Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Screengrab - The Montage of Montages

Some bad movies contain scenes that stay with you. Scenes that tap into something universal, something true, perhaps. Or just scenes that are shocking - a moment of stunning violence, a jolt that will be what you come away from the film with. Scenes that are brilliantly mounted - an immortal shot, maybe, the staging of an event in a new way. You know what I mean. You can probably think of an example, right off the bat. This happens with great movies too. Some scenes just shine out of the films that house them, their power, their quality irresistible.

In the 1970s, Alan J Pakula was in the zone. He made a handful of magnificent films, each reminiscent of the last in its exploration of the unique atmosphere of that decade - the paranoia, the sense of a culture veering out of control - each an expansion on the last, in its way. This process climaxed with "All the Presidents Men" in 1976, a real-life detective story starring two of the most popular actors of the era which took a fiendishly complex sequence of events and made a gripping, enthralling and accessible movie out of them. Its also one of the best-directed films of the decade. But the film Pakula had made two years earlier is just as good - a taut, tight, terrifying conspiracy thriller with an unapologetically bleak ending and some unforgettable moments. Such as the opening assassination scene, oblique and disturbing and reminiscent of the murder of Robert Kennedy a few years earlier. Or the semi-comic bar brawl the hero deliberately involves himself in, in some town in the middle of nowhere. Or the moment he follows a man onto a plane and realises that said man intends to bomb the plane - when they have already taken off. Or the moment we realise just how in deep he is, and also realise that he hasn't realised yet. Or the unbelievable gut punch of a climax.

If you've seen "The Parallax View", however, then the scene that you will probably best recall is the Montage. Reporter Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty, someone else who had a fantastic 1970s) has gone deep undercover in order to infiltrate the Parallax Corporation, which he believes is involved in a Political Assassination and several subsequent "accidental" deaths. He gradually realises that Parallax is in fact an Assassination bureau, and that he has been called in for an interview. And that a big part of that interview will involve him viewing a film while his reactions are monitored - a sort of psychological litmus test, with psychosis the desired finding.

The film itself is a montage of stills set to an instrumental orchestral/rock backing. The stills include keywords - MOTHER, FATHER, ME, HOME, HAPPINESS, ENEMY - which each kick off a sequence of images. At first the images are comforting, warmly folksy and associative - stock photographs with classic, timeless feeling hanging in them. An old couple sitting together. A young father with his son in a backpack. Baseball. The White House. A woman with her baby. An obviously American house set in a green garden beneath a blue sky. The music is gentle and melodic, elegiac, almost nostalgic. On the second round of words, the editing quickens its pace just slightly, and the juxtaposition of images becomes more problematic and complex. After a comforting, nostalgic shot under "MOTHER", we see a weeping woman, for instance. On the third round, as the music becomes more aggressive and insistent, even martial, the images become disturbing. We see shots of brutality and violence and the sexual shots become more explicit and coarse.

It gets more disturbing - the editing faster, the images cropped and played off one another wonderfully. An extended passage suggests incest - shots of a naked couple entwined juxtaposed with shots of an archetypal mother figure - and homosexual parental abuse then equates happiness with a gleaming revolver. Enemy is mingled with home so that images of famous patriots and Presidents are side by side with shots of Hitler, all of it periodically interrupted with shots of military men and firearms. Violent images recur every few beats, almost like punctuation for every breathless theme. The Marvel hero Thor becomes a motif - the heroic ideal of 'ME' in the latter stages, which tail off in a quiet coda, returning to the tempo, lyricism and comfort of the opening moments.

At its peak, however, there is a nightmarish rhythm to the flow of images, distorting associative power and using suggestion brilliantly. Nazis and the White House, naked couples with homosexual imagery, violence with MOTHER, poverty with FATHER, guns with HAPPINESS, and so on. Whether it has any resemblance to the kind of thing that would evoke a specific reaction in a psychotic personality I have no idea, but as a piece of cinema, its works magnificently well, and only adds to the precise, creepy mood of the film.
Here it is, in full:

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Signature Shots: Spike Lee

I had a long internal debate about what to entitle this (hopefully) continuing series. Signature shots or "Irritating tics"?
Because the difference between the two seems to be minimal in many cases.

