically, securing Bukowski’s legendary status.’ — Top Documentary Films


the entire film

 

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David Hoffman Michael Yetnikoff: Child Poet (1968)
‘This 30-minute documentary that reveals the life and poetry of a ten-year-old poet, Michael Yetnikoff. Michael says that he has been a poet since he could write. He shares his thoughts and his poems with veteran documentary filmmaker, David Hoffman. The result is a tale about a ten-year-old boy whose poetry contains way with words and intelligence way beyond his years. Michael reads his poems and offers insight into what created them. He even writes a poem about the documentary.’ — DH


Excerpt

 

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Melanie La Rosa The Poetry Deal: A Film with Diane Di Prima (2012)
‘She remains the most famous women poet of the Beat Generation; her friend Allen Ginsberg calling her “heroic in life and poetics”. THE POETRY DEAL: A FILM WITH DIANE DI PRIMA is an impressionistic documentary about legendary poet Diane di Prima. The most well known female writer of the Beat Era, di Prima is fierce, funny, and philosophical, still actively writing in her late 70s in San Francisco, where she is poet laureate. She is a pioneer who broke boundaries of class and gender to publish her writing, and THE POETRY DEAL opens a window looking back through more than 50 years of poetry, activism, and cultural change, providing a unique women’s perspective of the Beat movement. THE POETRY DEAL puts di Prima’s life and work on screen in a unique, beautiful portrait using rare archival material, impressionistic scenes shot in Super8 and 16mm, stories told by friends and colleagues—and di Prima’s powerful writing.’ — WMMNYC


Trailer

 

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Ron Mann Poetry in Motion (1982)
‘To say that Poetry in Motion, Ron Mann’s 1982 documentary, is the greatest poetry documentary of all time doesn’t really quite give the film its due. Thirty years on, the film still holds up as an anthology and time capsule, one that’s on a par with or even surpasses its print inspiration, Donald Allen’s New American Poetry: 1945-1960. It arrived in theaters and video stores at a time when poetry was reasserting itself as an oral and performance-based art, a synthesis of previous countercultural movements with free jazz, punk rock, and theater of cruelty cabaret. The 24 poet performers portrayed in the film read like a who’s who of late 20th-century American countercultural poetry: Helen Adam, Miguel Algarin, Amiri Baraka, Ted Berrigan, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, John Cage, Jim Carroll, Jayne Cortez, Robert Creeley, Christopher Dewdney, Diane Di Prima, Kenward Elmslie, Four Horsemen, Allen Gingsberg, John Giorno, Michael McClure, Ted Milton, Michael Ondaatje, Ed Sanders, Ntozake Shange, Gary Snyder, Tom Waits and Anne Waldman.’ — collaged


Excerpt


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Danila Usov Graveyard Poet (2007)
‘This is a story of Paul Berry, a grave yard tenant and a poet. In addition to Berry, the documentary includes Greg Berry and Mike Eagle as narrator. Gil Raitses and Morgan Denner also have contributed with cinematography. It was shot on a night of the big snow storm.’ — DU


the entire film

 

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Matthew Furey Red Poet (2009)
‘The film was accepted into 8 film festivals including the Rome Independent Film Festival in Italy & the Bradford International Film Festival (hosted by the British National Media Museum). Film Maker Matthew Furey’s Red Poet paints a soulful picture of San Francisco’s own Jack Hirschman and brings to the silver screen the singular life of this troubadour for modern times. A modest Bronx childhood first gives way to a shooting star career in academia. Controversial teaching stints at Dartmouth and UCLA make him anathema to the academy; he is fired for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Soon Hirschman finds himself penniless and homeless on the streets of San Francisco. Through it all, Hirschman perseveres, continues to write his poems and publish over 100 books of poetry. Red Poet recounts a tale of a life lived on its own terms: against all odds, a unique poetic talent finds personal redemption through his art and his poetry.’ — MF



the entire film

 

