Archive for Grindhouse

Quixotic/Chaotic

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2020 by dcairns

What’s wrong with Terry Gilliam? Just as he’s supposed to be promoting THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE, his decade-in-the-making dream project as it finally comes to home video — and after its merciless critical thrashing, it NEEDS some promotion — he comes down with a kind of ideational Tourettes, trashing his reputation with a cascade of ill-considered jibes and blurtings aimed at pc culture and the #MeToo movement.

A central plank of the sunken sloop that is Gilliam’s “argument” reminds me of an awkward moment in Bologna when Kathryn Sermak, Bette Davis’s former PA, made a similar embarrassing statement confusing rape and assault by producers with the old-fashioned casting couch. Everybody had turned up prepared to adore this woman who was the Great Bette’s confidante, and then we kind of didn’t know where to look or what to say. Nobody picked a fight over it, because we still wanted to hear about her recollections, and we now wanted to hear as little about her opinions as possible.

I don’t know what it is — are people schooled in the workings of Hollywood so inured to the casting couch concept that when they hear about producers taking unfair advantage of actors, they can only process it in terms of a transactional sex-for-stardom arrangement? So, when they hear the word “rape” they assume what we really mean is “woman sleeps with producer for role and then feels bad about it”? But I think the accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged behavior are fairly unambiguous.

Gilliam says he could tells stories about actresses who got ahead by bedding the engorged mogul, and I have no doubt he could — he was forbidden to cast Samantha Morton, perhaps because she hadn’t shown Harvey the proper obeisance. But just because sometimes Harvey slept with women and gave them roles, or failed to sleep with women and denied them roles, doesn’t mean all of his activity was consensual. (And even here he took things beyond the usual limits, trash-talking women who had rejected him to sabotage their careers even at other companies.) Insiders like Ben Affleck and Quentin Tarantino apparently knew he was an abuser. (Hey, one might observe that the scene in GRINDHOUSE/PLANET TERROR where Tarantino and Rodriguez joke about raping Rose McGowan hasn’t aged well, but it was horrible THEN.) People generally in the industry but not tied to Miramax or the Weinstein Company knew Harvey was a bully, but not the depths of his viciousness.

It’s possible Gilliam doesn’t really believe in rape as a thing. Which would make him very reactionary indeed. Is he nervous about his own past behaviour? I’ve never heard anything against him so I don’t see why he should be taking the part of sex pests. He seems certainly to be arguing that the #MeToo movement is worse than the crimes it’s sought to expose and prevent, which is an odd one. Perhaps there are some men who have been unjustly accused and had their careers damaged? Perhaps, but not that many. The doubtful Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still making films. I don’t know about James Toback, but he’s escaped legal consequences for the multiple offenses he was accused of. Geoffrey Rush has certainly suffered some distress, but if you read the Wikipedia account of his trial, he seems to have been cut every possible form of slack, and anything further from a witch hunt is hard to imagine.

I would like to be able to argue that Gilliam is being true to the contrarian spirit of Monty Python by alienating his own constituency (aging liberals who like films and comedy and care about humanity) but it feels more like he’s made that sharp turn to the right that crepuscular revolutionaries are always performing.

Does this matter? I have the Blu-ray of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE in my Amazon shopping basket. I haven’t bought it yet because I’m annoyed with Gilliam, and because I wonder if someone so seemingly incapable of coherent thought, so mindlessly contrarian, can make a good film?

Asteroids from Beyond Time

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2009 by dcairns

This is the sight that greeted British cinemagoers in the ’70s. My childhood big screen experiences were all prefigured by this, an ad for an ad company that was responsible for the ads we were about to see before seeing the film we had come to see. And yet, me and everyone else of my age regards this meta-ad with affection and nostalgia (it IS the most ’70s thing ever). Today we all hate the multitude of delays and irritations we’re subjected to before a film starts. Actually, I don’t think we admired this piece until after it was discontinued in the ’80s.

(THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL remake is catching an unusual amount of flack for its product placement — I guess prominently featuring MacDonalds during a film with a supposed eco-friendly message is crossing some kind of line. What next, pop-up ads at the cinema?)

I only feature the P&D ad, not because the company is now based in Scotland (at SMG, home of Scottish Televsion, where the Ladies’ and Gents’ toilets are labelled Pearl and Dean, an appalling cutesy touch), but because I recently got ahold of Anatole Litvak’s last film.

Back up — explain — Litvak’s THE LADY IN THE  CAR WITH GLASSES AND A GUN is a late ’60s thriller with a hep cast — Samantha Eggar, Oliver Reed — from a novel by Sebastien Japrisot (GREAT name!) who also authored the source novel of A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT and lots of other books that have all been filmed.

I saw this film, or most of it, as a tiny child, possibly on a small b&w TV in a holiday cottage my parents had rented. Picture a dimly smouldering log fire and a crackly picture. There was nothing else to do in the country dark except watch this film on a fuzzy screen, and it was very boring to my young mind. The main thing that caught my interest was the credit sequence, which reminded me forcibly of the Pearl & Dean trailer:

Having recently come across the movie again, I’m pleased at how accurate my correlation of the two sequences was. I’m also warmed by the GRINDHOUSE-like poor quality of the print, which seems to start life as a miasma of BAD AIR passing through the projector at speed, “a foul and pestilential congregation of vapours,” gradually gaining substance as a stream of dust, which then assumes solid form as slivers of shredded celluloid, eventually acquiring the shape of a strip of film with sprocketholes and a magnetic soundtrack, at which point we start to see and hear something.

Something lovely!

Although — the fidgety special effects man keeps throwing new effects at us, some more abstract than others, some cheesier than others, and Michel Legrand keeps segueing from track to track as if his needle was skipping, or as if he was trying to dispense with all his soundtracking duties in one swell foop, which gives the whole thing rather a restless, disturbed quality, at odds with the easy-listening vibe otherwise in evidence. It’s like suffering intermittent blackouts while attending a fondue party. A psychegenic fugue in jazz form.

It’s all very apt, since that Pearl and Dean ad, with its pa-pa pa-pa theme tune which years later turned out be be called ASTEROIDS (!), continued to be run through the projectors of my adolescence long after the print had decayed and turned pink and been scratched to buggery and beyond, since in the ’80s nobody could be bothered updating anything about Britain’s smelly and vacant cinemas — so seeing Litvak’s film in such a decomposed form is like a kind of time travel, only legal.