Archive for the literature Category

Sub Saharan

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2023 by dcairns

I’d been meaning to see the French version of Pabst’s L’ATLANTIDE ever since I saw a ratty copy of the English version.

It plays like a fever dream, and can only be made sense of if we assume Brigitte Helm as the Queen of Atlantis is the embodiment of some kind of psychotropic drug, and Pierre Blanchar a man in thrall to addiction.

The epic settings, bleak and alien, give way to claustrophobia once we’re entombed with Brigitte, and things quickly stop making sense. Oneiric doesn’t begin to cover it.

The movie benefits from a very fulsome and exotic score by one Wolfgang Zeller. Stays quiet for ages then kicks in and barely lets up, adding to the fervid atmosphere. Zeller also scored VAMPYR, which makes sense.

Incredible to think Pabst supposedly made this the same year as PANDORA’S BOX *and* DIARY OF A LOST GIRL *and* THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU. He’d been making a solid film a year since 1923 and suddenly this explosion of crazed masterpieces. With its Algerian desert locations — among the best desert stuff I’ve ever seen — this is not exactly a modest production.

If the movie IS a production from 1929, per IMDb, this would be like BLACKMAIL, a film full of music because it still has one foot in silent cinema. But the IMDb only dates the French version to 1929, the English and German ones came out in 1932, so if the 1929 thing is a mistake, this would be part of the great German rediscovery of film scoring that also includes DER MORDER DIMITRI KARAMASOFF and DER MANN, DER SEINEN MORDER SUCHT.

My house is full of Pabst materials right now for reasons, so it should be possible to ascertain whether this is his first sound film or if WESTFRONT 1918 has that honour. IMDb proudly proclaims that this one opened in Hungary in June ’29, but I can’t see it. Unless, as well as releasing French, English and German versions with different casts, Pabst also prepared a SILENT version three years earlier… OK, The Films of G.W. Pabst, edited by Eric Rentschler, makes no mention of any version of this coming out before ’32. So he’d made WESTFRONT and THREEPENNY OPERA and KAMERADSCHAFT already. THAT makes more sense, or as much as anything in Pabst’s strange, peripatetic and conflicted career, and as much as anything in this delirious and haunting film.

Is This Guy OK?

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on May 18, 2023 by dcairns

Not Dennis Hopper — we know HE’S not OK, but the guy hanging in the foreground.

Important context: from Karl French’s very good book on Apocalypse Now, which alas I can’t seem to lay my hands on right now. But the story as I recall is that production designer Dean Tavoularis invites a colleague into a tent with an air of excitement and there in the tent are some dead bodies, which DT plans to use as set decoration. He explains that this is all above board because he purchased the stiffs from the guy who supplies the Philippines medical schools with cadavers for dissection.

Which I’m sure the guy did, but the guy was also, in a not-unrelated turn of events, a body-snatcher.

If true, the story would tend to corroborate Coppola’s line about the movie, the one that ends with “we went insane.”

The anecdote just kind of lies there on the page, like a stone, indigestible. But then I kind of forgot about it: I assumed none of the non-breathing background artists made it into the film. But I’m not sure.

In the documentary HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE, we can see crew POSITIONING BODIES. If these bodies were live extras, they would presumably help in the process. And I consider them too lifelike to be dummies.

At least the severed heads are OK. They’re real heads, but not really severed. In the doc we get to see them sheltered by parasols between takes. They sat in these boxes all day with their heads poking through holes.

I did think it suspicious that they’d all landed neck-side down.

But what do we think? Did real corpses make it into Coppola’s war epic “in the grand tradition of Irwin Allen”?


Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2023 by dcairns

I would like to live in a world where the director’s cut of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES was available…

Apparently the thing exists, as a VHS tape, probably of the cutting copy. But Disney seem never to throw anything away (those vaults of old cels!) so film elements may exist. Georges Delerue’s beautiful score exists, so it’s possible the soundtrack could be reconstructed at higher quality than the image. It might take a Criterion-Disney hook-up to make something like that happen.

Of course, from Disney’s point of view, releasing Jack Clayton’s version of the film could make them look bad — any credit they acquire for making the thing available would have to be balanced against the old management’s decision to butcher it. But that was the old management — different guys.

No apostrophe, proof of their evil.

As studio botch-jobs go, the results could be worse — James Horner’s derivative but punchy score is one of his best, and some of the new sequences and special effects are effective. I have mixed feelings about the rotoscoped glow added to the pages Jonathan Pryce tears from the book of Jason Robards’ life — the acting is so brilliant in that scene one resents anything else attracting the attention, but then again, the acting is so good that the SFX can’t obscure it.

The spider attack scene is proper scary.

I’m glad Bradbury changed the Sand Witch to a Dust Witch. Seriously, Ray, a Sand Witch?

The climax of the film is a bit of a mess — all kinds of special effects come crashing in upon us with a resulting loss of focus. Maybe Clayton’s version didn’t work either — he told Disney going in that he didn’t have any experience making effects films so he wanted their best people, but the best people were all doing TRON “…so all I got was four old men and a box of fireworks.” Of course once he was in post-production a whole army of trick artists descended on the footage, but without his input.

Anyway, if Sam Peckinpah’s cutting copy of THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, preserved on VHS, can become an extra on the DVD — and that isn’t even a good film nor do Peckinpah’s variant choices fix it — Clayton’s autumnal monsterpiece deserves at least equal treatment. I think it’s as close as anyone has got to successful Bradbury onscreen, though FAHRENHEIT 451 and even The Martian Chronicles do have their moments. But this movie has far more good moments than bad, and the good stuff is more intensely good.

I like the totally unexplained little ballerinas, standing frozen.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES stars Cheyenne; Sam Lowry; Ida Sessions; ‘Minister’; Blind Dick; Sunshine Doré; Jackie Brown; The Master (Blaster); and the voice of Dependents Clearing Officer.