Archive for February 12, 2008

X and M

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2008 by dcairns


In Lang’s SIEGFRIED, Kriemhild is tricked into revealing the location of the one vulnerable spot on her husband’s body, his shoulder. She even marks the spot with an X sewn into his top.

X marks the spot

This “mark of Cain” leads directly to Siegfried’s downfall.

Seven years later, and the mark is back, only now it’s an M.

M for Murder

Same shoulder!

Both films written by Germany’s top screenwriter, Mrs. Lang, Thea Von Harbou. So the central gimmick of “M” must have occurred to her after her work adapting the German myth cycle.

More on this crazy bitch later.


Euphoria #46: The fluffer

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2008 by dcairns

orifice space 

Brick by brick, our towering edifice of magical movie moments reaches towards the skies. When we reach fifty, we will have penetrated Heaven her/him/itself. And then we’ll really be in trouble.

Ace film-maker and hairless German dude Timo Langer supplied a great list of modern movie highs for me to choose from. I spoke to him last week in Blimey Productions’ base at the G.R.V. — an oasis of creativity in Edinburgh’s bustling Museum District — expressing my NEED FOR GLEE, and he just emailed a list which included the following:

“big lebowski anything with john goodman but especially his vietnam and jewish chat, john tutorro’s dance and so many other moments…

“army of darkness. well hello mr fancy pants and hail to the king

“bubba ho tep president chat with ossie davis

“clerks 2 jay does the silence of the lambs dance!

“damn forgot the others.

“I am sure I had more from good films as well but funny bits often come from the more peculiar films I guess.”

All choices I could find something to say about, but the one I particularly felt like honouring was THIS:

“Boogie nights 36 min. in william h macys wife has sex in front of a party crowd and he says my wife has an ass in her cock instead of the other way around because he is angry”

(Contains language [English] and sexual situations. Come to think of it, you never hear about amoeba documentaries coming with a warning: “Contains asexual situations.”)

There’s something engaging about the strategic line-fluffing. It’s always sympathetic and human, even when it feels maybe scripted, like here. I always appreciated the way Ophuls would keep little dialogue mistakes in his films, and it happens more often in long takes, as here. Check Barbara Bel-Geddes falling over her words for one nanosecond in the long take in scene one of Ophuls CAUGHT, or Anthony Perkins getting lost for a moment during the massive shot that more-or-less begins Welles’ THE TRIAL.

The pitfalls lie in the fact that an actor genuinely stumbling over dialogue often sounds different from a Real Person stumbling over speech, and scripted can sound phoney. This one feels a little prepared to me, but it’s still a fresh and interesting way to get the character’s emotion across.

A brilliant, bizarre one, occurs in Charles Woods’ script for THE KNACK…AND HOW TO GET IT. Michael Crawford, a schoolteacher, has been told that his class’s behaviour leaves something to be desired. Defensive, flustered, and suffering from terminal sexual frustration, M.C. blurts back:

“MY class? Her class was doing the behaving! That’s what I behaviour.”

I adore that last line, with the missing word. NOT the kind of mistake anybody would ever make in speech, it feels more like an authorial jump-cut. A surreal quirk that gets the emotion across in a non-naturalistic way, just as with the BOOGIE NIGHTS fluff.

Quote of the Day: Monsignor Ratbastard

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 12, 2008 by dcairns

broad Broderick 

Fellini had a fondness for untranslatable titles, it seems to me. I VITELLONI has defeated subtitlers for decades now, so that everybody just calls it I VITELLONI and says “Dunno what it means.” AMARCORD means “I remember,” in some kind of babytalk version of a Rimini dialect, and nobody felt comfortable losing those nuances so they call it AMARCORD.

Just ran IL BIDONE, which is subtitled as “The Swindle,” but which really means something offensive but not too meaningful in Italian. When Broderick Crawford’s prosperous pal calls him “Monsignor Bidone,” (referring to the scam he habitually pulls disguised as a priest), I like to think it means Monsignor Ratbastard, and I like to think Fellini would have used that as his title if he could have gotten away with it. The film, like so much of Fellini’s ’50s work, makes a lot of little feints and thrusts at the Catholic Church, without ever quite going for the kill (which could not be allowed).

Anyhow, I ran the film for students and one of them gave me what I think is the perfect sound-byte reaction to the tragic conclusion:

“I felt quite sorry for him at the end, though I couldn’t think of any good reason why I should.”

I think it’s rather great when a film can do that. For all the talk about “sympathetic” characters we can “relate” to, the feat that really increases our involvement in humanity is when a character who ISN’T sympathetic, whom we wouldn’t WANT to relate to, engages our emotions regardless. It isn’t an easy thing to achieve, but it’s surely worthwhile.

Broderick the frauderick

A little side-note: some students thought that Broderick was double-crossing his colleagues at the end to get money for his daughter, as he’d promised her. And it’s true, the sum involved would allow him to cover the deposit she needs. But I’d always felt that when he offered to get her that money, while he may have meant it at the time, he probably forgot it moments later. The pressure building on him throughout the film is to escape from this way of life that affords him no self-respect. It’s not that he has any noble instincts, he just can’t live like this any more. But I think maybe I’m wrong…

Anyone else who’s seen it, what was your sense of the ending?