Archive for Belle de Jour

Joyeux Bunuel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on December 21, 2013 by dcairns

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Time for our traditional Shadowplay Xmas cards. I thought Luis “Thank God I’m an atheist” Bunuel would make an inspirational subject.

I call this next one “The Holly and the Ivy and the Agony and the Ecstasy,” or “I Saw Santa Whipping Mommy Raw.”

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“What’s in the box, Don Luis?” Do not open until Christmas!

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Things I read off the screen in Suddenly, Last Summer

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2013 by dcairns

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What can you see in the shadows?

There are spoilers in this…

Though Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s use of horror movie tropes to depict homosexuality in his adaptation (with Gore Vidal) of Tennessee Williams’ SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER has drawn comment, I suspect in time we may come to be more alarmed by the film’s depiction of Mexican street boys as cannibals, and lunatic asylum inmates as zombies.

Of course, there is a certain amount of weaseling around the cannibalism thing — “It looked as if” Sebastian had been eaten alive, we are told. But the sequence as staged by Mankiewicz evokes Romero horror movies which had not yet been made, plus THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and the climax of ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (two other movies with very queer gentlemen who play God), and it’s supposed to prove that Liz Taylor is NOT insane, so even if we don’t take it 100% literally, we have to take it as to some extent true.

(John Gielgud dubbed the play, “Please Don’t Eat the Pansies.”)

Williams’ evocation of the monstrous-feminine, ably embodied by Katherine Hepburn in Mrs Bates embalmed mode, might also raise eyebrows. Perhaps we need to just admit that the Gothic imagination is not inclined to be politically correct.

Poor Monty Clift is very good in a role (sympathetic lobotomist!) that basically involves looking quietly freaked at how goddamn WEIRD everybody is in this picture — a vital role to make the audience acclimatize.

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LOOK: Even when Hepburn casually picks up a magazine in the hospital sun room, it features swimsuit sexiness on the back cover and a devouring tropical beast on the front.

Occurred to me that Hepburn’s first scene, with the primeval garden (containing its own Audrey II flesheater in miniature greenhouse) is like the briefing of Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP, and the movie is a Freudian detective story like SPELLBOUND or MARNIE, but even more investigative and Marlowesque than those. And did Bunuel clock Hepburn’s buzzing box and steal it for BELLE DE JOUR, perhaps thinking that, although the specially-imported Venus flytrap food was a good gag, it was a pity to introduce a mysterious buzzing box and ever explain what was up with that?

Jack Hildyard’s photography is incredible, well served by the DVD.  His career seems to have gone to shit after MODESTY BLAISE, but before that he shot BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI — he also did uncredited work for Mankiewicz on CLEOPATRA and much as I love Leon Shamroy (The King of Technicolor), I have a suspicion that the nocturnal throne-room stuff in that movie which is FAR handsomer than anything else in it, may conceivably be Hidlyard’s contribution. I’d love to know.

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What a weird film. Though Clift and Taylor have mucho chemistry in A PLACE IN THE SUN, here their love story is pretty flimsy, and the movie brushes aside any qualms about Clift falling for a patient (whom he also hypnotizes). The grotesque circus hangs together remarkably well, with all its brazenly unsubtle symbolism and incantatory, Salome-esque monologues, but the romance may be a beat too many. Whatever — just getting a freakshow like this made at MGM deserves some kind of chutzpah award.

Embarrassing note: I’d never seen it.

Fiona: “You have so seen it. I’ve seen it!”

Me: “But we have not seen all the same films, because we are two people.”

Though this at times seems decreasingly true.

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Things Roddy said during “Dracula”

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2009 by dcairns

Hammer horror: perversely seasonal. DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Roddy sure likes his vampire movies. He watched the Hammer DRACULA, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, over three days, and found room for the Universal DRACULA with Bela Lugosi too.

Gotta love the way the theme music to DRACULA — better known as Swan Lake — warbles like a faulty gramophone.

And then they take care to explain all about vampires before we see any, and then cut ahead to Castle Drac to see the Count rising from his sepulchral slumber, along with his pet bugs and opussums. It’s all about clarity — establish that he’s a vampire, see? because if you don’t do that, the extreme reticence with which the film treats his blood-drinking makes him look like a sexual pervert. Dracula descends on Dwight Frye: fade to black. Upon a little waif in a dark street: fade to black. Frye creeps up on an unconscious woman: fade to black.

Ben Hecht wrote that Hollywood’s insistence on fading out for sexual interludes led him to imagine rampant intercourse whenever a film faded out for any reason whatever: the DA rogers the judge across his desk, the coach assaults his team, the chorus line fall upon, de-bag and ravish Warner Baxter. All is fade-out depravity.

At a not-too subconscious level, this erotic subtext is a big part of Roddy’s love of vampire movies.

“Oh, there’s the castle, ho ho!”

“Uh oh — David!”

“Where’s the female vampires, can’t even see them…”

Roddy keeps up a running commentary of non-sequiturs during most films, as well as baths, trips to the bathroom, and any other activity that doesn’t fully occupy his mouth muscles.

Love the track in on Lugosi during his first entrance, perversely accompanied by opossum squeaks. Reminds me of Deneuve and the cats in BELLE DE JOUR — the similarity is so striking that I suspect an influence. After all, Bunuel was just getting into movies when DRACULA came out.

“Oh, there he is!”

“You look busy writing there, David.”

Dracula: “I never drink…” and then the word “wine” is drowned out by Roddy, the teetotaler, declaring “Good man!”

“It’s only a bat, for God’s sake!”

“What’s happened there. What’s he doing? What’s he — uh oh!”

“They’re nice girls. Well, they seem friendly.”

When the asylum nurse calls Renfield a loony, “Loony, ho ho!”

“Do you think there’s such a thing as bats?”

Roddy, as usual, speculates on what he’d be like as a vampire: “I’d have to wear a black jacket, a red-black cloak, black shoes, and then I’d be like that Dracula.”

So if you happen to encounter a short, stout man, caped, black-jacketed and shod, naked from the waist down, do not be unduly alarmed.