Appointment with Samara

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 18, 2018 by dcairns

Gearing up for Halloween. Finally watched Gore Verbinski’s THE RING, having decided long ago that it was unnecessary to do so, and that the film itself was highly unnecessary. Turns out I was right!

What made me finally want to see it was catching a glimpse on TV and being impressed by what Verbinski does with the scary video bit. The whole film is stylish and atmospheric but the video is GREAT. It’s a real surprise when a lot of the weirdest, most unsettling images turn out to be plot clues.


BUT the movie is only scary twice. Once at the start — the opening of Hideo Nakata’s RINGU is the film’s one lame bit, with the freeze framed scream and all that. And the urban myth thing was already old then. But by inventive staging (lots of shots that look like they’re going to pull a corny startle effect — who’s behind the refrigerator door? — but then just leave you hanging — what a big tease!), Verbinski improves on it. Maybe the rest of the film is less scary because it hews so close to the original, only with more horses, which is weird.

The other moment of real anxiety is at the end when it’s not quite clear where things are going after they think they’ve lifted the curse then find out they’re wrong. Which is pretty much what happens in the original, but anyhow it definitely works.

There is some nostalgia value here. A spooky VHS tape. A chunky TV set. Next day photo processing. A heroine who works for a newspaper. A death-spirit who calls you on your land line, not your cell.

What I remember liking about Nakata’s film was the way nearly every edit within a scene, and certainly every scene change, was surprising and disconcerting. Verbinski tries for some of that but maybe he’s handicapped by Hollywood blandness and convention. Samara < Sadako. And the high spot of the original, the spectre crawling from the TV, is kind of spoiled here by intercutting it with a damn CAR CHASE.

I still haven’t seen his CURE FOR ROAD TO WELLVILLE thing or whatever it’s called. Tempted.

Peter Gabriel album cover.


The Pros

Posted in Fashion, FILM, Sport with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2018 by dcairns

Once again, Claire and Glenn Kenny anticipate me on PAT AND MIKE with an excellent piece I’m not even going to try to compete with. But it inspired me to watch the film for the first time, an easy sell for Fiona on account of the stars, particularly Aldo Ray. Come for Aldo Ray, stay to see Kate Hepburn beat up Charles Bronson.

This one also has William Ching in the schnook role as Pat/Kate’s betrothed, and a good central conceit — his presence “frazzles” Hepburn when she does sports — she’s a superhuman who can excel at anything, but not if he’s watching. There’s a great hallucinatory tennis match in which Kate’s racket shrinks and detumesces while her opponent’s (an intriguing Betty Page type in a satin costume) grows Brobdingnagian. Ching keeps turning up even though he’s not wanted — “I have never hated a man so much!” declared Fiona. And so the movie becomes an attractively progressive story, in which the initially exploitative Tracy character, her shady promoter, become a nurturing partner, highly preferable to the stifling stiff she started out with.

Watched this to get deeper into Cukor for a quick project I’m hopefully finishing today.

Cukor on Tracy/Hepburn: “Chemically they’re so funny together because they should have no rapport at all.” Accentuated here because Tracy isn’t playing a patriarchal authority figure, it’s a welcome return to his shady pre-code scoundrels.

But, aside from the Hepburn-Bronson fight scene, Aldo gets the biggest laughs as a dim boxer (a pure character role, a surprising transition from his introductory perf in THE MARRYING KIND). As when Tracy upends a card table to stop an after-hours poker game. A loud, plaintive and exquisitely drawn-out lament of “Now we’ll never know!” It takes about five seconds for this tiny sentence to be expressed, and it’s somehow touching and hilarious just because “Davie Hucko” thinks it’s an actual observation, something nobody would realise if he didn’t utter it.

Beautiful dialogue by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, who have a way of garbling the language that’s semi-naturalistic, believable enough, but still stylised — every grammatical atrocity has its own demented poetry. Amid the real locations, with the real sports stars with their real human faces, the words are the most artificial element. A better film than ADAM’S RIB, we agreed, once you get past the weirdly huge amount of golf at the start.

Bette’s buttocks

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2018 by dcairns

THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D. is a rambunctious pseudo-screwball, with Bette Davis as flighty heiress and James Cagney as supposedly amiable tough guy, the attempted lightness knocked flying by rambunctious Warner Bros slapstick, the whole movie seemingly targeted at the Davis derriere, undignified recipient of cacti (three times) and catapults (twice). We barely escape the obligatory spanking scene. You marvel at scenarists the Epstein brothers’ ability to resist having Cagney crash his plane into her arse.

Cagney is rendered so obnoxious that the main interest becomes how they can possibly sell a romance, but credit to the writers and actors, they actually manage it, a feat comparable to getting Eugene Pallette airborne, which also happens. William THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER Keighley directs, somehow, with Max Steiner braying in his ear the whole time, his score a Loony Tunes medley of famous themes, which you can distract yourself by naming — once named, each one reveals itself as wholly inappropriate, which never happened in the cartoons. “Oh, Susanna”? But we’re in California!

Max even gets to mickeymouse the sound of cactus spines being extracted from Bette’s bum, which I suppose was a novelty for him. Bette’s declaration of “Either I’m coming down this staircase or Max Steiner is!” is herein answered. Max Steiner is coming down this staircase.

The filmmaking has what they call gusto (nice montages, but we don’t know who did them — Siegel?).

Another first — trailing on the end of that miniature parachute is a miniature Bette. Can’t think of another film where she was rendered as a marionette. It looks to have been tiny. I wonder how detailed?