Archive for the FILM Category

Static

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2016 by dcairns

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Another day, another bad John Frankenheimer movie. But he directs the shit out of all of them, I have to say — total commitment.

YEAR OF THE GUN. A film about Italy’s Red Brigade, made from an American perspective with a British screenwriter and producer seems an odd proposition, especially in 1991. The film is set in 1978 but is petrified of seeming like a period movie — the seventies didn’t come back into style until the late nineties so there are lots of students with short hair in this. The only obvious attempt at evoking period is to have the protags take shelter in a cinema showing STAR WARS — composer Bill Conti, he of the cheesy synths, attempts a tinny paraphrase of John Williams in the lobby, which is hilarious.

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The British input may account for the hero’s lack of heroism — harking back to Graham Greene, we like our American heroes baffled and impotent. But Holly Martins in THE THIRD MAN is also funny and sweet. Here we have Andrew McCarthy, whose character isn’t dumb like Holly, but isn’t endearing either. McCarthy doesn’t burn with screen charisma, and looks like a baby potato, but may be underrated as an actor — he does extremely good outrage. He just doesn’t pull us in, and the script gives us no reason to care  — we have to wait for Sharon Stone to turn up, which takes ages, and then things do get a bit more exciting. Seeing this, I wonder she didn’t really get noticed earlier. Frankenheimer responds to her ferocity.

No dutch tilts in this one, but some extreme deep focus and wide angle lenses and slomo and a lot of sweeping camera moves. None of which redeems the lacklustre and unfocused narrative — I don’t think the script is underdeveloped, I suspect it’s been overcooked with too many notes and rewrites. The sex scenes are awful — Frankenheimer applies himself with gusto, but they have no plot role to serve, they’re like the potter’s wheel interludes on old TV, only with tits.

Frankenheimer movies either end with violence — like, BANG! bad guy dead The End — or they end with television. Like a man obsessed, Frankenheimer couldn’t help returning to his first medium, which he had been forced out of by James T Aubrey. This one has Dick Cavett turn up at the end to interview the protagonists, a pointless and distracting bit of gimmickry, accompanied by Frankenheimer’s favourite device, the frame-within-a-drame TV set…

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Close in on TV screen. Static. Everything always comes back to white noise with Frankenheimer — the roar of emptiness.

Bridal Sweet

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2016 by dcairns

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Even by the lax – oh, so deliciously lax! – standards of the pre-code era, it’s a surprise in YOUNG BRIDE to find husband and wife Eric Linden and Helen Twelvetrees sharing a marital bed right before our eyes, of Linden showering in full view of his wife. The liberating effect of seeing such ordinary stuff which was usually suppressed is oddly touching.

Also eye-opening is the way Linden’s no-good pals Cliff ‘Ukukele ike’ Edwards, Polly Moran and Arline Judge transform from comedy relief proletariat in the Warner Bros vein, to a pack of baying wolves, hungry for blood. Warners films could get pretty dark, but they were rarely predicated on the notion that ordinary people are horrible. This movie depicts a rather frightening world, in which the innocent heroes seem ill-equipped for survival.

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Linden is cast as a Cagneyesque braggart, which he falls fascinatingly short of – the character’s inability to live up to his own self-image is immediately obvious rather than being slowly revealed – in Cagney’s hands, the self-disgust would have been buried twenty feet deeper.

Twelvetrees is fluent and natural and quite touching. She’s called upon to discover a core of strength as the story goes on, which is more of a stretch and therefore more satisfying to see.

It’s an RKO-Pathe production – The Chicken that Conquered the World. Pair it with yesterday’s slutty polar bear.

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Less TV! More pre-codes! New Year’s Resolution #48.

Polar Opposite

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 4, 2016 by dcairns

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One has to regret the linguistic quirk that causes Swedish and Danish films to end with a word which may mean “The End” as far as they’re concerned, but seems like a hurled imprecation to English-language viewers. When the movie ends with a romantic clinch it’s even more unfortunate, though in the case of MURDER MELODY (above) the cavorting bear is a cheerily surreal addition.

More on this film, a fun murder mystery directed by Bodil Ipsen, over at the Notebook in this week’s edition of The Forgotten.

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