Archive for Se7en

Stentorian!

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , on August 3, 2018 by dcairns

The FBI are watching you neck. But it’s all in the line of duty.

I followed up director Gordon Douglas’s THEM! with director Gordon Douglas’s WALK A CROOKED MILE, released on a box set of Columbia noirs. But it’s an example of that T-MEN school of pseudo-documentary procedural with stentorian voice-over that always strikes me as too authoritarian to qualify as real noir. In noir, there’s a fundamental problem in society or in human nature, which the story exposes. A rather overt example is ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW where, in telling a heist story, the film attempts to deal with racism. But that’s too obvious to be properly in the spirit of noir. What I really mean is the less explicit critiques of human nature implied by THE KILLING, OUT OF THE PAST, LADY FROM SHANGHAI. The proper ending for such stories is downbeat, though there are plenty of noirs with happy endings — it’s a very flexible form, resistant to the kind of prescriptiveness I’m offering right here.

  Raymond Burr is watching you neck! But only for his personal satisfaction.

But WALK A CROOKED MILE situates all the story’s problems outside American society — it’s eastern block spies that are the problem. The film functions as a detailed and somewhat terrifying portrayal of FBI methods in surveilling and apprehending these soviet skunks.

The almost-bellowing VO is part of the film’s pro-American stance. Talking a little too loud, a little too slow, and telling you all sorts of stuff you never asked to hear, it simulates the experience of being cornered by a friendly drunk in a bar, although the film ends before the narrator can declare you his best pal in the world.

Starring Monty Brewster, The Man in the Iron Mask (both of him), Lars Thorwald (in a rather fetching beard), and Dr. Franz Edleman, who had to play a rather colourless US general in THEM! but here has a slightly meatier bad guy role. Plus lots of what are called attractive San Francisco locations.

One sense in which the film seems noirish — nobody turns their lights on. And, with the film’s preponderance of location shooting, this starts to register as an overt stylistic choice and a slight violation or realism, which it never usually does. (We had a similar but different experience seeing SE7EN for the first time — as detectives probe Gluttony’s horrible apartment, we wondered why they don’t turn a light on. Then we realised that multiple lights already WERE on, they just were failing to pierce the Stygian gloom. Dark with something more than the blinds being closed.)

Good work by Gordon Douglas — all the compositions of crisp feds packed into tight rooms are brimming with dynamic tension. The story is by Bertram Millhauser, whose movie-writing career began with THE PERILS OF PAULINE in 1914, and in a sense this isn’t any more sophisticated, the good-guy/bad-guy lines starkly drawn and the verité style excusing any need to go deeper than the surface anywhere.

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Belated Sequels

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2014 by dcairns

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I think belated sequels are great! Doesn’t everybody? Like remarriage, they represent the triumph of hope over experience, as studios pray that for once the desperate target of making a follow-up to a film their audience only vaguely remembers, with clapped-out stars or new nobodies, will respark fading careers and fill box office tills. Here are some that should happen.

LAST TANGO IN PARIS 2. Admittedly, both stars of the original are dead, but Jean-Pierre Leaud is still clinging to life and sanity and Bernardo Bertolucci may be poorly but it’s not like we’re asking him to do the shagging. Would necessitate retroactively retitling the previous installment, George Lucas fashion — something like NEXT-TO-LAST TANGO IN PARIS. So maybe the new one could be POSITIVELY LAST TANGO IN PARIS, though that would be a hostage to fortune come the inevitable Part III. Still, even if we’re unsure about the title and cast, we have a slogan and so the thing should immediately be greenlit: “LAST TANGO II: Just when you thought it was safe to whack off in the butter.”

DR STRANGELOVE II: DR STRANGERLOVER. It might seem that destroying the world at the end of the first film would preclude a follow-up, but there is precedent here — EVIL DEAD II opted to pretend the first film never happened, and stage a mini-remake with Bruce Campbell and a new co-star. So the urgent need to address global warming, the new end-of-the-world peril, can be assuaged with a film in which, I don’t know, Eddie Murphy or somebody puts on some masks and pretends to be different people while we all boil to death in our own industrial effluent. And Kubrick’s heirs can reassure us that it’s what Stanley intended all along.

BIRTH OF A NATION II: AFTERBIRTH OF A NATION. Cinephiles have long agonized over the fraught position of DW Griffith’s epic. Historically and artistically significant, yet morally and politically abhorrent. Could not the problem be solved altogether with a belated sequel? In this thoughtful reworking by Ron Howard, the second half of BOAN, which contains all the really unspeakable stuff, turns out to have been a dream sequence. The Little Colonel comes out of the shower and realizes it was all just an overheated fantasy brought on by the trauma of losing the Civil War and eating too much cheese. Then he fights the Klan, possibly by joining the FBI or something. We can get a CGI Lillian Gish. It’ll be super.

