Archive for the Politics Category

Epic Fail Safe

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2020 by dcairns

You know what they say: “When a fail-safe system fails, it fails by failing to fail-safe.”

It was a natural for Bologna to programme this one in the season Henry Fonda for President — that most presidential actor played the top man or else a potential top man in a whole programme’s worth of films, but the other beautiful connection is between this and DAISY KENYON for the appearance of the BIG TELEPHONE.

A nuclear threat — bombers accidentally sent towards Moscow, the War Room desperately tried to call them back. We’ve had the freak technical fault, but who will crack under the strain, junky Fritz Weaver, Larry Hagman who didn’t take good care of his nukes in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, hawkish wingnut Walter Matthau (EXCEPTIONALLY good) or Dan O’Herlihy who is plagued by a Recurring Matador Dream?

(The RMD is the only example I can think of where a filmmaker — Sidney Lumet — makes CREATIVE USE of matte line, a shimmering outline carving O’Herlihy out from the throng, and allowing him to be differently lit — from screen left rather than right — and exposed. See also the weird device where the B-52s B-58s are shown in negative. Peculiar, but the great Ralph Rosenblum’s cutting is so sharp you barely have time to register the strangeness.)

The scene-for-scene parallels with DR. STRANGELOVE are striking, as I knew they would be, but they’re MORE striking than I expected — I hadn’t known that the author of the novel Red Alert, which STRANGELOVE is based on, sued the author of the novel Fail Safe, for plagiarism — I heard about that at this excellent podcast. It is amazing to see a beat-for-beat repetition until the ending, which takes things in a radically new direction.

Lumet’s war room is perhaps a little too science-fictional, and too much like a bing hall at the same time, but the wide lens filming and dramatic cutting, each angle-shift callibrated for dramatic effect. It makes one conscious of how sloppy most mise-en-scene and montage are. As in WE MUST LIVE, there were simple cuts to familiar faces that achieved intentional, intelligent JOLTS.

You can’t talk about Lumet having a tragedy — he loved making films and he was able to make them for his whole life and his last two are highlights — but if he had a tragedy it would be that he thought of himself as a journeyman who could turn his hand to anything, when in fact he was always best with a socially-relevant thriller, often with a New York element (though THE HILL among others shows his ability to travel well).

FAIL SAFE stars Robinson Crusoe; Abraham Lincoln; Senator Long; Sheriff Heck Tate; Juror 6; Professor Biesenthal; Gov. Fred Picker; Dr. Robert MacPhail; Boss Hogg / Thaddeus B. Hogg / Abraham Lincoln Hogg; and Buddy Bizarre.

The Sunday Intertitle: Damn this War!/This Damn War! (with added panther)

Posted in Comics, FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2020 by dcairns

Continuing to investigate the work of Alfred Machin. I thought at first there was little available, but actually a good bit of his early work is on YouTube.

MAUDIT SOIT LA GUERRE (1914) is fascinating because it’s an early feature, because it’s an anti-war movie made mere months before WWI broke out, and because it sorta predicts aerial warfare, with biplanes blowing up balloons and stuff, all staged full-scale.

But I’m also impressed by the stencil colour, which firstly is used to differentiate one side from the other: the two main tints are those applied to the unnamed rival nations’ uniforms. But then we get bright green grass, red roof tiles, and then, for the numerous explosions, flashes of all-over red.

Machin was doing his very best to personalize the concept of “the enemy” with this story of friends from different countries who find themselves fighting to the death on opposite sides. If we thought of the other side as people like us, it would be a lot harder to kill them.

Another thing I devoured recently was Jacques Tardi’s similarly titled graphic novel Goddamn This War!, translated and released by Fantagraphic Books, which paints a remorselessly grim (series of) picture(s) of the whole of WWI, largely from a French infantryman’s viewpoint. Tardi chooses to make his protagonist politically aware and cynical about the war from the get-go, eschewing the traditional journey from naive patriotism to war-weary cynicism. By starting downbeat, Tardi seems to leave himself nowhere to go, which is kind of true, but then he GOES THERE. So we get bludgeoned by page after page of horror and misery, and it’s exhausting — as it should be. I could barely finish it.

Light relief: Machin casts his favourite star, Mimir the panther, in an earlier short, SAIDA A ENLEVE PIS (1913).

The one with the duplicated line

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , on August 14, 2020 by dcairns

filmdire

I have a question, but first, something nice.

In THE BIG SLEEP Bogie asks the phony bookshop girl is she has “a Ben Hur, third edition, the one with the duplicated line on page 116?”

She doesn’t, and neither do I, but I do have The Film Director as Superstar by Joseph Gelmis, and on page 168, during the Bertolucci interview, there is a poetically perfect duplicated line:

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After Bert claims that BEFORE THE REVOLUTION was “a way to exorcize my own fears,” dealing as it does with a young bourgeois European trying to disassociate himself from his background to become a revolutionary. Gelmis asks Bert whether he in fact succeeded, since his next film, PARTNER, seems to deal with those fears all over again.

Bert says, “I think it’s the same story. I’m still exorcizing.

Then Gelmis asks a question about the influence of Pasolini.

“I think it’s the same story. I’m still exorcizing,” says Bert. And then, “common.”

A duplicated line! The stray word “common” shows that something else was supposed to go there. But the repetition of a sentence in which Bert confesses to repeating himself is a magnificent intervention by the universe, in the form of a printing malfunction. There’s no escape, Bert!

At the top, my edition. Below, the other edition.

filmdirect

So, I would like to know what BB actually said, so if you have a copy of the book that’s a different imprint from mine, please look it up and tell me. On the other hand, I love it just the way it is. THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS.