Archive for Ibsen

Sirk Perk

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on July 13, 2010 by dcairns

A treat for me — a double bill of early Douglas Sirk films, in the company of fellow cinephiles, round at Keith Uhlich and Dan Callahan’s place (thanks!). Being jet-lagged (this was Friday) and also a total lightweight, I only stayed for the first film, but later heard a few people saying it was the better one, even if Sirk remembered it differently.*

Young Detlef Sierck’s DAS MADCHEN VOM MOORHOF takes place in rural 19th century Sweden, and has a plot combining relatively muted drama with a few somewhat awkward blasts of full-on melodrama. Nevertheless, it’s a superb piece, with plenty of Sirkian moments, including a mirror-smashing incident framed to look as if the screen itself is shattering. Reflections play a major role in the imagery –

The titular girl is Hansi Knoteck, a maidservant who has disgracefully fallen pregnant out of wedlock. We first meet her on her way to court to try and prove her claim that her former master is the father of her baby. Our young hero is impressed by her integrity when she withdraws her suit rather than see the baby’s father perjure himself on the bible. (Nice shot of a row of pious onlookers’ hands clasping tensely as he prepares to swear.) He hires her as maid, but this soon causes tension with his bride-to-be.

Everything is nicely understated during the first hour, since the maid has fallen in love with the master but no way does she want to spoil his impending marriage by announcing her feelings, and he’s fallen in love with her but he’s too much of a big dumb male to have realized this. Plot complications of a bizarre kind occur when he comes to suspect he’s stabbed a sailor in the head during his drunken stag night, and can’t remember doing it. He’s rescued from this fallacy (the sailor never appears and is a complete Swedish red herring) and united with his love as the story gets back on track. Most complex character might actually be the snooty fiancée, who gives up her claim on the hero rather than be shamed by Hansi’s superior love. A case of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, or is the face-saving excuse a disguise for deeper feelings?

My favourite scene is a positively Ulmeresque moment where the camera drifts away from the protags as they discuss wandering spirits in the stable. The camera becomes such a spirit, drifting around the room, up to the ceiling, alighting on the characters’ shadows, and then rejoining them. Don’t see enough of that kind of thing nowadays…

*The second film was another Swedish job, STUTZEN DER GESSELLSCHAFT (PILLARS OF SOCIETY), a fast-and-loose Ibsen adaptation that seemed rather heavy-handed compared to GIRL, according to the reports I heard later.

Haynes’ Pandemonium Carnival

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2008 by dcairns

he's not here 

My head is an incredible jumble! I feel like I have been melted down by the Button Moulder.

I start lecturing again tomorrow (and we’ll see how I keep this blog going once THAT happens) so I started preparing my first lecture, on Jack Clayton. I love THE INNOCENTS especially and THE PUMPKIN EATER and am pretty wild about most of the others, and I’ve never done a talk about him so it seemed like fun. I was looking at THE GREAT GATSBY (featuring the infant Absolute Beginner Patsy Kensit) again, trying to choose extracts, and I got sucked into it and suddenly realised I’d better stop and go and see I’M NOT THERE, as had been my plan for the day.

Off to the Cameo!* This is a legendary Edinburgh art-house/fleapit. My parents saw THE RUNNING JUMPING STANDING STILL FILM along with THE SEVEN SAMURAI here (an unlikely pairing). It used to be run by a wild entrepreneur and showman called Jim Poole, who would turn the heating up for desert films, and other feats of William Castle-style Sensurround legerdemain. Yet I can’t see any obvious reason why, for this film, the auditorium was freezing cold and smelled of wee. These sensations disappeared as the film began though, returning with renewed intensity as the end credits rolled (to the sound of “Like a Rolling Stone”) and I realised I’d been in a state of sensory suspension for the whole film, absorbing only what the film’s makers delivered to me through my ears and eyes. 

I don’t feel equal to delivering any kind of useful thoughts on this film just yet, which is a Phantasmagoric Cavort through various aspects of Bob Dylan’s life and art, because a) it’s pretty complex and b) I don’t know much about Dylan and c) I have managed to amplify the rather weird state the film induced in me by way of artistic overload:

On the bus home, I had the gated drums of Siouxie and the Banshee’s Peekaboo and the lovely Charlotte Gainsbourg singing to me on my Nano, while I read a little memoir by Ralph Richardson (favourite role: Peer Gynt) and the illuminations of the Balmoral Hotel and Edinburgh Castle glowed, and I thanked my lucky stars again for living in the city where W.C. Fields first tasted whiskey.

Then home, lighting a fire and finishing off THE GREAT GATSBY, which has marvellous people and moments, even if it doesn’t entirely grip. Fitzgerald is referenced in Haynes’ film, but I thought on the whole that SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, a marvellous film made by Clayton and partially unmade by the suits at Disneycorps, is closer to Haynes’ film, which has a definite flavour of the Fellini-esque about it. EIGHT AND A HALF is the big stylistic cue for the Cate Blanchett scenes, but then this circus flavour invades the Richard Gere sequence, supplanting most traces of Peckinpah (though the presence of Kris Kristofferson as narrator provides another reminder of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID). I guess the blend of Americana and the carnivalesque is what brought Clayton’s film to mind.

all I see are dark eyes

dusty old fairgrounds

You can probably expect more on the neglected Clayton, and hopefully some more ordered thoughts on Haynes’ film, which I kind of loved, soon. Or soon-ish.

ONE thought: Cate Blanchett has rightly had much favourable attention for her work here, but I think she has an advantage over her co-stars because drag is pretty well always interesting. Not that she isn’t remarkable. But I want to say that Marcus Carl Franklin as “Woodie Guthrie” is also a true Star — when he’s on it’s like someone pierced the celluloid and let a VERY BRIGHT LIGHT shine through.

MC Franklin

*One very nice thing about this picture house is that there’s generally one of my students or ex-students working there. This time it was Clair. Hello, if you’re reading this!

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