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Sara Sackner Concrete! (2006)
Concrete! is documentary about the Sackner-Archive, in Miami, the largest private collection of concrete and visual poetry. Over sixty-thousand objects from around the world speak volumes about a compulsive and joyful life of collecting art, poetry, and artist books. Founded in 1979, this “archive of archives” initially focused on concrete and visual poetry—including rare manuscripts and published works by international luminaries such as Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, Oyvind Fahlström and Eugen Gomringer. The collection subsequently grew to encompass a broad array of historic and contemporary works that synthesize word and image. Rooted in the early to mid-20th-century European avant-garde, the collection provides a unique lens through which to examine the foundational movements of modernism, including Italian Futurism, Russian Constructivism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, Dada and Lettrisme, among others. The Sackners’ contemporary holdings are also expansive, with special strengths in artists’ books and “assemblings” (limited-edition groupings of materials by numerous contributors), as well as various subgenres such as typewriter art, performance poetry and micrography (abstract or representational designs comprised of minuscule lettering).’ — Ubuweb


Trailer

 

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CrimeTV William Bradford: The Death Row Poet (2003)
‘William Richard “Bill” Bradford (1948–2008) was an American murderer who was incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison for the 1984 murders of his 15-year-old neighbor Tracey Campbell and barmaid Shari Miller. In July 2006, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released a compilation of photos found in Bradford’s apartment in the 1980s, depicting 54 different women in modelling poses. As Bradford had used the promise of a modelling career to lure his victims, and taken pictures of Miller before murdering her, police believe that Bradford was in fact a serial killer and that the photos depict Bradford’s other victims in the moments before their deaths. Bradford died at the Vacaville prison medical facility on March 10, 2008, of cancer. In 1998, Bradford dropped all of his appeals, claiming that life in San Quentin had become unbearable. Having had no legal representation for the past 10 years, Bradford hired a lawyer to help speed the process of his execution, and began writing poems about life in San Quentin. His poetry attracted attention from the press, who dubbed him “Death Row Poet”. Five days before his scheduled execution, Bradford said that he had changed his mind, professing his innocence and declaring that he wanted the execution process to be halted.’ — collaged


the entire film

 

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Gustave Reininger Corso: The Last Beat (2009)
‘Although hailed by Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg as an exceptionally gifted mind and poet, Gregory Corso is, by comparison, the unsung Beat, never achieving the same renown as the movement’s three most celebrated icons. But he probably was the most colorful of the bunch, and Gustave Reininger’s 10-years-in-the-making documentary, Corso: The Last Beat, finally brings him to the big screen. The film’s somewhat uneven style — at once an artistic documentary, home movie and sometimes overly conventional for such an unconventional subject — might hamper its chances for traditional television platforms. But Corso should be seen, not simply because Reininger’s respect and love for his subject obviously run deep, but because the film is a moving portrait of an artist of unwavering loyalty to his artistry.’ — Hollywood Reporter


Trailer

 

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Bradley Gillespie Frick (2014)
‘Roughly a year ago, I had the opportunity to meet one of my idols, Steve Roggenbuck. Steve is an alt-lit poet that is actively embracing new techniques of spreading his awe-inspiring words across the globe. Gaining popularity through use of his quick, comedic videos via YouTube, Steve disorients you to a point where you’re not sure how to take his art, but regardless, leaves you with a deep feeling in your stomach to better yourself. My deepest apologies for taking so long on getting the video out. Thank you Steve for taking the time out to make this video, which turned out to be one of my favorite I’ve shot in my entire career as a director. Boost!’ — BG


the entire film

 

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Richard O. Moore USA: POETRY, FRANK O’HARA (1966)
USA: Poetry was produced and directed by Richard O. Moore for National Education Television. The twelve part documentary series which was produced in 1965-66, showcased many poets including, Anne Sexton, John Wieners, Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, William Everson, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Kenneth Koch, Ed Sanders, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Richard Wilbur, Denise Levertov, and Louis Zukofsky. The program featuring Frank O’Hara was filmed on March 5, 1966 and originally aired on September 1, 1966.’ — poetry foundation.org


the entire film

 

