Archive for Bertolucci

Pg. 17, #17

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2020 by dcairns

Going to the cinema as if it were a lover’s date or a dangerous adventure inside a Stagecoach driven by a hero whom we follow blindly through every metamorphosis.

*

How could a guy enjoy dirty movies with females present? We knew there had to be a catch. There was. This wasn’t an American movie. It was French. That’s why it cost so much. A whole dollar. More than Tempest Storm. Our doubts grew stronger when one of my companions perceptively noted, ‘It says subtitles.’ He made the observation as if he’d discovered a dubious clause in the small print of a contract. ‘That means they put all the talking in words at the bottom of the screen.’

*

A silent film without music — he could have found no better way of describing the weird world in which he now moved. He looked at passing objects and people, but they had no colour, vivacity, meaning — he was mentally deaf to them. They moved like automatons, without volition of their own. He could hear what they said, he could understand their words, he could answer them, even; but he did this automatically, without having to think of what they had said or of what he was saying in return. Therefore, when they spoke it was as though they had not spoken, as though they had moved their lips but remained silent. They had no valid existence; they were not creatures experiencing pleasure or pain. There was, in fact, no sensation, no pleasure or pain at all in this world; there was only himself — his dreary, numbed, dead self.

*

What did he want with the beasts? Why, too, had he pretended they were not his when I had remarked about them at first? Then again, in his personal attendant there was a bizarre quality that impressed me profoundly. These circumstances threw a haze of mystery around the man. They laid hold of my imagination and hampered my tongue.

*

He brought back a male orangutan named Tarzan to serve as the sperm donor. He also revised his plan, deciding to seek out female volunteers. Remarkably, he got a few. One woman cheerily wrote to him that she was willing to surrender her body to science because, “I don’t see any sense in my further existence.” Once again, though, fortune did not favor Ivanov. Tarzan died of a brain hemorrhage in 1929 before the experiment could start, leaving Ivanov apeless. The next year Ivanov was swept up in one of Stalin’s political purges and shipped off to a prison camp. He was released two years later, but died soon thereafter. This, as far as we know, brought an end to his research programme.

*

Soon psychopathology replaced ethnicity as the critical demographic determinant. There were no longer Italian neighborhoods, or Cuban neighborhoods, or Irish of Greek neighborhoods. There were Anorexic neighborhoods, and Narcissistic neighborhoods, and Manic and Compulsive neighborhoods. There was no longer a Columbus Day parade or a Puerto Rico Day parade; there was an Agoraphobics Day parade. Fifth Avenue lined with police barricades, traffic diverted. But, of course, the designated route was empty, utterly desolate, because the paraders, the spectators, even the Grand Marshall himself — agoraphobics each and every one — had all stayed away, each locked within the “safety” of his or her own home.

*

One reason for psychoanalyzing Hitler was to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Stanley Lovell seized upon one of Langer’s ideas — that Hitler might have feminine tendencies — and got permission from the OSS hierarchy to see whether he could push the Führer over the gender line. “The hope was that his moustache would fall off and his voice become soprano,” Lovell wrote. Lovell used OSS’s network to try to slip female sex hormones into Hitler’s food, but nothing apparently came of it. Nor was there ever any payoff to other Lovell schemes to blind Hitler permanently with mustard gas or to use a drug to exacerbate his suspected epilepsy. They main problem in these operations — all of which were tried — was to get Hitler to take the medicine. Failure of the delivery schemes also kept Hitler alive — OSS was simultaneously trying to poison him.

*

The final seven passages from seven page seventeens in seven books, reached down from quite high on my shelving.

Bertolucci by Bertolucci, by Donald Ranvaud & Enzo Ungari (whose authorship kinda makes a liar of their title); Flicker, by Theodore Roszak; Hangover Square, by Patrick Hamilton; The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells; Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments, by Alex Boese;  My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist, by Mark Leyner; The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate”: The CIA and Mind Control, by John Marks.

The Clumsy Waiter

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2020 by dcairns

In canceled John Landis’ KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE Donald Sutherland has a surprising cameo — Landis evidently cultivated the star assiduously while assisting on KELLY’S HEROES (and got him again for ANIMAL HOUSE) — as “the clumsy waiter,” a bit that involves cutting to him falling down a lot in waiter garb, as part of a mock trailer for a disaster movie starring George Lazenby… these few moments of crude slapstick may hint at something deeper which would, if viewed from the right angle, unlock the mysteries of cinema.

