This letter seems funny until you read Canon Collins’ Wikipedia entry. Not a good look, Stanley. Then again, there was no Wikipedia when Kubrick dictated this letter, and he seemed pretty focused on his own work (like having every doorway in London photographed). I did enjoy the acerbic use of quotes around ‘Sunday Pictorial.’
March 23, 1961
Canon, John Collins
Chairman, Christian Action
2 Amen Court
Dear Canon Collins,
Regarding your letters of the 1st and 15th of March, I appreciate your concern about the making of ‘LOLITA’ into a film, because of the sensational publicity which has been attached to the novel. Knowing the sincerity of your intentions, I can only register a certain degree of surprise at your willingness to pre-judge a motion picture (which, by the way, has already been filmed) before you see it. The air of sensationalism which has surrounded ‘LOLITA’ from the beginning has been completely beyond our control, and we have done everything possible to avoid it and to detach ourselves from its implications. Wouldn’t you say that it gives some cause for thought on your part, when you consider the calibre and reputations of the people involved in the picture, notably James Mason, Peter Sellers and Shelly Winters. I hesitate to add (but your letter enforces me to), that a quick look at the films I have made in the past, might also imply a certain dedication to film making, rather than to the exploitation of ‘unwholesome’ subjects. I must say, that I do not think that you will find the motion picture in any way deleterious to the morals of any segment of society.
By the way, the photographs you referred to in the ‘Sunday Pictorial’ were stolen from the laboratory and mis-captioned, and, as a result, gave a completely distorted impression.
Very truly yours,
Story told by a Welsh man who lived in Italy in the 1990s: “I wanted to see Caravaggio’s The Martyrdom of St. Ursula, but it was in the Banca Commerciale Italiana in Naples. So I went in and I asked the bank tellers, and they couldn’t help me. I asked the security guard and he said no.
So I sat in the foyer. I basically said: ‘I want to see it, I’m not leaving. I’ve come all the way from England and I want to see it.’
At the time I though it was completely within my rights, that it was on public display. But it turns out it was hanging in a boardroom.
Eventually the security guard got sick of me. He said, ‘All right then,’ and he took me upstairs and showed it me. He gave me some ridiculous time parameter, he turned on the lights for a very brief time, and shuffled me out of there.
I think they’ve moved it, in recent years. Yeah, I don’t think it’s there anymore.”
The Mattyrdom of St. Ursula (1610) is believed to be Caravaggio’s last painting. It now hangs in the Gallery of Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples.
The actor Tom Hanks has a charming Instagram presence. Of his 184 posts, over sixty are pictures of lost or discarded objects; a lone white glove on a rocky patch of land resembling the surface of the moon, a dirty jelly shoe held up against the backdrop of turquoise sky. “Found. At bottom of the sea.” he wrote, “1 girls (?) shoe. To claim call 1-NEptune.” He occasionally appears as a shadow in these shots, which he signs “Hanx.” They indicate a man who is present and alert in the spaces he catalogs for the digital world. It’s easy to imagine his glee when he spots a new object. Each photo poses endless questions, and every object is imbued with meaning beyond its original purpose. Who did this shoe belong to? How far has it been carried by the currents of the oceans? What the hell have we done to this planet? “Are all of these your gloves ? Or someone else’s?” asked Kaleb Rich Harris. “Is this just one huge ploy concerning how this whole life experience might be interactions with just other versions of ourselves or with completely different versions [of] everyone else and not at all ourselves?”
It’s a nice account. He promotes his wife’s music and supports veterans and Aston Villa Football Club–there are no pictures of an infinity pool or the bow of a yacht shot between his feet. But a subset of Instagram users see only the Devil. They believe Tom Hanks is taunting the world with pictures of trophies from the victims of the Illuminati’s blood-drenched sacrifices. “Pedofilo de mierda!” Jacquelin Sanchez Photographer exclaimed under a a bubble gum pink running shoe. “Is that what’s left of your illuminati parties?” wondered Sir Trashman. Many women express dismay that the Hanks they believed him to be (a mixture of Alan Bauer in Splash, Jim Lowell in Apollo 13, and Forrest Gump) was a cover. “Such a phony, you play this sweet and innocent giving and caring actor, meanwhile you’re hiding skeletons and gloves in your closet,” Ollie Mommy 87 posted under a picture of a discarded couch. They tell Hanks that he is a sick man and that everyone is on to him. That his time will soon be up and that hell awaits him. In their pathology they resemble the people who think they’re the victims of gang-stalking. Every time Tom Hanks comes across a discarded glove, he re-confirms their delusion. It’s like a mutant cyberspace strain of De Clérambault’s Syndrome. “I know the elite sacrifice for wealth and position and it’s not a fake it’s real people,” said Linda 14346 Northern Ireland. “We all know HANX,” wrote JuliAnn ScMurphy. “Also noticed you’ve been deleting comments with credible info, yet keep the ones that make us sound like we’re lunatics. TICK TOC.”
“I think all of the great stories in literature deal with loneliness,” Hanks told the writer Danny Leigh. “Sometimes it’s by way of heartbreak, sometimes it’s by way of injustice, sometimes it’s by way of fate. There’s an infinite number of ways to examine it. If there’s a reason it always seems to be there with me, it’s because it’s so palpable to all of us. You can turn everything into an aspect of that battle against quiet despair, because we all fight it at some point in order to feel we’re part of humanity.”
Hanks talked about loneliness when he was promoting Cast Away in 2001, three years before Facebook was founded. His quote encapsulates both the loneliness of the Hanx images and the paranoid hallucinations people who post under them. Truncated and superimposed over a mountainscape, it has become popular on Instagram.
Spoiler alert, circa 1974: “[Robert] Towne is legendary and I think that both Shampoo and Chinatown were brilliantly written. Towne tells me his ending to Chinatown, which would have made it a much bigger movie… Instead of Faye Dunaway buying it at the end they get away–via a stretch of Mulholland that affords the Valley view, filled with orange groves. Their car passes out of frame and the camera freezes over the background. Towne tells me that he has collected seventeen stills, all approximately from the same POV, which cover the intervening years from then to the present. They show the death of the orange groves and the birth of the San Fernando Valley with all the overdeveloped living spaces for humans, trapped in the basin of the mountains. The last couple of stills, he says, were the most damning, because you couldn’t even see the ugliness of the development, because the smog obliterated everything. I tell him I love his ending. ‘Yeah, well, Roman had some things to work out,’ re replies in a long-suffering tone. He has told this story a lot of times, but I don’t blame him– it is so much better an ending.”
You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again, Julia Phillips, Random House, 1991.
Jennifer Clement interviewed her friend Suzanne Mallouk about her relationship with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Mallouk’s recollections were the basis of Clement’s book Widow Basquiat.
“I remember he had a book on Renoir that he loved. Once I asked him why and he said, ‘Because they are so violent.’ I argued with him and said that he was wrong, that the paintings showed placid French country life. He said I was stupid. He opened the book and showed me the painting of Mademoiselle Romaine Lacaux.
‘Those red flowers,’ he said, ‘are blood in her hands.’ Then he showed me The Sisleys and said, ‘You can just tell he hates her.’ Finally he opened a page at Une Odalisque— the one of the harem women– and Jean said, ‘Look, she is about to fart.’ ”
Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement, Canongate Books, 2000.
Odalisque, Pierre Auguste Renoir