Archive for the FILM Category

The Cleveland Blues

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2017 by dcairns

I’m in Billy Wilder Land, for professional reasons (but also for pleasure).

In the case of THE FORTUNE COOKIE, that takes me to Cleveland.

Remarkable how this blackish comedy can looking so much like a bleak European art movie. Partly it’s the b&w coupled with widescreen which pushes thing further away/puts more space around them. But partly I think it’s Cleveland.I’ve never been there, but the place has kind of grey associations for me, based solely on Harvey Pekar’s comic strips, and partly from the scene in Jim Jarmusch’s STRANGER THAN PARADISE where the protags decamp to Ohio and find the city to be an ICY, HOWLING WHITE VOID. If I recall aright, the credits actually claim the film was shot partly on location there, but they might as well have overexposed a shot in a studio against an infinity curve while holding the mic next to a hair dryer.

So those are my mental images for Cleveland: Robert Crumb cross-hatching and howling white voids.I doubt if the place is that bad. I’d be happy to live in one of these houses, if there were a bus route nearby.As for football stadia… well, I know intellectually that people like sport, though I can’t quite see why, but does anyone consider the stadium an attractive thing in its own right? Wilder adds greatly to his film’s melancholy by staging the resolution on a deserted football field (or “green,” as I believe it’s called). With the cleaners looking on.é

Some critics at the time took the film as a sign that Wilder was getting soft…

I like the music — maybe Andrew Preview Andre Previn’s best film score? Walter Matthau’s theme sounds a bit like the later ODD COUPLE, but as if his character of Whiplash Willie Gingrich had sort of sidled up to that score and corrupted it by mere proximity.

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The Double Standard

Posted in FILM with tags , on September 18, 2017 by dcairns

 

  

Movie trailer voice-overs still seem to be pretty much entirely narrated by men — although I get the impression that voice-overs are now considered slightly old-hat. They’re going the way of the hyperbolic superimposed title and it’s all sliced-up bits of dialogue now. Fashion dominates the movie trailer more than in any other form of advertising, leading to them all seeming the same, which seems like a poor way of getting the audience’s attention…

The Sunday Intertitle: Bull!

Posted in FILM, Sport with tags , , , , , , , on September 17, 2017 by dcairns

One last Stan Laurel solo film, then we can move on. MUD AND SAND is Stan’s epic denunciation of Rudolph Valentino (here, Rhubarb Vaseline). All the intertitles, or nearly all, rely on bull-based humour.

Hey, I’m not knocking it.

Visual gags are little more varied, depending largely on the deflation of Dorothy Arzner’s melodrama with pratfalls, but Stan’s first, successful corrida, shot from outside the arena walls, is impressively silly. As the other matadors-to-be anxiously wait for Stan to be carried out arrayed on a stretcher with limbs akimbo, like his predecessors, a stuffed cow flies over the wall, crashing unconvincingly to the ground. And then it all happens again.

The repetition of gags is an interesting phenomenon. Buster Keaton didn’t go in for it, unless he could play a variation on the gag to surprise the audience. I suspect this proud refusal to be predictable was a big part of why he was less popular than Chaplin and Lloyd.

Chaplin repeats incessantly, and the recurring arse-kicks or pratfalls become part of a structured dance. Stan just repeats where it seems likely to get another laugh. It’s been suggested that Laurel & Hardy relied more on predictability than surprise: showing the audience the banana peel before it’s slipped on. The comedy coming from the expected gag happening right on cue. But that doesn’t seem quite right. Everybody shows the banana peel first. But only Buster has characters walk over it without slipping — outsmarting or “double-crossing” the audience.

I want to try to analyse L&H’s approach more closely. I do think they’re the funniest, in terms of intensity and volume and duration and frequency of laughs, of any classic era comedians. It doesn’t matter if you personally like them or not — I think their success is measurable and would be borne out by any laffometer. And they seem to use both jokes of predictability and jokes of surprise — the former making the latter more surprising. And of course there’s the measured pace. They jettison entirely the myriad advantages of pace, to concentrate on getting the most out of every joke by worrying it to death. But there’s even more going on than that, and I want to explore it.

This will mean looking at talkies, since I think the talkies are their funniest films. But maybe a silent or two also…