Archive for Raul Ruiz

The Late Show

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by dcairns

cropped-shadlate21.jpg

I created this second banner because Fiona said the dead Santa one was “horrible.”

Welcome to the blogathon! I’m going to sellotape this post to the top of Shadowplay using science, so it will be the first thing you see this week. But the new posts will be immediately beneath it, so keep scrolling.

If participating in the blogathon, this is the post to link to. You can add a comment below to let me know about the post, if you don’t have my email.

f-fakex1

SUNDAY

And we have a first entry — David Ehrenstein applies his wits to F FOR FAKE, one of Orson Welles’ last movies as director, and another that is sometimes cited as his greatest film. Here.

My own first piece deals with a truly hard-to-see, unconsidered final film, from the wonderful Frank Borzage. Here.

Christine Leteux was our researcher on NATAN, is Kevin Brownlow’s translator, and in her own right she’s the author of the first book on Albert Capellani and the splendid French-language film blog Ann Harding’s Treasures. She’s traveling at present, researching her next book, but gave me permission to link to a relevant piece from AHT — TUMBLEWEEDS was William S. Hart’s last directorial gig and feature starring role. Ici.

Eddie Selover casts a not-unsympathetic eye over two swan songs from 1930s divas, Marlene Dietrich’s JUST A GIGOLO and Mae West’s jaw-dropping SEXTETTE. Here.

Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films looks at a film I only just realized exists, the 1934 version of THE SCARLET LETTER, which was Colleen Moore’s last feature. Here.

vlcsnap-2013-11-28-22h02m34s227

MONDAY

Every Shadowplay blogathon must contain an intertitle. Here.

Over at Mostly Film, Paul Duane raises the tone with an entry on EMMANUELLE V, tragically Walerian Borowczyk’s last gig, but finds some bizarre merit. Here.

Tim Hayes looks at SPAWN not as a naff superhero flick but as a late Nicol Williamson film and gets fascinating results. Here.

We have a scintillating line-up of guest Shadowplayers this year, and the first among them is Judy Dean, who looks at James Mason’s last screen appearance in THE SHOOTING PARTY. Here.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-16h54m02s164

TUESDAY

Imogen Smith, a regular star writer at The Chiseler, revisits Anthony Mann’s last western, which is also a late Gary Cooper, and elegiac as hell. Here.

Regular Shadowplayer Simon Kane waxes mysterious about Tom Schiller’s first, last and only theatrical feature, aptly titled NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, also the cinematic swan song of Sam (“Professor Knickerbocker”) Jaffe. Here.

My own Tuesday piece takes a brief look at Peckinpah’s THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, both version. And there’s a song! Here.

Gareth McFeely looks at the final feature of the late Georges Lautner, in a particularly timely tribute. Here.

vlcsnap-2013-12-03-20h05m56s46

WEDNESDAY

Filmmaker Matthew Wilder looks at Billy Wilder’s unloved BUDDY BUDDY and, uniquely, finds something to admire. Here.

From Scout Tafoya, a typically ruminative and emotive valediction to Raul Ruiz. Here.

My post deals with a late Richard Lester, the largely ignored/forgotten FINDERS KEEPERS, which actually has some great slapstick. Here.

Louis Wolheim’s last movie, the 193o railroad melodrama DANGER LIGHTS, is examined by The Man on the Flying Trapeze. Here.

897-oww

THURSDAY

Nobody Knows Anybody, the Spanish cine-blog, considers the career of Alfredo Landa in the light of his final work. Yonder.

As part of the ’68 Comeback Special, I consider a late film by Albert Finney, made early in his career. Confused? Now you know how CHARLIE BUBBLES feels. Here.

Critica Retro assesses the charms of Louise Brooks’ oddball last picture. In Portuguese — try auto-translate, or try reading Portuguese! Aquí.

Two from Jeremy Rizzo, on Howard Hawks last, RIO LOBO, and Kubrick’s semi-posthumous puzzle box, EYES WIDE SHUT. Here and here.

thatobscureobjectofdesire

FRIDAY

Michael Pattison on what MAY be Tsai Ming-Liang’s final movie. Here.

A tip of the hat to THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE at No Man’s Land. Here.

Our own David Melville Wingrove illuminates the trailing end of Rex Ingram’s mighty career. Down here.

John Greco tackles the knotty problem of William Wyler’s last work, a film I love unreasonably. Here.

Stacia at She Blogged By Night weighs in on HER TWELVE MEN and Douglas Shearer, brother of the more celebrated Norma. Here.

