Archive for Lionel Stander

All Roads Lead to Ruin

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2020 by dcairns

Snorted up two more Luigi Comencini films: the unwieldily titled INFANZIA, VOCAZIONE E PRIME ESPERIANZA DI GIACOMO CASANOVA, VENEZIANO from 1969 and, from ten years later, L’INGORGO.

The former, which I’ll call YOUNG CASANOVA for ease, stars Leonard Whiting, Zefirelli’s Romeo, and as you’d expect some glamorous supporting players, including Senta Berger and Tina Aumont, but as you might NOT expect, also Lionel Stander and Wilfred Brambell, making for some serious WTF imagery.

They’ve found a really close-matching kid to play Casanova as a child, so that the transition to young adulthood is quite smooth, and Giancarlo Giannini of all people dubs Whiting with skill. Despite being sourced from his own words, the film leaves Casanova just as mysterious and inconsistent as Fellini’s deliberately headspinning treatment of the later years — he might be a modern man born too soon, or a complete psychopath.

Lots of good — agonizing — period detail like dental extractions in the street and a fatal operation performed at home with the neighbours watching avidly through the windows. More of that kind of thing, in fact, than this kind of thing ~

The film ends, abruptly, with Casanova’s decision not to enter the priesthood but to instead become a libertine. You wouldn’t have thought it would take him so long to make the choice. Is there much money in libertinage, though? Do you get benefits? (Boy, do you get benefits.)

L’INGORGO is kind of like the traffic jam in WEEKEND expanded to feature length, but it also harkens back to the dream-jam that opens EIGHT AND A HALF — and here comes Marcello Mastroianni, playing a movie star whose limo is caught in the days-long gridlock, to make the connection overt. And a few shots really seem like deliberate callbacks.

Comencini has also acquired all three leads from LES VALSEUSES, Depardieu, Miou-Miou and Patrick Dewaere, plus Annie Girardot, Fernando Rey, and a substantial cross-section of Italian cinema including his fave muckers Alberto Sordi and Ugo Tognazzi. Cross-cutting from one stranded vehicle to another, he paints a portrait of a society, or civilisation, in the final stages of anomie and entropy. It’s an incredible, unpleasant watch. Kind of like a disaster movie where the disaster is purely internal (IN-GORGO)– strangely, it makes stasis seem dramatic, if stifling. Great music, too, by Fiorenzo Carpi — it captures things I remember feeling as a kid in 1979 — dismal, dirty things. Not that I don’t feel that way now.

It’s got a pretty good ending — as desperate and despairing as the rest. Endings seem to give Comencini trouble, but once in a while he comes up with a banger.

INFANZIA, VOCAZIONE E PRIME ESPERIANZA DI GIACOMO CASANOVA, VENEZIANO stars Romeo; Lucrezia Borgia; The Guru Brahmin; Czar Peter III; Paul’s Grandfather; Carmen; Teresa Santiago; and the voice of Rene Mathis.

L’INGORGO stars Lt. Alberto Innocenzi; Niobe; Don Lope; Pierrot; Conchita; Ludwig II; Guido Anselmi; Giulia Clerici; Mark Hand; Nicole Kunstler; and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Seven Aside

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2019 by dcairns

More from WEEKEND MURDERS director Michele Lupo. SETTE VOLTE SETTE (SEVEN TIMES SEVEN) steals the premise of TWO WAY STRETCH but elaborates it in fun ways. Again, we’re in England, this time 1968 London. A team of seven prisoners (plus tagalong Lionel Stander) with names beginning with B (for some reason) try to break out of prison and back in again, unnoticed, committed a heist while at liberty to give themselves the perfect alibi. And all while the prison staff are distracted by the world cup (Everton versus Sheffield Wednesday, whatever that means).

Entirely gratuitous b&w set

Gastone Moschin from WEEKEND MURDERS is back as the ringleader, Benjamin Burton Brain, and there are cameos from Adolfo Celli and, almost inevitably, Terry-Thomas. Lupo directs with typical frenzy — extreme low angles, Dutch tilts, crash zooms, restless tracking shots, frequent resource to handheld, frenetic cutting…

Because the goal is to make this as touristically British as possible, the heist is carried out with a London double-decker bus as getaway car (Brain keeps it in his suburban garage, impossibly) and the music is very ITALIAN JOB. This is like the Italian cinema’s answer to that national insult. It’s a very affectionate response.

There are no subtitles for this so I cheerfully watched the English dub. The setting and some of the casting (cameo from David Lodge — who is in TWO WAY STRETCH) helps make that acceptable. I’m not sure if Moschin is playing gay or just very posh, but whoever’s dubbing him has decided on the former.

The movie may be derivative but it anticipates the OCEAN’S 11 reboot with a parkour/acrobat guy and a movie screen showing an image filmed in a duplicate set, used to flummox security camera (the prison is a magnificent Victorian panopticon but behind there scenes there’s lots of Bondian tech, appropriate enough since Celli is in charge. He probably had it in his contract.

As with the original OCEAN’S there’s a bitter ending as the plan goes ironically awry, but as with TOPKAPI there’s always the dream of a successful future job — the days of actually lucrative capers are still some way off. Funny, that — nowadays all heists must be successful and you couldn’t get away with the unresolved cliffhanger of THE ITALIAN JOB, the total ruination of RIFIFI or even Sinatra and gang’s long, disillusioned promenade…

SETTE VOLTE SETTE stars Fanucci; Archie Goodwin; Jekyll; Lord Alex Burman AKA Flashman; D’Artagnan, Maciste; Emmanuelle; Major Hitchcock; Emilio Largo; Calibos; Squire Trelawney; Ernest Hemingway (old); and Jelly Knight.

