Archive for The Picture of Dorian Gray

Pg. 17, #7

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2020 by dcairns

*

The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

*

‘It’s in the cellar under the dining-room,’ he went on, so overcome by his worries now that he forgot to be pompous. ‘It’s mine — mine. I discovered it when I was a child, all by myself. The cellar stairway is so steep that my aunt and uncle forbade my using it, but I’d heard someone say there was a world down there. I found out later they meant an old-fashioned globe of the world, but at the time I thought they were referring to the world itself. One day when no one was there I started down in secret, but I stumbled and fell. When I opened my eyes, I discovered the Aleph.’

*

We see, from the start, the very strong inclination of science to deny, as much as it can, external relations of this earth.

*

*

More and more madly poured the shrieking, moaning night wind into the gulf of the inner earth. I dropped prone again and clutched vainly at the floor for fear of being swept bodily through the open gate into the phosphorescent abyss. Such fury I had not expected, and as I grew aware of an actual slipping of my form toward the abyss I was beset by a thousand new terrors of apprehension and imagination.

*

“I have seen Niagara thunder over her gorge in the noblest frenzy ever beheld by man,” rhapsodized Frederick Starr in a piece for the Chicago Tribune in 1909, recovered for us now by Stanley Kauffmann and Bruce Henstell in their fine anthology, American Film Criticism: “I have watched an English railroad train draw into a station, take on its passengers, and then chug away with its stubby little engine through the Yorkshire Dells [sic], past old Norman Abbeys [sic] silhouetted against the skyline, while a cluster of century-aged cottages loomed up in the valley below . . . . I have looked upon weird dances and outlandish frolics in every quarter of the globe, and I didn’t have to leave Chicago for a moment.”

*

Seven passages from seven page seventeens from seven different books. I belatedly recalled an entire forgotten bookcase, and rushed to avail myself of it. Of course, apart from stimulating your brains to assemble strange narratives with sparking connections, and get you wondering about what comes next, these offerings can also serve as inspiration for your purchases — if you respond favourably to a prose style, you can seek out the excerpted volume and roll around in it. See below for details.

Flaming Carrot Comics #1, by Bob Burden; The Picture of Dorian Gray, preface, by Oscar Wilde; The Aleph And Other Stories 1933-1969, title story, by Jorge Luis Borges; The Book of the Damned, by Charles Fort; Tales Designed to Thrizzle #3, by Michael Kupperman (looks like a front cover but is a panel from page 17): The Whisperer in Darkness, by HP Lovecraft, from the story Dagon; The Silent Clowns, by Walter Kerr.

Pictorial Beauty

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on October 22, 2012 by dcairns

A new piece by me at The Chiseler, outlining my demented and ongoing quest to see every film depicted in Denis Gifford’s big green book of monsters, A Pictorial History of Horror Movies.

Zee and Co.

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by dcairns

vlcsnap-1093394

James Mason is Hendrik van der Zee, the Fying Dutchman, in Albert Lewin’s PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, which we were inspired to watch by the passing of its cinematographer, the great Jack Cardiff. And I quickly remembered the words of my late friend Lawrie: “We were all so excited when it came out. And then we were all so disappointed.”

vlcsnap-1097747

A viewer sinks into lassitude. Or Lassie-tude?

It’s easy to see why members of the British film community would have high hopes for the movie — here was British talent like Cardiff, designer John Bryan, and actors Nigel Patrick, John Laurie and Marius Goring (South African by birth, but who’s counting?) united with Hollywood talent like Ava Gardner and Brit expat James Mason, in a film by the maker of the much-admired PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. In fact, with his aspirations to self-conscious literary and painterly effects, Lewin was the kind of filmmaker perhaps more admired by Brits than Americans. 

And the disappointment is easy to understand too. While PANDORA is beautiful, with stunning images served up on a regular basis, the ponderous script and lack of dramatic tension make it a wearying experience. It’s tempting to blame the framing structure for giving the end away, but there are plenty of movies that get away with that. There’s the fact that the film is stuffed full of nightclub singers, race drivers, archaeologists and matadors — nobody seems to have a proper job. And yet there many movies that throw together impossibly glamorous or eccentric characters and we love them. Certainly it’s a problem that everybody talks in a ponderous, pseudo-poetic way. When they quote scads of verse from memory it’s actually a relief — it sounds more natural. Perhaps the biggest problem lies in this movie being basically an original story, “inspired” by the legend of the Flying Dutchman — Lewin’s best films are adaptations, and he was an elegant and respectful conveyor of other people’s stories.

There are moments when the dialogue becomes so windy and carbohydrate-rich that it almost works, in a MARIENBAD kind of way. The trouble is, although nobody seems like a real person, they don’t quite attain mythic status, which is presumably the intent. With the rich colours, florid verbiage and striking of attitudes, the proceedings ought to stand a good chance of attaining camp, but nothing doing. Maybe because the prosaic narration, delivered by antiquarian Harold Warrender, an actor who looks like he could aspire to drollery if the script permitted it, flattens the mood like a giant fly-swatter made of print. Even the “exciting” attempt at the land-speed record gets broken up by Lewin’s unending prose. Action scenes are not usually aided by voice-over exposition.

It is a tale told by an archaeologist. Devoid of sound and fury, trying to signify everything.

Only a few moments at a wild party in the middle show Lewin’s surrealist streak, and allow the intrusion of a welcome gust of humour ~

vlcsnap-1095975

Still, even as we felt the life oozing from our frames, we would be moved to declare,”That’s beautiful!” every few minutes. It was a kind of dispassionate declaration, since if there’s one thing above all that the film isn’t, it isn’t moving. But beauty like this is uncommon.

RIP, Jack.

vlcsnap-1094494