Archive for February 6, 2008

Quote of the Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 6, 2008 by dcairns


“For the love scenes in my first Hollywood silent picture, DARK ANGEL, I spoke in my own language, Hungarian, and my co-star, Ronald Colman, chatted about cricket and kippers.” ~ Vilma Banky.

I’m shocked now that I realise I’ve never seen a Banky film. But I have  copy of THE EAGLE, copied from an off-air recording in Lindsay Anderson’s private stash… must watch that soon.

I like those stories about silent stars speaking different languages, like Lars Hansen talking Swedish to Lillian Gish in THE WIND, while she spoke English. But at least they were serious enough to say lines germane to the narrative, or I assume so anyway. I can’t imagine there was much monkeying around on a Victor Sjöstrom set.

(Rule of thumb: nobody with an umlaut in his name is going to put up with any shenanigans.)


The idiot box

Posted in Television with tags on February 6, 2008 by dcairns

“Television is known as a medium, because it is neither rare nor well done.”

the glass teat

I just had three clips deleted from Youtube, because the production company involved protested I was violating their copyright. Of course I WAS violating their copyright, and they’re perfectly within their rights. I just figured they wouldn’t mind if an old show they made, which isn’t on air anymore, maintaining some kind of tenuous presence in the public’s mind.

(Actually, yesterday was Youtube Trouble Day — just as I embedded that great clip of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, the person who’d Youtubed it disabled embedding, doubtless peeved that I had likened the teen Nancy to a mythological cave creature. I thought I’d taken the sting from that epithet by complimenting her on blossoming into the flower of young womanhood seen in the Some Velvet Morning promo, but apparently “Hubertblues”, if that really is his name, was not placated. Sorry, H.B.)

Don’t worry, the video clips were not things I’ve used on this blog, because I like you guys too much. The show, which I’d worked on extensively, was really… not too great. I’d posted what I thought were the best bits, partly for the relief of separating them out from the truly unwatchable baloney appended by the production company.

But since this anonymous co. has messed me around, and since they were truly nightmarish to work with, I am retaliating, pointlessly, with some brief character sketches. These might prove useful as an awful warning for those contemplating careers in television, they might be amusing to anybody in the Scottish television industry who can recognise the personages referred to from their descriptions, but mostly they are a VENTING OF SPLEEN.

Oh, and one or all of them may in fact be entirely fictitious, just to keep the libel lawyers sedentary.

(1) The puffy figurehead: he tore a strip out of one of my colleagues for daring to have lunch. All the bad stuff happened on his watch, so I’m holding him responsible even though I doubt he knew about ANY of it. I bumped into somebody who used to work for him, who said he’d blatantly stolen their ideas, and “can’t bear to be contradicted, runs the place like a private fiefdom and hands out promotions like sweeties so he’s surrounded by people under-qualified for their jobs.” Enough of him.

(2) The weird, quiet, passive-aggressive fortysomething who still lives with his mum. Used the opportunity of a production job, which he seriously sucked at, in order to give himself a writing job, which he UNBELIEVABLY sucked at. NOBODY would have hired this guy to write ANYTHING, except this guy. Of course, he was biased, but he was probably also dumb and tasteless enough to have hired himself as writer even if he’d been a stranger. Basically this guy was responsible for both the slipshod management of the show, the unpleasant pressure, the derelict artistic direction, and also he was directly, personally responsible for actually GENERATING most of the garbage we had to use in the episodes just to fill out the running time.

(3) The creepy, creepy, creepy minor functionary who failed to perform his meagre tasks worth a damn but rose up the microcephallic totem pole irresistibly, like damp, inserting covert smut and vile misogyny into this ostensibly child-oriented, ostensibly educational, ostensibly entertaining show. Nobody’s mind was actually dirty enough to catch all the innuendos he was inserting, so that a heavily-disguised reference to anal sex with a little girl actually made it into one episode.

(4) The lackadaisical technician who executed his duties so listlessly and uncaringly, you would think he was in a MacJob, as opposed to Living The Dream of working in Teevee  and working in a craft that has brought pleasure and beauty to millions. Not a particularly horrible person, just a devotee of the mediocre and a soulless servant of the crass.


