Archive for Preminger

This Blog is on Drugs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2008 by dcairns

This blog is great when you’re high! LOOK:

The colours, man...

Would you Adam n Eve it?

space face

The doors of deception

red mist

wide of the mark

Take drugs! Be like Richard Widmark!

Actually, while the flu medication I’m taking “may cause drowsiness”, the hallucinatory feeling I have is probably more due to the illness itself, whatever it is. So, ringing in the ears, sweating and shivering, and a curious heightened awareness, or do I mean UNawareness?

“Everything is strange.”

Dragged myself into work and on the bus back, played odd tunes on my Nano, with the result that the world fell into musical step: Nino Rota’s “Carlotta’s Gallop” from EIGHT AND A HALF caused the whole of Princes Street to move at 16fps, jerky silent movie people all enacting a Jacques Tati pantomime of exaggerated body language in perfect time to the music. As I moved my focus from one person to another they all seemed to snap into character and walk, talk, gesture or even SMOKE to the beat.

As the bus Trumbulled into deepest Leith (TRAINSPOTTING country) the music slowed and so did the people, too unhealthy to actually display actual animation, but the synchronisation remained perfect. I tried looking at my fellow passengers to see if they were also part of this inner movie, but that was just HORRIBLE. Too close!

I’m very very amused by the idea of both Fellini and Otto Preminger taking L.S.D. under controlled laboratory conditions, with teams of medicos on hand to monitor their progress through the doors of perception and presumably somehow prevent their consciousnesses from expanding TOO FAR, until their heads exploded like the guy in SCANNERS, and with tape machines whirring to record all the marvellous psychedelic insights that poured from their blubbering mouths. Fellini, at any rate, recorded his psychotropic experience, but never listened to the tapes. But I think it’s fair to say the experience did have some impact on his work.

Roger Corman took a more informal approach, tripping with friends at Big Sur.

‘I spent the next seven hours face down in the ground, beneath a tree, not moving, absorbed in the most wonderful trip imaginable. Among other things, I was sure I had invented an utterly new art form. This new art form was the very act of thinking and creating, and you didn’t need books or film or music to communicate it; anyone who wanted to experience it would simply lie face down on the ground anywhere in the world at that moment and the work of art would be transmitted through the earth from the mind of its creator directly into the mind of the audience. To this day, I’d like to think this could work and it would be wonderful. I think of all the costs you could cut in production and distribution alone.’

That last sentence may be the most delightfully, touchingly square thing anybody ever said about the L.S.D. experience. And while THE TRIP, which Corman was researching, uses a lot of pseudo-psychedelic movie cliches and doesn’t feel researched AT ALL, Corman’s vision of drug art directly inspires a dialogue scene in his later GAS-S-S-S, OR, IT BECAME NECESSARY TO DESTROY THE WORLD IN ORDER TO SAVE IT, where the hero proposes that movies should be produced quite literally IN CAPSULE FORM:

‘Are you saying that some drug dealers are going to become movie producers?’

‘I’m saying that some of our motion picture studios are going to become drug pushers.”

Disc Drive

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2008 by dcairns

Elizabeth Wiener Investigates 

Regular Shadowplayer Jenny wrote this in our Comments section: 

‘This is off-topic but I wanted to know your opinion on the DVD-market in Britain.  After 10 years in this format are we getting a good choice of films?’ 

First, I have to ask, relative to what? I’m cheered by the fact that there’s more films available, and more good ones, on DVD than were ever accessible on VHS, and the quality is generally much better (pan-and-scan is almost becoming extinct). On the other hand, the selection in America seems to be much better (plus the U.S. has the wonder that is Turner Classic Movies — the British equivalent is a pale and simpering shadow of the mighty stateside behemoth). So the situation could still stand monstro improving.

Deeper Into Films

‘I rent from and often find it galling that they don’t have more international and older films available to rent – they do seem to have everything that is available on region 2 but it doesn’t seem enough.’ 

It definitely isn’t. (NOTHING IS EVER ENOUGH!) I may actually be getting near the dregs of what I want to rent in this country, even though new stuff keeps coming out.

There IS a sorta-solution for British residents, but it doesn’t involve renting, and depending on how far you take it, it could get… illegal.

barely legal

First, you need a multi-region player. These are just as cheap as single-region ones, sometimes even cheaper (they actually ADD something to the DVD player to make it single region only). You can also find online hacks for most DVD players that actually convert them to multi-region, easy as π.

Then you buy from You can already buy from, etc, since European discs use the same region coding as the UK. Once you’ve watched the film you can sell it on eBay, so the cost ends up being relatively low.

Now comes the illegal bit. With free software like DVD Decrypter, DVD Shrink, combined with the more expensive Nero, it’s possible to copy every film you buy or rent. I’m not suggesting you do this as IT IS WRONG. Bruce Willis and Jeffrey Katzenberg will wind up BEGGING IN THE STREETS if you do this. Could you live with yourself?

It could be argued that ripping movies that aren’t available in the UK is a way to correct a problem in the marketplace, where a demand isn’t being met, or prices are too high. But it’s a slippery slope. Once you start ripping you may find it hard to stop.

So don’t do that. But the buying from abroad thing is legal, and you’ll be helping out others by re-selling what you buy.

