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Category — biopic

Great Scenes – THE GODDESS

Having recently caught a target=”_blank”>trailer for the Michelle Williams vehicle My Week with Marilyn I was immediately reminded of The Goddess (1958) – directed by John Cromwell and written by one of Hollywood’s greatest scribes ever, Paddy Chayefsky. This thinly-veiled deconstruction of Marilyn Monroe is especially noteworthy for its vintage (made 4 years before her death!) and complexity, and seems a fitting reminder of what once made movies great – the way they challenged audiences to look past the visible into the gulf between representation and reality. In this day and age when movies are more primitive-minded and LCD-driven than ever before we need to look to the past to find complex films such as these to feed our malnourished minds. Kim Stanley‘s embodiment of the come-from-nothing-farm girl is more than just a revealing look at the starlet – it is also an examination of attention-seeking compulsive behavior which forever dooms those who seek their happiness in the approval of others. Just look at this scene where Marilyn – a lost soul torn apart by a constant need for attention – ineptly attacks her God-fearing mother where it hurts most.

and here’s another great scene from the movie (available in its entirety on youtube) in which Lloyd Bridges plays “Dutch” – another of Marilyn’s possessive suitors – a thinly veiled Joe DiMaggio?

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February 7, 2012   No Comments

Great Documentary – BURDEN OF DREAMS

BURDEN OF DREAMS is a lesson in humility that every aspiring filmmaker should see.

In Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, we are offered a glimpse of the Forest Spirit: a towering giant embodying the surrounding landscape and every living thing within it. If there were an analogous Film Spirit, it would no doubt look like Werner Herzog, the subject of this 1982 documentary by Les Blank. The charismatic Herzog embodies the history of cinema itself: the larger than life bravado of Samuel Fuller, the eye for detail of Stanley Kubrick, and the spirit of magic and alchemy of Alejandro Jodorowsky. In his quest for “essential truth” Herzog has made pilgrimages to islands evacuated due to erupting volcanoes, to the flaming oil fields of Kuwait, and to the wilds of the Amazon, where he first shot his masterpiece, Aguirre, Wrath of God, in 1972. This documentary concerns Herzog’s return to the Amazon to make Fitzcarraldo, the Quixotic tale of a man who dreams of bringing opera to the jungle. Like many “making-of” documentaries, Les Blank’s camera captures the usual problems – like Mick Jagger and Jason Robards bowing out of the film at the last minute, or investors balking at the mounting costs. But there are unusual problems as well – like a civil war between local tribes, or natives believing Herzog to be a god and offering to kill cantankerous lead actor Klaus Kinski for him. And of course there is the Sisyphean task at the heart of Fitzcarraldo, in which a 340-ton ship is pulled over a mountain – a feat which Herzog insists on creating without special effects, underscoring the similarities between himself and the character. This fusion of dreams, reality, and fiction is typical of Werner Herzog, and it’s what makes his movies (and this one) so transcendent. As Herzog puts it, movies and other forms of expression “might be the inner chronicle of what we are, and we have to articulate ourselves, otherwise we would be cows in the field.” If only the people filling our movie theaters and TV’s with franchise bullshit shared his viewpoint, we wouldn’t be feeling so… bovine as of late. Long live the Film Spirit!

June 11, 2010   No Comments

Great Puppet Debauchery – MARQUIS

MARQUIS is the other, lesser known “puppetry of the penis” movie.

1989’s Marquis is absolutely riveting, and so visually striking it’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen. Henri Xhonneux directs from a script co-written with Roland Topor, who was screenwriter of the animated classic Fantastic Planet and Polanski’s The Tenant. The characters in this film are played by dancers in full costumes and elaborate masks (sort of like the ones in Garbage Pail Movie but not as creepy, being less human-like). Their movements are subtle and hypnotic and weave a spell around the viewer, which when synced up to the overdubbed dialogue lends everything a sing-song-y quality. It works on some profound levels – I’m no psychologist but I can tell you there’s something deeply unnerving about watching a curvaceous body in a dominatrix costume sporting the head of a horse! The two main characters are the Marquis and his penis, and they spend a lot of time locked in prison, discussing various philosophies, among them the appeal of holes in nearby walls. And as you find yourself sucked in to this bizarre world where the photography is lush and the camera lingers on an adorable little penis face urging its master to take him out to play, you’ll no doubt feel several mixed emotions, many of them wrong – but in a good way.

May 21, 2010   2 Comments

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