Euphoria #9

Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine…

Regular reader and primo Shadowplay supporter Ed Park suggests this glimpse of the cinematic sublime, from Wes Anderson’s THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS:

Ed writes, “Wes Anderson, Gwyneth, Luke Wilson, and Nico’s finest moment—”

Before breaking off in sheer ecstasy. But once he has Gathered Himself, he continues:

“I think it’s the high point of the film and of the whole oeuvre, just beautiful, devastating. I’d always loved that Nico song, had a whole “history” with it (I bought the album in ’92 while living in Korea, it became a soundtrack for me in an unfamiliar city) but this scene is so strong it completely supplanted my own memories….and I don’t mind a bit!”

Nice to have some Modern Cinema Euphoria in the mix. Very helpfully INDEED, Ed then supplies a piece he wrote on the film for the excellent Cinema Scope magazine, from which I’ll quote. This first part is the most eloquent and sympathetic reading of The Wes I’ve ever read:

“Anderson is, in a sense, deeply unfashionable: Uninterested in passing judgment on his characters, evading easy dramatics, he locates every character’s essential good nature with great economy, much of it through stylized locutions and telling wardrobe choices. Thus the jokes and the eye candy are not just sugar filigree but highly nutritious. Indeed, they’re crucial to his semi-fabulist but wholly sympathetic worldview, which extends from the lovingly anonymous American locale of Rushmore’s campus and dream-industrial environs to Tenenbaums’ storybook New York.”

That's just one man's opinion.  

And then, even more helpfully, Ed finishes on THE VERY SCENE:

“You can watch, again and again, as the sadness slips off Gwyneth Paltrow’s Margot Tenenbaum—emerging from a bus to find Luke Wilson’s awestruck, world-weary Richie waiting at the station, as Nico’s plangent “These Days” executes some rapturous alchemy of sunlight and lost time. Sic transit gloria, Max would say. But not as long as this scene is close to hand, ready for repeated unfoldings.”


I enjoyed hearing from my cinematographer pal Scott Ward how Anderson only ever uses the one lens,which is ideal for those Lesterish tableau shots he likes so much. Made me think of a Crime Story, a CAPER, in which some Anderson-hater (my friend Comrade K might be good in the role [although come to think of it, he does like some Anderson]) STEALS the Anderson Lens, and Wes is unable to make any more films until he gets it back. I mean, he can’t just go out and buy another one, right?

Wait, he can? Damn. They say the popularity of the mobile phone has ruined certain plot devices, but I bet Lens Shops have been just as destructive.


Anyhow, Miss Paltrow’s slo-mo promenade calls to mind the definitive Walk Thing, from Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH. “I wanna do a Walk Thing,” declared Bloody Sam to his crew, and nobody knew what he meant. Now the Walk Thing is such a movie standard that groups of people walking purposely towards a long lens at 50 fps simply cannot be done, except as self-conscious spoofery (Peckinpah’s original is actually at normal speed).

But a single person can still get away with it, as Gwyneth, in her finest ever role, demonstrates admirably here.

Walk it Down

Was also thinking some Goosebump Moments and Moments That Make You Cry might be good… for later.

5 Responses to “Euphoria #9”

  1. A great candidate for me is the last 10 minutes of Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

    I have it here: Manhattan (I also included the first 10 minutes for flavour).

  2. Jackson Browne was 15 years odl when he wrote that song. Playing guitar for Nico was is first gig and she was his first girlfriend.

    (I’ll allow you a few moments to pick yourselves off the floor over that one.)

    I’m a raging Nicophile. She;s ripe for hagiographical overkill with a career stretching from La Dolce Vita to The Chelsea Girls, Imitation of Christ and La Cicatrice Interiuere. And that’s not to mention the son she had by Alain Delon, her affair with Jim Morrison (covered along with much else in the superb doc Nico/Icon) and her Bessie Smith-like demise.

    Anderson’s use of “These Days” is the sine qua non of hipness.

  3. Alex — will link to MANHATTAN shortly. I love that ending too.

    David E, you should write that Nico book! Put me down for two copies.

  4. Write that Nico book! I had no idea JB was only 15 when he wrote it…amazing.

  5. There are two excellent Nico books already. Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon by Richard Witts (Virgon Books, 1993) and Songs They Don’t Play On the Radio (aka The End) by James Young (Bloomsbury Books, 1992). Witts tells the complete story in straightforward biographical fashion. Young’s book is his memoir of being Nico’s keyboard player and band leader for the last group she worked with sometimes known as The Faction.

    I was in Nico’s presence (no one meets her) a handful of times. Twice in the 60’s (once at the Silver Factory, once at the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque) and once at her last L.A. gig in the late 80’s.

    No one remotely like her before or since.

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