Archive for Diane Lane

Pickups

Posted in Dance, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2021 by dcairns

I’d heard something or other about THE COTTON CLUB ENCORE, Francis Ford Coppola’s re-edit of his embattled 1984 production, but it was Meredith Brody in Bologna I guess two years back who said it was much more interesting and worthwhile than all the various tinkered versions of APOCALYPSE NOW, and this planted a seed. I wanted to see it. Finally I bought a copy.

I always rather liked the original — it was the first Coppola I was old enough to see at the movies, I guess.

I can’t be sure of my memories of it, but I think it actually played better shorter. Coppola thinks the new cut plays shorter despite being longer, because the story’s clearer. But clarity isn’t everything. Sometimes puzzlement is more engaging. And anyway I’m not convinced this version is any clearer. Still, I’m glad to have seen it because it has more musical numbers.

Coppola got embroiled in the film in the first place because producer Robert Evans couldn’t figure out how to pull off a movie about the Club with Richard Gere, who refused to play a gangster, would only play a musician, the problem being that no white musicians played the Club. I hate to say it, but Coppola didn’t really solve that problem. Gere glides around the outskirts of the story, vanishing to Hollywood to become a star offscreen, romancing a gangster’s moll, and the movie offers us no reason to care about these characters, cute though they are, well though they wear Milena Canonero’s clothes. In 1984 I probably wasn’t aware that this plotline was a Methuselah-old pulp standard, one which Tarantino would feel the need to explode in PULP FICTION with the Travolta-Thurman story.

I did notice, though, that Gregory Hines and Lonette McKee’s love story (now promoted to the cover image/poster) was actually ABOUT something, and connected to the Cotton Club, even if it didn’t quite have all the moving parts a story needs to have. The Hines character’s relationship with his brother (real-life sibling Maurice Hines) added some complication.

Gere’s character also has a brother, played by Nic Cage — whose storyline which does manage to involve the club, and ends dramatically. But we never learn Gere’s reaction to the conclusion of that yarn, which shows just how uninterested in him the film is.

Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne (who Coppola hired over Evan’s furious objections: “No Munsters!”) improvised a great scene, the standout in the film, and had Coppola been on top form or able to work with some freedom, they could and should have been invited to improvise a half dozen more. Those guys should have been in more movies together.

The other best non-musical scene is with Laurence Fishburne, though his character’s arguing that he doesn’t have any choice but to be a gangster because society is racist… well, his character seems to believe it, and he argues it with panache. It’s good when characters can give a good account of themselves.

In building a musical that isn’t a musical (no bursting into song except during performance scenes) that connects to the social events of the time, Coppola seems to have taken CABARET as his model — understandably, since the Bob Fosse beat him to a Best Director Oscar in 1973. My dim memory tells me that the balance of songs and story in CABARET is much more successful, the two seem genuinely planned to go together whereas ENCORE has some songs which, lovely though they are, just happen. The strongest deja vu moment was when Fishburne and his gang beat up a nasty Club employee — it felt weirdly like the Nazis beating up the bouncer. A strange connection to make.

Coppola films some of the dancing extremely well, and other bits he hacks up into closeups of feet and stuff. Even aged seventeen I knew that was wrong. And there are lots of MONTAGES, usually a sure sign of a film in trouble. They’re very pretty, but they’re period pastiche filmmaking designed to glue together a disjointed narrative.

It’s a shame to feature mob boss Dutch Schultz so prominently and not include his last words (“A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim…”) but in fairness its difficult to see how the authors could have worked them in meaningfully. Intercut them with Cab Calloway’s scat singing?

The elusive onstage/offstage conversion does finally happen, though, right before the end creds (which are beautiful, a bunch of spare montage elements) — Coppola intercuts a stage number with “real” action at Grand Central Station and blends the two into something really magical. Coppola’s best endings are usually based on cross-cutting, aren’t they?

THE COTTON CLUB stars Zack Mayo; Josephus; Ellen Aim; Louise Little; Lou Landsky; Sam Starr; H.I. McDunnough; Louis B. Mayer; Herman Munster; Specialty Dancer – ‘Beale Street Blues’ (uncredited); Delores Dodge; Billy Bump/Billie Bump; Jimmy Jump; R.M. Renfield; Kane; Momo; Baby Houseman; Joe – the Hustler; Gloria Capulet; 1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge; Dicky Speck; Gus Fring; Grandpa Booker; Mary Corleone; and Stokely Carmichael.

Three Erotic Fantasies

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by dcairns

I was looking at THE COTTON CLUB, trying to find a cute shot I remembered of Diane Lane, figuring I could probably find something to say about it when I did. But that led me to look at RUMBLE FISH, another Francis Ford Coppola outing also featuring the transcendentally lovely and apparently ageless Lane. I grabbed the above image, part of a series of erotic daydreams Matt Dillon has about his girlfriend during the course of a day.

Then by chance I found another sexual fantasy image, the same evening, in NUDE FOR SATAN, a barmy 70s Italian sex-horror nonsense case, featuring gratuitous cod-Wellesian angles, mattressfuls of pubic hair, and a fake giant spider seemingly made from black felt and pipe cleaners. In this image a sinister gent undresses the heroine with his eyes — almost literally. I’m surprised and disappointed that director Luigi Batzella didn’t have the guy’s eyes pop out, turn into Residents-style eyeball-men, and rip Rita Calderoni’s knickers off. It would have been quite in keeping with the insane literal-mindedness of his bottoms-up cut a few minutes later on in the film. I shall elucidate ~

Calderoni is handed a glass of wine by a spooky butler. She drinks. As she raises the glass, Batzella zooms in on its base and lets the shot go soft. Jump cut to a big bare arse, also slightly out of focus. Pull into focus, zoom out, and proceed with the unmotivated lesbian softcore.

These things should, for some reason, come in threes, so here’s a bizarre fantasy apparently occurring in the mind of Keith Carradine in Sam Fuller’s STREET OF NO RETURN, an odd adaptation of David Goodis’s The Blonde on the Street Corner, a two-time-loser pulp noir typical of its author.

Valentina Vargas, from THE NAME OF THE ROSE, is gorgeous, and deserved more of a career. She’s still acting, and still beautiful, so maybe it’ll happen.

STREET OF NO RETURN is nearly very good, with an impressive opening riot, and Fuller’s sudden interest in naked girls is tolerable — it could easily become embarrassing, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. What’s a little embarrassing is the obvious European locations (Portugal), as the movie tries to pass itself off as American. If the movie had embraced its setting more, and been a little more carefully edited, it could have marked a return for Fuller.

Links (US):

Rumble Fish (Special Edition)

Nude for Satan

Street of No Return

UK:

Rumble Fish : Special Edition [DVD] [1983]

Nude For Satan [1974] [DVD]