East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Civilization is Overrated: Hunting the Beast of the Gévaudan

I mentioned Brotherhood of the Wolf in yesterday’s post, and then realized that apparently I never wrote about that movie, that I saw in 2001 in a movie theatre in Turin together with my brother. We went to the first show in the afternoon, packing chips and some lemonade, and we had a lot of fun. Twenty years on, a director’s cut has been published, and so I went and checked it out again.
So, let’s see what this is all about.

And for starters, a bit of history – between 1764 and 1767, in the province of Gévaudan (South-Central France) an animal later identified as a wolf, or a dog, or a wolf-dog hybrid, went on a rampage, attacking an estimate (based on a 1987 study) 210 people, killing 113 and injuring 49 more. Based on the documents, 98 of the victims were partly eaten. Envoys from the King of France killed a wolf in 1765, and the case was considered closed – but the killings actually kept happening for two more years. Many considered the Beast to be some kind of werewolf, and indeed some pointed out in the chronicles of the time that the killings stopped after the Beast was shot with silver bullets.
The movie is thus based on a true story, and gets most of its historical references right, and offers an alternative interpretation of the historical events.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Regime Diabolique

In these confused times, a lot of friends of mine have found a way to relieve part of the pressure by, as they say, “exorcising” the fear of the pandemic by a steady diet of post-apocalyptic fiction – zombie movies, TV series about viruses and the collapse of civilization, novels and comics about crumbling cities and lone survivors.
And it’s all good and fine, if that works for them – it just does not work for me. And I am keeping myself up with old pulp adventures, sword & sorcery and space operas, and classic swashbucklers.

And last night I was checking out what’s new on DriveThruRPGs and I found a massive discount on a game I know and I’ve wanted to play forever.
A complete game for 5 bucks?
A game with musketeers fighting werewolves on its cover?
Come on, are you kidding me?

Continue reading


The Process

The idea for this series of posts came to me after viewing a video by an American jazz musician, music teacher and vlogger I follow (Adam Neely, you find his videos here), and from the reading of an article I found while following up on some of Adam’s contents. The article is Music Theory and the Epistemology of the Internet; or, Analyzing Music Under the New Thinkpiece Regime, by William O’Hara, published in 2018.

Both the video and the article made me think about how information on creative/artistic pursuits is represented online. I was in particularly striuck by Adam Neely’s description of his “working musician” videos as “heist movies” in style – videos in which, just like in, say, Ocean’s Eleven, the preparation of the “heist” (the performance) is as entertaining as the “heist” itself, and leads to a deeper understanding of the process that goes into the work.

Continue reading


After-dinner in the Crypt of Tears

Sometimes it’s good to have friends in Australia – here I am, sitting in the middle of nowhere while my country and much of the rest of the world is in lockdown, and yet I was able to pass an evening with the always delectable Hon. Phryne Fisher. And it was – interesting.

For the uninitiated, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is the first feature film based on the mystery novels by Kerry Greenwood and the TV series that was made based on Underwood characters.
The general premise: the last survivor of an aristocratic British family mostly killed off in the Great War, Australia-born adventuress Phryne Fisher becomes extravagantly wealthy and decides to set up a detective agency in Melbourne. What comes afterwards is simply delightful.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Dusting off my French with Arsène Lupin

I have talked in the past about how, to Italian kids of my generation, Arsène Lupin, the character created at the turn of the last century by Maurice Leblanc, was a timely and much welcome introduction to tongue-in-cheek adventure and good-natured rule-breaking, jazz, sophistication and beautiful women, thanks to a wonderful TV series featuring the excellent Georges Descrières in the role of the gentleman thief.
Indeed, Descrières as Lupin and Patrick Macnee as John Steed have a lot to answer about how I turned out as a person.

Later came the Lupin books, often in strange translations and abridged editions to make them suitable for young readers, and later still the movies, but everything started with the TV series. Re-watched today, the series is slow-paced and suffers from an almost theatrical construction of certain scenes, and yet the acting, the production values and the locations (episodes were shot all over Europe) are worth alone the price of admission.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

And so, tonight we fly

June 1935.

While the second unit for Panthaira, Queen of the Amazons (Amalgamated Productions*) completes the filming of a bit of local color in Lima, Peru, the film director, the producer and the female lead, together with some members of the technical cast, will fly to Manaus, Brazil, for a publicity shot and a bit of location scouting along the Rio Negro.

But things will take an unexpected turn, in The Treasure of Aguirre – episode 1: Flight of the Tin Goose.

(*with a nod and a wink to my friend Andrea Sfiligoi)