Archive for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on April 2, 2014 by dcairns


Try our new range of chimpanjammies.

After advertising the books of Mr Robinson and Mr Clipson, I thought it was time to let you know about some fabulous Shadowplay products you can buy!


Hans Zimmer Stabs Irving Berlin. World-renowned composer Hans Zimmer is renowned the world over all over the world for his great accomplishment in transforming the symphony orchestra into a percussion instrument. No longer need different instruments play different notes, as thanks to innovative orchestration techniques, Zimmer can play a 100-piece orchestra exactly as if it were a synthesizer keyboard in the hands of an angry man with fat, stumpy fingers. Now Zimmer gives the world (where he is renowned) his own beautiful interpretations of the hits of Irving Berlin. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard White Christmas in dramatic stab form, and once you have heard it, it will be too late to start.



Lev Kuleshov’s Great Mysteries of the World — Solved! employs Russian montage to explain some of mankind’s most enduring enigmas.  In one fell swoop, Comrade Kuleshov solves the Kennedy assassination and the mystery of bigfoot by editing together the Patterson Footage and the Zapruder Film. The instant after the fatal shot slays John Fitzgerald Kennedy, we cut to a shadowy, shaggy figure striding away into the nearby woods, past a grassy knoll, with obviously feigned insouciance. The implication is inescapable: JFK was assassinated by a Sasquatch (possibly in the pay of Cubans), who has been hiding ever since, like those Japanese soldiers who didn’t know the war was over, waiting for a subpoena from Jim Garrison.

Elsewhere, Kuleshov will explain the explosion of the Hindenburg with the winning goal of the 1966 World Cup.



The Mathieu Amalric Action Figure. This innovative, non-posable doll features Amalric in his celebrated role as Vogue editor Jean-Do in THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY. The character is completely immobile except for one eyelid, which will blink when you tilt him. For the first time, a toy is manufactured which works without any exertion from the child’s imagination. The doll behaves exactly the same when it’s not being played with as when it is: it does nothing.

Coming soon: our WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S inaction figure. Doesn’t even blink!



It’s The Adolph Menjou Show! Starring an animated version of this frightening photograph of the infant Adolph Menjou. Topical comedy and relaxed chat with photographs of other deceased guests when they were children. All with that patented mini-Menjou charm and suavity!


A brilliant line of sexy cinematic outfits. And unisex! Our erotic experts have selected the most powerfully sexual garments from screen history, combining them in irresistible ensembles. Imagine Michael Douglas’s casual knitwear from BASIC INSTINCT, with Ursula Andress’s yellow bikini bottoms and matching belt with dagger from DR NO, Jane Fonda’s torn tights from BARBARELLA, and Sean Connery’s thigh boots and bandoliers from ZARDOZ. All topped off with Charlotte Rampling’s Nazi hat from THE NIGHT PORTER. A devastating look for a man or a lady.

A Hard Day’s Night (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Struck by Lightning

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on March 9, 2014 by dcairns


I’m late to the party again — Rudyard Kipling’s story Mrs Bathurst has attracted so much critical attention that it’s doubtful I can do anything to illuminate it further. The story is like life, which in turn is like Herve Villechaise — too short, and sometimes hard to understand.

This story starts off resembling a lot of Victorian short fiction — in a simple, undramatic situation, characters chat and this leads to the telling of a tale. While a ghost story of the era might take place in a gentleman’s club, Kipling makes his characters working class soldiers and they exchange a number of stories which lead them to the tale of a mutual acquaintance. In a variation on the usual approach, here two of the characters know part of the story — one knows the bulk of it — and a third can supply the ending, which ought to make for a satisfying account, allowing the people in the framing structure to partake of the same surprise and emotional reaction as the reader. But Kipling does something very strange: even with their information pooled, the characters lack vital parts of the story, and so the reader cannot make sense of it. Frustratingly, the characters in the story shrug this off, whereas the more the reader ponders the yarn, the more deeply mysterious it becomes.

This makes it a striking early example of a modernist text. But was this deliberate? Some have suggested that Kipling’s habit of pruning back his stories during re-writing may have gotten out of hand, and he shaved away too much exposition leaving us with an unsolvable conundrum. And apparently never realised it. Certainly, Kipling wasn’t infallible: in revising the story for republication, he inadvertently had one character refer to another by name before that name had been realistically introduced.

But the idea that Mrs B’s story got obfuscated by mistake is rendered implausible by the existence of a letter written by Kipling to a fan who had suggested their own explanation of the story. Kipling said that the explanation was ingenious, but that it was important to remember that a key conversation in his plot took place between two characters without witnesses, and only they knew of its contents. In other words, the story deliberately contains an element of the unknowable.

