Archive for My Wife’s Relations

Maximum Effort

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2019 by dcairns

We started yesterday with King of the Movies — a 1978 BBC special in which the nonagenarian Henry King reminisces about his career. This accompanied an extensive BBC2 series of his films, an astonishing event to think of now. Unwisely, the show was programmed opposite an actual King film, which meant we had, for once, a relatively sparsely attended event in which the air-con could really roll up its sleeves and get down to business. The show itself was highly enjoyable, with King a terrific raconteur.

THE WARRIOR’S HUSBAND (1933) is a startling Fox film, from a Broadway play which had been a hit for Katharine Hepburn. Elissa Landi, in the lead, seems to have modeled her performance on KH, with lots of thigh-slapping and chin-jutting.

The story deals with gender war — Amazons versus Greeks — but the style is pure Loony Tunes, with “You Great Big Beautiful Doll” played on the soundtrack as Ernest Truex admires himself. Warrior women include Marjorie Rambeau and Maude Eburn (her helmet visor forever slamming shut with a cartoon twang), and David Manners turns up to show us what a real man looks like (!). Also two quick moments of interest amid the generally cheesy jokes: two black male dressmakers put their arms around each other — the comedy is blurring the lines between 1933 servant class and ancient slave class, between men performing women’s roles and men being gay, between men as female dressmakers and men as camp tailors. And then there’s Landi’s bath scene, resting chin and elbows on the brim of a huge raised bath, before throwing herself backwards into a backstroke, affording a few frames’ glimpse of what DeMille framed out in her milk bath scene with Claudette Colbert in SIGN OF THE CROSS.

Well, Fiona fell asleep in this film, which is not a distinguished picture but a very odd one. And then she did it again in TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH, which is a very good Henry King picture with Gregory Peckory cast against type and compelled to do some real acting.

The early scenes contain the boldest stuff — violence, blood and dismemberment are not shown, but they’re DESCRIBED in graphic detail. Based on what I saw in MEMPHIS BELLE and THE COLD BLUE, the depiction of the US Air Force’s activities in Britain is fairly accurate. Unusually, there’s no flying stuff until near the end, when sadly the movie becomes a fruit salad of model effects, studio process shots and footage from Wyler’s aerial documentary and additional material courtesy of the Luftwaffe.

Peck’s mission is to discover what “Maximum Effort” really means — how much a flight crew can take without falling apart psychologically. Well, we had reached Maximum Effort at Bologna, after eight days, so we staggered through Buster Keaton’s MY WIFE’S RELATIONS — a version incorporating both Cohen Media’s restored footage and Lobster’s newly-discovered ending, which may never be shown again — and then collapsed back at our Airbnb.

I’m still convinced the film would work better if you put BOTH endings together, but there’s no evidence it was ever screened that way…

Today’s the last FULL day of Il Cinema Ritrovato but there are more screenings tomorrow and our flight back is on Monday. More to come.

The Sunday Intertitle: Buster’s Shorts

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 22, 2016 by dcairns

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OK to announce my big Buster Keaton project now — wonder-editor Timo Langer and I have created a video essay to accompany Masters of Cinema’s new Blu-ray release of the complete Buster Keaton short films — now more complete than ever with longer alternate cuts of MY WIFE’S RELATIONS, THE BLACKSMITH and CONEY ISLAND. It was fun to make this one — though hard to decide whether to go for history/biography, critical or some combination. My big idea was to cut together the films in such a way as to create long sequences of continuous movement — Buster flies off screen left in NEIGHBORS and enters screening right, in a different costume, in COPS. And so on. Every silent comedy doc used to have a fast-and-furious montage of Keystone chases, spliced up into abstract gibberish and much more exciting than the films themselves. This was an attempt to do a variation on that idea, emphasising Buster’s tendency to use himself as a projectile…

The only downside to all this is that Keaton’s short film oeuvre, which once seemed inexhaustible and limitless, is now behind me, watched. I can watch it all again, of course, and I will, But you can only watch something for the first time once, as my friend Travis recently observed. One of the nicest discoveries on this viewing was THE HAUNTED HOUSE, which features numerous instances of Keaton’s Nightmare Mode, one of the subjects of my video essay…

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Buy it here and help a brother out.

The Sunday Intertitle: Yeast

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2016 by dcairns

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A full day in Bo’ness at last, soaking up the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema. Four shows on Saturday —

Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline’s MY WIFE’S RELATIONS — world premiere of newly discovered ending!

Doubled with Garvin and Marion Byron in A PAIR OF TIGHTS, a Hal Roach farce from the mind of Leo McCarey!

VARIETE by EA Dupont in a fresh restoration of glistening quality!

DAYBREAK, a fascinating Chinese rarity from the thirties in a hideous DVD, cropped and lacking contrast!

WUNDER DER SCHOPFUNG — German space documentary — a film that is to sci-fi what HAXAN is to horror, using a factual basis as pretext for as many startling images as possible.

I also saw Jessie, a volunteer who mentioned that she never makes it into the videos about Bo’ness, so I thought I’d give her some publicity here.

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Just time maybe to comment on the new ending of MY WIFE’S RELATIONS. The original cut fizzled out with Buster battling his in-laws in their newly acquired mansion, then swiftly cut to him on the back of a sleeper car — a favourite escape ending. This time the train is the Reno Express, so a quickie divorce is intimated. As a final shot it’s perfect, but the film doesn’t seem to get as there. A colossal ellipse gapes, not entirely complete-able by the imagination.

This new ending gets Buster out the house at least, but then the film simply stops, sans resolution. It’s absolutely clear to me that the two endings must be combined — Buster escapes the house AND boards the train. Then you got an ending. I’m even wondering, based on another error in the restoration involving the Polish intertitles (don’t ask), whether a combined ending was intended and then overlooked. Such blunders do happen — I saw several in Bologna involving restored Chaplin shorts which were still works-in-progress.

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More on the rest of these soon. I’m in the edit today! If I’m VERY lucky and efficient I might make it to STELLA DALLAS (1925) this evening.