Archive for February, 2012

Cast in order of (ridiculous) appearance

Posted in Comics, FILM, Television with tags , , on February 29, 2012 by dcairns

Excuse me. I’m all excited now and have to go run around the room a few times.

I remember playing in the garden as a kid and my Dad called me in because there was something coming on TV he thought I’d enjoy. It was the original FLASH GORDON serial. He’d seen it at the cinema as a kid in the 40s, where the audience literally cheered the goodies and booed the baddies during the opening titles. Watching it with me, he was a little skeptical about the staging of the fights — Larry “Buster” Crabbe as Flash beats up an Imperial Guardsman while two other Imperial Guardsmen stand and watch, waiting for their turn. I loved it — I was probably nine or something. I didn’t notice that Professor Zarkoff (Frank Shannon) was inexplicably Irish. I loved the monsters and the Brute Men of Mongo and the spinning top spacecraft and the crackling firecracker rocketships slowly circling to land in fogbound papier-mache valleys.

I’ve seen barely any other serials apart from the FLASH sequels and BUCK ROGERS, all of which aired on the BBC in my dim youth (usually starting a couple of days before the Scottish school holidays, so I’d miss episodes 1 & 2) — any suggestions? I don’t want to be noticing the poorly staged fights, I want to be enveloped in pulp.

Arse Gratia Artis

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Painting with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by dcairns

An enticing exhibition, but alas it had ended before we hit the Cinematheque.

The fascination of the scatalogical… actually, the word is a misnomer, because there’s no logic in it…

Shameful to admit, but two of the greatest pleasures of the Cinematheque Francaise were a couple of gratuitous arse gags.

One came in the form of an anamorphic illusion. A painting of distorted shapes on a disc is surmounted by a shiny metal column. Reflected in the concave surface of the column, the distorted painting magically undistorts itself to reveal –

No, not a pretty snowflake as in the above example, but a naked man bending over and examining his arse in a mirror — what he sees is not the reassuring sight of his parted buttocks and hairy anus, but a memento mori, a grinning deathshead! Let that be a warning to you.

I can picture Henri Langlois chuckling over this after picking it up in an antique shop. Then taking it home and trying the mirror trick himself.

The other bottom-related event was a silent short called ERREUR DU PORT, starring a fellow named Dranem. Here’s Dranem in an early sound experiment –

But he’s not quite so charming in ERREUR DE PORT. The film begins with him in a train station (obvious backdrop), asking a guard for directions. Dranem is clad in bumpkin attire including huge, spongy clogs, which seem to give him some difficulty.

The guard gestures towards a sign marked WATER CLOSET. Dranem nods and heads over, but enters the nearby telephone kiosk instead.

Cut to inside the booth. Dranem, ignorant hick that he is, doesn’t realize this isn’t a toilet, and approaches the telephone counter, lowering his trousers and squatting on it. Cue grotesque gurning facial expressions as he exerts himself fully in the act of evacuation.

Cut to the station again. A smartly dressed gent is waiting for his turn in the phone booth. He taps his foot — how impatient he is! Dranem emerges, miming immense satisfaction and relief at the is successful conclusion of his business. He staggers off, nearly going over on his ankle in a wince-inducing stumble as his sponge clogs give way beneath him. The impatient man hurries into the phone booth…

To emerge, choking, eyes rolling in horror, a handkerchief clasped to his face. He exits, wafting a hand under his nose in urgent pantomime of disgust. THE END.

The director of this affair was Ferdinand Zecca, top helmer at Pathe Freres — here’s a more pleasant creation from the Great Man to serve as a kind of palate cleanser –

A Bad Egg

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 27, 2012 by dcairns

Took me ages to get around to VOICI LES TEMPS DES ASSASSINS, a major Julien Duvivier film. Not sure why. It’s very good indeed, with Jean Gabin settling into his portly patriarch phase, and Daniele Delorme electrifying as his ex-wife’s daughter who comes into his life, seduces him, and wrecks his relationships.

The closest comparison is with LA BELLE EQUIPE, in which Gabin co-founds a riverside bar identical to the one his mother runs here (a fearsome woman, she decapitates chickens with a bullwhip). Gabin himself runs a successful restaurant in Les Halles — Duvivier artfully intercuts nostalgic footage of the real, long-vanished market, with his own elaborate studio reconstruction, and has a rare time tracking around the restaurant itself. The interiors of the film having been constructed to facilitate the director’s elegant camerawork, we get some great stuff tracking between tables, through doorways, peering around partitions…

LA BELLE EQUIPE shares with this film a slightly undercooked ending (LA BELLE EQUIPE has two, one happy, one sad, the sad one being the original and preferable version, but neither one quite living up to what’s gone before) and also a female spirit of malevolence of the kind the director returned to several times in his career. While Viviane Romance in the 1936 movie is an almost unmotivated force of pure evil, Delorme at least has in her past sufficient trauma to suggest how her character got so warped.

While the earlier film acquired a received-wisdom reading as an allegory for the Popular Front (friends decide to share their good fortune and go into business together; it all falls tragically apart), which Duvivier denied intending, I don’t see any similar political subtext here, except as a premonition of the deepening generation gap. Gabin has a young friend he regards almost as a son, who goes on student demos — Delorme drives them apart and conspires to kill both of them. Fear of women seems to drive the movie, with both Gabin and Delorme’s mothers representing different sorts of destructive possessiveness. But the characters at least have individual psychologies that make sense, and it’s a relief not to have the somewhat insipid “good girl” archetype too — Duvivier’s vamps are much more fun than his virgins. But that’s the case with most filmmakers, isn’t it?

One of Billy Wilder’s rules: “If she’s not a whore, she’s a bore.”

There’s also an English lady customer with a drunken dog called Group Captain.

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