Archive for Kenneth Branagh

Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost’s Scenes #1

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2022 by dcairns

It’s good to start with Olivier’s HAMLET because we have A SPY ON THE SET.

The other Laurence, Laurie Knight, late friend of Fiona and I, was an assistant on this — third AD. But not for the whole shoot, I don’t think. He reports that Olivier wanted to record a real human heartbeat for the ghost’s appearances. He may have heard about Rouben Mamoulian running up and down a flight of stairs so he could get a suitably pounding chest for the transformations in DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, but the athletic thesp uncharacteristically delegated another assistant — possibly a runner, which would be appropriate — to run around the soundstage once or twist before having the mic pressed to his bosom like a stethoscope.

“Nothing but indigestion!” Laurie reported with a wheeze of laughter. So they quite simply got a drum in.

I really love the way the camera pulses in and out of focus as the pounding comes in. Still an effect that’s rarely copied, but it’s wonderfully expressive.

Asides from Mamoulian, I assume Olivier’s under the influence of CITIZEN KANE a bit, and has grasped how the optical printer can be used to spice up footage and create semi-seamless joins between distinct shots. I even wonder if the focal pulse effect might be created in post. This is a kind of advance on his HENRY V, whose effects all happen for real in front of the camera. We gradually move from theatrical sets to more lifelike one, as if we were being swept up in the “reality” of the play.

The KANE influence is also felt in the deep focus, the chiaroscuro, and the cavernous Xanadu-like space of Elsinore. Instead of the big gimmick of Olivier’s HENRY V: a theatrical performance which slowly becomes “real”, the stylised sets eventually replaced by real locations, HAMLET attempts to create a space midway between theatre and cinema — cavernous, unfurnished, but richly textured.

Olivier said he was driven to that HENRY effect by his concern about matching real sets and unreal dialogue. “Why’s everyone talking so funny?” HAMLET takes a different but parallel route. An environment just odd enough to allow the iambic pentameters not to seem out of place.

From my Making-Of book, The Film HAMLET: Carmen Dillon, tasked with executing Roger Furse’s designs, says, “sets soar into the sky without any attempt at persuading the audience that they do, in fact, support a roof or that they have any geographical relationship one with another.

I’m all in favour of cutting Hamlet, which is outrageously long, and directors shape it and choose what they want to emphasise by their cuts. In Jonathan Pryce’s performance. this whole scene was cut, so that the ghost could be portrayed as a psychological effect, a voice issuing from H’s subconscious. It gave Pryce the excuse for a bravura Linda Blair/Mercedes McCambridge act, and you could argue that the voice’s echoing of H’s own suspicions and resentments is already implied in the text — he’s rather thrilled to discover he’s right to dislike Uncle Claudius.

But these cuts do tend, as Tom Stoppard pointed out, to make the beginning of the play rather stodgy. It’s a bunch of people at a party making speeches. Whereas WD begins his play with the words “Who goes there?” and it’s immediately gripping. Plus the bell tolling midnight, all very atmospheric. Olivier wouldn’t have consciously aimed to make his adaptation seem like a horror film, but the KANE influence ensures it does anyway (I believe Welles may have admitted to a slight James Whale influence on his MACBETH).

Olivier has cast his film very well indeed, without resorting to the Branagh approach of stuffing stars of stage and screen into every crevice. From the urgency of the first lines we drop into the casual, throwaway dialogue that makes this film occasionally quite naturalistic, when Sir Larry himself isn’t around. Francisco and Bernardo are John “We’re all doomed!” Laurie, who would apparently tell you about his own triumph as the Dane as soon as you met him, and Esmond Knight, recently blinded in the war and taking his life in his hands on those unbanistered stairs.

Starting on Laurie is a great idea: a gloomy Calvinist immediately makes the appearance of the supernatural more plausible.

They’re soon joined by Norman Wooland and Anthony Quayle, equally good. wooland maybe the realest and most moving actor in the film. I think Olivier has done great in finding actors who can do the classical bit but also seem believable onscreen. It was maybe easier to find such people then.

