Archive for Jack Nance

Foleydelphia

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on February 7, 2017 by dcairns

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Set my first year students a sound effects project, which they just finished. They got to choose from three scenes, from which I’d removed the soundtrack. The scenes were: 10.30 PM SUMMER (Jules Dassin), the opening murder; THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (Luis Bunuel), the crawling hand dream; ERASERHEAD, our first meeting with Henry.

All the students did interesting work and in places sometimes surpassed the illustrious filmmakers they were “collaborating” with. A really interesting case was ERASERHEAD, which has an undeniably immersive and oppressive soundscape by Lynch and regular collaborator the late Alan Splet (whose very name is a magnificent sound effect). But in choosing to privilege a throbbing industrial atmos, the filmmakers naturally sacrifice a degree of individual detail. As Henry traverses a series of heaps of waste material (slag?), all we hear is the urban rumble.

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One group of students chose to dub in extremely precise dusty footsteps for Henry’s journey. The effect was riveting. A closely synced sound always draws our attention to the object concerned, and by honouring actor Jack Nance’s gait, and his little hesitations and skids as he deals, not too nimbly, with the more “mountainous” areas, the foley work actually ADDED PSYCHOLOGY — it put us into Henry’s shiny black shoes, and made us experience his every step.

As I remarked at the time, I always like it when I learn something in a class — especially when it’s one I’m teaching.

 

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Squeak

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2017 by dcairns

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CHINATOWN. Jack Nicholson as private eye Jake Gittes arrives at a swank mansion.

As he approaches the door, he hears something.

Evidently it’s coming from the limo. It is a squeaking sound.

Jack/Jake approaches the front door and rings the bell. A Chinese butler answers it, takes his card, and shuts the door in his face. While Jack awaits the manservant’s return, his attention is again caught by that damned squeaking. He looks back at the limo.

And now a chauffeur appears from behind the car, wiping it with a piece of chamois leather. Squeak squeak squeak.

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This always gets a great laugh. It intrigues me. I laughed too. But why? There is a mysterious sound. Then we find out the ordinary explanation. And for some reason that’s funny. It also seems apt in this film: there is  mystery, even in an apparently mundane setting. And we learn the solution. A microcosm for the whole film?

ERASERHEAD. Jack Nance as Henry Spencer visits his girlfriend at the parents’ house. For some time the conversation has to compete with an inexplicable squeaking noise.

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Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

Henry eventually looks in the direction of the sound.

On the floor, a bitch is nursing a litter of pups.

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This is also weirdly funny. Lynch being who he is gets more discomfort out of the protracted and surreal noise, and the explanation when it comes still has a slightly icky biological feel: the anxiety of procreation, a major theme of the film. But we should not take any comfort from the fact that Lynch, like Polanski, eventually explains away this mystery. He can’t be relied upon to do so. The gag works better as an example of Henry’s curious and fatal passivity. This totally bizarre noise is whining away, and it takes him like a minute to muster the elementary curiosity to look for the source.

Poor Henry.