Archive for Jackie Brown

Adrift

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , on October 19, 2016 by dcairns

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I was lecturing today upon the art of visualisation — getting from words on a page to images on a screen. I wanted to show the first talking scene from THE GRADUATE but I also thought “What the hell?” and showed the whole title sequence.

It brought back to me my first impressions of seeing the film as a teenager: how the opening shot immediately made me feel that I was in… not safe hands, but purposeful hands. Here’s Dustin Hoffman as a kind of disembodied head. The filmmaker definitely has something on his mind. It turns out Mike Nichols signature image for the film was “He’s out of his depth.” Hence all those shots of Dustin Hoffman poolside, or filmed through glass, or otherwise framed in a way to suggest drowning. Here he is, shot as if bobbing in a sea of white upholstery.

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Then we get the shot Tarantino stole for JACKIE BROWN’s title sequence. As blatant thefts go, it can be excused somewhat on the basis that it’s not just a nice shot repeated, but the shot is apt in both cases. Our main character is a passenger. Dustin Hoffman is literally a passenger, Pam Grier is a stewardess, but still, she does not control where the plane is going. By shooting both characters on a kind of conveyor belt, the directors suggest that these people are trapped in a rut, being led along by life, passive. But this is going to change.

Nichols goes one better and cuts to Hoffman’s suitcase, on its own conveyor. Dustin is like his suitcase, and inanimate object trundling along on a preordained path.

For the first time, I noticed the sign. I’m obsessed with writing onscreen but I had not become so when I first saw this movie. It’s a great line to put up front in what is, in effect, a romantic comedy in disguise ~

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Just back from Ricky Callan’s funeral. When the music in the pub switched to Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, I figured that the day had come full circle and it was time to wander home. Cheers, Ricky.

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Red Rivers

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by dcairns

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When Django met Django.

DJANGO UNCHAINED is worth seeing, depending on your tastes — it’s problematic as hell and flawed purely in structural, character and stylistic ways quite apart from its historical, political and ethical problems. I wasn’t as offended by it as I expected to be, but was a lot more bored. But there are a lot of good points — in fairness, I’m going to alternate between plus and minus and we’ll see how they stack up in my take on it by the time I’m finished. Right now I’ve just seen it and I don’t know where I’ll wind up.

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+ The first half has a lot of good western virtues, with scenic vistas, old-timey dialogue and grizzled character thesps.

– The second half feels inert, drawn-out and misshapen, with two climaxes where logically one good one would be better.

+ Christoph Waltz is great fun to watch, and the various baddies are often hissably impressive.

– Jamie Foxx is a kind of supporting player in his own film, and Kerry Washington has the definition of a thankless role — she has literally no scenes where she’s not being tortured or terrorized, or else standing mutely by as a fantasy of the hero. What should be the love scene is cut short when she faints (after being pointlessly terrorized by Waltz, supposedly at Django’s behest).

+ There’s some amusing black comedy violence and satisfying revenge-fantasy mayhem.

– The shoot-out at Candieland struck me as gross. I wasn’t nauseated by the limb-lopping, blood-gouting sword-fights of KILL BILL, but for some reason (greater sadistic focus on suffering victims, maybe, plus more sploshy sound), this was icky.

+ Samuel L. Jackson is great (only in JACKIE BROWN, oddly enough, is he not great). In depicting a “house nigger” character as villain, Tarantino has boldly gone into territory rarely dealt with by movies. The character type is familiar in contemporary African-American discourse but rarely dramatized in Hollywood movies.

– I didn’t see his character as the ultimate villain deserving of the cruelest death at the end. As nasty as Stephen is, he’s a product of his setting and has manipulated his way into the best spot available to him. Though he manipulates his master and has a measure of real power, he’s still vulnerable and disposable, and hasn’t had the opportunities to educate himself that Calvin Candie had. By elevating Stephen above Candie in the film’s structure, QT runs the risk of blurring who was responsible for slavery.

+ The movie has more of a character arc than any other QT movie — both Django and Dr King Schultz change and improve as the film goes on.

– Django’s improvement is shown in his increased self-respect, and his learning to read, and eventually make his own plans. But mainly in his ability to kill without mercy — and this is shown without apparent irony and with no hint of nuance.

+ The proto-Klan scene is wickedly funny in a way that hasn’t been seen since BLAZING SADDLES.

Everything Anne Billson says.

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+ Tackling race at all, in terms outside those considered safe and respectable (ie Spielberg’s LINCOLN), takes nerve. Tarantino is plunging into a despised sub-genre that’s, if you’ll excuse the expression, beyond the pale, but which has yielded interesting work — Fleischer’s MANDINGO, Meyer’s BLACK SNAKE.

– Yoking together fantasy spaghetti western violence, which is removed from reality by several stages, with the historical iniquities of slavery, using “realism” as justification for portraying monstrous acts of cruelty, seems to me to be attempting the impossible. By its very historical revisionism, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS stood exposed as wish-fulfillment, since hopefully we all know Hitler didn’t die in a cinema at the hands of American advance troops. DJANGO doesn’t have that level of Bokononist undercutting.

– And the problem is exacerbated by having DiCaprio state that black people are inherently submissive, since they have had ample opportunities to kill their masters. The obvious counter-argument is that they didn’t kill their white overlords because they didn’t want to be tortured and lynched. Few death camp inmates mutinied in WWII, because the individual desire to stay alive is too strong. Of course, we’re not meant to take DiCaprio’s arguments at face value, given his loathsome character. But Django echoes the sentiment at the end of the film, saying that Candie was right to call him a one-in-ten-thousand exception.

– A heroic bloodshed spaghetti western revenger’s comedy cannot do justice to the story of slavery — it can’t even pretend to try and fail to do justice to it — if it ends on a triumphal note and suggests that the slaves could have won, or that a single slave could have won. As in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, movie violence meets real historical evil and wins. It’s a fanboy jack-off fantasy constructed on a mound of corpses.