Archive for Moulin Rouge!

The Little Woman

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2019 by dcairns

The Doll family, according to the IMDb, made very few film appearances. The best known of the foursome are better known by different stage names — Harry Earles (originally Kurt Schneider) and sister Daisy (Hilda Schneider) appear in Tod Browning’s FREAKS in central roles, and in small parts (sorry!) in THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. But Fiona thinks she may have spotted Daisy elsewhere.

An older Daisy — we think — flirts with Cliff Robertson in THE BIG SHOW (1961), a stultifying 20th Century Fox circus pic that just about did for Esther Williams’ career. The distinctive helium-squeak voice and German accent (the film was shot on locations around Munich) convince us that this must be Daisie or one of her siblings. She gives a more relaxed performance here than in FREAKS, and is the high point of the film if it’s really her. If it’s not really her, there is no reason to watch this movie. Really terrible.

And in E.A. Dupont’s MOULIN ROUGE (1928), which we just enjoyed at HippFest (well, Fiona fell asleep, but she couldn’t help herself and she consumed the film eagerly on video later), a troupe of little people are seen performing at the Casino de Paris, and again the female lead in the act looks like Daisy. And in yellowface, yet. Which part of this act is most offensive? Oh, and the fiendish Mandarin seems like a dead ringer for Harry.

The show documented in MOULIN ROUGE evidently featured a whole array of little people, so it makes sense that they’d hire the Doll family in order to bulk up the numbers. It’s a veritable Parisian Munchkinland.

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Palette Lenser

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on December 31, 2018 by dcairns

Finally watched GATE OF HELL, which is gorgeous — a take-your-breath-away image every two minutes or so — but still not my favourite Kinugasa joint (which would be YOSO). I figure Japanese cinema was filtering through to the west so erratically that this and A PAGE OF MADNESS may have achieved their high reputation partly by chance, striking though they are. Kinugasa made a lot of films, most of them impossible to see with subtitles… who knows what else is out there?

John Huston bigged up his colour experiments in MOULIN ROUGE (which are pretty great — I’m looking forward to the restoration) by saying that previous movies hadn’t done anything artistic with their palettes at all, and were just gaudy — which is blatantly untrue. But he did find time to praise GATE OF HELL, which was nice of him. In fact, GOH is sometimes fairly gaudy, and certainly doesn’t play safe — there are some very bold combinations of intense hues here. (Huston’s approach in MOULIN ROUGE, MOBY DICK and REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE was to mess about with diffusion and with the colour process itself — Paul Schrader has rightly stated that the more artistic approach is to achieve a controlled palette with the design itself, with what you put in front of the lens. (But Huston’s photochemical interventions are frequently glorious.)

 

Huston was probably responding partly to the effects of a foreign film stock and processing, which gave Japanese colour a different look, or a series of different looks. And he wouldn’t have seen many Japanese films at that time, certainly not colour ones. And then there’s the whole Japanese aesthetic approach, which EXPECTS everything to be beautiful — the quest for cinematic beauty, says Kurosawa, is what keeps us at it. So GATE OF HELL is delicious to the eyes even when portraying horrors. Transmuting the horrible, or the banal, or the picturesque, into the transcendentally beautiful seems one possible worthwhile mission for artistic endeavor.

 

Also dig the way Kinugasa’s camera moves of its own volition, sometimes triggered by music more than any onscreen action — it just takes off by itself to close in on a detail, or to depart the scene altogether when it feels like we’ve had enough. It’s a restless observer.

Vertigo Views of VistaVision

Posted in Dance, FILM, Painting, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2018 by dcairns

Having been blown away by the new 4K of VERTIGO, I called up Nick Varley of Park Circus, who are releasing it in the UK, for an interview — after all, he’s only over there in Glasgow, that other, darker city. But I learned the hard way that the audio recorder on my phone doesn’t record phone calls, apparently, so I can’t give you any direct quotes. But I learned lots of things of interest…

The first thing I learned is that the restoration is by Universal, not Park Circus. Universal went back to the original Vistavision negative and scanned it at 4K, so what we’re seeing is 100% new. And, since prints formerly would be several stages removed from the negative, via interpositive etc, we’re able to see more than even audiences of the original release could see. Fortunately, in this case, I can attest that this doesn’t show up anything that wasn’t visible before that the filmmakers didn’t mean for us to see. Nick cited the wires suspending the Wicked Witch’s winged monkeys in THE WIZARD OF OZ as a major example of a not-entirely-welcome discovery. The line where Martin Balsam’s makeup ends on his neck in PSYCHO is a less glaring one from Hitchcock’s work.

I asked about the sound — it feels much more authentic than the 1996 job, which threw out the foley tracks and replaced them with modern stereo recordings, so that the gunshots at the opening had a jarringly contemporary quality — the metallic sound of the hammer coming down that you get in DIE HARD, the gratuitous ricochets on bullets being fired into the air. They now just go BLAM! as they should. Nick spoke of the tendency to sometimes want old films to sound and look like new films, a misguided approach I hope is finally going out of fashion.

I asked what Park Circus are up to next, in terms of restorations they’re doing personally. THE APARTMENT just got a 4K restoration, fixing one damaged reel and some problems with the main title. The results played in Cannes, and are different from the Blu-Ray Arrow just released (with a video essay by me). They’re now at work on SOME LIKE IT HOT, which could be very exciting, and next up will be John Huston’s MOULIN ROUGE, for Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

I mentioned meeting the film’s script supervisor, Angela Allen, in Bologna, and it turns out she’s a good friend of Nick’s. We paused briefly to marvel at the life and career she’s had.

The standard problem with MOULIN ROUGE as a 3-strip Technicolor film is that often the film shrinks, and as there are three negatives (red, blue and green), if they shrink at different rates, when you combine them you get the colours out of register, like in a cheaply printed old comic book, with characters and objects acquiring luridly coloured halos around their forms. In the digital age, this problem can be 100% solved, so that’ll be one result of the restoration.

The more unique problem comes from the film’s unique look. Huston loved experimenting with colour (MOBY DICK, REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE) and Oswald Morris was doing things with diffusion and the palette to emulate the look of Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters. And there seem to be no original 35mm prints extant to show what the results were supposed to look like. All we have as an authentic guide is the negative, and a 16mm dye-transfer print in Scorsese’s collection, which will be referred to.

It’s going to be exciting! I think in this case, possible the false noses will look falser, but they already look pretty false. The main result will be that a gorgeous looking film that exists only in tatty dupes, will suddenly look many times more gorgeous. Ossie Morris is the man.