Archive for December, 2018

Palette Lenser

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on December 31, 2018 by dcairns

Finally watched GATE OF HELL, which is gorgeous — a take-your-breath-away image every two minutes or so — but still not my favourite Kinugasa joint (which would be YOSO). I figure Japanese cinema was filtering through to the west so erratically that this and A PAGE OF MADNESS may have achieved their high reputation partly by chance, striking though they are. Kinugasa made a lot of films, most of them impossible to see with subtitles… who knows what else is out there?

John Huston bigged up his colour experiments in MOULIN ROUGE (which are pretty great — I’m looking forward to the restoration) by saying that previous movies hadn’t done anything artistic with their palettes at all, and were just gaudy — which is blatantly untrue. But he did find time to praise GATE OF HELL, which was nice of him. In fact, GOH is sometimes fairly gaudy, and certainly doesn’t play safe — there are some very bold combinations of intense hues here. (Huston’s approach in MOULIN ROUGE, MOBY DICK and REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE was to mess about with diffusion and with the colour process itself — Paul Schrader has rightly stated that the more artistic approach is to achieve a controlled palette with the design itself, with what you put in front of the lens. (But Huston’s photochemical interventions are frequently glorious.)

 

Huston was probably responding partly to the effects of a foreign film stock and processing, which gave Japanese colour a different look, or a series of different looks. And he wouldn’t have seen many Japanese films at that time, certainly not colour ones. And then there’s the whole Japanese aesthetic approach, which EXPECTS everything to be beautiful — the quest for cinematic beauty, says Kurosawa, is what keeps us at it. So GATE OF HELL is delicious to the eyes even when portraying horrors. Transmuting the horrible, or the banal, or the picturesque, into the transcendentally beautiful seems one possible worthwhile mission for artistic endeavor.

 

Also dig the way Kinugasa’s camera moves of its own volition, sometimes triggered by music more than any onscreen action — it just takes off by itself to close in on a detail, or to depart the scene altogether when it feels like we’ve had enough. It’s a restless observer.

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Let it Snow!

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

We’re moving ahead with the next Shadowcast… our exciting interstellar installment. Meanwhile, if you haven’t experienced our Winter Special, I highly recommend it. Featuring The Terror (2018), SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC (1948) and THE RED TENT (1969).

The Terror stars Professor James Moriarty; Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; John Lennon; Branwell Bronte; June Gudmundsdottir; and Aberforth Dumbledore.

SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC stars Pip; Mr. Meek; Sir Lancelot Spratt; Douglas Bader; Dracula; and Mrs. Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone.

THE RED TENT stars Howard Beale; James Bond; Jill McBain; Capt. Potzdorf; and the voice of Colossus.

Do you like the soundscapes, by the way? I think the next ones will be shorter…

Ward Bonds

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2018 by dcairns

 

Watching WHITE CORRIDORS, (1951) directed by Pat Jackson (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty), was slightly annoying due to a defective copy that kept drifting out of sync. Fortunately, VLC Media Player has a handy function that lets you adjust, but every five minutes I had to nudge the sound half a second forward, which would put it very slightly ahead, and wait until it got behind again and then nudge it forward again… If the film hadn’t been so engrossing I would definitely have given up.

The movie has no direct connection with Jackson’s later THE GENTLE/FEMININE TOUCH, but it’s another hospital soap opera, following a diverse group of doctors and nurses and their patients through the day. Googie Withers plays a surgeon, and no issue is made of her femininity, other than the question of whether she’ll stay at this midlands backwater to be near her research scientist lover James “Madness!” Donald, or go to London where the action is. She’s in danger of being passed over for promotion here in favour of head surgeon Godfrey Tearle’s smarmy son (champion smarmster Jack Watling). Petula Clark plays a probationary nurse struggling through her first day. Like a lot of British films of the period, the movie eschews a lead character in favour of celebrating community, which has the effect of diffusing close identification somewhat, but gives us a more global view of the story world.

 

One terrifying masterstroke: a little boy (beautifully played by actual little boy Brand Inglis) has been admitted with an infected wound: we’re about to discover that his septicemia does not respond to antibiotics. He’s drawing, and his hands begin to shake. He stares at them, uncomprehendingly.

Then Barker cuts to the nursing staff, but with the kid’s bed visible in the foreground. And his tray begins to shake, uncontrollably. But nobody notices (considerable anxiety/horror is created by this) until the lid falls off a tin on his tray.

This and several other plot strands don’t develop in the expected soap opera ways. When a nurse tells on a negligent medico (her former lover), the other “sympathetic” characters turn on her. There’s a bit of dangerous socialist propaganda about the merits of the National Health Service (Yay!) and some satire of the red tape non-emergency cases still have to struggle with. OK, I’m satisfied that Jackson was a reliable talent with flashes of real cinematic dazzle. Now I have to dig into his early wartime work.

Petula and Bernard Lee. Know him anywhere.

Stars Rose Sandigate; Theo Van Gogh; Sharon McLonergan; Kreacher; Lady Winterbourne;  Mrs Grose; ‘M’, Charters; Melanthius; Dickie Winslow; Becky Driscoll; and Mrs Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone;