Monthly Archives: January 2010

  • The King of Marvin Gardens Bob Rafelson (1972 USA)

    The King of Marvin Gardens Bob Rafelson (1972 USA) Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Julia Robinson

    Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle 24 01 10; ticket price £4.00

    Adrin Neatrour retro crit: no backgrounds only space

    The King of Marvin Gardens (KMG) opens with a long heightened monologue delivered by David Sadler (Jack Nicholson ). It’s one of the pieces he broadcasts live on radio as a late night talk jock from a small sound booth; stories that borrow heavily from his past and his brother’s personal life. It forms the pre-title sequence that opens the film, and cues up the rest of the movie. It’s a key scene in a film in which Atlantic City provides the setting against which the characters act out the gestural processes of their relationships.

    KMG is an exceptional movie in that Bob Rafelson (BR) succeeds in making the setting of the film its prime expressive and active agency. Atlantic City shot and realised as an otherworldly dimension releases in the characters the seeds of their own fate as the forces of disintegration overtake Jason Sadler and his girlfriend Sally. David and Jessica are pulled into this entropic maelstrom, helpless collaborators in the theatrical endgame and incapable of playing any role other than true to type: she the goading competing female, he the mildly joshing critical audience and collector and keeper and spinner of the stories.

    In KMG there is no plot as such, or what plot there is simple drifts away on and off camera in a series of staccato and incomprehensible exchanges before finally dissolving into another chimeric phantasm. Instead of the processes of disintegration being stamped into the story line, they are instead scratched onto the topographical map that is Atlantic City. The beach the boardwalk the amusement park rides, the concession stands the exhibition centre the drifting bus tour day visitors the hotels with their private and public parts all become spaces and effects that incite and excite in the players increasing hallucinatory states of mind. The illusion of agency issuing from structure. But why not? Settings and architectures, palaces cathedrals White Houses and Skyscrapers can all create impossible subjectivities, psychic megalomanias and other instabilities in soul and vision.

    KMG doesn’t work by continuity in its action; rather it works by a series of set pieces

    that pitch the protagonists from one setting to another each with its own logic of execution that leaves each of the characters further adrift from each other and the anchorage of the real. Perhaps the main cop out from director/writer BR is his choice of an easy ending option with the gun. Perhaps he pandered to the Hollywood Preferred Ending of Climax, so that in the end the gun goes pop and the executives could go home knowing that something had happened. This particular climax in relation to the preceding development of the film wasn’t really necessary and imposed a simple reductionist solution on a complex situation. Perhaps this is the American way.

    KMG is underscored and made possible by very strong supportive acting, in particular from Nicholson as David whose repressed yet manipulative presence underpins the whole project. He’s only there for the story to be hoarded like gold and like gold easily workable and chased into many forms for many different functions.

    Adrin Neatrour

  • The Red Shoes Powell and Pressburger (UK 1948)

    The Red Shoes Powell and Pressburger (UK 1948) Moira Shearer, Marius Goring

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema: 22 Dec 2009 Ticket price:£7.00

    Retrocrit: Red for locked

    Hair’s a big thing in the movies. I think of Lauren Bacall’s hair that transmutes into undulating waves; Marilyn Monroe’s peroxide message of seductive untouchability; and to the case in point, the stupendous and overpowering red mountainous shock of locks adorning Moira Shearer. In both painting and film hair has an iconic function: iconic used here to mean a pictorial sign pointing to an idea about itself not the actuality.

    Hair is a feature that can set an individual apart from others, or divide off an ordinary personage from an extraordinary. In film, and in actual life, we are talking ‘coiffure’. It seems to me that the defining feature of ‘the coiffure’ is that it is a physical sign of ‘that which may not be touched’: a statement of a complete self containment. The outer perfection of hair in this form forbids or warns off physical engagement or psychic entanglement with the hair by any other party. As a sign, the coiffure is a statement by its wearer of their heightened consciousness of their elected function or appointed role which is expressed with a claimed state of physical and psychic apartness.

    In this respect hair, big style hair, is the natural adornment of both the Goddess figure and fairy tale figure. Screen goddesses and those taking on the role of female fairy tale characters are girls/women who are complete in themselves. They are immune to any other defining forces such as social status or male characters. In the case of the Screen Goddesses (such as Dietrich, Monroe) whilst they are on screen their hair allows them to carry themselves with little reference to either story or plot machinations. Of course their appearance in any given film is cued by the narrative, but what is actually happens is that they command the camera and our attention. On screen their presence expands to fill out consciousness. Plot usually has to move along when they are off screen or else be co-opted only with their gracious consent.

    In the case of the fairy tale movie (Garland; Shearer) the female protagonists, the fairy tale characters marked out by their hair, are enfolded into their fate by the relentless and immutable unfolding of the narrative, a predetermined mechanical vehicle that allows of no escape. As Vicky, Moira Shearer’s pile of red hair in the Red Shoes encompasses the elemental idea of her role; her assignation is with the fateful path pointed to by the story. There is no possibility of happy ending such as marriage (male force) or by herself somehow deflecting her fate away from death. The film simply follows her inevitable career from its beginning to its end. There is no possibility of either rescue from her situation or the setting in motion of forces that would free her from her fate. And Vicky’s hair is the signifier of her role as a being who cannot be touched except by the psychic elements built into the logic of the story. For Vicky Red Shoes, as with the little Mermaid and the Tin Soldier, there is no overcoming; there is only submission.

