Haynes’ Pandemonium Carnival

he's not here 

My head is an incredible jumble! I feel like I have been melted down by the Button Moulder.

I start lecturing again tomorrow (and we’ll see how I keep this blog going once THAT happens) so I started preparing my first lecture, on Jack Clayton. I love THE INNOCENTS especially and THE PUMPKIN EATER and am pretty wild about most of the others, and I’ve never done a talk about him so it seemed like fun. I was looking at THE GREAT GATSBY (featuring the infant Absolute Beginner Patsy Kensit) again, trying to choose extracts, and I got sucked into it and suddenly realised I’d better stop and go and see I’M NOT THERE, as had been my plan for the day.

Off to the Cameo!* This is a legendary Edinburgh art-house/fleapit. My parents saw THE RUNNING JUMPING STANDING STILL FILM along with THE SEVEN SAMURAI here (an unlikely pairing). It used to be run by a wild entrepreneur and showman called Jim Poole, who would turn the heating up for desert films, and other feats of William Castle-style Sensurround legerdemain. Yet I can’t see any obvious reason why, for this film, the auditorium was freezing cold and smelled of wee. These sensations disappeared as the film began though, returning with renewed intensity as the end credits rolled (to the sound of “Like a Rolling Stone”) and I realised I’d been in a state of sensory suspension for the whole film, absorbing only what the film’s makers delivered to me through my ears and eyes. 

I don’t feel equal to delivering any kind of useful thoughts on this film just yet, which is a Phantasmagoric Cavort through various aspects of Bob Dylan’s life and art, because a) it’s pretty complex and b) I don’t know much about Dylan and c) I have managed to amplify the rather weird state the film induced in me by way of artistic overload:

On the bus home, I had the gated drums of Siouxie and the Banshee’s Peekaboo and the lovely Charlotte Gainsbourg singing to me on my Nano, while I read a little memoir by Ralph Richardson (favourite role: Peer Gynt) and the illuminations of the Balmoral Hotel and Edinburgh Castle glowed, and I thanked my lucky stars again for living in the city where W.C. Fields first tasted whiskey.

Then home, lighting a fire and finishing off THE GREAT GATSBY, which has marvellous people and moments, even if it doesn’t entirely grip. Fitzgerald is referenced in Haynes’ film, but I thought on the whole that SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, a marvellous film made by Clayton and partially unmade by the suits at Disneycorps, is closer to Haynes’ film, which has a definite flavour of the Fellini-esque about it. EIGHT AND A HALF is the big stylistic cue for the Cate Blanchett scenes, but then this circus flavour invades the Richard Gere sequence, supplanting most traces of Peckinpah (though the presence of Kris Kristofferson as narrator provides another reminder of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID). I guess the blend of Americana and the carnivalesque is what brought Clayton’s film to mind.

all I see are dark eyes

dusty old fairgrounds

You can probably expect more on the neglected Clayton, and hopefully some more ordered thoughts on Haynes’ film, which I kind of loved, soon. Or soon-ish.

ONE thought: Cate Blanchett has rightly had much favourable attention for her work here, but I think she has an advantage over her co-stars because drag is pretty well always interesting. Not that she isn’t remarkable. But I want to say that Marcus Carl Franklin as “Woodie Guthrie” is also a true Star — when he’s on it’s like someone pierced the celluloid and let a VERY BRIGHT LIGHT shine through.

MC Franklin

*One very nice thing about this picture house is that there’s generally one of my students or ex-students working there. This time it was Clair. Hello, if you’re reading this!

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12 Responses to “Haynes’ Pandemonium Carnival”

  1. These sensations disappeared as the film began though, returning with renewed intensity as the end credits rolled (to the sound of “Like a Rolling Stone”) and I realised I’d been in a state of sensory suspension for the whole film, absorbing only what the film’s makers delivered to me through my ears and eyes.

    Exactly! Say what you will about the great quality of films made in 2007, but none captured and directed my attention quite like I’m Not There. Wonderful, wonderful film.

  2. Engrossing, that’s the word for it.
    Still have to work through it in my mind, and I think I might finally watch that Scorsese documentary to pick up some more of the background.

  3. Say, Elver, I don’t think we’ve had a Euphoric Cinema moment from you yet! Jump right in anytime.

  4. The euphoric moment for me in I’m Not There is the scene in England when Cate Blanchett’s “Jude Quinn” (“Come on without/ Come on within/ You’ve not seen nothin’ like the Mighty Quinn”) comes roling downa hillside with The Beatles. The giant curved white chair that Barbara Steele sits down in to change her shoes at the spa in 8 1/2 is reproduced in this scene precisely. Why? Well Todd’s “Major” at Brown was Semiotics.

  5. Yes, I loved that whole sequence too.
    Also Ginsberg’s appearance in the tiny car — I was only one in the cinema that found that hysterically funny, for some reason.
    And the PETULIA quote was nice to see too.

  6. Thanks — and thanks! Gotta go teach about Jack Clayton now, will read upon my return. Saw TH talk about Velvet Goldmine here, he was charming and erudite. I hadn’t totally liked the film (visuals yes, narrative no), but I liked him. And Safe and Far from Heaven are great. I think I’m Not There maybe is his best achievement in experimental narrative — he said he had some problems with narrative, and engaged with it slightly reluctantly. Here he seems to have made narrative obey his own rules.

  7. I’m more of a structuralist — I get my euphoric moments from 3rd act payoffs ;)

  8. Well, we can always post a climax. My friend Nicola is thinking of going for the end of THE APARTMENT (also Volker Schloendorff’s favourite moment).

  9. The cut from MacMurray seeing that Maclaine is no longer sitting across from him in the booth to MacLaine racing down the street with a big smile on her face as the music rises invariably reduces me to a sobbing wreck.

    I always cry at happy endings eg. “L’Atalante, Lola.

  10. When I first showed The Apartment to Fiona, halfway through she thought it must have been a colossal flop (even though she was loving it) because it’s such a grim and bitter comedy. How could audiences have accepted this then? The ending explains it!

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