Olivier, of course, isn’t of their number. He’s something else.

Next bit: Hamlet meets the ghost.

Cinematographer Desmond Dickinson writes that Olivier wanted to “make the scenes without so much cutting from shot to shot.” There are bits in the ghost’s second appearance where we just stare at his inexpressive silhouette for quite a while, until the shot almost “goes dead.” It seems a good way to allow the audience to concentrate on the words without getting bored. The image is still striking and beautiful, even if it’s not doing anything new. It beats Peter Brook’s moronic idea in his KING LEAR of shooting the backs of the actors’ heads. “Sometimes, with Shakespeare, you don’t want the image to add anything, but you can’t just have a black screen.” I think a black screen would make as much sense as the back of Paul Scofield’s head.

Remember the wise words of Roger Corman: “The eye is the organ most used in movie making. If you don’t engage the eye you’ll never engage the mind.”

The ghost here is John Gielgud — one of the legendary stage Hamets (captured on film by Humphrey Jennings in A DIARY FOR TIMOTHY), later the director of Richard Burton’s version, and one of the most distinctive voices. But the slow whisper and echo effect make him not so recognisable, so that his uncredited performance isn’t a coy gimmick. The ghost would have seemed all the more mysterious by being unknown.

Gielgud at 17.24-19.22

Steven Berkoff had an interesting idea — I don’t know how good his production was, quite possibly ham(let)fisted (he has a way of leaning into things) — but it was an interesting idea. Since the ghost says he’s doomed “to walk the earth,” why not have him in constant motion? And thus Hamlet, having followed him away from his chums, has to keep tagging along. He might even get in front and then have to keep backing up since the ghost can’t stop.

At 3.18 the backlight produces a dark halo around the ghost in the fog. Beautiful.

I think the least effective part is the visualisation of the King’s death, though I can see why they did it. King Hamlet as a living person is NOT played by Gielgud, but by a Santa Clause-looking guy who overdoes the old dying act a bit, rolling out of his divan and clutching the air. Claudius as poisoner has kind of gone into silent movie acting mode also, Is this the way Hamlet would visualise it? Possibly.

Branagh will cheekily borrow a couple of Olivier’s moves — collapsing face-down when the ghost departs, and kissing his sword when he swears. Shakespeare’s text offers few stage directions beyond “enter” and “exit” and we’re not convinced Shakespeare even wrote those. He does add “writing” when Hamlet makes a note in his tables, but Olivier’s cut the words and the action to make room for his hilt-kissing.

Next: Tony Richardson and Nicol Williamson in 1969.

Mad in Craft

Posted in FILM, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2022 by dcairns

Why? Why did I watch Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET?

Apparently I was curious about it. But not so curious that I watched it in 1996. That would have made sense — I could have seen in in 70mm. I watched it this week.

I was curious about it being the full four hour unexpurgated play, but I came to believe that by not cutting, Branagh had given up a big part of the adaptor’s toolkit — directors typically choose what parts of the play to emphasise, they focus in, by cutting. And, while I can see doing it uncut on the stage makes sense, any uncut Shakespeare text on the screen is likely to suffer from redundancy as the characters take their time describing things we can SEE. Oh boy did that happen here.

I should give Branagh credit where possible: he makes the thing go at a fair lick. And when ones’ eyes and ears have not actually gone blurry, you can still tell what the people are saying. Sometimes, it is true, you wonder why everyone is in such a frenzy when there’s not so much happening, and often, it is true, you feel that a momentary dramatic pause would bring out a lot more meaning than the relentless jabber.

The film is cast in a racially-blind manner, before it was fashionable or popular, and this is good. Hamlet is totally a play you can do this with, and any call for realism can be dismissed outright since the characters are (a) speaking blank verse and (b) not speaking Danish. There are no important Black characters, but there are quite a few minor ones, and one of those is the excellent Don Warrington.

