Archive for Scarlet Street

The First Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2014 by dcairns


Over at the always exhilarating Observations on Film Art, David Bordwell, whom I finally met in Bologna along with his lovely partner Kristin Thompson, summarises the Cinema Ritrovato experience by writing up a single day’s viewing, thus giving us a sorta-kinda idea of what the overall buzz is like. I thought I’d steal the idea, as a way of reliving the glory and because there are plenty of enjoyable screenings that wouldn’t quite make a full blog post on their own.

I got into Bologna — or at any rate the outlying suburb-thing of Pianora, on the Saturday the fest began, late at night, so I missed such goodies as BEGGARS OF LIFE (recently enjoyed in Bo’ness) and Aleksandr Ford’s THE FIRST DAY OF FREEDOM, acclaimed as a masterpiece by those who saw it, and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE on the big, big screen in the Piazza Maggiore. And finding a bus on a Sunday to take me into town proved troublesome, so by the time I’d arrived and registered and had a cappuccino alongside new best pal Jonathan Rosenbaum and met longtime correspondent Neil McGlone and fellow Scotsman Mark Cosgrove, it was 12.15 and the only thing to see before the long, civilised lunch break, was the program of musical shorts previously discussed here.

Said program also featured YES WE HAVE NO… (the missing word is BANANAS), a silhouette-film seemingly directed by the ludic Adrian Brunel (it was found in his collection, anyway) and produced by Miles “He won’t be doing the crossword tonight” Malleson. A cartoonish treatment of the torment inflicted by catchy earworms, popular songs of the moronic variety that burrow into your consciousness and jam the controls on “REPEAT.”


After lunch with the man I really must stop calling J-Ro, who gave me some useful pointers for stuff to see, I made perhaps a mistake and went to see a William Wellman double feature instead of THE TEMPTRESS, which looked extremely alluring, was only on once, and proved to be one of the hot tickets of the fest, the kind of thing for which the safety inspector averts an eye as the aisles fill up with perspiring bodies. But the Wellmans were good/interesting — YOU NEVER KNOW WOMEN starred Clive Brook, Florence Vidor, El Brendel (ack!) and Lowell Sherman, whose villainous smoothy is excellent value. Wellman starts with a spectacular building site disaster. A labourer rescues the chic Vidor from cascading scaffolding. Sherman steps in and takes the swooning beauty from his muscular but filthy grasp. “I think I can do this sort of thing better than you,” he suggests, via intertitle, and proceeds to take credit for saving her life.

The story goes on to be a backstage melodrama with Clive Brook as jilted lover, Sherman as interloper, El Brendel as a colossal pain in the ass even without dialogue, the whole thing a warning as to the inconstancy of woman. But it’s not nasty about it or anything.


THE MAN I LOVE was an early talkie, and showed Wellman struggling, sometimes inventively, with the new technology. Sometimes he has three cameras running on a scene but they’re all badly positioned for the action as blocked, so the editor’s attempts to maintain audience engagement by shuttling from one bad view to another come to naught. But sometimes he throws the microphone aside and shoots mute, as in the boxing scenes, which have some impressively RAGING BULL-esque movement and vigour. And sometimes he simply stays on a decent shot, and lets the actors, a mulish Richard Arlen and an uncertain Mary Brian, wreck things for him.

Just up the hill at the Cinema Jolly, I could see UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE and LA CHIENNE, so I did. I’d never seen the latter, so comparing it to Lang’s remake, SCARLET STREET, was extremely interesting. Obviously the original is not a noir, and has a weird serio-comic tone of its own which leaves some strange moments undigested in the Lang, particularly the big punchline of the dead husband’s return. And Renoir is able to end the film in an anti-moralistic way: with a change of emphasis Lang could have his hero cheat the law and get away with murder, but be nevertheless destroyed by his guilt, and by the fraud already perpetrated against him. But in Renoir, the protagonist may be down on his luck, but he no longer cares. To society, he would seem to have been punished most severely, but he’s a perfectly happy guy. That’s much more unsettling.


UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE is a masterpiece, of course.

Jonathan R had recommended Paradjanov’s SAYAT NOVA, which I had always known under its Soviet-imposed name of THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES, so I clocked in for my last show of the day at 9.30 at the Sala Mastroianni. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen all of it before — it’s that kind of film. But the familiarity induced by the abrupt ending convinced me I must have, probably in Derek Malcolm’s Film Club on BBC2 or something. Probably a VHS recording of same, in fact.


A film about a poet that is in itself poetic is a rare thing. In fact, it’s very hard to tell whether Mr. Nova was any good as a poet — much of his verse is presented solely as title cards in Cyrillic, so you can’t even tell what it would sound like. And the bits that are translated have an almost adolescent whining tone — “I’m a really unhappy guy. Life stinks. Everybody hates me.” The one line that stuck out was “The world is a window.” Which is, you know, GREAT. Especially with Paradjanov’s stunning images as accompaniment.

