Archive for Little Murders

Quigley Down Under

Posted in Dance, FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2013 by dcairns

rosario-dawson

Rosario Dawson: has vagina.

One aspect of Danny Boyle’s new film TRANCE (a remake of a feature by screenwriter Joe Ahearne) which doesn’t seem to have excited as much comment as one might expect, is the cameo appearance by Rosario Dawson’s vagina. It seems odd to me, since that was all we were talking about as we left the cinema. “Did you get a load of that vagina?” we said, or words to that effect. “What kind of man puts his girlfriend’s shaven genitals in his film?” asked our friend Ali. “A middle-aged film director with a very hot girlfriend,” was all I could suggest. “Look what I have to come home to!” seemed to be the thought Mr Boyle wanted us to grasp.

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Linnea Quigley: as smooth and featureless as a young Harry Langdon.

And so we turn our attention, as every film blog must, to scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals. In fact, I have some hopes that this article will prove to be the definitive cinematic study of scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals.

Not that scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals have ever appeared in a film, to my knowledge. In that respect, and perhaps in others, the genitals resemble Gummo Marx. In a sense, however, scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals haunt 80s horror cinema as a kind of defining absence, and it is this unseen influence, this mute testimony, which I will attempt to address here.

The key text in the off-screen career of scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals is surely RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, an at-times rather witty sort-of-sequel to George Romero’s more celebrated and, let’s face it, classier NIGHT OTLD. One of the aspects of Dan O’Bannon’s follow-up that arguably robs it of some of its predecessor’s gravitas is Quigley’s graveyard striptease. I don’t say that a graveyard striptease would automatically render a film unworthy of respect. If somebody stripped during the graveyard trip scene of EASY RIDER, and my memory is unclear as to whether in fact they do or don’t, I’m not sure it would make any difference to that film’s claim to capturing the zeitgeist. The film would still be largely tiresome, incoherent and self-indulgent, but it wouldn’t be any worse for a graveyard striptease.

Somehow, though, Linnea Quigley, as punk rocker Trash, manages to lower the tone a little. Her wanton denuding somehow plants a seed of doubt in the viewer’s mind: are the filmmakers of this zombie teen comedy-horror somehow guilty of pandering to their audience? The doubt is arguably intensified by the fact that Trash, having become naked, remains naked for the rest of the film. All attempts to cover her up are stymied by the whims of fate, and those splintered ends of broken banisters that can so easily snag the corner of a blanket.

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However, scream queen Linnea Quigley’s nakedness is not at issue. What we are interested in is her genitals, or lack thereof. As it was described to me by somebody who probably knew nothing about it, the filmmakers initially thought they could get away with full frontal nudity by shaving scream queen Linnea Quigley’s naked genitals. Pubic hair seemed to distress the censor, and so doing away with said hair appeared to offer a solution. But to the filmmakers’ shock — and one must suppose them naive and inexperienced fellows if this is true — they discovered that in fact removing pubic hair does not make the genitals disappear. In fact, more like the opposite.

And so a prosthetic covering had to be created, something to cup and conceal scream queen Linnea Quigley’s genitals and turn her into a sexless Barbie doll. The idea seems to have been that nobody would notice the lack of genitals, because everybody would be looking at her lovely face. Except for the censor, who gets paid to look at genitals. Blue pencil raised in readiness, he would be forced to let it fall, unused, when he discerned that the full-frontally nude woman was equipped only with R-rated body parts.

Here, I hoped to mention that scream queen Linnea Quigley subsequently married a makeup effects artist. In the words of Donald Sutherland in LITTLE MURDERS, “That marriage did not last.” But in fact the effects artist she married was not one of those employed on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, though I think he did work on NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, where, if memory serves, Linnea Quigley’s breast swallows a lipstick. Yes, you read that right. After having a prosthetic lipstick-swallowing nipple created by him, reader, she married him. That marriage did not last.

Incidentally — very, very incidentally — I know of one makeup artist whose first major job was casting Kate Winslet’s genitals so she could give birth explicitly in Michael Winterbottom’s JUDE, by the way. Welcome to showbiz! And I note that Winterbottom’s defining trait as filmmaker is a puerile explicitness whenever it comes to pigs being slaughtered, women giving birth, and bloody beatings. This is a sad thing. Those three forms of entertainment have nothing in common except that filmmakers featuring them in close-up will be called “unflinching.” I like filmmakers who flinch before I do.

(After Michael Winterbottom comes Michael Springbottom. Before Michael Winterbottom comes Michael Autumnbottom.)

You might think I’m seizing on TRANCE as a sort of topical hook upon which to dangle these musings, but the connection goes deeper. In a willful bit of “only-if-it-were-essential-to-the-plot” conspiracy, TRANCE works very hard to make Rosario Dawson’s pubic region a vital part of the film’s narrative architecture. This includes a clue (art book with missing page — Goya’s The Naked Maja, the first painted nude with scandalous pubic hair) and a speech about how artists regularly left out the pubes to deny biology and make the female form more perfect. (Yet, like Linnea Quigley, these nudes did not display what should have lain concealed near the curly undergrowth so beloved of the late Jesus Franco — they were “smooth right round the bend” as Stanley Tweedle says in odd Canadia-German sci-fi show Lexx upon encountering a similarly vaginaless lady. Suggesting that the reticence of the artist had far less to do with some debatable perfectionism and more to do with censorship and/or anxiety about the female body.)

