Archive for Arnold Fanck

Fanck Goodness

Posted in FILM, Politics, weather with tags , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by dcairns

OK, OK, here are some snowy images from Arnold Fanck’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN. It really is a most gorgeous film. Although the “mountain film” genre was some kind of a favourite in 30s Germany, I struggle to find any really sinister ideology in it. The worst you could say is that it favours male friendship over heterosexual love. The love of nature does feed into the whole Hitler Youth cult, but is actually pretty innocuous by itself.

Luis Trenker is the principle male object of beauty on display, his face as rugged as The Dreadful North Face of the Santos where he eventually risks death. Or if, rugged manliness isn’t your thing, the film also offers, in defiance of logic and history, Ron Mael from Sparks —

But the scenic splendour is the whole show, magnificently captured by Fanck’s team of cameramen. Not only the big scenic shots with tiny posed figures for scale (all arranged without the aid of walkie-talkies!), but the details and inserts too.

Hey, remember how Werner Herzog made a mountain film, SCREAM OF STONE? Remember how it stank? Actually, Herzog’s recovery from that prolonged period of seeming irrelevant and washed-up is arguably as remarkable as Polanski’s. Herzog had the advantage of his documentary career, which never declined as much as his feature-film reputation, but his documentaries now loom much larger in his legend than they originally did.

Fanck was a documentarist too, which shows in his foregrounding of the scenic and his insistence on reality in the mountaineering stuff. Also in how all this is more significant than plot, which is minimized so each photographic opportunity can be fully exploited for the greatest viable duration. He’s rather good at keeping the balance.

With Herzog, it generally comes out in the freakish “reality” of what he’s filming, whether it be the boat going up the hill, the dwarfism of his entire cast, or Christian Bayle losing lots of weight (again).

What with Christmas on the way and all —

The Sunday Intertitle: Fanck Heaven

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by dcairns

A late entry to The Late Show Late Films Blogathon.

One more  MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH limerick, Here.

This appreciation of actor Eric Linden by Dan Callahan over at The Chiseler is so terrific I had to recommend it. I toyed with writing something on this intriguing player, but I only got as far as “Adept at playing virginal, hysterical hicks, a sort of female Zasu Pitts.” Somehow, that seemed inadequate, but Callahan nails it.

An Intertitle. This movie has the shoutiest intertitles I’ve ever seen. The fact that they’re in German probably helps slightly, but it’s not the deciding factor — size, font, explanation marks, and hysterical repetition have more to do with it.

I’m way behind on Fanck. The one I should have watched, THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU (because of Pabst’s contrib) eluded me, and my hand fell upon THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and before I knew it had slotted the thing into the darned Panasonic and I was watching Leni Riefenstahl cavorting away, Isadora fashion, by the pounding surf. But all the while dreaming of mountains! And mountaineers!

The mountain photography is astounding (I have seen the Tay Ganett Americanization of Fanck’s SOS ICEBERG, which is equally impressive in its nature photog) but I’m focussing here on the other visuals, like The Grand Hotel. Fanck may have disdained trick shots for his scenic dioramas — even including an admonition to the audience not to assume any of this is faked up by the camera — but he’s happy to let FX create a more impressive and modern structure than his location scouts could find or his studio contain.

And at the film’s TOUCHING THE VOID climax, a stunning hallucinatory vision of an icy afterworld is largely the product of the special-effects-man’s imagination and skill —

Re Leni: I’m a little agnostic about her “charms.” Admittedly, she has an athletic prowess not many actors could have brought to the role. Maybe it’s because I know her as an old lady and I can see her centenarian face superimposed over her youthful one. Maybe it’s the whole Nazi thing. I’ve yet to find a Nazi leading lady I could really warm to, although it’s possible I’m just not trying hard enough.

Silent German films and their dancing women… I guess because the films were silent, they seem to have eschewed choreography as an unwanted burden on their free spirits. Fritz Lang is particuarly bad at this: poor Brigitte Helm is left to flail about on her own in METROPOLIS, and there’s similar limb-thrusting in SPIONE. Leni acquits herself somewhat better, and I guess the motivating idea is exuberance and GUSTO rather than elegance or grace, but there’s an unfortunate hint of Elizabeth Berkeley in SHOWGIRLS about her cavortions (yes, “cavortions” is a word, now). It spills over into her general performance — her character is apt to bound into a room and stand smack in the centre, arms out-thrust as if inviting crucifixion. No wonder Dr. Fanck was always trying to smother her in avalanches.

Buy Dr Fanck’s mountainfilm!