Archive for Kubrick

Eyre Turbulence

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2014 by dcairns

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Cary Fukunaga’s JANE EYRE is a cracker.

(I remember The Scotsman‘s film critic greeting BLADE RUNNER at Edinburgh Film Fest with the opening sentence, “Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a cracker,” and thinking it was simultaneously slightly cool and slightly shocking that he should jettison the dignity of his position in such an enthusiastic, fanboyish way, but there are times when that’s appropriate.)

The director of True Detective serves up a smart period film that feels modern in all the right ways. The costumes and settings take us directly into the Bronte-world, and the authentic candlelight cinematography of Adriano Goldman allows us to feel actually present in a way not possible until very recently (Kubrick’s much-vaunted candlelight scenes in BARRY LYNDON still required huge banks of candles offscreen, erasing the flicker and rendering the effect not totally realistic, while the extremely narrow focal depth forced the actors to remain rooted to the spot.) I was reminded of The Knick — though Fukunaga doesn’t go quite so far as to deploy an electronic score to show just how modern he can go. The understated Dario Marinelli piano and violin accompaniment chosen has an appealing delicacy. You don’t want to get too clever for your own good, and what works for Soderbergh wouldn’t here.

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The performances are also strongly naturalistic — Mia Wasikowski and Michael Fassbender not only speak in authentic-sounding Yorkshire accents (and for once Rochester sounds properly regional), they have absorbed the accents so that they are able to concentrate fully on each other.

I didn’t see the popular BBC version, so I mainly recall the Zefferelli on ’96, which strikes me as inferior in every way, save one. I had remembered Maria Schneider, as the first Mrs. Rochester, having a more fully-written role. I actually remembered her having dialogue. Not so — here’s the scene on YouTube.

Some of Zefferelli’s editing choices seem whimsical — there’s an unexpected high angle shot that seems inserted to protect us from the performances rather than to allow us to understand the scene — Jim Clark’s account of editing for Franco Z in his book Dream Repairman (he worked on YOUNG TOSCANINI) kind of suggests that Zefferelli will favour in the edit whoever he happens to be on good terms with that day — but Schneider’s reaction shots are vivid and articulate. It’s often the best policy to play mad people as sane (cf Wasikowska in MAPS TO THE STARS and Kathleen Byron in BLACK NARCISSUS, who is terrifying but consciously decided to play it sane in defiance of screenplay and director), and you can tell Mrs. R understands everything her despised husband is saying, though he talks as if she is a dumb animal. Schneider, the madwoman in the attic of European cinema, had a lot to draw on here.

Not that Valentina Cervi is in any way inadequate as Bertha in the Fukunaga — she has the appropriate menace — it’s just that I think Zeff pulled off a casting coup that would be hard to beat.

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Also in Fukunaga’s cast and of note: Judi Dench can’t suppress her obvious intelligence to play a silly housekeeper, but we don’t mind; Jamie Bell manages to not annoy in the most thankless role; Simon McBurney always adds a touch of the unexpected; Amelia Clarkson is a terrific Young Jane. The idea of starting in media res and exploring the story via flashbacks allows Fukunaga to intercut a child and an adult who don’t really look anything alike and make us forget to bother about that, a bit like Bunuel and his two leading ladies in THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE –

– a casting decision that came about after Bunuel fired a recalcitrant Maria Schneider, thus closing the circle here and allowing me to escape. Sound of footsteps, door slam. Mad cackle.

 

Space Envy

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2014 by dcairns

YES, it is tatty British TV scifi (TBTVSF for short). Which is, in itself, admirable. But note the date! 1967 — BEFORE 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was in cinemas but undoubtedly WHILE Kubrick was working on it. And watch the space station-space shuttle link-up at the start! Highly reminiscent. What must Kubrick have felt when he saw this?

Well, we need not wonder, since I have here Kubes’ notes, dictated to personal secretary Isadore “Beeves” Krassovitz as he watched the show (Kubrick always had a short-hand typist on hand as he watched television, in case he made any remarkable observations during Crown Court), then recorded onto quarter-inch tape by voice artist Martin Jarvis, attempting a Bronx accent.

