Archive for Magritte

Southern Gothic

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2014 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2014-03-22-16h35m08s67

No HUGE spoilers here, but you might want to skip everything after the words “wrapped round head” if you’re still watching the show or planning to.

I caught the first episode of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective on Sky Atlantic at a friend’s place in London, and then had to wait a while until I could see more. Then Fiona and I consumed it in almost one go. So I can attest that it’s a very well-conceived machine for inducing voraciousness in the audience.

vlcsnap-2014-03-22-16h37m00s153

It also has two very showy star turns, with Matthew McConaughey using his newly acquired wiriness for the wired Detective Rust Cohle, a hallucinating synesthesic intellectual insomniac behaviorist atheist nihilist — manifested as stoned intensity with a John Carpenter makeover for the contemporary scenes. Woody Harrelson sucks his big wide Humpty Dumpty mouth into a tiny slit, lips like squinting eyelids, juts his jaw into an inverted Death Valley butte, setting off innumerable small pops, ripples and bladder-bubbles in his cheeks, while his furious ball-bearing eyes shoot murder from the shadow of his granite slab of brow.

The eight-episode structure proves really ideal, allowing a convoluted mystery to be ravelled up, without quite losing the viewer amid the tangle. Twin Peaks (an influence, I think, alongside James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia) and Lost went on so long their subplots and red herrings got attenuated into nothingness and even the show’s creators couldn’t remember how many balls they had in the air. There comes a point when a juggler stops juggling and just goes into a protective crouch with arms wrapped round head.

vlcsnap-2014-03-22-16h35m59s57

The tendency of American films to pare away their interesting attributes and wind up with what Olivier Assayas characterises as “a fight in a warehouse” was also present, which meant the ending wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been. The show throws in hints of diabolical cults and widespread corruption and child abuse, but ends up handing us a disfigured serial killer and letting the rest slide. I’m curious as to whether the references to Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, which basically go nowhere, will be picked up in subsequent series. The idea that follow-ups will deal with different protagonists is a really appealing one. In any case, Rust Cohle is broken now, by which I mean he’s healed. If he’s not a soul-crushing pessimist, he’ll be no fun to have around.

As you can see, the title sequence is a masterpiece in itself. Series director Cary Fukunaga envisioned a Magritte-like feeling to the show’s use of flat landscapes, and that is taken up in the surreal title imagery, which at times recalls James Bond, True Blood, Polish movie posters and H.R. Geiger. By the eightth episode I was still spotting new details in the creds.

HBO’s True Detective – Main Title Sequence from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

Fencing on the Ceiling

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by dcairns

A nice, Magritte-like image from SINBAD THE SAILOR, directed by Richard Wallace of IT’S IN THE BAG! fame.

Might as well have been called SINBAD THE BULLSHIT ARTIST though, as all the really interesting fantasy stuff with djinni and flying carpets is only mentioned by Sinbad in his implausible fish stories about his adventurous past. What’s onscreen is a perfectly acceptable, and blindingly colourful, swashbuckler, with virtually no fantastical story elements, but a fantastical LOOK. Douglas Fairbanks Jnr homages his famous pop with a long acrobatic chase through a shiny palace, availing himself of hidden trampolines and stuntmen in order to mimic dad’s athletic prowess, and throwing in some of Doug Snr’s trademark pantomimic gestures.

But it’s a slight waste of an opportunity for THIEF OF BAGDAD type fantasy, one can’t help but feel, even while enjoying the spectacle of an Arabian Maureen O’Hara and Walter Slezak.

…and you know who else…

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by dcairns

…has been looking at Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER? Only William Friedkin, around the time he was making THE EXORCIST.

Or if not, it’s a w ild coincidence.

Of course, Friedkin has talked about how the famous poster shot of Father Merrin arriving at the house in Georgetown was influenced by René Magritte’s painting The Empire of Light (above), but I think it’s that close. Maybe he used that as a cue when discussing the scene with DoP Owen Roizman, and maybe Roizman thought of Charles Laughton and Stanley Cortez’s imagery. Or maybe Friedkin saw Bernardo Bertolucci making the much more reasonable claim that Magritte’s “day for night” painting was a reference point for Vittorio Storaro’s THE SPIDER’S STRATAGEM — the thought stuck in the sausage-meat electrical storm of Friedkin’s brain, and he later “originated” it by the simple procedure of opening his yap.

Then there’s this ~

Okay, not that close, and one might fairly ask how many ways there are of shooting somebody standing over somebody else who’s lying in a bed? Actually, quite a few, and most of them are in THE EXORCIST. So much of that damn film takes place in a single bedroom… I’m convinced that’s why they cast Max Von S: one look at him reminds you that long static scenes in rooms CAN be cinematically compelling.

At any rate, these two images have so much in common viscerally that leafing through film books as a kid, I think I somehow confused or conflated the two movies, imagining some kind of NIGHT OF THE EXORCIST.

What a messed-up film that would be. For, with its horror of female sexuality and the body, THE EXORCIST is more like the film preacher Harry Powell would have made if Warners gave him the money.

The Night of the Hunter (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Night of the Hunter (Criterion Collection)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 358 other followers