Archive for The Godfather

Southern Discomfort

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2021 by dcairns

END OF THE ROAD (1970) is certainly an extraordinary thing. Terry Southern adapting a John Barth novel (to Barth’s eventual dismay) and Aram Avakian directing it.

Avakian isn’t a well-known name: he only directed four films. I enjoyed his laid-back thrillers, COPS AND ROBBERS and 11 HARROWHOUSE. I haven’t seen LAD: A DOG, made eight years before this. The guy never seemed to get any momentum going.

But as an editor he was a star: he cut JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY, THE MIRACLE WORKER, LILITH, MICKEY ONE, and Coppola’s YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW. All of them dazzling works from a vision-mixing standpoint. He’d periodically break out of cutting into directing and then get shoved back into the editing suite. After this, Coppola got him to cut THE GODFATHER but Robert Evans fired him — Evans’ memoir says Avakian was going behind Coppola’s back, saying the film wouldn’t cut. Evans had some rushes assembled, proving him wrong, and showed him the door. I find this unlikely. Avakian was, after all, Coppola’s ally going into production, so a scenario where Evans fires a Coppola crony is readily explained by Evans wanting more influence on the film. Evans lies quite a lot elsewhere in his book.

Anyway, END OF THE ROAD shows an artistic ambition not on display in the nice thrillers. And I’m guessing not in the dog movie. The montage — a pyrotechnic, hallucinatory phantasmagoria of abstraction and dissonance, unsettles and dazzles. The performances go right to the edge, then over it. Stacey Keach and James Earl Jones who should by rights be our points of entry and identification, swing wildly through a dizzying repertoire of funny voices and bizarre line readings. Keach is the catatonic patient quicky revived by Jones’ unorthodox methods/madness.

As screenwriter/producer, Southern is on particularly indulgent form. I haven’t read Barth — I feel like I should now — but Southern appears to have transformed an early, comparatively naturalistic book into something a little more like later Barth, but a lot more like mid-period Southern (the film makes me wish Avakian had been entrusted with The Magic Christian).

Keach and Jones’ funhouse lunacy — it’s a toss-up which of the two is more disturbingly demented — is joined with a terrific, naturalistic performance from Dorothy Tristan, and a creepy one from the excellent Harris Yulin, who seems to be trying to bridge the chasm of performative styles on display. It’s absolutely never boring. Profoundly alienating, technically stunning, infuriatingly incoherent, yes. Boring, no.

What put me off was the glib, jokey end-note, which follows a horrific botched abortion scene — the swerve into tragedy after surreal farce was effective and I could go with it, but the cheap wink at the end ruined that — it’s of a piece with Southern’s other repulsive violations of taste/the audience apparently elsewhere in his oeuvre, particularly the comic treatment of the heroine’s suicide in the novel Blue Movie and the film THE LOVED ONE — both motivated by out-of-character nastiness from the male lead, both ghastly — both moments that really make you wonder about the guy.

I recall a student making a short film in his first year which rather upset everybody, and he was kind of proud of himself, when a colleague, who’s more combative than me, told him he had to take responsibility for the emotions he was evoking, and they had to achieve something. Just showing that he could make us uncomfortable wasn’t a positive achievement in itself. Possibly a lesson Southern and Avakian needed to learn. Avakian perhaps did.

Gordon Willis shot it (Michael Chapman operating) and it looks AMAZING — his first feature and he’s already doing his toplight thing. Robert Q. Lovett cut it, a future Coppola guy. FFC essentially crewed THE GODFATHER from this movie.

Slow News Day

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , on January 20, 2021 by dcairns

Slow news day. At least on here. I gather something interesting happened elsewhere.

Oh, today I interviewed one of the guys who shot Sonny Corleone, but I didn’t bring that up. Forgive and forget, I say.

Well, for some things.

Lucifer

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2019 by dcairns

Started watching DARLING LILI — I’m on a Blake Edwards kick. WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? led to THE PARTY which led to SKIN DEEP and before you know it… well, I don’t know what shows more extreme depths of morbid curiosity that watching SKIN DEEP. (It was kind of rewarding, though.)

So, DL begins with Julie Andrews, Edwards’ wife of course, singing a lovely number called “Whistling in the Dark” (not the They Might Be Giants tune) amid dazzling anamorphic flares and halations upon the lens. It’s like a portal into J.J. Abrams’ wet dreams.

Then she launches into “It’s a Long Way to Tiperary,” “Pack Up Your Troubles,” which has the line “While you’ve a Lucifer to light your fag…” — a Lucifer being a brand of match and a fag being a cigarette. Anyhow, on that last syllable, THIS happens ~

Timing Rock’s credit to land exactly on the word “fag” — it CAN’T be an accident, and even if it were, who’s minding the store? Given that Edwards suffered continual interference from Paramount and was basically locked out of the edit (his own, decades-later director’s cut is 29 minutes shorter than the roadshow version), this is either the work of some not-so-merry prankster or a fuck-you Mona Lisa mustache doodled by the director on his own creation. But aren’t there people paid to look at edits? Surely the word in question is MORE likely to pop out for an American viewer?

Edwards’ work tends to be quite gay-friendly — lots of sympathetic gay characters, jokes which are smutty without being nasty. There were even longstanding rumours — well, more like speculations –about the Edwards-Andrews marriage at least partly being one of convenience. One can even, without too much strain, read movies like 10, THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN and SKIN DEEP as “protest too much” smokescreens on the one hand and gender-swapped confessions on the other.

Who knows? With regard to this unique jape-slur, Edwards is gone, as is editor Peter Zinner, who only cut two unsuccessful Edwards films before going on to THE GODFATHER.

I seem to recall somebody — and it may have been the less-than-reliable F. Gwyneplaine MacIntyre — telling me something about “Edwards and Andrews fag-baiting Rock Hudson on DARLING LILI” — but that may have been an obscure reference merely to this credit, or just the usual MacIntyre baloney. Anybody know anything?