Take Spike Lee. He likes to use a dolly shot, which isn't uncommon, of course. Except he mounts his actor on the dolly so that they glide right along with the camera. In close up, generally, altough occasionally he'll set the actor a little further back in the frame. He is a serious Director and he has made, in my opinion, a few genuinely great films in Do The Right Thing, The 25th Hour and When the Levees Broke, and I don't believe this shot is just a flashy example of ostentatious directorial style, as it might be in some director's work. Its an extremely risky shot - so contrived and pronounced that it always seems a statement of sorts, a declaration of the directors presence in a way few other single shots equal. I think Lee uses it to signal that a character is in an altered state - either that they have reached a sort of enlightenment, that they are in a psychological or emotional fugue or that they are not truly present in their immediate reality. In Malcolm X, he uses it as Malcolm approaches the Aubudon, where he will be assassinated. Here it is as if Malcolm is walking to his own death, fully aware and paranoid, and not quite feeling the everyday act of strolling in the street as most men might.

Which is laudable. But Lee has used it too often. If I see it in a Lee film now, I groan. And invariably, I do see it in a Lee film. He seems unable or unwilling to refrain from using this shot for very long. He varies the angle (sometimes above, sometimes slightly below, sometimes eye level) and the length of the shot and the movement involved, but it shows up too often in his work. Its perhaps best utilised in The 25th Hour, where Lee's camera glides serenely around post 9/11 New york, a place in which everyone seems to be in some traumatised state of altered consciousness.
But it doesn't matter what approach the material demands - even in a piece of (admittedly good) hackwork like Inside Man, Lee can't resist. It almost feels as if hes doing it to keep himself amused...

The shot it most reminds me of is a Scorsese shot from Mean Streets, where he mounts a camera to Harvey Keitel's chest. A drunken Keitel then stumbles around a party, the camera recording his every twitch and guffaw, tied as closely to his face as it is, but also suggesting the chaotic, sickening abandon of his night out. The Scorsese shot feels a lot more organic and a lot less controlled, and hence draws less attention to itself.
But then Scorsese has always had a sort of genius for justifying a spectacular, showy shot thematically or narratively. its one of the elements that made him such a brilliant director in his early career. Spike Lee, for all of his admirable qualities, possesses no such genius, and his stylistic flourishes often seem just that.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Say, Just...

- As the decade's end approaches and lists begin to spring up all over, literary site The Millions posts its list, voted for by a collection of bloggers, critics and writers, of The Best fiction of the Millennium So Far. And a fine list it is, too. at the time of writing they've only done 20 - 6, but I'm betting Roberto Bolano makes an appearance in that last five alongside Michael Chabon, though of course i could be very wrong...Anyway, it serves, as most lists of books or films or records do, as a syllabus of sorts. Each of these I've read has been great. Which is what really matters.

- Alan Moore interviews Brian Eno! On Radio 4. Odd, but interesting if you like Eno, or Moore.

- The Masters of Cinema catalogue becomes more and more beautiful with each release. Great films in good quality prints in lovely packaging with awesome extras. If you live in the UK, buy DVDs with any regularity, love film and you have none, shame on you. Pick one at random and chances are its incredible. This catalogue is just further loveliness, and reveals a few future releases I was unaware of (Pedro Costa!)

- British airways always gave good advert, but for the last two years they have shunned TV advertising. The massive new campaign they've just launched is some return, focusing as it does on a series of exotic events in far-flung destinations, each given their own spot, from a wildebeest migration to, well, the Buenos aires Superclassico, in this extended version. Great stuff:

- Who buys Simpsons comics? I don't know. I've never bought one or even read one. But Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror 15, out this week, changes all that. edited by Sammy Harkham, cartoonist behind the brilliant Poor Sailor and editor of Kramers Ergot, it features work from a slew of Kramers Ergot regulars including Kevin Huizenga and Jeffrey Brown. Basically an indie Simpsons comic, then, which sounds like a good thing to me, especially since Huizenga is one of my favourite working cartoonists...

