Archive for The Trip

The Sunday Intertitle: Shot Missing

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2018 by dcairns

The film within the film in THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is also called THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. Welles described it as a film he would never have made — it’s supposed to tell us about its fictional author, Jake Hannaford, played by John Huston, not about Welles. It represents, in other words, a Hollywood has-been’s pathetic attempts to be hip and radical and appeal to the youth audience, and emulate the art cinema of Antonioni and Bergman et al.

An OTHELLO image.

Counter-arguments are available: David Bordwell remarked, reasonably enough, that the film has more in common with colour supplement photography and advertising than with arthouse imagery, though we could carry on that argument to point out that commercials started being influenced by art movies back in the sixties and so maybe a Jake Hannaford movie WOULD look like THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. We know Welles didn’t care for Antonioni’s style and mood and especially pacing (“I’m not a director who like to linger on thing […] Antonioni is the king of it,”) but I don’t think TOSOTW2 is meant as a straight pastiche of Antonionionioni. It could hardly justify the amount of screen time given it in TOSOTW1. Welles seemingly wanted it to be half the movie, according to Jonathan Rosenbaum, but it’s a lot less than that in the Netflix cut.

In spite of the attempts to frame the movie within as a Jake Hannaford film or a sub-Antonioni film, it’s also very much a Welles film. While the framing film has qualities in common with the patchwork style of F FOR FAKE, the inner movie practically quotes THE TRIAL, LADY FROM SHANGHAI and others. It’s full of trick reflections, forced perspective tricks (characters at different distances walking along the same horizon line) and extreme close-ups. If the film parodies arthouse imitations, it’s more in the cack-handed symbolism (giant phalluses destroyed by scissor attack) and the sheer EMPTINESS.

Welles and reflections: LADY FROM SHANGHAI comes to mind, but he was playing with multiple and overlaid images from KANE on.

Welles seems to have nailed the kind of cargo-cult art film gaining a toehold in Hollywood. You might compare TOOTW2 to the movie within a movie that begins STARDUST MEMORIES, which is also a kind of pastiche: the kind of film Woody Allen’s character, Sandy Bates, would make. Depressing, earnest, wearing its influences on its sleeve, aspiring to Bergman and Fellini but not quite making it. But if TOSOTW2 were a real film without a framing narrative to protect us from it, it might be Dennis Hopper’s THE LAST MOVIE (and how apt that Hopper appears here), but also Roger Corman’s THE TRIP (thanks to Noel Vera for pointing this resemblance out) with which it shares four cast members, including Hopper again but also Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg and little Angelo Rossitto, enjoying the wildest party he’s been to since FREAKS. But also Christian Marquand’s gloriously pointless CANDY (1968) which also featured John Huston, and especially CAN HEIRONYMOUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPPE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS? (1969), a truly boggling vanity project from Anthony Newley which shared with the Welles a rare late-career appearance by comedian George Jessel (as “the Presence”).

Oja Kodar and train stations: Welles met her on THE TRIAL, then filmed her on a train for F FOR FAKE.

The movie might also be a rather mean mockery of John Huston’s occasional forays into artiness, but here it seems wide of the mark in a way that suggests Welles wasn’t trying to score a direct hit on his star. Huston did make one, beautiful and arguably empty Euro-art film, A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH, which is far better than its terrible reputation suggests, but usually when he tried to be stridently “cinematic”, it took the form of photographic experiments like the aureate tinge of REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE or the tinted flashbacks of WISE BLOOD. Though the late career of Huston certainly features some commercial hackwork (ANNIE, PHOBIA) his actual attempts at making good films add up to a remarkably dignified body of work. It’s arguably in his acting roles that he was guilty of trying too hard to be with it (CANDY, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, DE SADE, and on the plus side, CHINATOWN) but he always claimed not to take his acting career remotely seriously, so this might just be a case of him saying “Yes” to anything offered, and ignoring John Carradine’s sound career advice to his sons: “Never do anything you wouldn’t be caught dead doing.”

