Archive for Gorgo

Primal Screens

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by dcairns

After realizing that I remember, dimly, a bit of the first film I was ever taken to see, I asked to hear about your first cinema experiences, via Facebook. Anybody who didn’t get in on that, feel free to add them in comments. I’m sure we can prove SOMETHING.

THEORY: no matter how traumatic or dull the first cinema experience — we tend to go back.

Moby Longinotto star wars couldn’t read the words at the beginning so my little girlfriend read it for me, I was 5 I think.

Brian Robinson A double bill of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. My dad gave me the choice of that or Grizzly Adams: The Movie. There was no contest. It was weird seeing cartoons on the big screen like that, with the sound so big and booming but I loved it. And the Cyclops chasing chasing Torin Thatcher on the island, “Help me! Help me!” was seared into my mind forever.

I should add I was almost 6 and I think it was the Odeon, Clerk St.

Stevie Hannan Hi David,remember vividly(and I was only four) being taken to see Mary Poppins by my mum at the old ‘Strand’ cinema in Alexandria.I though it was wonderful. So much so that I pleaded with my gran to take me the following evening.She gave in, and a lifelong love affair with films (and Julie Andrews!)had begun.

Diane Henderson Gone With the Wind, but I was very, very young and fell asleep. My first wide- awake cinema experience was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I was so small I had to be sat on the arm of my chair to see over the head of the bloke in front.

Nigel R. Smith ‎7 years old as a birthday (not mine) party ‘treat’, we were shoo-ed into Tommy Steele appallathon Half A Sixpence at the Caley cinema. Really put me off ever going to a cinema again – until the following year my dad insisted we see Where Eagles Dare in the same place.

Niall Greig Fulton Mine was Norman McLaren’s 1952 short Neighbours, in an afternoon screening at the Calton Studios.

Chuck Zigman I was four years old, and it was a double feature of the feature animation “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969) and “Scrooge” (1970) with Albert Finney. In the graveyard, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come removes his hood, revealing a skull. I had nightmares for three years after that!

Samuel John Dale When I was two or three my parents took me to see Condorman at the Odeon Chelmsford. As we left the cinema, they realised I was developing conjunctivitis. Condorman will do that to your eyes.

Dan Sallitt I remember going to the drive-in with my father (my mother came along sometimes, but I think my father was choosing the films) when I was four or five to see HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED, and international monster films GORGO (directed by Renoir’s art director Lourié, I just learned) and REPTILICUS. Funny – I just saw HERCULES leading lady Sylva Koscina two days ago in Sautet’s excellent L’ARME À GAUCHE, but I totally forgot that she and I had so much history.

Ali Catterall Aged five, to see the Sound of Music – can’t remember where. I do recall a tremendous mounting excitement in the days leading up to the screening, mainly concerning Julie Andrews. Was she American? (For five year-olds in 1975, Americans were completely exotic and alluring, so much so that we used to claim American parentage in the school playground, for instant credibility.) Was she a New Zealander, like mum? Really, just who was this amazing Julie Andrews we were about to see? But in the dark of the cinema, it wasn’t Andrews I fell for, but Charmian Carr. “Mummy” I gravely whispered, as a rain-soaked Liesl snuck in through the window, “she is more beautiful than Snow White…”

Marvellous Mary Quite alarming going to see Disney’s Snow White in downtown Johannesburg . I lived in a small village in South Africa. So the expereince is all wrapped up with being alarmed at being in such a large auditorium (something the size of the Odeon on Clerk St) and seeing skyscrapers at the same time.

Nicola Balkind I remember Beethoven with my grandma when I was probably about 5. She snored the whole way through it.

Larry Frascella My parents were movie-mad so I’m sure I was one of those crying babies in the theater. But as far as reachable memory goes, from a very early age, way back there in the Italian section of the Bronx, my father would take me to the movies on school nights, which was pretty much unheard of. (Made me very cool at school.) I can’t recall the very first film but it was probably THE MYSTERIANS.

Randall William Cook My mom took me when I was two years old to LILI, in 1953. I have a strong memory of sitting in a dark room, looking up at a window where a puppet show was going on: I thought I was experiencing something real. I remembered nothing else, or so I thought. It was shown in a L.A. revival theatre (the Tiffany?) when I was thirty, and I checked it out. One after another, the film’s images brought back a succession of long buried emotional impressions. That two-year-old had been paying attention, after all. And the damn title song has always given me an emotional working-over.