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0.16 Shit. This is EXACTLY like our first space sequence. Only… so much better! We are dead. DEAD. How do we top this? The music — it’s goddamn magnificent! The majesty of interplanetary travel, and yet, so perky! I’m gonna really have to shuffle through my record collection. It’ll never be as good as this.

0.28 Even their title’s better than ours.

0.35 Special effects by “National Interest Pictures.” Make a note of that. We have to get a spy in there to find out how they’re doing this stuff. We have traveling mattes and Schuftan and slitscan but this is WAY ADVANCED. It’s almost like they have access to alien technology or something.

1.22 The heroes are called Power and Tempo. And what do we got? Dave and Frank. We are boned.

1.36 Note how the stars are twinkling in a realistic fashion even though we’re in space and there’s no atmosphere to make them twinkle. That’s the kind of detail 2001 has got to have.

1.55 Actors are too emotional. But wait — that guy poking an ice cube tray with a pen light is Derek Fowlds, future star of Yes, Minister! I’m gonna have to cast the future star of a rival sitcom to compete. Maybe I can get the guy from Rising Damp? Or the guy from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin? Hell, I’ll get both. That’ll make it really futuristic.

2:06 I like how the TV monitor is in black and white. No way they could afford colo(u)r TV in space. Still, better look into it.

2:13 Their chairs are made of egg cartons. Nice.

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2:48 Look at the size of that TV set! Is that realistic? Why don’t I have one that big?

2:56 Mini-skirts are never, ever, going to go out of style.

3:46 When the Discovery enters the “tunnels of light” it’s gonna have to look every bit as good as this dry ice fog effect they got here or we’re gonna be laughed off the screen.

3.50 Hey, the set’s bouncing up and down as if they were actually moving! How the hell are they doing that?

4.00 A masterstroke. Only now, four minutes in, do they tell us the name of the episode, “CLOUD OF DEATH.” Maybe I could use text on screen to introduce the various “chapters” of my film. Like at the beginning, it could say “DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” or something. But I know what’ll happen — they’ll say I stole it from Solarnauts.

4.25 Now they’re blowing shit up! How come I never thought of that? We got all these models, and we never thought of doing some kind of space dogfight and blowing them up. First thing tomorrow I’m gonna find Arthur C Clarke in that tree in Ceylon he lives in and smack his stupid face. Even if I have to fly there!

5.00 Those zigzag wipes are awesome. I would never be that bold. I go from a monkey tossing a femur to a nuclear missile station in space and what do I do? I cut! What a goddamn tragic missed opportunity. Still, I guess those wipes might get tiresome over the course of a movie that’s 141 minutes long as mine is destined to be.

5:24 Jesus, that bald guy’s head is coming right out of the TV. What an amazing way to visualize an alien intelligence — a guy with no hair! That’s it, I can’t compete. We’ll just have to keep our aliens offscreen. I was gonna use guys with no beards, but this show has me licked. I don’t think I can watch anymore (sob!)

TAPE ENDS.

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***

I find Kubrick an irresistible comedy character. He did try to sue the makers of Space 1999 for infringing his title… “That date is only two years away from 2001!” One sees his point, but he does rather miss the crux of the matter, legalistically, that you can’t copyright a title.

 

Spouse Invaders

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2014 by dcairns

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THE NIGHT CALLER

I wasn’t aware of UNEARTHLY STRANGER (1964) but I had seen THE NIGHT CALLER made the following year. Both are British sci-fi movies, both feature stand-out turns from Warren Mitchell, and both are weirdly, creepily misogynistic.

MARS NEEDS DUMB WOMEN

Briefly, in THE NIGHT CALLER, someone is advertising for models and when the swinging London dolly-birds turn up to audition, they get disappeared. A female scientist investigates, using herself as bait, and is murdered. Finally, the intrepid John Saxon confronts the extraterrestrial responsible, who confesses that his dying planet, devastated by war, desperately needs nubile young women, so he’s been advertising for them and whisking them off to Mars or wherever. He also reveals that Martian men are hideously disfigured by radiation but that using mind control he can prevent the dolly birds from realizing this. Saxon and the rest of the representatives of Earth are touched by his plight and agree that what he’s been doing is basically fine. Then they remember about the murder and ask about that. “She was a threat to us — she was too intelligent!” says the space chappie, and everybody agrees that, though it’s of course regrettable that she had to die, it was probably for the best. Too intelligent. Can’t have that.

