Archive for December 13, 2007


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 13, 2007 by dcairns

E.T. The Execrable Talker.

The wit and wisdom of Steven Spielberg:

On William Cameron Menzies’ INVADERS FROM MARS: ‘Whew, that movie just, it just undid my world… because it got to a primal place which basically says that the first people not to trust is your father and mother.’

When Worlds Undo!

‘That’s a shattering, primal attack on all of us when we went to see this movie. But I went to see this movie five times, because I kept expecting the parents not to turn against the kid. Somehow — I was like, eleven or ten years old when I saw it the movie — I thought, “Well, maybe the fourth time I see it the parents will be nice.” I was like thinking that maybe film is like that, film, you know, doesn’t, isn’t a set story locked in cement, but it can actually change.’

Word for the day: primal. Halfway through the above he obviously hits on a silly lie and decides to tell it because it’ll make a ‘great story.’ I don’t believe Spielberg was that dumb at ten. It’s taken him years to get that dumb.

Brechtian Alienation.

‘I think Menzies gave himself the license to do some very Bertolt Brechtian sets, because it was a dream. And only he knew that, the audience didn’t know that.’

He says ‘Brechtian’ when he means expressionistic, or else he doesn’t KNOW what he means. Humm. The time has come for me to point out what I’m sure you’ve all noticed already but just been too polite to say: nothing Spielberg says makes any sense.

‘What really unseats you as a child when you see that movie, at the very end it’s all a dream.’

I don’t recall INVADERS FROM MARS unseating me as a child.

He wasn’t always this incoherent. I seem to recall some sensible utterances in the past, and he can still just about manage a sentence that hangs together when he’s talking about his work, which after all he should know something about, but most of the time he’s just painful:

On THE SPACE CHILDREN: ‘You would just think that if our parents are going to destroy the world, children would never do that, because we really have all the tools of tolerance and, like, global understanding and that’s why we, the children, need to be empowered, to tell the parents what they need to know to protect all of us, as a whole. And that’s what that movie kind of was saying at the end.’

Kind of. It’s like his head is a big tombola and random crap just comes tumbling out.

‘Every science fiction movie I have ever seen, any one that’s worth its weight in celluloid, warns us about things that ultimately come true.’

Yeah, like remember when 2001 came out and now you can’t move for monoliths?

‘A director is first and foremost a storyteller before everything else. And to tell a story you have got to have, you know, access to be able to move things around in — not just in your world, but in your life.’

Pieces of brain tissue are flaking off with every word he says.

‘What you see is what I can pretty much interpret through me from what the writer writes, because I have always said that without a screenplay, without a story, without a writer we have nothing.’

You said it.

‘Yes, it’s actually good to be a director and not know who the director is.’


‘I do as much homework, I like to think, as the actors do when they come to meet me halfway.’

Halfway? I think S.S. has a tendency to witter on for a bit, then find that one word of what he says intersects with a well-known phrase or saying, so he just throws that in, regardless of whether it actually means anything.

On SCHINDLER’S LIST: ‘I think it’s the most honest acquittal of a subject by taking my own impulses to upstage the subject, and where I force myself into the background of the subject matter. And I think that’s the first time I’ve ever done that before and I think it really benefited the movie.’

The last sentence would be fine without that rogue “before” in there, but the first one? I think even he doesn’t know what he means by “acquittal”, and then, if I read him correctly, he starts by saying the exact opposite of what he means, then says something that I sort of get, but which conjures up the weird image of Spielberg in baseball cap standing in the background of SCHINDLER’S LIST, as if doing a Hitchcockian walk-0n.

Nothing on his mind but a hat?

Is it just because he’s so big and powerful nobody in his life can stand up and say, ‘Hang about, Steve, that doesn’t make sense,’? Ifonlyifonlyifonly somebody had said that when he proposed the wretched HAUNTING remake he produced, with the words ‘It’s a great opportunity to use digital effects!’ Is this why all his movies now overshoot their endings and drag on for a superfluous half hour?

He needs a court jester!


R.I.P. Tony Tenser

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2007 by dcairns

First Karlheinz Stockhausen, now THIS.

quoth the raven

As head of Compton Films and then Tigon Films, Tony Tenser at produced first cheap-and-cheerful skinflicks (NAKED AS NATURE INTENDED, with Pamela Green of PEEPING TOM fame), then horror movies that ranged from the semi-classy: WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (both touched with genius), to the trashy: CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, a stodgy country-house horror than features both Karloff and Lee, but finds nothing for either to do, but is enlivened by hilarious s&m dream sequences with a green-painted Barbara Steele with horns on.

Tenser did dabble in other genres too, distributing the very uneven but at-least-arguably brilliant THE GREAT MCGONAGALL with Spike Milligan (the only film I know that actually stops for lunch) and WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, a downright bizarre and unwelcome sex comedy starring Norman Wisdom and a teenage Sally Geeson (“Makes NOT NOW DARLING look like the fuckin’ MAHABHARATA,” – Steven McNicoll), but his greatest contribution to cinema must be his launching of Roman Polanski’s U.K. directing career.

REPULSION was a risky project for anybody to undertake, with censorable sexual situations, a depressing ambience, and a stylistic journey from British social realism (sort of) to avant-garde expressionist terror. The result is still Polanski’s most extreme, strange and powerful film (which is not intended as a knock against his later works).

I think it’s a great shame Tenser retired from movies when he did, for with the disappearance of mini-moguls like him, British cinema stopped generating these rogue movies which are our artistic lifeblood, and we pretty much gave up on making commercial potboilers too. The dreaded middle ground was all that remained:

Run, fat boy, run!

“It’s OK if you like films about…students…running,” – Greg/Sylvia Edwards.

So goodbye, Tony Tenser, we were missing you already.

Buy REPULSION here ~

Repulsion [1965] [DVD]