Euphoria #46: The fluffer
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.