The Sunday Intertitles: Chafing and Preservation
First, because I saw this last week and promised to write about it —
From Robert Downey (a prince)’s CHAFED ELBOWS, a hilarious, mildly scabrous bad-taste 63-minute short feature. The above intertitle is followed by these —
THERE WILL BE
George Morgan plays the hapless hero, Walter Dinsmore, a mild depressive locked in an incestuous relationship with his mother. Elsie Downey, the prince’s wife and mother of the more famous Robert Downey Jnr, plays all the women’s roles, so skillfully that I was amazed to discover a single person was responsible. She’s very funny, too, a bit like the great Catherine O’Hara.
The tone here is a little like early Woody Allen and a lot like Scorsese’s early short WHAT’S A NICE GIRL LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS? It would be hard to believe Scorsese hadn’t seen and been influenced by the Downey, except Scorsese made his film first.
Downey’s film is a lot more outrageous, though. One of the milder jokes involves Walter being signed by an artist — he carries the initials AW on his jacket for the rest of the film — which means his value skyrockets and he has the chance of becoming a gallery exhibit or else entering the artist’s private collection. Nothing comes of this, and so we have a rambling hour of homicide, underground filmmaking, sock-fetishism and impersonating an officer of the law.
Not as well-crafted as PUTNEY SWOPE, which is genuinely beautiful film-making at the service of a gleefully pointless satirical impulse, ELBOWS compensates for a rough-and-ready shooting style by randomly alternating between live action and still images, colour and b&w, and different shapes of vignette. As a result, it never flags, despite a seeming lack of structure: one visual or comic idea follows another, tres rapido.
All this, plus a song ~
“Hey hey hey! Hey hey hey!
With your black leather negligee!
I love it –
When you wear it –
My heartstrings go aflutter!
I love it when you lacerate me,
My heart feels just like butter!”
Reminiscent of a rock ‘n’ roll version of ~
Second intertitle —
Had to mention this one. The recent batch of rediscovered silents found in New Zealand includes at least two restored through the efforts of Ferdy on Film and the Self-Styled Siren’s blogathon, which I was honoured to take part in.
Rescued from the ashes we have THE SERGEANT, a 1910 western drama shot in Yosemite Valley, a location scarcely exploited before that time. Read all about it here.
And you can still donate to the cause here.