Archive for Verna Fields

Euphoria #38: chase me, chase me

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2008 by dcairns


Musician / singer / songwriter Daniel Prendiville has a series of interesting suggestions for Cinema Euphoria, our ongoing project to condense the sum total of human happiness into a few thousand feet of celluloid and look at it on Youtube with a wry smile.

‘- the car chase in What’s Up Doc?

– the wedding scene in Guys & Dolls – I was always struck by the way the wedding crowd disperses immediately after the nuptials. It seems to emphasise just how impersonal the big city is – one minute you’re the most important person in the world – the next…

– anything from Welcome to Collingwood – particularly the dialogue where they are describing various capers.’

I like all these suggestions but I find MY HANDS ARE TIED — I don’t have a good copy of GUYS AND DOLLS and the key moment is not on Youtube. Nor are any scenes from WTC, the Russo brothers’ remake of Mario Monicelli’s BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET. So, just like Cybill Shepherd in the ’70s, we are STUCK WITH BOGDANOVITCH.

But that’s no big problem. Although this sequence from the end of Peter Bogdanovitch’s film of Buck Henry’s script is a bit bigger and altogether more climactic than I generally like for Cinema Euphoria (get me some more little moments, you… lurkers, you) we can remedy that easily by concentrating on the Small Things in this big-ass sequence.

The way this clip starts is super-great: I love the little musical set of sounds created by Verna Fields’ sharp and witty editing: muffled shouting / tip-tap footsteps of Streisand and O’Neil / car-horn blasts / whistling patsy. It’s kind of beautiful just to listen to.

Verna F’s inspired work (she also cut AMERICAN GRAFFITI and JAWS before retiring) continues with the marvellous orchestration of LOUD and QUIET in the coming chase. The way she cuts ahead to peaceful scenes lying in the path of the mayhem creates antici… pation that builds the comedy up. I’ve argued here that Boggo sometimes lets his dramatic instincts get in the way of his comedy ambitions, playing on spectacle and suspense in ways that aren’t relevant to slapstick, but it has to be admitted that few filmmakers since the ’20s have even attempted classical slapstick on this scale and with half this amount of success.

(Billy Wilder noted in the ’70s that only Richard Lester and Blake Edwards could shoot slapstick. Before that there were Tati and Tashlin. Preston Sturges loved slapstick but wasn’t particularly good at it. In the silent era there were many many brilliant orchestrators of elaborate visual gag sequences. Now the closest thing is the cartoony exaggeration of Jeunet or Raimi, which is a form of heightened action cinema, a different animal altogether.)

Bogdanovitch himself got to play around with pratfalls again in NICKELODEON, a flawed film (studio interference is at least partly to blame) but one that does boast some rather brilliant comic action, again filmed in bold long-shots like dance sequences. It would be great to see him turned loose on this kind of material again — Boggy may not be as hot as he was back in the day but I do think that any producer who gave him his head on a decent visual comedy piece would make a killing.