David Lynch’s Perfume Ads Based on the Works of Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald & D.H. Lawrence

As we wrote last week, David Lynch is not only one of the great cinematic spelunkers of the unconscious, creating images and storylines that have disturbed moviegoers for almost four decades, but he’s also had a successful run as a commercial director, making ads for among other companies Alka-Seltzer, Barilla Pasta and Georgia Coffee.

In 1988, fresh off his success with Blue Velvet and just before he started production on his landmark TV series Twin Peaks, he made his first commercials — a quartet of advertisements for Calvin Klein’s perfume Obsession featuring passages from such literary titans as F. Scott Fitzgerald, D.H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway. (Lynch’s ad featuring Gustave Flaubert is mysteriously unavailable on Youtube.)

The commercials have all the pretension, the luscious black and white photography and the vacant-eyed beautiful people that you might expect from a Calvin Klein ad. Yet they also show glimmers of Lynch’s aesthetic – a noirish, dream-like tone, an oddly framed close up, a fondness for flashing lights. Lynch dialed down the weird to serve the text. The result is far more romantic and beautiful than you might expect from the director. If you’re hoping to see a David Lynch commercial that will give nightmares, check this one out instead.

The ad for F. Scott Fitzgerald, which you can see above, uses one of the more famous passages from The Great Gatsby.

He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

Sharp-eyed viewers might have caught that the ad stars future Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro and Heather Graham, who would later appear in Twin Peaks. The commercial dissolves back and forth between Del Toro and Graham until the inevitable kiss when the ad cuts, with surprisingly literalness, to a blooming flower.

The D.H. Lawrence ad uses a quotation from Women in Love:

Her fingers went over the mould of his face, over his features. How perfect and foreign he was—ah how dangerous! Her soul thrilled with complete knowledge. This was the glistening, forbidden apple … She kissed him, putting her fingers over his face, his eyes, his nostrils, over his brows and his ears, to his neck, to know him, to gather him in by touch.

Lynch shows a blonde in a brocade dress looming over her improbably beautiful paramour who is lying on a divan. She paws at his chiseled features before leaning in for a kiss.

And finally, the Ernest Hemingway ad – the spookiest and most Lynchian of the bunch — features a passage from The Sun Also Rises:

I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett. I was thinking about Brett and my mind started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. After a while it was better and I lay in bed and listened to the heavy trams go by.. and then I went to sleep.

This ad opens with a half-naked man lying awake in a darkened room filled with grotesque shadows. He’s haunted by the specter of an androgynous woman in a tank top. There’s a flash of lightening and then the woman kisses his cheek. Lynch closes up on his eye, which is welling up with a single tear.

As a side note: the half-naked guy in the ad is James Marshall who went on to star in Twin Peaks, as did Lara Flynn Boyle who appears in the missing Flaubert commericial. Lynch has a reputation of being very loyal to his actors.

The Obsession ads proved to be such a success that he started getting requests to do commercials for other luxury perfume companies like Giorgio Armani’s Gio and Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium.

As Lynch told Chris Rodley in Lynch on Lynch, he thinks of commercials as “little bitty films, and I always learn something by doing them.”

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

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Pete Seeger Dies at 94: Remember the American Folk Legend with a Priceless Film from 1947

We’ve got some sad news to report. Last night Pete Seeger, one of America’s national treasures, died at the age of 94. For nearly 70 years, Seeger embodied folk music and its ideals (“communication, entertainment, social comment, historical continuity, inclusiveness”) and became a tireless advocate for social justice and protecting the environment. In recent years, Seeger made his voice heard at Occupy Wall Street and even paid a visit to the 2013 edition of Farm Aid, where he sang “This Land is Your Land”. Above you can watch a film that brings you back to Seeger’s early days. Released in 1946, To Hear Your Banjo Play is an engaging 16-minute introduction to American folk music, written and narrated by Alan Lomax and featuring rare performances by Woody Guthrie, Baldwin Hawes, Sonny Terry, Brownee McGhee, Texas Gladden and Margot Mayo’s American Square Dance Group. In the film, Seeger is only 27 years old. We’ll miss you dearly Pete.

To Hear Your Banjo Play resides in our collection of 625 Free Online Movies.

