Archive for June, 2018

Heaven at Either End

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2018 by dcairns

Fiona declares these to be cinema’s best sunglasses.

Thursday’s other screenings:

The one film in the John Stahl series we didn’t see was WHEN TOMORROW COMES, which has a cast of our favourite people… we’ll see it post-Bologna and report back.

The Marcello Pagliero season passed me by, except that I wasn’t about to miss LES AMANTS DE BRASMORTS since it was billed as a misty, melancholic drama about the lives of barge workers. It’s my view that you can’t make a bad film on a barge. You may not do it. This one was very fine, apart from a slightly confused happy ending. Barge movies, like films noir, are generally stronger when they turn out bleakly, though even when they don’t, they sort of do, because your lovers’ reconciliation is, after all, being staged on a fucking barge.

Friday started at the more civilized hour of 9.30 am with the stone-cold masterpiece that is LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, screened in a vintage (sixties) Technicolor print. In sert the words lustrous, lambent and amber into the following paragraph at random. Leon Shamroy’s cinematography didn’t look as intensely-coloured here as it has on home viewings, but the size, the audience response and the atmosphere added to the movie’s power.

That movie filled our whole morning, meaning, for example, that we couldn’t see Boorman’s LEO THE LAST, which also a very beautiful show, with the richest assortment of browns I’ve ever seen. I bet the big-screen experience would have been wonderful, even if the movie itself has problems. It shows why Marcello Mastroianni was never a big star in English-language films.

Then we bumped into Angela Allen, John Huston’s favourite continuity girl, and had lunch with her, where she was fabulously indiscreet. I’d first inveigled my way into her confidence last year, and was thrilled to meet her again. But I won’t dish the dirt. Angela was planning on seeing LIGHTS OUT OF EUROPE, newly restored by MOMA, a 1940 documentary by Herbert Klein, partially shot by a young photographer named Douglas Slocombe. Alas, Slocombe passed away at 104 before he could see this magnificent restoration of his first movie.

We’d been thinking of seeing Rene Clair’s LES DEUX TIMIDES, which has been very well received, but we switched to the Klein film to hang out with Angela, and couldn’t regret it. Extraordinary footage, gather by Slocombe in hazardous conditions — he’d gone to Danzig in 1939 to film conditions, and was there when the Nazis invaded, getting out by the skin of his teeth. Had he not done so, somebody else would have had to shoot IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, THE SERVANT, THE MUSIC LOVERS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

The movie screened with Joris Ivens’ LA SEINE A RECONTRE PARIS, scripted by Prevert. I now have to see everything Ivens ever made. I was impressed, let’s say.

Then we saw Bette Davis’ assistant giving an interview and plugging her new book, which we’re told Bette commanded her to write. Well, better write it then. What took you so long? One wouldn’t want Bette’s shade performing a vengeful haunting, would one? Well, maybe just a little.

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Fiona ran out of juice at this point and hit the hay, or what passes for hay at our modest pensione. I went on to Buster Keaton’s THE SCARECROW and GO WEST, with music from Neil Brand (piano) and Frank Bockius (percussion, slide whistle et al). While the day’s final show was highly emotional and had a magnificent score, it was this screening that brought a tear to my eye. There’s a lot of discussion about whether GO WEST is chaplinesque sentiment or a parody thereof. I think it’s something different from either — Keaton invites you to laugh sympathetically at his character’s misfortunes, and the whole first act is misfortunes. It’s closer to what Harold Lloyd does with THE FRESHMAN. He doesn’t stop the comedy in order to aim for tears, as Chaplin will (with lightning-fast transitions of tone). When Keaton, bilked of everything he owns, sits down next to a dog, and tentatively pats its head, and the dog turns tail and walks off, we’re meant to laugh, not cry.

The emotional whammy, which had never happened to me on previous screenings, came when Keaton finally makes a friend, Brown Eyes the cow. By playing this moment TRIUMPHANTLY, Brand and Bockius unleashed all the sorrow of the previous scenes which Keaton had suppressed. It took me by surprise, which is always a good way to disarm. I blinked away a manly tear, stinging with sun-block.

Then I was off to the Teatro Communale — pictured — Bologna’s epic opera house — for SEVENTH HEAVEN, likely to remain the highlight of this fest. A great silent movie in a new, Foxphorescent restoration and an orchestra playing Timothy Brock’s new score and a spectacular setting and the company of Meredith Brody and Gary Meyer are a hard combination to beat. I hope to say more about this experience, but right now words fail me, as they must always do when the subject is a Frank Borzage masterpiece.

