Fever Dream Double-Features

New York City Ghost 

I’ve previously sung the praises of the New-York Ghost, a fine and free periodical to which I occasionally contribute my word sculptures. This week saw the annual film special explode all over us like John Cassavetes at the end of THE FURY, under the guest editorship of B. Kite, but cheeky gremlins prevented the appearance of this fine material by Christoph Hubert. I’ve never met the man, but Hubert is known to Mr. Kite as “The Austrian Cairns,” and fears have been expressed that if we should ever come face to face Space-Time would implode, or something. My doppelganger’s suppressed meisterwerk is here appended for your amazement and edification, and to encourage y’all to check out the Ghost.

FEVER-DREAM DOUBLE FEATURES

Head of the Family

As befits the year, I’ve seen lots of great works from all corners of film history (most mindblowing masterwork almost unheard of – Niemandsland, from 1931, by Victor Trivas, who as The Head, a quickly ordered, and weakly dubbed, cheap DVD of his last film Die Nackte und der Satan proved, is overripe for rediscovery). But three times the movie experience was so outstanding it instantly conjured an out-of-mind conjunction with other films. These were my fever-dream double features of the year:

Cuba

Cuban Story (Victor Pahlen, 1959) – also known as The Truth About Fidel Castro Revolution, a haphazard, poverty-row kind-of-documentary on the fall of Batista, kind of narrated by „firsthand witness” Errol Flynn (who was around to shoot an introduction, but obviously not to dub his alleged voice-over, which sounds slightly British – and radiates an intriguing sense of erosion of authenticity onto the entire enterprise). Screams for a double bill with its ideological and aesthetic opposite: Mikhail Kalatazov’s excessive Soy Cuba.

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Brigadoon (Vincente Minnelli, 1954) – especially after the Peter Jackson juggernaut it was nice to discover they once did make intriguing films about the little people, plus this is clearly the ultimate expression of Minnelli’s aesthetic credo, gaudy studio schizophrenia and all. What is most unexpected about it, though, is when it turns out good ol’ Luis Bunuel clearly just stole its nightmarish New York nightclub finale for his Simon of the Desert. Makes for instructive comparison.

Pervertigo

Mondo Topless (Russ Meyer, 1966). First five minutes are a (literally, thanks to Mr. Auteur) screaming tour of San Francisco, jumping on any sexual pun possible. Then Russ gives us a crazed series of girl shaking booty with even more crazed voice-over (both by him and the subjects), plus shots of transistor radios to diegetically justify the music. A masterpiece already, then, not least because of Meyer’s montage mannerisms, which are always at least as inspired as anything by his contempo Godard. But (despite a few detours to Europe, thank you readily available archive material) as an exploration of San Francisco this is even better – as good as contemporary maverick filmmaker James Benning’s experimental studies of the American landscape, but more lively. And, I swear, it includes that shot of the bay and the bridge, so a pairing with Vertigo should make this the apex of obsessive double features. Better yet, make it a fever trauma triple feature and screen Mondo Topless once before and after the Hitchcock for more intense (in every sense) scrutiny, after all it’s only half as long.

— Christoph Huber

If C.H. doesn’t mind, I’d like to run with the Fever Dream Double Feature idea in future, and welcome submissions from Shadowplayers everywhere.

10 Responses to “Fever Dream Double-Features”

  1. What Bunuel’s Brigadoon lacks, of course, is Elaine Stewart — my favorite movie tough-guy.

  2. Ah, but I’m crazy about Sylvia Pinal. And she can be fairly tough herself.

  3. Don’t suppose you have a .pdf of The New-York Ghost’s latest edition?

    Sylvia Pinal, heh, in one of my Bunuel classes – after raising my hand to the question: Do you find Sylvia Pinal attractive? – I had the strange disciplinary task of semantic obfuscation, turning adolescent perversions (were I hypothetically left in a room with her) into poetic observations… Well, at least the class discussions were varied!

  4. I’d recommend you follow the link to the Ghost Blog and subscribe. You can always cancel if you don’t want to receive more issues, but you might like it. They won’t hound you or try to sell you things, it’s not a commercial concern, really.

    Bunuel’s leading women divide up into the glacial and the earthy — I tend to respond more to the dirty ones.

  5. Catherine Deneuve splits the difference in Belle de Jour managing to be glacial and earthy at the same time.

  6. I guess a few of them do something similar. The double-heroine of Obscure Object is maybe the most schizoid, and since she seems to make a fetish of inaccessibility, she has found a novel way to combine the earthy and unattainable.

  7. Darryl McCarthy Says:

    This theme has been nagging away at my mind. I keep coming back to the Swinging London froth of Smashing Time, spinning away from the fast-revolving party at the top of the Post Office Tower into the druggy persona swapping in Performance on the other side of town. Good trip, bad trip. And on the other side of the world, when Anjelica Huston drives out into the night-time lights of LA at the end of The Grifters, does she cruise past Steve Martin hugging a roadsign.? Worse still could Anjelica’s lamented lost love, revealed at the climax of The Dead, in fact have been that toothy Leprachaun from Finian’s Rainbow? Time to stop thinking about it all, it is far too unsettling.

  8. Beautiful!
    Expect more soon.

  9. […] in the mighty footsteps of Christoph Hubert, whose Fever Dream pairings were published hereabouts recently, I present for your delectation and […]

  10. […] grateful to Christoph Huber for bringing this film to my attention– it’s quite trippy and wrong. Apart from the rare pleasure of seeing Michel Simon […]

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