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Watch Bill Gates Lose a Chess Match in 79 Seconds to the New World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen

Last November Magnus Carlsen, then only 22 years old, became the Chess World Champion when he soundly defeated Viswanathan Anand in a best-of-12 series match held in Chennai, India. Carlsen won three games, tied ten, and lost none. Only the second chess champion from the West since World War II (and the first since the “eccentric genius” Bobby Fischer), Carlsen suddenly found himself a celebrity of sorts, getting airtime on TV shows. Appearing on the Scandinavian talk show, Skavlan, a few days ago, Carlsen delighted viewers when he played a game of speed chess against Bill Gates, the wunderkind of a previous generation, who co-founded Microsoft when he was only 20 years old. So how did Gates hold up? Well, let’s just say that, true to its name, it was a game of speed chess. Gates lost speedily — in 79 seconds and just nine moves.

Not that he needs it, Bill got a little consolation yesterday when it was announced that he and Melinda will be the commencement speakers at Stanford’s graduation this coming June.

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Watch the Complete, Crowdsourced Concert Film of Neil Young’s Great Carnegie Hall Show (1/7/14)

On January 7th, Neil Young played an acoustic solo concert at Carnegie Hall and treated the audience to what Rolling Stone calls, “an absolutely jaw-dropping two hour and 20-minute show that focused largely on his golden period of 1966 to 1978.” “It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest Neil Young shows of the past decade, at least when he wasn’t playing with Crazy Horse.” Above, we have a crowdsourced concert film of that entire glorious show. It was stitched together and uploaded to Youtube by Reelife Documentary Productions. Find the 23-song setlist here.

via @SteveSilberman

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Lewis Carroll’s 8 Still-Relevant Rules For Letter-Writing

lewis carroll letter writing

My graduate school supervisor taught me all I know about professional email etiquette. Vague language? Poor form. Typos? Nothing worse. Run-on paragraphs? A big no-no. Spelling your recipient’s name wrong? No coming back from that one. Unfortunately, hastily composed emails and ambiguous phrasing are all too common, particularly with the high volume of emails many people send daily. Skimping on the courtesy and the proofreading, however, is likely to cost you points with your recipient. Thankfully, we’ve provided a list of correspondence best practices, compiled by an authority on letters: Lewis Carroll (who, incidentally, would have celebrated his 182nd birthday today). In 1890, Carroll began to sell a Wonderland Stamp Case, which helped its users to organize their various postage stamps. Paired with the case was a short essay, entitled “Eight Or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing.”

The initial guide, of course, refers to pen and paper correspondence. In fact, Carroll’s foremost precept, which instructs one to write legibly, is no longer a concern in the digital age. Nevertheless, the remaining eight rules provide a clear and simple crib sheet for letter-writing that has stood the test of time remarkably well:

1) Start by addressing any questions the receiver previously had – “Don’t fill more than a page and a half with apologies for not having written sooner!

The best subject, to begin with, is your friend’s last letter. Write with the letter open before you. Answer his questions, and make any remarks his letter suggests. Then go on to what you want to say yourself. This arrangement is more courteous, and pleasanter for the reader, than to fill the letter with your own invaluable remarks, and then hastily answer your friend’s questions in a postscript. Your friend is much more likely to enjoy your wit, after his own anxiety for information has been satisfied.”

2) Don’t repeat yourself – “When once you have said your say, fully and clearly, on a certain point, and have failed to convince your friend, drop that subject: to repeat your arguments, all over again, will simply lead to his doing the same…”

3) Write with a level head – “When you have written a letter that you feel may possibly irritate your friend, however necessary you may have felt it to so express yourself, put it aside till the next day. Then read it over again, and fancy it addressed to yourself. This will often lead to your writing it all over again, taking out a lot of the vinegar and pepper, and putting in honey instead, and thus making a much more palatable dish of it!”

4) When in doubt, err on the side of courtesy – “If your friend makes a severe remark, either leave it unnoticed, or make your reply distinctly less severe: and if he makes a friendly remark, tending towards ‘making up’ the little difference that has arisen between you, let your reply be distinctly more friendly. If, in picking a quarrel, each party declined to go more than three-eighths of the way, and if, in making friends, each was ready to go five-eighths of the way—why, there would be more reconciliations than quarrels! Which is like the Irishman’s remonstrance to his gad-about daughter—’Shure, you’re always goin’ out! You go out three times, for wanst that you come in!'”

5) Don’t try to have the last word – “How many a controversy would be nipped in the bud, if each was anxious to let the other have the last word! Never mind how telling a rejoinder you leave unuttered: never mind your friend’s supposing that you are silent from lack of anything to say: let the thing drop, as soon as it is possible without discourtesy: remember ‘speech is silvern, but silence is golden’! (N.B.—If you are a gentleman, and your friend a lady, this Rule is superfluous: you won’t get the last word!)”

