"The cinema is cruel like a miracle." -Frank O'Hara

A Little Tease

Jim Winkel, author, insatiable collector of ephemera and ringleader behind an incredible circus of blogs — including the treasure trove dull tool dim bulb — is helping me solve a mystery.

I purchased a striptease album featuring this saucy minx from a San Telmo antiques vendor, and now I’m dying to know everything about her. She’s labeled as “Penny Smith” aka “La Inglesita.” I posed the question to Jim, a connoisseur of old-fashioned smut.
Read his post at Vintage Sleaze to find out more (and to see much, much more of her. [cough *NSFW* ahem.]

Maurice Tabard, Film Solarize

Assistant to his father in a silk mill, fashion photographer, friend to Man Ray, X-ray technician, master of solarization and the double exposure…Maurice Tabard had quite the C.V. Unfortunately most of his work was destroyed during the war. Below is a rare oversize filmstrip that has been solarized by Tabard — arresting, no? The Sabatier effect in action.

Can’t Repeat the Past? Why Of Course You Can!

Gatsby guys and gals were out in full swing last weekend for the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island. I ab-so-lute-ly adore this soirée for two reasons: Not only is it a fabulous excuse to don a vintage ensemble, but because people take such care in getting all the little details right — from phonographs to antique cars to turn-of-the-century wooden stools from the World’s Fair. When the music starts up and the hooch starts flowing, you really do feel like you’re on a movie set or that you just might have traveled back in time.

First things first: outfit time! For my ensemble, I looked to the silent screen goddesses for inspiration, turning to Ms. Lillian Gish & Mary Pickford and a host of other nameless lovelies (Do a Google Image search for Vogue and 1920’s. DO IT NOW. By the way, when did Image search become so much more heart palpitatingly awesome?). My favorites, below:

Norma Shearer (top row center), Mary Pickford (middle row left) and Lillian Gish (bottom row left), three of my favorite silent stars.

Because I am obsessed with authentic vintage (not vintage-inspired, but The Real McCoy) I went to April’s edition of the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show — a dangerous and wonderful extravaganza in which I am reduced to sobbing child who can’t have everything. After searching endlessly for a frock in good condition, I found a floaty 1920’s garden party number, along with some matching toe-tappers.

Vintage dress and shoes from Another Man’s Treasure. (This boutique is based in NJ, and the owners are wonderful people.) The bag looks like a tortoiseshell and the gloves are courtesy of Jennifer’s grandmother.

And now the party: In addition to the fantastic music, I had the pleasure of meeting some true clothing connoisseurs. Watch and learn, vintage fashionistas: Heidi is perhaps the best-dressed woman in the city, period. (pun intended.)

There was also a Bathing Beauties & Beaus Promenade, which took some guts to enter. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do (and truthfully this did not take much arm-twisting).

The Bathing Beauties and Beaus, en masse. And, oh hey, here’s a video of the whole shebang!

For participating in the promenade, I received a copy of Zelda, the magazine dedicated to vintage nouveau. Among other delightful treasures and tutorials — how to pin-curl your hair! — it features interviews with Robert Osborne of TCM and the last surviving Ziegfeld girl, Doris Eaton Travis. An interview with 1930’s starlet Marsha Hunt (who was quite the dish) really gets at why I go to such great lengths to recreate the past, and why we look to old movies for inspiration to create a better life:

I generally and genuinely thing the old was better, was more becoming…I’d carry it beyond clothing and into music and manners: how we treat each other…and so, if you have a love of given period, follow it. You can invent your own styles of living that are consistent with what was worn then.

Well said, Ms. Hunt. If this speaks to you and you think the past was better than the present, then it’s up to you to recreate it. This is partly why I think true cinephiles cherish old movies so much, which teach us a few things, among them how to dress, how to dance, how to act and how to live.

P.S. Start brushing up on your Charleston — there’s another Jazz Age Lawn Party in August! I’m already planning my outfit, which might involve sequins. Stay tuned.

The Road to Profundity and Seriousness Leads Through Superficiality and Irresponsibility

Hello blogosphere! I’ve missed you.

The reason posting has been virtually nonexistent is very exciting: I’ve started a new job at BAM, which is everything I dreamed it would be. Aside from a hot mess of a commute, I love being part of such an eclectic and forward-thinking organization. BAM’s programming is avant-garde in an extreme way, and I can’t wait for the upcoming Next Wave Festival, which features boundary-pushing work from gasp-out-loud artists, such as Laurie Anderson, Pina Bausch, Mikel Rouse, and more. Of particular interest for the cinephile set are two theatrical interpretations of art cinema classics: Throne of Blood and The Marriage of Maria Braun. It will be interesting to see if these conform to the Broadway trend of adapting movie concepts faithfully for the stage (Hairspray, Grey Gardens) or if they’ll depart wildly in their own direction.

