Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bob Dylan: The Bard of Branding

“Bob is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception.”

-         -  Joni Mitchell

Bob...before he became 'Dylan', man
The irony was apparent to those who chose to see the rickety, stove-piped legs that supported the façade. Here was a middle-class mid-western Baby Boomer folky transmuting Woody Guthrie Depression-era socialism into 1960s societal angst. Anti-government. Anti-corporation. Anti-status quo.

However, few entertainers ever had such an intuitive gasp of personal branding as Bob Dylan. In this pursuit, he is a genius. The untamed hair, the defiantly off-key singing, the poison pen lyrics, the confrontational attitude, the up-all-night pallor – Dylan created a powerful, pliable persona that was as original as Old Glory itself, and just as American.

He made it ok for teenagers to be thoughtful, intellectual, and skeptical. Goodbye Frankie and Annette, hello Mr. Jones and our Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.
Pre-lingerie commercial

When he tried to shift his brand - he lost exposure. Finally, he stopped trying. If he couldn’t grow outward, then inward it would be. The angry teen became a millionaire hobo, the squatter’s camp fire now a cluster of stage lights, the rail car a stretch limo with women he would immortalize and forget.

He did a lingerie commercial as it would strengthen, with back-handed condescension, his personal brand. He was right.

We never knew Bob because Bob  didn't exist. The most talented poseur of them all – laconic, jaded, detached, trailing in the wake of his own myth with no direction home, like a rolling stone.
The Bard of Branding

In the end a beautiful trickster, the Tambourine Man, one who sang the spell as a generation danced around him thrice and drank the milk of paradise.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Richard Burton: The Voice cleaved from a coal face

Buffalo Bill’s
Chronicles of wasted time
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death
-              - e.e. cummings

“I was merely the medium through which the words went.”Richard Burton

Listen Yorick: The love, beauty, fame. and death
The Voice was cleaved from a coal face deep beneath Welsh meadows always rich as the grass is green. It was born to be heard, that played language as an errant storm god racing the wind in pursuit of love, beauty, fame and death.

Richard Burton
The Voice....the voice
Absolve him of the drinking, the carousing, the nightclubs, the women, the reckless embrace of a mythic gift, and listen just as Shakespeare completes Hamlet’s soliloquy and hands the paper, still wet with ink, to Burton, to the one who can force the green fuse of life up through the roiling blood of his lungs and out into the world forever breathing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Marcello Mastroianni and energetic ennui

"In the name of the Father, the Son..."
In his best roles, Marcello Mastroianni offered us a unique kind of detachment, call it energetic ennui. It's a tricky combination, light but brooding, gothic but with an appetite for fresh pasta.

An acceptance in the eyes
He was an actor unafraid of emotional extremes. Indeed, in La Dolce Vita, he is slapped about by existential ghosts, neutered in his quest for meaning, never knowing where to even begin the search. He plays a writer named Marcello (ah Fellini and his scattershot against the fourth wall) who must choose between evil (journalism) and good (fiction). The fact that this film gave us the term ‘paparazzi’ is a rather powerful clue of Fellini’s mind.

A unique kind of detachment
Marcello’s erotic baptism in the Trevi Fountain, with high priestess Anita Ekberg, is iconic, speaking a truth we are sadly too sophisticated to believe.

There was a resigned acceptance in his eyes that blessed humanity on its own terms, forever rendering him an ineffective villain. A love of life, and a playful, droll, gentle frolic with death. A leader who only wanted to follow. A passionate man who couldn’t stay mad. A devoted lover who left at dawn.

When he died the Trevi Fountain was turned off and draped in black. That says something. A baptismal font rarely offers an exit.