Very disturbing viewing, and a commercially released genre picture, albeit a low-budget one. John Gilling of Hammer fame directed it. It’s actually like a film made by the warped-by-aliens men in Joe Dante’s alarming Masters of Horror episode, The Screwfly Solution.

Warren Mitchell, famous as TV’s Alf Garnett (comedy sitcom bigot, prototype of Archie Bunker), has a moving bit as father of one of the missing girls — so real and human he blows the doors off the film, and all the more disturbing when it gets to the end and his loss is swept under the rug.

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SEX IS A VIRUS FROM OUTER SPACE

Now. UNEARTHLY STRANGER, like TNC, starts smoothly and doesn’t reveal its bizarre sexual politics until quite late, but when it does the effect is striking.

Good cast! John Neville, who was about to be Sherlock Holmes in A STUDY IN TERROR, and would play Baron Munchausen for Terry Gilliam and have another run-in with aliens in The X-Files as The Well-Manicured Man, is a scientist working on a scheme of astral projection to enable mankind to travel into space by will alone. Philip Stone, the sinister waiter in THE SHINING, is his head of department. (Oddly, THE NIGHT VISITOR features two Kubrick stars too, Marianne Stone who dances with Peter Sellers in LOLITA, and Aubrey Morris, the camp social worker in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. I really do think Kubrick did all his casting from British B-movies.) And Patrick Newell, Mother in The Avengers, plays the security man whose job is to find out why Britain’s top scientists keep having their brains incinerated from within.

(“The brain drain” — a newspaper scare story about British talent being stolen away by countries with higher salaries and lower tax, was very much in the media at this time.)

(The movie is produced by Avengers head man Albert Fennell and directed by documentarist John Krish who also filmed that show’s credits.)

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Suspicion eventually falls on Neville’s wife, “an alien” — meaning she’s Swiss — or is she? Sympathetically played by Gabriella Licudi, she sometime forgets to blink, takes the casserole out the oven without gloves, has no pulse, and weeps acid tears. It seems the aliens have invented astral projection first, and they’re here. And they’re all women.

Nicely shot but confined to a couple of offices, the Neville family home, and a car — apart from an effective bit of Licudi wandering suburban streets and upsetting the children she meets, who all instinctively know she’s Not Right — the film suffers from an excess of wordiness and a lack of action and visual variety. But it’s short and somewhat original. Then the big reveal happens, and the further twist comes that secretary Miss Ballard (Jean Marsh) is also an alien. A struggle ensues with Neville and Stone trying to chloroform her — like the vampire-stakings in Hammer flicks, it’s filmed like a rape. She goes out the window, but by the time our panting heroes have descended the loooong flight of stairs, she’s vanished like Michael Myers. But just to drive its non-point home, onlookers start turning to the camera. Women onlookers. Staring with sinister womanly eyes. You’re next! You’re next! Watch the skies. God help us in the future.

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MOTHER, JEEVES AND BOSIE

Where does this fear and loathing come from? Sexual liberation may have stirred up some anxieties, I guess. The makers of The Avengers were an odd lot — celebrating kinks and campery, but treating Linda Thorson shabbily and establishing a “no-blacks” rule because “the show has got to have class.” A good part of UNEARTHLY STRANGER’s unease feels curiously homonormative (now there’s a word you really don’t get to use much). All the women are aliens and all the men are a bit fruity. Warren Mitchell’s cameo involves a PERFECT Scottish accent, the kind of posh one that’s slightly camp. John Neville had been Bosey to  Robert Morley’s OSCAR WILDE, and has a neurasthenic, dandified quality that’s pleasantly un-macho. “Mother” describes himself as a confirmed bachelor and is of course camp as knickers: this may be the best movie role he ever had, and he chews it up greedily, joyously. And Philip Stone, with his prissily plummy, theatrical diction… well, he doesn’t conform to any notion of sexuality, really: his characters always seem scarily inward. He’s magnificent, though: one can see why Kubrick loved using him. With Neville he forms a kind of cut-rate Richardson/Gielgud double-act. I wish they’d done a whole series of movies together.

Check it!

what’s inside a girl? from David Cairns on Vimeo.

I told you: this movie is just bizarre about sexual relations and society and everything.

The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Megaset

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