Archive for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

City Limits

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2014 by dcairns

Films seen in London, England — (slight spoilers for INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) —

You could play a pretty good drinking game with LONE SURVIVOR, the worrisome Afghanistan conflict story. Simply take a shot anytime any character says something optimistic (e.g., “We’re going to be OK,”) and then gets shot in the foot. A shot for a shot. You would die of alcohol poisoning before the halfway mark.

Alternative title: MARK WAHLBERG SLOWLY BECOMES A POBBLE.

UTI1750517_1_r620x349

Clarification: by “pretty good drinking game” I mean “something you should not do, ever.”

The movie is excitingly-staged warnography, and gave me a very bad feeling.

Inside Llewyn Davis: teaser trailer - video

One way of looking at INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is as the feline version of Clint Eastwood’s THE CHANGELING.

Another way of looking at it is this — a common narrative trope of films made in the early sixties, when this film is set, but particularly in the UK (e.g. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, A TASTE OF HONEY), is that whenever anybody has sex they get pregnant (if they’re a woman). Cue backstreet abortion and misery. Joy must not go unpunished, especially if you’re working class (this “yes, but” model informs socially conscious narratives from LAND WITHOUT BREAD and LOS OLVIDADOS to the present day: every silver lining must have its cloud). The question of birth control simply does not arise, since in that primitive age condoms were unmentionable. We don’t wonder about Albert Finney knocking up Rachel Roberts, I think it is (married to another man — did this directly inspire Carey Mulligan’s predicament in ILD?), despite his being characterised as someone experienced and aware of the biological processes. In INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS we do wonder about it a bit, especially as Carey Mulligan has a big speech about condoms and how Llewyn should be permanently wrapped in one, and especially as we learn this has happened before. Drunkenness, sure, and the guy’s kind of a dick, but still…

Actually, apart from the who serial impregnator thing, and some nasty heckling of another act late in the story, Llewyn’s dickishness seemed entirely justified to me. Maybe that’s why I’m not a bigger success in life. The only person he doesn’t offend, really, is F. Murray Abraham (always a welcome face, with the best scene in the film) — I guess because Abraham makes it clear he’s not offering any help. Llewyn only alienates people who might help him. Is that a character trait or a plot device?

***

London, until Saturday. Hoping to meet regular Shadowplayer Anne Billson, who’s passing through the big smoke too, on Saturday. Expect pictures! Possibly involving skulls. But the purpose of the trip is even more groovy, if such a thing were possible. Not sure when I’ll be able to tell you…

Advertisements

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by dcairns

A student of mine once revealed that a friend of his dad’s was some kind of a film director. “His name’s Karel Reisz. I know he did something called SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. Is that any good?”

I told him it was, and filled him in slightly on the movie, including the catchphrase quoted above. “That came from his movie?” asked the student. Well, really it came from Alan Sillitoe and his book, but it’s great that Reisz helped popularize it, make it part of everyday philosophy like that.

Reisz’s last work has been lurking in my unwatched pile for quite a while — Samuel Beckett’s Act Without Words I, directed by Reisz (who hadn’t worked for some years, and may already have been ill) for a compendium of Beckett adaptations (Atom Egoyan’s Krapp’s Last Tape with John Hurt is rather good).

Maybe I was too influenced by the knowledge that Beckett was influenced by Buster Keaton’s SHERLOCK JNR, but I had trouble adjusting to the look and feel of Reisz’s version. In a blue-skied studio desert, a nameless, wordless man (Sean Foley) is tormented by his environment, which dangles a bottle of water just out of reach, offers him boxes to help him to climb to the suspended drink, then raises the drink further up. He’s a silent comedy version of Tantalus, imprisoned in a Hell of eternally frustrated desires. Even suicide is denied him, a hangman’s branch folding up uselessly when he approaches with an improvised noose.

Foley is quite good, throwing himself around the set with some athleticism, his face a mask of suffering — comedy is undercut. But the framing and cutting don’t have Keaton’s absolute clarity. In a world where objects shift about in obedience to some malign disembodied whim, it’s no good for Reisz to allow the hanging beaker of water to slip out of frame for long periods — we can’t assume it’s still there if we can’t see it. When the narrative point is that the water is unreachable, including a little dune in the foreground which makes it look as if the man could leap from it to catch the water, is a serious compositional blunder.

Even the dayglo sky, which I found not too attractive in itself, betrays some visible wrinkles in one shot. If they’d been like the creased diorama of FRANKENSTEIN’s blasted heath, I might have liked them, but they just seem like a flaw in something that’s already ugly. Compared to the lovely low-res video of Beckett’s own German TV work, this wasn’t what I’d call pretty.

For Reisz at his best, try the above-mentioned Albert Finney kitchen sink drama, as well as MORGAN: A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT, with a superb David Warner, and THE GAMBLER, a really strong James Caan piece, epitomizing 70s New Hollywood despair, written by James Toback.

UK: Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment [DVD]

Beckett On Film [DVD]