Daft Punk + Soul Train. (It’s worth noting that, despite popular opinion, not every black person can dance.)
THIS IS EVERYTHING.
This is me, Kim Huston, the lady writing about Morrissey this week. I’m not posting a photo of myself because of vanity, but to ask about my fellow Morrissey fans about who you are.
I’ve always felt as a devout fan of Morrissey’s work, you have to defend yourself somewhat. I’ve never understood that. If someone said they were obsessed with, let’s say, the Clash—no one questions a person’s depression level. But with the Smiths and Morrissey, people always seem to question you as if you decided to date that kid who played Cher’s son in that movie Mask—“Really? Him? That’s your choice?” And you find yourself in a huff, stopping yourself from saying things like “You don’t know him like I do! He’s smart and funny and well, honestly, what do you know about it?” Morrissey fans aren’t the stereotyped wallflowers everyone thinks. I love the NBA, I volunteer, I’m loud, and I love to laugh. A lot.
I was one of the people that was canceled on three times for the Flint, Michigan tour date this year. Moz said he’d play Flint if it killed him, but in the end, he canceled the entire tour. I was obviously disappointed after each cancellation, but the thing I feel worst about is that I couldn’t meet any cool Morrissey superfans like the ones I’d encountered at my first show.
It’s the thing that I like most about being a Morrissey fan: the built-in kinship and the diversity among his fans.
Do you love Moz? If so, tell me what was your first Morrissey show like. Where were you when you first heard The Queen is Dead or Suedehead? What makes you a Morrissey fan?
Because until he tours again, who knows when we’ll see each other again?
I first heard The Queen Is Dead in my buddy Greg’s car, driving around the suburbs of Chicago. I was lucky to have some music in common with him, and we even wrote a couple songs together. For a supposedly miserable band, it’s a pretty hilarious album, with the title track’s Prince Charles baiting, “Frankly Mr. Shankly’s” lyrics about a “flatulent pain the arse,” and the nonsense of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.” Oh, and Joan of Arc with her melting Walkman.
“Suedehead” I heard as a college freshman. Moz’s first solo single didn’t come out long after the final Smiths album, and when I heard this song, I felt he was in good hands and that I shouldn’t worry too much about the Morrissey/Marr severed alliance, though in retrospect, I should have been more concerned. Still, it’s a great song, and the b-side, “I Know Very Well How I Got My Name,” is still one of my favorites of his.
The first and only Morrissey show I saw was at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, CA, with a girl I was into at the time, Shannon. She was a coworker and we bonded quickly over Morrissey and The Smiths, for a while exchanging pictures torn from magazines with lyrics written on them. She was the first person I knew to buy a pint of rum and a Big Gulp and that would be her drink for the night. I think we drank before the show and when we parked the car, she got out, squatted, and pissed right on the parking lot asphalt. It wasn’t classy but certainly unforgettable. The show itself was good but hot and sweaty in a small ballroom. This would have been 1992, promoting Your Arsenal, so it was a good, rocking show. I don’t recall Morrissey chatting much with the audience. It was just one good song after another and then, after an hour or so, it was over.
Obit of the Day: Ray Manzarek, Founding Member of The Doors
Ray Manzarek, one of the original members of The Doors, has died at the age of 74. He is considered one of the greatest keyboard players in rock and roll history.
A native of Chicago, Manzarek met Jim Morrison while attending film school at UCLA in 1965. Manzarek and Morrison would recruit drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger from another local band. But it was Morrison’s voice and Manzarek’s skill on the keys that would create the band’s signature sound.
They signed their first contract with Elektra Records in 1966 and released their self-titled album in 1967 which featured their first number one hit, “Light My Fire.”
The group would release seven top ten albums with Morrison as lead vocalist until his untimely death in 1971 at the age of 27. The remaining members of the group tried to stay together and recorded two more albums Other Voices (1971) and Full Circle (1972) with Manzarek on vocals. Sales were poor with neither album breaking the top 25 in the United States.
Manzarek would take a few years off before getting back into music forming Nite City in 1977 with Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison. They would produce two albums.