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Anyway, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD has had four sequels (the living dead KEEP returning, it’s one of their defining traits) but neither addressed the presence of a woman without genitals running around in the first film. Is it time for RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD VI: WHY SCREAM QUEEN LINNEA QUIGLEY HAD NO GENITALS?

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The Passion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2009 by dcairns

Maybe, for blogging purposes, I should abandon this quirky whimsical tone, and adopt some of the attitude evoked so ably by the late Lou Jacobi in Alan Arkin’s film of Jules Feiffer’s LITTLE MURDERS, which is the subject of this week’s Forgotten column over at The Auteurs’.

I dunno, though. I might burst something, and I’d definitely have to switch to

LARGE PRINT.

Don’t

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2009 by dcairns

The sex scene in DON’T LOOK NOW is something I’ve already written about, but what the hell — there’s always more to say. It’s a sequence that rewards study. The last time I ran it I was struck by elements of explicit actor-on-actor contact I’d never noticed before — possibly because they disappeared in pan-and-scan TV and VHS versions, actually. Possibly because director Nic Roeg places them at the edge of frame to make you only subliminally register them. So the scene feels stronger than it appears to be?

But I want to address another impression that struck me, and which belatedly occurred to me to write about as I’ve been walking around with Pino Donaggio’s score playing on my old coal-burning Nano. I want to talk to you about the very weird stuff Donald Sutherland is doing.

The scene starts, really, with Julie Christie, as Donald’s lady wife, observing that he has toothpaste on his chin from his recent ablutions. “Lick it off,” commands Donald.

This is, one might think, a quirky form of loveplay, and not one we can really blame Donald for. But since Donald is genetically of Scottish blood, and co-scenarist Allan Scott is likewise, I’m tempted to blame the famed frugality of my own race.

“You’ve got toothpaste on your chin.”

“Well jings, woman! Dinnae let it go tae waste!”

We then get this odd moment, during the actual “at it” sequence (editor Anne Coates to Soderbergh on the rip-off version in OUT OF SIGHT: “They don’t seem to ever actually… go at it.”) — Donald bends one arm behind his back, as if being arrested by an invisible judo instructor. I don’t know what kind of mime training they gave him at Perth Rep, but it’s paying off in spades.

That’s one moment I was always aware of. Fiona claims that she pointed it out to me, but don’t believe her. Possibly it’s some kind of rarified tantric technique Donald picked up in the sixties. Possibly he just had an itch between the shoulder blades. But it’s IN THE FILM. It clearly means something.

STOP PRESS: It’s NOT in the film. On revisiting the sequence, I find I’ve misremembered it entirely. Donald’s arm is bending behind Julie’s back, not his own, as if he’s preparing to swivel her around on his member. Still: not quite normal.

Then we get Donald physically licking Julie’s lips. Licking his own lips would be bad enough. There’s nothing, on paper, about licking a pretty girl’s lips that’s off-putting to me. For some reason I’ve never been moved to try it, possibly because it seems somehow weird, but the principle doesn’t seem obviously worse than French kissing, for example. But now, having seen Donald do it, somehow the possibility of my ever wanting to try this diminishes rapidly. I’m ranking it somewhere below incest and coprophilia on my list of things to try. Maybe it’s the mustache.

Of course, in putting together a sequence like this, so intricately edited, many shots did not make the cut, so I was pleased to come across the genuine continuity sheets for this day’s filming, with the notes next to takes that were judged “NG” (No Good). here are a sampling, for your edification ~

Take 4. NG. Donald inserts his head between two pillows and barks like a seal.

Take 7. NG. Donald seems to become hypnotized by his own knee. Falls off bed.

Take 11. NG. Donald starts biting Julie’s hair. Julie becomes irate. Donald bites own hair.

Take 12. NG. Donald starts biting Julie’s hair again.

Take 15. NG. Donald behaving strangely. Explains that he’s trying to lick his own eye.

Take 16. NG. Donald begins playing an Ozark harp. Julie complains this is distracting.

Take 17. NG. Donald’s whistling puts Julie off.

Take 18. NG. Julie discovers Donald is wearing flippers. Urgent conference with Nic. Donald agrees to remove flippers. Asks for snorkel. Agrees to do without snorkel. Asks for perm. Nic agrees to perm.

Throughout all this, the only strange or unbecoming thing Julie does is to bite Donald. Which I’m down with, seems like only fair retaliation. But she bites him on the ball of the foot. Maybe I’m prudish, but I generally like to keep the feet as far removed from the actual sex act as possible. “I’m not knocking it,” as Donald repeatedly says in LITTLE MURDERS, it’s just not my scene. So, Julie, I’ll let you off with a warning this time: never bite a man’s ball.

A friend once corresponded with la Christie, concerning a movie. The starting point was an old chestnut about a couple having sex on a train, who offend their fellow passengers by sparking up cigarettes after performing the act. At some point the script improved from the initial idea of sexy young people offending the fuddy-duddies, to the more interesting idea of an older couple offending the stuffy kids. So Julie was approached. And sent back a very nice letter, handwritten, explaining that she did not buy into the story, because in her (apparently considerable) experience of having sex on trains, discretion had been the watchword, “even down to having my lover place his hand over my mouth to stifle my cries.”

Which is more information than was requested, yet not necessarily more than we wanted to know.