 

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I Guess That’s Why They Call Them McHughs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2018 by dcairns

Thursday kicked off with LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY, a fun Marion Davies vehicle in which she played twins, separated at birth and never really reunited since director Monta Bell apparently hadn’t heard of split-screen. One twin is posh and boring, to make producer William Randolph Hearst happy, one is a boisterous Irish colleen, to give vent to Davies’ comedy chops, if chops can be said to have a vent.

The old New York setting was amusingly rendered — 5th Avenue looked like a troglodyte enclave, and there were walk-ons by a nubile Thos. Edison and an eight-year-old Teddy Roosevelt. The movie burst into Technicolor to render scenes in the variety hall where Davies dances, and when the electric street lights come on for the first time.

Frank Currier throttles Charles McHugh. We all win.

The daily spanking was performed on Davies by her rambunctious da, ever-ready to bean an Orangeman with a brick, and then on him by her. The Davies sire was played by Charles McHugh, the spit of Matt McHugh, whom I take to be his son, but neither the IMDb nor Wikipedia confirm this.

Matt turned up, in an archetypal sidekick role as Butts McGee, hero’s ivory-tickling pal, in THE MAD GAME, a Fox post-code with a lot of interesting elements. It does go downhill when gangster Spencer Tracy reforms and has plastic surgery to go undercover. You can’t really disguise a face like Tracy’s. Everything is too big to add to. The anonymous artisan entrusted with the job dyes the star’s hair, tans his skin, applies a Dirty Sanchez mustache, wouldn’t-it-be-rubbery yellowface eyelids, false teeth and a lot of Don Corleone appliances stuffed in his mouth. Even Tracy can’t act through that lot, and it kind of hurts to look at him, but he does do a good voice — very Don Corleone, in fact.

This may be why Tracy didn’t use much make-up when he played Mr. Hyde. And have you EVER seen him in an effective make-up?

Meanwhile, the great Frank McHugh (or Fronk McHuge if you’re Jean-Pierre Melville), with whom the McHugh clan reached its schlub-apogee, has been conspicuously absent from Bologna, something that should be rectified with his own retrospective sometime soon.

A Continental Op

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2018 by dcairns

While Fiona slumbered, I headed to the showing of 1898 movies with a scientific bent. Fiona was rather put off by the advertised HYSTERECTOMIE ABDOMINALE; ABLATION DE LA TUMOUR. A friend pooh-poohed the prospects of graphic and upsetting images: “Well, they couldn’t show much in those days.” But the film turned out to be made for training purposes: almost before you’ve decided that you’re looking at a woman’s inverted abdomen, the surgeon has it sliced open and pulls from the interior a round, shiny object about the size of Cate Blanchett’s head, which he proceeds to clamp off and sever, flashing an ingratiating smile at the camera from time to time. And he looks a lot like James Robertson Justice from the DOCTOR films, too. “What’s the bleeding time?”

Later he successfully sued one of his cameramen for selling the film to carnies.

The same program, which was nothing less than varied, gave us a range of subjects from Meliés, including the expected trick films — I like L’HOMME DES TETES OU LES QUATRES TETES EMBARRASSENT because the title is so explicit.

The 1898 shorts are grouped (by curator Marianne Lewinsky) according to Meliés’ own system — he claimed the four genres are Scientific Scenes, Open Air Scenes, Dramatic Scenes and Fantastical Scenes. That does seem to cover most of the possibilities…

There was more graphic blood-letting in the evening with SUSPIRIA, looking more amazing than ever in its new restoration. It did bring up one of the few complaints you hear about Il Cinema Ritrovato: the duration of introductions. Here we had the cinematographer and the director of the forthcoming remake banging on for forty minutes, each lengthy observation requiring laborious translation. It would have made a fine seminar earlier in the day, but was too much for this venue. The thing that really upsets me is when they show something child-friendly in the Piazza Maggiore and you see kids falling asleep before the movie even starts, coshed by the somnolence-inducing pre-match analysis.

But all was forgiven once Argento (before he became a surprise hero of the #MeToo movement) started slashing up his cast. Incidentally, why is the first victim named “Pat Hingle”? If that’s a hommage, it’s a very strange one.