Archive for Rachmaninoff

I’ve Always Loved You in Technicolor

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2017 by dcairns

I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU IN TECHNICOLOR — well, that’s what it SAYS it’s called — is a romantic melodrama set in the world of classical music — Arthur Rubinstein did the piano-playing, to compensate for the lack of star power visible in the movie. It’s a late-ish work from Frank Borzage, and I had hopes for it as it’s one he made for Republic, where he also did the sublime MOONRISE. But this was disappointing.

Casting the unknown Catherine McLeod in the lead because she can play piano on camera is understandable, but she lacks range. Looking at somebody who just smiles all the time and then subtracts the smile and frowns slightly when she wants to suggest sadness, or inner conflict, or I-am-playing-Rachmaninoff, gets to be wearisome.

I don’t understand why her husband should have been hard to cast — he’s a farmer. Any cowboy actor could have done it. British actor Bill Carter (previous role: DRAGONWYCK … man [uncredited]) is rather fey, making the character’s Borzagean romanticism far too on-the-nose. It’s similar to what happens to all the acting in THE BIG FISHERMAN, where Borzage, always a religious filmmaker, finally does a story of biblical times and everything degenerates into stupid epic-movie cliché.

Philip Dorn doesn’t have the charisma to make a triumph of his eccentric conductor part, but he’s more fun than the other two points of this triangle. Felix Bressart and Maria Ouspenskaya are more enjoyable to look at (funnier shapes) but don’t have enough screen time.

The script is by the well-regarded Borden Chase. Two years later he’d have RED RIVER under his belt, but this is pretty turgid material with an unfortunate baggy structure — the story covers decades, and really doesn’t need to. This could offer opportunities to versatile performers, but that’s exactly the kind of performer Borzage hasn’t got. The weird telepathy between the two musicians is interesting, and very Borzage — a confluence of art, romance and spirituality seems like conducive material. But a bit of sex always helps Borzage too, and there’s no suggestion of that here, although an offspring somehow gets offsprung during one of the lengthy narrative ellipses.

So I’m mainly reviewing the cigarette burns. While the Technicolor mentioned in the title of I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU IN TECHNICOLOR is, under the supervision of Nathalie Kalmus, sort of muted but sort of sugary at the same time, the cigarette burns, those little top-right blips signalling a reel change, are positively lurid.

Big magenta suns with green halos! Hideous, but sort of fascinating — the only things in the film that could inspire such extreme adjectives.

Bolognese Saws

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by dcairns


Day one here (Day two of the actual Festival, and Day four if you count the Chaplin symposium that opened it). A somewhat late start as I tried to get a bus into town, having foolishly booked a cheap hotel way in the boondocks. But a plan is underway to move to more convenient location. Despite not making it into the dark until 10.15am, I managed to pack in two Wellmans, two Renoirs, a Parajanov and a program of shorts. All were enjoyable, and I hadn’t seen any of them before except UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAIGNE, Renoir’s longish short based on a Maupassant, which plays a bit like the lost fourth episode of Ophuls LE PLAISIR. Another, less likely comparison: the two riverside Lotharios we meet in it are just like blokes in a swinging London sex comedy. I christened them Pete & Dud, in fact.

The two most delightful surprises were in the short program, which was themed around music. THE NIGHTINGALE’S COURTSHIP (1926 or 27) might be the strangest film ever made in Britain. It stars the Plattier Bros, billed as celebrated French clowns but unknown to history outside this five-minute phantasmagoria. One clown is in drag. The other is a moustache-twirling roué. They communicate in bird tweets, facilitated by some kind of early sound system. It all takes place on a cramped set, and to exit, one clown practically has to squeeze past the rumpled backdrop hanging just outside the front door.

Adding to the aura of cheese dream, for some reason every shot is separated by a few seconds of blank leader, adding a new layer of abstraction and fragmentation. This HAS to be a mistake that crept in during the duping process, surely, but why fix it? It does nothing but enhance the ERASERHEAD feeling.

The other amazing thing was PRELUDE, written, produced and directed by Castleton Knight, as a kind of music video for Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor. You can watch it here.


Castleton Knight, who later made THE FLYING SCOTSMAN with Ray Milland (so THAT’S where I’d heard his name!) gives it plenty of invention — the interred unfortunate is filmed in his panic through a translucent coffin lid patterned with wood grain, solving the problem of the confined space which makes these things so tricky to shoot (see also Dreyer, as Jonathan Rosenbaum pointed out). There are giant closeups of a staring eye, and then images are reflected in it. And finally we get a subjective camera shot from the POV of a man drinking a glass of gin — a refreshing way to end any picture.