- I love Big Star. Probably my second favourite band of all time (after the Beatles, obviously), the exhaustive new boxset has made me a happy boy. Amongst the many alternate mixes, demos and live readings there is a single mp4, setting some vintage footage shot by band members Chris Bell and Andy Hummel against the classic "Thirteen". That same footage has been on YouTube for an age, only here its set to the far jauntier "Thank You Friends". Either way, its fantastic

Olivia De Havilland.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Haiku 2

Frenchman spins and flips
Between thin lines of blue light
I think of his wife.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vintage Trailer of the Week 37

Peter Fonda, given free rein after the massive bounty of Easy Rider in 1969, followed it with this far superior though nicely modest, near-perfect little Western. Warren Oates is even better than usual, Fonda is great, and the score and photography are both fantastic:


Thursday, September 17, 2009

"The Idiots are winning" - Brief Retrospective Notes on Nathan Barley

Nathan Barley was a sitcom broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK in February and March 2005 created by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris. It followed the lives of a few characters involved with the hipster media in London around that period. After intense pre-screening hype, it suffered something of a critical backlash upon transmission and never really found the popular audience it might have done.

- Ridiculously prescient. Frighteningly. About New Media, pop culture, London...watching it now it feels like so much of it came true. The omnipresence of YouTube, most obviously. Mobile phones that do everything.

- The mixed reception it received at the time seems baffling in light of its obvious and outstanding quality. As is so often the case, it may have had much more to do with expectation than actually taking the work on its own terms. Because it was subject to some astonishing hype. Chris Morris, whose importance has been increased by the relative infrequency of his output, was working on a sitcom. This was a big deal. Not only that, but it was being co-written by Charlie Brooker, the hipster's favourite TV critic and creator of hilarious, way-ahead-of-its time website, TvGoHome. How could it go wrong? Surely it would be the funniest thing EVER? Not only that, it would be satirical, darkly political and multi-layered, like all the best Morris material. And splenetic and passionate like Brooker's writing. It was gonna be AMAZING!
And it is amazing. In its small scale, human way. Its focus is precise and right on target - it takes aim at a tiny subculture of hipster Londoners. They existed - back then, at any rate - in Hoxton and Clerkenwell and Shoreditch, they worked in New Media, they were fashion pioneers (skinny jeans, "Hoxton fin" hair etc) and plainly, they were loathed by Brooker and Morris. Because Nathan Barley destroys them. It observes their little world perfectly, mocks their cultural reference-points and lifestyles, and rips them to shreds.

- But it does this through an unexpectedly traditional format. This is a character-based sitcom. Every episode creates a situation and then maneuvers these people through it. There are dilemmas, there is embarrassment, there is humiliation. Nobody really grows or learns a thing. Barley himself only ends one episode as the butt of the joke, and that is forgotten by the next episode, when he is again obliviously incorrigible. Dan's pain, by comparison, builds up as the series continues, driving him more or less insane.

- Ben Wishaw as Pingu delivers a full-on method performance in this day-glo nightmare of a sitcom. He is incredible. Pingu is perhaps the most human element of the show; an open wound of anxiety, shyness and fear, tormented by Nathan, in love with Clare, too weak to do anything about either situation. Wishaw's battery of microscopic winces and barely perceptible grimaces is brilliantly deployed until his few moments of hope and happiness become heartbreaking. I've seen him be great in other things, and I'm sure his career will have its fair share of triumphs, but here he is perfect.

- Dan the Preacherman is Brooker's take on his own persona. Or Morris' take, maybe. A bitter, angry drunk who is trapped in a job he never wanted, surrounded by people he considers "idiots". Whose personal life has already slipped away. Who is having to compromise in his work, to his own disgust. Who has made a brand out of his disgust and then finds it lapped up by those who disgust him.

- A certain tiny slice of London life is generally ignored by the mainstream media, who concentrate upon the middle classes, the working classes, and the upper classes. But these young people, living "media" lives in their funky urban areas, with influence over fashion and music and pop culture in general, they are ignored. Nathan Barley, on the other hand, ignores just about everyone else and concentrates only on a single idea -that these people talk a lot of rubbish, create a lot of rubbish and don't really matter at all. But they are unintentionally funny, in their oblivious solipsism. Their clothes and hair are funny, the music they like, art they patronise, magazines they read - these are funny. The show's parodic versions of music and art aren't even all that parodic - they are so close to what they parody they could almost be real. SugaRape in particular.

- "Well random." "Well Bum," "Peace and fucking," "Michael fucking Jackson," "Later treacletits," "Well brown," "Later sugartits," "Watch the fuck out," etc etc. On an on. Almost the best part of any given episode were Nathan's inane, bizarre catchphrases.

- That cast! Both of the Boosh boys, Wishaw, Matthew Horne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nina Sosanya and Stephen Mangan among others. Attracted by the Morris name, no doubt, but watching it now it seems (by UK tv sitcom standards) outrageously classy.

