Archive for February 14, 2008

Euphoria #48: Trailer Trash

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on February 14, 2008 by dcairns

With the Maharishi dead, mankind’s only hope lies in this collection of happy-making movie moments we’re assembling here. 

Can a movie trailer be euphoric? Attend the tale of David K: 

“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…”

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 legitimate dcairns Cinema Euphoria? Or am I disqualified?”

Well, we do pride ourselves on our ambiance here at Shadowplay. We have it specially imported by the yard, from Portugal.

I sympathise with anybody who gets mugged by unwelcome trailers — my friend Robert, taken as a tiny child to see, I think, BAMBI, was traumatised not, as he should have been, by the death of the little deer’s mommy, but by trailers for Ken Russell’s TOMMY and Cronenberg’s SHIVERS. He didn’t go to the cinema for about ten years. I hope that puts your Colin Firth trauma in perspective.

(I can remember, as a mere tot, seeing GOODBYE EMMANUELLE trailed in front of a Bond film or something, but it was just shots of beachfront property. And a V.O. saying “Due to the explicit nature of this film we are unable to show you any more scenes,” and all the dads in the audience went “Awww!” I also recall the line, “Emmanuelle says Goodbye to the island she has loved…THE ONLY WAY SHE KNOWS HOW!” By shagging it, presumably.)

Is BE KIND REWIND going to be good? The trailer gives us rather a lot of the plot. What we see is cute. The actors are appealing — Jack Black usually manages to do something funny and Mos Def has an otherworldly charm about him that made his casting in THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO TO THE GALAXY one of the smarter things about that film, at least potentially. The trailer stops short of spelling out the whole second act, and so if there’s an area of weakness it may be structural — I’m not sure I’ve been entirelyconvinced by the story sense of any Gondry film yet, though of course his visual sense is excellent.

clocking off

(Actually, SCIENCE OF SLEEP is sitting here, still to be watched. I know not what I say, half the time.)

I really must get around to publically deploring the current state of the romantic comedy in detail, although I think there’s some slight cause for hope there. And to be even-handed about it, I’ll have to balance it by admitting the serious ailments displayed by the more “masculine” genre films. But that’s for another day.


For Auld Lang Syne

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2008 by dcairns

A film so obscure, THIS is the best image I could find: 

Dial M for Mommy 

My old chum Christopher Weedman just reminded me about Joseph Losey’s remake of Fritz Lang’s “M”, a film maudit (cursed film) if there ever was one. Since we all love a film maudit here at Shadowplay, I have to say I’d be fascinated to see it sometime.

It’s easy to see why the film’s reputation is not high — right-thinking people were aghast at the idea of Hollywood tampering with a classic film. Also, Lang himself denounced the remake as theft — he claimed papers had been lost which proved that the original film was still in copyright, so that an unauthorized version should be illegal. In addition, David Wayne, a perfectly good actor, seems in principle an inadequate substitute for the truly extraordinary Peter Lorre. But Joe Losey was a major talent, whose reputation had not yet risen to the level of his abilities, and I think there’s a strong chance that if one could lay aside all comparisons, the Losey film might stand up as an interesting work in its own right. The IDEA of a remake was cheesy, but the film itself need not be.

Lang actually had quite a lot to do with remakes — two of his Hollywood flicks, SCARLET STREET and HUMAN DESIRE, derive from Renoir originals, LA CHIENNE and LA BETE HUMAINE. In addition to the “M” retread, several of Lang’s German classics have been remade, and Lang himself directed a sound-and-colour version of the two-part INDIAN TOMB epic which he had originally hoped to direct in the ’20s before Joe May took over the project.

During this second German period at the end of Lang’s career, producer Arthur Brauner mooted remakes of METROPOLIS and DER MUDE TOD, the latter as a musical (!) but Lang resisted.

What rhymes with

But after Lang resurrected the Dr. Mabuse franchise with THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR. MABUSE in 1960, his second Mabuse, THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE was remade by Brauner, using Lang’s cast from 1000 EYES. These Mabuse sequels and remakes have an enjoyable pop-art B-movie zing to them, but totally lose out on the darker, allegorical and political aspects of Lang’s crime-conspiracy-espionage sagas.