Since 2001 Manzarek and Krieger have toured as Manzarek-Krieger, Ray and Bobby, The Doors of the 21st Century, and The Riders of the Storm playing Doors hits. They have not recorded any albums. (John Densmore turned his attention to dance and has not performed with his former bandmates.)
Ray Manzarek, who also served as producer on the seminal punk album Los Angeles by X, died on May 20, 2013.
Sources: AllMusic.com, www.rayandrobby.com, and Wikipedia
(“People Are Strange” - an OOTD favorite because of The Lost Boys - and Strange Days are copyright of Elektra Entertainment, 2006.)
Starring: Jane Fonda, Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Peter Fonda, Terrence Stamp
Screenplay: Roger Vadim & Pascal Cousin, Louis Malle & Clement Biddle Wood, Federico Fellini & Bernardino Zapponi, Daniel Boulanger, based on Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
Narrator: Vincent Price (English Language Version Only)
Cinematography: Tonino Delli Colli, Claude Renoir, Giuseppe Rotunno
Music: Diego Masson, Jean Prodomides, Nino Rota
Directors: Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini
The anthology film experienced a heyday in the ‘50s in the U.S., and the format bubbled up again in the ‘60s with European directors, but has only reappeared occasionally since, mostly in the horror genre. As with a three course meal with each course prepared by a different chef, or a symphony with a different composer for each movement, there is bound to be some creative dissonance, or cases where the artist falters under these new limitations, so it’s hard to name an anthology film where all the segments really work.
Such is the case with 1968’s Spirits of the Dead, aka Tales of Mystery and Imagination or Histoires Extraordinaires, which finds two good directors and one competent one adapting two short stories and a novel by Edgar Allan Poe. The competent one, Vadim, starts things off in silly but quite entertaining fashion with “Metzengerstein,” which stars then-wife Jane Fonda as Countess Federica, who inherits the family estate and spends her days and nights in debauchery. One day in the forest, she gets her foot stuck in a trap, and is freed by her neighbor, the silent but superior Baron Wilhelm (brother Peter Fonda), whom she has never met before due to a longstanding family feud. She becomes obsessed with winning his affection, but he rejects her. Not used to being denied, she has his stables set on fire for revenge, which ends up killing Wilhelm when he runs in to try to rescue his horses.
Wilhelm’s death robs her of enjoying her old wicked pleasures. Soon, a wild black horse enters his estate and it closely resembles the horse in a damaged tapestry in her castle. She orders the tapestry to be repaired and spends many hours riding the horse around her lands, until one day, during a thunderstorm, the horse carries her off into a fire caused by lightning.
Vadim has little to say but it can’t be said he isn’t skilled at capturing beautiful women on camera, and here, as with Barbarella, he has Fonda at the height of her beauty and in some wonderful costumes. But he seems most interested in the kinky possibilities of the story, such as a forced threesome with an unwilling maiden, or the fact Fonda has to act like she’s attracted to her real-life brother. Peter seems like he may have taken on the role for easy money and a French vacation (he has maybe one or two lines) and is questioning his decision. It should be mentioned that while Jane speaks French, Peter is dubbed into English by someone else. Ultimately, the symbolism of the black horse (real or tapestry) is meaningless, and it’s basically an artier version of an EC Comics story (many of which, of course, borrowed from Poe), with the villainess dying by the means in which she caused another to die.
