Archive for The Shout

The Film

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2016 by dcairns

the-shout-1

I got interested in Donald Barthelme after reading of him in Steven Soderbergh’s interview book with Richard Lester, Getting Away With It. Lester, encouraged by regular screenwriter Charles Wood, had contemplated a film of Barthelme’s The King (the legend of Arthur updated to WWII and expressed almost entirely in dialogue — not an obvious movie subject) and I was quietly gratified to notice a copy of the novel still adorning Lester’s bookshelf (I am an incurable bookshelf snoop) when I visited to conduct my own modest interview.

Lester had guessed that Barthelme might be up Soderbergh’s street, a shrewd supposition given that SCHIZOPOLIS, the most ludically Barthelmian of Soderbergh films, was still in post-production at the time. 40 Stories has an introduction by Dave Eggers, another artist up whose street Barthelme might be assumed to lie. In fact, one might uncharitably suggest that Barthelme is the writer Eggers would like to be — both share a taste for a certain kind of airy whimsy. But Barthelme is much more mysterious in his effects — one doesn’t know precisely what he is up to, and we will never explain or offer a hint — and he also has a gift for pastiche that allows him to layer his whimsy deeper below the surface. I was very taken with his piece The Film, which apart from being Grade-A nonsense, also captures precisely the mixture of pensive doubt and self-importance which always seem to be present in diary entries published by film directors at work on another masterpiece.

I think he may have been looking at Truffaut’s diary of FAHRENHEIT 451, which would account for the name Julie. But I think Godard’s diaries, published in Cahiers, are MUCH more pompous — only Woody Allen could do them justice in parody.

bone spinning

An extract —

Thinking of sequences for the film.

A frenzy of desire?

Sensible lovers taking precautions?

Swimming with horses?

Today we filmed fear, a distressing emotion aroused by danger, real or imagined. In fear you know what you’re afraid of, whereas in anxiety you do not. Correlation of children’s fears with those of their parents is .667 according to Hagman. We filmed the startle pattern–shrinking, blinking, all that. Ezra refused to do “inhibition of the higher nervous centers.” I don’t blame him. \\then we shot some stuff in which a primitive person (my bare arm standing in for the primitive person) kills an enemy by pointing a magic bone at him. “O.K., who’s got the magic bone?” The magic bone was brought. I pointed the magic bone and the actor playing the enemy fell to the ground. I had carefully explained to the actor that the magic bone would not really kill him, probably.

Next, the thrill of fear along the buttocks. We used Julie’s buttocks for this sequence. “Hope is the very sign of lack-of-happiness,” said Julie, face down on the divan. “Fame is a palliative for doubt,” I said. “Wealth-formation is a source of fear for both winners and losers,” Ezra said. “Civilization aims at making all good things accessible even to cowards,” said the actor who had played the enemy, quoting Nietzsche. Julie’s buttocks thrilled.

We wrapped, then. I took the magic bone home with me. I don’t believe in it, exactly, but you never know.

Festive Facts in a Film File of Fun #3

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2007 by dcairns

 Egg nog Yen.

1] IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE flopped on first release but became a Christmas television favourite, prompting director Frank Capra to attempt to capitalize on its success by producing yuletide versions of several of his other films. Results included IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, SAINT NICK AND OLD LACE, MR. SMITH GOES TO CHRISTMASTOWN, SANTA’S DIRIGIBLE, and the rather surprising THE BITTER EGG NOG OF GENERAL YEN.

2] THE MUPPET’S NATIVITY was to have starred Kermit and Miss Piggy as Joseph and Mary, Little Robin as the Baby Jesus, and The Great Gonzo as Herod, before alarmed TV execs cancelled the project in favour of THE GREAT MUPPETS ESCAPE with Fozzie Bear as Steve McQueen and Professor Bunsen Honeydew as Donald Pleasence.

I can't see a bloody thing.

3] After the success of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, director Robert Fuest and A.I.P. planned a seasonal follow-up, I SAW MOMMY KISSING DR. PHIBES, in which Vincent Price’s mad surgeon would execute the members of the jury who convicted him using methods derived from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. But the script ran aground over the issue of how to murder somebody using eight maids a-milking.

Terry-Thomas is slain by the two French Hens

4] Apart from the modern-dress SCROOGED with Bill Murray, and the porno SCREWED with Johnson Package, there have been numerous reimaginings of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, including a giant version with Peter Mayhew and Richard Kiel, HUGE SCROOGE, Chantal Akerman’s Belgian translation, BRUGES SCROOGE, and the 1930s canine version from the makers of the Dogville Shorts, CUJO SCROOGE-O.

Quality sledging.

5] Steven Spielberg bought the sled supposedly used in CITIZEN KANE for $20,000. He said at the time, “Rosebud will go over my typewriter to remind me that quality in movies comes first.” But in fact he just uses it for sledging.