My new home away from home.

But someone recently gave what is perhaps the best and most obvious piece of advice about this blog to date: don’t be afraid to show a little personality. While I think bits and pieces of Cynthia have occasionally peaked out from behind the curtain, I’ve played this blog pretty straight and narrow, sticking to topics that I’ve found fascinating but leaving out any personal details that flesh out my engagement with them. I’ve also avoided some not-so-serious subjects (such as my year-long search for a vintage bathing cap that resembles the one Lea Massari wears in L’avventura which I WILL WEAR TO THE BEACH ONE DAY) lest doing so would destroy my already questionable intellectual credibility.

But it’s the summer, and it’s so hot that I’m serioously contemplating pulling a Marilyn and sticking my undies in the fridge, and more importantly, THE CYNEPHILE is six months old and I’m starting to feel comfortable with the whole online persona thing (comfortable enough for Twitter, even.) In other words, the gloves are off. Expect way more posts that will reveal unhealthy amounts of time spent on YouTube, Ebay and thrift-store sagas of my obsessions with all things French and from the Forties (all in a vain pursuit to become Arletty, from Le Jour se Lève) and maybe even some original video. Stay tuned.

The Fabulous Arletty.

Louise Bourgeois on her 95th Birthday

Jonas, Seb and Ben visit Louise Bourgeois to wish her a happy birthday. They sing to her. Chocolates are passed around and eaten. There is a close-up of Louise’s dangling feet. Seb practices his throat singing. There is another close-up of her feet. Bravo. C’est beau, ah? [Fade to black.]

Happy Together [Wong Kar Wai] and Buenos Aires

Happy Together is a story of a fleeting love affair, but it is also a love letter to Buenos Aires. I recently visited the city for the first time and was struck by the slow ebb of energy that pulsates in its streets and cafés, a melancholy aura that betrays nostalgia for a faded past, and dreams for the not-so-certain future.

In Happy Together, the main character Lai Yiu-fai (played by Tony Leung) lives in the neighborhood known as La Boca, literally the mouth of the Riachuelo river. This barrio, with its colorful houses and storied history, is often invoked as as emblematic of Buenos Aires as a whole. The birthplace of Argentinean tango, it is a dangerous neighborhood to walk around in outside the limited tourist district. It is also quite a bit of distance from the city’s center.


The rooftops of La Boca in Buenos Aires

Lai Yiu-fai is shown repeatedly catching the bus to and from La Boca from his job at a doorman at a nightclub. I also took the #29 bus, which looks almost exactly the same today.


Lai Yiu-fai running after the #29 bus

The La Boca bus depot

And here is the La Boca bridge that the two lovers jog across one cold morning:

Ho Po-Wing [Leslie Cheung] and Lai Yiu-fai [Tony Leung]

The La Boca waterfront with the bridge in the background.

And lastly here is El Obelisco, located in the center of the city at Avenida 9 de Julio. Wong Kar Wai uses sped-up footage of this monument, which is located in the middle of the widest street in the world, as as a trope to showcase the swift passage of time.

El Obelisco at night

Alexander Kluge on Nollywood


A film company in Lagos controls 200 subsidiaries that make popular films which never make it to the movie theaters but are instead distributed across Africa on DVD. 600 new productions every week. Is this a new flowering of cinema? The subject matter is certainly tough enough.
–What sort of things do they tackle?
–One film, for example, is about three women who go to Europe as sex workers. Before setting off, they go to their tribal medicine man to acquire some “good luck.” But they don’t have any good luck in Europe. The medicine man who sold them the charms has moved to New York. It turns out that a new baby needs to be sacrificed for the promised miraculous luck to become a reality.
–The women travel to New York
–Yes, that’s exactly what happens in the movie. They force the magician to marry one of them and to sacrifice the child who is born soon afterward. And from then on they expect their second expedition into the heart of Europe to bring them the required good luck.
–Is there any censorship?
–The DVDs are beyond the reach of censorship.
–Do critics help disseminate the products?
–There are no critics.
–Is there any feedback to suggest how the products are received by the customers?
–The feedback of cash.
–Which suggests that this type of product is satisfying a real demand.

(From Cinema Stories by Alexander Kluge, trans. by Martin Brady and Helen Hughes, 2007)

All About Eva Tanguay

A few months ago a friend sent me this fascinating article about Eva Tanguay, an outrageous but nearly-forgotten vaudeville actress who may have been the inspiration for Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Whether or not this is the case, and whether or not she deserves the title of “first” rock star does nothing to diminish her star quality: Ms. Tanguay understood the essential ingredients of celebrity. What she wasn’t cognizant of was the need to record herself for posterity, and this is perhaps why she fell victim to history. Only one 78 rpm recording exists of her voice, that of her signature song “I Don’t Care.”

Tanguay also only made one feature which I would give my eyeteeth to see: the 1916 silent film The Wild Girl.

Performance excerpts, along with clips from the The Wild Girl (And yes, that’s Judy Garland singing ‘I Don’t Care.”)

The author points out in the article that press and popular literature mention Tanguay all the time. I came across this delicious anecdote in a book that I just ordered and I can’t get enough of: Show Biz, from Vaude to Video, by Abel Green and Joe Laurie, Jr. Luc Sante describes it in his source notes as “a history of prewar American popular culture derived from the files of Variety and narrated in that paper’s side-of-the-mouth style.”

The book is treasure trove of colorful details, and this Tanguay entry is one of many. Behold:

Heywoud Broun, as drama critic for the New York Tribune, reviewed her act under headline:

Wrote the acidulous Broun:

“Ours is a democracy, so probably nothing much can be done about the singing of Eva Tanguay. But even in a free country, there should be some moral force, or physical if need be, to keep her away from the ‘Marseillaise.’ She should not be allowed to sing it even on her knees, and it is monstrous that the great hymn of human liberty should be shrilled as a climax to a vulgar act by a bouncing singer in a grotesque costume begirt with little flags.

Miss Tanguay sings in French, and I have no idea whether she is trying to be funny. I never know what she is trying to be except noisy. I think she is the parsnip of performers. The only cheerful song in her repertory yesterday was one in which she hinted that some day she would retire. Miss Tanguay is billed as ‘bombshell.’ Would be to Heaven she were, for a bomb is something which is carried to a great height and then dropped.”

The outraged Eva promptly took an ad in Variety. With more courage than prudence, she reprinted the withering Broun review under the scornful headline: EVA TANGUAY–THE PARSNIP OF PERFORMERS. And then Eva let loose her blast of indignation, in some very free and fiery verse:

“Have you ever noticed when a woman succeeds how they attack her until her character bleeds? They snap at her heels like mongrels unfed, just because she has escaped being dropped into FAILURE’S big web. They don’t give her credit for talent or art. They don’t discount a very hard start. They don’t give her credit for heartaches or pains; how she grimly held tight to the reins when the road ahead was rocky and drear; how smiling she met every discouraging sneer. AND…

Now to you who have slandered, YOU are dirt ‘neath my feet, for I have beaten your game and it’s a hard game to beat!”


Apologies for the light posting as of late; I’ve been doing some under-the-hood work on the site which will hopefully will allow me to communicate with more of you more effectively. See where Anna is pointing? She is directing your attention to — ta-da! — my new mailing list!

If you’re generally not a blog reader but you make an exception for mine (um, hi mom) sign up to get a special version of THE CYNEPHILE delivered directly to your inbox. Problems, tips, suggestions? Email

2010 Oscar Predictions


Kathryn Bigelow: Will she achieve mythic status as the first woman to win Best Director?

So I can’t resist chiming in with my favorites, even though the nominees are exceptionally uninspired this year. As the Academy repeatedly demonstrates, committees, commercialism and eclectic choices don’t mix. Keep in mind that my ”should wins” are culled from the nominations, and not my art film fantasies of who deserves to have been shortlisted (two words: Claire Denis).

Oh and for all of you Smartphone users: there’s a very fun Oscar App that you should download if you like to call the horse race in advance, and weigh your picks against the hoi polloi. It is also necessary to imbibe something to get through the ceremony, especially the insipid “best song” category. (Please don’t drink the Pandora punch; it looks revolting.)

Best Picture

Should win: The Hurt Locker

Will win: Avatar

Best Director

Should win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Will win: Kathryn Bigelow

Best Actor

Should win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Will win: George Clooney, Up in the Air

Best Supporting Actor

Should win: Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones (His performance is the only thing that makes this movie bearable.)

Will win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Actress

Should win: Carey Mulligan, An Education

Will win: Carey Mulligan


Carey Mulligan from An Education and Mo’Nique from Precious.

Best Supporting Actress

Should win: Mo’Nique, Precious: I Refuse to Write the Entire Title Because it is Pretentious and Unecessary

Will win: Mo’Nique

Best Animated Film

Should win: I’m impossibly torn between Coraline & Fantastic Mr. Fox

Will win: Up

Best Foreign Language Film

Should win: The White Ribbon (Désolée, M. Audiard)

Will win: The White Ribbon