Archive for December, 2012

Niggaz With Altitude

Posted in FILM with tags , , on December 31, 2012 by dcairns


RED TAILS… oh dear oh dear. I think fans ought to be glad the STAR WARS franchise is out of George Lucas’s hands — it’s been apparent for some time that practically anybody could make a better, more tonally consistent STAR WARS film than Lucas himself. Is Joel Schumacher available? What’s that you say, he IS?

This was supposedly a dream project of the producer, but he doesn’t seem to have invested anything in it besides money — the dogfights are lovingly rendered (there were reports of some VFX shots looking unsatisfactory on the big screen, but it all looked dazzling on my TV, and slightly easier to follow than the later STAR WARSES) but the human interactions seem to be striving to obtain the long sought-after quality of zero dimensionality.

And at some point late in the game, it seems like everybody gave up caring at all. The opening action sequence is disfigured by having chunky red credits stamped over the middle of the screen, destroying suspense and engagement — I guess the movie doesn’t have a quieter scene the titles could go over, and laying them on black would be too old-school, but do we need opening titles at all? STAR WARS only has the name of the film at the beginning, as I recall.


What puts the tin lid on it is the subtitles for the German characters, which are apparently intended for the hard of hearing, since we not only get the translation, but the helpful parenthesis “[in German]”. In case we were confused. I look forward to the next edit of STAR WARS where Greedo’s subtitles supply us with useful information about which precise alien tongue he is jabbering in. Actually, no I don’t, because Lucas isn’t likely to be rejigging STAR WARS any more. I *slightly* look forward to Disney one day making the original, authentic cut of the first STAR WARS available again, but we may have to wait a while for that.

Lucas is best out of it, and he’s to be applauded  for giving the money to charity. He leaves behind three interesting, decent movies (THX, GRAFFITI, STAR WARS), those nightmarish prequels, and this interestingly awful thing.

The Sunday Intertitle: Pachyderm Snatch

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 30, 2012 by dcairns


Glorious image from BOUT-DE-ZAN STEALS AN ELEPHANT by Louis Feuillade, available on box set from either Kino or Gaumont. If you buy the American release via the link below, I get a tiny dividend from Amazon. If you buy the French release, however, you get the authentic original language title cards, and you can either brush up on your French or expand your negative capability.


I’m off to Dublin for New Year, to attend the final cutting of NATAN, a documentary by Paul Duane and myself. I return on the 1st, and this will be the first New Year Fiona and I have spent apart in well over a decade. It feels good to be doing it for a reason, though, and it helps solve the perennial problem of what to do. The best New Year I ever saw in was when I was sick in bed with fever and all the TV shows seemed very funny.

Gaumont Treasures: 1897-1913

Also — Laird Cregar squeezed into five line limerick form.

Occupational Hazards

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2012 by dcairns


Frank Borzage’s TILL WE MEET AGAIN is one of his many good ones — it’s a bit undercast, though, with Ray Milland compelled to suppress his naughtiness and Barbara Britton as a novice nun showing no hint of any naughtiness at all (but when you see her in I SHOT JESSE JAMES you see she had considerable reserves of that desirable quality).

Milland plays an American airman (with very occasional nods to a vaguely stateside accent) shot down, rescued by the resistance, and entrusted with secret intelligence gathered by the underground. After a last-minute disruption in their plans, Britton finds herself entrusted with escorting Milland to safety. The movie could have been a forerunner of HEAVEN KNOWS, MR ALLISON, except that somebody obviously felt that any hint of desire between (married) man and (married to Christ) nun would be unacceptable. The most the movie can admit to is that Milland’s reminiscences about his home life open Britton’s eyes to an understanding of male-female relations that had been denied to her. Under the surface, of course, Borzage hints at simmering romantic longing, never stated, and that gives the film its edge.

Scripted by Lenore Coffee, the movie generates just enough suspense in its cross-country situations, and just enough unresolved sexual tension, to maintain interest, but the real attraction is the wondrously unreal studio landscapes and the lighting and camera movies Borzage presides over with ace DoP Theodor Sparkuhl (AKA “Mr. Sparkle”).


It’s wartime propaganda, of course — Konstantin Shayne is a witty Nazi villain, and Walter Slezak plays a craven French mayor acting as his accomplice, who must of course reveal a scrap of decency lurking somewhere about his corpulent form. Like most Borzage, it’s also informed by religious feeling, but this side of it isn’t propagandistic — rather, it’s felt by the filmmaker and expressed honestly. Sexuality was always a part of Borzage’s religious feelings, and he allows himself the tiniest hint that perhaps Britton’s character would have liked to experience this, and would have actually grown closer to God by doing so — and that she has become more human and divine just from recognizing this. A key scene occurs when she nurses a delirious, injured Milland, who mistakes her for his wife. The scene fades to black discretely, the editor’s favourite mode of plausible deniability — we’re not told where she passes the night. But we could look at CHINA DOLL, a middling late Borzage which reprises many of his favourite tropes, and gain a more distinct idea of what MIGHT have happened…

Also —


Britton is looking for Milland.


A puff of cigarette smoke seems to betray his position.


But — ack! — it’s not him.