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It was announced the other day that Janus Films has acquired the rights to the entire filmography of Jean Eustache. Which raises the question: is a Criterion boxset, something along the lines of The Complete Jean Eustache, in the works? This seems likely, though until the films get spine numbers or someone fills us non-insiders in, we won’t know for sure.

Either way, this news is extraordinary! A proper restoration and release of these films in some form has been long overdue. Painfully so, in fact. To date, I have only seen a few of them, but would rate them as among some of the best movies to have graced the latter half of the 20th Century. They’re that good.

Conveying the value of the late Eustache’s work to someone who hasn’t seen any of it yet could be difficult. The writer-director seems to have often been preoccupied with emotional states related to matters of the heart, the messiness of male-female relations, but with a more pronounced irreverent streak and less philosophical remove than someone like Eric Rohmer. There’s also the residue of political malaise in the mix. Eustache’s films are cooler than most, sometimes embodying an idling French bohemianism that contemporary directors would have trouble duplicating while maintaining the same watchability. Rather than being flashy, overall the films feel a bit subdued, more true to life in their willingness to be patient with the characters, their peculiar beats, their thoughts and affect, and so on. The screenplays alone, at least those pertaining to the ones I’ve seen, are uncommonly well devised–Bernadette Lafont was on the money when she asserted that that of The Mother and the Whore is worthy of being published in book form. But all of the preceding is just a cursory, early-morning stab at accounting for why these films are deserving of one’s time, something that would (hopefully) become more apparent upon watching them.

Unfortunately what with Eustache’s work being largely out of circulation and underrepresented for so long, its stature has been obscured somewhat, if not exactly in limbo. These films being reissued in one form or another will be a corrective cinephiles the world over can embrace. So keep your eyes peeled!

This past Friday saw the release of a new single, “Stark Geography,” from Tired of Triangles, the on-and-off solo musical concern of mine that began sometime in the mid-2010s. This song, which will most likely factor into an album at some point, can be downloaded on Bandcamp here, as well as streamed on Spotify here, and on YouTube (see video below).

The first Tired of Triangles CD, Up at 4 A.M., was less a definitive statement from me than an attempt to just put together a listenable enough batch of songs that would explore sentiments ranging from “angsty” and insular, to something akin to wee-hour jubilation, however subdued. This is relevant here because “Stark Geography” covers similar territory moodwise, though in this case the shift in tone occurs within a single piece rather than from one song to the next.

Have to duck in here for a second and give a tip of the hat to famed Italian actor Monica Vitti, who passed away today age 90. In her 35-year career Vitti acted in everything from arthouse titles to zany comedies, not to mention the occasional film that combined the two like Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty. Predictably enough, it’s her most well known work with Michelangelo Antonioni that I cherish above all. Am talking here about the monochromatic “Alienation Trilogy” (L’Avventura, La Notte, and L’Eclisse) that ushered in sixties European cinema like a lion (albeit an artfully understated one), as well as Red Desert, a colorful film that came out a couple of years later and directly addressed the toll one’s environment might take on her psyche.

These works have always been somewhat divisive—they are complex, visually involved treatises on “adult” issues, largely within the bourgeois sphere, whose meanings can be elusive for many viewers. Ever since L’Avventura’s premier at Cannes in May of 1960, some in the film world have loved them while others have found them rankling. To someone like me who’s probably seen too many movies for his own good, I can say with confidence that I find this spate of films enduring and nothing short of essential. In conjunction with the films’ strong sense of place and eye for social observation, Vitti’s attenuated beauty, her demure and charisma, has a lot to do with why they’re exemplars of mid-century modernism, the kind of cinema that hadn’t quite existed until then. Simply put, Vitti could be a stunning presence, with facial expressions that could say more than words, often hinting at a discontent or longing under the surface.

While film culture is full of all sorts of underdogs and unsung heroes (behind and in front of the camera) who are worth exploring, in due time, there are some personalities who’ve left a huge mark on it and should be lauded as such. Monica Vitti is one such figure, the sort of actor who worked her way into many a cinephile’s DNA…and we’ve never been the same since. She will be missed.

Reading from Anthony De Mello’s bestseller Awareness, I encountered the following passage:

What I really enjoy is not you; it’s something that’s greater than both you and me. It is something that I discovered, a kind of symphony, a kind of orchestra that plays one melody in your presence, but when you depart, the orchestra doesn’t stop. When I meet someone else, it plays another melody, which is also very delightful. And when I’m alone, it continues to play. There’s a great repertoire and it never ceases to play.

As we near the one-year mark of The Friends of Allan Renner’s initial release, almost all of the press related to the novel has been taken care of for the foreseeable future. I’ve genuinely enjoyed reading most of what people have had to say; a couple of dissenters were inevitable—it’s not a book for everyone—but the reviews to date have been largely positive.

But more to the point, while the book can be perceived from several different vectors of understanding, I feel that a good amount of ground has been covered by those who’ve taken the plunge during these first twelve months. In significant ways, these various takes have informed others’ views of the book, as well as my own, and for the better. So there’s something to feel thankful for.