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Barbara Hammer Welcome To This House (2015)
Welcome To This House (2015), a feature documentary film on the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), about life in the shadows, and the anxiety of art making without full self-disclosure. Hammer filmed in Bishop’s ‘best loved homes’ in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil believing that buildings and landscapes bear cultural memories. Interviews with poets, friends, and scholars provide “missing documents” of numerous female lovers. Bishop’s intimate poetry is beautifully performed by Kathleen Chalfant and with the creative music composition by Joan La Barbara brings Bishop into our lives with new facts and unexpected details.’ — bh


Excerpt

 

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Robert Mugge Black Wax (1983)
‘The films of Robert Mugge engage crucially not only with the sounds but also the philosophies of the artists whose work they explore, and it is difficult to imagine two more philosophically engaged artists than the incendiary poet/songwriter/vocalist Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) and the exploratory keyboardist, composer and bandleader Sun Ra (1914-1993). In two classic documentaries, newly remastered for Blu-ray and DVD by MVD Visual, Mugge mounts the stages on which these ineffable creators plied their deeply felt trades. In 1982’s Black Wax, Mugge captures a Washington, D.C., performance featuring Scott-Heron and his Midnight Band (under the guidance of bassist and “Secretary of Entertainment” Robert Gordon), interspersed with casually graceful scenes of the vocalist guiding the viewer on a “tour” of the nation’s capital. Scott-Heron puts caustic verbal thumbscrews to iconic figures of the American past and, in poetic verse, excoriates the poverty thriving in the inner cities while “Whitey’s on the moon.” Scott-Heron is leftist in his views, but he declares himself merely a member of the “Common Sense Party,” his cultural role that of a “bluesologist.”’ — Jazz Times


Trailer

 

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Matt Wolf I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard (2012)
‘This inventive biography of Joe Brainard gives an immediate and visceral sense of his humour, self-deprecating personality, and gentle demeanour. Brainard’s drawings, collages, assemblages and paintings, as well as his short essays and verbal-visual collaborations, were celebrated during his lifetime before he stopped making art in the mid-1980s. The film is an elliptical dialogue about friendship, nostalgia and the strange wonders of memory.’ — IFFR


Trailer

 

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Mark Pellington The United States of Poetry (1995)
‘Originally aired in 1996 as a five part series on PBS, “The United States of Poetry” is an excellent presentation of twentieth century poetry. This two-part series includes a wide variety of poets, such as Czeslaw Milosz, Rita Dove, and Allen Ginsberg, alongside actors and musicians such as Johnny Depp (reading Jack Kerouac) and Lou Reed. Former President Jimmy Carter also makes an appearance, reading his own work. The series has been praised for its inventive and artistic camera work and its refusal to be boring: “USOP tosses aside the textbook approach to poetry and drags it, kicking and screaming… into this wired world… it’s poetry as you’ve never experienced it” (TV Guide).’ — poets.org


