Archive for January 9, 2008

Take Care of Your Scarf

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2008 by dcairns

Scarf Face 

Yesterday one of my students, Alex, approached, back from the hols, a scarf wound around his lower face, like Malcolm McDowell in IF… unwrapping it at last to reveal: a New Moustache, like Malcolm McDowell in IF…

As cinematic homages go, this might actually give Todd Haynes a run for his money. I think Alex has effectively already passed the year for that. As long as he doesn’t follow it up by savagely machine-gunning me to death, like Malcolm McDowell in IF…


Euphoria #13

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2008 by dcairns


Didn’t want to assign anybody else the unlucky number, so I have taken the curse on myself.

I shall bear its terrible BRUNT.

Major major spoiler alert on this one.

The beauteous end of HAROLD AND MAUDE. That Hal Ashby was one hell of an editor. Nobody comes close for balancing dramatic and musical values when cutting to pre-recorded music and telling a story. The SUPER-LONG sequence in BEING THERE where Peter Sellers first faces the outside world, edited to Deodato’s version of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra has so many precise points of connection between the music and action, with non-negotiable chunks of dialogue and action in between, it’s awe-inspiring to me.

Just watched this tonight and loved it as always — I’ll dedicate it to my producer and friend Nigel, who’s favourite film it is. The comedy, on the page, is arguably a little “twee” or obvious sometimes, but the framing and cutting in the movie treat it with such rigor it all works.

Apart from the cutting, and the utterly sublime and Profound faces of Bud Cort, there’s the stylish composition — my favourite shot being the one at the top here. I just love the way BC’s body fits into the space.

Of Men and Monkeys

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2008 by dcairns

The Great Communicator and Ronald 

Been reading a fascinating account by the late Sir Ralph Richardson of his early life (if you get the spiffing new UK DVD of THINGS TO COME there’s a vintage Russell Harty interview with the Great Man, and it’s a rare chance to wallow in authentic old-school eccentricity — the man’s mind is simply and gloriously ELSEWHERE) and was struck by this reminiscence of RR at around age 4:


“I remember being given a stuffed monkey which frightened me out of my wits. My father was very understanding, and said he would keep it for me in the cupboard in his studio until I felt equal to possessing it, and I can see him very sharply, I don’t know how long after, reaching up to the cupboard at my request, to give it back.”

Those two sentences move me in ways I can’t define, although I can at least say that the contrast between “I can see him very sharply,” and the immediate “I don’t know how long after, ” captures the strangeness of memory in a very precise way.

Anyhow, Fritz Lang had a toy monkey also, and he called it Peter, perhaps after Peter Lorre, whom he had transformed into a star. Lang was devoted to Peter the Primate in his later years, and posed for many photographs accompanied by his tiny companion. Friends have speculated that Lang, childless and alone in life, may have seen his monkey effigy as a sort of substitute son.

Fritz and Peter

It’s rather sweet and sad, and maybe the only cute thing in Lang’s entire life (I bet his baby photographs show him scowling through a monocle and wielding a whip).

There’s a rather peculiar moment in THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR. MABUSE, Lang’s last film, where a restaurant customer motions to a waiter, and that functionary obligingly brings him a toy monkey: not, I think, Peter himself, but some kind of stand-in or body-double. It’s some kind of homage to Lang’s most loyal friend, I suppose, but the bizarre nature of the scene recalls the work of Luis Bunuel.

Bunuel was a Lang fan but I have no idea if the feeling was mutual, although the two eventually met and got on well enough. Lang even signed an autograph for Don Luis.

An earlier, abortive meeting failed to happen because Lang, at a party, did not see Bunuel due to his advancing blindness, and Bunuel did not hear Lotte Eisner’s cry of “Look! It’s Fritz Lang!” due to his deafness.

I passed my blind neighbour in the stair yesterday, startling him, and since I was listening to El Presidente rather loud on my MP3 player, I have no idea if my apology was audible, or indeed if it was inappropriately boisterous. I expect that’s what made me think of this.

wet, she was a star

At the Marrakesh Film festival I fell in with a nice animation producer who had initially rather alarmed me by sporting light-bulb-sized extrusions upon his skull, reminiscent of the Space Aliens in Lynch’s Lumiere film (PREMONITION OF AN EVIL DEED — according to my friend Comrade K, a re-imagining of the “Black Dahlia” case). When faced with the kind of physical abnormalities that sit up and say “hello!” I find I have to fight my inner idiot, who wants to say things like, “You’re sitting there like everything’s normal, but do you realise you’ve got…?” His bulbs glinted in the North African sun. “Don’t Look At His Bulbs!” a voice cried within me.

But he was such a nice chap I soon got over my fascist idiocy and was able to appreciate the conversation. My new friend had helped run the Oxford University Film Society as a student, and had looked after Fritz Lang when he visited. “I had the job of tucking him in at night — he kept his eye-patch on. There was an awkward moment when I thought he was going to make a play for me, but he fell asleep.”

This, I suggested, was a bombshell. “I’ve never heard ANYONE suggest Fritz Lang was gay.”

“I think he was… not particular.”

Me and my monkey in Marrakech