Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Through the eyes of others

So apparently a Russian TV station celebrated the end of 2020 by broadcasting a fake Italian TV show, full of trashy songs and ridiculous guests, including the actresses that starred on the (equally fake) movie “Le quattro putane” (basically “the four hos”).
What a fun, classy joke, uh?
Happy New Year, you filthy animals.

It is a well known fact that trashy 1980s Italian shows have been a premium export commodity in the last thirty years, gaining a disturbing popularity in parts east, but it’s not so funny when you find out you are the butt of a trans-national joke.

And possibly even more disquieting is the general reaction of the Italian public, that cheered at this ugly thing.
Sure, it’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves, but on the other hand, should we really be proud of being considered a nation of dorks, lechers and whores?
Asking for a friend…

The shows that the Russians “parodied” were not a high point in our national culture, but certainly left a scar on the psyche of the nation. So much so that many consider such trash an important part of their personal background.
I’m probably showing my age, but I do not find it particularly pleasant.

In the end, there is only one thing I can do at this point to balance things off…


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The same name but a different scent: Black Narcissus (2020)

There are two titles, two TV series, I’ve been expecting with much anticipation in this End of the Year time: one is the forthcoming new French Arséne Lupin series, and the other is the BBC co-produced adaptation of Rumer Godden’s Black Narcissus.
Both titles are an important part of my past, both promise a different take on a classic, both are right up my alley, in both cases the bar is set very high.
And tonight, I spent three hours watching Black Narcissus.
So what follows is sort of an instant-blog.

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Thrills and chills from Egypt

Paranormal is an Egyptian web series that’s currently being distributed as a Netflix Original, and it’s available both in subbed and dubbed version via streaming. The first season includes six episodes, and I really hope we will get a second season, because this is the most fun I had in a long time with a supernatural themed series.

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A long night in Windward House

Let’s get to Windward House in a circuitous way, with a song: Stella by Starlight is a classic jazz standard, and it was recorded by a number of musicians, most notably Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon, and it was part of the repertoir of both Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I first heard it in the Caterina Valente recording.
And it’s always good to have an excuse to post some Caterina Valente…

What I learned only much later is, the song is part of the soundtrack of a movie.
A ghost movie.
Indeed, one of the first movies to present the supernatural as more than just a gimmick for comedy or a scam with a rational explanation. Stella by Starlight, the jazz standard, comes from a proper supernatural horror.

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133 years in scarlet

It was on the first of December 1887, in Beaton’s Christmas Annual, that Sherlock Holmes made his debut with A Study in Scarlet, changing the history of popular literature forever.

I will refrain from talking about how Holmes was a central character in the building of my growth as a reader, as you can probably find other Holmes-related posts linked below through WordPress’ handy algorithm.
To celebrate the birthday, anyway, and to start the Christmas season in the right mood, here’s the BBC 1968 adaptation of A Study in Scarlet, featuring Peter Cushing as Holmes.
Enjoy!


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Dark and hopeless: Pale Flower (1964)

Despite the fact that I co-host a podcast about horror movies, I am not a huge horror fan – a lot of the horror movies I like are old and quite tame by today’s standards. If there is a movie genre I can claim to be a true aficionado of, is certainly noir. And the opportunity of watching an old noir I have so far missed is always a cause for celebration. The British Criterion Collection often helps me celebrate.

So last week I caught Pale Flower, a Japanese noir directed in 1964 by Masahiro Shinoda, and that is probably the bleakest, most nihilistic noir movie I’ve seen in a long time. And it is also beautiful to behold.

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