Euphoria #47: I love the rain

Nominate your favourite moments of moving picture happiness, and I will SULLY THEM FOREVER by posting them in my terrible blog. 

Ford Buchanan, member of a rival trivia quiz team — my BITTEREST ENEMY — suggested this example of very nervous euphoria, and I have consented to let it appear before you. See how egalitarian we are here?

‘The date scene in ‘Play It Again Sam’, where a tense Woody Allen lays out his (shop-bought) running medal, throws a record across the room, says, “I love the rain; it washes memories from the streets” and so on.’

Rather than go into the usual but about how Woody Allen isn’t as good as he was, or debating how good he was when he was, I want to focus on that flying discus. Allen was definitely good at visual gags, back in the day. He didn’t do them very often, but SLEEPER has a high concentration, and you can find quite a few in BANANAS and LOVE AND DEATH. ZELIG has a few memorable scary-surreal images. MANHATTAN has just one vis-gag, but it’s a beauty.

Boating in Central Park. Woody runs his fingers languidly in the lake. They emerge coated with black slime.

What I admire in the flying L.P. and the slimy fingers is that the gags are not only funny (to me, anyhow) but apt — they suit the Allen persona brilliantly. I understand why Allen moved away from these kind of jokes, because you can’t get away with too much of that in an avowedly “serious” comedy like MANHATTAN, and most of the other later films. But when he’s deliberately made more light-weight fare, W.A. hasn’t returned to the slapstick mode, and this seems an awful shame, since hardly anybody can DO slapstick nowadays, and Woody not only CAN, but he has a distinctive persona to do it WITH.

And yes, I  know Herbert Ross directed this film, but I can’t think of anything to say about Herbert Ross.

22 Responses to “Euphoria #47: I love the rain”

  1. Well he directed the overproduced remake of Pennies From Heaven and according to Arthur Laurents himself, ruined the script of The Turning Point by “de-gaying” it.

    As for Playt It Again Sam, outside of its general sweetness I recall it for the brief turns by Viva and the now-long-forgotten Joy Bang.

  2. I remember Joy Bang! I saw Messiah of Evil on a trip to New York and she was one of the highlights of that not-quite-good-enough film.

    Pennies has some definite high points — Walken’s dance, the title song — but “overproduced” is exactly the right word for it. Ken Adam’s production design is maybe part of the problem, but it’s beautiful in its own right.

  3. Messiah of Evil was Joy’s last bang (sorry, I couldn’t resist.) She began her career as a discovery of Andy Meyer in his marvelous 1966 featuretteAn Early Clue to the New Direction. Hollywood took her up enthusiastically (see the IMDB), but it all came crashing down as a result of (wait for it) Katherine Hepburn.

    Hepburn became, as was her wont, (and you can kindly forget about all the Spencer Tracy crap) terribly superfond of Joy and wanted her to play the hippie girl in Travels with My Aunt. When the producers preferred Cindy Williams instead, Hepburn left the project – creating the most serious rift between herself and George Cukor than they had in their entire career. He sodiered on with Maggie Smith in the lead and eventually he and Hepburn made up and made films together. But Joy left Hollywood and when last heard from was working as a practical nurse in Boston.

  4. “Nurse Bang” has a pleasing ring to it.

    “An Early Clue to the New Direction” is a line of dialogue from “A Hard Day’s Night” — deliberate?

  5. Quite deliberate.

    SO keen that you caught that!

  6. Oh, I pretty much have Lester’s scriptology memorized.

    Hey, Resnais’ Muriel just arrived!

  7. It’s his best film from the first half of his career. Delphine Seyrig is amazing and Henze score is like no toher. Jean-Baptiste Thieree left acting to become a professional magician. He married Victoria Chaplin and they have an act that has been basically ripped off by <i.Cirque du Soleil. They appear together in Fellini’s The Clowns.

    The masterpiece from the second part of Resnais’ career is his Melo.

  8. Hello. Long time listener. First time caller. Off the top of my head I remember how happy I felt seeing the slapstick in Manhattan Murder Mystery: Woody’s wrestling with the tape machine. And I’m sure there must be others examples of later slapstick, but maybe not. Watching Woody’s face collapse is always a little slapstick anyway. Oh, Sean Penn on the moon?
    Also is this where we post euphoria suggestions or is that a separate bit?
    Lovely stuff.

