Archive for Jennifer Jason Leigh

Twin Peaks Precap

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2017 by dcairns

I’ve been enjoying all the Twin Peaks recaps, including my friend Keith Uhlich’s on The Notebook. And listening religiously to Diane, for my money THE podcast on the subject.

Obviously it’s too late for me to start recapping TP now, but it can’t surely be too late to recap episode 12, since it hasn’t aired yet. These are my predictions for what’s going to happen — a kind of precap, if you will. Obviously we have to wait until Sunday to see if I’m right but I am confident that I will be VINDICATED in every detail. So there are spoilers ahead. I won’t change anything after the episode airs so you’ll be able to see how devastatingly accurate I am.

You’ll maybe have noticed that while each episode features numerous hanging threads, usually these are not picked up in the following episode. You have to wait until the episode after, or maybe several episodes after. Matthew Lillard made an astonishing impression in the role of Earthworm Jim Principal Hastings but then disappeared for over a month.

In episode 8 we saw the ????? Giant use something which Fiona christened the Fallopian Tuba to blast a glowing orb full of Laura Palmer at the old BBC globe of the world ident. Well, we haven’t seen him and his girlfriend and the tuba for about a month, so I think they’ll be back. I expect we’ll see him blast a few follow-up orbs at us, perhaps containing the effulgent faces of Dick Tremayne, Dwayne Mibbler and that guy with the plaster-of-paris nose mask.

Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh are going to do some terrible things to Warden Murphy. There was apparently a lot of really bad stuff in WILD AT HEART concerning Harry Dean Stanton’s demise at the hands of a duo of hitpersons, and it got cut out. I think Lynch has been saving it up.

Gordon and Albert and Tammy and Diane won’t get to the other coordinates yet. But Gordon deliberately let Diane memorise the figures so she can tell Dirty Cooper, because they want him there so they can catch him.

When they do go there, maybe in episode 13 or 14, it will all link up with Jack Rabbit’s Palace and they’ll see Truman, Hawk and Bobby in Twin Peaks. They might also see the Major’s head float past. I don’t know what he’s going to say this time but it’ll be pretty deep. Also, Jerry Horne, stoned out of his mind and lost in the woods, will blunder in at an inopportune moment. Maybe he’ll fall in the pit they’ve dug for Dirty Cooper. But that’s in the future. That won’t happen this week.

Benjamin Horne announced his intention of taking his new secretary Beverly to dinner, but we didn’t see it. It’ll happen this week, with no explanation for the delay. My theory which I really think is true is that the reason he couldn’t kiss her before — she thinks it’s because he’s a good man, but we know that isn’t true — is that she’s actually his daughter. Old Ben sure sowed a few wild oats in his time. Ashley Judd is an oat who has come home to roost. Remember in series 1 he nearly had sex with Audrey.

The humming sound that’s been bugging them is Joan Chen in a doorknob, but she won’t come out yet. They have to save something for season 4.

Frustratingly, after the Buckhorn police found Dougie’s wedding ring inside a corpse, nobody has tried to trace a couple called Dougie and Janey-E. Probably because it hasn’t occurred to them that Janey-E could be someone’s actual name. If they checked, I bet there’s only one couple in the whole of America with those names. But they haven’t checked, so they’re not going to. So I’m not sure what purpose the wedding ring serves or why Dirty Cooper presumably left it there. Or when he got it from the original Dougie. Presumably at the time he replaced it with the “sacrificial ring” from FIRE WALK WITH ME? It’s pretty hard to figure out what that guy’s up to except it all has to do with  killing Dougie/Dale so he can stay on Earth and not go back to the Lodge.

Andy has apparently forgotten all about the hit-and-run child death he was investigating. Lucy is a better cop than Andy. She saw Chad stealing Truman’s mail and was mildly suspicious about it.

The nasty Richard Horne will get Steven and Gersten and the armpit rash girl and her friend involved in his drugs deal with the sinister Red. Chad is already involved, as is the last of the Renaults. We will see signs of this developing. In the last episode they will all get caught in a big net dropped from a tree by Hawk.

But that’s later. This week, Richard will visit his mom, Audrey, who will be clad in some kind of fetishy disability costume like Rosanna Arquette in CRASH (the good one).

Candy Clark may well do some more epic complaining. But maybe this time she’ll soften, also. Third time’s the charm.