Chris Dooks Aged six or seven, I was taken to see Jaws at The Regent Cinema, Redcar – I think I was snuck in. It scared the shit out of me, but also because The Regent is literally over the beach and you can hear the water crashing underneath the seats. It is also very damp. Other memories were going to see Convoy there with my dad and brother at an equally young age and I remember having my eyes covered up over a sex scene. In the same cinema now aged 18 I went to see the Exorcist at a re-run late night showing and fell asleep during the first ten minutes as I had six pints of beer in me.

Kristin Thompson On my third birthday my parents gave me a party and took the group to PETER PAN, my first film. The only thing I remember about it is the duel between Peter and Hook at the end. But far more interesting is my mother’s earliest cinema memory. She told me she had been taken at the age of five to a film that impressed her very much. She didn’t remember the title. All she could remember was a woman floating on a lake, supported by reeds. Imagine your earliest memory being SUNRISE on its first run!

Dan Sallitt Randall: in his entry on Charles Walters in THE AMERICAN CINEMA, Andrew Sarris wrote, “The late H. L. Mencken used to boast that he had never seen a movie, but toward the end of his life, this irascible cynic was induced to see LILI, and he loved it!”

Guy Budziak Television. In the late Fifties/early Sixties Universal allowed their classic horror films to be shown on TV late Friday nights as SHOCK THEATER. I was five, and my parents let me stay up past my bedtime to watch THE MUMMY with Karloff. The flashback in the pool of water, where you go back in time and see him buried alive, and the slaves are speared and buried with him. That was the scene that captivated me. I was hooked.

Dan MacRae Probably about 4 years old – taken to the Classic Cinema at the bottom of Renfield Street in Glasgow to see Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Screamed and cried for a while at the arrival of the dinosaurs and felt a horrific sense of desolation when (spoiler alert!) the villain killed the duckling at the end.

Fiona Watson I have two. One is being taken to the Regal Cinema in Broughty Ferry to see Pinochio in a group as part of someone elses Birthday treat, and thinking that the ice-cream woman was GIVING AWAY the frozen goodies. I became quite irritable when I discovered this wasn’t the case. The first, and probably earliest (I think, aged 4 or 5) was being hauled out of The Jungle Book at some now long defunct cinema in Dundee after being traumatised by the appearance of King Louis the orangutan. I started sobbing in terror, loudly. “His arms are too long!” I shrieked as I was dragged intothe lobby. Ironic given my present fascination with primates.

I think it was the ‘skipping with his arms’ thing that did it.

Randall William Cook ‎@Fiona: King Louis arms too long=childhood trauma. King Louis singing like Louis Prima= no big deal.

Fiona Watson I ADORE that sequence now. It’s brilliant!

Chris Schneider My memory, none-too-detailed, is of being taken to a a downtown fancy-schmancy showing of the Disney SLEEPING BEAUTY … and of having some young male malcontents drop a water balloon on my mother and me.

Fiona Watson That’s horrible Chris! I hope they were duly admonished and thrown off the premises.

Chris Schneider Thanks for your sympathy. Perhaps they were sedated and surrounded by a forest’s worth of nettles.

Travis Reeves Mine is very much like Marvellous Mary’s: also Disney’s Snow White at age 5, in downtown Melbourne. Living in sprawling suburbia some ten miles away, Melbourne was a distant hazy Emerald City to us. To actually be there, and in the grandeur of an old cinema was amazing. My twin, Helen, cried at Snow White in her glass coffin. I didn’t, but remember being very sad.

Later, aged about 10, we would be taken to see Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday and Mon Oncle on successive Saturdays at a tiny independent cinema in Melbourne by our father. As I remember it, the cinema was downstairs, or under the road, and sat maybe 50. I can’t help thinking, years later, that it must have been a porno theatre at some point in its history.

Marvellous Mary I think I too would be aged about 5 or possibly 6 – on the other hand we did have an great uncle who was a real life Willy Wonka who did own the sweetie factory! Other memories include going to Filmhouse from the pend at the backwhen there was ONLY cinema 2 and watching Coalminers Daugher aged 11 or so!

Jim Hickey I was six years old when I saw The Robe on its initial release. So my first film was in Cinemascope with sound that seemed really loud. I loved the rich colours and the costumes and it felt like things were happening for real. We had no television then, of course. I have fond memories of Jay Robinson’s performance as Caligula. And it was a thrill to encounter him soon afterwards in the film’s sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators. Seeing the films again some years later I think it was probably Robinson who made me believe I could be an actor. And then I discovered Laurence Olivier.

Simon Fraser I believe that my first film was “Blackbeard’s Ghost” starring Peter Ustinov ( a favourite of my mother’s ) It’s dated 1968 but I’m sure I saw it in 1974 in Halifax Canada. My second movie at the cinema was more interesting, again Halifax but this time it was Moustapha Akkad’s ‘The Message’ about the life of the prophet Mohammed. I believe that there were serious protests about this at the time , people died. It made an impression on me, though I remember little of the film itself.

Jim Hickey The other films that I clearly remember seeing around that time were Danny Kaye in Hans Christian Andersen, Edmund Purdom in The Student Prince and Burt Lancaster in His Majesty O’Keefe – films no-one talks/writes about now, but from which some elements have stayed with me. But I don’t think I want to re-visit them as there are plenty of great films that I still have to see!

Roz Kidd Peter Pan at The old Calais on Lothian Road – was so awestruck that I hung out my window that evening and yelled for Peter Pan to come and teach me to fly!

David Fiore it was definitely Star Wars (during its original release), at the sadly-long gone York Theatre on Ste-Catherine Street in Montreal… I was 3. I remember freaking out a little bit during the trash compactor scene, but apparently I managed to keep my cool enough to prevent any ugly incidents with other patrons.

Gareth McFeely My first movie memory is going to see The Cat From Outer Space at the pictures in Fermoy (Ireland), probably in late 1978, when I was almost five. We were back there visiting friends after a move away, and I went off to the pictures with mostly older children. We sat in the front row upstairs in what seemed to me like a vast movie palace, which was of course almost certainly a fleapit (it closed years ago; I’ve no idea what it was called). We watched a film about park rangers and friendly bears (I think; it seemed like a kind of documentary to me), and then enjoyed the main feature. I recollect enjoying the experience but later had terrors at bedtime — something to do with that darned cat — and my hosts had to drive me 15 miles to where my parents were staying.

Then Fiona got in on it and invited her friends —

Kay Goodall My first film was Bambi but I don’t really remember it. The first one I remember was the first I chose to go to, which was The Last Snows Of Spring. It was with my best friend; going by the IMDB date we must have been in primary school; and I sobbed without stopping for the entire final hour. It was a very successful day out.

Fiona Watson I remember the trailer for The Last Snows Of Spring, because that film seemed to be on permanent trail throughout my childhood. Never saw it. Wasn’t up my street at all.

Kay Goodall Yes it mystifies me now.

Mishker McKay At age 4 or 5 it’s The Aristocats for me….I loved Thomas O’Malley. I remember having the 7″ record of the title tune and ‘O’Malley, the Alley Cat’.I also have a memory which may be earlier, of a movie scene where a monkey ends up stranded in a bathroom filling with bubbles; I was distraught! I remember bawling my eyes out as I was convinced it was going to die. It might have been a live action Disney film; any idea which?

Fiona Watson Is it THIS Cliff?

Mishker McKay OMG!!!!!!!! After all these years!!!!!!!!!!!! I was TERRIFIED and it’s all coming back to me now!!!!!!!

