…which brings us back to Fritz Lang. Yes, our Waltz of the Eye Patches concludes with the monocled maestro himself, who suffered an eye injury as a cavalry officer in the Great War, necessitating the monocle which became a symbol of his dictatorial, “Prussian” style of directing in Hollywood. But in later life he suffered from progressive deterioration in the other eye, bringing on the eye-patch years — his bad eye became his good eye, and he now wore both monocle and patch — the belt-and-braces approach to being a crazy film director.
I do cherish Lotte Eisner’s story about trying to introduce Lang and Bunuel, but failing because Lang was to short-sighted to recognise Bunuel and Bunuel was too deaf to hear Eisner. Human frailty is a great subject for art and anecdote.
I also admire, in a strange way, the contrasting approaches to cigarette smoking shown in the archival interview clips of Lang and Nick Ray in A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN FILMS.
Lang, minus his usual long cigarette holder (possibly his lungs by now were too swampy to get the smoke up the tube) clutches his ciggie Alec Guinness-style between the second and third fingers of his flat hand, and sucks eagerly on it mid-phrase, as if unable to make it to the end of a clause without another wheezing puff of the life-giving cancer.
Ray lets his cigarette hang from his lip, paper grafted to dry skin, bobbing like a sprinter’s erection as he mumbles away, ignoring the clinging coffin nail and only managing to inhale what drifts his way through natural air circulation, passively smoking his own cigarette.
Ray, I forgot to mention earlier, is the only one of the five canonical patch-wearers to have suffered injury to the eyeball in the line of duty, apparently bursting a blood vessel due to the stress of making WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, his final film.
My only other eye-patch-related story concerns another Edinburgh Film Festival, the year of VELVET GOLDMINE as opening film. A perfect film to theme a party around, which may have more to do with opening and closing film selections than anything else, but nobody much minded this choice, especially with Todd Haynes in attendance. (Actually, it’s one of his lesser films, with a half-hearted engagement with narrative but a great deal of visual and aural pleasure to compensate.) Festival director Lizzie Francke wore an eye-patch through the entire two weeks, as a result of a tragic glitter accident during her party preparations. Still, it was another injury in the line of duty, and an eye-patch does in fact make an excellent glam rock accessory.