Archive for Marius Goring

Zorro and the Pity

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 14, 2018 by dcairns

                        

            

       

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Take My Life — Please

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2014 by dcairns

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TAKE MY LIFE (1948) is Ronald Neame’s directorial debut. As you might expect if you know of Neame’s background as cinematographer for David Lean, the film is often very beautiful. And as you might expect if you’ve seen other Neame directorial jobs (eg GAMBIT, HOPSCOTCH), it’s a mildly diverting thriller — though of course he had other strengths (THE HORSE’S MOUTH, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE).

What stops it from reaching the Hitchcockian heights it presumably aspires to (it’s a wrong-man thriller, after all) is perhaps a shortage of truly tense scenes, and a slightly dodgy structure, where it seems to be missing most of a second act. It’s based on a novel by Winston Grahame (MARNIE) and inventively folds its set-up into a summing-up by portly prosecutor Francis L. Sullivan with illustrative flashbacks, the last of which reveals that arrested man Hugh Williams is not the culprit — instead, joy of joys, we get Marius Goring, aged up with some grey streaks to his hair and face, as a Scottish schoolteacher secretly married to the victim. Now, Williams’ wife must investigate for herself, locating and somehow incriminating the sepulchral Scotsman.

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As lit by Guy Green, star Greta Gynt displays Norway’s most alluring complexion. Her character’s career as opera singer allows for some nice visuals early on, and her artistic temperament ultimately triggers the circumstance that gets her husband incriminated (strict structuralism demands that this temperament return to play a role in the plot later, but it doesn’t). Hugh Williams, being imprisoned for much of the plot, can only look guilty — of what, we never know, since we know he’s not the murderer, but with his oiled beetle-shell of hair and somehow untrustworthy fleshy features, he is physiognomically incapable of projecting innocence.

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After the stylish and moody opening, the film has to rely on the threat to Williams to supply all dramatic tension, since Gynt’s efforts to clear his name do not put her in peril, do not give her problems she can struggle with, and rely on a wild and lucky coincidence to come to their resolution. Only when Goring is reintroduced and comes face to face with her can some proper suspense be created (Didn’t Goring ever play a vampire? He should’ve.) Apart from the ageing makeup, which looks fine in medium shot and goofy in close-up, he seems to have elongated the shape of his face, I think just by putting the tips of his teeth together rather than clenching them. At any rate, sometimes you can’t quite believe it’s him.

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The film’s other pleasant surprise is the darkly beautiful Rosalie Crutchley, whom I normally associate with her gloomy housekeeper role in Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING. Here she gets to be a bit glam, and makes me wish she had gotten leading roles exploiting her slightly Latinate charms. An impossibility in the British film industry of the time, I fear.

 

Zee and Co.

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by dcairns

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James Mason is Hendrik van der Zee, the Fying Dutchman, in Albert Lewin’s PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, which we were inspired to watch by the passing of its cinematographer, the great Jack Cardiff. And I quickly remembered the words of my late friend Lawrie: “We were all so excited when it came out. And then we were all so disappointed.”

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A viewer sinks into lassitude. Or Lassie-tude?

It’s easy to see why members of the British film community would have high hopes for the movie — here was British talent like Cardiff, designer John Bryan, and actors Nigel Patrick, John Laurie and Marius Goring (South African by birth, but who’s counting?) united with Hollywood talent like Ava Gardner and Brit expat James Mason, in a film by the maker of the much-admired PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. In fact, with his aspirations to self-conscious literary and painterly effects, Lewin was the kind of filmmaker perhaps more admired by Brits than Americans. 

And the disappointment is easy to understand too. While PANDORA is beautiful, with stunning images served up on a regular basis, the ponderous script and lack of dramatic tension make it a wearying experience. It’s tempting to blame the framing structure for giving the end away, but there are plenty of movies that get away with that. There’s the fact that the film is stuffed full of nightclub singers, race drivers, archaeologists and matadors — nobody seems to have a proper job. And yet there many movies that throw together impossibly glamorous or eccentric characters and we love them. Certainly it’s a problem that everybody talks in a ponderous, pseudo-poetic way. When they quote scads of verse from memory it’s actually a relief — it sounds more natural. Perhaps the biggest problem lies in this movie being basically an original story, “inspired” by the legend of the Flying Dutchman — Lewin’s best films are adaptations, and he was an elegant and respectful conveyor of other people’s stories.

There are moments when the dialogue becomes so windy and carbohydrate-rich that it almost works, in a MARIENBAD kind of way. The trouble is, although nobody seems like a real person, they don’t quite attain mythic status, which is presumably the intent. With the rich colours, florid verbiage and striking of attitudes, the proceedings ought to stand a good chance of attaining camp, but nothing doing. Maybe because the prosaic narration, delivered by antiquarian Harold Warrender, an actor who looks like he could aspire to drollery if the script permitted it, flattens the mood like a giant fly-swatter made of print. Even the “exciting” attempt at the land-speed record gets broken up by Lewin’s unending prose. Action scenes are not usually aided by voice-over exposition.

It is a tale told by an archaeologist. Devoid of sound and fury, trying to signify everything.

Only a few moments at a wild party in the middle show Lewin’s surrealist streak, and allow the intrusion of a welcome gust of humour ~

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Still, even as we felt the life oozing from our frames, we would be moved to declare,”That’s beautiful!” every few minutes. It was a kind of dispassionate declaration, since if there’s one thing above all that the film isn’t, it isn’t moving. But beauty like this is uncommon.

RIP, Jack.

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