Things We Like: “The Rehearsal,” “O Escorpião Escarlate” and LPs in Paperback
Scarecrow Video’s Pick of the Week: “The Scarlet Scorpion (O Escorpião Escarlate)” (1990), directed by Ivan Cardoso
The Scarlet Scorpion is by the Brazilian director Ivan Cardoso, who has a section to himself at Scarecrow but has only made ten obscure films so far. We only have a few VHS copies that are distributed by Something Weird Video.
“O Escorpião Escarlate” is an entertaining and colorful movie, with some good campy action and sexy danger. It revolves around a fictional radio serial character named Angel who is constantly fighting the Scarlet Scorpion. It’s set in the 1950s, but is shot with a smart 1990s perspective. It’s a very stylish period piece with lots of colorful costumes and great sets. It feels more authentic when the radio play is visualized for the audience as a black and white TV serial. Having the two stories visualized like this helps tie together the multiple realities and plot lines that run throughout the film.
The story is mostly centered around a beautiful fan of the Angel show, Gloria Campos. While she and Alvaro, the writer and voice of Angel, begin a romance, Gloria’s obsessive fan-girl mind begins to link actual crimes that are being committed to Angels arch-nemesis the Scarlet Scorpion. She tries to convince authorities that there is a real Scarlet Scorpion but no one believes her except for Alvaro who does what he can to help her.
Meanwhile, the people involved with the show have their own dramas going on. Rita Mara, a small character on the show, is trying to get more airtime and will do anything to get it. An opera singer who performs before the show is bitterly losing airtime because of this, and Alvaro is having to censor himself after putting his own S&M fantasies into the Angel stories. “O Escorpião Escarlate” becomes quite convoluted at times, but it stays interesting by twisting and turning the plots together. – Marc “Swellzombie” Palm
I hope you’ll forgive me these variations on a theme: Last week, I wrote about an artist who transforms album cover art into animated GIFs, and this week I’m featuring the work of Huw Gwilliam, who transforms classic album covers into Penguin mass-market paperback covers complete with dog-eared corners and the occasional name scribbled on with a blue ballpoint pen. Gwilliam snaps off a cute visual joke here and there — Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” is tagged “A PWL Romance Novella,” while “Eliminator” is credited to an author called “Zeezee Top” — but for the most part, he plays it straight: This it what it would have looked like if Joe Jackson couldn’t play the piano, but still had stories to tell.
By placing these iconic designs in a new context, Gwilliam forces you to rediscover what drew you to albums in the first place — to judge these “books” by their covers. In a way, he’s asking if you’d snatch “Licensed to Ill,” “Unknown Pleasures” or “No Jacket Required” off a rack at the airport while rushing to a connecting flight. Well, how about it? Geoff Carter
Finally available in the US, “The Rehearsal” is a remarkable novel featuring two side-by-side plotlines that expertly collide three quarters of the way through the book. The action unfolds just slightly out of order, kind of like memory. The story is told from a scattershot point-of-view, which allows the reader to see convincing machinations of personal motive. All this is to say that the book uses some of the standard techniques of contemporary fiction, and does so extraordinarily well for a debut.
But then it goes beyond that with these wicked, unique little twists — like how it keeps suddenly and without explanation turning into a stage play, with certain characters wishing they had been cast as other characters, and spotlights and monologues appearing out of nowhere. Or how there’s this central character, a saxophone teacher, whose interactions are so cruel and blunt they can’t possibly be real. And there’s the fact that what “The Rehearsal” is unavoidably marketed to be “about,” a teacher-student sex scandal, just sinks into the background — its participants too clichéd and wooden to have much to say, literally. The stylistic imprint is fascinating.
Like the best novels, “The Rehearsal” ends up being about many things; it gives an even and strong treatment of gender politics, of budding sexuality, of the lines separating reality, imagination, and craft, and of the impossible complexity of parent-child understanding. – Christopher Sabatini
ILLUSTRATION BY HUW GWILLIAM