  9. Simon — you can post suggestions anywhere. Thanks for getting in touch. Somebody else suggested a bit of MMM but I unfotunately don’t have it. Likewise Sweet & Lowdown. Plus I don’t want to have any more Woody Allens just yet (we’ve had two). Sorry.

    Got any other favourites?

  10. Still to see Melo! Somehow when I saw Marienbad as a teen I didn’t follow up by seeing everything else. Why was that? Oh, I know — because nothing else was available!

  11. Hello. Unlike Simon I’m one of Graham Linehan’s slackjawed blow ins. But I stuck around. You know, for the ambience.
    Might I dare to be bold enough to tie together two recent treads in Cinema Euphoria and films one hasn’t seen. No doubt it has been pointed out here and elsewhere just how pisspoor trailers have become of late. But the other night before Juno I had to sit through the following two monstrosities..

    and

    I sunk further and further into my seat as my mind slowly transformed into Michael Douglas’ from Falling Down. 27 Dresses and The Accidental Husband. Back to Back! Why?

    But then came my Euphoric moment. I haven’t seen the film (you see-not just rambling). It could be awful. Both Gondry and Jack Black can be seriously hit and miss. But the trailer was so simple and downright uplifting that it saved me from a deep despair:

    Does that count as a legitmate dcairns Cinema Euphoria? Or am I disqualified?

  12. OK, it’s a good yarn, I’ll make it the centrepiece for a Euphoria.

    The state of romantic comedies today is a major concern. And trailers are an interesting topic too.

    Good to have you aboard.

  13. Oops sorry no those weren’t meant to be nominations. But I would like please to nominate:

    1. the opening credits of Do The Right Thing:

    It’s all there for me, every possible argument against opening a film with white titles on a black background, and pretty much every argument the ensuing film contains. Angry, funny, sexy, “lo-tec”, kind of hilarious, and then the rest of the film just keeps on running like a classic musical. They haven’t just nicked a hit here. It’s the song that sets everything off. Spike Lee’s career is a total mystery but I love this film. And: “Introducing Rosie Perez”. I’ll say!

    2. The escape by boat in “Night of the Hunter”.

    To my mind another pretty-much-perfect movie. Suddenly, finally, here with the image of Mitchum stuck in the water and the kids heading off into the top right hand corner we’re out of the spiky German shadows and into a children’s story. Everything is made to look as simultaneously fake and as life-like as possible. I can’t explain. I first saw this picture late at night when I was about seventeen and it was as the boat set off that I went from loving it to being in love. I can think of many examples in film of a violent mood-jolt from peace to horror, but no other example of this, a scream that lingers as a lullaby.

    Both these clips are completely unconcerned with any tradition that I’m aware of. They just go: Hey we can do whatever we like. And then they do it.

    To which I’d like to add now I think of it 3: the pan picking up Christina Ricci’s tap-dance to King Crimson in Buffalo 66.
    Cheers.

  14. I’ll go with Do the Right Thing for now and save Night of the Hunter for our next season, starting very very soon — “Chills”. It’s EXACTLY what I’m looking for.

    Also, gives me time to get it on YouTube.

  15. […] From the best film-blog out there, Shadowplay; David Cairns is typically astute on Allen the physical comedian in the accompanying post. […]

  16. Mabel Blutarsky Says:

    Joy Bang is not a nurse in Boston. She’s a medical assistant in the Midwest.

  17. Thanks for the correction! Do you know her? We send our warmest regards. Her movie career is still fondly remembered.

  18. Mabel Blutarsky Says:

    I did know her for a while, yes. ****

  19. Oh dear. Well, I hope things improve for her.

  20. Sorry to censor your comment, I just don’t feel this is the right forum for such personal comments. I wish both you and Joy the best.

  21. Mabel Blutarsky Says:

    You asked about her, I told you. Sorry the truth gets in the way of the rosy-eyed fan imagination, but I guess “image” is everything to some people. I prefer the truth. Still, you have the board power and you are certainly free to create your imaginary reality here.

  22. It’s not so much that I’m afraid of reality, it’s just that I don’t want to carry stuff that might be hurtful to someone I don’t know. At least, not unless it’s a movie review. Everything you wrote may well be true, but I have no remit to spread it around.

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