In the story’s key central section, a character nicknamed Click has a striking emotional response to the sight of a woman on the screen of a cinematograph. She is his ex-lover, and in the film she is apparently looking for him. Click’s companion, narrating the events, gives a description of the cinema that rivals Maxim Gorky’s famous “kingdom of shadows” letter (a favourite text around here).

We were in the front row, an’ “Home an’ Friends” came on early. Vickery touched me on the knee when the number went up. “If you see anything that strikes you,” he says, “drop me a hint”; then he went on clicking. We saw London Bridge an’ so forth an’ so on, an’ it was most interestin’. I’d never seen it before. You ’eard a little dynamo like buzzin’, but the pictures were the real thing—alive an’ movin’.’

‘I’ve seen ’em,’ said Hooper. ‘Of course they are taken from the very thing itself—you see.’

‘Then the Western Mail came in to Paddin’ton on the big magic-lantern sheet. First we saw the platform empty an’ the porters standin’ by. Then the engine come in, head on, an’ the women in the front row jumped: she headed so straight. Then the doors opened and the passengers came out and the porters got the luggage just like life. Only—only when any one came down too far towards us that was watchin’, they walked right out o’ the picture, so to speak. I was ’ighly interested, I can tell you. So were all of us. I watched an old man with a rug ’oo’d dropped a book an’ was tryin’ to pick it up, when quite slowly, from be’ind two porters—carryin’ a little reticule an’ lookin’ from side to side—comes out Mrs. Bathurst. There was no mistakin’ the walk in a hundred thousand. She come forward—right forward—she looked out straight at us with that blindish look which Pritch alluded to. She walked on and on till she melted out of the picture—like—like a shadow jumpin’ over a candle, an’ as she went I ’eard Dawson in the tickey seats be’ind sing out: “Christ! there’s Mrs. B.!”’

It’s good stuff — best to read it in a Victor McLaglan voice, I find.

Just like Gorky, Kipling’s narrator is most struck by something so natural to us now that we barely notice it. Of course, the silence of the cinema image and the lack of colour is a striking difference from nature, despite the lifelike motion, but the FRAME is the weirdest thing of all. People walk closer towards us, but then vanish out of shot. This happens in real life too, but with our own vision, if something we are interested in threatens to pass out of view, we are able to turn our head to follow it. So we’re not generally conscious of losing sight of things out of the edge of our vision (but a certain meditative kind drunkenness can make us aware of it). The film camera gives us a paralysed view of life, like that seen by the protagonist of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Alex DeLarge’s experience in A Clockwork Orange of being strapped into a seat with his eyelids clamped open is just an extreme version of the normal cinematic experience.

It’s not a particularly original interpretation, but I do think that Kipling is using the cinema as a clue to his storytelling approach in Mrs Bathurst. She seems to advance towards us and become ever clearer, but abruptly she vanishes. That which the camera did not happen to aim at goes unrecorded, and we will never know what happened there.

As Mr. Scorsese is always saying, cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s not in the frame.

If you guys all read the story at the link up top, we can debate what the heck it’s all about.

Image via The Chiseler, where Phoebe Green previously drew attention to this tale.
Traffics and Discoveries

Mad Bastard II: Madder Bastard

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2008 by dcairns

The following story has wound its way around the world, like an anecdotal ourobouros, from screenwriter Stephen Volk to me, so apologies to all concerned if it’s turned mythical en route.

Volk is the man who scared Britain to death with GhostWatch, a TV special that starts out as, seemingly, a cheesy light entertainment documentary for Halloween, before turning mockumentary and apocalyptic, with ghosts attacking the BBC via the airwaves. I didn’t find it very convincing, but it upset a lot of people, and one poor mentally unstable chap actually became obsessed with the show and hanged himself some time later.

For our purposes, Volk is also the writer of THE GUARDIAN (no relation to the newspaper of that name), a supremely fatuous killer tree movie from 1990 starring Jenny Seagrove as a tree-worshipping psycho nanny and oh God it’s just too awful to go into.

I’m not inclined to blame Volk for the mess, knowing the powerlessness of the writer in Hollywood (if it’s anything like the powerlessness I’ve experienced as a TV writer here, it’s a bit like being the guy in THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, only nobody understands the code you’re winking at them) and especially knowing this anecdote.

Volk has handed in his latest draft. The producer calls him to his office and congratulates him. “It’s perfect! We won’t change a word! This is exactly what we were hoping for — and more!” etc.

BUT — it’s a glass office, and Volk, out of the corner of his eye, can see Friedkin in the next office, actually READING the script, his face a mask of revulsion and fury, his lips mouthing the foulest obscenities, until finally the pent-up anger takes possession of his limbs and he starts tearing pages from the screenplay and crumpling them, hurling the rest of it around the little glass room, and trampling it into the carpet with outraged loafers.

And all the while, the producer’s voice drones on: “…just delighted with your work on this…”