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SE7EN 2WO. The hard-hitting sequel to SE7EN in which Kevin Spacey plays the nicer brother of his character from the David Fincher classic, Jim Doe, who is out to kill people in ways reflecting ironically on the Seven Cardinal Virtues. “It’s a less dark, less rainy film, and Jim Doe is really a positive guy,” explains Spacey. “Instead of trying to point at all the evil in the world, he wants to use his murdering to highlight the good things.” Baz Luhrmann will direct, as long as they agree to add an exclamation mark.

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2005: SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE. This one would be exciting because it’s not only a sequel to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY but also a prequel to 2010: ODYSSEY II. It’ll also be a futuristic science fiction film set in the past, which is obviously twice as exciting. “It’s what Stanley would have wanted,” say heirs. It’s set after astronaut Dave Bowman disappeared near Jupiter, but before he turned up again, so I guess he won’t be in it. Mostly I guess it would be about Dr. Heywood Floyd relaxing at home. Since he has a dolphin in his living room (and possibly a bush baby by now) it’ll be by far the cutest film in the series.

BARRY LYNDON II. Basically three hours of a one-legged Ryan O’Neal losing at cards. Kubrick’s heirs voice quiet doubts.

THE GREAT ESCAPE II. Contemporary setting. POW camp is still running, having somehow been missed at the end of the war. Producers are determined to unite as many of the original cast as possible, including those whose characters died in the first film. So, David McCallum, who is basically immune to old age it seems. Expect extensive flashbacks.

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KING KONG DOESN’T LIVE. In an effort to expunge the memory of his misguided sequel to his KONG remake, John Guillermin will return to the director’s chair to lens this epic production. “It starts with Kong coming out of the shower,” he explains, “Which is the waterfall he bathes in with Jessica Lange, and then we realize that the last half of KONG and the whole of KONG LIVES were a dream. A giant gorilla’s dream.” Guillermin hopes to reunite Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin, “Because they’re all still alive, unlike that GREAT ESCAPE crowd.” The sequel will pick up exactly where the middle of KONG leaves off, with Guillermin explaining the cast looking 36 years older as “The effects of the shock of seeing this giant gorilla. I mean, I aged ten years when I saw that stupid heap of junk Carlo Rambaldi had built.”

“Out there where nothing is.”

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2010 by dcairns

Frank Perry and Joan Didion’s PLAY IT AS IT LAYS is indeed as terrific as David Ehrenstein says it is.

Starring the Eternal Tuesday.

Strange to find a scene shot in a location familiar from SE7EN, and at dusk, too.

“There’s no there, there.” That line about LA is echoed in Anthony Perkins’ line about where he and Weld have both been — “out there where nothing is.” But that’s a state of mind, not a place. The film is agnostic about whether any of the characters are mentally ill. Whatever malaise is eating at Weld and Perkins, it doesn’t have the outward hallmarks of clinical depression — they’re too warm and smiley. Maybe that’s Californian depression. Everyone lying there, smiling.

Is this so-called Paradise Syndrome? I think to call it that would be overly cynical. But with the need to struggle to survive excised from their lives, Weld and Perkins’ characters are floundering in a world of pointless luxury. I guess that’s better than pointless poverty. But it does kind of spotlight what’s missing.

“Nothing applies.”

This is more spiritual or existential (a word the characters throw around but don’t show much sign of understanding). The down-to-earth motelkeeper urges Weld to keep busy, but as she’s sweeping a porch in the desert, the Sisyphean pointlessness of busy-ness is glaring.

None of these characters have what poor people would call “real problems.” But it doesn’t seem like their suffering is self-indulgent. Although if they felt connected to the world outside Hollywood maybe they’d see it that way. But this is life in a bubble.

“I don’t ever wanna be where you are.”

“You don’t wanna be… … … but… … … you will.”

Perkins has some of the great line readings of all time. Weld’s performance could be called brave. Whatever, it’s incredibly compelling. Adam Roarke, as her film director husband “Carter Lang” is good, if utterly unsympathetic. His glasses call William Friedkin to mind, which adds to the suspicion that he may not be the nicest of guys. I don’t know, maybe Sherry Lansing would disagree with me.

The film really wrestles with the idea of adapting an interior novel without copping out. It takes a while just to get the relationships sorted out in your head, and then issues of motivation can go unresolved for the longest time. Feels like I’ll get more out of this each time I see it, like with PETULIA.

Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.

Funny coincidence department: in PRETTY POISON (also excellent, in a very different lane) Perkins gets out of the psych ward and meets Tuesday Weld. In PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, Weld meets Perkins and then goes into the psych ward.