And Tony Dayoub offers a close reading of three scenes in GIANT, the last film of James Dean. Here!

Daniel Riccuito, editor of The Chiseler, considers Jean Epstein’s last short, LIGHTS THAT NEVER FAIL aka LES FEUX DE LA MER. Here.

prairie home.preview

SATURDAY

Dennis Cozzalio of the legendary Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule joins the blogathon for the first time with a joint look at the final films of two old masters: Altman and Penn. Here!

Seijun Suzuki’s wild, pop-art penultimate pic inspires this Shadowplay gallery. Here.

Guest Shadowplayer Ted Haycraft reflects on one of the biggest, boldest and bloodiest final films, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Here.

Grand Old Movies tips the hat to Marie Dressler. Here.

Late Bresson via Philip Tatler IV at Diary of a Country Pickpocket. Here.

The Girl with the White Parasol covers Frank Borzage’s second-last film, CHINA DOLL. Here.

EXTRA TIME

Unable to recognize too much of a good thing, I keep going with John Frankenheimer’s last theatrical release, REINDEER GAMES. Here.

Chandler Swain revisits Losey’s STEAMING. Here.

Scout Tafoya’s second blogathon post details the last film to end them all, PP Pasolini’s positively final SALO. Here.

cropped-shadlate1.png

The Cat’s Pajamas

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by dcairns

Edgar Ulmer’s THE BLACK CAT (previously described here) is notable for being possibly the first Poe adaptation to take the title and nothing else from the source story — it certainly wasn’t the last. It’s also the first film to pair Karloff and Lugosi, Universal’s two great horror stars. And its Bauhaus castle is rightly noted as a triumph of modernist design in the horror movie.

But watching it with Fiona and our friend Mary, we were struck by a little-appreciated aspect of the film that deserves your attention: the wondrous variety and quality of night attire depicted.

Boris Karloff’s snazzy black robe with a cinched waist, dazzles the eye. Bela Lugosi’s slavic/chinese ensemble looks both practical and suave. Leading lady Jacqueline Wells has a whole array of nighties, robes and negligees, and at the film’s climax, as she flees the detonating mansion, her skirt flies off of its own accord, reducing her to boudoir-type attire. Hubby David Manners is, as usual, not so interesting as everyone else.

I seem to recall Lucio Fulci’s fave film was Ulmer’s DETOUR, so he must have liked this one also: he made his own, somewhat more faithful, version of the story in the 70s. And I’m sure Dario Argento has sung the film’s praises. He cites Poe’s “non-cartesian” approach as a major influence on his own storytelling. While Ulmer and his co-writers leave out everything except the titular cat, they certainly take a non-cartesian view of things, weaving an oneiric tapestry of perversity, tragedy and wildly inappropriate humour…

About those co-writers: credited scribe Peter Ruric was in fact George Carol Sims, who contributed to Lewton’s MADEMOISELLE FIFI (not a fright film, alas, but a very good melodrama/propaganda piece). Under the name Paul Cain he wrote thrillers for Black Mask magazine. His collection Seven Slayers features one yarn which, as my friend Comrade K pointed out, compresses the whole plot of Hammet’s Red Harvest into about ten pages. Hammet is famously terse. Cain is terseness personified. But it’s a little hard to detect his precise influence on THE BLACK CAT.

I can uncover little about Tom Kilpatrick, the uncredited additional scenarist, but he did have a hand in one other horror/fantasy classic, DR CYCLOPS. But nobody involved in this film ever made anything like it again. There IS nothing like it.

Another filmmaker who idolizes the movie is Raul Ruiz, and I can see why. Like his version of TREASURE ISLAND, it’s a “house of stories”. I never saw this one as a kid, but later read about it in Danny Peary’s Cult Movies, where he points out the abiding strangeness of the film’s “plot” — moving in fits and starts, setting up lines of action and restlessly abandoning them, with blurry backstory branching off in all directions, and expectations spluttering out at every turn. Some of this is probably due to post-code censorship (when pre-code movies were trimmed for re-release, they chopped the original camera negatives, making restoration often impossible) — Ulmer’s daughter Arianne reckons there was more spiciness to the black mass originally. Never mind, what we do get is a lovely upended crucifix, and Boris Karloff mouthing Latin homilies in lieu of satanic verses (“In wine is truth… with a pinch of salt…”)

As good as it all is, nothing is as good as the basement of Hjalmar Poelzig’s castle, a reinforced concrete torture dungeon, where dead women float as ornaments, and Ulmer’s camera floats away from the action to chart the illimitable darkness of the vast, death-haunted bunker (“Even the telephone is dead.”) That place is like the bottom level of dream, the nightmare basement way down in our back brains, the place where sense itself stops functioning and obliterating fog roles in over reason and sanity…