Louis Malle’s “William Wilson” segment is considered by some to be the least of the three, though I enjoyed it more than the Vadim. Delon plays the titular character and his double. Somehow, the cruel young William, who we see as an Austrian boy in 19th Century Italy (Austrian forces occupied the country at this time) entertaining other schoolmates by lowering another boy by rope into a basin filled with rats, is confounded in his pleasures by a goodhearted lad who bears the same name. There’s only room for one William Wilson in the mind of the bad one, so he tries to choke the other William in his sleep, causing both their expulsions. A few years on, in medical school, William is stopped by the other Wilson as he is about to perform surgery, even murder, on an abducted village girl. Finally, a few more years on, Wilson is one of the cruel soldiers who have their way of the town. He enters a gambling hall, only to be taunted by the lovely Giuseppina (Bardot, in a not terribly convincing black wig) for rumors that he’s not much of a lover, and someone who can only perform if he has an audience. As we have seen from the previous scenes, it’s true: it’s not enough for him to be cruel, he needs to approval of a crowd to enjoy it. They play cards all through the night, to a small audience, with Wilson losing repeatedly until his luck starts to change. By the end, he’s broken her, and instead of owing him money, he takes possession of her body. Many of us could think of better things to do with Bardot than to thrash her with a stick, but fortunately we’re not Wilson. Again, his good twin appears and proves that Wilson is a cheat, and Wilson’s superior officer decommissions him on the spot. Wilson runs after his twin, they duel to a standstill, and then Wilson stabs him with a cheap shot. The dying, good Wilson tells him that was a bad idea, as Wilson will now die, too. We see that Wilson has been confessing his sins to a priest, but it’s no use: the good Wilson was right, and William Wilson jumps off the church tower to his death.
As Vadim did with “Metzengerstein,” Malle hits the basic plot points of Poe’s story while reveling in the lurid degradation of women, to the expense of Poe’s prose style or more than a nod to the symbolism. Somehow, the person known as William Wilson has his good and bad sides occupying two identical bodies, but why that is or what we’re to make of it, who knows? Delon is well cast, as he has a cruel kind of beauty to him. Malle fans may be surprised at the sex and violence in his segment, though it turns out he agreed to the film in order to help finance his later, much more personal, Murmur of the Heart, and conceded to the producer’s suggestions about the erotic elements and the casting of Bardot in order to make the film more commercial. In a sense, it works, as it fits comfortably next to Vadim’s segment, but one wishes Malle had been able to deliver his take on Poe without the commercial compromises.
The final segment, Fellini’s “Toby Dammit,” based on Poe’s story, “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” is the best of the lot, and while not on par with Fellini’s best is nonetheless essential for his fans, as it explores some themes and styles he would dealt with in greater depth in La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. Terrence Stamp plays Toby Dammit, a respected but deteriorating actor, an international star who hasn’t made a film in three years, driven to the bottle by self-doubt and the penetrating glare of the spotlight and the paparazzi’s flash bulbs. Following cheap, or not so cheap, thrills in lieu of inspiration, Dammit agrees to work on a film in Rome, payment in the form of a Ferrari. He helps a girl find her lost ball but then starts having visions of her. Drunk and deranged at some sort of awards ceremony, he takes off in the sports car, racing through the winding streets in and around Rome, but unable to escape, terrified by cardboard facsimiles of people. He finally finds a way out, but the bridge is under construction. The girl beckoning on the other side, he decides on a suicidal jump, which, as with the other characters in this omnibus, means his end. A head will roll.
It’s gratifying that, regardless of the original author, Fellini can’t help but refashion the story into a personal one that bears very little resemblance to the original. Dammit is no longer a compulsive gambler, he’s a modern actor, a famous movie star driven mad by self-loathing, unconvinced of the genuine talent his public recognizes, and drowning it in booze. Fellini also remakes the old-fashioned male devil of the original and turns her into a little girl, explaining that Dammit’s devil must represent immaturity, the common character trait of an actor. While suffused with artificial touches, loud and hallucinatory, it’s still the most thoughtful of the three segments, the stylish constructs accentuating, never obscuring, the personal pain of the filmmaker. It was a comeback for Fellini after a science fiction film he was developing collapsed, leaving him in heavy debt to Dino De Laurentiis. He teamed up for the first time with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, who would photograph seven of his final eleven films. While it’s unfortunate the original choice, Orson Welles, with a segment combining “The Masque of the Red Death” with “The Cask of Amontillado” never happened, at least the world got a fine 37 minute Fellini film.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro
Screenplay: Shane Salemo, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone, based on Winslow’s novel
Cinematography: Dan Mindel
Music: Adam Peters
Director: Oliver Stone
The film is a kind of experiment to see if Stone can deliver a straightforward action thriller with the flair he brings to stories in which he’s more personally and politically invested, while not letting his politics and pretensions weigh it down. There were a lot of ways he could have gone with this, and unfortunately, while the results more or less meet minimum expectations, it’s doubtful it will be totally satisfying for either the existing Stone fan, or the moviegoer who happily commits to spending two hours with the likes of Taylor Kitsch or Blake Lively, with the promise of explosions and sex.
