Archive for Parsifal

Parsifal’s Progress

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , on February 9, 2023 by dcairns

Behold, and also Lo! The magic mirror or shield or what have you enables these two gadges to keep an eye on the progress of Parsifal, who has trotted into his self-named Italian epic rather later than his equivalent does in Rohmer’s PERCEVAL LE GALLOIS, but that’s OK. Nifty special effect, anticipating the Wicked Witch’s crystal ball and Mabuse’s spy-cams.

If you open up two YouTubes you can have one playing Mario Caserini’s movie and another playing Wagner’s opera. And everything will just synch up perfectly all by itself — you will be ASTOUNDED. You can just play the overture on repeat if you find the German singing distracting. Since I don’t know what the German libretto is saying nor what the Dutch intertitles are saying, I don’t find it distracting. I just wallow in my ignorance/negative capability and enjoy the mixed-media show.

I dig the interiors lit with exterior daylight: I knew, via Brownlow, that the filmmakers in Scandinavia-land were doing this kind of cunning thing, but I don’t think I’d appreciated how ahead of the game the Italians were. No giant sets here, no moving camera, but really lovely use of scenery and depth composition. Caserini’s mind is seemingly always on the scene in front of him, so he’s not able to join shots together smoothly or dramatically, or plan reveals, as Donald Benson pointed out when I looked at this film’s opening. But where his attention does land, it gets nice results.

An interesting phenomenon of the period movie: when Parsifal and the Bishop of the Holy Grail (I think) ride along beside a crumbling wall, we’re in the middle ages, movie-style. When they ride among some trees and rocks, we’re in the same kind of poverty row cheapscape as THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD. You need either bits of architecture or ragged extras or atmospheric details like mist to evoke period. Just woods and stones won’t cut it.

Crucifixion flashback — the big cross against the sky is historical epic material — Joseph of Arimathea (I think) wandering about in the weeds is back to George Reeves movie serial terrain again. Cool how this movie can segue from HOLY GRAIL to LIFE OF BRIAN though. Even when two angels teleport in by dissolve, the setting still feels non-epic.

Caserini has one advantage over later filmmakers: Paul Verhoeven complained that when you’re shooting a period movie, you’re faced with problems like not being able to pan an inch left or right for fear of getting a bit of modern architecture into your shot. I’ve certainly been there, and have even resorted to blotting out the modern stuff with my cast — Simone Lahbib was particularly helpful in this regard, But Caserini is working in an age when nobody expects the camera to pan one way of another, and he’s working in a country that has preserved more of its architectural heritage than most. (How did they do that while taking part in two World Wars?)

Really cool magical transformation — not just a jump cut, but a match cut on movement — much like a modern TikTok costume change thing.

And the bad guys summon some mini-Ghandis:

When next they appear, these adorable little guys are MASSIVE, and Parsifal has to do a swordfight at them, but since they’re a double exposure nothing ever connects. But they do go away, and then he has to fight a whole army, which also vanishes by jump cut, and then there’s a happy ending. This will all be clearer when I’ve watched the Rohmer or the Syberberg, no doubt. but I was pleased to see King Arthur actually appearing in this one, even if he’s basically an extra.

The Sunday Intertitle: Parsifal Guy

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , on February 5, 2023 by dcairns

PARSIFAL or, in this Dutch-titled copy, PARZIVAL, is a 1912 Italian super-production running a whole fifty minutes. Mario Caserini is the director, who would make THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII the following year. Sadly he died in 1920, which is early, though it might be possible to judge whether he was adapting along with the newish medium if one were to view his later films.

But this one is impressive — it begins with odd things on sticks, which I always think is a smart way to start off. A parade of knights, monks, and such — and they just keep coming. Caserini has found the ideal camera placement — high up and from the back, so these characters keep passing into view, each a delightful surprise in his odd vestments and his own individual odd thing on a stick, and they just keep coming. He manages to keep this shot going for a minute and a half. It’s like how you don’t get bored of the imperial destroyer passing overhead at the start of STAR WARS: you just get more and more impressed. I hate pageantry, normally — God, how I hate it — and this is certainly pageant-adjacent, but it honestly wowed me.

Then, since it worked once, Caserini does it again, to slightly less effect since we’ve already seen these blokes, but this time their passing into the castle or chapel or whatever it is where the Holy Grail is on permanent display. The gang crowding into the doorway put me in mind of the end of Keaton’s COPS.

As the film goes on, we get mysterious disappearance by both dissolve and jump cut, an angel, some barbarians executing a hoax, lovely depth compositions and mismatched left-to-right business where a knight exits screen right then enters a new shot screen right again, as if he’d somehow turned his horse around in an instant. So much to enjoy.

I’m playing it with Wagner as soundtrack, and I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

The Death of the Arthur: The Side-Quest for the Holy Grail

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2023 by dcairns

This Arthurian quest of mine…

I’m thinking it’ll make sense to carry on the TH White theme with Disney’s THE SWORD IN THE STONE. I have the DVD and I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen all of it, just highlights on TV’s Disney Time. I mean, I *think* I probably have.

I just picked up KING ARTHUR LEGEND OF THE SWORD, the unmemorably-titled Guy Ritchie film from a few years back. After the extremely distasteful THE GENTLEMEN I figured I’d sworn off GR’s work, but a thick-ear version of the Arthur legend is a novelty, it was only £1.50, and my chum Freddie Fox is in it. I’ll give it a go.

This seems like a good prompt to finally properly watch Bresson’s LANCELOT DU LAC and Rohmer’s PERCEVAL LE GALLOIS. Should I also watch Syberberg’s PARSIFAL? Is it particularly Arthurian? Arthur’s not in the cast list.

Which version of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT should I watch? I should read it, first. This was John Landis’ dream project (Jenny Agutter starts reading it to David Naughton in the similarly-titled AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). I’m slightly tempted by the Will Rogers version, but if I have the Bing Crosby I could make it a Tay Garnett double feature with THE BLACK KNIGHT. As accompaniment to a Twain adaptation I could also run the short KNIGHTY-KNIGHT BUGS, featuring a certain rabbit.

The alternative to TBK, for a Hollywood version of the late classic period, would be Cornel Wilde’s LANCELOT AND GUINEVERE, or I suppose PRINCE VALIANT which is Henry Hathaway so there ought to at least be some decent camera moves. Any opportunity to retell the Timothy Carey story about that one ought to be seized upon. There’s also Nathan Juran’s SIEGE OF THE SAXONS for which I hold out little hope.

Recently, we’ve had David Lowery’s THE GREEN KNIGHT and Joe Cornish’s THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING, both of which I’m curious about. I’m not curious about FIRST KNIGHT, any of the TV Merlins or Arthurs, the animated QUEST FOR CAMELOT, the serial ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD with George Reeves (hmm, I dunno though…), the 1978 DR. STRANGE, KING ARTHUR WAS A GENTLEMAN with Arthur Askey, KING ARTHUR with Clive Owen, THE LAST LEGION with everybody, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, or TRISTAN & ISOLDE. Unless someone wants to make a case for any of them.

The Three Stooges in SQUAREHEADS OF THE ROUND TABLE is at least short, so I’ll probably do it.

SHREK III might just about be worth it. SHREK II was a good bit funnier than the original. Do they keep improving?

Obviously EXCALIBUR (pictured) and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL are touchstones with me. I may revisit, but I’ll certainly refer to them.

And what have I missed?