We also watched EDGAR ULMER: THE MAN OFFSCREEN, which I’d held off on for ages because I wanted to like it so much I was afraid of not doing so. I needn’t have worried. We met Arianne Ulmer, the Great Man’s daughter, when she attended Edinburgh Film Fest’s Ulmer retrospective some years ago. She’s a font of movie-world knowledge and gossip, having been around film sets since infancy: naturally, Fiona & I were smitten.  So I was disposed to like this film. Arianne Ulmer’s labour of love charts her father’s career/s, interviewing admirers and collaborators, and skillfully using extracts to evoke the mysterious beauty of the filmmaker’s low-budget masterpieces. Director Michael Palm films most of the interviews in moving cars, which works well, keeping the images moving, situating the interviewees in their various cities, and providing a rolling backdrop of illustrative opportunities: when Wim Wenders talks about being a German in Hollywood, we see a billboard behind him advertising TROY, directed by Wolfgang Petersen. The whole conceit pays off even more when Palm uses a car in front of a rear projection screen to interview the late, great Anne Savage, star of DETOUR (much of which unfolds in front of just such a screen), and Jimmy Lydon, star of the appropriately named STRANGE ILLUSION, who wanders behind the screen to give the film its loveliest image ~

Other talking heads include Joe Dante and John Landis, Roger Corman, and Peter Bogdanovich.

I rarely see movie documentaries which attempt anything interesting, and when they do, it often backfires. I still groan to think of the THIRD MAN doc which projects all its clips on Viennese monuments, a momentarily diverting idea which swiftly becomes irksome as the clips go on and on, and we can’t see what’s happening in them. THE MAN OFFSCREEN is a real success in the way it uses cinematic language without obscuring its informative purpose. And, fascinatingly, it allows doubt to be cast on some of Ulmer’s stories. It could easily have been a hagiographic exercise in hero-worship. Instead, it first tells Ulmer’s story as he told it, and then allows some more cynical voices to question whether he really worked on almost every classic of the German silent cinema, while also working in America at the same time. In the end, the question is left open — I’m certain Ulmer did work on at least some of the Lang or Murnau films he mentioned, but I’m pretty sure not all of them. But we can’t know. Fittingly, the life of the director of THE BLACK CAT branches off into tributaries, separate lifelines which fade out into a fog of mystery, and nothing can be said with certainty.

“We have seen too much of life.”

US buyers:

Edgar G. Ulmer – Archive

The Bela Lugosi Collection (Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Black Cat / The Raven / The Invisible Ray / Black Friday)

UK buyers:

The Black Cat [1934] [DVD]

A Gossip on Romance

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , on August 25, 2010 by dcairns

“In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images,incapable of sleep or of continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent, should run thenceforward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and the story, if it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye. It was this last pleasure that we read so closely, and loved our books so dearly, in the bright, troubled period of boyhood.”

From A Gossip on Romance, by Robert Louis Stevenson (collected in The Lantern-Bearers).

During a period when I was loosely involved in a project to adapt several of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tales of the supernatural for television (which came to naught because BBC Scotland didn’t see any need to celebrate Stevenson’s centenary in such a fashion), I stumbled upon the above passage and felt that Stevenson had invented cinema.

I imagined using this passage at the start of the show, as a voice-over as we look down at Stevenson’s writing-desk from above. We descend as his quill moves across the page, inscribing the words we hear spoken, and then we HIT THE PAGE in a blinding flash of light and pass THROUGH it –

One the other side, all is darkness, except for the page, which appears as a transparent panel allowing us to see up into our world, where Stevenson leans forward, inking the words which now appear as mirror-script. We continue our movement, now backing away so that the glowing window of the page diminishes, but we can see a beam of light admitted by it, glowing in the void. As we move further, other pages can be seen, each shining a beam of strong illumination into the void, motes of silver dust glowing in the rays. Each beam flickers as the hand writing on the page moves. And then we spin around and we see a screen on which the beams project a fiery kaleidoscopic image, from which forms the title of the show.

A bit much, perhaps? But perhaps my youthful response was triggered by the compact, fervid power of phrases like “the bright, troubled period of boyhood”. Although yes, it’s odd that Stevenson imagines all his readers are male, but then all the characters in Jekyll and Hyde are male, and Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, apparently looked like a man, so draw your own inferences.

Image from Raul Ruiz’s TREASURE ISLAND.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 360 other followers