Archive for the Television Category

The Shakespeare Sunday Intertitle: You cataracts and hurricanoes!

Posted in FILM, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , on July 23, 2017 by dcairns

Last week’s intertitle from an Italian KING LEAR of 1910 was in English, so it makes just as much sense that this week’s, from 1909 American adaptation of the same play, is in German.

An interesting contrast, in other ways: while the Italians enacted their arm-waving al fresco, the American film is wholly studio-bound. Though even shorter than the Italian abridgement, it packs in more of the plot, so we get Gloucester and his sons in their subplot, complete with sleight-of-hand blinding. And this one rightly considers the storm a key set-piece, something you can’t just leave out and replace with your lead actor talking to  a rock. They break out the special effects kit to give us interior rain and lightning-bolts. In this case, the SFX equipment seems to consist of a wire brush to produce multiple diagonal scratches on the negative (rain) and a scalpel to etch in little S.S. style symbols (lightning). The backdrop also lights up from behind, and the FX “team” seems to change their style of thunderbolt as the film goes on. The top image shows a long, thin fellow zapping in from top right, whereas the frame-grab below has a chubby little fellow aiming right at Lear’s head (well, he did ask for it).

Oddly, the interior filming makes this one seem a lot less sophisticated than last week’s. Even the beards are inferior. Maybe it’s just that transferring a play to scenic settings feels more “cinematic” than doing it on cheap sets? If so, that’s really just an illusion.

The megalithic backdrops put me in mind of the Granada TV version with Olivier, whose Stonehenge chic look always seemed rather kitsch. I slightly prefer the Elizabethan approach of Jonathan Miller’s rival BBC production, but both approaches unavoidably raise questions, since Shakespeare is never consistent about period (bad Shakespeare!). Maybe the best way to build a world for Lear would be a mix-and-match design.

William V. Ranous stars and co-directs with J. Stuart Blackton. The IMDb credits are wondrously woolly, with two Gonerils and two Regans credited and one woman playing both. Thomas H. Ince and Maurice Costello are supposed to be in it too, but we don’t know what as.

Google translates:

Because Gloster helped the King Lear, his eyes were cut off and he was driven away.

Got a light?

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , on July 18, 2017 by dcairns

This is the water and this is the well…

Drink full and descend…

The horse is the white of the eye…

And dark within.

Words from Twin Peaks, images from OF HUMAN HEARTS.

OFH has lots of good scenes and good actors — Beulah Bondi, Walter Huston, James Stewart and Charles Coburn, but alas it’s all building up to a deeply bogus scene with a deeply bogus Abe Lincoln, played John Carradine from under a terrifying waxy residue applied by Jack Dawn and/or Josef Norin. It’s totally inflexible apart from the crease at his upper lip that lets him talk. They’d have been better off with an animatronic version, even though animatronics in them days would have meant building a face the size of King Kong’s mechanical mask and having Mickey Rooney run around inside it pulling levers.

Twin Peaks, meanwhile, is slowing down time. And not just with daring choices of pacing, like three minute shots lingering on a floor being swept or two people looking at a third person smoke a cigarette. The weekly dosage is making my weeks seem longer, due to the suspense. Seven days suddenly feels like seven days again.

Although, I’m not sure I’d recommend watching episode eight alone in a foreign hotel with apparently no other guests. Good thing I’m a tough SOB. Fear is a stranger to me. A grubby, bearded stranger with fingers that can shatter bone.

Peak Condition

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2017 by dcairns

YES, now that you mention it, we ARE still enjoying the new series of Twin Peaks, thank you very much!

One intriguing thing about David Lynch & Mark Frost’s version of the world here is that apparently no one ever retires. Lynch himself, in his early seventies, is on active duty for the FBI. Ernie Hudson is a colonel in the Pentagon, aged 72. Robert Forster, new sheriff in town, is in his late seventies, and he’s assisted by Michael Horse, who’s in his late sixties. And the great Don Murray, in his late eighties, is running an insurance company. “The sheriff is, like, 90,” sneers bad boy Richard Horne, inaccurately.

Richard Beymer, 79, runs a hotel, while his screen brother, David Patrick Kelly, is in the marijuana business at 66. I don’t believe retirement has ever been formalised in that particular trade, though it has often been assumed to be a young man’s game.

And maybe it should be?

At 83, Russ Tamblyn’s Dr. Jacoby doesn’t seem to be practicing psychiatry anymore, but he’s, uh, sort of in business for himself.

Harry Dean Stanton is running a trailer park at, like, 90.

My supposition is that when we finally meet Everett McGill as Big Ed, he’ll still be working in a gas station at 72, and Warren Frost, as Doc Hayward the town GP, he’ll still be practicing medicine*.

Back in season 2, there were some impressive geriatrics also — Mr. Mibbler, the world’s oldest bank teller (Ed Wright, who was 85) — and the world’s oldest waiter, Hank Worden, who was 90. But the way these characters (associated with Lynch-directed episodes) were treated was a little different. Both were subject to jokes about their doddering, their dithering, their slow pace. One could find it a little cruel, and class it in the same camp as Lynch’s casting of little people and disabled people. But one could also ask, who else is casting the very elderly and the oddly-shaped? Lynch is a surreal filmmaker, but he also deals with realities otherwise somewhat neglected. Doesn’t mean he gets a free pass or anything.

When asked if the slow-scrolling highway lines in THE STRAIGHT STORY were a joke on his usual low-angle road shots, Lynch replied, straight-faced, “No. That’s what it looks like when you move at that speed.” And so Mibbler and the waiter gradual and uncertain movements were recorded with the same accuracy. It could be that it’s THE STRAIGHT STORY that shifted the attitude to the elderly, but it’s more likely to be Lynch’s own advancing years.

Anyhow, there are no jokes about Gordon Cole “getting too old for this” or Sheriff Truman taking a long time to cross a room. The only time you’d guess Don Murray’s age is when we first see him stand up, and it takes a bit more effort than it did back in BUS STOP or A HATFUL OF RAIN. Lynch’s vision of aging is now a happily, or angrily, defiant one. Do not go gentle. Lynch & Frost’s weary, rumpled, kindly authority figures will keep on trying to protect us from immortal evil forces.

*Yes, I’ve now watched episode 7. The doc seems to be spending a lot of time fishing, but he also refers to having diagnosed a patient via Skype just the other day. So in the world of Twin Peaks you can be a doctor at 91, though perhaps on a somewhat informal basis.