A frame not in the Netflix cut.

Thanks to the late, much-missed Paul Clipson I was able to see extended versions of Welles’ cut of Oja Kodar wandering around Century City, and running about nude on a movie backlot in a lot of noir stripey shadows, and can confirm that those scenes sustain the attention effortlessly. And the psychedelic club with the ultrawhite toilet full of orgiastic activity is a stunning set-piece, as is the nocturnal car sex scene and the crazy desert bit. Would longer versions have worked in the context of the movie, interrupting the slender narrative of the party sequence with dreamy, plotless interludes? Maybe it would be useful to get Mel Brooks in to pontificate over them, as in THE CRITIC?

As with every posthumous Welles release or discovery, I find myself wanting multiple versions, the way we have several TOUCH OF EVILS, OTHELLOS, ARKADINS. If anyone could ever be said to (a) be large and (b) contain multitudes, surely it was Welles.

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This Blog is on Drugs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2008 by dcairns

This blog is great when you’re high! LOOK:

The colours, man...

Would you Adam n Eve it?

space face

The doors of deception

red mist

wide of the mark

Take drugs! Be like Richard Widmark!

Actually, while the flu medication I’m taking “may cause drowsiness”, the hallucinatory feeling I have is probably more due to the illness itself, whatever it is. So, ringing in the ears, sweating and shivering, and a curious heightened awareness, or do I mean UNawareness?

“Everything is strange.”

Dragged myself into work and on the bus back, played odd tunes on my Nano, with the result that the world fell into musical step: Nino Rota’s “Carlotta’s Gallop” from EIGHT AND A HALF caused the whole of Princes Street to move at 16fps, jerky silent movie people all enacting a Jacques Tati pantomime of exaggerated body language in perfect time to the music. As I moved my focus from one person to another they all seemed to snap into character and walk, talk, gesture or even SMOKE to the beat.

As the bus Trumbulled into deepest Leith (TRAINSPOTTING country) the music slowed and so did the people, too unhealthy to actually display actual animation, but the synchronisation remained perfect. I tried looking at my fellow passengers to see if they were also part of this inner movie, but that was just HORRIBLE. Too close!

I’m very very amused by the idea of both Fellini and Otto Preminger taking L.S.D. under controlled laboratory conditions, with teams of medicos on hand to monitor their progress through the doors of perception and presumably somehow prevent their consciousnesses from expanding TOO FAR, until their heads exploded like the guy in SCANNERS, and with tape machines whirring to record all the marvellous psychedelic insights that poured from their blubbering mouths. Fellini, at any rate, recorded his psychotropic experience, but never listened to the tapes. But I think it’s fair to say the experience did have some impact on his work.

Roger Corman took a more informal approach, tripping with friends at Big Sur.

‘I spent the next seven hours face down in the ground, beneath a tree, not moving, absorbed in the most wonderful trip imaginable. Among other things, I was sure I had invented an utterly new art form. This new art form was the very act of thinking and creating, and you didn’t need books or film or music to communicate it; anyone who wanted to experience it would simply lie face down on the ground anywhere in the world at that moment and the work of art would be transmitted through the earth from the mind of its creator directly into the mind of the audience. To this day, I’d like to think this could work and it would be wonderful. I think of all the costs you could cut in production and distribution alone.’

That last sentence may be the most delightfully, touchingly square thing anybody ever said about the L.S.D. experience. And while THE TRIP, which Corman was researching, uses a lot of pseudo-psychedelic movie cliches and doesn’t feel researched AT ALL, Corman’s vision of drug art directly inspires a dialogue scene in his later GAS-S-S-S, OR, IT BECAME NECESSARY TO DESTROY THE WORLD IN ORDER TO SAVE IT, where the hero proposes that movies should be produced quite literally IN CAPSULE FORM:

‘Are you saying that some drug dealers are going to become movie producers?’

‘I’m saying that some of our motion picture studios are going to become drug pushers.”