Branagh has a certain boldness. My friend Paul Duane calls him “the worst director who has ever lived,” and he is, essentially, correct, but Branagh does things which are wrong in surprising ways, not just in boring ways, so I can still find him preferable to, say, Richard Attenborough. Who turns up here, because, of course he does.

OK, I think I’m done being nice. It wasn’t a very impressive display of positives, I admit.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore Collection/REX (1596346a) Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh Film and Television

Branagh’s boldness is manifest in the uncut text, in the 70mm format, in a certain gusto with which he throws the camera around, and in the chaotic mix-and-match approach to casting. The guiding aesthetic principle here is the Dunning-Kruger effect. Branagh swirls the Steadicam around his cast, goes into slomo, cuts furiously, because he does, at least, know he CAN, but doesn’t know whether, from moment to moment, he should or should not. We’re on random.

Similarly, Branagh throws together the classically trained theatrical knight, the movie star, the sitcom actor, with gay abandon — it’s admirable in theory — you can see it being exciting — but everybody is playing the wrong part. Brian Blessed — fruity ham — is the ghost. Charlton Heston — grim-visaged axiom of cinema — is the player king. Swap them around and you’d have something.

Jack Lemmon — a potentially fine Polonius — is Marcellus, essentially a random spear-carrier. You wonder why he’s the only American spear-carrier. And whether he’s a bit old for active duty. Richard Briers, a good sitcom actor, is Polonius. And it’s true that Polonius is the most sitcomlike character, and also true that Briers suppresses his natural affability to play the man as a more creepy and august figure, it doesn’t always work.

All the play’s double-acts are mismatched: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two interchangeable doofuses, are Timothy Spall and Reece Dinsdale, a grotesque and a normie. The two gravediggers are Billy Crystal and Simon Russell Beale, Borscht belt and Stratford. Crystal is possibly my favourite performance in the thing: he isn’t funny, his stuff with Beale is a snooze, but there’s a provocative sense of challenge when he’s matched with Branagh. One is a movie star and the other only thinks he is because he has no sense upon which to base his judgement. The result is tension, and the only place where the cutting back and forth between characters adds any excitement.

How badly cast is this film? We are asked to believe that Derek Jacobi has stolen Julie Christie away from Brian Blessed.

Jacobi — always cast as men called Claudius, is miscast as Claudius here. He’s not an impressive opponent. He does OK.

Branagh has realised one thing, I think, but he’s realised it in the edit: the shot/countershot cuts only work when we see who’s talking. It must have been discovered that reaction shots make you lose the thread of the speeches. Or else it was assumed. The result is a Dragnet approach to cutting, where every cut is on the end of a speech, cueing up the reply. I love Dragnet but it has a deliberately inexpressive cutting pattern, suitable for procedurals.

What Shakespeare needs, I suspect, and could very well get in a 70mm film, is dynamic blocking and long-held wide shots where everyone can act together in real time. There’s very, very little of that here, though there are plenty of scenes where the camera just circles the actors for no good reason. This is Branagh’s third Shakespearean adaptation so you would think he’d have a working theory of montage and mise-en-scene.

Olivier went into HENRY V with a plan: he knew that Shakespeare’s more rousing speeches seem to necessitate a certain building to a climax by the actor. The traditional approach to long scenes in the movies is to move closer. Olivier sussed that this would result in us looking right up his nose just as he was really getting into it with the yelling and gesticulating, so he reversed the pattern, very consciously: as Henry builds to a climax, the camera pulls back.

Actual saliva bubble

Branagh never realised that when he made his own HENRY V, so the film is a spittle-flecked shoutfest in which the King spends a lot of time screaming right in our ear. It’s distracting when you see saliva blasting forth in great gobs: it’s only appropriate to do spit if that’s the only thing you want the audience to notice.

Here we are, after MUCH ADO, and Branagh is still drenching the scenery with his face. He gets started early, when he meets the ghost. This is very bad: we have about three and a half hours to go at this point. How’s he going to top this? Shit, what happens when he goes/plays mad?