Thanks Fiona!!! x

Lorna Hewitt The Jungle book, must have been aged about 4 or 5 as well. Just mesmerised with the music and the jungle and the pretty girl. Was living in Brazil at the time so probably felt it was kinda my back yard. Hah. (Although it’s based in India). That’s earliest, but bestist and the rights of passage film for me was Grease aged 12. Didn’t know what half of it meant (‘wise to the rise in your levi’s’ and ‘bun in the oven’??), just knew I fancied John Travolta! Actually probably more Kenicky. Oh I don’t know, can’t make up my mind even now!…..Useless info but felt I had to get it off my chest! :-D

Roderick Ramsay Earliest – The Incredible Journey (1963). I was pre-school and had to be taken out because I was bawling my eyes out. That would be nigh on 40 years ago. Gosh. I hasten to add that I did not see it IN 1963. It must have been at one of the now sadly defunct Saturday shows they did for kids and was probably around 1973.Scariest? I was 6 and was being babysat by my 13yo aunt who woke me up to come and watch Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein. It was TV though. Scary cinema was Jaws in 1976. It was my first experience of queueing around the block to get into a movie and it was my first A-rated film. It was a huge step up from U-rated and when Richard Dreyfus was trying to find a shark tooth in a wreck my hands locked onto the chair arms in terror. It was a while before i could let go :-)

Most awesome? Being 8 and going to see Star Wars in 1977. Wee spaceship comes on the screen and I thought “Wow!”, then the prow of the Star Destroyer came in from the top of the screen and gradually filled it with huge spaceship awesomeness. One of those cinematic memories that stay forever. Unless you’re my Dad and you fall asleep.

Lorna Hewitt Oh God yeah, Jaws, most impact on my life, still can’t ‘get back into the water’ without a shiver and keeping an eye out!! Agh!

Mark Van-Daal Saturday morning – ABC Minors in Paisley – episodes of Flash Gordon with Larry (Buster) Crab followed by gawd knows what – Disney’s Return from Witch Mountain maybe? Also the Apple Dumpling Gang? I have a ‘hilarious’ story about trying to get in to the Odeon in Renfield St Glasgow to see Alien dressed as a ‘workman’ that my dad had pushed me in to doing. it involved padding my big parka with newspaper, balancing a corduroy Donovan cap with more newspaper perched on my head for extra height and a pair of my mums suede platform boots and my face smeared with brown water colour paint to look like stubble. The Odeon Renfield St weren’t buying it and my Dad had to take me home again. Also me and my tike pals used to sneak in the fire exit and hide under a stage in front of the big screen and watch thing and Burt Cort buddy movies that were a kind of shit Cheech N Chong. Also queuing for hours to see Star Wars but I suspect that’s standard fare for most people in this thread.

Mark Van-Daal Oh and at Primary School we were taken to rooms below the Art Galleries in Glasgow to watch a special screening of the Amazing Mr Blunden (it was a posh school -we did lots of stuff like that)

Lorna Hewitt That’s so weird Mark, I remember going to see Saturday Night Fever, aged 15(?) dressed as an ‘adult’, with the help of my mum’s props no less, so I wore her tweed hat and carried a long black umbrella which I swung in a jaunty fashion! Strange to think that that’s what I thought someone of 18 would wear! More 80! Me and my 3 pals somehow got in hiding behind my older sister who bought the tickets for us. Another give away I somehow think!

My first ‘X’ rated film…

Roderick Ramsay I never saw an ‘X’ at the cinema as they changed ratings when I was 14. There’s a long-ish story where I saw Conan The Barbarian at 13 – underage for a AA-rated film and then was denied entry for the same film 6 months later when I was finally 14 but they’d changed it to a 15-rating.

My first 18-rated movie was The Company Of Wolves. I was 15 or 16 but was accompanied by an alleged adult. I think we all probably remember the first time we broke new ground in ratings: Jaws, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and The Company of Wolves for me.

Fiona Watson I remember queueing all afternoon in Dundee to see Star Wars (dropped off by Mum, left there, then picked up again after the screening). There was a man with half an arm standing infront of me. I spent the best part of three hours staring at his stump. I also remember seeing Jaws at The Regal in Broughty Ferry, again I was on my own (I was ALWAYS going to the cinema on my own as a kid!) and made the mistake of sitting next to ‘bigger girls’. Just before the ‘head in the bottom of the boat’ reveal was about to happen, the ominous music and general set up cued me into knowing a scary bit was coming up. The ‘big girls’ had apparently seen it before, so I trustingly asked them to ‘tell me when it was all over’ and put my hands over my eyes. Seconds later I get a dig in the ribs and look. IT WAS THE F***IN HEAD! They all pissed themselves laughing as I shot vertically out of my seat. I couldn’t even move because it was a sell out. Bitches…

Mishker McKay Hilarious reading about Lorna’s 18 outfit; I worked in the Odeon a long time ago and received training on how to spot/ interrogate and trip up such types when I was on the ticket desk. Was a great job ruined by the ‘dark sales’ girl leaving; every 4 weeks it was my turn to don the tray of KiaOra and Cornettos. The effin stap was too short and leaning down to let others see my wares my change would cascade in among the choc-ices and Strawberry mivis. The last straw was facing the packed screen 1 on a Saturday night, Crocodile Dundee if you please. The jeers of ‘check the poof wi the ice cream’ was just too much to bear!