6) Humor is hard to translate to writing. Be obvious. – “If it should ever occur to you to write, jestingly, in dispraise of your friend, be sure you exaggerate enough to make the jesting obvious: a word spoken in jest, but taken as earnest, may lead to very serious consequences. I have known it to lead to the breaking-off of a friendship. Suppose, for instance, you wish to remind your friend of a sovereign you have lent him, which he has forgotten to repay—you might quite mean the words “I mention it, as you seem to have a conveniently bad memory for debts”, in jest: yet there would be nothing to wonder at if he took offence at that way of putting it. But, suppose you wrote “Long observation of your career, as a pickpocket and a burglar, has convinced me that my one lingering hope, for recovering that sovereign I lent you, is to say ‘Pay up, or I’ll summons yer!’” he would indeed be a matter-of-fact friend if he took that as seriously meant!”

7) Don’t forget that attachment! – “When you say, in your letter, “I enclose cheque for £5”, or “I enclose John’s letter for you to see”, leave off writing for a moment—go and get the document referred to—and put it into the envelope. Otherwise, you are pretty certain to find it lying about, after the Post has gone!”

8) Using a postscript? Make it short – “A Postscript is a very useful invention: but it is not meant (as so many ladies suppose) to contain the real gist of the letter: it serves rather to throw into the shade any little matter we do not wish to make a fuss about.”

Casual Victorian-era “silly women!” sexism aside, Carroll’s tips are surprisingly fresh and applicable. If you’re planning on engaging in some serious snail-mail correspondence, we suggest you check out Carroll’s complete essay over at Project Gutenberg.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

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“Exceptional, Spooky and Beautiful” Moments With Birds: Dennis Hlynsky’s Creepy Nature Videos

If, by some stretch of the imagination, the end timers have it right, I hope artist Dennis Hlynsky will consider setting up his tripod as demons spew forth from the earth’s crust.

His small brains en masse project has me convinced that he is the perfect person to capture such an event. Have a look at how he documents the comings and goings of birds.

I’ve never experienced a starling murmuration myself, outside of the famous, shot-on-the-fly footage (right above) of Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith, indie filmmakers who chanced to find themselves in the right canoe at the right time, ornithologically speaking. I admire these young women’s sang-froid. I would’ve been cowering and slashing at the air with my paddles. That funnel cloud of black wings is unnerving even from the safe remove of my living room, but a groovy soundtrack by Nomad Soul Collective encourages even the most bird-phobic amongst us (me) to see it as something gorgeous and awe-inspiring, too.

Hlynsky doesn’t attempt to lead the witness with reassuring sound cues. Instead, he amps up the creepy via “extruded time,” layering sequences of frames atop one another until the darkest pixels become tracers emphasizing flight paths. The combination of everyday sound and visual portent makes it dreadfully easy to imagine one’s truck breaking down at an intersection right around the 7 minute mark.

Perhaps I’ve seen too many zombie movies.

Or have I?

Hlynsky is obviously fascinated by nature, but he also states that “to some degree these videos are studies of mob behavior. Are these decisions instinctual or small thoughtful considerations? Does one leader guide the group or is there a common brain? Is a virus a single creature or a diffused body that we inhabit?”

Put another way, perhaps there’s a reason it’s called a murder of crows, as opposed to a brunch, hug or sweatshirt of crows. Hlynsky, who’s the type of guy to seek their company out, describes his time spent filming them to be among the most “exceptional, spooky and beautiful” moments of his life.

As for these New Jersey seagulls, “throw a french fry in the air and within 30 seconds the entire screech of birds will come.” Yikes. Here, extruded time conspires with the ambient sounds of a boardwalk amusement park, in a tour-de-force of avian-inspired psychic unrest.

Paging Tippi  Hedren… I’m out of here!

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Ayun Halliday wishes she had a cat instead of a mean, orange-striped owl. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Alfred Hitchcock and Vladimir Nabokov Trade Letters and Ideas for a Film Collaboration (1964)


Alfred Hitchcock, writes James A. Davidson in Images, “is usually mentioned in the same breath with Cornell Woolrich, the literary ‘master of suspense,'” not least because he adapted a novella of Woolrich’s into Rear Window (1954).” Yet Davidson himself finds in Hitchcock “a much greater affinity with that of the Russian émigré writer Vladimir Nabokov, with whom he is not typically associated since there is no apparent connection” like the one between Nabokov and Stanley Kubrick, who brought Nabokov’s novel Lolita to the screen. Hitchcock and Nabokov never similarly collaborated, but not out of a lack of desire. Close historical contemporaries and mutual admirers, the writer and the director did once exchange letters discussing film ideas they might develop together. You’ll find the full text of both Hitchcock’s query and Nabokov’s interested response at the American Reader.