Plenty. The Dane froths, simpers, screams, and his voice goes comically high to suggest strong emotion. One of my favourite out-of-control performances is Alan Arkin’s last scene in LITTLE MURDERS. It’s huge and manic and (bouncing) off-the-wall. But it’s one scene. He builds to it, and then he stops. Branagh does have quiet moments — the only scene I’d seen excerpted from this was, predictably, “To be or not to be,” which is perfectly OK, and calm. But he spends about an hour running about doing full loony.

Kate Winslet, at least, is only wildly over-the-top for one scene.

As the film trundled on, I found myself no longer able to notice how badly directed it was. I had lost the aesthetic sense. I was in Branaghworld. But the opening scenes really pop and zing with ineptitude, and cry out for close analysis. I think it’d be fun to look at scenes from the Branagh, Olivier and Richardson HAMLETs, as I previously did with three varied MACBETHs.

But not this scene. This scene I just include because it made me giggle. I’m not even sure why. Do you find it funny? I’ve written before about how certain actors should be put at the tip of an A composition because they can’t help but distract from the big foreground heads. Turns out Jack Lemmon is one. Everything he does is more interesting than what Hamlet and Horatio do, even when he’s just titling screen left so Horatio won’t block him from view (00.13).

But the funnier stuff is inside. Partly it’s weird because we see a normal door, and then Branagh cuts back and forth between two groups in the narrow doorway, and they both have the same background. Despite the fact that the camera angles must, presumably, be at least 90 degrees apart. This is called “cheating” and I generally approve of it — to hell with continuity, make the shots effective. Here it becomes subtly discombobulating and hilarious.

(Louis Malle said he was fond of shooting the closeups in a shot/countershot sequence against the exact same background, but I haven’t looked out examples to see how he gets away with it. He mentioned it in connection with ZAZIE so he may have been after the exact dizzy effect Branagh stumbles upon here.)

But there’s just something about the Dragnet cutting-on-dialogue that becomes hysterical to me when the actors build up a froth and the cutting gets faster. Thespian tennis. What do you think?

HAMLET stars Hercule Poirot; Martin Beck; Petulia Danner; Young Iris Murdoch; King Vultan; Sir Robert Peel; Smee; Airey Neave; Miracle Max; Lavrenti Beria; J.M.W. Turner; Sherlock Holmes; C.C. Baxter; Lenin; Cyrano de Bergerac; Dr. Satnam Tsurutani; Judah Ben-Hur; Aunt May; Johnny Rotten; Philip Smith; Popeye; Iris Murdoch; Lord Raglan; Sid Luft; Pinkie Brown; Captain R.F. Scott R.N.

Vlad Hair Day

Posted in FILM, Interactive with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2018 by dcairns

Yes! It’s time once again to play Watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Francis Coppola, from the comfort of your own home.

there’s a lot going on here because of these various killing and awakening of Lucy. So yes, doing a collection of actions simultaneously happening and edited together in parallel with a ritual is reminiscent of the time I did it first in the baptism sequence in THE GODFATHER

The big intercut is probably the closest thing Coppola has to a signature. The ending of COTTON CLUB, where the movie starts suddenly pulling together instead of pulling apart, is another.

Fiona is overjoyed to see Keanu has turned grey after his terrible experience with the naked ladies, because she has been transitioning to grey hair and has just gotten a haircut a lot like his.

“My terrible experience has just been life.”

Here’s Fiona as Jonathan Harker ~

Coppola tells us that he originally shot the wedding in an abstract set with just shadows, but then decided to reshoot in a Russian Orthodox church in LA — abandoning his own idea of using minimalistic sets. He also says that as a result of shooting the scene there, Keanu and Winona were actually married for real. Can this be true? Anyhow, this is the only location shot, it seems. (Apart from the sea, the moon, a few other little things.)

