Archive for Herve Villechaise

Making the scene

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2012 by dcairns

I first heard about ACTING OUT in editor Ralph Rosenblum’s book When the Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins, a very engaging and insightful look at RR’s life as a film editor, which includes transforming/rescuing films from William Friedkin, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. His work with Allen, from TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN to ANNIE HALL particularly comes to mind when viewing ACTING OUT (rescued from obscurity by trashmeisters Troma) —

The film is a sort-of documentary about sexual fantasies. Various New Yorkers are interviewed, then auditioned, then finally invited to attempt to enact their fantasies in real life on a plush estate outside the city (Project: Nim was probably being enacted a stone’s throw away… the building is also slightly reminiscent of the orgy palace in EYES WIDE SHUT, and it seems likely that, given his interests, Kubrick would have screened this).

Well, it doesn’t all go swimmingly, although probably most of the participants are glad they tried. A learning experience. “It was completely asexual,” complains one young woman, after her fantasy of medical domination turns out off-puttingly real. I would think anybody capable of imagining such a scenario might also be able to imagine how different it might all feel in reality, with a movie crew present…

Woody Allen lines kept cropping up in my head as I watched:

“A large vibrating egg. Well, I ask a psychopath, I get that kind of an answer.”

“I am in love with my sheep.”

“She is elderly, and she uses her wrist a lot.”

The up-tempo jazz tracks don’t do anything to dispel the hilarity, and the dry VO is a killer: “John Smoczyk and Karen Frohardt from Seattle, Washington, who wanted to make love to clowns in a funhouse surrounded by distorting mirrors, got lost in a pleasant but aimless orgy and forgot about completing their scene.”

“You may be interested in why am appearing without, uh, my face. I’m very interested in getting into this show naked and I’m interested in telling you my fantasy. BUT — I thought this was going to be a porn movie, and I have a family… they might think it unfair. My – my wife know about this, being in this p-picture, b-being in this interview, my children don’t know a thing about it. And I worked in civil service, and I was quite straight, and now that I’ve retired, I felt, Gee, modern times, why not get into all the act? So, uh, I’ve been out to the, uh, beach, and I’m going to tell you what my fantasy of sex is. I went out to the beach at Brighton. I don’t mean Brighton. I-I went out to the breach, ah, beach, I won’t give the name of, uh, they now have people… dressing… without any clothes. And it seemed very exciting and so on. And my fantasy is that I’m out there and everybody’s sitting there, some with clothes, some without clothes, and I fall asleep. And then I wake up and there’s a young girl come over to me… she’s interested in tickling me, she’s interested in having me have a party with her, and… either we have a party on the beach, or we have a party in her place, and, um, my fantasy goes on to all sorts of fun there, lots of fun similar to what you’ve probably heard in other people’s fantasies…”

My theory is that this guy just wants sex. That this isn’t his sexual fantasy — how could it be? I mean, I know he’s a retired civil servant, but still… The other stuff in the film is properly whacky and sometimes a little disturbing (only the men are disturbing), and mainly I was thinking “This is HIGHLY personal stuff… are you sure you want to be putting it out there?”

Rosenblum, I seem to recall, says in his book how moving he found the experience, and for the most part, although porn actors were used in staging the scenes, the movie is as far from the exploitation of “adult cinema” as you could wish. Except that not everybody seems to be going into the scenes knowing what to expect, which raises questions about informed consent which the filmmakers don’t seem inclined to answer. There’s also the straightforward incompetence, as when the guy with the dream of being a Salem impuritan (one of America’s F***ing Fathers?) and tickling a bunch of men’s penises with a feather goes awry when they line up a bunch of straight guys (including a lead player from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST) who don’t, ah, respond as he’d hoped. The guy’s pretty upset about this, as well he might be — it’s like he’s gone to Fantasy Island, and Herve Villechaise won’t put out.

Foundering feathers.

The name’s Bunuel. Luis Bunuel.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by dcairns



If you’re like me, you often wish Luis Bunuel had directed a Bond film. One, probably anything’s better than Marc Forster directing a Bond film, and two, Bunuel was riding high during the heyday of 007, so why couldn’t it have happened?

Looking deeper, we see that Bunuel directed Bond girl Carole Bouquet in THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE, in which she played one half of the object, shortly before her appearance in MOONRAKER, and furthermore MOONRAKER bad guy Hugo Drax was played by Michel Lonsdale, seen getting his bottom thrashed in Bunuel’s PHANTOM OF LIBERTY back when Roger Moore was battling Scaramanga.


“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Like Bond, Bunuel’s characters, at least in his later films, are always impeccably turned out, and demonstrate perfect sang-froid even in the most stressful situations, whether it be alligator attack or the army arriving for dinner unexpectedly. Like Bond, they are famous for their discrete charm.

Bunuel’s enthusiasm for fire-arms is well documented. You can even see him shooting a mountain goat in LAS HURDES/LAND WITHOUT BREAD (well, you can see the puff of smoke from the right of frame just before the goat falls off the mountain). Don Luis’s enthusiasm for experimental weaponry had him making his own bullets, playing around with different charges, trying to develop a bullet with just enough momentum to leave the gun barrel before bouncing lightly off its target. This interest in fancy weaponry surely marks him out as the ideal man to bring Bond to life.


“Do pay attention, 007!”

While Bond favours the vodka martini, Bunuel leans more towards the dry martini made with gin and angustura bitters, but that’s a minor point. The martini is a creative drink, also favoured by Busby Berkeley (a Busby Bond? Why not? But later.)

So it’s not an implausible idea, OK?

