Archive for February, 2014

One Of the Wicked

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on February 25, 2014 by dcairns

Picture 50

Dave Scout Tafoya, the son I never had, has kindly included me in his ongoing online ecyclopaedia of film criticism — here. I provided him with some basic facts or “facts”, he did the rest. It was entertaining to read some quotes from pieces I’d completely forgotten having written.

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The Monday Intertitle: Mountain Man

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2014 by dcairns

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Bolstering my negative capability, already given a workout by the intricacies of the Allen-Farrow case, I perused Paul Wegener’s 1916 RUBEZAHLS HOCHZEIT, which had German intertitles, untranslated, and with the added advantage of being completely illegible due to the poor picture quality of my DVD. I decided to see what kind of plot-line I could discern, or concoct, from the proceedings.

The film is Wegener’s third, following the crucially important STUDENT OF PRAGUE and THE GOLEM (now mostly lost), and it’s co-directed with Rochus Gliese. It’s another supernatural/mythic kind of story, I think.

I like Rochus Gliese because his name is Rochus Gliese. But not as much as I like Lupu Pick.

Well, there’s this giant — he looms over a mountaintop, some tree branches in the foreground to completely convince me he’s the size of Godzilla. I believe it. He also has a walking stick made from a tree. His beard is impressive — immensely long, rigid and shaggy, as if he had Sean Connery’s arm growing from his chin. But then he goes for a walk and starts interacting with a normal landscape and it seems he’s a regulation-sized bloke who merely dresses like a giant, or a caveman or something. There are some sylphs wafting about in diaphanous robes, paddling in brooks and bothering a deer. He chases them, as you do.

Wegener has lost me already!

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Don’t know what it says.

Ahah! The late F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, who was no stranger to confusion himself, provides an illuminating account of the character’s mythic origins. Since “Froggy” specialised in reviewing lost films as if he had seen them, it’s cheering to discover that this one at least still exists, even if my copy is pretty murky. His summary of the film at least confirms that the hirsute hill-walker is tall Paul himself. I should have recognized those cheekbones, each one like an elephant’s cranium. And it seems that the giant is only metaphotically mountainous — he is OF THE MOUNTAIN, or something.

Despite the German enthusiasm for Alps, RUBEZAHL seems to be the one fantasy film NOT remade either in the twenties, or with sound, or under Hitler, or after the war. Poor Rube.

The Shirley Temple of Doom

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by dcairns

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WEE WILLIE WINKIE reminded me I must read more Kipling. I doubt his original story has much in common with this John Ford movie, but this John Ford movie has a fair bit in common with his others. FORT APACHE, for instance. In both films, Shirley Temple arrives at a fort surrounded by hostile Indians, meets Victor McLaglan, there’s a blonde who’s forbidden to see a young officer by the commanding officer who is her relative. But in the more innocent, less martial world of wee Shirley, everything does not have to end in bloodshed.

There’s some very cute stuff — Fiona pronounced Private Winkie’s kilt and uniform “adorable” and we actually laughed at McLaglan’s antics. The American cinema’s premier silverback mountain gorilla, he overplays everything but his build is so large the grandiose gestures and mugging seem perversely delicate.

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THE COMPANY: C. Aubrey Smith’s crusty colonel is maybe a bit too appealing from the start — he could do with having been gruffer, since he’s all we have as an antagonist for most of the film. You would never know June Lang was a gangster’s moll in real life, she seems so demure. Cesar Romero may be an unlikely Pathan but Willie Fung is preposterous. He was preposterous even when playing Chinese, which is what he actually was, so I suppose one shouldn’t expect anything else. He’s very much in the vein of African-American comedy relief figure Snowflake — but please let’s not call him “the yellow Snowflake.” At any rate, his appearance is enough to make Woody Strode’s performance as a Chinese warrior in SEVEN WOMEN seem a model of sensitive and convincing ethnic casting.

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Some of the time, though amusing, the film seems a touch impersonal for Ford — it’s nicely shot, and amusing, but there’s not much meat to it. But Shirley’s rendition of Old Lang Syne is a high point of Fordian sentiment, beautifully lit and staged, with erstwhile broad comedy characters deftly about-turned for emotional effect (including Clyde Cook, one of very few actual Scots in the film — still, that’s a few more than there are actual Indians).

NB — written Saturday night, after which I read Kipling’s Mrs Bathurst, one of the first works of literature to feature the cinematograph, and a dazzling modernist work which I must write about.