Archive for Tom Jones

Schultz Upside-Down

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2022 by dcairns

So far THE GREAT DICTATOR has been an inspired hybrid — a visual comedy with occasional dialogue. It becomes an excellent talking picture as well when Reginald Gardiner as Schultz enters the fray.

Schultz is the film’s obligatory Good German, or Good Tomanian. Chaplin makes brilliant use of him, but he’s not a character who usually receives much commentary.

Gardiner is best-known, to me, anyway, as Hillary Aimes, the gent with the blocked sink in CLUNY BROWN, possibly my favourite Lubitsch film. Aimes starts off as the star of the show then disappears before the first act has even been concluded, never to be seen again. Lubitsch was apparently quite relaxed about such things. Gardiner had appeared in A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS and would do a lot of good work in the silly ass line. An extra in Hitchcock’s THE LODGER, he based his film career thereafter in Hollywood and prospered moderately.

The beauty of Schultz is he’s such a pip. A benevolent Tomanian, he’s able to save the Jewish barber’s life and put a stop to brutalities in the ghetto for a brief spell. But otherwise, he’s a pain in the neck. The most outrageous incident comes when, having fallen foul of the regime, he has to be sheltered in the ghetto. Jews protecting a German, a reversal of the natural order of things, and a frightful imposition.

Schultz starts as he means to go on, getting the Jewish barber in trouble, with no actual malice on his part.

The barber has been placed in charge of a machine gun. He seems incapable of hitting anyone with it — can’t have Charlie or his close relative actually taking human life — but is distracted by Schultz’s cries of distress. The plummy Tomanian is lying exhausted some short distance from his monoplane. I don’t know why Chaplin didn’t have him be injured — I guess because that wouldn’t be funny. So he’s just overcome with lassitude.

The barber helps him to his craft and they take off, but then Schultz keeps passing out, thereby presenting difficulties for the JB, as he will continue to do later. The plane flies upside down — for the first time since THE GOLD RUSH, Chaplin transforms himself into a tiny articulated puppet hanging over a void. Some excellent direction here — the decisions about when to have the camera upside-down with the characters, or whether to observe them BE upside-down with the camera rightside-up, are shrewd and bang-on and the cutting between them is quite bold if you think about it.

And the dialogue is superb — not just Schultz’s windy monologue — “Hilda will be in the garden now…” delivered oblivious to the crash-dive they’re on, but Charlie’s very short, clipped responses — “I know it!” “Impossible!” His reply to “Can you fly a plane?” — “I can try!” — is almost as good as Tom Jones’ in MARS ATTACKS! — “Sure, you got one?”

Suspended upside down, Chaplin finds his cockney accent creeps back in, subtly.

Schultz concluding his pastoral reminiscences uninterrupted by the plane smashing up is one of Fiona’s favourite jokes in the film.

And then it turns out that the mission, to deliver important despatches, has failed — Tomania has surrendered. Charlie has lost the war. So is everything that follows his fault? Or his doppelganger’s?

Or Schultz’s?

Reaction Shots

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on September 24, 2021 by dcairns

Help! I am addicted to YouTube reaction videos. While there’s a sub-genre dealing with films, which can be fun to skip through — watching someone react afresh to favourite bits in a movie you know well has a distinct pleasure, a bit like being in a new relationship, it’s the song ones I’m hooked on. Probably the reason they;re so addictive is that they’re so rarely satisfying.

The overall premise of the genre is “I love music but I’ve absolutely never heard any, watch me make discoveries.” I occasionally check out songs I don’t know, but the real impulse is to find a song I like and see someone’s face light up in amazement. But then you want them to make a meaningful observation about what they’ve heard, and that rarely happens. Part of the problem is that a very first listening to a song isn’t necessarily the time you’ll have the deepest things to say about it. Still, sometimes just seeing people’s faces is a joy in itself. I like these guys, Jay and Amber:

One thing that happens quite often is a song with definite gay resonance gets heteronormalized because it’s being watched without context. Or the listeners aren’t catching the lyrics — there’s at least one very embarrassing misreading/unreading of the Kinks’ Lola out there.

The above video is joyous, not for the critical insights but for the sheer pleasure displayed.

Some reactors do go deeper, and it helps if they’re musically inclined. JP is a drummer, and he does cool stuff like reading the lyrics and checking Wiki in real time, to give a better grounding in context. Like most reactors, he’s eclectic, but prog, glam and punk feature prominently on his channel.

Some of the more successful channels are quite aesthetically pleasing, in a simple way.

I told my mum about this phenomenon and she immediately said, “And do some of them maybe pretend they’re reacting more strongly than they really are?” DEFINITELY. There’s a whole genre of Black music fans reacting in astonishment to the Righteous Brothers or the Bee-Gees — having thought, from the artists’ voices voices, that they must be Black, or women. This gets a little dodgy at times — pandering to a white audience, with lots of Mantan Moreland acting. And it can also feel like some strange sequel to the “Blacks without soul” skit in AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON.

But a lot of this stuff is perfectly sincere. I like Jayy, who doesn’t get into chin-stroking analyses but whose very visceral reactions are always highly visible and who can put what she’s feeling into precise words :

The overall impression is that the younger generations (though there are some good older vloggers too) have abandoned musical compartmentalisation and have an open attitude to music quite different to the kids in my day, who used very specific musical genre choices to define themselves, and were often violently hostile to anything outside their chosen niche. This might encourage a more superficial investigation of songs and artists, but it’s still perfectly possible to go deeper, and it’s kind of the approach I favour with film viewing, which might be part of why I respond to it.

A Face in the Crowd

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on October 12, 2011 by dcairns

RIP Diane Cilento.

A friend was re-reading her autobiography (excellent) and discovered the part where she says that in TOM JONES she had herself made up to be unrecognizable and infiltrated the crowd scene at the end. He wondered if he could spot her in the throng.

!

Pretty bold, putting her up front and centre like that, not just because people might recognize one of the stars of the film they’re currently watching, but because they might be startled out of the movie by the amount of slap she’s wearing. Or by her capacious decolletage.

TOM JONES, love it or not, is nothing if not bold.