Archive for King Hu

The Parcel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2018 by dcairns

A box arrived. I was excited. Masters of Cinema had been trying for some weeks to send me copies of the latest Blu-Rays to which I had contributed video essays. They kept going astray. The box that eventually arrived had been violently smashed in, but it contained copies of Dreyer’s MICHAEL, Obayashi’s HOUSE and King Hu’s LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN, mercifully undamaged. My theory is that a disgruntled postal worker ripped the package open, discovered it contained arthouse movies he’d already stolen for his vast collection, and so grudgingly allowed the delivery to continue.

I did my first ever animated main title for HOUSE (not counting the astounding cartooning Danny Carr did for my SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS piece) — I felt the movie deserved something funky, so I traced the title of my piece a bunch of times, then customized them with coloured dots and dashes, then scanned the results. Editor Stephen Horne flipped the scans into negative and did various colouring tricks to create an even wider variety of looks, and the results play out stroboscopically at the start of my piece, to an accompaniment of girlish screams and the music of Godiego.

All three pieces have had some nice reviews online — nobody else has the trouble I do with postal delivery, it seems — though one critic points out that I can’t pronounce wuxia correctly. Of course, I was using the SCOTTISH pronunciation.

LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD)

House (HAUSU) [Masters of Cinema] Blu-ray

Michael [Masters of Cinema] Blu-ray

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Inn Sight

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 20, 2015 by dcairns

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I have contributed a video essay to the Eureka! Masters of Cinema dual-format Blu-ray/DVD of King Hu’s DRAGON INN. Working with editor Stephen Horne we hacked this thing together in record time to fill a gap left by another contributor who had to drop out. This leaves me looking a bit opportunistic since I wrote about seeing this film for the first time at Bologna last year, and I was a complete newbie to wuxia at the time, by my own admission, so when did I find time to become an expert?

Well, I didn’t, but you can learn the basic info quickly enough, and then I relied on what I could say with confidence simply from looking at the film itself, close analysis, stylistic observation, funny comments. Hopefully it works, and I know it’s very snappily cut together by Mr. Horne. And MoC were pleased enough to give me the job of doing another piece for A TOUCH OF ZEN, coming soon.

I have another commission from them also but I won’t tell you about that yet…

You can buy the discs from the evil organisation below and thereby help support Shadowplay — and also get yourself some marvelous swordfighting high-leaping entertainment.

Dragon Inn (1967) [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD)

Martedi

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2014 by dcairns

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Martedi, in my Il Cinema Ritrovato program, seems to correspond to “Tuesday” in English time. But time at a film festival moves in mysterious ways.

I met somebody who had a chronological day — starting with FANTOMAS in the morning, following that up with a Wellman pre-code, moving on to Italy in the fifties, and so on — stopping around 1964, because there’s no sense in getting too contemporary, is there? There’ll be time enough for that later. We spend most of our lives in the moment, it’ a relief to escape.

I didn’t manage a day like, that, preferring to jump around crazily like I do on Shadowplay, but I did frequently start the day in 1914 or 15.

Three Chaplins, ably accompanied by Antonio Coppola. I’d never sen Chaplin on the big screen, incredibly. This was part of a retrospective of CC’s Essanay productions, which allowed him more time, money and control than Keystone had, but do not reach the dizzy heights of the later Mutual films. HIS NEW JOB, which is set in a film studio called Lockstone, co-stars Ben Turpin, and showcased some interesting directorial touches — Chaplin moves the camera precisely three times. In each case, it’s while the camera is rolling on a scene within a scene — in the first instance, he slides in to exclude the hand-cranking and focus on the actors, as if we were entering the world of the movie. The second time, he simply glides sideways, animating the action with an Altmanesque drift. It’s as if he’s saying, “Movies have tracking shots — the movies you’re used to seeing. But my movies only use those kind of things in inverted commas.”

A NIGHT OUT was plotless knockabout in the Keystone tradition (with Turpin again) but THE CHAMPION was something fairly special — the boxing match at the end is a real tour-de-force, anticipating the one in CITY LIGHTS and actually almost as good — also, for maybe the first time Chaplin is working on our sympathies — not for sentiment, exactly, but just to get us on his side. In A NIGHT OUT and HIS NEW JOB he’s a nasty little thug, but he opens THE CHAMPION by sharing his last sausage with a bulldog.

razzia

RAZZIA IN ST PAULI (1932) was my first Werner Hochbaum, though I’d had DVDs of some of his films in my possession for ages. Great Weimar grime, with ladies of the night, fugitive crooks, and late-night jazz musicians as protags. Hochbaum downgrades dialogue in favour of ecstatic details and establishers, weaving a city symphony into his tale of Hamburg low-life. Very atmospheric, and the heroine has sexy sharp shoulders, something I’d never thought of particularly as a turn-on before.

Crossing the hall from the Sala Scorsese to the Sala Mastroianni, I caught some more musical shorts. This program opened with a Dulac short illustrating a song, and also featured FOUR INDIAN LOVE LYRICS, starring Wheeler Dryden, half-brother to Charlie and Sydney Chaplin. Wheeler is the idiot brother par excellence, having failed to capture any of the talent genes before his quasi-siblings snapped them up. But maybe he was a nice guy, who knows? Charles wasn’t always the most affable of men, and Sydney was a rapist and a cannibal.

The after lunch slot typically offered the most mouth-watering choices, driving festival-goers crazy as they tried to balance entertainment value — THE STAR WITNESS, Wellman — with novelty value — Italian compendium segments — with the latest restoration — LE OLYMPIADI DI AMSTERDAM — with an exciting program — early Japanese talkies… I plumped for the short feature on this screening, a documentary on Japanese movie studios, full of moronic narration (at one point, during the shooting of a samurai action scene, the VO guy flatly intones, “Look at them.”) — I enjoyed it, and it was certainly rich in historical interest, but I do feel bad about missing most of the Japanese season.

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I ducked out of this one and headed for DRAGON INN, a King Hu swordfighting flick which proved highly entertaining. And, shamefully, I’d never seen a KH joint, let alone on the big screen, so it was educational too. A heroine in drag who wouldn’t fool anyone but fools everyone — endless berserk action — impossible leaping — and an asthmatic villain. As a fellow wheezer, I liked seeing one of my own kind given enough respect to serve as an action baddie.

I could have stayed in my seat and seen the restored A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, but I was feeling virtuous and wanted to avoid movies I already knew well — I marched back to the Cinema Lumiere and took in a bunch of Germaine Dulac newsreels with one of her rarer features. The shorts were nice but the main movie, ANTONETTE SABRIER, was a snooze — romance and high finance, with only traces of impressionist technique and subverting of sexual mores.

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I was feeling kind of tired and nearly missed the greatest event of the fest — THE MERRY WIDOW. A valuable lesson — when your body tells you it’s had enough movies, DON’T LISTEN!