Archive for Orson Welles

Linkages

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on December 6, 2018 by dcairns

The Late Show expands over to The Notebook with a new edition of The Forgotten, in order to consider Bernard “Mad” Vorhaus’s SO YOUNG, SO BAD, the quote quickie king’s penultimate film, his last US one before the blacklist slammed the door in his face. Girls in prison! Tracking shots into empty rooms! Careful with that fire hose! Here.

Stars Victor and Muriel Laszlo, Altaira Morbius and Googie Gomez.

Plus, we have new entries! Friend and collaborator Scout Tafoya weighs in on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND at Apocalypse Now, with an individual approach I just loved, swerving midstream to also encompass Bud Boetticher’s last western.

And another friend, Jaime N. Christley, takes a radically different approach to the same/a similar subject at his Filmsaurus, here. Both are must-reads, I promise you. Tears in my eyes.

And we have another MUMMY limerick, because you can never have too many MUMMY limericks (apparently).

Tomorrow: more links (I hope) and a new edition of The Shadowcast!

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The Frozen Moment

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2018 by dcairns

I was looking at THE DEVIL’S OWN, the remarkably non-excellent late Alan Pakula thriller, which has a very impressively staged, if overblown and morally indefensible, street battle at the start. Amid all the mayhem, Pakula (and editors Tom Rolf & Dennis Virkler) freeze the action with a quick, beautifully-composed shot of a corpse. It fractures the all-movement flow of the edit and injects an icy feeling that partially redeems the scene from its gung-ho pyrotechnics.

It also rang a bell with me, and I found myself trying to figure out whether Pakula had pinched the idea from some other film I’ve seen.

The first thing that came to mind was this shot from John Milius’s DILLINGER ~

It has a similar look, but it appears at the end of the scene so it has a different, less disruptive effect. I had an instinctive suspicion that there was a common source both Milius and Pakula were swiping from, and I knew that I KNEW that source, if I could but remember it.

I started wondering if, given Milius’s tastes, the answer might be Kurosawa. I remembered these shots, in RAN (another late-ish film, and one ABOUT lateness, old age) ~

Kurosawa intersperses the apocalyptic battle that occurs midway in this film with static snapshots of the slain, their busy, living former comrades hurrying past them in foreground or background. He takes you out of the desperate action and briefly drops you into a more contemplative, restful space. Called death.

But RAN was made some time *after* DILLINGER, so couldn’t be the influence. THE SEVEN SAMURAI seemed a possibility, reminding me that it’s been far too long since I watched it. But I couldn’t actually remember such a shot used in such a way, so that couldn’t be the specific thing I was remembering.

Then I did a class on Orson Welles for my 1st year students, and there it was, in CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT ~POSITIVELY the shot I was trying to remember, coming as a sudden, shockingly still interruption of the hand-held chaos of the celebrated and influential Battle of Shrewsbury sequence. By coincidence, the appearance of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND reminds us that Milius and Welles apparently knew each other at least well enough for the latter to parody the former as a character in his movie-world movie. And I can well imagine Milius and Pakula admiring CHIMES enough to borrow an effect without particularly paying attention to what the effect was FOR.

Welles actually pulls this trick twice. Each time, the shot contains furiously racing characters but our eye goes to the face of the fallen man, and the camera’s stillness puts us in sympathy with him, not those running about madly behind him.

But it’s still possible that this touch is to be found in earlier battles by Kurosawa OR — a distinct possibility, this — Eisenstein. If anybody knows for sure, point me in the right direction.

Decolourising

Posted in FILM with tags , on November 21, 2018 by dcairns

I enacted a little vandalism on PEEPING TOM a while back, speculating on what Michael Powell’s voyeuristic monsterpiece would look like in b&w. Then I forgot about it, but I just thought of another film I’d like to decolourise, sort of.

Orson Welles, by the time of the film-within-the-film in THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, had embraced colour and used it as boldly and beautifully as he did b&w. I think F FOR FAKE looks great too, and the fact that it’s a kind of patchwork/scrapbook allows for a wide variety of looks. THE IMMORTAL STORY, for me, never looked quite as good as it ought to. Some of this is Welles’s attempt to simulate Macao (a place he can’t even PRONOUNCE in LADY FROM SHANGHAI) in France and Spain on a limited budget. Some of it is Welles’s fairly terrible make-up, and some of it is Welles’s still getting to grips with colour cinematography. He DOES achieve some beautiful moments, and he’s certainly not afraid: see the image above. I just wondered if some of the film would look better in monochrome?

Nothing’s ever going to turn this into one of Welles’s better makeups, but I wince less when his nose putty is no longer blue. Oddly, the stippled rosacea on his cheeks looks more like redness in b&w, less like shading designed to heighten his cheekbones, so that’s an improvement too. And the pencilled wrinkles seem more subtle. The echoes of HEARTS OF AGE are quieted.

 

 

I originally thought the film looked fine, apart from Welles. Then I showed it to a friend with Indonesian connections and she was insulted by its lack of a sense of place. Welles was, in a way, trying to do a studio recreation of another land, but on location in the wrong land. It doesn’t bother me too much, but obviously it doesn’t give you what the real place could, OR what you’d get from a big budget imitation.

 

Welles’s packed compositions and deep focus are arguably more striking and effective in b&w. Just as Dutch tilts work better in the graphic medium of b&w than they do in colour, where you suddenly go from THE THIRD MAN to the Batman TV show.

 

But remember, the film does have shots like this:

We get hints of Mario Bava, CRIES AND WHISPERS and foreshadowings of MALPERTUIS. Apart from Welles’s “look,” I honestly wouldn’t want to change it.