Sadie Frost gets finally killed by a wolf, in bed — kinda looks like she’s cuddling a big friendly dog — and tsunami-gouts of blood splash in from all sides. Curiously, the bed seems to be empty. Well, wet dogs smell pretty awful, and stage blood never dries, so you’d have had a big red wet dog, FOREVER, I guess. I don’t know what Sadie Frost smells like wet, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

That’s clearly an hommage to Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING

“Yes, and you shouldn’t have done it,” admonishes Fiona. It’s not her favourite bit of THE SHINING anyway. The gory shagging also makes me think of ANGEL HEART, which is a sensation I resent. Alan Parker wrote in the script for that, “They make love, as fluid as a flight of birds,” which deserves some kind of bad sex prize.

As a child I just loved Snow White because she had beautiful black hair like my mother and I never could forget the glass coffin

And of course Snow White is raised from her coffin, as Sadie Frost will be… that’s a good hommage. Of course, in this scenario, Richard E Grant is Doc, Bill Williams is bashful and Cary Elwes is Dopey. Stoker doesn’t give Lucy’s suitors much more characterisation than Disney provided his dwarfs. But I like how Williams enhances his role by trying to stand in the back, out of the light, almost as if he didn’t want to be seen. The above is probably the clearest view we get of him, tucked behind the mantel, and we still can’t see his jet-pack.

Now that Sadie is dead, Eiko Ishioka has finally been able to crowbar her left tit back into her costume, which comes as bit of a relief. It was a bit too much of a scene-stealer, that breast.

I must confess, and this maybe sounds disheartening, but when I look at this and I think of all the work it is to make a movie, any movie, I have to say that unless it’s a theme or subject matter that you have to make, because it says something that has never been said before or just is in your soul and you have to get it out, I can’t see any point to wanting to make a film at all. The way it’s been set up, and the way the whole profession has gone, it’s like, you have to tolerate so much stuff, you have to work on this movie for so long, under such unenlightened directives from the company financing it, and when it’s all said and done, they publish in the newspaper like the sports scores how much money it did, and they show it in a theater that’s like a box with ten other theaters and you have to not only hear the battery of critics that rightly or wrongly say their opinion, but absolutely everybody else

uh oh

it seems to me that the only reason to make a movie is because it’s something that’s never been made before and is really part of your feelings about life and that therefore it should be something that you should finance as well as make, because that’s the only way that you can have the same rights that a painter has when he paints a picture or a poet has when he writes a poem or to a large extent a novelist has when he writes a novel.

Not necessarily disheartening, just true. “No amount of money is enough to pay you to direct a movie,” says Scorsese, meaning there has to be creative satisfaction otherwise it’s just WOES. On the other hand, following Coppola’s ideas means we can only make low-to-no-budget movies, unless we’re fabulously well-to-do like him.

The apotheosis of Sadie Frost. Coppola tells us that the two-year-old she’s carrying was genuinely terrified and it took great effort to calm her enough to even get her on the set, She was scared of the fangs. Yet Coppola shows no inclination to go look her up and give her a present, which he was so keen to do with the baby Gary Dracula brings to his wives.

Fiona says that Sadie’s ferocious vamp act (she’s the one cast member who really paid attention during Uncle Frannie’s trip to the zoo, and the reverse-motion is fantastic, the costume is divoon), “It’s her best scene in anything, ever, the best scene in this movie, and one of the best scenes in any Dracula movie.”

“If Sadie Frost had done all her movies backwards, she would be bigger than Garbo,” I declare.

“No she wouldn’t,” reasons Fiona.

If everybody in this film gets a bit where you sort of cringe in embarrassment for the actor, which I submit is true, then this is Cary Elwes’ bit. He’s just so happy to see Lucy so ALIVE and WELL and HERSELF AGAIN…

   

Sadie opening her eyes and getting up, rendered backwards as Sadie lying down and closing her eyes (with frock wranglers tugging her dress about on invisible wires) is a stunning uncanny moment, almost ruined by the gratuitous EXORCIST knock-off blood puke, and then the cut from her decapitated head (shouldn’t that really be decorporated head?) to the Sunday joint being carved. The first is a bad idea because it’s just meaningless grossness — in THE EXORCIST that was the point: demons seek to remind us of our base physicality. And vampires treasure blood, so why is she barfing it all over Tony Hopkins? The meat shot is beneath contempt. True, trashing Sadie Frost has long been a popular British pastime, but we’re supposed to like her character and feel sad she’s dead.

