Archive for Herzog

Whore Leave

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2015 by dcairns

 

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“If she’s not a whore, she’s a bore,” was one of Billy Wilder’s writing rules, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. In an era where women were typed as sexually virtuous or otherwise (unlike today, of course), Wilder excelled because he rejected such black-and-white distinctions, always looking for the lustiness of the virgin or the romantic leanings of the slut.

THE WORLD’S OLDEST PROFESSION is a 1967 compendium film which largely misses any such nuance, but it’s of some interest since it’s one of the few places where you can see the nouvelle vague and the Cinema du Papa butting up against one another. What makes the whoring boring is that nearly all the (male) directors adopt a jocular tone which seems quaint to the modern viewer, and not particularly funny. It probably doesn’t help that the film’s chronological traipse through history prevents the producers from leading with the strongest short. Michele Mercier dons fur bikini for Franco Indovina, showing prostitution to be as old as the sabre-tooth, Mauro Bolognini visits ancient Rome ahead of Fellini with Elsa Martinelli as an aloof empress, Philippe de Broca posits Jeanne Moreau in the age of the French Revolution, but none of them has any real wit, perhaps because none of them really has anything to say about the subject. It’s sometimes the case in anthologies that the one with the least reputation will try the hardest, and here German TV director Michael Phleghar Pfleghar transcends his unattractive surname, which sounds like a nasty lung infection, with a jaunt through the Belle Epoque in the company of Raquel Welch. For all its breezy tone, trendy technique (zooms AND freeze frames, Herr Pfleghar?) and luscious art nouveau sets, this earns points for daring to suggest that making a living on your back might not be all jollity and multiple orgasms.

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Claude Autant-Lara tackles sex work in the sixties. Perhaps he was desperate to show himself up-to-date and with it. But actually, though he doesn’t have any point to make in particular, his tall tale about a belle de nuit and her chauffeuse/poncette is the most amusing of the film’s chapters. It has a walk-on by the great Dalio, who outclasses everyone around him, and it has a number of daft ideas bolted together in a ramshackle but at least unpredictable manner.

The next transition is where it gets exciting, as we cut directly from a director who dates from the avant-garde scene of the twenties, to Monsieur Contemporaire himself, Jean-Luc Godard, who effortlessly blows his predecessors out of l’eau with ANTICIPATION, OU L’AMOUR EN L’ANS 2000, a slight reprise of ALPHAVILLE and a farewell to wife/muse/collaborator Anna Karina. I’m sure I read somewhere that the movie was a contemptuous send-off, with JLG humiliating his straying wife with a shot where she drinks from a spray can, framed to look as if she’s being urinated on. I’m not sure I buy this. One would have to ask what Godard has against his male star, since he films him the same way, and one would have to assume that Karina had no idea what was going on and was incapable of defending herself. The spray is a fine mist, not a squirt of liquid as it easily could have been, and just seems part and parcel with the movie’s bizarro sci-fi nonsense.

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Judge for yourself. Hmm, it may be a tiny bit sexual.

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Heh heh heh.

Whereas Lemmy Caution drove into Alphaville from outer space in a car, our slow-talking hero (from a world where time moves at a different rate) jets into planet earth by plane, in shots recalling LA JETTEE, only moving. As with his ETRANGE AVENTURE, the director conjures his future world entirely from available locations, in this case CDG Airport and an anonymous hotel. The first woman provided for our weary traveller doesn’t stimulate him because she won’t talk, though she does have a remarkable dress, which she removes — Godard serves up b&w photography, avant-garde soundscapes, and full-frontal nudity, making his segment seem like not just a different era but a different century of cinema from the rest.

(It’s interesting that when intellectual filmmakers like Herzog (in WILD BLUE YONDER) and Godard do scifi, the science tends to be completely bogus pulp nonsense. The genre conventions of sci-fi are ripe for satire always, but are these smart guys really so ignorant or uninterested in the way things work? And throwing in random science words is only a very vague approximation of how pulp space operas operate.)