Kitsch is Chon, an Iraq War (II) veteran, acting now as both equal partner with, and enforcer for, friend Ben (Johnson) in their marijuana business. Ben’s idea was for Chon to smuggle Iraqi pot seeds back, and now, six years later, they’ve led to a booming business run out of Laguna Beach, CA, with THC levels six times the average weed. The two friends live together with O (Lively), short for Ophelia, a sweet, empty-headed girl who loves them both equally, feeling that Ben’s soulfulness (he spends time helping children in poor countries with his weed income) and Chon’s something-something (he left his soul behind in Iraq but really knows how to fuck) add up to her complete man.
The product is so good that it soon attracts the attention of the Baja drug cartel, run by Elena Sanchez (Hayek), and her men bring an offer of a three year contract to the boys, but as the offer comes after they send them a video showing them cutting off the heads of pot growers who ran afoul of them, Ben and Chon are rightfully distressed about the offer, and turn it down. They make plans to get out of the country with O, with new identities, but they’re not fast enough, and O is kidnapped by the cartel, to force the boys to agree to the deal, with O having to stay with the cartel for a year. Knowing they’re all dead when Elena has what she wants, they put a plan of rescue and revenge together, first hitting some of the locations where they receive money, and then trying to get O out. It should surprise no one that not all of the trio makes it.
It’s a great-looking film on a superficial level. Cool houses and clothes, pretty people like Kitsch, Johnson and Lively getting it on on nice couches or it lovely black stone tubs, with candles and sun streaming in through colorful, patterned fabrics. You want to hang out with these people, drinking a beer or taking a bong hit on their patio, looking out over the Laguna coastline. Why is beautiful Salma Hayek bothering these beautiful people with her ugly henchmen like Benicio Del Toro?
In a way, it’s nice that Stone doesn’t try very hard to ennoble the story, doesn’t try to shove a lot of facts about the failing drug war, or immigration, or Iraq, down the viewer’s throat. Travolta’s crooked DEA agent is just that, not a symbol of the DEA itself. Ben and Chon are just guys who made some success but got to the level where they couldn’t coexist peacefully with their competition and have to get out or get dead. There’s not much more to it than that.
But then, that’s where it would have been good for Stone, or someone, to do more with the script. Del Toro doesn’t create one of his weird, indelible characters here: he’s just a cruel Mexican thug, and not a very loyal one at that. There is some smart stuff with the complicated offer and shifting loyalties, where we see that the drug business is like any legitimate business, but Stone seems perhaps too aware that he was hired not to remake Traffic but to deliver a popcorn thriller featuring the star of Battleship. Having O narrate the story is problematic because she isn’t very smart, so our understanding of Ben, Chon and even herself is often limited to what we might expect from an early 20s SoCal party girl. She uses “wargasm” in the first ten minutes in such a way that you can tell someone thought it was really clever, but it isn’t. Ben and Chon are pretty believable as friends, but we’re meant to side with the previously-described-as-soulless Chon, a guy who takes violent action with military precision but no real thinking, over Ben, a nice guy who is somehow blamed entirely for O’s kidnapping, and who needs to prove to Chon that he can throw down and kill with the best of them, or he isn’t really a man. It’s a no-man-or-fuck-buddy-left-behind philosophy Chon and his soldier buddies adhere to.
A few scenes are spent on Elena trying to bond with O in a maternal way, as she is somewhat estranged from her own daughter, but although we’re given to understand O’s own parents don’t have time for her, Stone seems to understand that even a dimwit like O isn’t going to really make a connection with her head-chopping drug lady captor, and so the scenes serve as filler until the big rescue. If it’s consolation, although Johnson, Lively and Kitsch give shallow performances, they’re just doing what is asked of them, and to Stone’s credit, the action sequences are well done, and the film is well-paced. It’s not that much dumber, and better-looking, than fairly well-regarded recent thrillers like Safe House, but it’s probably a shame that an Oliver Stone film with Hayek and del Toro in it is so forgettable, though.
