The Master!


The new issue of online movie smasheroo Senses of Cinema is up, and for the first time in ages I’ve contributed to it. The piece is about Carl Dreyer’s MASTER OF THE HOUSE, a film I hadn’t actually watched before but somehow got the job of reviewing, which was great because I then had to watch it and it was, like, really good. Also at the site is regular Shadowplayer David Wingrove’s piece (writing as David Melville) on Seijun Suzuki’s mind-puncturing PISTOL OPERA. His piece is way better than mine.

One of the lovely things we find about Senses is that you volunteer to write about one of the films on their list because you know it really well and think you might be the very best person to write about it, and then you think that’s maybe a little egotistical to just stake a claim on one film, so you volunteer for one or two others. And the one you through in as an afterthought because you happen to have an old tape of it somewhere so you could watch it and review it if required, well, that’s the one they ask you to do. Always!

But as I say, this keeps things lively, and it resulted in me seeing a great thing that had been unwatched on a shelf since I pirated it from the Lindsay Anderson Archive ten years ago.

27 Responses to “The Master!”

  1. My favourite yakuza film is Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza, with Robert Mitchum.
    Any reason why David Wingrove is writing as David Melville. The reason I ask is because I’m reading Melville’s Moby Dick, and finding it rather hard going.

  2. I forget why Melville in particular, but David needed a nom de plume because there was already a journalist called David Wingrove when he started writing.

    I think the Japanese have made quite a few Yakuza movies superior to Pollack’s! Suzuki has an incredible sensibility, in which rhythm and colour/tonality dominate narrative utterly.

  3. Oh, I think the chapter where Melville argues at length that the whale is a fish is the bit where most people get bogged down. If you make it past that you’ll be OK.

  4. i hated moby dick when i read it but now it dominates my thoughts

    it might help to imagine ahab as pat garrett and the whale as billy the kid

  5. Or Ricardo Montalban as Ahab and William Shatner as the whale (a beast he somewhat resembles, at least outwardly).

  6. i had forgotten completely about TWOK. shame on me

    it’s sad that patrick stewart played ahab – he would have made a better whale because his head could have played the white hump

  7. No blowhole.

  8. ok i take it back

  9. For some reason I think of this Leonard Cohen song when reading Moby Dick:

  10. Another YouTube song cruelly denied to the non-Irish!

  11. Oh, and see Watchmen for a perfect example of how not to use a Leonard Cohen song in a film.

  12. Watchmen does feature one of my all-time favourite songs:

  13. Which I forgot to say is a Kris Kristofferson song:

    I can’t understand why you are unable to access certain Youtube items. That Cohen song was called “Democracy”.

  14. see watchmen for a perfect example of how not to use film full stop

  15. ———
    i hated moby dick when i read it but now it dominates my thoughts
    Alex, I know what you mean. I have had the same experience with certain books and films.

    By the way, chapter 48 of Moby Dick contains some brilliant prose.

  16. I liked Neil Jordan’s use of Leonard Cohen’s “A Thousand Kisses Deep” in The Good Thief. I always enjoy Nick Nolte in a film.

  17. I don’t always enjoy Nolte, but when I do I enjoy him wholeheartedly. Didn’t care much for The Good Thief though, and particularly object to Melville (the other one) not getting a credit!

  18. Arthur S. Says:

    I think Nick Nolte is one of America’s very best actors and is totally underrated. Like when CAPE FEAR came out, people kept going on about DeNiro’s bit totally neglecting Nolte’s brilliance in that film. DeNiro was basically sending up horror film villains, while Nolte was playing a real character.

    Then he’s super-cool in LIFE LESSONS and stunning in AFFLICTION.

  19. ———–
    Then he’s super-cool in LIFE LESSONS and stunning in AFFLICTION
    I agree. I also liked him in THE GOLDEN BOWL. It’s one of the Henry James novels I’ve actually read.

  20. Other Noltes I’ve loved include Clean, Afterglow, Mother Night, Q&A. He can get a bit shouty and caveman, but he can also make that work, at least sometimes. Sometimes he seems like a natural successor to Robert Ryan, other times he just seems like a large Al Pacino.

  21. Nolte was a very convincing sonuvabitch in Malick’s Thin Red Line, which I watched not long back. I also saw him recently in that French film which is a series of vignettes, Paris je t’aime, and he looked old and ragged as hell. Man, he was looking old.

  22. david wingrove Says:

    To set the record straight, I’m not a great admirer of Herman Melville or MOBY DICK – although I do like his other long novel, PIERRE, OR THE AMBIGUITIES, a passionate story about a young artist who has incest with his long-lost sister and (quite possibly) his mother too.

    This was filmed as POLA X by the ghastly and untalented Leos Carax. The sole redeeming feature was Catherine Deneuve in a naked bathtub scene. She was playing the mother, so the incest sort of made sense.

    No, the reason I use Melville as a nom de plume is simple, prosaic and utterly dull. Melville just happens to be my middle name. All I do is lop off my surname – voila!

    Anyway, many thanks to David for his comments on the PISTOL OPERA piece. It’s not true…it’s just that writing about PISTOL OPERA gives you a license to be as incoherent and rambling as you like. There’s no way in hell you can be coherent about a movie like that!

    However, I totally back David up on the “luck of the draw” approach to writing at SENSES OF CINEMA. The piece I did before PISTOL OPERA was on Lindsay Anderson’s IF… a film I’d always found traumatic and well-nigh unwatchable, as it reminds me too much of my own school days.

    I volunteered to write on it as a sort of “aversion therapy” and admit to being mildly terrified when they said yes. Meanwhile, the world may never know my views on BLACK NARCISSUS and THE INNOCENTS, two films I know intimately and deeply love.

    Oh well, that is perhaps for the best…

  23. Anytime you want to write about those brilliant films I’d be more than happy to publish the results here!

  24. david wingrove Says:

    Just found out – for the next issue of SENSES, I’m writing about INDIA SONG by Marguerite Duras. Now that is a film I truly adore, although it may be only marginally more coherent than PISTOL OPERA. A great film, but you need a somewhat warped mind to make sense of it all.

    Are they perhaps trying to tell me something?

  25. You are obviously their Mr. Warped.

    Haven’t heard anything from them this time so I presume I’m not doing anything.

  26. david wingrove Says:

    I’ll take that as a compliment!

    If you haven’t heard from SENSES this month, it may be because you know too much about the films on offer. Not a problem I normally have.

  27. Definitely not the case this time — there wasn’t anything I felt very expert in, but I gamely offered to do anything at all!

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