Archive for Luis Bunuel

Page Seventeen II: The Second Story

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2021 by dcairns

As usual, seven passages from seven page seventeens. I’ve recently enjoyed the rather mysterious short stories of Walter De La Mare. It was particularly fun to read Missing, a story narrated in a tea shop in a heatwave, while being in a cafe in a heat wave. So when I picked up WDLM’s novel of possession/reincarnation The Return from the St Columba’s Bookstore, I turned eagerly to page seventeen to see if it would offer me a suitable extract.

To my surprise I found a previous reader had bookmarked the spot with a scrap of paper. One the paper were the haunting words S.W. BRITISH CHAIN FREQUENCY GROUP 1B. Printed in green ink that closely matched the green hue of the Pan Books paperback itself. On the inside front cover the book was stamped WARDROOM LIBRARY H.M.S. SEAHAWK, and since S.W. can stand for shortwave, it seemed possible that this little piece of paper dated from the book’s use as light reading at sea.

On page seventeen I encountered a character called Sheila, which is my mother’s name. Here’s the passage I’ve selected, along with six more from six different volumes.

Lawford shut his mouth. “I suppose so–a fit,” he said presently. “My heart went a little queer, and I sat down and fell into a kind of doze–a stupor, I suppose. I don’t remember anything more. And then I woke; like this.”

I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder–I believe she stole it from her mother’s Spanish maid–a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingles with her own biscuity odour, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing–and as we drew away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a howling cat, there came from the house her mother’s voice calling her, with a rising frantic note–and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But that mimosa grove–the tingle, the flame, the honeydew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since–until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another.

Mr. Hutton was aware that he had not behaved with proper patience; but he could not help it. Very early in his manhood he had discovered that not only did he not feel sympathy for the poor, the weak, the diseased, and deformed; he actually hated them. Once, as an undergraduate, he had spent three days at a mission in the East End. He had returned, filled with a profound and ineradicable disgust. Instead of pitying, he loathed the unfortunate. It was not, he knew, a very comely emotion, and he had been ashamed of it at first. In the end he had decided that it was temperamental, inevitable, and had felt no further qualms. Emily had been healthy and beautiful when he married her. He had loved her then. But now – was it his fault that she was like this?

To kill or not to kill an insect is a decision which faces several characters. It is morally all the more indicative as the act involves no retaliatory consequence, because it is a matter of impulse rather than reflection, wile from conventional viewpoints it has no moral significance. Thus the insect motif sometimes suggests a reverence for life. But this reverence is amused and sardonic, and has its markedly un-Schweitzerian aspects. The sudden death of an insect can also imply that a man can died a abruptly, and as unimportantly.

In the folklore of the doppelganger (German for double-goer; defined by the OED as “wraith of a living person”) to meet your duplicate is a premonition of death. Sellers, who had visited Roger Moore on the set of The Man Who Haunted Himself, must have felt as if he’d toppled headlong into a similarly horrific plot. As The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu, on Sellers’ orders, was being re-re-re-written throughout the night, by teams of hacks, belletrists, ex-playwrights, and just about anybody who could stay awake and hold a pen, this was exactly an element which was worked in at the last moment (though it was lost again when the film was edited after Sellers’ passing). As Sellers intended it (and he through the leaves of the script other people had concocted to the ground, in order to improvise it), the rejuvenated Fu, and Taylor as Nayland, were to walk off into the sunset together, the opposites reconciled, the doubles united. ‘You are the only worthy adversary I ever had, Nayland. They were the good old days. We can recapture them and start all over again.’

‘I admit I can’t make him out,’ resumed Barker, abstractedly; ‘he never opens his mouth without saying something so indescribably half-witted that to call him a fool seems the very feeblest attempt at characterisation. But there’s another thing about him that’s quite funny. Do you know that he has the one collection of Japanese lacquer in Europe? Have you ever seen his books? All Greek poets and medieval French and that sort of thing. Have you ever been in his rooms? It’s like being inside an amethyst. And he moves about in all that and talks like – like a turnip.’

