Archive for Marilyn Monroe

Fleisch-Auswirkungen

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2013 by dcairns

Something's Got to Give (1962)

Billy Wilder, attempting to define the mysterious potency of Marilyn Monroe, said that “She had great flesh impact,” which is an absolutely VILE phrase, calling to mind the image of an overweight naked person colliding with one’s windscreen (I should never have drunk those pina coladas and smoked that crack!) but we kind of know what he means. Interestingly, the physical sense of corporeal heft and presence is strong for Monroe both in colour and black-and-white, though subtly different in each. Her nude scene in the never-completed Cukor SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE is all impressionistic light-on-water sparkle, yet she still comes across peachy and squeezy. In SOME LIKE IT HOT she’s a topographical riot in a highly censorable Orry-Kelly creation that’s halfway between a dress and a shadow.

So the term has use. In RASHOMON, which is Kurosawa’s most tactile film, Mifune has flesh impact too —

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Machiko Kyo makes expressive use of the Mifune shoulder-flesh.

But it’s such a horrible phrase. Wilder, a great writer, surely sensed that, but being Wilder he probably didn’t care — his films commingle the desirable and the icky in highly personal ways — “It’s just your basic slashed-wrists love scene,” he told his cameraman on SUNSET BLVD, and in A FOREIGN AFFAIR he outraged his co-author Charles Brackett with the insistence that Marlene Dietrich should spit toothpaste at her lover.

I wondered if it sounded better in German, and using Google Translate I found out. “Fleisch auswirkungen” is what was suggested. It still sounds vile, but strangely cool and scientific at the same time. Add it to your glossary of film terminology now.

Who else has flesh impact? Don’t say Eugene Pallette — I would argue that, apart from his head, a magnificently crenellated pudding which certainly packs a torso’s worth of beef into a confined space, he’s more of a boulder than a body. Think more lateral-subtle-surprise. Who?

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Havin’ a Heatwave

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on September 5, 2013 by dcairns

Sitting in the 99 Fahrenheit heat watching a six-year-old girl’s face contort in awe as she watches the trailer for ONE MILLION YEARS BC as my wife reads My Lunches with Orson and eats dried beans and a big golden retriever dismembers a bath towel in his powerful jaws. But when you read this I’ll probably be on an aeroplane en route to New York or London or eventually Edinburgh. More after touchdown.

Baker’s Inferno

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by dcairns

I keep forgetting that the venerable Roy Ward Baker, director of A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, among many others, had a pretty successful innings in Hollywood. DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK starred Richard Widmark and the young Marilyn Monroe, and is pretty good, even though MM’s performance has come in for a lot of criticism. It’s a rare psychodrama where the deranged threat is also treated with sympathy as a character, and allowed to survive the end credits. And I just obtained NIGHT WITHOUT SLEEP, a noirish number with Linda Darnell.

INFERNO, filmed in eye-jabbing 3D, is also somewhat in a noir vein, starring as it does Robert Ryan (who could just about single-handedly wrench any movie into noir terrain) as a misanthropic millionaire (another Howard Hughes variant, like his turn in CAUGHT — he even gets injured and stuck in the wilderness like Hughes in the much later MELVIN AND HOWARD) with a scheming wife, Rhonda Fleming. She and her lover, William Lundigan (reliable movie ballast) mislead the rescue party to search the wrong area, in hopes that the broken-legged hubby will perish under the blazing sun.

So it’s a tale of survival, with Ryan building a splint, assembling a rope to get himself off a mountain, hunting for supper and looking for water in all the wrong places. And as such it’s reasonably compelling. The increasingly grizzled Ryan monologues internally to himself, keeping himself alive by plotting his revenge, until he finally comes to something resembling peace of mind and physical safety.

The 3D disappoints somewhat, mainly because the desert isn’t such a promising location for dimensional hi-jinks: there’s no middle-ground to add depth. Ryan’s lonely stumbling takes place against an infinity of distant sky and sand, with his pop-up figure the only point of interest. His crawl down the mountain should have offered opportunities for vertiginous thrills, but these seem to slip away: a POV looking downwards has no sense of scale, and could have been taken from the top of a hillock; most of the shots of Ryan pose him against the rockface, a flat background only inches behind him.

But I shouldn’t be too hard on the movie, since the copy I was working from was pretty sub-par. For one thing, the red and blue images were slightly out of synch, probably by two frames, causing a dark blink whenever there was a cut, and causing migrainy haloing of characters in motion, as if they’d stepped out of an old four-colour comic book printed out of register. So it’s fair to say nothing looked its best.

Nevertheless, with Ryan’s towering presence and such a compelling plot engine, the film entertains, and the final brawl in a confined cabin was terrific: as the room catches fire, illustrating the title in a new way, Baker throws furniture, lanterns, broken jugs,  Lundigan and blazing ceiling beams in our faces so fast we come away feeling bruised. Two-fisted anaglyph action!