Archive for The French Line

A 3D Gallery

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by dcairns

Just reminding you again that Joe Dante’s THE HOLE is out there, waiting to be seen. I’d have seen it myself by now but circumstances — yes, those damned things again — have so far thwarted me. Dante is particularly interesting in that he’s one of the few using the new technology who has prior experience of 3D filmmaking, via theme park show HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE. And I do think experience tells — James Cameron limbered up for AVATAR by making GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS, after all, and Jack Arnold… but Jack Arnold, a good director but not the world’s best, actually defeats my argument by making his best 3D movie, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, first. But that feeds into my other argument, which is that you need a good script.

THE FRENCH LINE’s main asset, 3D-wise, is Jane Russell. The Great lady refused to wear a bikini, feeling that would be indecent, but consented to wear the above (very) little number, which conceals about 10% more skin, but which has the moral advantage of being a one-piece. These things mattered!

You’ll have someone’s eye out with that thing! In THE CREEPS, Charles Band (the son of Albert Band, forming a sort of low-rent Dynasty of Dinge) postulates a mad scientist with some kind of, like vortex, who reanimates the classic movie monsters, but in dwarf form. Dwarfs — 3D — geddit? Me neither. But I’d be willing to go along with the gag, especially as Band’s movies usually feature one or two surprisingly adroit comic performances, were it not for the fact that they also feature skin-crawling misogyny dressed up as chuckles.

The Lumiere Brothers experimented with 3D in 1930, and of course they just HAD to shoot a train arriving at a station, didn’t they? I’m betting that even in anaglyph form, it didn’t have the same impact as the first time they shot it…

3D is, in essence, an attempt to give the audience something extra, but one of the things that rightly makes audience’s suspicious is when that extra something is an attempt to cover for absent values of a more traditional kind. Which is perhaps why filmmakers like Band are drawn to it — they know they can’t make a conventional good film, so they shore up their weaknesses with gimmickry. I wonder if something similar was behind Robert Rodriguez’s use of the technique for his SPY KIDS 3D. He’s somebody who always strikes me as a man in search of the next big “will this do?” I point to the static chimney smoke in the background of one shot of SIN CITY as an emblem of the general prevailing cheese. Now, the movie is modestly budgeted and is seeking to make a little look like a lot, and I applaud that in principle. And had the frozen smoke-cloud, perched atop a smokestack like candyfloss on a stick, been a deliberately stylised effect, I’d have enjoyed it. But it’s a small detail, clearly not meant to be noticed, and it rather offended me in its complacent inadequacy. And I see a similar cheap-heartedness at play in SPY KIDS 3D, where the idea of a virtual universe in which the heroes become trapped is not so much a TRON tribute, as an excuse for really, really cheap-looking CGI.

Thank God for GOG, or vice versa! An inventive, ideas-packed and pleasingly dated sci-fi thriller, it may miss tricks in all three dimensions (an early helicopter flight has the chopper buzz the camera but neglects to provide any POV flying footage, surely the biggest potential thrill, cf AVATAR) but does have the perverse imagination to begin with a very cute monkey getting an injection. Like, “YES! This is what the public wants!”

There are drawbacks — knowing that Herbert Marshall was just trying to pay the medical bills incurred by a defective prosthetic leg takes some of the usual pleasure out of seeing him, but he’s utterly professional and authoritative as ever. Much of the science, and all of the sexual politics, has dated badly, and there’s no sense of humour evident, unless the following is a joke ~ (the two leads have just survived an overdose of radiation) ~

Hero (kissing heroine): How do you feel now?

Heroine: Radiant!

The Sunday Intertitle: Now in 3D?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by dcairns

Haven’t managed to find any 3D intertitles!

But the opening super from REVENGE OF THE CREATURE is the modern equivalent of the intertitle, I guess.

One could also argue that establishing shots, particularly those including signs, pick up where the old intertitle left off, informing us via text of the location of the next scene. Here’s a 3D example from THE FRENCH LINE ~

Obviously, we pull out from a close-up on the single world “Paris”, the better to get the gag.

All of this kind of film-making can be seen as old-fashioned. I don’t normally agree 100% with Brian DePalma, but when he said “Establishing shots are a waste of time,” he was kind of right. Place can be established as easily in close-up or mid-shot in the course of the action, leaving the long-shot for a moment when it has dramatic impact — a principle first noted by Hitchcock, in conversation with Truffaut, and illustrated by the example of THE PARADINE CASE (not otherwise a hyper-modern piece of cinema).

But on the other hand, and one should always try to have another hand, as the famously ambidextrous Lars Von Trier* argues, ostensibly clunky devices like titles to tell us the time and place have “an atmospheric value” — partly because they evoke other movies we’ve seen. There’s something hilarious about the redundancy of a shot of the Paris skyline, Eiffel Tower prominent in the distance, with the superimposed title “Paris.” Nothing says Hollywood quite like it.

*Camera in one hand, penis in the other, both vibrating violently.