The Sunday Intertitle: The Further Adventures of the Liquorice Kid

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 4, 2016 by dcairns

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More from The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon, the only blogathon in the world to feature only one blog.

One of Louis Feuillade’s last productions, PIERROT, PIERRETTE (1924) is a feature (just over an hour) that plays somehow like a short, with a tone Dickensian and Chaplinesque. When aging former ringmaster grandpa gets taken into an old folks’ home, Pierrot and Pierrette go on the lam: gramps encourages this, telling them to have adventures. The first adventure, it turns out, is starvation.

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Pierrotte is a teenage René Poyen, the Liquorice Kid from JUDEX, elongated but still very recognizable. He’s adjusted his acting style to suit the twenties — he’s no longer so aware of the audience, doesn’t act things out for our benefit along. But he’s still one of nature’s aristocrats, even performing in a monocle. His little sister is played by an adorable and very natural kid called Bouboule, another Feuillade discovery.

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Two surprisingly unpleasant bits of slapstick: in one scene, Bouboule intervenes in a fight between two big adults and gets tossed around like a rag doll — she is literally replaced by a doll to allow this, but Feuillade sets his camera back at a distance so it’s horrifyingly convincing. Poor Bouboule gets used as a bludgeon, then chucked ten feet through the air, magically turning back into a real girl on impact with terra firma. Later, a burglar gets a pitchfork in the throat, also played for laugh. He doesn’t seem to be suffering, or not as much as you’d expect.

Stealing from the best, Feuillade wraps his story up with an Oliver Twist housebreaking followed by somewhat unmotivated happy ending. It’s all quite cute.

I was intrigued to see whether Feuillade was moving with the times. Yes and no. He cuts a lot more within scenes than he did in 1916, when his approach was somewhat tableau-based. He even does regular shot-reverse-shot cutting. But he doesn’t edge the camera round for over-the-shoulders. Instead he creates a tableau with the actors facing front and then fragments it into closeups. This was perhaps slightly old-fashioned for 1923, but not severely outdated.

 

Some kind of a puppet

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , on December 3, 2016 by dcairns

life backwards from David Cairns on Vimeo.

I’ve been looking for this sketch since forever. Easily, for me, the most memorable thing the satirical puppet show Spitting Image ever did.

The modus operandi of the show was snark, but this posthumous piece on Orson Welles can be processed in other ways. At the time, I remember finding it not so much funny as thought-provoking.

The year was 1986. Welles died in October the previous year. It was kind of odd for a topical show to pick up on something not really in the news. “Don’t you think right after his death -?” as a guy named Thompson once attempted to ask. This little scene riffs on some of the commonplace bits of snark about Welles — “from CITIZEN KANE to sherry commercials” but offers a different spin.

American satires of Welles come with a not-so-hidden subtext: he started big and ended small. He made the greatest film ever, and look what happened to him. Beware, all of you, of artistic ambition. Hubris! No good can come of it. Very reassuring to those with regular work making run-of-the-mill multiplex fodder.

The authors of this piece are still prone to underrating later Welles achievements, as far as we can tell in its rather incomplete summary of his career. But by flipping Welles’ biography around, this little spoof raises two points ~

  1. Does it matter what order Welles made things in? The fact is, he made CITIZEN KANE. A career with that in it is a triumphant career. Nothing that comes after it can invalidate it, any more than anything before it could invalidate it.
  2. What does it matter what you say about people?

The Whammy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on December 2, 2016 by dcairns

From LOVE HAPPY. “The whammy” itself is wonderfully rendered.

I dig how Harpo’s contents, whether intentionally or not, harken back to previous movies: there’s the block of ice, magically unmelted, from HORSE FEATHERS, and that dog may be related to the one inhabiting his chest-tattoo in DUCK SOUP. The mannequin legs are a welcome hint of the polymorphous perversity otherwise lacking in this iteration of Harpo: no skirt-chasing in this one, just sappy mooning after Vera-Ellen.