Archive for Alex Cox

Walking on the Frame

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2020 by dcairns

(It’s crazy how rough my old DVDs of IVAN look compared to the Blu-Rays, images of which I’ve seen but which I do not currently own…)

Eisenstein makes a big thing out of having a character actually walk forward and stand on the bottom edge of the frame in IVAN THE TERRIBLE (among countless other bold compositional devices).

Since so much of, for instance, MACBETH is clearly under the influence of Eisenstein, I’m assuming that Welles’ occasional moments of framewalking are also inspired by this.

(VLC Media Player has decided to screw up the aspect ratio. Still, Welles has achieved the effect of a mass of characters at different distances from the camera all standing on the frame edge by positioning them on different raised platforms. Otherwise, some of them would be cut off at the knees, some at the waist, as they got further away.)

In PATTON, Franklin Schaffner poses George C. Scott on the lower edge, but the effect is somewhat different since the entire screen is transformed into Old Glory, with just the tiny figure at bottom, a graphic effect that’s quite different from Eisenstein and Welles’ pop-up charcoal cartoons.

Of course Welles and even Schaffner score over Eisenstein in my book, despite his visual richness, because they show recognizable human beings while S.E. is totally in the moving-icon business. It’s a personal prejudice of my own — the hinged cardboard of the characters in IVAN is off-putting to me, though I can dig something like COLOUR OF POMEGRANITES which more or less excludes human behaviour altogether.

Been watching too many turkeys, so I wanted to look at an Acknowledged Classic. I recall Paul Verhoeven telling Alex Cox that he rewatched IVAN annually along with THE SEVEN SAMURAI and VERTIGO, “to remind myself that, yes, film CAN be art, because I have almost forgotten this, not only because of what everyone else is doing but because of my OWN work…” I tried ROME, OPEN CITY but my DVD of that has likewise been thoroughly superseded, and a good thing too — it’s taken from an old US print with the original subtitles, which choose not to translate half the dialogue…

Ding Dong Merrily on High

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 15, 2016 by dcairns


Alex Cox was impressed by Alain Cuny in EMMANUELLE, particularly his ability to say “Let me take you to les dernier limites d’erotisme” with a straight face. But I guess when you have a face like Cuny (left) it can’t help but be straight. His anguished granite slab might, in other circumstances, have made a great basis for a Quasimodo, but he instead gets the plum role of Archbishop Frollo, watching as Anthony Quinn chews up the even meatier part.

Last Forgotten of the year, over at The Notebook!

The First Rule of Film Club…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 1, 2009 by dcairns


…is we must all talk about Film Club.

Above, we see Derek Malcolm, one of Britain’s finest film critics, who presented the first series of The Film Club on BBC2 on Saturday nights in bygone days. My friend Colin McLaren calls him the Walking Talking Stephen Hawking, for reasons which I guess are slightly apparent. I once insinuated my way into a conversation between Malcolm and Bertrand Tavernier at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I say “into,” but mainly I just listened. Couldn’t keep up. Those guys are hardcore cinephiles.

Sadly, the next year, when Malcolm phoned up to make arrangements for his annual visit, he said “This is Derek Malcolm,” and the festival person taking the call said “Who?” — not being rude, I think they just wanted the name repeated so they could write it down, but of course the inference was there that they hadn’t heard of him — and Malcolm hung up and never came to Edinburgh again. Or so I’m told.

Despite all this shameless badmouthing, I’m fond of DM and  The Film Club was a great thing, double features every week of great cinema. In series two we had celebrity guest presenters, a different one every week. Linda Myles presented an Ophuls double bill, Richard Lester introduced LES RIPOUX and TOUCH OF EVIL (“I had nothing to do with choosing this double bill, so I feel happy to say that I think it is, in the words of that other great entertainer of our time, General Oliver North, ‘a really neat idea'”) and Alex Cox introduced something or other so well they gave him a permanent gig of his own, Moviedrome.

Our own Film Club is a more modest affair. On Monday I’ll blog about THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER. Hopefully a fairly long, in-depth piece, but not anything special. The special bit is YOU — hopefully lots of you have seen the film now, or will have seen in by then, so on Monday and the following days we can really tear into the thing and have a jolly good discussion about it, even better than usual (and I am never less than delighted and impressed all to hell with the level of discussion here).

I think this might be a good thing to invite my students in on when term time starts up (a few of them do visit anyway) and the thing will hopefully be educational and fun for all of us. I’ll be delighted if this brings a few lurkers out of the woodwork, causes some occasional Shadowplayers to turn up again, and generally leads to some stimulating debate.