Winona Ryder was really thrilled with the cast […] In a way it was her idea, she’s the one who gave me the script and I was very attentive to her wishes. But she had a friend, Keanu, just a friend, who she liked very much and thought was a very nice person and I did too, so we cast Keanu in the role.

The dinner ladies at my college are very nice people, if you’re ever casting something, Mr. Coppola.

 

We’re just coming up to Keanu’s best bit. The line “I know where the bastard sleeps,” can be said to justify his whole miscast, ridiculously well-intentioned and serious performance. It’s not good for the film, but it’s a wonderful moment of wrongness. The way he rises a few millimetres in his seat and sort of wiggles on his arse, like his English accent is finally taking over his entire body. A marvel.

Just before that, Winona does a great, complicated, funny, sweet bit, where Keanu has to say that he DID NOT drink the blood of those women, and Winona looks ashamed for him, proud of him, relieved, tender and embarrassed in quick succession. It’s a masterclass in Advanced Winona.

As the surviving cast light their torches and pull up their tights for an excursion to scenic Carfax Abbey, Coppola tells us that he had originally planned to direct MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN also but got to asking himself ~

what am I wasting my time for? I should be reading books or something and of course turned over that project to Kenneth Bra-nag.

He did suggest Bra-nag should cut the first twenty minutes of the movie and get to the creation faster, not a terrible thought in principle. We’re not told if he did actually read some books.

Coppola still insists that when this movie is shown on cable, they cut Tom Waits’ entire performance, something that makes no sense to me. He’s the best-cast actor in it (and we have to give Uncle Francis credit for that).

It’s not because of anything other than to make it fit into their time schedule.

Couldn’t they have cut some of the useless Winona & Sadie blather scenes?

Dracula as green fog slipping into Winona’s bedsheets is an in-camera effect via Roman Coppola, we’re told, which is why it doesn’t feel like CGI. Double exposures and reverse-action. But having him waft out of the covers like a Dayglo queef was probably a bad idea.

If you goof it up and it doesn’t work and you’ve already developed it, you’re sort of dead.

Like Dracula, who outs himself as a walking corpse to his lover. “Winona’s pretty good in this scene,” says Fiona. But, as so often in this movie, the best bits of her perf are right next to the worst, so we get the line “Take me away from all this… DEATH!” which is her version of knowing where the bastard sleeps. The way she curls her lips in distaste on the D word. Promoting the film, Winona listed the exciting elements of the Dracula story and when she got to “erotic” she did a little involuntary lip-curl which was very cute.

Winona later said that doing the press interviews to promote BSD was the greatest acting challenge of her life.

I think if I was going to shoot a big elaborate sexy scene involving so-called sexual activity I would hire a fight co-ordinator to do it

And his reasoning is actually really sound.

Everybody seems to have decided that Winona’s non-Victorian VPL is in no way a problem.

The foam rubber nipple of Gary Oldman! Where is it today, I wonder? Melted down to make Winston Churchill’s jowls, probably. A shame, I’d like to make a Frankensteinian assemblage using Nicole Kidman’s false nose from THE HOURS and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s prosthetic vulva from ANTICHRIST (you can glue the clitoris back on, it’ll be good as new) and so on. The Oldman teat would be a valuable addition.

I think it was Orson Welles who said the two most difficult or convincing things to show in a movie are people praying or people making love.

He probably didn’t say it in quite those words. And I haven’t heard it before. But I’m willing to sort-of trust Uncle Francis here.

“Keanu’s hair suddenly looks like Widow Twanky’s!” Or maybe the farmer’s wife in the painting American Gothic. It’s back to “normal” in the next scene but here it’s all bushy and centre-parted, a literal fright wig. Maybe it’s turning into Vlad’s bum-head hair.

