Archive for Julie Andrews

Pizzagate

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on January 27, 2022 by dcairns

I fell in love with Paul Thomas Anderson’s LICORICE PIZZA on first sight. But, as with much of that mysterious phenomenon known as romantic love, I find it hard to heave my heart into my mouth, or my two typing fingers, and explain why. I will say, because it may evoke some part of the quality of the feeling, that I got off the bus when I was only halfway home from Filmhouse, because I wanted a forty-five minute walk to continue to digest the film and to wallow in the state of mind it had produced. I absolutely can’t put into words how it made the world look different, but walking in a city at night (well, late evening, probably) seemed like a fresh experience. Had I been in LA no doubt the feeling would be even better.

The film was projected in all of its glorious thirty-five millimetres, on the celluloid. As it began, I started to recall how I’d come to feel that, though I miss film as a recording medium, there is a lot to be said for digital as a projection medium. The movie seemed to be actually flickering in a way that was not quite healthy. I could feel one of my temporal lobes going. But then it evened out, and I was glad to have the full film experience.

Lots to enjoy, including the traducing of Jon Peters (fully justified, according to every account of the man I’ve ever read). How did they get away with it, legally, though? Maybe JP is just a magnificently good sport. And the (hilarious) Julie Andrews joke? And yet, Sean Penn’s character, a seeming fusion of William Holden and Steve McQueen, is hidden behind a fictional name.

I haven’t read any of the books on Paul Thomas Anderson — I should try one, because I’m curious to see what a critic could make of them given enough time and space. Anderson himself doesn’t give much away, and the films seem to cloak their true intentions, if they have them. They dance away from the areas you expect them to land heavily on. THE MASTER, for instance, seems set to be an attack on the Church or Scientology, and it isn’t precisely NOT that, but by choosing as protagonist a character so damaged and toxic that you could hardly blame the Hubbard-substitute for failing to cure/reform him. So, fatuous bloviator that he plainly is, corrupt faker that he surely must be, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd isn’t offered up as precisely the hate-figure one would expect.

BOOGIE NIGHTS was easier to parse — the seventies nostalgia was sort-of uncomplicated, the stance on the porn industry seemed simplistically romantic, uncritical, when a producer turns out to be a child molester the regular porn folks are appalled, just as we would be, and so they gain even more in nobility. One of the stranger, to modern eyes, aspects of the seventies was the sense of paedophilia/ephebophilia nudging closer to the mainstream, which BOOGIE NIGHTS misses but LICORICE PIZZA gets. The fact that here it’s a 25-year-old girl involved with a ten-years-younger boy seems to slightly obviate the discomfort that for instance MANHATTAN justifiably causes, but the age gap is barely mentioned here — the subject of legality is raised ONCE, I think, and so, in a very PTA way, the audience is invited to make up its own mind.

*

A week and a half later, does the film stay in my mind? Mostly just a very pleasant feeling. It’s a film with just enough implied darkness to exert a grip, while being 98% warm and positive.

Viktor/Viktoria/Victor/Victoria

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2021 by dcairns

Victor Saville’s film FIRST A GIRL is the middle film in the cycle begun by Reinhardt Schünzel’s VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA and concluded, as of this date, by Blake Edwards’ film VICTOR VICTORIA and musical play, Victor/Victoria. Though dealing with male/female impersonation (a woman pretending to be a male impersonator), all iterations of the story seem as much gay as trans.

It’s very interesting that these films, made before our modern attitudes semi-coalesced, should seem so modern and forward-thinking. The Schünzel original was a spoof of the English music hall, with its omnipresent drag artistes, but an affectionate one. The character played by Sonny Hale in Saville’s film, reads as Obviously Gay, even though (a) he’s played by the husband of Jessie Matthews, the female lead, and (b) an unconvincing hetero romance is contrived for him in the third act. The object of his affections is Anna Lee, who gets a sexy shower scene and seems the least ambiguous figure, but even she can’t wholly dismiss the whiff of acidulated queeniness Hale projects so ably.

Jessie Matthews is never not obviously a girl, even when clad in a tux, just as Renate Müller was always a girl in the original (Julie Andrews does suggest a Bowie-like androgyny), and the obvious artifice probably helped everyone feel comfortable, who might otherwise be inclined not to be (the original came out in Germany in 1933, an extraordinary thing). Griffith Jones is a bit dull as lead boy, but he’s handsome at a time when so many British leading men were scarred, stout or snaggle-toothed, and has an ambiguous quality that suits the part. The most daring aspect of the film is the hero who falls for a girl he believes to be a boy. You can see how a German film doing this might be poking fun at the British, but a British film doing it is quite close to playing the notion straight, as it were.

Matthews is a delight, gets several spectacular musical numbers, costumed by Coco Chanel, and while the plotting isn’t perfect — Lee has to step up to the role of villainess, then hurriedly step down — it’s simpler and more efficient than Edwards’ multivalent farce narrative. And it’s huge fun.

FIRST A GIRL stars Millie the Non-Stop Variety Girl; Freddie Rathbone; Bronwyn; Narcy; Wackford Squeers; and Miss Havisham.

Splurch

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 24, 2019 by dcairns

VICTOR VICTORIA starts great — for a mainstream film to open with two male lovers in bed seems pretty bold for the era — and what IS the era? Early thirties, despite Robert Preston’s bulging walnut of hair, 1981 according to year of production, and that part of the Blake Edwards consciousness which is forever circa 1960, just as rock ‘n’ roll was about to supplant jazz and prevent him from ever being “with it.”

But he’s not without it, either. A very elegant visual gag early on showcases his skill in an almost Lubitschian manner.

Julie Andrews as Victoria is poor, cold and hungry. She passes a restaurant window. Returns to star, haunted by the sight of a fat man eating a bun. We can ever closer, Leone-like ECUs driving the point home. A very fine Edwards critical study by Sam Wasson is actually called Splurch in the Kisser, and this sequence seems to embody that principle.

Orgasmic close shots of Julie Andrews. She can never seem as interested in her co-stars as she is in this bun. In fact, of course, she’s gazing at her reflection in the Panavision lens.

A shift in perspective seems to show that Julie/Victoria has departed. But then random passers-by start reacting to something out of shot, below the window frame.

Julie/Victoria is helped to her feet by the concerned onlookers.

THAT’S the Lubitschian touch — the indirectness. Somehow Edwards knew that it would be funnier to discover the swoon after it had happened. Because if it occurred before our eyes, it would be merely the logical climax of the sequence, however skilfully Andrews performed the collapse. By tricking us into thinking something else has happened, he gives us the element of surprise essential to comedy.

No, I don’t know why surprise is essential to comedy, but it does seem to be. My main theory is that the brain produces laughter as the result of some kind of does-not-compute short-circuiting of logic, and so I guess the surprise is necessary to prevent the brain from putting up some kind of analytical defense.

Maybe Edwards could explain it better but he’s dead so there’s just me.

VICTOR VICTORIA stars Mary Poppins; Jim Rockford; Harold Hill; Miss Scarlet; Mongo; Treebeard; Professor Auguste Balls; and Nosher.