    It was Powell and Emeric’s (P and E) strength as film makers to understand the nature of their material, and what their material made filmically possible. They never try to make of their subject matter something that it is not. There is no conflict in the filmed story. There are only the forces at work within Vicky’s psyche. When Vicky replaces Baronskaya, the situation is not used as an opportunity to introduce a back stage melodrama. The process of her replacement is carried through without tears or resistance from Baronskaya,. In the fairy tale world of P and E. Baronskaya has in effect escaped Bluebeard’s castle in leaving the Ballet Lermonov, and thereby avoiding his psychic enmeshment. This also highlights the fact that the Red Shoes film script contains elements of the Bluebeard’s Castle story. Its narrative line is a sort of hybrid of the two tales, but with the fateful element drawn from the Red Shoes. But what P and E understood was that they were not making a Hollywood movie in which the characters invoke a pseudo ethos of optimistic self determination as per Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain They were dealing with darker material; hence perhaps their lack of success and recognition in the US, and also their difficulty in a post war Europe eager to buy into the hope of the American dream.

    P and E always use colour as a base element in their films. In the Red Shoes, constantly changing sets of colour wash through the film creating a world of enchantment. Although Technicolor is the medium, its purpose is not as in the Wizard of Oz to create the synthetic brash patina of the nursery; the hues and tones the greens yellows reds and blues of Red Shoes are muted, absorbent in nature, taking the viewer into the emotional grain of the film. The colour concept of P and E embodies the dark telling of a dark fairy tale.

    The visual highlight of the film, Vicky’s dance of the Red Shoes is a breathtaking montage of colour light sound, with changing morphing sets, that equals if not surpasses the sequences danced by Gene Kelly in Minnelli musicals where plastic film form creates a series of worlds out of a fluidity of images. “Dance is no longer simply movement of world, but passage from one world to another, entry into another world, breaking in and exploring”. (Deleuze – Cinema 2 p.63) Though the Red Shoes dance sequence has a different filmic function from An American in Paris, it does serve as the final initiation of Vicky and confirms her entry into the embrace of the fairy tale: something we knew all along because of that hair, but confirmed for us by an extraordinary sequence, that one imagines was studied by both Minnelli and Kelly.

    adrin neatrour

  • 2012.

    In the year 2009 we shall prepare for the end of times, the apocolypse, sometimes known as the rapture as written about thousands of years go by an ancient indio race known as the Mayans. This race faced its own demise at the hands of European invaders a few hundred years ago, an act we were all witness to the beginnings of in Mel Gibson’s almost documentary like piece, ‘Apocalypto’.

    These end of times predictions have been accurately layed out in painstaking detail by the director Roland Emmerich, to prepare us for our future demise which begins at the home of our modern intellectual elites and soothsayers, Hollywood. This film is the warning so don’t say you weren’t warned and what year were we warned about, a warning we can no longer deny. The year is ‘2012’

    I will now review these predictions, as layed out by our intellectual masters, who sit in the Holly land, right beside the mystical land of Disney. Before I do though, purely for Debbie’s mum so she also can enjoy the insight of this review, I will not use any foul language and for those who know me you will understand that, me not swearing in any mode of communication would be the equivelant of having person with a bad case of turrets presenting childrens television.

    I have had a few friends who have been obsessed with these Mayan scribblings and had to sit through their addled rantings about the end of times in 2012, sometimes for whole minutes. Luckily I have other friends who I could introduce these friends to before sitting by myself with a nice cup of tea. Human exinction can not be predicted because it wouldn’t be much of a surprise but there always has to be some Satan worshipping, (Stop ,no foul language, ‘nearly Debbie’s Mum’. Jesus this is hard. I hope you are not one of these religious types because I am holding on to blasphemy.) worshipper who has to ruin a surprise.

    Roland Emmerich’s ‘2012’ is an affects extravaganza, but you all knew it was going to be that anyway.

    You want to know about the story I hear. Is it cleverly woven,are there hidden depths and is there allegory within that has a message to us all. Are you all mad, it’s a disaster movie the weave of the story is as threadbare as old mother Hubbards kids, which will teach her to have kids so late in life. The film starts with a few cracks, that become gashes and finally everyone is shouting the sky is falling. The only depths come from the on screen tidal waves and sunamis and the allegory is America is A number 1, yaayye.

    Roland Emmerich has taken every natural disaster, disaster flick and woven them in to this tapestry of disaster. You know that disaster movie about the earthquake, I think it was called ‘Earthquake’, that’s in ‘2012’. You know that one about the volcano exploding, I think it was called ‘Volcano’, that’s in ‘2012’. You know that disaster film about destroying the big American city, the one that was a disaster, I think it was called ‘Godzilla’. That wasn’t in it but a lot of buildings and stuff do collapse in ‘2012’.

    I could talk about the actors and stuff but Allah wept (equal oppurtunist blasphmer.) what does it matter. I reiterate, it is a disaster movie. The affects are great and jaw dropping, although I bet there is not just a few geologists doing some beard pulling and probably even pencil breaking and saying things like,’who wrote this balderdash’ and ‘darn Hollywood’. (These, Debbie’s mum, are UN sanactioned expletatives.) The great affects are often rudely interrupted by heavy handed, slapped in stories of heroic characters, selfish characters, characters of regret, aaahhh!! Buddah almighty, who cares. If you can go somehwere to watch this flick with some friends, (preferably none who believe in the 2012 nonsense. Oh and no geologist’s either, it will only make them angry and you wouldn’t like geologists when they are angry.) somewhere you can shout at the screen, it will be a fun couple of hours.

    If you don’t see it though, it’s not the end of the world.

    Thanks to all who read this and Debbie’s mum.

    Love Whakapai