Sutherland was fresh from Fellini’s CASANOVA and Bertolucci’s 1900. In Mark Cousins’ Scene By Scene interview — I think the best in that series — he tells an amazing story about the latter. In 1900 he plays a fascist who’s literally called Attila and who shows you how bad he is by murdering a cat with his head.

The story’s at about 22:42. The reason this is the best episode is that it’s the only time the central conceit of showing scenes to filmmakers actually results in staggeringly interesting reaction shots. Some of Donald’s expressions in this interview count as among the best of his career.

Bertolucci set the scene, explaining that he would tie a (real) cat to a post, then charge a cunningly substituted fake one headfirst, crushing a bag of blood concealed within. Donald wasn’t exactly keen on smashing into a wooden post with his head, which he needs for acting with, but agreed to do it ONCE.

THUD.

The bag of blood failed to burst. “The actor didn’t hit the cat correctly,” was what Sutherland recalled them saying. OK, one more time.

Some FX genius got the idea of placing two thumbtacks against the baggie, so that it would be pierced by any solid impact.

THUD. SPLASH.

“There. OK?” “No. Not okay.” He has two thumbtacks sticking out of his forehead. He also has concussion.

So he does twenty takes or something crazy until Bertolucci is satisfied. That evening in the bar he’s trying to explain to Gerard Depardieu what he had to do that day and he decides to SHOW them what he had to do. He charges a pillar, trips, crashes into what turns out to be a mirror, and ends up with half his ear hanging off.

The point of this story, besides the striking nature of the events themselves, would seem to be the plight of the actor, but Sutherland plants a seed of doubt in our minds about his physical prowess, and one maybe wonders if the KENTUCKY FRIED skit was inspired by a certain gaucheness in his movements?

Moving on.

Next story comes from John Baxter’s Fellini biography, not his best work, but he describes Sutherland wrapping on his last day on the project. They’re filming in a field. As he’s walking away, wearing a blanket or cloak or something, he does a big wave at Fellini, using the robe for a flourish. It catches the wind, and he’s pulled off-balance and falls in the mud.

He gets up, makes the gesture again, and falls in the mud again.

Moving on again.

This is from Philip Kaufman’s audio commentary on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Kaufman is filming the climax in a big greenhouse with Sutherland way up in the roof beams, clambering about.

A friend drops in. “Is that Donald Sutherland way up there?”

Kaufman confirms that it is.

“What the hell? Don’t you know he’s the clumsiest man alive?

I love Donald Sutherland and I will gladly accept any stories you have about Donald Sutherland falling over.

Stealing Time

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2019 by dcairns

I’m in the edit today — Fiona and I have recorded a video essay for KWAIDAN. So not much time for blogathoning. But I tell you what — Timo Langer and I are cutting at Mark Cousins’ place. How about I wander about and see if I can find any late films to write about, in between cuts?

The reference material from Mark’s THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES lie all around, so there’s CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, F FOR FAKE and THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND.

There’s a Derek Jarman box set, but it doesn’t contain BLUE, which I really ought to write about — one of the ultimate late films, you could argue, made when its director had been struck blind by AIDS.

Ah, there’s WAR REQUIEM, late-ish Jarman and positively final Olivier. You can’t get later than late Olivier.

(Is it bad manners to blog about somebody’s flat when they’re out?)

Two Theo Angelopoulos box sets. Haven’t seen THE DUST OF TIME, but it’s a great title for a last film, even though its creator probably wasn’t planning to curtail his career by stepping in front of an off-duty cop’s on-coming motorcycle.

Wow, here’s THE BRAVE, the only film directed by Johnny Depp, to date. (And a follow-up seems less and less likely.)

This place is a treasure trove of cinema, including late cinema…

Mark’s back, now I feel guilty and furtive.

He’s OK with it — in fact, he mentions an article he wrote on Late Style, which you can read here, at The Prospect. Quick discussion follows on why, so often, filmmakers’ work becomes tired or boring in old age, whereas that doesn’t happen so often with visual artists. The weight of all that equipment seems to be a burden. “Look at Bertolucci, how his films shrank, until they were one-room films.” Maybe lightweight digital cameras will transform this. But the filmmaker’s

I suggest that there’s a feeling that film is done best by people who are still discovering everything. It’s when we think we know what we’re doing that we get dull. It’s like those seventies Disney films where they had filing cabinets full of old animation cels as reference. You want a dancing bear, you just trace one somebody did earlier. Sometimes our brains get like filing cabinets.

There’s a relevant line in THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND: “It’s alright to steal from others, what we must never do is steal from ourselves.”