Some thoughts on the late, great Roland Topor

Roland Topor

April 16 is the anniversary of the death of the artist and writer Roland Topor.

It was on April 16 1997, when the French artist Roland Topor died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 59 years old, sadly far too young for the world to lose such a gifted artist, one who created so many memorable works.
Today, there are still exhibits from Roland’s artwork in his native France, like Exposition : Topor s’illustre, and exhibits in other parts of Europe as well. Roland’s work is not as well known in the United States, except perhaps among fans of horror and science fiction, who still fondly enjoy his 1964 novel “Le Locataire Chimerique” (which was published in the U.S. and U.K. in 1966 as “The Tenant,” and adapted into a 1976 movie by director Roman Polanski) and his script and artwork for the animated 1973 sci fi film “Fantastic Planet.” Those are his two most enduring artistic legacies, although his work also includes the horrific pitch black satirical novel “Joko’s Anniversary” and his hilarious performance as Renfield in Werner Herzog’s 1979 movie “Nosferatu The Vampire.”
And there are some happy signs that Roland’s work will continue to find new audiences, including here in the States. Continue reading

Revisiting the 1920s with Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

Jim Helsinger as Don Adriano de Armado, Jacob Dresch as Costard, and Maxel Garcia as Moth star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

ORLANDO — Were the 1920s one of the last truly great decades, a time of economic prosperity when the nation was not at war, when Jazz was born and the parties never stopped? Was it the last moment of wide-eyed optimism before the Great Depression, World War II and other upheavals brought everything crashing back to Earth?
Hard to say. But it’s worth noting that if anyone books a ticket to see the Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” they should also catch the ongoing production of “The Great Gatsby”.
Both plays are set in the 1920s — “Gatsby” in New York and “Love’s” in Navarre, Spain, and the production values in both are first rate — from the music of the era to one of the true stars of both shows, the fine work of the Shakespeare’s Swingin’ Sewin’ Society and Costume Shop Volunteers, who made those elegant outfits that evoke the 1920s. Try to see both productions, if you can, because they most definitely work together in this evocation of a bygone era. Continue reading

Polanski’s “Frantic,” and the fear of the Muslim immigrant

Roman Polanski’s movie “Frantic” was released in U.S. cinemas on Feb. 26, 1988, so it now marks its 29th anniversary. The movie was released two years after Polanski’s box office failure “Pirates,” which was also savaged by the critics. In comparison, “Frantic” did well at the box office and drew positive reviews by critics who felt it was a solid if not spectacular return to form for the Polish director.

Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley star in Roman Polanski’s thriller “Frantic.”

The movie, about an American physician arriving in Paris for a medical conference who thinks his wife may have been kidnapped, was praised as a Hitchcock-style thriller with a first-rate lead performance by Harrison Ford.
Today, “Frantic” is largely forgotten. It was made in-between two Academy Award-winning films by the director, “Tess” in 1980 and “The Pianist” in 2002.

“Frantic,” like many of the other movies that Polanski made after leaving the United States in 1978, has largely been written off as being sub-par compared to his 1960s and 1970s efforts, which included “Knife In The Water,” “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown.”
Seen today, “Frantic” is clearly a very well made and tense thriller. Continue reading

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