Archive for Hot Fuzz

The Big Vox Scoop

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2010 by dcairns

A Shadowplay Informant brings me an exciting scoop for the Vox Project, my plan to uncover the anonymous vocal artists lurking out of frame revoicing the people in close-up. As far as I know, this one has never been published and is unknown to the world, although as I’ll explain further down, a few insiders may have been playing with the info, teasing us.

EYES WIDE SHUT.

The masked girl is voiced by Cate Blanchett. There, it’s out.

If this is true (and I pursue deniability like a true weasel) then it’s not CB’s only masked and anonymous role. In HOT FUZZ she plays Simon Pegg’s girlfriend in the opening scenes, but in that movie her identity was leaked early on and was mentioned in numerous reviews. And in that movie it’s her behind the mask. In EWS it’s Julienne Davis who provides the physical elements of the performance.

It does seem like a startling coincidence for Blanchett to be asked to contribute a masked, uncredited performance to HF without somebody involved knowing the secret of her involvement in the Kubrick production (released in 1999, the same year as AN IDEAL HUSBAND, so CB had certainly been in the UK around the right time), so maybe this occult performance is known to a few people in the industry. They just never thought to tell me, until now.

Assuming this is indeed La Blanchett (and I have considerable confidence in my informant and I know how they got the information), I admire the subtly proletarian “Noo Yawk” accent she’s doing, appropriate for a character who is presumably a working girl. My informant says, “Could she have been imitating Kubrick’s accent? I don’t know, but CB can do just about anything, can’t she? With the possible exception of looking like Kate Hepburn.”

Of course I have to protect my source from the Vox Mafia, who guard their secrets jealously. If they catch you spilling the beans they cut out your vocal cords and replace them with one of those little cylinders that goes “moo” when you turn it upside down. So then you can only go “moo” in answer to any question, and even to say that much you have to do a handstand.

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Cop Show

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2008 by dcairns

OK, here’s the answer to CLUES… probably a disappointing one since few have even heard of it and it’s not that special…

Sixties policier GIRL IN THE HEADLINES has a rather exotic feel since everybody’s so posh. Even the heroic chief inspector is comfortably middle-class: Jane Asher plays his daughter, for heaven’s sake. It’s all the more bizarre because the story deals with murder and drug-running, yet our cast includes fashion models, a retired opera singer, a knighted captain of industry, a painter, and a TV actor. All plausible drug USERS, but hidden among them are diabolical smugglers and hot-blooded assassins.

Our lead cop is Ian Hendry — “eyes like piss-holes in the snow,” Michael Caine says of him in GET CARTER, but here he’s younger, fresher, has suffered fewer disappointments and put away less booze. Hendry was the original lead of the series that mutated into The Avengers, and had an apparently bright future ahead. By the time of GET CARTER he’d done REPULSION and THE HILL, but things weren’t working out. Mike Hodges says that in Hendry’s main scene with Caine there was a real tension, a resentment from Hendry towards the more successful actor, that seethes in the background.

Hendry is assisted by Ronald Fraser (and it’s weird seeing HIM get second billing), a somewhat grotesque character player with a head like a turnip and the world’s smallest mouth — basically a glorified pore. He provides comic asides and non-sequiteurs like a Dragnet sidekick.

Filling out the rogue’s gallery we have Jeremy Brett and James Villiers, both of whom there’s lots to say about. Brett, like his best friend Robert Stephens, had mixed fortunes with the role of Sherlock Holmes. Stephens hated working for Billy Wilder so much on THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES that he attempted suicide to get out of it, yet now it’s the role he’s most remembered for. Brett, much later in life, scored a great success as Holmes in TV adaptations of the entire Conan Doyle Holmes canon, but suffered terribly from manic-depression and a feeling that he could never escape the role. Treated with lithium, which caused him terrible physical problems, he reached a low point where he prostrated himself on the pavement of Baker Street begging the shade of Sherlock to release him.

Here he’s young, strikingly handsome, strong AND sensitive, and obvious star material. But I suppose the British cinema was moving into a phase where it wasn’t looking for a dashing leading man. Brett might have tried Hollywood, where his mental illness would scarcely have been noticed.

James Villiers plays a homosexual TV star (has small yapping dog, frequents all-male jazz cellar). Descended from the Earls of Clarendon, Villiers brings his customary aristocratic elan and a rather likable feyness to bear on a character we are clearly meant to despise. “I think he’d like to marry me,” suggests Hendry, though Villiers has shown no sign of any such infatuation.