- Speaking of the Boosh boys, I've never liked Noel Fielding, since I saw him do stand-up a long time ago. Some aspect of his kooky wannabe rock star persona irritates me. And here he is cast as vaguely unlikable, which pleased me immensely, and works in the programmes favour.

- It makes me miss TVGoHome. Charlie Brooker will never be better than he was then, before he started working for the man. Hes still funny, mind. Especially in his Preacher Man mode.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On your Nike

Every year, Nike gives a Big Name Director a Big budget and presumably a Big salary to make an Epic, overblown advert for them. They really take their branding seriously. Nike is life or death in Nike adverts. Anyway, Michael Mann did it in grand style a couple of years ago, as did David Fincher last year. Well, they've stuck with Fincher again for this year, and whatever you think of him taking corporate green, or whatever your opinion of what Americans call "football", or even if you think he sucks as a director, this is a beautiful piece of film-making from start to finish.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo, 1975

DP: Ernest Vincze


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shuffle : First Girl I Loved

And you're probably married now, kids and all,
And you turned into a grownup, female, stranger.
And if I was lying near you now,
I'd just have to fall.

For me, The Incredible String Band are possibly the archetypal Bad First Buy Band. I had read so much about them. Always invoked in lists of great 60s music, cited as underrated greats, an influence disproportionate to their success etc, they sounded fascinating. Back before the Internet and its access to a million opinions with a click of the mouse, I was dependant upon magazines - obviously, far more important then than they are now - and the odd book to fill me in on the many bands I was interested in learning more about. The All Music Guide - now a website I click on quite regularly - was then only really a massive encyclopedia of Rock Music I referred to obsessively. I would read it to see where was the best starting point for a band, which albums got five stars, which ones to avoid.

Well, the Incredible String Band's best record was reputedly their sprawling 1968 album The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. So I found that one secondhand one day, bought it - and hated it. It seemed like a twee mess of psychedelia and medieval folk with touches of world music instrumentation sprinkled throughout. It almost sounded like a parody of what a 60s psych-folk record could sound like. Sure, it was admirably ambitious and adventurous, but that didn't make it any better to listen to. I couldn't find enough to hang onto in terms of melody or
writing to make all the experimentation any more palatable, and so I gave up. It was one of those cds I owned but never ever listened to, and it totally informed my view of the band. The ISB (as I will henceforth refer to them) were a pretentious 60s museum piece of a band, to me.

Until a few years ago. I bought a twofer cd of two Judy Collins albums; Wildflowers (1967) and Who Knows Where The Time Goes (1968). The only Judy Collins I had been previously aware of were a couple of covers. Her sublime, near-definitive version of "Send In the Clowns", which is absolutely heartbreaking, and her take on Sandy Denny's lovely "Who Knows Where the Time Goes", which, while good, pales in comparison with Denny's own devastating version. But I knew she had a magnificent voice, and that Stephen Stills had played on many of her late 60s records, since the two were an item at the time ("Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", from Crosby, Stills and Nash is about her), and that some of the choices for covers she made were impressively outside the norm. One of the songs she chose to cover on "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" was called "First Boy I Loved" , and on my first listen I loved it.

A dense, rambling emotional tour of an ageing heart, Collins' version is a mid-tempo, full band production. It sounds big and casually epic, with piano and pedal steel and a big fat bass sound in a really deep mix. Stills plays some incredible guitar, chiming, powerful, intricate and perfectly judged, and Collins sings the lyric as if she is thinking it up as we go along, with that sort of exciting spontaneity, the band swinging along at a respectable distance. Her voice is really the most stellar instrument on display, and everytime she soars upwards with the melody in that effortlessly powerful, achingly lovely way it is absolutely thrilling. The loping melody is elusive, yet ripples through the song at a couple of intensely beautiful junctures, swelling up as if to suggest the emotional surge the memories in the lyrics evoke. And those lyrics have just the right mix of plain-spoken banality and melancholy poetry to become extraordinarily moving.