Excerpt


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p.s. Hey. A very kind reader of this blog has curated a film/video show featuring documentaries about poets for us, and it’s quite something, as you will see if you haven’t. Please poke around and learn about some poets you know and don’t know. And, as ever with guest-posts, please do give a shout of some sort to your host BrianWallis to show that you appreciate the time he took and the effort he made. Thanks, folks, and thank you so very much, Brian! ** Scunnard, Hey, J! Awesome to see you, and thanks so much! You’re in Prague? Whoa. And it’s hot and hailing? Whoa. What are you doing there? Max-enjoy whatever it is. ** Ferdinand, Hi, Ferdinand. So nice to see you! It’s been too long. Thanks about ‘My Mark’. I forgot all about that anthology. Huh. The audible add-on angle makes sense, yeah. ‘McGlue’: I’ll get it. Cool. Sweet about the zine, not to mention the synth. Envy (not that I’d know where to start with one.) No, I’m in Paris. Probably won’t get to the States until mid-October for my annual Halloween jaunt, but you never know. Take care, man. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I watched a very drunk, rambunctious Paul Lynde get thrown out of a hustler bar once, as I’ve probably told you repeatedly. ** Kyler, Thanks, K! ** Sypha, Well, in this case, you’ll never see the book because it’s only being shown at Art Basel and sold there in a ltd. ed. of 3. You can decide what you think of a song without having to hear the album it’s on. Maybe think about the gif works like that? I’ll go read that tempting interview, thanks. Everyone, Here’s Sypha: ‘Oh, a friend of mine, the occultist writer Justin Isis, today posted a big interview with another friend of mine, the occultist writer Damian Murphy. I recommend it, it’s really fascinating.’ ** Steve Erickson, Thank you, Steve. No, you’re not reading too much into it at all. ‘Jawline’ sounds quite interesting. Noted re: first possible access point. Everyone, Steve has put out his two cents (well, obviously more than two) about the new Emma Thompson film vehicle ‘Late Night’ if you’d like a trustable opinion. Here. ** WithKeatonHangingOutTheAnus, Well, well, well, Keaton my man! How’s it hanging? Demo? Dropping? Ooh, I think I need that. I guess it must be Pride over here too. You sound like life is yum, and that’s yum to hear, bud. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks, Ben. How’s that Diego Maradona film then? ** Bill, Hey, B. Well, if it’s the same display set up that Cabinet Gallery used when it showed a couple of my gif novels in a group show a while back, there’ll be a large monitor on a wall and then a small table, chair with a keyboard so the viewer can scroll through the novel or read it. So, no, not pre-sequenced as far as I know. You’re reading ‘Ice’! Nice one. It’s true that when people have talked about ‘LDJiN’, they do seem to start by talking about its tech, especially some unbelievable hour-long tracking shot or something? I figured with that title it wasn’t going to be a crisp 90 minute thing, ha ha. How is that William Jones novel? I’ve read fair amount about it but I still can’t figure what it is. Brainy subversive porn? ** Okay. I intro’d the post up top, so, again, I hope you enjoy it and let Brian know you care. Thanks. See you tomorrow.

10 Comments

  1. Shane Christmass

    June 14, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Oh man great list. Seen a few of these but will track down and watched, especially USA: Poetry.

    You probably all seen this – but if not – https://youtu.be/QcGcr7jvDms

  2. Roberts Blossom was an old boyfriend of Bill Reed’s. They don’t get any weirder.

    LOVE that clip of Kenward singing “Who’ll Prop Me Up in The Rain” –my favorite one of his songs!

    I know Peter Marshall slightly and he told me what was so tragic about Paul Lynde was his inability to experience pleasure at any level. The public ADORED him. Yet this love never got through to him because he hated himself so much.

    I’ll have to fid that Joe Brainard film. The clip looks great.

  3. It hangs like Fritz cutting down bodies to make a Frankenstein? I think it’s a demo. I don’t know, it’s like 10 songs. Something I’ve never done before, I was always the gay kid, and I probably hated that scene anyway. It will be the lowest-fi, haha. It will be very bad. I just hope I can make it as bad and crusty as I’m shooting for. The lyrics are written. Working on the punk rock now. Then 2nd guitar/solos etc. The lyrics are an interesting insight into myself. “What lyrics would you write if you were in a punk band?” “Answer.” “God, I’m an ass.” lol. I might play some Pansy Division live next week for Pride. It’s not bad, avoiding crazy things, like parasailing, and sharks. Is it healthy to have flashbacks from Cattle? “Does the TV ever talk to you?” “When I watch that Dennis Cooper show, it does.” If I had another life I would be a poet. Hope youre good maestro. Big luvn

  4. “Having a Coke with You” is my favorite Frank O’Hara poem. It’s all about his love for Vincent Warren.

    Here’s the film Frank made with Alfred Leslie (he created the subtitles)

  5. Ah, Dennis, so it really is a limited edition? I thought you were just being tongue in cheek! I’ll have to pay more attention in the future, then. Sorry, as you know I’ve been a bit out of it as of recent.