Several weeks ago, I had what may well be my most fruitful (but also concise) one-on-one interaction with the press to date, in a Feathered Quill interview with reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott. It can be read here, and is worth your time if you’re at all sympathetic to the kind of art I like and like to make.

Last week saw a rundown of The Friends of Allan Renner from Tucker Lieberman of Independent Book Review, which can be read here. I especially like the following quote from it:

As the film audition points out, the meaning of a story is profoundly affected by the actor who interprets it. Indirectly, the reader of The Friends of Allan Renner is prompted to consider that these fictional events could have been told in various emotive voices for different purposes. It so happens that Andrae, the novelist, animates this story with a light, absurdist touch and wry detachment.

A little while back, voracious reader, reviewer, and author himself Matt McAvoy gave an honest take on the book here, from which the following kind words were taken:

An easygoing read, which actually felt a fair bit shorter than its lengthy word count. […] It is at times laugh-out-loud funny (imagine a stoner web designer going on the rampage with a mace) and at other times heartbreakingly poignant; Andrae is a tremendous author, who manages to pull off all of these different styles and moods. 

Also hailing from the UK, reviewer Charlotte Walker penned a nice little review of the book for the site LoveReading here, saying, among other things:

With references throughout the story to a ‘fateful day in 2017’ the plot strolls on, creating intrigue as you try to work out what’s going to happen to Allan. There are elements of science fiction but I think that this book demonstrates most strongly the bonds made by and between people. […] An innovative concept that I feel has been well executed and makes for an interesting read.

And in a review for Readers’ Favorite, which can be read here, critic K.C. Finn wrote:

Author Dave J. Andrae has crafted a most engrossing work of fiction that masterfully balances the surreal and the real, the sublime and the ridiculous, to deliver a humorous but poignant look at the meaning of modern life.

All in all I really do appreciate people taking the time to delve into it and offer their own perspectives. Any book bloggers or reviewers who’d like to do so going forward shouldn’t hesitate to visit my official my website here and get in touch.

Other things are underway, and it’s hard to tell if or when they’ll see the light of day. But in the meantime, have a swell rest of the year as we move toward 2022.

 

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A quick requiescat in pace goes out to the one and only Jean-Paul Belmondo, former boxer, famed French actor who died this week aged 88. Belmondo rose to prominence in the late fifties opposite Jean Seberg as the hangdog gangster in Godard’s debut feature, Breathless, perhaps his most well known role to this day. But this breakout hit overshadowed at least a couple of other noteworthy early appearances, namely his role in Claude Sautet’s underseen Classe Tous Risques (a favorite of Jean-Pierre Melville, and for good reason) and a smaller but well played part in Marcel Carné’s Les Tricheurs, which is sorely in need of a reissue.

Early on, for his troubles, Belmondo earned comparisons to Bogart, though he was more of an athletic performer, a quality that would pair well with the more overtly action movie parts he’d take on in the seventies and eighties. But in the meantime he would act in a couple more Godard films, the prismatic musical romp, A Woman is a Woman, and the sardonic doomed-lovers-on-the-run effort, Pierrot Le Fou, both of which left a big mark on film culture and me personally. Among his many other credits he also worked with Resnais and Truffaut. Though Belmondo and Melville ended up having a falling out over one of the few unmistakable duds in Melville’s oeuvre, Magnet of Doom (only worth the bother after you’ve seen everything else), the actor and director worked on Leon Morin, Priest and Le Doulos, both of which are essential viewing.

Earlier this year I watched and then wrote a review of Henri Veneuil’s Fear Over the City, a movie worth watching for Belmondo’s death-defying stunts alone, and I was absent-mindedly wondering what he’d been up to. He was always a talented and charismatic actor, something of a swashbuckling ladies man at times, with the bravado that implies, but never one to phone it in. He will be missed.

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A quick shout out goes to storied actor Yaphet Kotto, who passed away yesterday at age 81. Kotto made dozens of notable film, television, and stage appearances over several decades, the most widely known likely being his roles in Alien and the James Bond film Live and Let Die. For me his most enduring character (of the ones I’ve caught) was as Baltimore police lieutenant Al “Gee” Giardello in the nineties ensemble drama, Homicide: Life on the Street, described at the time as “the best damn show on television,” and for good reason. Kotto had so many worthwhile quips and performances in this show that it’s hard to single out any one of them. With an imposing physical presence and a disposition that could range from happy-hour affable to angry beyond words, he was the leader of the crack team of detectives who eked out a living doing the thankless task of solving murders in an underfunded, crime-and-corruption-ridden city. H:LotS was an early influence on my dramatic sensibilities, at least a few years before I’d get to see films by the likes of Cassavetes and other notable “actor’s directors” such as Bergman and Fassbinder. The show’s creators and players were unusually skilled at crafting and then bringing to life idiosyncratic but believable dialog, especially during moments of the detectives’ downtime. Kotto brought it, for seven seasons, and the show wouldn’t have been the same without him. And among the many other credits in his filmography, he had a supporting role in Malcolm X’s favorite movie, Nothing But A Man, and a hilarious role as himself, a distinguished black actor failing to flag down a cab (while a white ex-con had no problem!), in the pilot episode of Michael Moore’s show TV Nation. He will be missed.

