Archive for Under the Volcano

Day of the Dead

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on November 2, 2009 by dcairns

Six images from UNDER THE VOLCANO ~

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Love how Huston’s director credit appears over a lookalike skull. But then, ALL skulls look a bit like John Huston, just as all monkeys do.

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The signature image, Albert Finney’s shades. Malcolm Lowry’s book was often described as “unfilmable,” and I’m not sure Huston found a way in. A drunken novel about a drunk could either be a hallucinatory nightmare vision or an actor’s tour-de-force. The movie isn’t quite either, although it creates some real terror at the end in a Lynchian brothel (complete with dwarf who looks like a matter-reduced Anthony Quinn).

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This is from the period of Albert Finney’s career where I find him rather hard to look at, with his juvenile lead hair and collapsing face, his shouty delivery and spasming countenance, a collapsing meringue galvanized by random electrical impulses. Little wonder that movies like THE DRESSER had to be devised to incorporate Finney’s fractious twitching and bellowing (he quotes King Lear in this one, too).

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His drunken shamble and fall is impressive though (wonder how many times Huston made him do it?).

Huston was known for his inspirational whispers, little asides to individual actors right before he rolled the camera. One time he advised an overacting thesp, “You know, the other night I was so drunk I didn’t even know it,” thereby reducing the subsequent performance to a more reasonable scale. Finney, on the other hand, plays his role like a man who most definitely knows he’s drunk — but he’s so drunk he thinks he can disguise it, speaking in the careful, over-enunciated fashion immortalized in WITHNAIL & I in the line “Honestly, I’ve only had a few ales.”

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“You’ve got to be drunk to appreciate the beauty of an old woman playing dominoes with a chicken.”

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