Archive for The Unspeakable Act

Totally Illegal

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2013 by dcairns


My film CRY FOR BOBO plays another film festival, more than eleven years after it was made. Feels good that I’m about to have another movie on the festival circuit…

The fest is this one, The Totally Illegal Film Festival, curated by Scout Tafoya, who has had the brilliant idea of not only programming my short, and Mark Cousins’ charming, personal flaneur-film WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE?, and Dan Sallitt’s delight THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, but of reassembling the programme of the 1968 Cannes Film Festival — the one which didn’t happen due to Les Evenements.

So residents of Pennsylvania and visitors to that great state can have the pleasure of seeing what the residents of 1968 missed. I gather Scout has scouted up practically everything, save for the Menahem Golan entry, which even Menahem Golan himself couldn’t supply a copy of.

(Interesting to think of young Golan in those days as a budding arthouse director, and interesting to speculate that the festival’s cancellation may have cut short this career, leading instead to his becoming an exploitation maven and short-lived movie mogul. When Golan was co-running Cannon films, he produced Jean-Luc Godard’s KING LEAR: FEAR AND LOATHING, with a deal memo signed on a restaurant napkin — perhaps he was grateful for JLG’s intervention sending him off in this direction.)

The ’68 festival would have included Richard Lester’s PETULIA, whose commercial prospects were dunted by the resulting damage to its release schedule, along with fascinating rarities like Frank Perry’s TRILOGY, Alain Resnais’s JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME, and Miklos Jancso’s THE CONFRONTATION, plus numerous movies that have fallen out of the collective critical consciousness altogether. Should make for a fascinating time capsule.

Waverley Steps

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by dcairns

Got my complimentary disc of THE 39 STEPS from Criterion. If you buy this Blu-ray you will, among other things, be easily able to discern the poster for THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH in the above image, which purports to represent Waverley Station in Edinburgh…

Dan Sallitt is in town for the Edinburgh International Film Festival with his excellent new feature film THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT. By a very weird coincidence my guest Chris Bourton brought with him the Blu-ray of RUGGLES OF RED GAP, which features a fine essay by Mr Sallitt. We watched the movie and enjoyed it. And by an even weirder coincidence, Charles Laughton’s character in the film is referred to (falsely) as a member of the Black Watch regiment, which is based in Edinburgh.

And — new in shops — my essay is attached to the Blu-ray of THE LOST WEEKEND.

Ruggles of Red Gap [Masters of Cinema] (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray] [1935]

The Lost Weekend [Masters of Cinema] (Blu-ray) [1945]

The 39 Steps (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Topic “I”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 29, 2012 by dcairns

Dan Sallitt is someone I know, so although it’s lovely to have him in Edinburgh with his new film, THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, I was nervous about seeing his film in case I didn’t like it. But somebody had already told a friend, “You needn’t worry,” and so it proved. His movie is a tender, sensitive and surprisingly funny film about a seventeen-year-old girl in love with her big brother, and by “in love” I mean just what you would assume I meant if I weren’t talking about a sister and brother. Jackie wants to try “the I word” with her brother, who gently demurs. There’s no shocking or offensive content here, though, apart from that one idea. Maybe this film is really just about that moment that comes in nearly everyone’s life when they’re in love with someone they can’t have?

Dan’s movie is beautiful both in surface (a pared-down style with no camera movement, maybe two pans) and content. The whole thing is inhabited by a kind of filmic and emotional grace. With elegant, formal compositions and a measured pace, he keeps the emotional temperature under control, so that we feel the passions seething inside the characters rather than seeing them erupt all over the screen — but this is by no means a cold film, quite the reverse. Nor does it feel slow — “measured” is not a euphemism for the S word.

Credit must go also to the excellent cast, particularly Tallie Medel as Jackie, the heroine with the socially unacceptable urges towards her brother (Sky Hirschkron, also very fine). She has a fascinating face. You can just see the thoughts flickering behind it, as though she were translucent.

Several of the reviews have focused on the calm performance style, as if it were something uniquely stylised and strange. I didn’t find it so, and I asked Dan about it and he doesn’t really get what that’s about either. To me, it was clearly a version of recognizable human behaviour, the way people do in fact speak. In the same way Altman’s overlapping dialogue is both a noticeable directorial choice and an authentic depiction of how people talk. Dan obviously likes his performances fairly low-key, the tone conversational, the obvious left uninflected. To me it made the film all the more moving, and funny.

Eric Rohmer is obviously a stylistic watchword, but I was pleased to spot a shout-out to Preston Sturges in the use of the expression “Topic A” (which means sex, according to THE PALM BEACH STORY). Another master of dialogue who likes his characters articulate. Dan explained that he felt that the phrase “Topic A” should be in common use and he wanted to popularize it. “I don’t think this film will be the tipping point, though,” he added.

You never know…