The Miracle of Birth

My birthday today — I made out like a bandit!

Actually the 2001 and Lubitsch set were swaps I made with Comrade K, the Brooklyn Brahman, but they arrived just before the big day, so I’m including them. The Nick Ray films came from my folks, who are superb people. One doesn’t like to brag, but I think I exercised superb judgement in arranging to be born to such a couple.

The DVD of THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (LES AMANTS DE LA NUIT to the French, a pretty good alternative title, although reverting to the original THIEVES LIKE US might have been an idea too) comes complete with I’M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF, a terrific documentary on Ray as he shoots his final feature (discounting as one surely must Wim Wenders’s NICK’S MOVIE/LIGHTNING OVER WATER) WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN. And to add to the sense of a Nick Ray festival chez Shadowplay, I recently acquired a copy of WE CAN’T GO, as well as two edits of THE JANITOR, Ray’s late-period short made for the porno-art anthology film WET DREAMS. Which should make an interesting posting for the forthcoming Sexy Week here at Shadowplay.

As will those lubricious Lubitsch musicals…


24 Responses to “The Miracle of Birth”

  1. Happy Birthday, Mr Cairns. I did finally manage to get round to watching Endless Night, which you nicely acquired and presented to me on my birthday last year. Bit of an oddity. Formed a very late night double bill with Blood Beast Terror. Giant moths and Hywel Bennett. Good times.

  2. Absolutely!
    Sidney Gilliat reflected that the trouble with Endless Night is that it’s better second time around. He really had to struggle to create any emotional tension on the way through, and then it all happens at the ending. And second time round, with that in mind, it plays quite well. But the weird stylistic things he does, in emulation of Hitchcock I guess, are terrific. It’d be a good one to revisit this week, actually.

  3. I might just do that.

  4. Have just written something which I’ll post later, it might encourage you.

  5. Ahh, so today is your birthday! It seems yours, mine and Bens are within a space of 10 days, well, Happy birthday! (although if you have WET DREAMS, it seems like it’s already been a good day).

    Short of a cinema print, 2001 needs to be seen on 1080p High Definition. Absolutely stunning, or, to quote Jacques Rivette’s humourous musings: “Kubrick is a machine, a mutant, a Martian. He has no human feeling whatsoever. But it’s great when the machine films other machines, as in 2001 (1968).” :)

  6. Surely part of the interest in Kubrick is when he films humans with his alien eye. The death of the son in barry Lyndon, which seems like it SHOULD be emotional, but there’s kind of… nothing.

    I’d love to hear what Ray’s intention was with The Janitor, because it’s an extraordinary set of choices we see in motion… more on it later.

  7. Here’s The Miracle of Birth for you!

    Many Movie Returns!

  8. Thanks!

    My favourite movie birth is pribably in The Tin Drum. somebidy had to do the baby’s POV — but who would have guessed it would have been Schloendorff?

    In a more abstract way, Eraserhead kind of gives us conception, development and birth.

  9. don’t you think that the ending of 2001 is a total cop out? i love almost everything about the film up to a point, but the ending seems almost like one of those “it was all a dream!” bits, and has always left me feeling kind of cheated.

    i feel the film needs some sort of resolution, and while it succeeds in posing more questions at the end than it answers, which i’m sure is perfectly valid, they’re pointless questions, such as “what the hell were all those lights?”, “why is he in a room now?” etc.

    i’ve been assured by people who’ve read the book that it does all actually make sense, but nobody has ever been able to give me anything approaching a satisfactory explanation, so i thought i’d put it to someone with the credentials to set me straight. i should also mention that i’m fully willing to accept that i’m totally missing the point of the film, in which case i’d appreciate an explanation.

    oh, and happy birthday!


  10. Well, it differs from the “it was all a dream” thing because that IS an explanation, albeit an unsatisfactory one. It renders the narrative questions pointless. 2001 requires us to exercise what Keats calls our “negative capability”, our ability to appreciate something that’s mysterious and incapable of explanation. The films of David Lynch do the same, and not just at the endings.

