Archive for April, 2020

Red Herrings

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2020 by dcairns

Dalton Trumbo is the main writer on THE LONE WOLF STRIKES, and you can tell. At the start of the tale, Michael Lanyard, AKA the Lone Wolf, as inhabited by Warren the starving lion William, having previously given up a life of crime for a life of adventure, has given up a life of adventure for a life aquatic, breeding fish in his Manhattan apartment. It makes a nice image, the stacks of fish tanks filling half the view, the picture window opening onto distant skyscrapers — all glassy grids, you see.

We remember of course that Laurence Olivier has a whole speech about oysters in SPARTACUS, Trumbo’s most famous screen credit, so obviously the man was a keen piscatorian and liked to get his hobby up there on the big screen. He liked to write in the bath, also, like a fish, or Waldo Lydecker or Jean-Paul Marat. The plot of this one is about stolen pearls, so the oceanic note is continued neatly.

Eric Blore gets to say: “I couldn’t help myself, sir. Miss Jordan’s a regular VAMpire, sir, she fairly WORMED it out of me!”

Also: “I LOATHE fish!!!” and “OOOH! I’ve spilled the beans!

It’s not so ridiculous, having a detective story where the shamus is more concerned with scallops than sleuthing. CHINATOWN features a discursion on fish at the Abalone Club, Detective Kinderman in EXORCIST III delivers a monologue on carp held over from the original movie on account of its extreme length and irrelevance, and Raymond Chandler began but did not finish a novel, The Big Swim Bladder, in which Philip Marlowe is distracted from a vicious blackmail-and-homicide case by the undulations of a particularly appetising halibut.

The film tries to winkle comedy out of WW being harried by his client, a slightly spoiled heiress, but as she’s the bereaved daughter of a recent murderee, it’s hard to take her being the butt of a joke.

Interesting that guys like Trumbo, Waldo Salt, and various of the Hollywood Ten mainly made a living with this kind of cheery pablum, but racked up reps for high seriousness during their years of unemployment. Still, the dialogue has a zing, and certainly plays to the stars’ well-established personae. “Why Mr. Lanyard, you’re simply…” “Terrific? Of course I am.”

Sidney Salkow, the Tarkovsky of the flat two-shot, once more directs with his customary… attendance? None of his shots match, is what I’m saying.

THE LONE WOLF STRIKES stars Julius Caesar; Mr. Toad; Phyllis Fowler; Mr. Fenty; Lois Clarke; Professor Schmutz; Bob Wayne / ‘Copperhead’; Walt Spoon; Morony; Crowd Member; and Man in Talking Pictures Demonstration (uncredited).

“It’s only when you’re immersed in your fish that you disappoint ME, sir.”

The Sunday Intertitle: Race Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2020 by dcairns

Obvs Soderbergh’s LOGAN LUCKY should be triple-featured along with LOGAN and LUCKY, which came out close enough to it to be a bit confusing to this old man.

It’s quite nice — the plot is neat (though aspects of the prison break had me wondering how on earth anyone on the outside could know this was possible — yet two guys NOT in prison plan a successful break-out), the characters are fun. Smart script by Jules Asner for some reason credited as Rebecca Blunt. It has Seth McFarlane and I still don’t like anything that guy does, but as he’s playing a creep whose story function is to get punched, he wasn’t too damaging.Little Farrah McKenzie, playing Channing Tatum’s kid, is the star of the show, followed by Daniel Craig, essaying another Foghorn Leghorn voice. (Upon beholding him in KNIVES OUT, my sainted mother declared “You can cut his head off but I’ll keep the rest of him.”) Adam Driver continues to be able to do anything, seemingly.On this one I felt like Soderbergh’s cinematography (rich like OCEAN’S 11 even without the aid of neon) was better than his editing. There are lovely passages like a-lying-in-bed montage where each image bleeds through at different speeds on different sides of the frame — did he do lighting changes on set like in CITIZEN KANE or is it just the wonders of colour correction? But that’s a directorial choice. The actual ordering of images and cutting within sequences didn’t strike me as particularly deft, with scenes dying out on weak notes and a lack of clarity in their linkage. The two deleted scenes included on the DVD should have been in there, also (whereas I recommend the outtakes from OUT OF SIGHT for the sheer “WTF were they thinking?” quality of the bath essence dialogue).

But it’s fun. Almost made me forget this was Trump country and I should hate these people. Well, one shouldn’t hate. (The UK trailer for the film used alternate takes and different versions of gags which made for a snarkier, more Coens-like portrayal of the characters, presumably calculated to appeal more to smug Brits like me.) But, owing to events that overtook the filmmakers, politics does become the trumpeting elephant in the room. Like, if King of the Hill were airing today, it would be a much darker, more unlovely show.

How Are We Doing?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2020 by dcairns

oldboy

Checking in with you guys. How’s lockdown treating you?

I can’t complain. A bunch of work has been coming in, which I’ll tell you about nearer release time, so I’ve been oddly busy, and Fiona’s joining in on a forthcoming one so, having finished her work for Edinburgh Film Festival, she’s got a new project to occupy her.

I hadn’t mentioned the appearance of Masters of Cinema’s Buster Keaton, 3 Films, Vol 2. (featuring BATTLING BUTLER, THE NAVIGATOR, SEVEN CHANCES) mostly because I don’t have a copy yet and forgot it was out. I did a video essay for this with Stephen Horne and Imogen Smith which is getting nice reviews. I’m very pleased with it myself.

Also out this week, KWAIDAN features Shadowings, a collaboration between myself, Fiona and Timo Langer, a 35-min video essay burrowing into the film’s origins and creation. If you liked Golem Time… you’ll also like Shadowings. Lots of research for Fiona on this one, and my friend Kiyoyuki Murakami provided invaluable background long-distance from Tokyo so the piece should break new ground in what’s known about Masaki Kobayashi’s masterpiece in the west.

I think both sets are pretty well compulsory viewing and owning for cinephages, or those who have the loot, anyway.

Buster Keaton: 3 Films (Volume 2) (The Navigator, Seven Chances, Battling Butler) Limited Edition Blu-ray

Kwaidan (Masters of Cinema) Limited Edition Blu-ray