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March 15, 2011

Dark Stars Rising

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Shade Rupe

Shade Rupe - 2011
Headpress

Even before her recent death, I would have said that the centerpiece of Shade Rupe's collection of interviews was the one with Tura Satana. There was so much I didn't know about her life, such as part of her childhood spent in Manzanar, one of the "relocation camps" when unfounded fears forced the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent. Tura Satana was in many ways both like and unlike the character she played in her most famous screen appearance, in Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. In the end, I was struck by her generosity and tenacity, in spite of the events that would have defeated many people.

The interviews here are with artists who in one degree or another might be described as transgressive. In terms of how they express themselves, there are writers, filmmakers, performance artists, and musicians. Some are better known to mainstream audiences, while some might be considered known to a smaller audience. Even if one wasn't interested in every artist, or read every interview, there is still enough to glean here, something for almost everyone.

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Another favorite interview for me was with Teller, the silent half of the performance team with the loquacious Penn Jillette. Teller talks, and talks, and talks, and it turns out to be quite an involving chat about his move from Latin teacher to magician's foil. A good part of the interview is devoted to how Arthur Penn became the director of Penn and Teller Get Killed, and possibly the most convincing argument for going out of the way to see the film that was dumped by the same company that continues to make money with Bonnie and Clyde.

Other interviews of more interest to me were with Gaspar Noe talking about his early years as a filmmaker, and Alejandro Jodorowsky providing the context I wish I had when I stepped into the 5th Avenue Theater, in New York City, way back in 1970 to see something called Fando y Lis. On the other hand, when The Runaways climbs its way up my Netflix queue, I will have a better idea about director Floria Sigismondi.

Could Arnold Drake be the father of what is called the graphic novel? Could be. I like his film, The Flesh Eaters, but reading about the making of the film is even better. Also besting what he's put on the screen are Richard Stanley's adventures in shooting movies in remote parts of South Africa, stories so hair-raising that he makes John Huston's legendary visit to Africa look like the visit of a pampered tourist.

Dark Stars Rising is abundantly illustrated, mostly with black and white photos, and with some color photos in the front and back. There's no such thing as a bad or uninteresting photo of Tura Satana, which is enough reason for me to keep this book.

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Posted by peter at March 15, 2011 08:17 AM