Scaramanga’s dwarf sidekick, Hervé Villechaise, would have been right at home in any of Don Luis’s films (dwarfs trot through SIMON OF THE DESERT, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY and several others), and Bond’s tendency to run up against scorpions, tarantulas and other obscure fauna would be quite in keeping with the action of a Bunuel. My Bunuel 100 Anos book (or, as I call it, The Boys’ Big Book of Bunuel) even includes a Bunuel Bestiary in the back.

So, Dan O’Herlihy as Bond. Celtic Bonds have been successful before, of course, and as Bunuel’s Robinson Crusoe, O’Herlihy got in plenty of experience in exotic locations. I’d love to see what he made of the part.


Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Fernando Rey, suavely villainous in Hollywood movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, would make a great master-criminal. Could we resist Catherine Deneuve as Bond girl Anne Dalou, and could she resist playing it if the high priest of cinematic surrealism were in charge? Zachary Scott, fresh from THE YOUNG ONE, could play Bond’s CIA counterpart Felix Leiter. Oh wait, he died in 1965. Damn. OK, Bernie Hamilton then. Sean Connery always thought Felix should be black — I presume on the basis that it was the kind of thankless part where nobody would object, and therefore you should make the effort.

Ken Adam, I submit, would have had a great time building sets for Bunuel, who loved “secret passages leading on to darkness”.

THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL would make a great title for a Bond. Imagine what Shirley Bassey could do with a lyric like that. Much better than QUANTUM OF SLOSH, anyway.

But let’s call our imaginary Bunuel Bond GRAN CASINO ROYALE. The globe-trotting narrative will take us through Spain, the U.S.A., Mexico and France. Bond will battle tarantulas, snakes and flesh-eating ants, and face enemies armed with razors, rifles, burlap sacks and buggy-whips. All in search of a mysterious box with undisclosed, buzzing contents…


That Obscure Odd-Job of Desire.

The Chills #2: Insect Politics

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2008 by dcairns

undone by the fly 

This clip is from a horror movie, but that’s not actually the kind of chills I’m talking about. What this is, is a collection of those film scenes that rend the veil of mundanity and make you feel hooked into the Great Beyonderness of Things, that bring a poetic, indefinable insight to bear and open up possibilities undreamed-of, and make you feel awe and panicky joy and the exact physical sensations you felt that time Hervé Villachaise caressed your spine with an icicle.

[Spoilsports at Fox don’t want me promoting their film so they’ve removed the clip.]

Here’s Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis and John Getz in Cronenberg’s THE FLY. I would have to say this sequence, which GETS ME every damn time, is a compendium of many different emotions produced by many different things.

Howard Shore’s music is a huge part of it — if you watch a string of early Cronenbergs you get to hear Shore go from barely adequate to really, really good, quite rapidly. THE BROOD is kinda bland. SCANNERS is a rather weak PSYCHO riff, then VIDEODROME starts to get better and then THE FLY arrives and kicks ass.

And the performances are lovely, especially Goldblum, who’s perfectly cast and has perfect counterpart in Davis. John Getz properly comes into his own in THE FLY II, which is a pretty bad film but his single scene is TERRIFIC.

It’s really the dialogue that’s the core of it for me. The script is by Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg, one of the few times Cronenberg adapted another writer’s script. Pogue has been very complimentary about the results, which is rare with screenwriters — we’re so used to having people trample our work with hobnailed boots while jabbering inanely like a Barbary macaque. It’s humbling when somebody comes along and actually IMPROVES what we’ve written, and is SENSITIVE to what we were trying to do with the thing in the first place.

Back in 1986 it probably couldn’t be predicted that Cronenberg would soon be concentrating more on adaptations than on originals, subtly Cronenbergerizing them while remaining very true to the values of the source material. He’d already made THE DEAD ZONE, one of the very few decent Stephen King adaptations (the key would seem to be excavating the valuable stuff that touches chords and makes King’s work so popular, and finding a new shape for it once you’ve removed the buckets of MATTER that fill out King’s doorstop volumes — perhaps exploiting the lacunae created by swinging cuts to create mystery, the way Kubrick did in THE SHINING) and was about to bring us NAKED LUNCH and M. BUTTERFLY and CRASH…

this bed was made for Walken

Dialogue often gets short shrift in discussion of cinema. I take the view that great cinema is that which uses its tools to create a unified effect that is either powerful or complex or both, and dialogue can as well be a part of that as anything else. It can’t totally dominate, but then to get a unified effect from cinema, which is kind of a fusion of many art forms, no one part can completely dominate. If it’s JUST cool photography or great editing, that doesn’t make great cinema either. I heard Richard Stanley say the other day that cinema “doesn’t LIKE dialogue,” which struck me as, well, WRONG, and certainly out of keeping with my experience of cinema. Stanley, like his idol Argento, doesn’t write good dialogue, or film it particularly well, or get very good performances, so maybe it’s a matter of being attuned to the virtues of screen talk. It’s true that cinema started off without the ability to talk, but it started without precisely synchronised music and sound effects too, and I know of few purists who think those are a burden on film art (though there are certainly people who choose not to use them, which is just fine).

Beam me up

So, the dialogue, the score, also the lighting, the rather lovely creature make-up, the way Goldblum’s eyes move (and when he looks UP and his eyes roll, he’s strangely reminiscent of Michael Anderson, the Man from Another Place in TWIN PEAKS — something about the cheekbones, I think) and when Goldblum is on the roof, he’s suddenly Lon Chaney in our memories of both THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and the film we’re watching suddenly seems not only thematically super-rich (disease, aging, love, death, rebirth) but hooked into a whole rich history of monster movies.

What we’ve got here is SCREEN POETRY my friends. And what I’ve got is the chills.

(More chills soon. And I would LOVE for you to nominate your own examples.)