Archive for The Daily Notebook

Sim City

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2014 by dcairns

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By some strange quirk, the great Edinburgh-born actor Alastair Sim seems to have spent most of his later career in the sauna. In the subject of this fortnight’s edition of The Forgotten he appears in two scenes, steaming himself in both. In ROYAL FLASH he also appears in two scenes, one of which is a magnificent Victorian Turkish bathhouse designed by Terry Marsh complete with a foot-pedal-powered brass shower for Malcolm McDowell to enjoy. Sim’s character, fully dressed in gentlemanly finery, does not look like he’s enjoying himself quite so much.

One the DVD commentary, McDowell reports meeting Sim again when he went to loop a few lines. Sim looked exhausted. “I wish I could just say a line,” he moaned. The actor had, by this time, become such a master of the stutter, the hesitation and the silent working of the jaw, that replacing a line became torture, because the words never came out in a straight line. His talent was also his torment.

I should think the hardest actor to loop would be Leonard Rossiter, though, who developed a level of wordless chuntering even more extreme than Sim’s — particularly on the sitcom Rising Damp, Rossiter would flap his gums soundlessly, or else accompanied by a high, hesitant drone like a distant mountaineer plummeting, waiting for the words to actually form, for a long time before actual speech emerged, and part of the comedy was that you never knew at what point the facial calisthenics and faraway yodel would resolve into language. Lucky, then, that he worked with Kubrick, who tried to avoid dubbing whenever possible, and a little unfortunate that Sim was paired with Lester that one time, since Lester virtually rewrote his films in the dub.

But still, it’s delightful to see Sim in a Lester comedy.

None of this has anything much to do with today’s column, the Peter O’Toole tribute edition, which is available here.

Royal Flash [Blu-ray]
Royal Flash [Blu-ray]

And meanwhile, at Apocalypse Now, The ’68 Comeback Special returns with Scout Tafoya’s take on 24 HOURS IN THE LIFE OF A WOMAN starring the great Danielle Darrieux.

Le Clair-Obscur

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by dcairns

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On the subject of put-downs, Ambrose Bierce observed that “for every man, there is something in the vocabulary that would stick to him like a second skin. His enemies have only to find it.”

Over at the first fortnightly edition of The Forgotten, we encounter a filmmaker who was memorably re-christened by an opponent in just that fashion. So successfully was he insulted that I encountered the insult long before I saw a single frame he shot.

Thanks to Lenny Borger for telling me about the insult.

Forgotten Fortnight

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 11, 2013 by dcairns

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The Forgotten is going fortnightly / bi-weekly — this will give me more time for other projects, and tie in with a less frequent rate of posting in general over at the Notebook. A new feature will run here alternate Thursdays, as soon as I work out what it is.

So it’s fitting to bow out from the weekly run with a last film, in this case by one of those maudit cinema du papa cineastes I love so much…

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