Archive for Filmhouse

Pizzagate

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on January 27, 2022 by dcairns

I fell in love with Paul Thomas Anderson’s LICORICE PIZZA on first sight. But, as with much of that mysterious phenomenon known as romantic love, I find it hard to heave my heart into my mouth, or my two typing fingers, and explain why. I will say, because it may evoke some part of the quality of the feeling, that I got off the bus when I was only halfway home from Filmhouse, because I wanted a forty-five minute walk to continue to digest the film and to wallow in the state of mind it had produced. I absolutely can’t put into words how it made the world look different, but walking in a city at night (well, late evening, probably) seemed like a fresh experience. Had I been in LA no doubt the feeling would be even better.

The film was projected in all of its glorious thirty-five millimetres, on the celluloid. As it began, I started to recall how I’d come to feel that, though I miss film as a recording medium, there is a lot to be said for digital as a projection medium. The movie seemed to be actually flickering in a way that was not quite healthy. I could feel one of my temporal lobes going. But then it evened out, and I was glad to have the full film experience.

Lots to enjoy, including the traducing of Jon Peters (fully justified, according to every account of the man I’ve ever read). How did they get away with it, legally, though? Maybe JP is just a magnificently good sport. And the (hilarious) Julie Andrews joke? And yet, Sean Penn’s character, a seeming fusion of William Holden and Steve McQueen, is hidden behind a fictional name.

I haven’t read any of the books on Paul Thomas Anderson — I should try one, because I’m curious to see what a critic could make of them given enough time and space. Anderson himself doesn’t give much away, and the films seem to cloak their true intentions, if they have them. They dance away from the areas you expect them to land heavily on. THE MASTER, for instance, seems set to be an attack on the Church or Scientology, and it isn’t precisely NOT that, but by choosing as protagonist a character so damaged and toxic that you could hardly blame the Hubbard-substitute for failing to cure/reform him. So, fatuous bloviator that he plainly is, corrupt faker that he surely must be, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd isn’t offered up as precisely the hate-figure one would expect.

BOOGIE NIGHTS was easier to parse — the seventies nostalgia was sort-of uncomplicated, the stance on the porn industry seemed simplistically romantic, uncritical, when a producer turns out to be a child molester the regular porn folks are appalled, just as we would be, and so they gain even more in nobility. One of the stranger, to modern eyes, aspects of the seventies was the sense of paedophilia/ephebophilia nudging closer to the mainstream, which BOOGIE NIGHTS misses but LICORICE PIZZA gets. The fact that here it’s a 25-year-old girl involved with a ten-years-younger boy seems to slightly obviate the discomfort that for instance MANHATTAN justifiably causes, but the age gap is barely mentioned here — the subject of legality is raised ONCE, I think, and so, in a very PTA way, the audience is invited to make up its own mind.

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A week and a half later, does the film stay in my mind? Mostly just a very pleasant feeling. It’s a film with just enough implied darkness to exert a grip, while being 98% warm and positive.

Fetch!

Posted in Fashion, FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 12, 2017 by dcairns

To Filmhouse, where maestro Neil Brand was presenting a big Buster Keaton event on Sunday. The first half was an illustrated talk with clips and piano accompaniment, setting out Buster’s biography and creative approach, with eye-opening analyses of under-cranking, hidden jump-cuts and other tricks of the trade. The second half was STEAMBOAT BILL JR. with live piano accompaniment. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a frosty afternoon.

I’ve been researching Leo McCarey’s THE AWFUL TRUTH and was amused to discover, in a clip from OUR HOSPITALITY, a gag later borrowed by McCarey and gifted to Mr. Smith the dog (AKA Asta) in his classic screwball. Buster is trying to avoid leaving the house, so he hides his porkpie hat under a divan as an excuse. But his helpful hound retrieves it. In a panic, Buster hides it again before anyone sees. This looks like a terrific game to the dog, who fetches the hat once more. All this is given a welcome note of panic by the fact that Buster is liable to be shot dead if he leaves the house.

While McCarey’s revision lacks the life-and-death tension, it creates just as much comic excitement because his domestic situation is so small-scale and plausible, closer to relatable reality. So you can either have the intensity of melodrama or the intensity of life, both are good. Mentioning the comparison to Neil Brand over a pint afterwards, I was reminded by him that Charley Chase’s domestic comedies, supervised by McCarey, are also full of dogs getting the wrong end of the stick, as it were. Buddy the dog is particularly reliable in this respect, always being himself when it would be more convenient for the hero if he would be a cat.

Peter Bogdanovitch’s interview with McCarey turns up this quote about his days with Laurel & Hardy: “Keaton worked in a manner analogous to ours. Two or three gagmen were at his disposal, proposing gags which he could either accept or reject. All of us tried to steal each other’s gagmen, but we had no luck with Keaton because he thought up his best gags himself and we couldn’t steal him!” Well, fourteen years after OUR HOSPITALITY, McCarey arguably did the next best thing by repurposing a Keaton gag.

Intro

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 14, 2017 by dcairns

Park Circus, the big Scottish-based distributor, got in touch out of the blue and invited me to introduce Nicholas Pesce’s debut horror movie, the strange, beautiful and DEEPLY disturbing THE EYES OF MY MOTHER. So Edinburgh-type people can see me at Filmhouse at 8.45 this evening doing just that. I will be available afterwards to provide care and counselling.

Subjects to be addressed:

The eyeball as extrusion.

The morbid fear of cows (bovinophobia).

Making the worst thing you can think of even worse.

The imagination, your deadly enemy.