Worrying about the poetry turned out to be part of a pattern with me — the last film of the day was usually one I had trouble getting into, owing to tiredness (with two magnificent exceptions — THE MERRY WIDOW and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT.)

The film, now restored in its Ukrainian version, is so fantabulous that it’s quite wrong of me to want to use it simply as a stick with which to beat Peter Greenaway. The temptation still arises, though, because it would make such a terrific, all-annihilating stick.


Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2008 by dcairns

If you knew Mabuse, Like I know Mabuse 

Results are IN for our strange and misconceived Fritz Lang songwriting competition!

We have three terrific runners-up. Regular Shadowplayer Alex Livingston weighed in with an introduction from Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) in M: THE MUSICAL:

‘I have to kill children to silence the voices,
they demand and demand and they leave me no choices.

‘So I spend all my money on balloonses and toyses.
To entice small children (girlses or boyses),

‘In their school uniforms, or best Sunday cardigans,
Down lonely dark alleys, to deserted backyard-igans.

‘The urges are boilers and the voices have stoked ’em,
“I’d shout “run!” to the child, but I’ve already choked ’em.’

When you see it put like that, the idea of a musical M comes to seem… worryingly plausible.



Star film-supplier Brandon (sorry, don’t know your last name) offered this short but sweet song for Edward G Robinson (and why has it taken this long for him to have one?)

‘Pursued by greedy men without inhibitions,
Hemmed in by geometric compositions,
Framed by bad paintings and women in windows,
At least my career’s better than Delroy Lindo’s.’

Funny, atmospheric, and above all TRUE.

How Much is that Woman in the Window?

Darryl McCarthy chimed in with an honorable entry, channelling the fugitive consciousness of Phil Spector to bring us THIS:

‘M’s so fine,
Doo-Lang, doo-Lang, doo-Lang,
M’s so fine,
Rot-Wang, Rot-Wang, Rot-Wang,
That handsome boy over there,
Doo-Lang, doo-Lang, doo-Lang,
The one with the wavy hair,
Rot-Wang, Rot-Wang, Rot-Wang,
etc etc
(sorry Chiffons, sorry everyone).

No need for apologies! The appropriateness of borrowing from a songwriter who’s actually been accused of murdering a film star seems unassailable.

stiff little fingers

Honorable mentions go to Mr. Lyrics himself, David Ehrenstein, for his many apt quotations (I especially enjoyed reading Nat King Cole’s song from THE BLUE GARDENIA — easy to forget the fever-dream collaboration of Cole and Lang!) and to the shadowy Comrade K for this evocative title: 

‘Here’s one for a musical SECRET BEHIND THE DOOR: “There’s a Room In My Heart (where your body lies bleeding)”‘

The Doors

All of the above will receive a specially selected film of their dreams. How this will be done remains to be seen. But the overall winner has to be actual singing music-person Daniel Prendiville for the epic that is ~


(with apologies to all concerned)

I'm goin down / To Scarlet Street

Well my name is Chris Cross
And I feel at a loss
Been a lowly book-keeper for years
And I wed sweet Adele
Who has made my life hell
And it’s driven me almost to tears

When Johnny hit Kitty
I felt full of pity
So much so I laid him out flat
Then I ran to the cops
Cause I’d busted his chops
But dear Kitty was knocked out at that

I told her I painted
And she nearly fainted
As dollar signs flashed in her eyes
While I fell besotted
With Johnny she plotted
I was too naive to realise

So I got her a flat
With some finances that
I embezzled at night from my boss
There my paintings I stored
Cause Adele had abhorred
My artwork as frivolous dross

Then a dealer came round
And thought he had found
In Kitty an artist supreme
And Adele’s ex appeared
Hadn’t died as she’d feared
It had all been a Dallas-like dream

But then Johnny and Kitty
Behaved intimitty
I saw them and became deranged
So I acted impulsive
Did something repulsive
Now my life will forever be changed…

Ed the Knife

(c) 2008 Daniel Prendiville

Daniel also wins the film of his dreams. And I look forward to hearing this on his next album. Reward him for this free entertainment by going HERE and buying his music! YOU will be the true winner.

Metropolis Be-Bop

Footnote: both the first MABUSE and METROPOLIS feature erotic dances in elaborate production numbers, where the design is incredibly lavish, but no actual choreography has been worked out. So the girls just kind of SPAZZ OUT, to use a politically incorrect but undeniably evocative phrase. It’s a little odd, since Lang notoriously charted out his actors’ movements in their regular scenes with all the precision of dance numbers.