    I think most of the stuff we see at the ending is easy enough if we don’t worry too much. The lights? Dave is being transported to an alien place. The room? It’s been prepared for him. At the end he’s transformed into a Starchild. Do you need to know how it’s achieved? From the earlier scenes with the monolith, we can relate this to the apemen’s development of tools, it’s an evolutionary step.

    The problem may be that you’re trying to overthink stuff which is best just accepted, the way kids accept weird stuff in fairy tales.

  11. thanks, that was pretty concise. i suppose i’ve always kind of suspected that i might be over-thinking the whole thing. my problem with the film though is that it’s only at the end where it shifts from sci-fi to abstract – the bizarre is easier to accept when you’re prepared for it, as with most of david lynch’s work.

    you ask if i need to know how it’s all achieved, and i’m slightly ashamed to admit that i do. i think that’s because i tend to approach films as a form of entertainment rather than as art. maybe i’m reading the wrong blog so!

    as an aside, the first david lynch film i watched was mulholland drive, which, knowing no better, i approached expecting a conventional structure and some sort of a resolution. talk about being thrown in at the deep end! i went back to it after watching twin peaks and blue velvet and managed to get through it without tearing my hair out in frustration at not being able to follow the plot.

  12. I think it’s a real skill, this negative capability, and after childhood, when nothing makes sense anyway, most of us have to work at it. I recommend presistence though! Read Keats on the subject, he expresses it far better than I could.

    I guess both Mulholland Dr and 2001 procede as mysteries, and they do maybe try to warn us that things aren’t going to add up in a conventional fashion, but it’s very human to expect mysteries to be resolved. Although I think if you follow the clues, maybe Mulholland Dr is TOO resolved!

  13. If you REALLY want to be thrown into the deep end take a look at Lynch’s Inland Empire.

  14. You said it! Although I look forward to him making a follow-up that makes that one seem almost normal. I’m sure he can manage it.

  15. I was never concerned with exactly how humanity was evolved when I saw 2001. I thought it to be like a completely abstract and alien technique/technology that would take an evolutionary step to understand itself. What matters is our helplessness in the face of such interference, if that’s the right word, just as Bowman and Poole are rendered helpless by the very technology created to protect them.

    I think. I saw it on the big screen and felt dizzy afterwards.

  16. I saw it aged 12 and probably felt pretty outraged by the ending, first time round. Took me a couple of reviewings over a few years to grow to respect, then love it.

    One strange screening I recall was at the University Film Society, where somebody switched on a light behind the screen, so we could see shadowy figures moving about behind the apemen. Kubrick would not have been pleased.

  17. While my parents are pretty conservative and certainly don’t have a wide range of artistic tastes, I’ll always thank my father for taking me to my local library as a 9 year old, taking me into the adult literature section and letting me choose a book of my own, as well as one he chose for me (he chose A Fall Of Moondust by Clarke). It was a wonderful way of giving me licence to explore and I think that must have fed into my later interest in films (i.e. the openness to watch that BBC2 showing of Solaris when I was 12!) and wish to keep pushing on to explore new territory.

    “Although I look forward to him making a follow-up that makes that one seem almost normal. I’m sure he can manage it.”

    Same here – I think the thing that most impresses me about Lynch’s films is that he is consistently managing to make his previous films, tackling similar themes, seem tame and safe and simple to understand with his follow ups! While it is not essential to see Twin Peaks before Fire Walk With Me before Lost Highway before Mulholland Drive before Inland Empire, there is a wonderful development going on there.

    Isn’t every week a Sexy Week at Shadowplay?

  18. Yes, it’s always sexy here, that’s why I wish I had a better name for this thing. Maybe VERY Sexy Week?

    The kind of formative experience you speak of is very important, which is why I worry about UK TV basically not showing foreign cinema anymore. Film4 will be the best chance todays kids and teens have to stumble on interesting stuff, and Film4 is…not as good as it could be. I’m grateful to it just for existing, and for throwing out the occasional treat, but I wish they had a better sense of their own remit.

  19. You know, I very nearly missed a showing of Johnny To’s Election on Film 4 last week because I’d just assumed it was that Reese Witherspoon film again!

  20. I DID miss it! Hope to be renting Mad Detective soon though to make up for it. Will have to watch out for future screenings or Election.

  21. ooh happy belated birthday David !

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