Diane will tell the entirety of Buckhorn, South Dakota, to fuck off.

Detectives Fusco, Fusco & Fusco will interrogate Ike the Spike using the famous “bad cop, bad cop, bad cop” routine. Ike will refuse to snitch until they get Uri Geller in to give his spike metal fatigue, then he’ll tell them everything.

In episode 12 Norma will look concerned. I think also eventually it will be revealed that she’s living with Big Ed at his Gas Farm.

We will find out who the girl was who got the frog-moth down her throat. We will be surprised.

Who’s going to play Philip Jeffries? I think the only exciting guest stars left are Monica Bellucci and John Savage. Since Bellucci will be more surprising, it ought to be her. Or maybe Jim Belushi will unzip his head and reveal that he’s really been Monica Bellucci all along. All his life.

Leo Johnson’s skeleton will be found in a lonely cabin, clutching a rope between his teeth. The Deer Park deputy Bobby shot and buried in the woods in FIRE WALK WITH ME will be uncovered by animal activity. It will turn out that the owls really ARE what they seem.

Dougie’s friendship with the Mitchum Bros will not be developed in this episode. No good can come of that, even if a shared appreciation for pie and repetition seems like a sound basis for friendship. But they’re not going to be happy with Tom Sizemore. Neither is rival mobster Duncan Todd. But probably they’ll all wait an episode before doing anything about it. And then Bushnell Mullins will get to punch somebody out. You can’t have the remarkably spry Don Murray as an ex-boxer with a poorly-Photoshopped poster and then not have him punch anybody. Not in a show with Tim Roth in it.

Also due for punching: Chad. He won’t get caught in Hawk’s net, Sheriff Truman will apprehend him in his office, and pull the wooden knob repeatedly so that the wood-panelled Skype-screen pops out of the desk really fast and smashes Chad in the face. Then he can Skype Doc Hayward and get him to come over and fix Chad’s face before he’s hauled off by the Feds.

We’ve learned that both Dougie and James were in traffic accidents. It will be revealed that they collided with each other, in an incident caused by Wally Brando’s erratic bikemanship.

A heartwarming scene showing what the woodsmen get up to when they’re not busy being terrifying. They sit around a formica table drinking Cup-a-Soups, possibly. They also whittle.

In an unadvertised cameo, Billy Ray Cyrus will perform at the Bang Bang Bar. Everyone will leave as the credits roll.

A Hatful of Hateful

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2016 by dcairns

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To Edinburgh Filmhouse, to see THE HATEFUL EIGHT in 70mm, complete with overture and intermission.

Last 70mm opportunity was THE MASTER, which it was hoped would be projected at Filmhouse — they were promised a print from London. The London cinema put their best projectionist on the job. But for the press show, they handed it to someone with less experience, since it was only critics, only the people whose verdict might help bring the public in… and he wrecked the print. So no Edinburgh 70mm of that one.

I’m not really a film snob, though watching TRUMBO recently it was obvious to me that for certain kinds of period feel it’s always going to be superior. And the look of Tarantino’s film (apart from, surprisingly, one flickering shot at the start — not sure if this was a projection problem or a filming issue) benefits from the rich, fine grain of Super 65mm Cinerama. But as to the projection, were it not for one tiny scratch and the “cigarette burns” signalling reel changes, I wouldn’t have known it was film and not a DCP. Still, those little imperfections have a nostalgic value.

I have simultaneously been impressed and amused by the last couple of Tarantino films, while also finding them wildly offensive. A lot of negative reviews on this one made me suspect I might really hate it — more violence, more dubious use of racial epithets, more over-extended talk scenes. In fact, I didn’t find it quite as obnoxious as INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS or DJANGO UNCHAINED. It wasn’t about the Holocaust or slavery, is the simple reason why. It does purport to deal with race in America, however, and like its predecessors it comes up against the limitations of genre cinema in addressing complex, serious real-world issues. It doesn’t manage to highlight these problems in the way that IB arguably does, which might be that film’s redeeming trait (if we leave aside the funny bits and tense bits and clever bits), but its failure to bend the rules of the Tarantino universe to incorporate a coherent state of the nation address did not, for me, result in a film more unpleasant than DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Those who were incensed or bored by the film’s excesses do have my sympathy, but I got to that point two films ago, so I’m less upset about this one.