Suddenly I found myself lying awake, peering from my sandy mattress through the door of the tent. I looked at my watch pinned to the canvas, and saw by the bright moonlight that it was past twelve o’clock–the threshold of a new day–and I had therefore slept a few hours. The Swede was asleep still beside me; the wind howled as before; something plucked at my heart and made me feel afraid. There was a sense of disturbance in my immediate neighbourhood.

Postscript: Fiona is now reading The Return, and in conversation with friend and Shadowplayer David Melville Wingrove she has learned that it was HE who originally donated it to the charity shop where I found it…

The Return by Walter De La Mare; Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; The Gioconda Smile, from Mortal Coils by Aldous Huxley; Luis Bunuel by Raymond Durgnat; The Life and Death of Peter Sellers by Roger Lewis; The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton; The Willows, from Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood.

Primal Screen

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2020 by dcairns

I didn’t particularly enjoy THE ANGEL’S LEAP but this image is nice, and neatly illustrates that thing Luis Bunuel was just saying:

Octavio Paz has said, “But that a man in chains should shut his eyes, the world would explode.” And I could say: But that the white eyelid of the screen reflect its proper light, the Universe would go up in flames. But for the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently dosified and shackled.

I chose to watch this Marseilles-based thriller because I wanted some distraction as my favourite aunt just died from Covid-19, under the most miserable circumstances. It’s not director Yves Boisset’s fault that his film is full of death, hospitals, funerals, making it not perhaps the best distraction you could have. But it’s fairly mindless so it had that in its favour.

It’s a bit more visually attractive than Boisset’s Manchette adaptation, FOLLE A TUER, but much less involving. Basic revenge stuff. Jean Yanne, a good actor, is a rather doughy action hero, Sterling Hayden struggles to express himself in French, but Senta Berger is great as ever and Gordon Mitchell is an interesting screen presence. The only Italian muscleman star with an interesting rather than bland face, and (and this is a surprising thing to find) he wears clothes really well.

The main villain has a preposterous Bondian lair and keeps vultures as pets. Idiot. He gets slung off his balcony and lands on some power lines in front of a drive-in screen, all pretty preposterous (every aspect of it: why would a rich man live over a drive-in?). Boisset’s main visual trope is to track around his characters in a half-circle, which is nice enough but it’s the only thing of note the camera ever does. Like they had a length of curving track and they wanted to get the most out of it.

THE ANGEL’S LEAP stars Jean-Paul Marat; Elisabeth Sibelius; General Jack D. Ripper; Napoleon Bonaparte; Maciste; Victor Maigrat; Eurylochus; Alessio Karenin; and Louise Danton.

Bunuelian

Posted in FILM with tags , on December 18, 2020 by dcairns

Picked up a copy of the old Pelican paperback Film Makers on Film Making. Essays and the like by Edwin S. Porter, D.W. Griffith, Chaplin, Stroheim, Vertov, Cocteau, Resnais, etc.

But Luis Bunuel is the guy who actually blows the roof off. By comparison, everyone else seems to be on their best behaviour. I think I’ll probably post some quotes from the rest — Griffith “predicting” what cinema and society will be like in 2024 is of possible interest — but I have to start with Don Luis.

Octavio Paz has said, “But that a man in chains should shut his eyes, the world would explode.” And I could say: But that the white eyelid of the screen reflect its proper light, the Universe would go up in flames. But for the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently dosified and shackled.

AND

In my opinion, the real responsibility for the spiritual stagnation of cinema lies with the amorphous mass, routinary and conformist, that makes up the audience. The producer limits himself merely to throwing to the beasts the food they demand of him.

AND

The true ‘opium of the audience’ is conformity; and the entire, gigantic film world is dedicated to the propagation of this comfortable feeling, wrapped though it is at times in the insidious disguise of art.

(Italics mine.)