Also proposed to Lang at this time was a remake of DIE NIBELUNGEN. But the director saw insurmountable difficulties with such a project — the money wasn’t available to make the film as gigantic as the silent version, and then there was the issue of TALK.

“The first difficulty was: How to make the Nibelungs speak? You can’t say, ‘Hello, Kriemhild.’ Neither can you say, ‘O, noble knight,'” complained the maestro.

It’s very much the same objection as Howard Hawks’ famous, “I don’t know how a Pharaoh speaks.” Writers tend to struggle to find an idiom which can be neutral enough to work in an ancient period, without becoming completely colourless and flat.

Siegfried Sputnik

Nevertheless, DIE NIBELUNGEN was remade by Brauner, with Harald Reinl directing. Reinl had already helmed several Mabuse sequels, and had shown himself to be pacy and able, though hardly a Fritz. The remakes sound rather intriguing: future spaghetti western hero Mario Girotti/Terence Hill turns up, as does Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru (Herbert Lom to you) as Attila the Hun, and Reinl’s wife, Bond girl Karin Dor, adds fresh sexiness to the role of Brunhild. Hanna Ralph in the original is impressively feisty, but she doesn’t have Dor’s exotic glamour.*

Oh Brunhilde, you're so lovely

I’m sure Reinl’s NIBELUNGEN films are ludicrous (the DVD packaging suggests as much) but I bet they’re fun. Probably best to see the Langs first… those hover right on the brink of ludicrosity, but if you can keep your sense of humour in check, they’re a toboggan-ride into the abyss, which is quite a thing to experience.

the hun that got away 

This period of German cinema is only just starting to get some attention. Popular in their day with German audiences, the remakes of old German classics and the Edgar Wallace-adapted krimi films have long been dismissed as kitsch und klatsch, and the New German Cinema auteurs presented themselves as the first filmmakers since pre-war days to make authentic films with meaning and a connection to the world.

Which is a sort-of justifiable claim. I wouldn’t hold up Harald Reinl as being equal to the best of Fassbinder or Wenders or Herzog or whoever. His work is in a different register altogether. But I don’t think it’s without value.

*Gee, maybe Reinl shouldn’t have divorced K.D. His next wife SHOT HIM DEAD.

Quote of the Day: Quaw-waw

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2008 by dcairns

Wyman eyes 

STAGE FRIGHT is a Hitchcock film that deserves to be better known. There’s a lot of fuss about the “false flash-back” — BIG DEAL! It’s essential to make the story work and if it’s a flaw it’s an easy one to overlook.

The movie is scripted by Alma Reville (Mrs. H.) and Patricia H. turns up in it and it’s a very familial film, centering on a lovely father-daughter relationship (Jane Wyman and Alastair Sim), with the mother (Edith Sitwell) a bit of a dopey outsider, but lovingly tolerated (as is often the way in Hitchcock — the mothers aren’t always completelyhorrible). Wyman plays a drama student, so we can see her as a bit of a fictionalised Pat (although I wince at the name they’ve given the real Pat’s character: Chubby Bannister.)

Asides from the family aspect, the film is also unusually jam-packed with women. Wyman’s amateur sleuth drives the whole plot forward, and is plucky and sweet, with her whispery voice. Sitwell provides comedy relief, as does a brief cameo by the teeth of Joyce Grenfell. Kay Walsh brings a bitter savagery to her blackmailing cockney role, and there’s even a minute glimpse of the divine Irene (pronounced Irene-y) Handl, as a maid, as usual.


Then there’s Dietrich. Her role is a sort of fusion of her parts in Mitchell Leisen’s THE LADY IS WILLING (shallow diva) and Wilder’s WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (woman scorned). And she sings The Laziest Gal in Town and is magnificent.

Also, Hitchcock is able to design a few shots around her that have a little Sternbergian power, something few other directors managed.

Blue in the Face

But I do think it was  maybe a mistake to assign her the dialogue, “We had a terrible quarrel.” It comes out as ~

“We had a tewibbow quaw-waw.”