In the spirit of kindly critique — since I went with very shaky expectations, I don’t feel outrage is appropriate — I want to offer some thoughts on how the film might have succeeded better at some of its apparent goals.
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(ONE)

It feels like Tarantino has been trapped by his cool title. He’s compelled to populate his wide frame with horribly obnoxious characters. Yet while every single one of the protagonists of RESERVOIR DOGS was a career criminal, several of them were at least somewhat likable some of the time, and there were certain gradations of nastiness. Fiona, who first saw the movie on VHS, was snarling “Shoot him!” within five minutes of Mr. Blond’s appearance.

If this seems like I’m calling for the film to use more conventional, hence more boring characterisation, maybe I am, but would RESERVOIR DOGS be improved if Harvey Keitel were shown laughing at a woman being beaten, or if Steve Buscemi were a virulent racist? Wouldn’t the tension of HATEFUL 8 be increased if Kurt Russell were less brutish, Samuel Jackson less psychopathic? Wouldn’t everything get better if the characters weren’t all so SIMILAR? It’s my view that if you’re going to spend most of three hours shut in a room with a small crowd of characters, the more varied they are then the more entertaining the experience will be. Making them all variations on the cold-blooded killer model seems wasteful.

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(TWO)

Yes, the N word. And the repeated woman-punching. The explanations Tarantino has offered for his infatuation with that particular term do not satisfy. But he may believe some of them. I felt it was a bit ridiculous to protest the word’s inclusion in DJANGO UNCHAINED, given the social context — it was more worthwhile to protest the film’s falsification of that context (the fantasy of “Mandingo fighting,” for instance). But there’s one use of the word right at the end of DU, where the word is used as punchline to a Lone Ranger reference, which is pertinent here, because Tarantino is now using the word as punchline to jokes in which Samuel L. Jackson is the butt. (And I worry about how history will regard Jackson for his participation in these two films.)

As with the “humour” around Jennifer Jason Leigh’s frequent pummelings, it’s probable that Tarantino intends us to find this comedy uncomfortable. But it isn’t the comedy of discomfort you might find in, I don’t know, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? The jokes are played straight, and it’s up to the audience to find them difficult IF the audience is sensitive enough. Straightforward racists and misogynists can just laugh.

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(THREE)

The films Tarantino admires include many taboo-busting, challenging movies from the seventies. He also likes lots of exploitation movies which gleefully present shocking and distasteful scenes. He wants to replicate the WTF factor of these movies, but either he knows he can’t get away with some of their excesses, or doesn’t wish to go there. His attempts to combine serious, shocking cinema with frivolous, shocking cinema seem foredoomed to me, because the two justifications he uses, “What? I’m making a serious point, here,” and “What? It’s only a bit of fun!” do not in fact reinforce each other, they cancel each other out. To use a western analogy, it’s a bit like the man accused of stealing another man’s horse, who says “I don’t steal horses, and anyway, you have a lousy horse.”

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(FOUR)

This is the second film (RESERVOIR DOGS being the first) Tarantino has made which essentially remakes John Carpenter’s paranoia/cabin-fever chiller THE THING. Here he even has the wintry locale and the same leading man and some of the same music. One character even accuses another of acting paranoid, a term I sort of doubt was common parlance at the time the story is set. The question of how historically accurate the film is meant to be, or feel, is frankly unanswerable, with “Completely” and “Not at all” both seeming possibly valid interpretations of the filmmakers intent.

The sense that QT is running out of ideas is exacerbated by the familiar play with time, which here mainly amounts to a long-ish flashback designed to explain and recontextualize the set-up we encounter at Minnie’s Haberdashery. In fact, the flashback supplies almost no important information we couldn’t guess (the mystery I was most concerned with — how the door got busted — is unaddressed, unless I missed something). The main point of showing this sequence seems to be to reveal that the people killed before the story begins were all lovely and innocent. Minnie, who we have been told hates Mexicans, seems a wholly delightful person, in a mixed-race marriage herself, and she betrays no prejudice when dealing with a Mexican character in the flashback. The suspicion grows that the stuff about her barring Mexicans was essentially only included because Tarantino couldn’t resist a racist joke.

