Archive for July, 2017

Universal Truths

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2017 by dcairns

A rare misprint in the Il Cinema Ritrovato program had a Sirk masterpiece listed as ALL HEAVENS ALLOWED, which seems like a nice, tolerant approach. I don’t have any set photos from that, but two other Sirks also screen in Bologna are represented. MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION is above and below.

Shock Jane Wyman appearance. You don’t usually see the stars, or anyone else, in these things. Maybe Sirk sets were so relaxed the actors just naturally didn’t want to get up and move. Jane looks pretty tranquil. Still, you never see Rock Hudson.

Here’s two from Sirk’s lesser-known THUNDER ON THE HILL. Should I see it? I bet I should. I had convinced myself I actually had seen it, but I think between SUMMER STORM and THE FIRST LEGION, which I can barely remember, I neglected it.

Some sets just look bland and generic, some seem intriguing and characterful but you can’t recall the movie using them. But this staircase from WRITTEN ON THE WIND is pretty iconic if you’ve seen the movie. That’s a staircase just made for staggering down. Seeing it like this has an uncanny quality because, unlike in the movie where it’s as much a part of the Technicolor fantasy as Lauren Bacall or Robert Stack, here it’s more like a workplace for technicians and actors. A place you could walk into, wearing your own clothes.

A Bologna moment: they projected an original Technicolor print of WRITTEN, and at one point the projector gave a hiccup and the image jounced UP, to reveal not the heads of the actors poking up from the bottom of the screen, but simply MORE IMAGE. Because Sirk was forced to compose for both widescreen and boxy TV, and shoot “open-matte” so that the top of and bottom of the squareish TV frame exist, but are masked out during cinema projection (normally). If you’ve ever seen the 1:1.33 TV ratio version, you may have found it rather distant, since Sirk was forced to basically compose wider than he preferred. This was kind of a momentary peek behind the curtain — and so are these stills, in a different way.

Holy shit, it’s Dorothy Malone! Unless it’s her stand-in. Plus a corner of what could be Rock Hudson, or Rock Hudson’s stand-in (AKA Fake Rock). Looks like Sirk’s sets really were relaxed, happy places. A film scholar once told me that he couldn’t answer my questions about how funny Sirk intended his films to be but that the important thing was, he was certain Sirk was a GREAT GUY. This struck me as weird and unsatisfactory (but pleasingly idiosyncratic). If we found out something bad about Sirk, would his films cease to be any good? What I would offer as an alternative would be that maybe Sirk channelled his work through the finest, noblest part of his personality.

No more set photos left! But more gratefully received.

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The Sunday Intertitle: The First of the Red-Hot Lavas

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on July 30, 2017 by dcairns

The Italians have filmed THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII with such astounding regularity that a film scholar might chart the development of film technique through the in a pretty detailed way, just by watching adaptations of Bulwer-Lytton’s classical disaster novel. This 1908 version, the earliest, still belongs to the painted backdrop school, but the art direction conspires to create a far more vivid sense of depth than is usually found in, say, Melies.

Later versions would showcase colossal sets and elaborate special effects, with camera movement used to explore the architecture. Here, they settle for clever fake perspective and a miniature background volcano that belches smoke and fireworks at the actors. The tableau school of staging means we don’t get the flurry of destruction familiar from later versions, all of which make a point of sporting spectacular effects work. Here, the eruption of Vesuvius is over in about six shots, but to be fair they are quite long shots.

The original titles seem to be lost, so here we get Dutch ones, but the dramatis personae are in French. These particular title cards have people in them. So the must have made a few versions for different territories, but forgot about Holland. And it wouldn’t have been easy to make extra Dutch ones later unless you could get the actors back…

Twin Peaks Precap

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2017 by dcairns

I’ve been enjoying all the Twin Peaks recaps, including my friend Keith Uhlich’s on The Notebook. And listening religiously to Diane, for my money THE podcast on the subject.

Obviously it’s too late for me to start recapping TP now, but it can’t surely be too late to recap episode 12, since it hasn’t aired yet. These are my predictions for what’s going to happen — a kind of precap, if you will. Obviously we have to wait until Sunday to see if I’m right but I am confident that I will be VINDICATED in every detail. So there are spoilers ahead. I won’t change anything after the episode airs so you’ll be able to see how devastatingly accurate I am.

You’ll maybe have noticed that while each episode features numerous hanging threads, usually these are not picked up in the following episode. You have to wait until the episode after, or maybe several episodes after. Matthew Lillard made an astonishing impression in the role of Earthworm Jim Principal Hastings but then disappeared for over a month.

In episode 8 we saw the ????? Giant use something which Fiona christened the Fallopian Tuba to blast a glowing orb full of Laura Palmer at the old BBC globe of the world ident. Well, we haven’t seen him and his girlfriend and the tuba for about a month, so I think they’ll be back. I expect we’ll see him blast a few follow-up orbs at us, perhaps containing the effulgent faces of Dick Tremayne, Dwayne Mibbler and that guy with the plaster-of-paris nose mask.

Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh are going to do some terrible things to Warden Murphy. There was apparently a lot of really bad stuff in WILD AT HEART concerning Harry Dean Stanton’s demise at the hands of a duo of hitpersons, and it got cut out. I think Lynch has been saving it up.

