Archive for The Chiseler

Those Daring Young Loms on the Flying Trapeze

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2015 by dcairns

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I started watching the above British thriller, in which Herbert Lom plays identical twin circus acrobats, and then The Chiseler came banging at my door demanding articles, so I wrote something about the first five minutes of it. Here.

Then I turned to THE DARK TOWER, an earlier Lom vehicle, also set in the world of the circus, with Herbert playing a hypnotist — only one of him this time — prefiguring his famous turn as a hypno-shrink in THE SEVENTH VEIL. Both these earlier vehicles are, to a large extent, cheap rubbish, padded out with circus acts and inexpensive bit players. THE DARK TOWER has a young David Farrar, and a thoroughly unlikable shit he plays, too. The interesting thing about this one — where Lom turns up as a tramp, just as he does at the start of DUAL ALIBI — is that nobody’s very appealing. Lom, the hated outsider, is actually more sympathetic than his resentful fellow circus artistes, even when he decides to use his powers of mesmerism to try to kill Farrar. Do it!

After a play by George S. Kaufman & Alexander Woolcott — long, long after, I suspect. Though I would like to be able to credit them with naming a minor character “Dora Shogun.”

Clement Time

Posted in FILM with tags , , on March 2, 2015 by dcairns

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I’ve caught up with a few Rene Clement films lately, and so I decided to have a full week of his work on Shadowplay to push me to see the rest. I haven’t been able to find any of his shorts or documentaries except for the early Tati comedy SOIGNE TON GAUCHE, but all the features have been located and by Sunday I hope to have watched nearly all of them — LES JEUX INTERDITS/FORBIDDEN GAMES is screening at Edinburgh Filmhouse in mid-March as part of Mark Cousins’ Cinema of Childhood season, so I’m thinking I might see it on the big screen. In this way I can climax things by seeing his best-loved film last.

Over at The Chiseler, I kick things off with a piece attempting to define Clement’s field of interests and view of humanity, before getting down to specifics over the coming days. I hope you’ll join me!

The Sunday Intertitle: Bubble and Squeak

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 1, 2015 by dcairns

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An experiment from 1920! THE CHAMBER MYSTERY is a very talkative silent film, whose writer-director Abraham S. Schomer (also a playwright, which explains the verbosity) gets around the speechifying in novel ways. Some dialogue is presented by traditional title cards, but, rather inexplicably, much of it comes at us via rapid-cut closeups of talking actors with speech bubbles pasted, cartoon-fashion, into the shot.

This is quite charming and might be reasonably effective if one had a chance to get used to it. Sadly, all I have of the film is an untitled fragment, heavily spliced so that characters seem to judder around the place like flickering phantoms.

The only other times I’ve seen speech bubbles in silent films is in animated films, or else when the filmmaker wishes to represent the communications of a parrot. I guess the idea of a bird talking was so surprising that the director felt an ordinary title card just wouldn’t cut it, and the dialogue and image had to be tied together more pointedly to make it clear. In a way, this is sort of treating the bird’s speech as a sound rather than as language, which I guess Noam Chomsky would agree is appropriate (though parrots, even if they lack grammar, do seem to understand what they’re saying).

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One bonus here is that you can watch the constable’s growing surprise at what the lady is saying, as she’s saying it.

Meanwhile, over at The Chiseler, the first in an occasional series: Schinkenworter, in which I attempt to distill the essence of certain Great Screen Actors into a single made-up word. Click the blue lettering to read the piece that dares to answer the question, “Who is Knucklehoofer?”

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