The ex-employee I met later summed it up, saying that bottom-feeding independent companies trafficking in what Graham Linehan calls “funography,” are just BAD PLACES TO WORK, which still doesn’t really make sense to me. It seems like even that misguided show and that wretched company could have been tolerable with different people in charge — it’s incredible to me that you could find such a concentration of offensive idiots ANYWHERE. In some cut-throat environment where only the most ruthless prosper, none of them would have the smarts to survive. In a caring milieu where the dopey and inept receive nurturing and affection, their obnoxious personalities would have them kicked out into a blizzard.

 golly Gish

I have to assume that the only reason they are all alive and working together is because their attempts to murder each other have all miscarried due to base incompetence.

Euphoria #39:Somewhere a glory awaits, unseen…

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , on February 6, 2008 by dcairns


We are collecting the little bits of film that make induce joyfulness. When we have fifty, they will be melted down and injected into Michael Haneke, in an effort to cheer him up. 

Today’s volunteer from the audience, his “consciousness violently shaped by war,” profers a slice of Cinema Euphoria that is STRONG MEAT:

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

So many moments of CABARET are talked of, repeatedly shown, revered. We think of the compere, Liza’s rendering of “Money, Money, Money,” the dancers using the chairs as props, the seedy life of some, the occasional splendour — but let’s not forget the oft-forgotten scene of the Hitler Youth choir singing in the bier-garten: memorable, hypnotic, seduction of another form. Would you have signed up? I might have. Fortunately, tomorrow belonged to me — not them.

Emotions can be disturbing.

Circa 1939

Who is this masked man, lurking behind the mask of anonymity like Hugo Weaving in a tall hat, answering only to the nom-de-plume of “Circa 1939”?

It’s my Dad, and that’s the year of his birth.

When he mentioned, after a very satisfying dinner, that this would be his nomination, I have to admit that eyebrows were raised to stratospheric heights where the chilly conditions threatened to wither them at the roots.

“Is that euphoric?” queried Fiona, dubiously.

“It’s a toe-tapper,” I admitted.

The power of this sequence is the exquisite balance of seduction and repulsion, letting us see how empowering it would be to join that song, how hard and frightening to resist, while trusting our knowledge of history to let us make the right choice. It’s an amazing piece of MONTAGE, drawing it’s power from the assembly of little bits of film of faces, connected to a stirring tune to create an extraordinary emotive crescendo.

Leni Riefenstahl’s extraordinary Nuremberg rallies material from TRIUMPH OF THE WILL quickly became an icon of easy horror, but this sequence freshens the imagery and makes it potent and alarming again.

(I love the stories about various filmmakers sitting down to a screening of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL to see what America’s propaganda response should be. René Clair was horrified: “This must never be shown!” Frank Capra wrote later was that his initial reaction was that immediate surrender was the only sane response in the face of such mass unity of will. Only Chaplin sat laughing until the tears ran down his face. He’d had an idea for a film.

Adenoid Hynkel

Later, Capra claims to have conceived the idea of turning this weapon back on the Nazis, using it show the horror of mass conformity, threat of fascism and the need to resist. Luis Bunuel seems to have had the job of cutting Riefenstahl’s epic down to size so that it could be deployed in this way.)

CABARET was turned down by at least ten top directors, including Gene Kelly, who must have been terrified of it,* and Billy Wilder, who had lived through this time and place and felt too close to it. (I always think of the stubborn old guy in the Bier-Garten as Wilder.)

So Bob Fosse got the gig, despite SWEET CHARITY, his only other film, having rolled over and died at the box office. An incredible piece of luck, for us and for him (he pipped Coppola to the Oscar). I am SO impressed with the shot of the Joel Grey’s compére at the end there, dropping in out of the blue like the images of demonic Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST, and doing a camp variation of The Crazy Kubrick Stare. Chilling and oddly exhilarating.

– – – – – – – –

Speaking of the volk, we are halfway through watching Lang’s NIEBELUNGEN, so expect more thoughts on mythic structure when we’re done with Part II: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE.

*See Comments for Aunt Suzy’s correction, re Gene Kelly’s role in CABARET’s gestation.