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Archive for the ‘I Heart This’ Category

Some are great standalone lines. Some are perfect in the context of the situation, in the film.

“This is Hollywood. We don’t like liars.”
Knocked Up

“I’m sorry.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I wish it were enough.”
Johnny Skidmarks

“There’s something about collaboration that brings out the worst in writers.”
Starting Out in the Evening

“You’re still the nicest person I ever met, even if you’re not dying.”
The Good Life

“You mustn’t kid Mother, dear; I was a married woman before you were born.”
The Women

In House of Games, written and directed by David Mamet, it’s the climactic confrontation scene. Mike starts out thinking he’s still scamming Maggie. Soon, however, he comes to understand that she knows everything, and her intention toward him at this point is potentially homicidal. You can see the realization dawn on him, and he says,
“You’re a bad pony, and I’m not gonna bet on you.”

“I like it. I want more.”
Christopher Walken in Brainstorm. For some reason the delivery of that line just knocked my socks off.

“What fresh hell is this?”
The character is quoting Dorothy Parker, though it sounds like Shakespeare.
War of the Roses

“You can dance to anything.”
A Home at the End of the World

Kid to mother “Why can’t you make anybody love you?”
Later she tells him, “It’s not my job to make somebody love me. Love isn’t a trick you play on somebody.”
The Buddy System

A falsely imprisoned alleged terrorist, to a fellow convict –
“You’re better off being guilty. Al least you get some respect.”
In the Name of the Father

“If you saw that on television you would laugh.”
Knocked Up

Joey is in the hospital, victim of an attempted murder by a hired killer his wife hired because of his constant cheating. His mother visits, scolds him, hits him.
Joey: “Hey, Mama, please, I got a bullet in my head.”
Mama (swats him again): “You should have two bullets in your head. Three bullets. Four bullets.”
I Love You to Death

The cop thinks a killer is putting on airs, and takes him down a peg.
“You’re about as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a fuckin’ plumber.”
Insomnia

“We came over to sit. That’s what people do when tragedy strikes. They come over and sit.”
Lars and the Real Girl

A Gypsy to a cop who is threatening him –
“By jeez, you’re a brave man. I wouldn’t argue with you sir, I wouldn’t. For you’re a brave man always.”
Into the West

“When you throw a stone into a lake, it’s not happy until it hits the bottom. Make sure he doesn’t drag us all down with him.”
Into the West

“You want me to stop smoking pot because there’s an earthquake every ten years?”
Knocked Up

“If my life were a movie, this would be the end.”
The Good Life

“I lied to you when I said that I would never lie to you again.”
The Good Life

“If we don’t meet, this allows the possibility that it could have been perfect.”
Bad Timing

about the French-
“They have a whole relationship to dairy products which I don’t understand.”
French Kiss

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The name by which I first knew this film isn’t what appears on the picture above. But it’s the same. Actually, it’s been known by several titles:

Tabor ukhodit v nebo (the approximate Russian)
Gypsies are Found Near Heaven
Queen of the Gypsies
Gypsy Queen
Gypsy Camp Vanishes into Thin Air
Gypsy Camp Vanishes Into the Heaven
Gypsy camp vanishes into the blue
Gypsies Go to Heaven

I saw The Gypsy Camp at the Fox Venice Theater, so it was in the late ’70s or early ’80s. My first thought was, “I can’t live without this music.” But of course it was not available. Movies on videotape were possessed only by people who owned editing studios. And it was made in Russia.

Years later, when VCRs got popular, I even wrote to the Russian embassy to see if they could help me get a copy of the film, or at least of the soundtrack. No luck. And after a whole lot more time, when I finally got online (years later than most of my contemporaries), I searched for The Gypsy Camp, but no luck then either.
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Finally I found a press release about how hundreds of Russian films were scheduled to be released on portable media. They were gradually being converted, one by one, and according to the schedule, the one I wanted would be released in a couple of years, in the summer of 2004. But then when I checked again in the fall of 2004, it wasn’t available yet.