They Go Boom #1

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2018 by dcairns

Friday night turned out to be a Vilmos Zsigmond double feature* — I’d bought a second-hand disc of Spielberg’s 1941 and showed Fiona the end credits because I remembered them being funny — she not only laughed at the entire cast screaming as their credits come up —— but at every single one of the random explosions punctuating the end titles. Then she demanded we watch the film. “What else did you buy it for?” Hoist by my own petard! Well, the trouble with certain unsuccessful comedies is not so much that the laughs aren’t there, but that the irritation is. As Spielberg himself diagnosed the problem, the film is just too LOUD. He realised he was in trouble in the edit and hoped John Williams’ score would bail him out, “…but then I realised John was overdoing his score to match my over-direction of Zemeckis & Gale’s over-written script.” In tightening the film to try to save the audience from exhaustion, he took out or compressed quieter character moments, according to co-star Dan Aykroyd, hyping up the intensity even more.

The best bit — whether it makes you laugh or not, it’s spectacularly impressive as a piece of choreography — camera movement as well as people movement.

Spielberg’s favourite comedy is, apparently, IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (“One mad too many”) — which is another way of saying he should never have attempted to direct a comedy. Amid the shouting, the actors who make a good impression and even get laughs are those who take their time and underplay — Lionel Stander and Robert Stack. Aykroyd does his patented fast-talking schtick (he would have gone down great in the thirties), Belushi is a cartoon, and the cast is rounded out with members of the Wild Bunch, the Seven Samurai, and Christopher Lee and Sam Fuller. Nominal hero Bobby DeCiccio is an incredible dancer/stunt artist and I’d like to have seen him do more physical comedy.It’s gloves-off time for Spielberg — he lets his obnoxious, bratty side out, though he did modulate the script to reduce some of the real unpleasantness. Our hero no longer nukes Hiroshima. But there’s a rapey villain — played with gusto by Treat Williams — a real Zemeckis/Gale trope — see BACK TO THE FUTURE — and lots of racial “humour” — I don’t need to see Toshiro Mifune saying “Rots of ruck,” thank you. But I kind of liked that the Americans destroy a lot of their own property but DON’T sink the Japanese sub. No Japs were harmed during the making of this picture. The race jokes are bold, especially viewed with modern sensibilities, but I’m not sure the movie really knows what it’s trying to say with them. Equal-opportunities offense only really works when you have equal opportunities elsewhere.

Spielberg asked Chuck Jones for advice, and the advice was, “Don’t do it.” Jones said you need to have at least one non-crazy character or it won’t work — he cited BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI for the James Donald character — “Madness! Madness!” But 1941 does have quite a few non-mad characters. DiCiccio and Dianne Kay are more generic than eccentric — but the movie never gives us a reason to care about them. They don’t care about anyone else. Example: in the wake of the seriously impressive night-club riot, Kay thinks she’s found DiCiccio — she lifts his head, but it’s just a random sailor, so she drops his head with a thunk and moves on. Moderately funny, perhaps, except we’ve seen it too often in movies, and it’s done cold-bloodedly (OK, maybe distractedly — but if she’s not paying attention to the wounded man, she’s still cold-blooded) and it hurts her character, so it wasn’t worth doing. All the characters we’re supposed to like are stupid or obnoxious much of the time in this movie.Slim Pickens’ character is dumped at sea, last heard screaming “Which way is the coast?” They KILLED him? I really needed a shot of him trudging out of the Pacific surf in his sodden onesie, and that’s not something I say about every film.

Good old Vilmos’s William Fraker’s cinematography is beautiful, but it’s a big part of the problem — combine the 70s’ approach to period, which is tons of diffusion, fog filters as thick as Warren Oates’ glasses, with Spielberg’s love of backlighting, smoke and Fuller’s Earth, and it becomes a little hard to read the action. Forcing the viewer to strain cancels out a huge amount of the comedy and adds to the headache effect with all the screaming and explosions. I think it’s a bit too misty even if it were an Indiana Jones picture. (To shoot RAIDERS, Spielberg gets Douglas Slocombe, who can do atmospherics but who also likes things clean and crisp unless there’s a good reason otherwise. Spielberg enters the 80s leaving behind that 70s period look.

Amazing miniatures work. Only the fairground ever looks like a model, for some reason. The Death Star assault on LA looks amazing. Callback to JAWS is a little laboured. Foreshadowing of JURASSIC PARK is funnier now, though.Oh, it was also a Nancy Allen double bill… In 1941, Nancy plays a woman with a sexual fetish for warplanes — an extrapolation of Carole Lombard and Robert Stack’s business in TO BE OR NOT TO BE, possibly. If we look for traces of autobiography in Spielberg’s work, then we have to say that the character with a fetish for WWII warplanes is HIM — see also the planes in the desert in CE3K, his WWII episode of Amazing Stories, the flying wing fight in RAIDERS, the flyboy antics of ALWAYS, and the rather extraordinary sequence in EMPIRE OF THE SUN where Christian Bayle spies on a sex scene during an air raid. Spielberg is more Ballardian than you’d think.

Meanwhile one couple end up screwing in a tar pit and Treat Williams is last seen being molested while covered in raw egg. Biological sex is messy. Mech sex is clean. Clean like fire. Once we can all upload ourselves into the Oasis, everything will be great.

*Actually, no.