Archive for August 6, 2008

Dramatis Personae

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

Steven McNicoll: bongo jazz a speciality.

“Busy busy busy!” ~ Bette Davis in THE WHALES OF AUGUST.

We got our pigpen of a flat cleaned up somewhat, so we’ve been inviting people round for dinner. This evening we’ll be joined by Steven McNicoll and his fiancee Fran. Our dinner at their place two weeks ago was a delight, resulting in much scurrilous speculation on pressing issues such as “Why are showbiz dwarfs generally so obnoxious?”, material I can’t possibly reproduce on a blog intended for family viewing (the clan gathers round their flickering monitor, munching hungrily on their dinner of black pudding and Arctic Roll, the Wee Yins staring wide-eyed at the frame grabs while the Auld Folks click on the Hyperlinks).

Earlier this week, Fiona’s brother Roddy was up to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. How to describe this annual kilted jamboree? Imagine your dullest nightmare, painstakingly reconstructed by a cast of thousands in Highland dress, in a large car park atop a hill, at night. Roddy loves it. Roddy has learning difficulties. You should in no way infer a connection between these two statements.

Dinner with Roddy in a French restaurant (he enjoyed the fishcakes, seriously enjoyed the chocolate torte). A fly buzzed up and down.

“I would like to own a butterfly,” Roddy declared, apropos of nothing. “I would like it to be orange…and tangerine…and black…and white. And I would call it…Craig…Levein.”

Craig Levein (right).

I don’t think it’s necessary to know that orange and black and white are the colours of Dundee United, Roddy’s favourite football team, and that they are managed by a chap called Craig Levein, to appreciate this story. The idea of having a pet butterfly is clearly a very beautiful one (you could pin it to a cork board when you go to bed at night, release it in the morning, tether it to your wrist with a length of thread when you take it out for “walkies”) and if you had such a pet, “Craig Levein” is very obviously the most charming and evocative name you could possibly give it.

What else? Oh yes, movies. Bought tickets to see Sidney Lumet’s brutally dazzling THE HILL, introduced by Sir Sean Connery himself — my last movie experience with Sir Sean was perhaps not the ideal way to rub shoulders with greatness, so this should be a good palate-cleanser — and for Paul Merton’s The Silent Clowns, in which modern-day living breathing comic Merton will introduce extracts and films featuring the greats of the silent era. And picked up the programme for the Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams event, occurring in Nairn later this month, organised by Mark Cousins and Tilda Swinton. More on this later.

Where’s the love? On the ground.

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

The smashed Cupid who, possibly, gives LOVE ON THE GROUND its name.

Jacques Rivette’s LOVE ON THE GROUND has little reputation, even among diehard Rivetteheads. But I just wanted to say, for the record, that I enjoyed it.

A theatre production at a big strange house, with a phantom room/wing, in the sub-suburban outskirts of a weirdly depopulated Paris, with sexual intrigue, conspiracy and magic in the air — the set-up is so classically Rivettian that maybe the film suffers by comparison with other movies, movies I perhaps haven’t seen (even after PARIS BELONGS TO US, CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, DUELLE, LA BELLE NOISEUSE, SECRET DEFENCE and THE STORY OF MARIE AND JULIEN, I still feel like a novice). But this movie has something that the others didn’t have for me, an active hook that seizes the attention, albeit gently, in scene one, and continues to draw you through the first act. There were no scenes whose major active question was “Why is this in the film?” or “What’s going on?” or “Huh?” which I sometimes get with Rivette.


So — either I’m slowly getting used to Rivette and starting to appreciate and even understand him more (although, I should stress, I rather enjoy NOT understanding him), and this is causing me to rate this movie higher than it deserves, or I’m not temperamentally a perfect match for him, and so I respond more to one of his lesser, but more linear, works. A third option, that I’ve spotted strengths in the film that top-ranking Rivetters (B. Kite, D. Ehrenstein, J-Ro) have missed, strikes me as pretty unlikely.

Note — B. Kite, the living lodestone of New York, points out that he has only seen the short version of this film, and doesn’t like to divide Rivette into these major and minor categories anyway.

Who needs people-removing software when you’ve got EMPTY ROOMS?

So, I resolve to blunder blindly on through Rivette’s mysterious theatre-worlds, just as his characters are doomed to do, cheered by the prospect that maybe the films are starting to reveal their secrets to me, or at least define them, and that I have lots more films to see (and he’s still making them, at eighty!) and that all the Rivettes I’ve seen so far (Well, maybe not SECRET DEFENCE?) seem set to reward more deeply on repeat viewings…