“The first idea I have been thinking about for some time is based upon a question that I do not think I have seen dealt with in motion pictures or, as far as I know, in literature,” wrote Hitchcock to Nabokov on November 19, 1964. “It is the problem of the woman who is associated, either by marriage or engagement, to a defector.” After filling out a few details, suiting the concept perfectly to what he calls “the customary Hitchcock suspense,” he lays out a second, about a young girl who, “having spent her life in a convent in Switzerland due to the fact that she had no home to go to and only had a widowed father,” suddenly finds herself released back to the hotel run by her father and his entire family. But ah, “the whole of this family are a gang of crooks, using the hotel as a base of operations,” which would lead into the telling of an “extremely colorful story.” Replying nine days later, Nabokov admits that Hitchcock’s first idea, about the defector’s wife, “would present many difficulties for me” due to his unfamiliarity with “American security matters and methods.” The one about the criminal hotel, however, strikes him as “quite acceptable,” and he goes on to make two pitches of his own.

Nabokov’s first idea, something of a reversal of Hitchcock’s first one, involves a defector from the Soviet Union in the United States. His second focuses on a starlet “courted by a budding astronaut.” When this astronaut returns home famous from a major mission, the actress, whose “starrise has come to a stop at a moderate level,” realizes “that he is not the same as he was before his flight.” Unable to put her finger on it, she “becomes concerned, then frightened, then panicky.” Nabokov tantalizingly mentions having “more than one interesting denouement for this plot,” but alas, we’ll never see them cinematized, and certainly not by the likes of Hitchcock. “One can only imagine the kind of involuted, complex, and playful work these two men would have produced,” writes Davidson. “What is left, in the end, is the work they produced, which can be well summarized by a line the fictional John Shade wrote in Pale Fire: ‘Life is a message scribbled in the dark.'”

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.

Nietzsche Dispenses Dating Advice in a Short Screwball Film, My Friend Friedrich

My Friend Friedrich opens on awkward, bespectacled Columbia student Nate having a heart to heart on the phone with his mother. Then, in a philosophy class, he almost succeeds in landing a date by lobbing an illustrated invitation at his love interest, Emma. All goes awry when a taller, more confident, bespectacled Columbia student cuts him off at the knees. So far, so very New York student film, but a conceit arrives to distinguish this story of Ivy League dating woes: the ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche appears before Nate to guide him towards self-actualization.

In what “seems to have been a senior project at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts,” according to Critical Theory (a Vimeo upload dates the film as “circa 2003), My Friend Friedrich gives us the typical undergraduate experience of the philosopher’s voice. Nietzsche instructs our young friend to regard the flashing lights, tall buildings, and “horseless carriages” of Times Square as meaningless. “Nihilism cares about nothing” he says and urges his pupil to will himself to power. It’s not too profound a portrayal of Nietzsche—though of course it’s only played for laughs—and seems to come mainly from a surface reading of his Will to Power, an unfinished manuscript published after the philosopher’s death. (His sister fraudulently pitched a mangled edition to the Nazis as Nietzsche’s underwriting of their ideology, cutting out all of her brother’s strong remarks against anti-Semitism.)

One could argue, if it’s worth explaining the humor, that this superficial take on Nietzsche is precisely the point, since it’s the diffident Nate’s slight reading of Will to Power at the outset that produces his hallucination-slash-visitation. Nietzsche helps Nate win an intellectual pissing contest by quoting Beyond Good and Evil chapter and verse, then goads him into some awkward outbursts and eventually overstays his welcome. The screwball conclusion is ripped right out of Wes Anderson.

It’s all in good fun, but if you find yourself eager for some more substantial Nietzsche resources, we’ve got them aplenty. You might begin with eminent Nietzsche scholar and Will to Power translator Walter Kaufmann’s lectures on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre. In our list of free philosophy courses you’ll find Nietzsche courses by Leo Strauss, Rick Roderick, and others. Alain de Botton offers an introduction on Nietzsche as part of his Guide to Happiness, and BBC program Human, All Too Human presents Nietzsche’s life in a documentary series that also includes Sartre and Heidegger. Many works by Nietzsche can also be found in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books collection.

And if it’s more Nietzsche humor you’re after, see this failed attempt to explain the philosopher to a group of 5-year-olds.

via Critical Theory

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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