Tarantino has invoked Agatha Christie, an odd reference since the only clear whodunnit does not arise until after the intermission, and the question is answered within what felt to me like twenty minutes. What I’m saying is, the film is not structurally as interesting as other QT movies have been (though I recall DJANGO UNCHAINED essentially plodding through its narrative in chronological fashion — have I forgotten something?)

I felt when I saw TRUE ROMANCE, a non-linear QT script straightened out and played in sequence by director Tony Scott, that QT’s stuff didn’t stand up to the clear overview provided by a chronological ordering. Had the film used the script’s “answers first, questions later” approach, I might have been less bothered by Christopher Walken vanishing from the story after killing the hero’s father, and I might have been less bothered by the hero generally causing death and destruction to other people wherever he goes, out of sheer idiocy. I like to think I would still have been quite bothered, but maybe a bit less. Getting dropped into the middle of a situation deprives you of an overview to be judgemental with — “you can’t see an environment when you’re in it” — and you just have to watch the characters attempt to deal with the situation. You can relate as soon as you understand the basic urgent situation. So the missing heist scene in RESERVOIR DOGS really helps — the problem of Tim Roth’s critical injury is allowed to outweigh his participation in an armed robbery, and his betrayal of his gang.

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(FIVE)

Roth (doing a mix of Terry-Thomas and what seems like David Puttnam) and Michael Madsen are back here. In each QT film, rather appealingly, he uses his clout to restore to prominence a star who has fallen by the wayside. Here, with a kind of full-circle inevitability, he rescues Madsen, whom he had initially boosted with his first feature. The eight are a patchwork of actors QT has mostly used before, with Jennifer Jason Leigh as standout new-to-the-fold star. I’m glad to have her back, but not sure I want her back like this. Though she does some nice physical stuff, scratching her head after removing her hat (because hats make your head hot and itchy), extruding a tongue to catch snowflakes. Odd, this emphasis on the tactile in a character virtually indifferent to extreme pain. Daisy Domergue’s ability to shrug off atrocious bodily harm is probably the best claim the movie has to be “like a cartoon,” as composer Ennio Morricone has said. But KING-SIZE CANARY is shorter. I could watch it twenty-three times during THE HATEFUL 8.

Walton Goggins is doing Burton Gilliam’s performance from BLAZING SADDLES. He doesn’t try to make Jackson sing “De Camptown Ladies” but he might as well.

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(SIX)

Here I get into spoilers, maybe — I won’t tell you what happens but you might guess some of it from my discussion of what doesn’t happen.

Is this a state-of-the-nation address, as Tarantino has claimed? I think if the ending had more of the horror of THE BIG SILENCE, we could buy that. I mean, it’s unpleasant, nihilistic and blackly ironic, but nothing about it is likely to disturb QT’s core audience. Had the sheriff made a deal with the bandits, killed Samuel L. Jackson, and ridden off happily into the sunrise, we would have been upset, despite the Jackson character’s frequent unpleasantness. We would have felt something wrong. But Tarantino doesn’t really want to distress the viewer in that way, so his films are only ever going to flatter his constituency — their knowing laughter is always going to be the correct response.

Like I say, I got more enjoyment out of this nasty, brutish and long film than I expected. Kurt Russell and Jackson and Roth and Leigh kept me entertained, and there’s something to be said for lingering over group dynamics in a single space for a looong time.

The hearth moved

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2008 by dcairns

Ground-breaking sexual shenanigans from Jules Dassin’s PHAEDRA. Faced with the challenging task of manufacturing sexual chemistry between his wife, Melina Mercouri, and Anthony Perkins, Dassin pulls out all the stops. The result is like a MOVIE MASH-UP of love scene clichés — soft focus; roaring fireplace; clenching hands; rain battering on window; the sweeping music of Mikis Theodorakis on the gramophone (there will be NO remarks about Anthony Perkins and Greek love in this post. Apart from this one). By the end it’s a wonder there’s a stick of furniture intact in that apartment.

David Thomson in his BioDic of Film, writes, “In good company, and a little drunk, HE WHO MUST DIE, PHAEDRA and 10.30PM SUMMER might cure would-be suicides.” I’ll allow that Dassin skirts the edges of absurdity in 10.30, and PHAEDRA looks like it plunges headlong into a basin of ludicrous pomp, but I still get a kick out of this scene. The effect is overdone but the individual elements are orchestrated with great skill — I like the compositions and editing and music.

