Archive for The VIPs

The V.U.P.s

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2020 by dcairns

Anthony “Puffin” Asquith’s transmutation from the spectacular UFA-esque pure cinema of A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR to the “well-made play” school of swank British tedium is likely to remain a headscratcher. Maybe he got all his excitement from the rumoured wild parties, leaving only a rather turgid display of craftsmanship for the movies.

Don’t give him Cinemascope, for God’s sake! Worst thing you could do.

So here’s THE V.I.P.S, with a Rattigan script, Burton & Taylor (and Louis Jourdan makes three), Orson Welles and Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith (probably the main draw, nowadays — well, she’s about the only survivor).

It did turn out to be an adequate afternoon timewaster — Orson, playing a caricature of Korda and looking like a boiled owl, is funny, as is Margaret Rutherford. The Burtons’ stuff is a drag. David Frost does a fun self-parody, though Peter Cook could have done it with more relish. He and Richard Wattis seem like the only ones really trying to be entertaining. Oh, and Elsa Martinelli is fun, and actually IS glamorous.

The conceit, that airports are glamorous and exciting, and tax problems and cash-flow problems and marital problems are glamorous and exciting when they afflict movie-star types, is hilariously dated.

It’s a PLAY. The compositions, admittedly, are pleasing. The camera pushes in occasionally. Otherwise, the cinema does not intrude — until the last reel, where Liz staggers across the concourse, searching, searching, searching for her Dick, and Puffin throws in some reasonably frantic POV shots scanning the throng.

Miklos Rosza insists it’s all very emotionally significant but he’s lied to us too often in the past.

Very good costumes — not for the glamour, for the CHARACTER. And we did get an emotional charge from the Rod Taylor/Maggie Smith romance, maybe because we like RT so much and Smith is so good at projecting silent adoration and concern (and anything else you ask her to project, of course). It tapped into our affection for the actors.

The V.I.P.s stars Gloria Wandrous; Thomas Becket; Stefan Brand; Anna Maria ‘Dallas’ D’Allesandro / Mama Tembo; Madame Arcati; Minerva McGonagall; Pongo (voice); Unicron (voice); Princess Panthea; Louis D’Ascoyne; Albert Prosser; Jock McTaggart; Bob Trubshaw; Miss Tonks; Frith (voice); Old Fred (voice); Wallace (voice); Mr. Stringer; Blackaver (voice); Mme. Dubonnet; Mr. Meek; Louis XIII (voice, uncredited); Violet Bradman; and Ives ‘the mole’.

Intertitle of the Week

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 19, 2008 by dcairns

From Anthony Asquith’s tour-de-force of late silent cinema, A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR.

Early Asquith is so exciting, I can’t quite figure out he became so dull. I blamed THE V.I.P.S (a film about people stuck in an airport, doing their income tax) and THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE on extreme old age, but Asquith died quite young at 65. Perhaps better to blame the deadening influence of Terence Rattigan, whose well-crafted plays seem to me to be a destructive force on British cinema. Collaborating with Rattigan nearly smothered David Lean’s talents too.

And then there’s the possibility that “Puffin” Asquith was having too good a time offscreen. Wikipedia identifies him as most probably the “man in the mask” cavorting masochistically at the high society orgies of Stephen Ward, and my top informant on the glory days of British film, Lawrie Knight, told me that it was an open secret that Asquith, a prime minister’s son and one of our top filmmakers, would moonlight as a dishwasher in “greasy spoon” transport cafe’s where he would pick up truck drivers as rough trade.

I don’t suppose he could have made a film about that, but something with a bit more proletarian spunk to his later movies would have been nice.