When it finally came out, the only source was a pretty dicey-looking outfit that I didn’t want to give my credit card number to. Eventually, it showed up on eBay, but only on DVD, which I didn’t have the technology for, but I bought it anyway, figuring I’d go over to a friend’s house and watch it. Months went by and it never seemed to be the right time for that. Then one day my housemate brought in a DVD player

So finally, I watched The Gypsy Camp again, and yes, you can repeat a peak experience. It is so damn gorgeous to look at and the music is deliriously wonderful – it’s every bit as good as I remembered it being 25 years ago or more. Just fabulous.

Of course there are plenty of parallels between Gypsies and the homeless folk and vehicle dwellers I knew from Venice Beach. They only own what they can carry, the food supply is undependable, they have to deal with the weather as best they can, and put up with criminals in their midst. And of course they can be killed with impunity. The way the soldiers in the movie treat the Gypsies could be a template for the LAPD and their ilk, in their treatment of the homeless. Go in and bust up their shelters, throw their bedding and other possessions in a pile and burn everything, put pressure on everybody in the whole group so they will betray anyone the authorities are looking for, make them keep moving, provide no public toilets and then bust them for pissing in the alley, provide no washing facilities and then tell them they stink, and on and on.

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A Home at the End of the World

I watched this because I listened to the audiobook of the novel and loved it, and when I found out there was a movie too, and that Robin Wright is in it, that really put the icing on the cake. I liked her ever since 1984 when the soap opera “Santa Barbara” started on TV.

Michael Cunningham wrote the novel and the screenplay. Cunningham is obviously an expert on the folks who practically invented the concept that, as the film’s tagline puts it, “Family can be whatever you want it to be.” This work comes from a mind saturated with Bloomsbury lore–Cunningham also wrote The Hours, a novel about Virginia Woolf that was made into a movie.

One of the central figures of Bloomsbury was the painter Duncan Grant. Apparently nobody ever said a bad word about Grant. He seems to have been universally loved by males and females alike, and the character of Bobby in A Home at the End of the World is what I imagine Duncan Grant must have been like.

When Bobby is nine, his big brother Carl gives him some windowpane, and they trip in the graveyard. Carl is a really beautiful guy, a true bodhisattva, and his relationship with his brother is probably the one he’s most present for. Of course Carl dies horribly and far too young. But rather than being messed up by that tragedy, Bobby incorporates Carl’s spirit into himself, and becomes exactly the same kind of loving and lovable person. (Carl is played by Ryan Donowho, who was in Michael Pitt’s band Pagoda, and for some reason that doesn’t surprise me.)

Bobby seems to be about 14 when he picks a friend and gets him stoned, out in the midst of lush nature, ahhhhh…..  He lends Jonathan his dead brother’s jacket, and Jonathan lends Bobby his jacket, and their bond is cemented. Jon’s mother Alice walks in on them getting stoned, and to Jon’s flabbergasted astonishment, Bobby induces her to join them. It’s a lovely scene, mother and son handing off a doobie to each other. Even more mind-boggling, Bobby slow-dances with Alice. Then they all dance. This is a dope-positive movie, and there aren’t enough of those.

Bobby pretty much joins the family. When Alice discovers that the boys are fooling around, she’s okay with it, but Jonny is uptight. Bobby is totally comfortable with the relationship. “It’s just love, man.” When somebody else is fretting about something or other, Bobby is likely to say, “This is perfect.” His best line is, and these are words to live by, “You can dance to anything.”

Now they’re grownups. Jonny (Dallas Roberts) has moved to New York. Bobby (Colin Farrell), who looks a lot like that iconic photo of David Foster Wallace, has stayed with his friend’s parents. But they plan to move to Arizona, and the father gently suggests that Bobby needs to be on his own. So he calls Jonathan, who is by now a full-fledged bisexual living in New York with an artistic wild woman named Clare (Robin Wright of course.). These are the kind of people who listen intently to Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” several times in a row. The three of them form a coalition, and Bobby learns that Jon and Clare have talked about having a baby. Clare talks Bobby into losing the hippie look. She cuts his hair, then takes him to bed. It’s his first time with a woman, and his reaction is a bit extreme, unless you factor in the feelings he might be having about betraying Jon. Of course Jon has male lovers, but the woman he lives with is a different case.