Fiona Watson (a different Fiona Watson, confusingly) Wow! I have loved reading these. I have vague memories of seeing Snow White at a drive in movie in Australia when I was 4 or 5 and not being able to see properly as we were in the back seat. My first proper memory is being taken to the Odeon in Derby, England by my Nana to see the Sound of Music. I was 7 and had never seen a musical before. I was spellbound by the hugeness of it all. I remember wondering about the ‘soldiers’ in it and why they wanted to catch the Von Trapps. It was a few years before I put the horrors of the Nazi’s into the film and realised the darker side that was present. To this day I still find new things on the odd occasion I watch this film. I think it was that outing that created the bond between myself and my Nana because we liked the same things and I have loved musicals ever since.

Mark Medin Mine is different than most since my dad hated going to movie houses from about the time Jeanette and Nelson quit being a team (I only wish I were joking about that). My first cinema experience was going to a matinee to watch a movie my brother wanted to see. We bought tickets and this place had only one bored ticket taker who didn’t even direct us, so we walked into the wrong theater (it was an early multiplex, I think it had three or five screens). So I got to watch The Long Goodbye almost in its entirety (it had already begun, we got there just when Gould was returning from the supermarket to feed his cat). I was 12, TLG was an R rated film, and I got away with it. I think many theaters in the ’70s were pretty lax in enforcing age restrictions. My friends never had trouble getting into R films at certain theaters.

I think I recounted this once already. Maybe twice.

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Playmates

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by dcairns

I’m actually nearer the end than the beginning — my INSANE QUEST to see all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s big green book of monsters actually looks like it might have an end in sight. For instance, I realised that GODZILLA VS THE THING is in fact GODZILLA VS MOTHRA, which I’ve seen, which left only two giant Japanese monster movies (kaiju) to watch, GAPPA THE TRIPHIBIAN MONSTER and GAMERA VS JIGER. Both sure to be treats, I thought, since I’d never seen either monster in action, despite having gloated at their images in books like Gifford’s since I was old enough to squawk.

GAPPA came first, an intriguing monster since he stems from the Nikkatsu studio, rather than Godzilla’s progenitors at Toho, and also because there’s three of him. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me tell you about my NEW WORD. This is a word you use to describe something that seems to be in the wrong place, like a giant gorilla in downtown Manhattan, and the word is KINGKONGRUOUS.

Maybe the film’s one original idea/image — monster eyes watching from the deep. Impressive, especially as it seems to be a real physical effect. I refuse to count “triphibean” as an idea.

GAPPA is a film of two halves, both of them stolen. The first half is pure KONG, with a ship full of scientists trawling the pacific in search of undiscovered animals which can be used to populate a new resort, improbably named Playmate Island, which is the dreamchild of a magazine magnate (mag-mag for short). Hitting the ground running, director Harayasu Noguchi (whose career seems to have come to an end the year of this film’s release) introduces us to this gang of clichés (soulful girl, staunch fellow, annoying comedy dweeb) already en route to Obelisk Island (so named for the mountain shaped like a slow-witted Gaul), and sets up their purpose with a quick scene back on the mainland. All that out of the way, they can come ashore on the monster-infested isle only ten minutes into the film, thereby making me morally certain that Peter Jackson has never seen this film. Call it my woman’s intuition.

Oops — aren’t you supposed to REPLACE the blue screen with something?

Thrillingly, the island is populated by Japanese extras in blackface, and a particularly disturbing little boy in an Afro wig, who warns them not to disturb Gappa, but being scientists they’re unaccustomed to listening to the simple native wisdom of small boys in afro wigs, so they go blundering in. An earthquake swiftly clears away the statue blocking their path and cracks open a massive egg. Behaving slightly more sympathetically than Sinbad’s men with the Roc egg, they abduct the gallumphing newborn Gappa and set sail for Tokyo (Playmate Island now turns out to be a big land-mass-shaped red herring, never to be spoken off again).

