The brochure for the 1961 Lincoln Continental line makes the six-seater luxury sedans look almost dainty. They come in pretty pastels: a cream called Sultana White, a fizzy yellow known as Sunburst, an ice-cream-parlor blue-green dubbed Turquoise Mist. A gloved female finger toggles the power-window switch—almost every picture has an immaculately accessorized woman in it, usually as part of a couple, sometimes posing with an equally well-groomed dog. It is hard to believe that this make and model, modified and in Presidential Black, will soon accrue a somber notoriety for the bit part it will play in the Kennedy assassination. Or that, a decade later and because of that grim pedigree, British writer J. G. Ballard will assign a ’61 Continental to be the automotive alter ego of Vaughan, the Conradian madman and car-wreck fetishist at the heart, or the place where the heart should be, of his 1973 neurasthenic nightmare of a novel, Crash.
Described as a “crazed, morbid roundelay of dismemberment and sexual perversion” in its New York Times review—and, to be clear, the reviewer regarded that as a bad thing—the novel’s reception prefigured that of David Cronenberg’s film adaptation twenty-three years later. Ballard apparently had his manuscript returned to him with a note from a publisher’s reader still attached, advising against the book’s publication and asserting—much to the author’s wry delight—that he was “beyond psychiatric help.” Later, the Daily Mail would launch a crusade to get Cronenberg’s film banned in the United Kingdom, succeeding only in one London borough—Westminster—whose denizens had to make the arduous trek to neighboring Camden to see it in a cinema. And this mixed-message moral panic came after the competition judges of the Cannes Film Festival had already awarded the film a Special Jury Prize—from which disapproving jury president Francis Ford Coppola pointedly distanced himself.
“No one has a life story, a past, or a single recognizable emotional response. No one has much of anything, really, except for an insatiable, mechanical libido and a car.”
“What Cronenberg did with Ballard’s novel was to strip out the upholstery, the walnut finish, the chrome detailing.”
Mean Streets: Rites of Passage
Martin Scorsese’s breakthrough feature—a rare example of a work of personal cinema with broad popular appeal—delivers all the elements of his future career in one spectacular, bravura throw-down.
Bugs Bunny in the Shaolin Temple
In a string of wildly entertaining films released between the late seventies and the mideighties, Jackie Chan paved the way to his international stardom by turning himself into a real-life cartoon character.
Nanny: Troubled Water
With the full force of her imagination, director Nikyatu Jusu examines the complicated nature of Black motherhood, as well as the importance of Black communion as an antidote to racial oppression.
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