    Yeah, it’s a good interview, I hope it gets Murphy some more fans, I think he’s a criminally overlooked writer… one of the few living writers I can think of whose prose makes me jealous when I read it, in a “I wish I had written that!” way.

  6. Quite a lovely diverse group of docs today, Dennis and Brian. That Joe Brainard clip is so charming, just like his work.

    Yeah, Long Day’s Journey has this incredible tracking shot. If you find this sort of thing annoying, I’d suggest seeing the 2D version.

    I’m only a chapter into the new William Jones. Will probably have an opinion by tomorrow.

    I was really enjoying Ice, but after about 100 pages, I think it could be shorter. Umm.

    Have you seen Pat O’Neil’s The Decay of Fiction? Sounds fascinating, very LA. Might try to catch this in a special screening, though I’m not a big fan of being in a dark theater on a sunny afternoon.

    Bill

  7. Corey Heiferman

    June 14, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Brian thank you for this assemblage. I hope to make a poetry documentary in the not-too-distant future and will come back to this post for inspiration.

    My favorite poetry documentary is Yoruba poet Mayowa Adeyemo praising Eledumare (the Creator):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpnPkZDA0I8

    Here are two Robert Duncan documentaries. One is from the USA poetry series (combined with John Wieners) and the other was made later in color. Great combo of lavishly mystical home, wondrous sideburns, and some poetry and insight.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQVDT0rW0Q8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC1EwgBqEUU&t=687s

    As for Hebrew poetry, Yona Wallach was a rebel icon:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yona_Wallachhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9I5XS2L52M

    https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/strawberries-11/

    By the way, where did the name Beyond Baroque come from? Did anybody show up expecting to hear Bach on a synthesizer or something like that?

  8. I’m intrigued by that Joe Brainard trailer. Wonder if it’s possible to find the full film anywhere? I was always very into his Nancy collages but know little of his poetry, surprisingly enough. Thank you BrianWallis for this showcase.

    Today I was at the DCA print studio earlier to do a bit more on The Call zine. Progress may be slow as there are lots of colours for this edition, and each layer needs to be dried before a new one can be added. Here is a pic showing some of what I was up to with the help of Katie, the studio’s resident risograph expert.

    I saw the Diego Maradona film and it’s a really engrossing watch, with plenty of extraordinary unseen footage of his Napoli days when he seemed to have the footballing gods at his own personal beck and call. It ends up being a terribly sad story with our hero being an embarrassing overweight cokehead but wow, what a ride it is along the way.

  9. Have you heard Korean producer Jaeho Hwang’s NON-SELF? It’s aggressive in a way derived from industrial and techno without being obvious or meatheaded and parts of it are danceable, suggesting samples of Korean folk music laid over the beat from Portishead’s “Machine Gun.”

    The link to BUKOWSKI: BORN INTO THIS inspired me to head to YouTube and see if Barbert Schroeder’s 4-hour Bukowski doc is up there. The only version available is a 45-minute edit made for PBS, and even that is broken up into 5 parts.

    Lecinemaclub.com has re-launched after a brief hiatus. They’re streaming Claire Denis’ 1991 medium-length film KEEP IT TO YOURSELF for the next week, free to anyone who clicks on the site.

  10. Brian Wallis, This is great stuff. Thanks.

    Dennis, Hahaha, no, no one died. Well, one almost did. Or so the dirty police said. He lived, though. I think I told you that story before about the guy who pulled a gun on us at a party. He ended up in the hospital for a week. (Strangely, my one friend who was there that night had no idea what really went down or why. )

    But yes, the catching up was fun indeed.

    I need to catch up on some zzzzzz’s tonight, though I’ve been doing better through the week.

    Hmm, I feel like there was something I wanted to say that was kind of important or relevant or just funny, but I don’t have the foggiest what it was. Couldn’t have been too important, right? 😛

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