The first several book reviews for The Friends of Allan Renner are in, and given that they’re largely complimentary and provide keen insights into the source material, I’ve decided to ring in 2021 here by sharing excerpts of a handful of them, with links to the larger articles and websites.

Writing for Midwest Book Review as well as for her excellent book blog, Donovan’s Bookshelf, senior reviewer for the former publication, Diane Donovan, had this to say:

Like the film community it explores, the pace of this story is provided in staccato impressions with segues that link characters, events, and changing circumstances in a satisfying cinematic-style experience. […] While in many ways the main character is a mirror of his creator, Dave J. Andrae, the story is narrated from the changing perspectives of not only Renner but eight of Allan’s friends. This makes for an astute observation of the evolution of Allan’s life and psyche, both from the protagonist’s viewpoint and those around him.

Writing for Self-Publishing Review, critic John Staughton added:

Knowing that Allan Renner isn’t a direct proxy for the author is also enjoyable; this is a fictional memoir of sorts, which leaves room for stories to get a bit out of hand, with high stakes and plot lines that teeter past the edge of believability. However, despite the fictional nature of the prose, the author cleverly makes us forget that this isn’t a true story. The interactions feel too visceral, like real-life conversations overheard in a bar that make us lean back to listen in.

A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted:

In Andrae’s novel, Renner’s relationships take him to some disparate places. After all, his friends are not just a diverse mix, they also have their own complex, engaging background stories. Whether Renner is having a crossbow pointed at him after talking about films or waiting for a potentially dangerous convict to audition for a part in a movie, the sympathetic hero, no matter how kind and good-natured he may be, has the potential to land in some sticky situations.

In a review penned for Online Book Club, critic Sam Ibeh said:

While reading this book, I felt like I was sailing through a quiet river at night. I found the storyline unique and exciting, and it gave me a “quiet thrill.” It had a depth and meaning that appealed to me, and it made me think about some of the moral and ethical issues in our world. I also pondered on the effect of these issues in the grand scheme of things. […] I admire the author’s writing style; it showed creativity and intellect. He employed an understated wit and humor in his writing. The book had a warm, personable feel that put me at ease while reading it.

And in recent review for Bestsellers World, critic Lisa Brown-Gilbert wrote:

Dave J. Andrae’s The Friends of Allan Renner proposes an intelligent exploration of life through a multi-level, multiperspectival narrative which comes by virtue of Allan Renner’s encounters and discourse with his eclectic assortment of friends. […] This book is definitively an offering of food for thought, brimming with revelations about life and people in general. This is a narrative that is provocative in its ideals and shines through its characters, their thoughts, actions and personalities during their congregations with central character Allan Renner often giving a story within a story as their backstories are also very revealing about human nature.

I gotta say, given what unusual times we’re living in, it’s reassuring whenever a stranger delves into a project like this and is able to tap into what it has to offer. Color me appreciative. I welcome more readers, professional and non-professional alike, to take the plunge and share their impressions.

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The day is finally here: my debut novel, The Friends of Allan Renner, has been released! You can purchase the hardcover version on Amazon HERE at any time. You can learn more as to what the book is about, as well as purchase it in one of three different eBook formats (MOBI, EPUB, or PDF), by visiting the page dedicated to it on my website, https://www.dave-andrae.com/book.html. When more formal reviews trickle in toward the end of the year, that’s where they’ll be posted.

A lot could be said about this particular book, if one were so inclined. From the standpoint of its creation, I can say that it required more work of me than any other project I’ve been involved in, and if you don’t know me that well, I’ve been involved in more than a few productions that were “the gift that kept on giving” where personal investment was concerned.

But I’m of the school that a person should work hard on something only to make it more enjoyable for those that might behold it. I put a huge premium here on crafting a book that would flow well, be exciting to read, and not be too bloated. To me, there’s a quiet thrill in putting something together and finding out it has its own momentum and internal logic, its own style and dynamics. In this book, a good amount happens, and the stakes sometimes get quite high, but just as much attention is paid to exposition and humorous asides as to plotting. The Friends of Allan Renner is a character-driven, mixed genre novel that incorporates multiple perspectives, in which each of its seven chapters functions as a kind of “mini book” that relates somewhat to all of the others.

Though it was quite the demanding undertaking and often kept me up at night, overall, I enjoyed writing The Friends of Allan Renner and consider it one of the most fleshed out things I’ve made in any medium. I hope you can get around to delving into it, if you’ve enjoyed my art in the past, or hell, even if you haven’t, as it rewards a closer look.

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With my first novel due out in November, the book-related quote I’ve had on my mind most as of late is not from Virginia Woolf or Kafka or Cheever or anyone whose writerly words of wisdom are likely to be found on the excellent website Lit Hub.

Instead I’ve been thinking of this quote from the late stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg:

Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read.