When my Japanese friend Kiyo saw this scene, with Oldman in his batsuit, he said, “But he hasn’t got a pennis.” The slight mispronunciation made it very funny at the time, and we quote the line almost as much as his “But he’s obviously strange.” The two arguments might go together, supporting one another.

I remember this now also… I really blew my top once in rehearsal, because we’re trynna stage this scene and I’m saying, “OK, you’re in the wolf suit but like you’re not in the wolf suit because we don’t have the wolf suit, but you get up on the bed and of course they’re all frightened because you look like a bat, or whatever it is you look like,” and he starts to get very, you know, he’s a very good actor and a very intelligent person, but he started saying to me in this very early stage of rehearsal, “How can I go up on this bed and be this weird creature when I’m not IN the weird creature suit?”

“Just pretend! You’re an actor!” says Fiona.

And I said, “Well just pretend you are!”

“I’m in agreement with Uncle Francis.”

And he started to get really, “How can I do it blah blah blah” and I just lost my cool and kicked the chair across the room

“The cat knows how to get mad.” – Gregory Hines on Francis Ford Coppola, referring to a hole Uncle F once kicked in a door, as high as his head.

and I left and said “Forget it, goodbye,” and left the rehearsal.

My memory — and I can’t remember if I’m correct for sure and if I got this from Coppola’s diary in Projections or some other source — is that the bat costume was devised to ANSWER Oldman’s question, “How can I dominate this group of people who ought to just rush in and beat the shit out of me?” But the answer, really, should be, you’re Dracula. Toshiro Mifune could just stand there and everybody else could look scared to go near him. Christopher Lee or Robert Ryan or Danny DeVito could do it. But those are super-confident screen dominating presences, and kind of tough guys. Oldman has presence, but maybe not the same physical confidence, which may mean he’s miscast… which I’ve been suspecting all along.

Super-hilariously, while the Dread Pirate Roberts has a duelling pistol and the Rocketeer his Bowie knife, Withnail, being a psychiatrist, is brandishing a steaming test tube. I really really want to know what’s supposed to be in it. Richard E Grant is acting like it smells really bad. I would guess garlic, but it’s red and glowing.

This *might* be the scene where Coppola yelled “You whore!” at Winona, to “help” her with her character. Or that might be later. But it definitely happened. The kind of thing a director COULD perhaps get away with, if it were done purely for motivational purposes, but as is apparent from this commentary, Coppola doesn’t really like Winona very much. Which makes me sad. How can you not love Winona, Uncle Francis? She has such cute ears.

“Oh, I’d forgotten about that, that’s GREAT” — Gary just turned into “a man-shaped pile of rats.” It’s not a talent everyone has. It’s such a brilliant coup de cinema — he backs into the shadows so only his eyes are visible, glowing like a WB cartoon character when the lights go out, then the illuminate him, and he’s made of rats, a sort of rat king gestalt figure, which then collapses to the floor as individual constituent rats — I wish he WASN’T a bat because that’s over-egging it. From human to rats is much stronger. There’s TOO MUCH good stuff in this film and of course also too much BAD STUFF. Just TOO MUCH STUFF. But God love ’em.

“Of course, if I were doing it, or Tex Avery were doing it,” says a cartoonist friend, “all the rats would have Gary Oldman’s face.”

The rats flee the room. All of them. To think, if Withnail or the Rocketeer or the Dread Pirate Roberts had managed to stamp on just one of them, Dracula would have ended up reconstituting himself without a knee, or a chin, or something.

Coppola does a really bad Jack Nicholson impression, which is something I never knew about him.

what Gary was telling me was that my attempt to stage this in rehearsal was futile because he wasn’t in his rat suit, and I was saying, “We know it’s going to be something interesting and horrendous, so let’s just work it out for the movement.”

I love how it’s morphing from bat to wolf to rat in Uncle Francis’s lively mind. I mean,Dracula keeps changing, but not as much as Francis’s mind. Sometimes he just says “beast,” and is correct.

TO BE CONCLUDED!