A Movie A Day #353: The Public Eye (1992, directed by Howard Franklin)

New York in the 1940s.  Leon “Bernzy” Bernstein (Joe Pesci) is nearly a legend in the city, a freelance news photographer with a police radio in his car and a darkroom in his trunk.  Bernzy is a solitary man who lives for his work, the type who has many acquaintances but few friends.  He gets the pictures that no one else can get but his dream of seeing a book published of his photographs seems to be unattainable.  As more than one snobbish publisher tells him, tabloid photographs are not art.

Bernzy is invited to a meeting with Kay Levitz (Barbara Hershey).  Kay is the widow of one of Bernzy’s few friends.  She has inherited a nightclub but now a mysterious man is claiming to be a former partner of her husband and says that he owns half of the club.  She asks Bernzy to discover who the man is.  Bernzy agrees and soon finds himself a suspect in a murder.  Even as Bernzy tries to clear his name, he never stop looking for the perfect shot.

Joe Pesci made this neo noir shortly after winning an Oscar for GoodfellasThe Public Eye was an attempt to elevate Pesci from being a character actor to a leading man.  It may not have accomplished that but it is still one of the better neo noirs of the 90s.  Howard Franklin does such a good job of recreating the style of film noir that the movie seems like it’s in black-and-white even though it’s in color and Barbara Hershey is perfectly cast as a sultry femme fatale.  The tough but eccentric Bernzy turns out to be a perfect role for Joe Pesci, who gives one of his best performances.  This overlooked film is one to watch for.

In Memoriam 2017: Music

cracked rear viewer

The world of rock’n’roll lost two of its architects in 2017, giants who can never be replaced. Chuck Berry (90) was rock’s poet laureate, a smooth showman who chronicled the life and times of 50’s teens with songs like “Johnny B. Goode”, “School Days”, “You Never Can Tell”, and the anthem “Rock and Roll Music”. New Orleans pianist Fats Domino (89) contributed his barrelhouse, let-the-good-times-roll sound on hits like “Blueberry Hill”, “Blue Monday”, “I’m Walkin'”, and “Ain’t That a Shame”. Music will not see the likes of these two originals again, and Cracked Rear Viewer respectfully dedicates this post to their memories.

Gregg Allman & Tom Petty

Rock music suffered another one-two blow when Gregg Allman (69), who helped usher in the Southern Rock style with The Allman Brothers Band, passed away in May. Five months later, superstar Tom Petty died at age 66, taking his beautifully jangling guitar sounds…

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Music Video of the Day: How Soon Is Now? covered by t.A.T.u. (2003, dir by t.A.T.u.)

The song is by The Smiths but the cover version is by t.A.T.u., the Russian duo who became famous by allowing people to (falsely) assume that they were a couple.  When I first met my BFF Evelyn one of the things that we immediately bonded over was our shared appreciation for the absurdity of t.A.T.u.

(Men, we realized, will listen, watch, or pay for anything if there’s a chance they’ll get to see two hot girls kiss at some point during it.  That’s good information to have, by the way.)

As far as the cover goes, it’s not that bad.  t.A.T.u. has frequently been criticized for lacking vocal range but, here, that doesn’t really become an issue until the end of the song, when Julia struggles to make it through the part about waiting too long.  That said, I like this version.  It’s all about that guitar chord at the beginning.

As far as the video goes, it’s made up of a mix of footage of Julia and Lena performing on stage and some “candid” backstage stuff.  By “candid,” I mean obviously staged.  “Wow,” the viewer is supposed to say, “there’s Julia and … OH MY GOD, IT’S LENA!  THEY’RE IN THE SAME ROOM TOGETHER!  And now they’re in a hallway together!  And now they’re in the same bedroom!  Are they about to kiss … oh wait, we’ve cut to a different scene now…”

Here’s what Morrissey had to say when he was asked about t.A.T.u.’s cover:

Interviewer: Did you hear t.A.T.u’s version of ‘How Soon Is Now’?
Morrissey: Yes, it was magnificent. Absolutely. Again, I don’t know much about them.
Interviewer: They’re the teenage Russian lesbians.
Morrissey: Well, aren’t we all?