Now the movie makers can stop ripping off KING KONG, although they don’t, and start ripping off GORGO, the British entry in the kaiju stakes, where a mother monster tramples London in search of its young. In GAPPA, we have a mother AND father beastie, stomping all over the map of Japan while the authorities refuse to even consider giving up the infant monster, until finally they do. At this point I was perversely rooting for little Gappa Jnr to join forces with Ma and Pa Gappa and continue ravaging the nation until there’s not a three foot balsa skyscraper left standing.

To stave off the inevitable tedium as the monsters, looking not unlike Sam the American Eagle from The Muppet Show, stagger disconsolately around a dusk-lit diorama, I started fantasising about my dream project, a shot-for-shot remake of GAPPA in which all the scenes would be the same, with only the sets changed around. In this version, the human actors, grown grotesquely swollen, would play their scenes amid the miniature scale replicas of island jungles and Tokyo streets, while the monsters would lumber around in conventional sets, bumping into sofas and barking their rubbery shins on coffee tables.

If we can’t get the rights to this one, let’s just remake AS GOOD AS IT GETS, but with the entire cast in rubber monster costumes. “You make me want to be a better man.” Poignant!

“Whee!” Baby Gappa recreates the opening of LA DOLCE VITA.

FC3: A new definition of the word “accident”

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2009 by dcairns

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I wonder if these pieces are just going to keep getting shorter? It seems like a good way to get a conversation, with a brief set of musings rather than any attempt at thoroughness.

In any case, it would be hard for me to write more on this movie, since I’ve just seen it twice, once five years ago and once just now, which has sort of refreshed my memory of it and revitalized the questions that buzzed in my mind the first time I saw it. Without answering them.

“If France were destroyed tomorrow and nothing remained but this film, the whole country and its civilization could be reconstructed from it.” ~ Richard Roud.

I’m not even sure how to describe this one. Renoir said his intention was to make to make “an agreeable film” which would nevertheless serve as a critique of a society he considered absolutely rotten. The fact that the film was made in 1939, and was roundly detested by critics and audiences at the time, suggests all kinds of resonances. And I think looking for them is one of the mistakes I made in my viewing, because on first sight the film isn’t obviously allegorical and the moments of critique appear scattered thinly. It is important to situate the film in the context of pre-war France, but you can put that aside until the conclusion, where it unavoidably washes in. The movie’s thematic purpose really all kicks in at the end, when you can look back and see a bit more clearly what the film is doing in this regard. But I suspect a first viewing (and I’ve really had two first viewings, since there was such a long gap between them) should concentrate more on the surface.

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On the surface, then, what we have is a country house comedy with an odd tone — the wildlife holocaust in the middle, where Renoir’s camera pauses to observe the death throes of a rabbit in minute detail, certainly makes for uncomfortable viewing. Real death is always a tricky thing on screen. I don’t generally like it, unless the camera has captured a specific death that would have happened anyway, as in LE SANG DES BETES. But I would willingly eat any of the animals slaughtered in Renoir’s film, so I don’t think I have any moral ground to stand on. I do worry about Renoir using this scene as an indictment of the upper classes, when it’s all been staged at his command. But I guess the intention is different. So this is one thing I’d like to hear about.

The other big one is — does anyone find this film funny? It follows the structure of a country house comedy, with Renoir citing Moliere and Mozart as influences (“if you’re picking a master, choose a plump one”), and delivers this bitter aftertaste and social critique, but could one argue that critics and audiences were right to turn away in the sense that the results should contain a few good laughs along the way? Maybe it’s just me.

But having watched the whole thing, this objection does seem to lose all force: Renoir is using farce structure and comic stylisation to tell a tragic story in a different way. The fact that there are only a few barely audible smiles along the way doesn’t really matter. It could be argued that the comic style serves as a metaphor for the frivolous way the characters see their existence, and for us to laugh would be to miss the point.

So that’s two major talking point. I’ll add a third: Marcel Dalio’s eyebrows.

