Archive for May 6, 2008

Some kind of a man.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2008 by dcairns

The Magician

It’s Orson Welles’ birthday! I guess it’s safe to mention since he’s already dead, and the CURSE OF SHADOWPLAY cannot harm him.

Anyway, whatever bad juju may be associated with me, Welles’ VOODOO CURSE probably outranks it. (A Brazilian witch doctor jinxed Welles’ film project IT’S ALL TRUE by plunging a dagger through the screenplay, decorated with a black feather. With Welles, the impossible stories turn out to be true, it’s the plausible ones you must watch out for.)

The Birds

“I don’t want any description of me to be accurate. I want it to be flattering. I don’t think people who have to sing for their supper ever like to be described truthfully — not in print anyway.”

Orson Welles — thin, young and alive.

It has been TOO LONG since I actually watched a Welles film through. I’m hoping that the Edinburgh Film Festival’s Jeanne Moreau season will feature some or all of her work with O.W. I haven’t seen THE IMMORTAL STORY or CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT on the big screen, ever. And I love THE TRIAL more than even most hardcore Wellesians. The programme is launched tomorrow, so I’ll be able to tell you for sure then.


Morpheus Descending

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2008 by dcairns

A Song is Born

Max Ophuls’ LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI is a sort of Italian answer to A STAR IS BORN. While, like SANS LENDEMAIN, it isn’t up there with the Divine Max’s post-war work, it does have its share of passion and poetry, and features plenty of memorably eccentric bits of technique.

Ophuls starts with a spiralling iris-out from a spinning gramophone record, before tilting up to a cyncial movie producer, who starts talking almost straight into the lens, almost like an Ozu character.

Cutting back to the gramophone once more but with the camera now spun 180 degrees, Ophuls now tilts up to an agent, also talking almost into the lens.

The next scene gives us a whirlwind tour of a film studio, with the camera rocketing around at speed as assistants try to locate a missing movie star. You can really feel the weight of the giant blimped sound camera as it swerves round corners, even spinning 360 degrees as a character circles a room before exiting from the door he came in by.

Then we’re tracking through walls in the manner mimicked by Kubrick (a big Ophuls fan) in THE KILLING and LOLITA, and then we get MY FAVOURITE BIT —

The Experiment

Morpheus Descending

Our heroine (the legendary Isa Miranda) has attempted suicide, and lies on the operating table awaiting some kind of potentially life-saving operation. Gloved hands turn a SPECIAL VALVE and an anaesthetic mask descends from the ceiling. Ophuls does what many directors would do in such a situation — he shows us the heroine’s POV as the smothering instrument descends towards her face. This is in line with those subjective camera shots we see in many hospital movies from the ’40s on — wheeling along on a gurney, looking at the ceiling, that kind of thing.

The Mask


But Ophuls does something else, something maybe only he and Sam Raimi would do — he cuts to the POV of the mask itself, descending towards the heroine’s face until she is pushed into a blurry smear.


The Woman in White

The Fog

And in the midst of that blur, the central flashback can begin…

(LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI is now available on DVD in Italy, and they’ve actually included English subtitles!)

The Omen

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , on May 6, 2008 by dcairns

So, I was walking along the first floor of the Ocean Terminal mall (not a huge, DAWN OF THE DEAD type mall, but a British mini-mall, or mall-ette, if you will) which looks like so:

Chopping Mall

You can just see the sort-of-bridge that crosses the central expanse at the back, right? Well, as I walked under that, I looked up and saw three identical boys, about nine, identically dressed, resting their arms on the hand rail. They looked a bit like the banjo-boy in DELIVERANCE who appears on a bridge as a portentous warning of the carnage and anal malfeasance to come. They also looked like the three wise monkeys, just after the picture was taken.


If they had appeared before we went to see FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL we could have taken it as a warning and spent the afternoon doing something else. It’s not a terrible film, but there seems to reason to see it on a screen larger than the smallest person in it.

It’s sort of like having somebody riffle a flickbook of Hawaiian postcards at you while playing nice tunes (Dot Allison!) and telling you a few decent jokes. Enjoyable, but not exactly CINEMA.

Here is a more interesting bit of Edinburgh:


That’s the beauty of this city, you get old and new nestling alongside each other, like ebony and ivory on the keyboard of some colossal stone piano full of drunks. Yet despite all this, the city is desperately under-represented on film.