I heard of an English teacher one time who would object to purple passages of sexual action in DH Lawrence with the words, “But it’s not LIKE that!” which is a good argument, though not necessarily one that should take precedence over all other concerns. I don’t think it applies to Dassin — taken metaphorically, his sex scene could be seen as quite authentic. Unless what you’re after is complete authenticity (which would mean SOUND EFFECTS, and none of us wants THAT) evoking the corny (there’s rarely anything ORIGINAL about sex) but overwhelming emotions of what General Ripper calls “the physical act of love” seems reasonable, and doing it without fear of looking silly seems at least commendable.

Kubrick told Michel Ciment that the exhilerating and goofy William Tell Overture time-lapse threesome in CLOCKWORK ORANGE was in part a reaction to the way movies tend to solemnize sex, and he had a point there, but sex is very often quite humourless. There’s plenty of room for giggling at the start, but there comes a point where that could be  OFF-PUTTING.

So, if sex is overwhelming, serious, and best treated in a stylised way — Dassin is surely the man for the job. He was dismissed for his “strained seriousness” by Andrew Sarris, but that seems somehow wrong: it’s no strain for Dassin to be serious. His lighter films from this period, TOPKAPI and NEVER ON SUNDAY, seem far more effortful (though I love TOPKAPI and make allowances for NOS).

Dassin was a Sexual Pioneer! The bisexual triangle of 10.30PM SUMMER must have been strong stuff for 1966. I also think there’s enough textual evidence in his work to deduce a keen interest in sado-masochism (whippings abound in THE LAW, RIFIFI…)

Two Ladies

Sex, in the movies, is fraught with difficulty. Maybe because it’s universal but also distinctly personal. There’s a cringe-making story of a well-known actor who, in his first sex scene, grabbed his partner by the hair and began slamming her head off the pillow. “Cut! What are you doing?” He was totally perplexed. What’s the problem? Doesn’t everybody do it this way?

Everybody does it every which way! The first sex scene in a mainstream movie is supposed to be in ECSTASY, in 1933. Director Gustav Machatý attempted to evoke an orgasmic reaction from his star Hedy Lamarr by pricking her feet with a pin. “That would just be really annoying,” says my partner. “Maybe everybody Gustav Machatý slept with found him really annoying.”

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Another technique — in RED ROAD, an actress appears to receive oral sex. In reality she was holding half a peach between her thighs for her co-star to munch on. Hey, it’s a system!

In SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, Barbet Schroeder wanted to film a more than usually convincing blow-job, so he purchased a dildo for Jennifer Jason Leigh to fellate: the hope was to show she had SOMETHING in her mouth without offending the censor by showing WHAT. But, perhaps fearful of insulting his male lead, Schroeder acquired a jaw-breakingly enormous plastic dinosaur appendage…

DON’T LOOK NOW is justly famous for it’s cinematically beautiful love scene. One story I heard, from former producer/director turned educationalist Brent MacGregor, who heard it from an assistant editor, casts an interesting light on the scene. Supposedly, Donald Sutherland was more “into” the sex scene than co-star Julie Christie, which resulted in (a) her walking off the set after one take and (b) Warren Beatty bursting into the cutting room and attempting to beat up director Nicolas Roeg.

I don’t generally credit such gossip, but a couple of aspects of it at least make sense — if you look at the actual lovemaking, MOST of what you see is consistent with a single hand-held shot. But bits of the shot were unusable as the cameraman was clambering over the bed, etc. With only one continuous take, partly no good, Roeg was forced to intercut, and all he could intercut WITH was neutral material, the couple dressing to go out (which would have to have been shot deliberately for the purpose, later, if we buy this version of events). And thus is born a thing of immense beauty and poetic resonance.

Donald Sutherland reports being locked in that bedroom “for hours” with Roeg, Christie, and an extremely noisy unblimped camera. But what’s seen in the film isn’t consistent with such a prolonged shoot. And what’s been rumoured about Roeg’s swinging lifestyle might be consistent with the desire to go a little further than usual in the name of realism…

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(Also — looking through the scene for not-too-explicit frame grabs, I realised that it’s quite a bit more explicit than I’d previously thought. Much of the “stronger stuff” is compositionally decentred and hard to spot due to the pace of cutting, but… let’s just say I hope Julie Christie remembered to bring half a peach to the set…)