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And a fourth: the blocking and camera direction, which I could really appreciate even on these isolated viewings. Farce is notoriously hard to do onscreen, as Richard Lester has observed — the laugh depends on a character going in one door and coming out another, so the minute the director cuts or moves the camera, the audience forgets which door is which and the laugh is gone. The spacial unity of the stage is normally a prerequisite. Renoir makes a virtue out of confusion, and even a theme out of it: his camera is constantly saying to us, with an exaggerated Gallic shrug, “But there is too much going on.”

We might be focused on one grouping, and another set of characters will dash through the frame, engrossed in their own plotline. Or we will swish-pan off one confrontation onto another, sometimes arriving a second before the frame is filled with bustling action, sometimes alighting on a subplot in media res. In the Danse Macabre sequence this reaches a dizzying zenith of choreographic excellence achieving Pure Cinema in the midst of the theatrical.

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This kind of thing benefits enormously from actors who can move, and here the standouts for me were Dalio and his majordome Corneille, played by Eddy Debray, who barely registers as a character because he’s so devoted to the task at hand, but is extremely nimble and elegant, packing his entire characterisation into a few clipped gestures. The way he snaps his fingers for help when young Jackie faints, before her body has even hit the floor… suave.

Editing by Mme Huguet and “Marguerite.” That’s Marguerite Renoir.

Production design by Max Douy and Eugene Lourie, whose participation makes Renoir a single handshake away from GORGO.

Assistant director, Henri-Cartier Bresson. I think you might be wasting this man’s talents, Jean. Ever consider giving him a camera?

Cinematography by whoever was around. Including the brother, but hey, it’s a talented family. How Papa Jean attained such a unified look and such dynamic results with such a disparate pack of cameramen I can’t figure.

Costumes by Coco Chanel — OK, Fiona will definitely want to watch this.

STOP PRESS — I show the film to Fiona, who enjoys it greatly, more than I did first time, and this time I get a lot more from it. I also find it pretty funny. Without attempting to be exhaustive (impossible), I can now say a bit more. Second time through, you gain the ability to admire the construction as it plays out, magnificently. I’m more and more impressed with Paulette Dubost as Lisette, the maid (Blimey! She’s still alive!)

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Fiona becomes curious about pre-war Chanel, which is not her area of expertise. We agree though that Mila Parély has the best outfits in this. Fiona reckons that Coco would have enjoyed all that hunting garb since she always liked adapting men’s tailoring to women’s outfits.

I haven’t even talked about Renoir himself, as actor. The epitome of the elegant fat man, but with more punch and vigour than you’d expect, and more than ought to be compatible with grace and sensitivity, but it’s all there, and all turned up to eleven. Why on Earth didn’t he act more, in other people’s films if not his own? Perhaos as a result of the failure of this one. He obviously liked getting in front of the cameras though, since he squeezed himself into things like LE TESTAMENT DU DR CORDELIER, and filmed intros to several of his ’30s films.

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And Julien Carette as Marceau the poacher is an interesting figure — the most confident, socially mobile and knowingly amoral character in the film. I’m fascinated by his easy relationship with Dalio — which counts for nothing in the end, he’s no more than an amusement to his master. Carette is very appealing under most circumstances, but utterly revolting whenever he flirts. The sleazy simper technique: what woman could resist? It doesn’t wholly surprise me to learn that Carette was burned to death by his own nylon shirt.

Fiona mentions GOSFORD PARK, and it’s an interesting comparison. Altman often made himself unpopular with audiences by pushing tragedy and comedy into uncomfortable proximity, which is exactly what LA REGLE does. Of course, this film is incredibly tight and pre-planned, although Renoir was clearly very smart about incorporating chance and improvisation into his machinations. Altman’s successful films tend to start with a tight structure that no amount of furious demolition can shake, then he lets the players pull in every direction at once while he cocks his head and listens to the music of the narrative popping its rivets. A WEDDING is another obvious comparison here, but that one’s purer comedy.

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And I’m totally convinced that the last shot, shadows passing along a wall, the figures hidden by a balustrade, is evoking Plato’s shadows in the allegory of the cave. Anybody confirm this? Something about mistaking shadows for reality could be a theme here, and at any rate it’s a good Shadowplay note to finish on.