I checked who had written it. The name Robin Williamson sounded familiar, and a little research revealed that the song was an ISB original, entitled "First Girl I Loved" and included on the album 5000 Spirits Or The Layers of the Onion, the band's second release. Well, I bought that, and loved it. Whether that was because I had grown up since my traumatic experience with The Hangmans Beautiful Daughter or because it was a vastly superior record, I'm not quite sure. Its not quite so psychedelic a record as Hangmans is, while still providing examples of the ISB in experimental mode. The songs are mainly traditional British folk in composition, only radically altered by their treatment and the use of Arabian and Indian instrumentation. As well as "First Girl I Loved" there are great songs like "Little Cloud" and "The Hedgehog Song".

But it was "First Girl I Loved" which really converted me. The ISB version is a wonder of acoustic guitar played like Rickenbacker, a storm of bright chords always providing the song's foundation, in counterpoint to a bass string instrument, perhaps a cello or fiddle, cutting away underneath. The melody is full of awkward swings up and down, but Williamson makes it all sound natural and deliberate, his folky keen perfectly attuned to the songs emotion and requirements. This version is younger then Collins', in sound, in outlook. The playing is more energetic where Collins' is languid. Also less melancholy, but there is a sadness inherent in those lyrics which seeps into any reading of the song, I think.

This is chiefly a song about the magic of first love, of teenagers who "didn't have no place to go". The opening line lays it all out, all Williamson's intentions: "First girl I loved/Time has come I will sing you/this sad goodbye song/When I was seventeen, I used to know you." After that the lines are studded with details from memory: "Your long red hair falling in our faces/As I kissed you" "In the white hills and beside many a long water", and regret for what seems to have been an ugly split: "Well, I want you to know, we just had to grow/I want you to know, I just had to go" and "Well, we parted so hard/Me, rushing round Britain with a guitar/Making love to people/That I didn't even like to see." The last line is a final goodbye, sealed with a reassurance that the singer is alright too, that he is with a woman, "Maybe someday to have babies by", who is pretty and a "True friend of mine". But for him this first girl is lost, gone, a mystery, possibly married, and perhaps the darkest line in the song, considering the social and cultural era of its composition, is this: "Last time I saw you/You said you'd joined the Church of Jesus". When this line is considered, the line about her being "probably married now" sounds like wish fulfillment, like some hopeful hippie prayer. And, as in much art, the suggestion of a little bit of ambiguity may be the final element in making a great song a sublime song. Which this definitely is.

Since then, Jackson Browne has also covered the song, but it remains a curiously undervalued gem from an era rich in treasures. The ISB are a cult act, at best, while Collins' popularity has frighteningly waned since her heyday in the late 60s and early 70s.

This is a tremendous acoustic demo by Williamson, remarkably close to the studio version in sound and effect:

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pointless List : Knife Fights

The greatest fictional knife fight I have encountered is in the third volume of Cormac McCarthy's "Border Trilogy"; Cities of the Plain. Here the young hero goes to face the pimp of the young prostitute he has fallen in love with. McCarthy knows how to write violence so that we feel every stroke of the blades and hear the spatter of every drop of blood, and yet the long, thrilling scene is also lyrical and poetically beautiful. It ends badly for both men. Andrew Domink wrote a screenplay for an adaptation of McCarthy's book but could not get finance and made The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford instead. And much as i adore that film, it is regrettably devoid of any knife fights. I know Dominik would have done a fantastic job with the knife fight scene. The razor blade and ear scene in Chopper tells me so.
Some other notable knife-fights:

Tommy Lee Jones vs Benicio Deltoro
William Freidkin's Hunted is basically about knife-fighting. Many scenes depict men using knives to hurt other men, or men showing men how to use knives to hurt other men. It makes sense then that it should climax in an epic knife fight between the two alpha males at the centre of the film's story. Atop a waterfall. With knives they have constructed themselves, that very morning. More or less a remake of First Blood, Hunted depicts Jones' character in pursuit of Deltoro's mentally unstable rogue Special Forces Soldier through the Pacific Northwest. Flashbacks reveal that Jones was his instructor, teaching him, amongst other things, knife-fighting. How to kill a man with a few simple strokes. We see that Deltoro has learned well from the way he disposes of some hunters at the start of the film. Friedkin fetishizes the knives in the film. We see them cut through the air, sleek and black and deadly, we see them beaten into shape for the final combat. It is almost suggested that they are the only honorable weapon - so personal and intimate, so messy. These men are natural warriors, at home in the wilderness, and knives are their weapons of choice.
For the climax, Jones makes a knife from stone, like some caveman, while DelToro gets all ironmonger and forges one from steel. They have a tense, visceral fight on top of a waterfall, the mist rising around them. It involves a lot of feinting and blocking, and hammering gripped knives toward each others chests with free hands. Theres a lot of brutal wounds and blood. One of them wins. It feels like what knife-fighting probably would look like if trained men were doing it, and is horrific. The influence of the Bourne films is obvious here. The first two Bourne films both feature scenes where the hero fights a man armed with a knife, in which he must improvise his own weapon - a pen and a magazine, as it happens. Each scene is shot and edited for maximum visceral impact - the blows amplified and exaggerated, the flesh wounds made fleshier, more wounding. Hunted copies this attention to the grimly undeniable physical reality of this kind of violence, and it benefits from that approach.