Rosalie Crutchley, haunted and beautiful, plays housekeeper to the retired opera singer mixed up in this somehow. Known for her housekeeping — fans of THE HAUNTING can quote her “No one will come. In the night. In the dark,” — Crutchley brings solemnity and compulsion to her scene.

Michael Truman, the director of this modest, pleasant, unmemorable whodunnit, was a successful TV man who dabbled in film. The producer was John Davis, whose name lives in infamy as destroyer of the British film industry. Michael Powell savaged him in PEEPING TOM, creating a studio boss called Don Jarvis who says things like “From now on, if you can see it and hear it, it goes in!” — purportedly a true-life quote. As head of production at Rank, Davis presided over the collapse of the British film industry and the demise of Powell’s career.

(Powell’s cinematographer, Christopher Challis, reports that he had a job sitting on a committee at Rank to discuss the ailing industry. He hated the work, and resolved to get himself fired from it. His chance came when a report was read out, saying that Rank had quizzed punters leaving its Odeon cinemas, asking if there was anything the organisation could be doing to bolster film-going. The public had given them the thumbs up: nothing need be done. Challis stood up and said that since statistics showed that the majority of Brits never went near an Odeon, maybe the pollsters should be talking to THEM instead.

He was not asked back.)

It struck me as I was watching GIRL IN THE HEADLINES that Britain doesn’t really DO police procedurals anymore. Asides from HOT FUZZ, there hasn’t been a Brit cop film I can think of since the seventies. Of course it’s easy to blame TV for flooding the market, but other nations with healthy TV industries manage to present cinematic cop thrillers too. The French and Americans certainly have no problem making great televisual police drama and great cinematic police drama, and they know the difference, too. In GIRL IN THE HEADLINES the main characters don’t experience any profound change during the story — they just do their jobs. Which would be essential in a TV show where the characters have to resume duties next week, but it’s almost fatal to a one-off drama. I think the reason Britain doesn’t make cop films is a lack of confidence in being able to deliver the required cinematic qualities that would separate film from TV. These qualities are:

1) A character arc which results in a transformed lead character.

2) A story with a unique selling point, or high concept, to get people out from TV-land and into the cinema.

3) Visual style to lift the film from the run of TV police procedurals.

I’m speaking purely of the most basic commercial cinema and traditional dramatic form — there might well be other approaches that could be successful, but the above three points would be enough to make a cop movie populist and accessible. I think the fact that our cinema lacks confidence in its ability to pull off those three qualities in a cop film indicates a lack of confidence in cinematic storytelling altogether. It’s notable that Edgar Wright of HOT FUZZ is clearly bursting with confidence and overloads his film with the three factors cited — even though point 1 need not necessarily apply to comedy.

Swan's Way

And THAT should be the theme for a blog post in itself — comedy and character arcs.

Euphoria #25

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2008 by dcairns

Funny scene from KUNG FU HUSTLE, directed by and starring Stephen Chow, suggested by film student and action movie enthusiast Rehan Yousuf.

Reehan is rendered EXTREMELY VOLUBLE by all action-related thoughts. John Woo is his God. He is a spiritual brother to Nick Frost’s character in HOT FUZZ. Yet I feel he is redeemed by his affection for Jean Arthur.

Arthur on the rocks

Though never really wooed by Woo (I get TIRED of blood capsules and slomo), I admit to admiring Stephen Chow enormously. PRINCE OF BEGGARS is fun, SHAOLIN SOCCER is lots of fun (my friend Garry Marshall’s three little kids thought the goalkeeper having his clothes blasted off by a supercharged football’s aftershock was THE FUNNIEST THING EVER), and KUNG FU HUSTLE is possibly the best live-action Warner Bros cartoon ever. It shouldn’t be possible to sustain a feature without any respect for the laws of physics, but Chow gets away with it, partly by keeping his central character on the sidelines for so long (and acting as a BAD GUY), and partly by sheer invention. Apart from the grotesque exaggeration of much of the action (like the guy who mutates into a toad thru Kung Fu), mostly this is done by clever stuff of the kind seen here: unusual visual gags of the kind nobody’s really thought to try before.

I love the way the knife handle sticks to her face.

Best of all, apart from a spot of axe-related unpleasantness at the start (setting up the Big Bad Guy’s Big Bad Guyness), the film is enjoyable innocent and not really violent in a Bruce Lee or even a Jackie Chan way. It’s a lovable action movie.

Start looking forward to the next Chow NOW: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0940709/