And sure enough, Jon is upset with the new closeness of Bobby and Clare. He goes to stay with his parents for a while, and won’t even take Bobby’s calls. But then his father dies, and Bobby and Clare arrive in Arizona to reclaim the lost member of their triad. Clare is pregnant and wants them all to be a family. So they reconcile. Her inheritance will buy them a house.

They abandon New York City and fix up a house in the country, and open a café in town, with Bobby as cook and Jonny as staff. The baby is born. Jon fears that he has AIDS. There’s another exquisitely beautiful, wild, life-affirming scene where the two men dance. They are so hot together, it’s just magical.

There’s a lot of detail passed by in the movie that was probably in the novel – like, who is the baby’s bio-father? And does Jon ever actually get tested for HIV, and does Clare know about his worries; and if the little girl is his, shouldn’t she be tested too? Anyway, Clare and the baby get ready to go on a trip. Everybody pretends to believe it’s just temporary, but she’s leaving Bobby and Jonny alone. But we know Jon is going to die, so she’ll end up back with Bobby and a nuclear family eventually.

People who create unorthodox families are incredibly brave and admirable. It’s mean-spirited to be irritated with these characters because they couldn’t make it work perfectly, all the time. On the other hand, they did make it work amazingly well for an astonishing amount of time, which is more than most of us are equipped or inclined to do. So, bless them.

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The Business of Fancydancing

You want to know what chanting and ceremony are all about? Here it is. Plenty of fusion-style music too. The sound track is great. The screenplay is by poet Sherman Alexie, whose fictional stand-in is a gay Indian poet called Seymour Polatkin. The film opens with the poet reading from his work to, apparently, no audience. He’s behind a store window, so there is a glass wall between him and the people, who blithely walk by. Which is how any artist feels, at least part of the time. We see some of the reviews he has received, e.g. “Seymour Polatkin is full of shit.”

An eternal problem for the screenwriter is how to cram in all that exposition, the necessary minimum of information the viewer of this fiction really needs to know about the characters and how they got there, and where they are, and what year it is, and so on. I like how the back-story is presented here. The poet is looking at himself in a mirror, dressing for an event. Another man is in the room, standing behind Polatkin, and what he says reveals part of the back-story.

His name is Steven, and his life has been deeply affected by the poet’s work. “You wrote the poems that keep me awake,” he says. Steven recites one of the poems. What a nice, personal, loving tribute for a friend to offer. This is a father poem, and Steven confesses that he had not talked to his father for many years. “When I read your poem I picked up the phone and I called him.”

We can tell these two guys are friends, and before long it’s evident they are lovers and partners. We also learn more about the poet and his past through his public appearances. He tells a bookstore audience how he emerged from the closet and told his grandmother he was a two-spirited gay man.

Polatkin also frequents another venue, a disco where the dancers are all different kinds of people who probably wouldn’t be found together. I’m reading this as Seymour Polatkin’s subconscious, inhabited by all the people he knows from his different worlds.

That is the essence of the poet’s problem. He belongs to many cultures, and some people tell him that is the equivalent of belonging to no culture. But Polatkin isn’t buying it. Which is what makes him a poet. He talks it all out with a TV journalist, on an eerily empty stage where the two of them regard each other intensely and engage in verbal fencing matches. The Interviewer is his anima, his conscience, his guardian angel who practices tough love, an alternate personality, or some amalgam of those entities and more. It’s a very effective cinematic device to handle introspection.

On the rez, a man called Mouse has committed suicide. He was a genius violinist and a general hell-raiser. In a flashback, Mouse bitches about how Seymour Polatkin stole pieces of his life and used them in poems as if they were his own. Even though Mouse is a gifted musician, he doesn’t understand how art functions, probably not even his own. The person Mouse complains to is Aristotle. They all grew up together, and were partners in petty crime, and so on. Another flashback shows their degenerate drug habits. These rez kids huff gasoline and gases from spray cans. This film is just wonderful for finding ways to visually and aurally express thoughts and emotions. For instance, we know that Mouse understood Aristotle, whose spirit inspired some of his finest music. We aren’t told this, we see and hear it.

