Archive for Lee Marvin

A Blank Look

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by dcairns

The freeway, shimmering like a dewy cobweb strand…

Ran John Boorman’s POINT BLANK for students this week. Apart from the use of Alcatraz, it also has THIS in common with Richard Lester’s PETULIA –


PETULIA — the disembodied bunch of flowers ascends diagonally, like Sharon Acker’s head in the Boorman film.

It’s conceivable that Lester saw POINT BLANK, which came out in ’67, around the time he was shooting his movie. There’s an amusing story about Lester bumping into Mike Nichols, who was shooting THE GRADUATE. The chatted briefly about their respective projects, and each left in a state of paranoid anxiety — “Oh no, we’re making the exact same movie!

False alarm.

Sharon Acker’s really good in this scene — a masterstroke by Boorman to cut half the dialogue so that she simply recites her side of the “interrogation” — Marvin, all post-coitally spent after firing all his bullets into the mattress (ahem) simply slumps.

Boorman rocks the Antonioni thing, colour-co-ordinating everything to within an inch of its life — see also Mike Hodges’ THE TERMINAL MAN, which repaints LA so that everything except the grass is black and white and gray and silver. The long scene in Sharon Acker’s apartment is starved of Technicolor to the point where a shot of smashed beauty products in a bathtub carries a visceral shock.

Bath gunk colours are picked up later by globular sixties club lighting…

And that’s Boorman’s genius here — every scene has it’s own strong visual and aural ideas, and they’re butted up against one another for max contrast and effect. It’s fun to see how Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson’s costume changes cue the interior design choices. Lee changes into a brown jacket, and suddenly we notice the brown curtains ~

And the bed he’s looking at suddenly has a brown sheet. And when he revisits Alcatraz, it’s brown too — it wasn’t when we first saw it, at the beginning of the film.

Just ridiculously beautiful.

James Sikking, as a pipe-smoking hitman, describes Marvin as “a brutal” — an adjective turned into a noun, and a word that returns in Boorman’s ZARDOZ, where Connery leads a tribe of brutals. That made me smile.

One of Boorman’s strengths/weaknesses is his lack of humour, the way he doesn’t think for a moment we’ll laugh — leading to Linda Blair doing Lullaby of Broadway and Sean Connery in a nappy and Helen Mirren in figure-hugging tit armour… but here, it all works: POINT BLANK is either a cold-blooded existential/Jungian revenge drama or a deadpan jet-black comedy. Or both. No contradiction is apparent.

Boorman, in that glossy Michel Ciment book, is very keen on the Incident at Owl Creek Bridge idea — each of his movies, it seems, could merely be fleeting by in the mind of a dying protagonist. In POINT BLANK that really does work, and is heavily hinted at in the opening scene. “A dream?” ponders Marvin, in VO, a bullet in his belly. The film’s convenient elision of how he escapes certain death and what he’s been doing before his return in a silvery suit adds weight to the fantasy hypothesis. Note also how the dialogue in any scene from which Marvin is absent has a stilted, B-picture quality, as if it’s the best he can come up with for the stuff he has to imagine happening when he’s not there.

Somebody pointed out the delicious, mysterious connection with Curtiz’s THE WALKING DEAD, in which gangster Boris Karloff returns from the grave to seek revenge, and those he’s after all get themselves killed without him laying a finger on them. He seems to be an embodiment of guilt, an abstract Nemesis. And Marvin’s character, “Parker” in the Westlake/Stark novel, is here called Walker.

(Westlake once said that if he’d know he was going to write so many books about Parker, he’d have called him something else, to avoid having to find alternative ways of saying “Parker parked the car.” Boorman’s Walker differs most markedly in that he’s very much a one-shot character. Walker will NOT return in POINT BLANK II.)

Boorman’s writers are an interesting gang — besides the source novel, he’s got the writer’s of WHERE’S JACK? which deals with the celebrated highwayman and escape artist Jack Sheppard (Hitchcock once proposed a biopic of this fascinating folk hero for Ernest Lehman to write) and THE FRENCH CONNECTION II. Alas, none of them seem to have done much else.

The Heavy Symbolism is very much Boorman, though. Walker’s wife has no maiden name (we see her gravestone) so that Angie Dickinson, his sister-in-law, can ask “What’s my last name?” and then Walker can ask “What’s my first name?” Geddit? Either nobody knows anybody, not really, in this alienated modern world — or else these are stock movie characters in search of an author or at least an ending (Boorman’s movie, like his HELL IN THE PACIFIC, deliberately fizzles out, classic bang/whimper stuff). “A dream?” Or a movie? Note the emphasis on sliding curtains, lenses, screens, an LA where nobody’s in the movies but everybody’s playing at being a gangster, and Angie’s jazz club is called The Movie House and the evil conglomerate is called Multiplex…

Lee Marvin’s posture is the film’s secret weapon. Here, he watches as the phony stash floats away into the storm drains where it will doubtless be eaten by giant ants.

