After studying art history at the University of Heidelberg and flying as a combat pilot in WWI, F.W. Murnau directed his first film The Boy in Blue in 1919 when he was thirty-one. Before his death in a car crash at forty-two, he became one of cinema's early giants -- (said to be 6'9" tall) -- with a prodigious output in Germany, most famous of which is Nosferatu from 1922. After four years and many more successes (The Last Laugh, Faust) Murnau moved to Hollywood and made what many critics consider one of the greatest films ever, Sunrise, which shared the top prize at the first Oscar ceremony. Sunrise is #82 on the AFI 100 Greatest Films list but in 2002 the British Film Institute ranked it #7 of all time. He made two more movies -- Four Devils (lost) and Our Daily Bread (released as City Girl) -- before his final picture, Tabu, a loincloth romance shot in Tahiti that won a cinematography Oscar for Floyd Crosby (father of David Crosby who is biologically the father of Melissa Etheridge's children). He died a week before Tabu's premiere. Because humans are easily titillated, and because some are snickering homophobes, the baseless rumor persists that Murnau's fatal car crash was the result of his performing oral sex on his chauffeur.
Born in central Argentina in 1932, Manuel Puig first wanted to be an architect then became a film archivist with hopes of becoming a screenwriter. His love of movies infuses his first novel, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, published when he was thirty-six. Praised in Latin America as that work was, his international reputation rests on his fourth novel, published in 1976, about a gay man and a political prisoner sharing a cell: Kiss of the Spider Woman [Kindle] also became an Oscar-winning film in 1985 and a Tony-winning Broadway musical in 1993. The buoyancy of his early books, mixing high literary art with the low-brow style of telenovas, gave way to a bitterness in later books that reduced their popularity. A leftist exile in Mexico City for decades, he died there at fifty-seven suffering a heart attack after gall bladder surgery.
Who brings the funk, noise, and klezmer? That's right, the super original Jewish Canadian rapper Josh Dolgin aka Socalled. If you think Ukrainian music from the 1930s won't mesh with drum n bass, you haven't heard his Ghettoblaster. His trippy "You Are Never Alone" video became a YouTube sensation with 2.5 million views, and last year he was the subject of a feature documentary by Garry Beitel. In a world of timid, homogenized, market-driven art, Socalled is a standout. Which doesn't mean everything he tries works, but when he hits, he's genius. I met him and loved him after the NYC screening of the documentary. Not to brag, but after talking a while I did the very best thing one man can do for another... insisted he read Tatyana Tolstaya.