At a poetry reading, Seymour reads a piece about selling his blood for money to travel to Mouse’s memorial. He sees the apparition of Mouse sitting in the audience, looking real as anybody, judging the poem.

Seymour Polatkin makes it to the memorial. The 13th Step is the rez community center, its interior walls painted in vibrant colors, not bland Caucasian eggshell. Agnes is there. She’s half Jewish and half Indian. They met in college and had an affair, then Seymour told her he was gay, and switched over to men. He didn’t plan to ever go back to the reservation, but Agnes decided to move there, and teach music. She more or less accuses him of being a race traitor, but their relationship still appears to be about 90% good. They love each other in a highly individual way, and she always stoutly defends him to the others who say he’s sold out, etc.

Seymour and Aristotle started college at the same time, but Aristotle just couldn’t take it. There is a very affectionate scene between the two of them, which may be a fantasy. If nothing like this ever happened, the poet certainly wanted it to happen. Anyway, for Aristotle, the price to live in the white man’s world was just too high, and he dropped out. Even though he was, as a school official condescendingly said, “one of the bright ones.”

And Seymour, despite being both Indian and gay, preferred to take his chances in the larger world. He never did understand Aristotle going back to the stifling prison of the rez. The Interviewer also asks Aristotle many questions – which I read as Seymour’s efforts to understand his friend – but Aristotle stoically refuses to say a word. He just sits there, and finally gives a warrior yell.

At the memorial, Seymour stands up in front of the people as if to say something. He stoically remains silent, just like Aristotle did with the Interviewer. But inside he’s screaming, just like Aristotle did with the Interviewer and the bureaucrat. He walks out of the communal hall and leaves the reservation.

In the last song, the music teacher expresses her sadness for the sadness of the poet.

Extra bonus: Two “Northern Exposure” actors are in The Business of Fancydancing.

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The film is subtitled “A Love Story,” and it is – a love story where the people are not only the same gender, but one is 30 years older. The gay demimonde has existed in many times and places. No matter how forbidden and furtive, there has pretty much always been, among the queer, a community of sorts. But any man who takes on a partner so much younger will always draw fire. There have been 30-year-old grandfathers. It’s biologically feasible, and it’s a significant age difference. These two had a lot to overcome.

And there’s something else. What a lot of us want, deep inside, is to know a loving person will be with us at the end. Chris had that. Through his several years of cancer, Don was on the scene. When Chris died, his partner spent the rest of the day drawing different views of the corpse, just as he had drawn so many hundreds of other portraits of the living man. In the documentary, Don Bachardy doesn’t discuss this aspect, but I’m guessing that this strange kind of post-mortem ceremony had enormous value for the survivor. This final exchange of intimacy between lovers could not have been one-sided. I’d bet the farm, that the writer’s voice was continuously heard by the artist, even as the artist sketched the writer again and again. In the annals of spontaneous, self-generated therapeutic techniques, this one is exceptional.

I once took Christopher Isherwood’s blood pressure. That morning, when I looked at the day’s patient schedule and said “Wow!”, the three women who worked in the front office were like, “And your point is…..?” This Santa Monica medical practice had a lot of celebrities on its books. When Flip Wilson came in for an appointment, there was excitement. But the Isherwood name did not ring a bell. That’s the industry for you in a nutshell – writers get no respect.

My heart was beating fast because this man had known Bloomsbury. Leonard and Virginia Woolf published three of his books. E.M. Forster was his literary mentor. Besides, he was just a cool guy – for instance, he was into Eastern religion long before the hippies caught on to it.

A lot of childless couples bring pets into their relationships, so they can have something to care about and fuss over together. Their mutual bond with the pet strengthens their own bonds. That works well for some. Isherwood and Bachardy didn’t have pets, but reserved their affection for each other. They were, in fact, each other’s pet – Chris was a horse, and Don was a cat. (There was a lot of that kind of thing in the old Bloomsbury crowd. The letters of Virginia Woolf, et al, are full of marmosets and dolphins and all kinds of creatures that the correspondents characterized themselves and each other, as.) This documentary of a shared life includes segments of animation that bring alive the horse and cat characters that the two drew for each other. It’s brilliant, and really illustrates one of the secrets of a lasting couple: the creation of a private realm, where just the two of you live, and nobody else is allowed.