Gordon and Albert and Tammy and Diane won’t get to the other coordinates yet. But Gordon deliberately let Diane memorise the figures so she can tell Dirty Cooper, because they want him there so they can catch him.

When they do go there, maybe in episode 13 or 14, it will all link up with Jack Rabbit’s Palace and they’ll see Truman, Hawk and Bobby in Twin Peaks. They might also see the Major’s head float past. I don’t know what he’s going to say this time but it’ll be pretty deep. Also, Jerry Horne, stoned out of his mind and lost in the woods, will blunder in at an inopportune moment. Maybe he’ll fall in the pit they’ve dug for Dirty Cooper. But that’s in the future. That won’t happen this week.

Benjamin Horne announced his intention of taking his new secretary Beverly to dinner, but we didn’t see it. It’ll happen this week, with no explanation for the delay. My theory which I really think is true is that the reason he couldn’t kiss her before — she thinks it’s because he’s a good man, but we know that isn’t true — is that she’s actually his daughter. Old Ben sure sowed a few wild oats in his time. Ashley Judd is an oat who has come home to roost. Remember in series 1 he nearly had sex with Audrey.

The humming sound that’s been bugging them is Joan Chen in a doorknob, but she won’t come out yet. They have to save something for season 4.

Frustratingly, after the Buckhorn police found Dougie’s wedding ring inside a corpse, nobody has tried to trace a couple called Dougie and Janey-E. Probably because it hasn’t occurred to them that Janey-E could be someone’s actual name. If they checked, I bet there’s only one couple in the whole of America with those names. But they haven’t checked, so they’re not going to. So I’m not sure what purpose the wedding ring serves or why Dirty Cooper presumably left it there. Or when he got it from the original Dougie. Presumably at the time he replaced it with the “sacrificial ring” from FIRE WALK WITH ME? It’s pretty hard to figure out what that guy’s up to except it all has to do with  killing Dougie/Dale so he can stay on Earth and not go back to the Lodge.

Andy has apparently forgotten all about the hit-and-run child death he was investigating. Lucy is a better cop than Andy. She saw Chad stealing Truman’s mail and was mildly suspicious about it.

The nasty Richard Horne will get Steven and Gersten and the armpit rash girl and her friend involved in his drugs deal with the sinister Red. Chad is already involved, as is the last of the Renaults. We will see signs of this developing. In the last episode they will all get caught in a big net dropped from a tree by Hawk.

But that’s later. This week, Richard will visit his mom, Audrey, who will be clad in some kind of fetishy disability costume like Rosanna Arquette in CRASH (the good one).

Candy Clark may well do some more epic complaining. But maybe this time she’ll soften, also. Third time’s the charm.

Diane will tell the entirety of Buckhorn, South Dakota, to fuck off.

Detectives Fusco, Fusco & Fusco will interrogate Ike the Spike using the famous “bad cop, bad cop, bad cop” routine. Ike will refuse to snitch until they get Uri Geller in to give his spike metal fatigue, then he’ll tell them everything.

In episode 12 Norma will look concerned. I think also eventually it will be revealed that she’s living with Big Ed at his Gas Farm.

We will find out who the girl was who got the frog-moth down her throat. We will be surprised.

Who’s going to play Philip Jeffries? I think the only exciting guest stars left are Monica Bellucci and John Savage. Since Bellucci will be more surprising, it ought to be her. Or maybe Jim Belushi will unzip his head and reveal that he’s really been Monica Bellucci all along. All his life.

Leo Johnson’s skeleton will be found in a lonely cabin, clutching a rope between his teeth. The Deer Park deputy Bobby shot and buried in the woods in FIRE WALK WITH ME will be uncovered by animal activity. It will turn out that the owls really ARE what they seem.

Dougie’s friendship with the Mitchum Bros will not be developed in this episode. No good can come of that, even if a shared appreciation for pie and repetition seems like a sound basis for friendship. But they’re not going to be happy with Tom Sizemore. Neither is rival mobster Duncan Todd. But probably they’ll all wait an episode before doing anything about it. And then Bushnell Mullins will get to punch somebody out. You can’t have the remarkably spry Don Murray as an ex-boxer with a poorly-Photoshopped poster and then not have him punch anybody. Not in a show with Tim Roth in it.

Also due for punching: Chad. He won’t get caught in Hawk’s net, Sheriff Truman will apprehend him in his office, and pull the wooden knob repeatedly so that the wood-panelled Skype-screen pops out of the desk really fast and smashes Chad in the face. Then he can Skype Doc Hayward and get him to come over and fix Chad’s face before he’s hauled off by the Feds.

We’ve learned that both Dougie and James were in traffic accidents. It will be revealed that they collided with each other, in an incident caused by Wally Brando’s erratic bikemanship.

A heartwarming scene showing what the woodsmen get up to when they’re not busy being terrifying. They sit around a formica table drinking Cup-a-Soups, possibly. They also whittle.

In an unadvertised cameo, Billy Ray Cyrus will perform at the Bang Bang Bar. Everyone will leave as the credits roll.