It’s great if you’re interested in getting French movies without English subs, because (a) you can learn a lot of storytelling technique from watching films where you don’t understand the dialogue and (b) if you speak French, then a whole new set of nuances in the dialogue will be open to you, and also (c) you’ll be able to see lots of great French films that aren’t available anywhere with English subtitles, like these weird things.

ecstasy of cinema

Jenny also said:

‘Recently I emailed [Lovefilm] to ask if they could start renting out films from other regions but make it clear that they don’t have English subtitles.  As always with their customer services they emailed back some piece of the  terms and conditions that they think has something to do with my query but doesn’t actually answer it at all (many businesses seem to communicate in the same way as an MP these days).  So I clicked “No this doesn’t answer my question” and tried again.  This time they came back with “We only rent out region 2 DVDs”.  But hang on, this is a suggestion from a customer – at least say you’re going to put it in a suggestion box.  Pretend!  This is called running a business!  So I don’t know if it’s illegal or if they don’t work in UK DVD players.’ 

Generally a DVD distributor only has the rights for a certain set of territories, so it wouldn’t be legal for a U.S. or a French DVD to be offered for rental in the U.K. But if Lovefilm are failing to give you this information, keep hassling them — I think unhelpful customer service should be repaid in kind by obstreperous customers who refuse to give up.

My favourite Lovefilm moment is when they suddenly increased their databse by about a thousand, and were offering films for rent like THE CASE OF LENA SMITH, which not only is unavailable on DVD anywhere in the world, it’s actually a LOST FILM — only fragments survive.

‘If small, critically acclaimed films that I read about don’t make it on to DVD and TV continues to ignore films I literally have no chance of watching them.’

The issue of British TV’s slide into a completely insular world that ignores art cinema is a really serious one which I should blog about soon.

‘I also think that great directors should have all their films released on DVD – with smaller production of their less-popular work.  I think they have managed this with Hitchcock but not with many others.’

Unseen in UK

I totally agree. One consequence of having a filmmaker’s entire oeuvre available is that even the weaker films become more interesting when you can see them all together. And yet at present in the UK you can’t even see every Spielberg film.

I understand that with a filmmaker like Akira Kurosawa, who was both long-lived and prolific, and who worked for more than one studio, gathering all the rights together at one DVD distributor would be tough. And while servicing movie buffs who want to see all Otto Preminger’s movies, Hollywood studios also want to keep fans happy who are more interested in movie stars, so for instance RIVER OF NO RETURN may get a release ahead of DAISY KENYON, even if it’s not as interesting, purely because it has Monroe.

Then there are commendable outfits like the womderful Criterion and Masters of Cinema, which exist to deliver the creme de la creme of film culture, and which therefore don’t go in for complete filmographies.

Where a filmmaker has made a relatively small number of films, it would be nice if they were all made available by SOMEBODY. There’s a Clouzot box set, but it doesn’t contain many of his films. Masaki Kobayashi was far from prolific, but most of his stuff is still not obtainable in the west, and hardly any in the UK. Of Von Sternberg’s 22 existing, complete features, about half are not available, including all his silent films (although a few of these WERE released on VHS).

For all these reasons and more, the capitalist system doesn’t serve the discerning film lover very well, even if it did allow many of the great films to get made in the first place. (BUT — free BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in today’s Guardian).

All images from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s LA PRISONNIERE (not available in the US or UK, not available with English subtitles ANYWHERE).

Euphoria #11: “Pier Paolo Pasollliiiiiniiii!”

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2008 by dcairns

 put on a happy face

11 entries in and still going strong! How much euphoria IS there in film history? Finite or otherwise? Will we still be here a million years hence, trying to find a less-miserable bit from SALO or THE PIANO TEACHER to stand as our latest entry?

No signs of running dry yet: regular Shadowplayer and filmmaker Chris “Dovzhenko” Bourton, nee “Chainsaw Massacre”,  suggests a rather different Pasolini flick, HAWKS AND SPARROWS, specifically the opening credits (it’s the first title sequence we’ve had nominated as euphoric). You will smile your face off when you see:

Chris says: Yeah, the sung credits are sublime (and what I’m recommending). “Pier Paolo Pasooollliiiiiniiiii”

Music by the renowned Ennio Morricone, who also scored another of Chris’ near-choices, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Maybe we’ll have that crane shot later on.

The most remarkable thing about this sequence is of course the fact that the credits are rendered IN SONG. As striking as this is, it is not unique, for the closing creds of Otto “Mr Freeze” Preminger’s SKIDOO are also sung. Let the great man explain:

‘…it is very frustrating for a director, when he has credits at the end, to see the audience walk out. They walk out because (let’s be honest) the public is interested only in who played the parts, the stars and the actors, and perhaps the director and the writer. But then the technicians, who wants to know who was the chief electrician except the chief electrician himself, who likes to read his name, and his family who wants to read his name? I was sitting in my office one day with a composer, who is a very talented young man, and had all this list of names before me, and I felt very bad about it. I said to him, “How would it be if we wrote a song with these names?” He started to “ad lib” right there, and we did it. Then a young, new designer worded the titles for me visually, and it turned out very well, I think. Nobody leaves. I say “stop”, freeze the frame, and then it becomes quite an amusing ending.’

~ from The Cinema of Otto Premingerby Gerald Pratley.

(Read more about the fascinating SKIDOO at Tim Lucas’ Video Watchblog.)

Pasolini did it in ‘66, Preminger in ‘68. Has anybody done it since, and if not, why not?

Precursors: Orson Welles’ spoken credits (nobody walks out during the end titles of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS either), and HELP! which has the Beatles humming along with the score, and George Harrison reciting his sole songwriting credit.