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Under the opening credits, scenes of New York in 1920s or ’30s. Black and white newsreels of a big celebration – the end of World War II? Anyway, it’s sometime in the first half of the 20th century. And we’re lucky it doesn’t start with scenes of Morocco, which probably looks pretty much the same now as it did then. So that would be really confusing.

A young couple, Kit and Port, travel with a friend. On their foreign-shores arrival, Port defines the difference between a tourist and a traveler. Kit tells their friend Tunner, “I’m half and half.” It’s a clue that she is already half inclined to get a new life. In her luggage we glimpse a copy of Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood – So it’s 1936 at the earliest, and the book is a nice period touch -just what this character would be reading. Did I mention that Kit is played by Debra Winger? And Port is John Malkovich. How often are two of my personal idols in one movie? Not very.

Paul Bowles, who wrote the original story, is narrator, though thank Goddess there are only a couple of lines of narration. He’s this dapper old dude hanging around the Grand Hotel and watching the couple, Porter and Kit, interact, and the third guy travelling with them, as if they were his own private soap opera. The Bowles character is interesting. If this story is anything like his real life, it exactly expresses how he would be looking back, as an old man, at his younger self. Or you could make a case that he’s the Witness, the part of one’s self that always stands back and watches.

In the café, Tunner carries on like a picky tourist just because there are “corpses” (bugs) in the soup. Kit and Port slurp their soup in unison and with enthusiasm, making their friend feel like an outsider. But when he leaves in a huff, they admit to each other how lousy the food is. Couples do this. They exclude others, but they also bring others into their relationship and use them as pawns, or retaliation tools, or jealousy goads, or whatever. This is primarily a relationship movie, and it depicts faithfully the couple dynamic, the games played, the underlying loyalty and solidarity.

In the hotel where they all stay, Kit and Port have separate rooms. But when Tunner quizzes her about it, she says it’s not good to confuse sex with sleep. This is a woman after my own heart. Later, Kit rather pointedly shuts Port out of her room. But the next day, she invites him to rub her tummy. But they don’t make love, apparently. They seem to have a complicated thing going on.

Then, she doesn’t want to go for a walk with her husband. Port goes off on his own and finds beautiful scenery, overlooking a lower place. You can tell he’s bitter that Kit is not there to share it. He lets a man lead him to a courtesan. To reach her, they have to climb down a ladder to a valley where the fires of many encampments burn. It’s like descending into hell, in a symbolic kind of way. Port learns from experience that, unlike his native land, in this country the courtesans kiss. A lot. At least, this one does. She also steals his wallet, but he knows, and gets it back. Instead of just leaving quietly, he flaunts the fact that she didn’t succeed in ripping him off. To her way of thinking, however, it’s the foreign visitor who stole something from her, by daring to recover his own property. She ululates an alarm, the men come running, and there is a desperate pursuit.

Tunner peeks into Kit’s room, and into Port’s room. He knows Port hasn’t been back all night, but Kit rumples up his bed and tells a lie, she says Port already got up and went out. But then Port returns from his wild adventure, and there’s his wife and their friend, in his room, with the bed messed up. Naturally, he suspects a dalliance. Kit takes out her bad temper on Tunner. “Stop trying to be interesting. On you it looks terrible”

Kit and Port go off on long bike ride, and end up on vertiginous overlook. They make love, but then he starts talking while they’re doing it, and apparently they talk too much, I think we’re supposed to conclude that he loses his erection, and Kit is obviously frustrated.

In town, a funeral procession goes by, with the deceased carried on a litter at shoulder height by several people in a way that is businesslike, not at all dignified or stately. They move so briskly, the corpse bounces around.

Port asks Kit “Could you be happy here?” Talk about foreshadowing! They talk about the fact that they’ve been married seven years, which Port doesn’t think is a long time. “We will stay in El Gaa” is another prophetic utterance.

