Monday, June 27, 2011

Old, Older, Oldest

I haven't just been watching insiped kids' movies, chilly, porcelain art films and meditative journey's through time. No, I do occasionally give myself time to see movies made before the invention of the DVD and thank heavens for that because the only film I've seen from 2011 that even approaches the brilliance of the follow trio of films has been Meek's Cutoff - a movie that has gotten a barely there release, even by Australian standards.

Beginning with David Cronenberg's frighteningly prophetic Videodrome seems as good a place as any, doesn't it? As I slowly make my way through the man's oeuvre I find myself becoming more and more of a fan. So much so, actually, that as I viewed the recently launched trailer for his latest, the Freud and Jung psychoanalysis A Dangerous Method, I kept hoping for something deliciously wicked to happen like - oh, I dunno - Michael Fassbender dissolving into a giant vagina made of goo and thorns.

Nevertheless, Videodrome is a crazy psycho-sci-fi-horror flick that paints a lurid, grotesque picture of a mentally decaying civilisation, which, in a neat twist, has turned out to be a spot on prediction of the future. Made in 1983, it presents a world where executives of a niche television network play amongst themselves trying to push the boundaries of taste and to tell you any more would be silly because, even though it's nearly 30 years old (!!!), to witness its hallucinogenic mindfunks free of knowledge is still the best way to go.

If you must - or if you've already seen it - how about this trailer! Created on a Commodore 64 with graphics that look like a long lost Lime record cover, it's certainly a relic of its time.

James Woods plays James Woods as always, but how great is Deborah Harry? She pops up in the strangest of places (usually Canadian) and yet is always a treat. As the seductress with an interest in the burgeoning kink scene, Debbie's "Nikki Brand" is a wonderful creation and it helps that she can play it so very well. Cronenberg is so enamoured with Harry's lips that they become the centrepiece of what is arguably Videodrome's most famous sequence. I love how smouldering she looks on the two ace Videodrome posters below. The film as a whole is just terrific though. Ugly and menacing, yet never stifling and claustrophobic. It's science fiction at its most fascinating and mind-blowing. Long live the new flesh Videodrome! A

I recently had the chance to see Victor Fleming's 1939 epic Gone with the Wind on the big screen and, without hesitation, I jumped at it. Screening at The Astor Theatre with overture and intermission in tact - the only thing missing was Marzipan creeping around the lobby (she was at the vet).

What is there that can be said about Gone with the Wind that hasn't already been said? And I'm not just saying that because I can't be bothered typing much about it, but because there really isn't much to say that wouldn't just sound like heavy squeals - VIVIAN LEIGH! THE COSTUMES!! THE SETS!!! VIVIAN LEIGH!!!! EVERYTHING!!!!! VIVIAN LEIGH!!!!!! ETC!!!!!!! You get the deal. Seeing it on a big screen was, needless to say, a bit better than a DVD on the TV (and, on at least one viewing, with the wrong side of the disc in, resulting in watching a hefty chunk of the film's second half before everything else. Oops.) I lost track of the amount of times my face lit up with a grin as big as Tara witnessing those images projected onto a cinema screen for the first time. Tomorrow is another day... A+

Lastly - just last night in fact - I immersed myself in The Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein's famed 1925 silent film about the mutiny on board the titular ship and the effects - albeit fictionalised - it had on the nearby port town of Odessa. It's an astonishing film, and one that is constantly surprising in its use of editing and cinematography, not to mention the curiously numerous moments of homoerotic imagery that Eisenstein, a gay man, put into the film. Querelle eat your heart out! Okay, maybe not that much...

As someone who finds his resistance to silent films deteriorating with each subsequent viewing, I was shocked by how little it felt like a chore to sit through as some silents can be. There was only one instance of my biggest silent movie pet peeve where a character speaks for what feels like a lengthy moment of time and yet only one brief title card of dialogue appears on screen afterwards! That's a win in my book. Much like the best silent films I have seen - Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and Nosferatu, Pabst's Pandora's Box, Lang's M and Metropolis - it has a vibrancy and a strength of storytelling ability that belies its origins. It's why I don't care for DW Griffith's The Birth of a Nation or Intolerance, both of which are unwieldy, excessive and over-wrought. For all the "he invented [insert camera trick]!" praise that Griffith gets, I couldn't help but feel that watching this film, and in particular the "Odessa Steps" sequence, was more akin to watching cinema for the first time. It's such a striking, deeply powerful piece of filmmaking that actually had be gasping. It's amazing how techniques seen hundreds of time since can still have such an impact like they do here. I'd heard about the "Odessa Steps" scene and everytime I saw those steps I thought to myself "is this is?" When it began, however, I could tell "oh, this is it!" and was instantly swept up, just as I was the rest of the film. A

I, unfortunately, feel like I could barely find time to watch all 74 minutes of Battleship Potemkin once this weekend let alone twice, which is what I wanted to do. I have heard the Pet Shop Boys' score to the film long before I'd seen the movie itself and now that I've seen it I really did want to watch it again with the sound on mute and their 2007 electronic synth driven music score on the speakers. It's a thrilling 69 minutes worth of music from the Boys - credited as Tennant/Lowe for some reason - and would be interested to see how it plays alongside the monster of a film. Has anybody done it or, better yet, been a one of the rare screenings featuring the Pet Shop Boys' score? People have done the same thing to Metropolis, which would be another fascinating combination given science fiction and synthesisers go hand in hand.

If you're at all like me and are curious, here is a video that somebody uploaded. Very interesting.

1 comment:

Mickche said...

I was just thinking of Gone with the Wind, and my response was not exactly the same as yours.
Whilst watching Gone with the Wind about a year ago, a scene from The Pixar Story came into mind. It detailed Katzenberg and a few others at Disney wanting to go for a edgy, smart alecky Woody and a test screening of storyboards with mock voices was described as unwatchable, as you just did not want to spend anytime with this character, let alone make an emotional connection. That is exactly how i felt towards Scarlett O'Hara and i could not stand over 3 hours of her.