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Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett
Screenplay: Bernard C. Schoenfeld, Based on the Novel by Ursula Parrott
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Music: Heinz Roemheld, Herman Stein
Director: Douglas Sirk
I’m becoming a fan of Sirk’s work, but as with other great stylists, the more over-the-top it is, the better. And the black-and-white There’s Always Tomorrow doesn’t attempt the scale of Technicolor classics like All That Heaven Allows or Written on the Wind.
MacMurray plays Clifford Groves, president of a toy company and a neglected husband and father at home. Wife Marion (Bennett) is nice but puts their three children ahead of him every time, frustrating his every attempt to get some alone time with her, and the kids take him for granted, too. Coincidentally, he runs into a former coworker, Norma (Stanwyck), and they spend a chaste evening in each other’s company. When Marion backs out of a trip to Palm Valley Cliff plans, he goes anyway, to meet a client and clear his head, and he runs into Norma again. His son happens to be there with his girlfriend as well, and finally takes an interest in Dad, but only because he suspects he’s having an affair. He’s wrong, but Cliff is developing feelings for Norma, and Norma, who had originally quit Cliff’s company because she had a crush on him, finds herself likewise tempted. But this isn’t the MacMurray/Stanwyck of Double Indemnity, and Norma turns Cliff down, knowing he’ll regret breaking up his family over her.
With wholesome MacMurray and Bennett, an almost-out-of-the-house eldest son, teen daughter and pug-nosed younger daughter, the film calls to mind a darker Father Knows Best. Stanwyck is strong and sensible but lacking any sex appeal; she doesn’t even flirt with Cliff. It’s basically all in his head. He’s just desperate for some affection, and in an astonishing rant to Cliff’s accusing kids, she turns the tables on them, blaming their neglect for Cliff’s wandering eye. MacMurray is also very good in his halting, earnest way, but also pathetic, as characters often are in Sirk’s films, clean-cut, well-dressed and seemingly together but utter slaves to their emotions. Depicting that loss of control, that lovestruck, ruinous abandon, is Sirk’s strength, and it takes both parties to work. Here, Norma never gives in. They have some laughs, one of them gets carried away, and the other puts on the brakes. If Marion had gotten a bigger part, had been shown waking up and fighting for her man, and if we had gotten to see how strong their bond was before it was tested like this, the film would have been stronger. As it is, it’s a mild diversion with a message of, “we should give a little more time to dear old Dad” that isn’t a great fit for a romantic melodrama.
Bill Murray on Gilda Radner:
“Gilda got married and went away. None of us saw her anymore. There was one good thing: Laraine had a party one night, a great party at her house. And I ended up being the disk jockey. She just had forty-fives, and not that many, so you really had to work the music end of it. There was a collection of like the funniest people in the world at this party. Somehow Sam Kinison sticks in my brain. The whole Monty Python group was there, most of us from the show, a lot of other funny people, and Gilda. Gilda showed up and she’d already had cancer and gone into remission and then had it again, I guess. Anyway she was slim. We hadn’t seen her in a long time. And she started doing, “I’ve got to go,” and she was just going to leave, and I was like, “Going to leave?” It felt like she was going to really leave forever.
So we started carrying her around, in a way that we could only do with her. We carried her up and down the stairs, around the house, repeatedly, for a long time, until I was exhausted. Then Danny did it for a while. Then I did it again. We just kept carrying her; we did it in teams. We kept carrying her around, but like upside down, every which way—over your shoulder and under your arm, carrying her like luggage. And that went on for more than an hour—maybe an hour and a half—just carrying her around and saying, “She’s leaving! This could be it! Now come on, this could be the last time we see her. Gilda’s leaving, and remember that she was very sick—hello?”
We worked all aspects of it, but it started with just, “She’s leaving, I don’t know if you’ve said good-bye to her.” And we said good-bye to the same people ten, twenty times, you know.