Soderbergh interviews Boorman on the DVD commentary track! Buy it — Point Blank

Big Top Pee-yew

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by dcairns

GORILLA AT LARGE should really have been called GORILLA IN DEPTH, shouldn’t it, to capitalise on the whole 3D thing. Except really it ought to have been called CIRCUS OF ASSHOLES, since everybody in the movie, near enough, is some variety of jerk, blowhard or swine. I’m suspicious of movies that fail to provide any interesting sympathetic characters, because it tends to suggest a filmmaker with an unappealing approach to life. The crowd of gits in front of the camera is standing in for one big git behind it.

Now, casting your eye over the subject and talent here, one would imagine that the real 3D attraction would be Raymond Burr, wouldn’t you? The prospect of his massive form heaving itself towards you in 3D is an irresistible one, isn’t it? Yet, due perhaps to director Harmon Jones’s lack of interest in, well, the film, Burr’s bulk never gets to loom in a Hank Quinlan manner, thereby allowing us to watch the movie as if through the watery eyes of a cowering twink.* A missed opportunity. Perhaps Raymond is more suited to widescreen, anyway.

Passing swiftly over Cameron Mitchell  — Me, watching WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS: “The bad gargantua looks like Cameron Mitchell. Fiona: “What does Cameron Mitchell look like?” Me: [points at gargantua] — we come to Anne Bancroft, and here we stop for a while. Although screenwriters Praskins and Slater, like the director, stopping off briefly at the movies en route to episodic TV purgatory, see fit to write Bancroft as a cheating sexpot, she still commands audience respect with her awesomeness. Rather than play for our sympathy, she just relishes her hotness, and walks off with those parts of the movie not pinned to the floor by Burr. And since her cheating tart character is cheating on Raymond, we can kind of see where she’s coming from.

But the actual element of the movie that justifies the 3D is none of these, and no, it’s not the gorilla, swing as he may into the camera with a permanent neutral expression on his ersatz face, nor even is it Lee Marvin as a skinny cop, making faces through the bars before being ape-chopped to the ground, nor is it Lee J Cobb, proof that one bulky man with a cigar is not enough for a movie as brashly obnoxious as this. The star effect of the film appears when they blast fireworks at the escaped ape. The fireworks themselves are nothing much, but the smoke trails they leave drifting in the extreme foreground are really nice.

*Have absolutely no knowledge of Burr’s bedroom activities and the above is sheer lurid imagining.

The Anemone Within

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2008 by dcairns


Things I read off the screen during Kiyoshi (SEANCE) Kurosawa’s BRIGHT FUTURE (a floaty-strange tale of murder, social/familial disaffection and freshwater jellyfish which Fiona and I watched tonight).

TOILET LADIES. Illuminated sign in the very first shot. Great beginning!

Of course, this being a Japanese film, there’s a lot of kanji-signage which I can’t read. Reminds me of how Boorman’s HELL IN THE PACIFIC provides no subtitles for Toshiro Mifune’s character, whereas when shown in Japan, they left Lee Marvin untranslated. Two for one!

EXCELA SO. Brand name of BIG washing machine (Might be EXCELA 50, hard to tell).

GOAL. The name of a fun-looking arcade game where the “heroes” fire pistols at a bouncy surface will balls on, trying to bounce the balls into holes. Later, another character will lecture them on the importance of goals. Little does he know, they have a Secret And Wonderful Goal already.

XAO. PENNYBLACK. ASBEE. Shop signs on a busy street. Most of the English-language signs in this movie are equally abstract and meaningless.

man (lower-case). Seems to be a jar or carton of foodstuff in a kitchen. ‘Sorry, we’re all out of “man.”‘ ‘Run out and get us some more “man”, would you?’

Just realised, it’s a partially hidden jar of mangos. I am an idiot.

DIZ ‘N’ BIRD. Cover of a long-playing record. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie album, in keeping with the nonsense/baby-talk quality of most of this film’s onscreen text. Is this a deliberate strategy or a reflection of the use of English in Japanese print?

Victor JVC. Big sign on a building, in a desatured cityscape that looks like pure b&w until a medium-shot introduces a pasty flesh-tone.

bright city

NOISE. A poster of some kind in a lawyer’s office. Why? Never mind, we are here because one of our protags is in prison for MURDER:

...with some brine shrimp and a nice chianti

ZIMA. Sign at a bar, seemingly a product. I’d never heard of this, but upon googling I find it is “the new malternative.”

FUNC. A partially obscured bar title. Could this joint actually be called FUNCTION? Or maybe it’s just FUNC?

SANDWICHES CAFE AND RESTAURANT. More information about what FUNC has to offer.

STANLEY. On the protag’s T-shirt, written in an arch across his chest. Some smaller text below is illegible, looks like it might say “CONSTRUCTION”. STANLEY CONSTRUCTION? What kind of T-shirt logo is THAT?

SUCK. Glimpsed on a wall in his room, but it was real quick, I could be mistaken.

GREEN HOUSE. Ironic big logo on an ugly concrete building.

Canal Knowledge

The main guy discovers that he’s succesfully created a fresh-water jellyfish (his GOAL) and it’s living in a mysterious pool under his floor.

And at this exact point, one hour into the movie, the English text abruptly sto


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