Tunner intends to follow them to El Gaa but actually, he and Kit have gotten together by now, and Port wants to keep them apart, so he and his wife move on to another town. Port is desperate to find transportation, but a clerk tells him it’s impossible. From a handful of currency, he flings bill after bill at the man in negligent flicking way, then grabs the front of the guy’s clothes. Having seen the money and the violence, the clerk asks “American?”

Port falls ill, and Kit goes off to look for the hotel, probably hoping someone will come back and help her carry him. Meanwhile, he is surrounded by the Master Musicians of Jajouka, who play their curative music over him. He intuits that the music is beneficial, and beckons them closer. Kit comes back, finds Port on the ground in the midst of all this, and tells the shamans/musicians to stop. But Port flings more money, and they start playing again.

After some horrible days in a bare room, Port dies. Kit flags down a passing caravan, and is appropriated by a desert sheik who takes her home to be one of his paramours, and there’s a very exotic love scene. But then the other wives and the rest of the people in the settlement drive her away.

Tunner is still hanging around in the couple’s last known location, where he’s been waiting for three months to hear something. He seems to have gone somewhat native. He’s wearing baggy pants, anyway.

Rejected by the locals, Kit tries to steal or buy some soup in the marketplace, but she’s not allowed to do either. The people set upon her. Next, we see her in a hospital. Her hands and feet are covered with either henna designs or tattoos. A Red Cross woman takes her away in a car. They arrive at Tunner’s hotel, and the Red Cross woman leaves Kit alone while she goes to find him, but when they come back Kit is gone. She wanders around and winds up back up in the same place where the Paul Bowles character is still hanging out in the dining room. Then he does some voiceover philosophizing about how we think we have forever, but we don’t, and how the number of times when we will do the things we love are finite.

This movie has a great look, especially the window treatments in that part of the world. I forgot to check the credits to see who was the fly wrangler. A lot of flies were around when Port was deathly sick. Are they real flies? Or added by digital magic? Here’s my last question. If black absorbs heat, and the body loses 80 percent of its heat through the scalp, why in this scorching desert climate do people enclose their heads in cloth that appears to be treated with tar? Is it tar? Don’t their brains bake? Why not, at least, wrap up in white cloth, to reflect some of the heat? Or why not just go bare-headed, and take advantage of the natural air-conditioning properties of hair? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these people know what they’re doing. They’ve had centuries in which to perfect their ergonomic relationship with the climate. I’m just wondering how this seemingly counter-intuitive solution works in practical terms, that’s all.

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

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code unknown

It doesn’t really have an ending. And it confounds all expectations. I think the black kid is going to die. I figure, that’s what the scene with him and white girl in the restaurant is all about. To show that he can be mellow, non-confrontational, sweet, etc. – so that when he is killed, we will care.

Then, the horrible prolonged scene on the subway where the Arab insults and eventually spits on Anne. I figure, she will react to that hysterically, causing her boyfriend to kill the next dark-skinned person he sees – who will just happen to be that guy we have learned to like. But that isn’t what happens. Nothing happens. As we go along, I make up several different endings, none of which is the one provided by the movie.

The other remarkable thing is, it shows the ordinary routine of being smuggled into France and then deported, an everyday occurrence for the Romanians.

Juliette Binoche can look so plain, and also so luminously beautiful. She’s an unparalleled physical actor. The body as instrument, to the nth degree. All the set pieces show her off.  Movies often have those, as actor bait. Write something a real actor would love to sink teeth into, and a real actor with a name will do it for union scale. It happens. It happens the other way, too. The clever producer or director or writer gets with a huge name actor and says, “What do you want to do on the big screen? Sing, tap dance, drown, masturbate? You name it, and we’ll write it into the script.”

For a film, that can be a disaster. But not here. However they came about, these amazing scenes show off so well the genius of Juliette Binoche. The one where she’s listening to a kid being abused in the building. And at her acting job, the locked-in-a-room-by-a-twisto scene. And that off-the-scale scene, more literally a tour de force than many others given the label, where alone on the stage she stomps around being a total uninhibited madwoman, with large awkward movements like Mountain Girl in Intolerance. The viewer is far, far back in the theater. What the hell is that? Is it from an actual play that already existed, or was it created for the purpose of this film?

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