Archive for Martin Scorsese

The Situ

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2019 by dcairns

In bed to save on heating because it’s COLD. Momo will probably snuggle up later when he’s finished shouting. Fiona’s going out to meet a friend.

I’m going to listen to the rest of the Jovanovich testimony which is HOT STUFF. If you’re not following this, you should be — exciting viewing. It occurs to me that the Republican pols, those not entirely dead to all moral feeling, are in HELL and have been all through this presidency, having to make excuses for this guy who represents the opposite of the “values” they claim to espouse. Good. Their troubles may be about to end, just not in the way they would choose. But I make no predictions. I live by the tenet, “Things can always get worse.”

Still, life in the Shadowplayhouse is fairly pleasant, we went to see the film billed as THE IRISHMAN which, when you get in to see it, turns out to be called I HEARD YOU PAINT HOUSES. First switcheroo of that sort I’ve seen since Polanski’s THE GHOST (according to UK posters) had a fancy end creds sequence in which it announced its title as THE GHOST WRITER.

And I picked up this month’s Sight & Sound, which asides from boasting articles from pals Hannah McGill and Pamela Hutchinson, features two favourable mentions of yours truly on the same page: my video essay for THE BELLS OF ST MARY’S is, apparently, “highly engaging” and part of a “divine set of extras” while the one I did with Anne Billson for THE FATE OF LEE KHAN is “effervescently enthusiastic”. Stephen C. Horne edited both pieces.

I’ll say some nice things about the Scorsese next week. It is not to be missed.

The Sunday Intertitle: Dead Soldier

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on January 13, 2019 by dcairns

An impressive cinephile moment in the first, Scorsese-directed episode of Boardwalk Empire. A family trip to the cinema shortly after Prohibition takes effect. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, onscreen, discovered an empty whisky bottle and gives it a decent burial, using flowers he had gathered for his girlfriend.

   

Somebody did very well, finding out about or remembering this apposite clip. It ties in with an earlier mock funeral for booze, which in itself seems like a cinematic homage, referencing the jazzy wake for Prohibition held in Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.

We finally caught up with the start of this show as side-research for our latest podcast, which has to do with a certain real-life historical character and which should be appearing in time for Valentine’s Day. I think that’s a big enough hint.

P.S. Anyone know the name of the Arbuckle film?

Rubber Biscuit

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2018 by dcairns

Was discussing something with Anne Billson on Twitter. Those shots where either a character moves on a dolly independently of the camera —

Examples:

Belle in Cocteau’s LA BELLE ET LA BETE, gliding eerily down a corridor of wafting curtains.

This ghost in William Castle’s HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL — Cocteau maybe invented the trope and Castle maybe introduced it to Hollywood.

The implacable revenant in Bava’s BLACK SABBATH, who never makes the mistake of moving like a normal living person. She teleports from room to room like Droopy (“I do this to him all through the picture.”), sits up in bed without the use of arms, rising like a drawbridge, then finally wheels forward through a rainbow of artfully gelled lighting, arms already in position for a spot of strangling…

Kathleen Freeman as the Penguin in THE BLUES BROTHERS. Landis’s parodic use of the supernatural glide is striking because the trope was scarcely in common use at the time. It wasn’t like the trombone shot/exponential zoom in his THRILLER video, where the gimmick was maybe on its way to becoming overexposed and thus ripe for parody. The nun on wheels (at the very end of the long clip above) feels like it could have been played absolutely straight in a real horror movie.

(I like to think they intended to hire Kathleen Byron as a scary nun but asked Freeman by mistake. But I know this is not true.)

Also, those shots where the camera moves WITH the actor, as if the actor were on wheels or the camera were attached, or both. There are two variations on this (well, two main ones) ~

At the opening of SECONDS, John Frankenheimer and James Wong Howe mount their camera on an actor via some kind of rigid harness, getting a whole range of eerie effects whereby the world lurches about, a drunken handheld nightmare, while the foreground shoulder or slice of face remains rock steady.

Another example of the same thing: Scorsese fastens on to Harvey Keitel for (appropriately) a drunk scene in MEAN STREETS, to the tune of Rubber Biscuit. Scorsese has also attached his lens to a boxer’s forearm to deliver a fist’s-eye view of a punch in RAGING BULL (blink and you’ll miss it) and to Willem Dafoe’s crucifix as it’s raised in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. Interestingly, mounting the camera on a car is normal film language (although this still feels unusual) but latching on to any other moving object is still a novelty.

The other variation ~

Spike Lee is the main proponent of this one — camera and actor are moving in unison, but it’s a steady tracking shot, as if the actor is standing on the same dolly the camera moves on (and he is). Lee seems to do this in every film, and, distressingly, sometimes he seems to be doing it just to prove it’s him. His signature shot.

I used this one in my short film CLARIMONDE, back in the nineties — so Lee may have been the influence. I wanted a dreamlike effect and to show a character moving without free will. We didn’t actually have a proper dolly, just a tripod with castors, so I got my lead actor, Colin McLaren, to balance his feet on the castors and grip the top of the tripod so we could wheel him across the studio floor. I still like the result.

This whole slew of techniques seems to be without a name, unless I’ve missed something. I propose calling it the Rubber Biscuit Shot, even though Scorsese didn’t invent it and Spike Lee could probably stake a better claim to ownership. I just think Rubber Biscuit Shot sounds absolutely right for the weird, dislocating effect.