2. Kill Bill Vol 1
Uma Thurman vs Vivica A. Fox
This is just the opposite. An utterly movie knife fight, this finds two beautiful women waving blades at one another and smashing through walls and furniture for a few minutes. The cinematography is lovely, and the best part is the sound design - the zipping noise the knives make as they cut the air is beautiful, the kind of noise a child makes to simulate a knife against air, and pushes the scene in so much more of a sensual diection, without the grisly realism of Hunted. The wounds sustained are movie knife wounds - long, deep, bloody nicks, which do no real perceptible damage, just make people grimace in pain and slash open clothing in a dramatic but visually appealing fashion. Tarantino, regarded as one of the poets of cinematic violence since his debut with Reservoir Dogs, abandoned any semblance of realism entirely with the Kill Bill films. They exist in a universe more outlandishly cartoonish than the rest of his films, and the violence is accordingly amped up and archly hyper-real. Here, the domestic setting suggests authenticity, but the lighting, the colour scheme and the action create a pleasing tension through their knowingly lush, artificial beauty.

3. The Long Riders
David Carradine vs James Remar
A western knifefight, just as it should be. In a saloon, over a whore. Walter Hill's Western is intent on depicting each of the Western's many rituals as a way of portraying community and placing his outlaws firmly within it, and so we have a hold-up, a dance, a courting, and a knife-fight. These men each take one end of a sash in their mouths, maintaining an equal distance between them at all times, the way the ancient Greeks used to box, bound together so that there was never any recourse to flight. Their blades are enormous - footlong implements like mini-swords. And yet the actual combat is like a ballet, all arcs and slashes and supple twists and pivots on toes. Carradine's long coat flows around him like a cape and he displays all the grace of the martial artist he was, whereas Remar's brute athleticism is emphasised by Hill's choice of shots. Hill, ever the excellent action director, makes it hit hard.

4. From Here To Eternity
Burt Lancaster vs Ernest Borgnine
This one never really gets off the ground. Stockade-Guard Bully Borgnine has an encounter with cocky Italian Frank Sinatra in a Forces Bar in Honolulu before Pearl Harbor. He is itching for a fight with the skinny little shrimp, only he is rudely interrupted by Sergeant Burt Lancaster, brooding due to his troubled romantic life (think Deborah Kerr and a wave). Borgnine pulls a flick-knife when faced with the obviously formidable hulk of Lancaster. Burt grins that cold grin, and we can see in that moment that on this particular night, he is happy for this opportunity to hurt someone. He picks up a bottle off the bar and casually smashes it, then beckons Borgnine forward. Borgnine thinks better of it. We can see the fight, how it would have gone, however. How Lancaster would have carved up the fat man and how brutal it would have been. Altough director Fred Zinnemann never evinced the greatest eye for action, we almost regret not having actually seen it, especially when Borgnine meets Sinatra again, this time in the Stockade.

5. West Side Story
George Chakiris vs Russ Tamblyn
AKA "The Rumble". Shot by director Robert Wise like a musical sequence, this is a dance, the two men dramatically circling and moving toward one another as the crowd surges and retreats around them. The colours are hallucinatory - the infernal red lighting beneath the bridge in the background matching the red on Chakiris' sweater - and it almost seems to be a single take, with the camera set back for a mid-shot of that massive soundstage. Despite this, the violence of it is shocking. This is an opera, after all, every emotion heightened, so that the first death here - so hammy and camp in the way its played and presented - is also incredibly effecting. "Maaariaaaaa!!!!"

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, September 04, 2009

Haiku 1

Short Hollywood star
In meh Samurai Epic
Only he survives.

Labels: ,