I was glad to see so much coverage of Wim Wenders' brilliant new Buena Vista Social Club in the Weekly [June 410]. However, in "Cuban Love Song," John Payne's assessment of the film's look ("medium-low-tech cinematography") is way off target. Payne gives the impression that the film is shot like a home movie, but it is actually highly cinematic in technique and approach. While small segments of the film were indeed shot on MiniDV (a consumer format), the bulk was shot on Digital Betacam (a professional format) and transferred beautifully to 35mm. Robby Muller's (one of the film's three cinematographers) exceptional, thoughtful portion of the film (the opening Amsterdam concert) was obviously completed with great care -- the same care one would use if working with film. The colors have been timed, the contrast manipulated. A film-savvy friend who attended the screening with me did not, in fact, have any idea that the film originated on tape.
Mr. Payne writes that Buena Vista Social Club "proves again that, given a strong story . . . a film's technical prowess is usually of minor importance." Buena Vista Social Club is, if anything, an example of extraordinary technical prowess, exhibiting more video/photographic care than most films. Wenders has gracefully woven his technique into the story, and vice versa, a skill he has practiced over the years. Also, Buena Vista Social Club's release marks the first feature-length tape-to-film theatrical picture from a major director. I think it is worth mentioning that one of the most innovative directors -- and directors of photography -- of our time has embraced the digital revolution.
This letter is in reference to an interview written by Erin J. Aubry, with me, Ruby Dee, as subject ["In the Key of Dee," June 1824]. We had a most agreeable time, and I felt the article was well done with only three statements that surprised me, the chief among which I bring to your attention because it is a comment I did not and could not make. Within the last paragraph, Ms. Aubry states, ". . . a unique mix of folksiness and coruscating intelligence that would be woefully out of place in the plodding stuff that black movies have become -- Set It Off, Soul Food. Dee concedes as much." It is monumentally incorrect to attribute the above observation to me. I could not "concede" such a remark, because I have not as yet seen either of the films mentioned. Secondly, "the plodding stuff that black movies have become" in no way reflects my thoughts about "black movies." On the contrary, I have great respect for the works of black filmmakers. For the most part, I find them engaging, well-executed and leaving me to marvel at the progress in all areas that has been possible since the first black film producers were eliminated from the industry.
PRINT ME, HARDER!
Re: Johnny Angel's "Fetish Fulfillment" [Outlaw L.A., June 1824]. I don't quite know how to say this, but this article made me want to crawl under a rock -- or more specifically, back under a rock. You see, I am a male submissive/masochist. Though now I am very happy with myself and generally well-adjusted to my own sexuality, as you can imagine, it hasn't always been this way. And it is just this kind of journalism that would have hurt me in ways quite unlike those I now enjoy.
I am sorry that the woman who was the focus of Angel's piece, Miss Scarlett, is so unhappy with what she does -- and even more sorry for her clients, for whom she seems to have absolutely no understanding or empathy. I dearly hope that someday the media -- and people in general -- will stop pointing and snickering at us "freaks." I don't know why, but I just expected a more understanding viewpoint from an (otherwise) open-minded paper like the L.A. Weekly.
As for the "clients" depicted in Angel's article, well, I can assure you that we are not all these kinds of stereotypical miscreants and fiends -- such as the erstwhile powerhead attorney or the dogshit licker. While in the past I have been quite self-destructive (due entirely to a misguided sense of self-loathing, which stemmed in part from leering articles like these in other publications), I have completely turned my life around. This is due to a newfound self-acceptance and self-love -- not the least of which came from the nurturing guidance of certain more enlightened dominant females in the D&S "scene."
Thank you for reading this. I really hope that at least it will foster some discussion within the editorial staff. And by the way, if you choose to print all or some of this, feel free to use my name and address. I am no longer ashamed.
--J. Kevin Stevens
Los Angeles â
David Richard Bloom's article on L.A.'s overpopulation of "supergraphics" ["Signs of Change," June 1824] exemplifies a distressing trend among otherwise politically astute publications in regard to matters of culture. The assumption that these or any advertisements -- especially at 20 stories tall -- might play a benign role in the makeup of a community is a very dangerous fallacy, especially in a community as disjointed as Los Angeles. If it were simply a matter of free speech -- or even democracy -- as "muralist and maverick" Mike McNeilly so proudly proclaims, there would be ample room in the skyline for a dissenting opinion, or for the sort of real public art that L.A. is so badly in need of. But it's not about democracy; it is solely and without exception a matter of profit.
Rather than fueling the momentum of the advertising industry (which hardly needs the help) with the ridiculous assumption of its natural right to the landscape, publications like the L.A. Weekly should be taking issues of public space and community culture seriously.
PROM PIC PIZZAZZ
Re: "Prom Night" [June 1824]. I am very impressed by the photographs of Anne Fishbein. Even online, their clarity, contrast and sharp focus are evident. Besides her technical skill, her photos manage to convey a precise psychological moment, no matter what or who her subject might be. Ms. Fishbein's photos are more than the basic, bland documentation that so many photojournalists seem to settle for.
Kudos to Chuck Wilson for calling a spade a spade -- or rather, a stinker a stinker [New Releases, June 1117]. Positive reviews in the Los Angeles Times and Variety sent me to see Just a Little Harmless Sex last weekend. Stupid, irrelevant and self-indulgent are about the kindest things I can say about this eminently unsexy, sleazy exposé of the sexual fantasies and conversations of a group of 20-somethings. If this is what the Gen Xers are really thinking and talking about, we are a society in deep doodoo.
In the Music in Los Angeles supplement issue of June 25July 1, the photo of swing dancers at Beverly Hills' Cocoanut Club was miscredited. It was taken by Jenafer Gillingham.
In a news story last week on the controversy over wall-size "supergraphics," Rick Robinson of Outdoor Systems was quoted saying he had sold his lease for a wall in Westwood to maverick muralist Mike McNeilly. In fact, Robinson says, Outdoor Systems terminated the lease without any transfer of rights, and that McNeilly obtained the space on his own a year later.
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