Karina is shipped in as replacement and explains that in the far-flung year 2000, prostitutes all specialise, so that they either do physical stuff or just talk. So Karina just talks, or rather recites. Like Captain Kirk, the visitor must show her the ways of love… The show isn’t any more progressive politically than those before it — Godard was pretty slow to “get” feminism (BRITISH SOUNDS, made for Granada Television in the UK, addresses women’s issues with a short discussion in voice only while the camera stares impassively at a naked pubic triangle, as tone-deaf a visualisation as you could wish for; and as late as ARIA he was still using naked women as set dressing) but cinematically it’s advanced, alright. The writer B. Kite once suggested to me a good way to view the old and new waves. There was undoubtedly brilliant popular music before rock ‘n’ roll, but its arrival released a lot of energy.

Now I’ve seen everything

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 10, 2011 by dcairns

Max, the talking crow, is perhaps the most personable character in Werner Herzog’s NOBODY WANTS TO PLAY WITH ME, a short mockumentary / public service announcement which seems, in its simplicity and naivety, like an earlier work than it actually is. One might debate the wisdom of hiring Herzog to make a film encouraging children to be more considerate and sociable, but then one might say, “Why the hell not? At least it’ll be interesting.”

The film, via a selection of frame grabs and subtitles, is presented in capsule form over at The Daily Notebook, and constitutes this week’s edition of The Forgotten.

And yes, it should definitely be screened on a programme with Kiarostami’s TWO SOLUTIONS TO ONE PROBLEM.

Film File-o’-Facts

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2007 by dcairns

1] Herman Baldwin is the only actor to appear in both the 1922 and 1979 versions of NOSFERATU. He plays the minor role of “Third Rat” in the Murnau classic, but fifty-five years later he had graduated to feature-player status, portraying “Lead Rat” in the audacious Herzog re-imagining. Most recently, Baldwin worked on RATATOUILLE, where sophisticated motion-capture technology allowed animators to use his physical performance for the character “Skinner”. Baldwin is said to be “very disappointed” that Ian Holm’s voice was used instead of his own. Though now in his late nineties, Baldwin still hopes to escape from being typecast in rat roles, and would love to try his hand at a more romantic part.

2] Which movie actor and singing star is actually a conjoined twin?

*See bottom of page for answer.

3] Legend has it that if you play the first side of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon while watching THE WIZARD OF OZ, the effect is not really complimentary to either film or album.

4] The longest film ever made may be Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s BACH: A BIG FILM FROM LEIPZIG. But an exact running time is not available: critics attending the first screening in March 1987 have still not emerged.

5] Joseph “Buster” Keaton and Larry “Buster” Crabbe were actually brothers. Their son is eighties singing sensation Buster Bloodvessel.

Great Stone Face.Stiff Upper Lip.

6] Silent movie director Fritz Lang was actually silent in real life. Lang suffered from hysterical mutism after his experiences in World War One. He would communicate on set using his own personalized sign language, consisting mainly of punching and kicking. A punch in the stomach meant “less,” a kick in the shins, “more.”

After going to France to make LILIOM, Lang discovered he was mute only in German. By an irony of fate he could communicate fluently in French, a language he did not speak.

Old Lang Syne.

7] If you watch the first 40 mins of Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS while listening to “Give ’em Enough Rope” by The Clash, the film is massively improved. It’s even better if you shut your eyes.

8] Besides Jerry Lewis’ famed concentration camp comedy THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, other unreleased movies waiting on the shelf include Kinji Fukasaku’s all-Japanese UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, and Merle Oberon’s directing debut, CHARLES MANSON: THE MUSICAL, starring Art Garfunkel and Twiggy.

9] The shortest film ever made is Michael Snow’s FRAME, which is just a single frame in duration. Since the film is too short to “spool up”, projectionists usually just drop it past the lens.

10] The most faithful film adaptation ever is Cantlin Ashrowan’s film of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The director simply filmed the book’s open pages, leaving plenty of time for the viewer to read. Ashrowan is now trying to interest Robert Zemeckis in filming the braille edition in 3D.

The Knowles Twins.

*Answer: Beyonce Knowles. Beyonce’s “Siamese twin” brother, Bernard (technically her half-brother) has to be digitally “air-brushed” out of photos and videos, although for live appearances he just puts a lampshade on his head.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0461497/