And because these people were really funny, every person we’d drag her up to would just do like five minutes on her, with Gilda upside down in this sort of tortured position, which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so hard we could have lost her right then and there.
It was just one of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ll always remember it. It was the last time I saw her.”
Bohyun Yoon’s installation work “Unity” (2009), “Structure of Shadow” (2007), and “Shadow” (2004) casts light on miniature wax body parts which physically dangle aimlessly; however, when illuminated by a light source, these fragmentations create shadows or illusions which illustrate figurative wholeness.
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Starring: Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Peter Lawford, Mickey Rooney
Screenplay: Jack Haley, Jr.
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Music: Henry Mancini
Director: Jack Haley, Jr.
Until this film came along, there was little nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood films. Movies came and went within days or weeks, replaced by others, and aside from some rare rereleases like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the only way to see old movies was on your local TV station’s Late Show or afternoon movie. That’s probably where I saw this one, with my mom, but hadn’t thought about it again until today. It was a big hit in 1974, rekindling an interest in the old musicals, and showing a new generation the talents of forgotten stars like Eleanor Powell, Esther Williams and Jeanette MacDonald.
The brainchild of Jack Haley, Jr. son of the actor who played The Tin Man in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, That’s Entertainment has the stars listed above filmed in and around MGM Studios, introducing and narrating information about various clips from MGM’s great musicals from the late ’20s into the late ’50s. Some of the sets look dilapidated in the modern shots, particularly the set from The Band Wagon, which Fred Astaire remarks upon. But there is little grumbling about MGM’s changing fortunes or the decline of the musical, nor is there much information on the filmmaking or how some of the amazing sequences were accomplished. It’s a relatively straightforward collection of clips, somewhat chronological but also arranged by theme or performer. “Singin’ in the Rain” dates back to the ’20s, so we get a bit of that, a bit of a ’30s Jimmy Durante rendition, and, much later, the definitive Gene Kelly version from the film of the same name, a simple number (at least for a performer of Kelly’s gifts) that’s nonetheless one of the great musical numbers of movie history, pure and joyous and, of course, helped immeasurably by the unique bits of business with umbrella and rainwater.
I responded to Kelly’s work most of all, and he closes out the film with a stunningly filmed dance with Leslie Caron from An American In Paris, but close on his heels (no pun intended) is the great Astaire. Oddly, there’s not a lot of him with Ginger Rogers, but his dances with Eleanor Powell and Kelly are great, too. I even warmed to some of the clips of the many films Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney made together, though I’m not in a hurry to see a complete film of theirs. As Peter Lawford notes, MGM forced some of its stars to appear in musicals, even if they had little ability to sing or dance, so we get a terrible tap dance by Joan Crawford and the modest singing of Jimmy Stewart. There’s plenty of corn, too, such as one outdoor Western number (I didn’t notice it being named) with the cowboys wearing brightly colored shirts and scarves—I noticed a hot pink one, which would have raised questions on the Ponderosa—but you kind of just have to embrace the silliness. It’s easy to do in small doses, when you’re just getting the best songs and/or dances. About the only number I found truly unpleasant was an otherwise brilliantly choreographed and filmed Busby Berkeley production that had many dancers in blackface. I don’t think a lot is served by sweeping ugly history under the rug, but I could have done with a different Berkeley number here. There’s also a lot of good young Sinatra hoofing and singing, and pretty much any classic MGM number one might remember, such as Kelly dancing with Jerry the Mouse, the dancing-on-the-ceiling Gene Kelly number, an amazingly gifted comedic dance by Donald O’Connor, or Astaire surrounded by the shoes dancing on their own.
Musicals aren’t a genre I seek out. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the movies to see one, and I’ve only seen a few stage musicals. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a dvd of one, except maybe Grease. But with 30 years of musicals condensed into a little over two hours of well-chosen clips, That’s Entertainment is an unbeatable celebration of the genre. If you watch this film and don’t end up smiling at large portions of it, and being astounded by the talent on display, there is something missing inside you.
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