Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Do you understand any of this?

After I had finished with the prescription films and readings, I had Nick and Nora fest. I watched "After the Thin Man," "Thin Man Goes Home," "Another Thin Man," and "Shadow of the Thin Man," This image is from "Another," I believe, and is a great scene in which Nick and Nora are presented with Nora's estate's yearly estimates as a threat. Nora asks Nick "Do you understand any of this?" and Nick, detective and new father, tries to decipher something about a logging company, maybe? Their patter is so cordial, so civilized, and yet she clearly can tell that he's at sea. They arrive at the mutual conclusion that to protect her financial adviser is in both their best interest, but there is no argument. I thought with our country's finances being what they are, it would be good to look at an image from a depression era movie of 2 supposedly rich people not knowing what was going on with their finances.

Another wonderful moment comes in "Home" where Nick is lying comfortably in a hammock when Nora comes out to sit with him carrying a cleverly folding lawn chair. It's actually very slapsticky as she tries to carry on both a conversation with her husband, and figure out this complicated piece of furniture. Eventually she gets it to resemble a chair, tries to sit in it at the same moment she is concluding her side of the conversation, and promptly the chair collapses. All this time, Nick is watching with nothing but amusement and admiration all over his beaky face. He does eventually get up (there are protests from Nora) and helps her with the chair, which she then eyes with suspicion and does not try to sit in again.

These parts of old films really interest me. The congenial, witty way men and women were supposed to relate to one another. I've been trying to devise a way of making these small, black and white short films, with lavish costumes and strange sets, where that kind of wit could once again be demonstrated. Not with any other plot, just the casual, intimate, character driven moments that punctuate old films.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Angry Flamingos

So, sometimes I draft these posts, and then something goes wrong with whomever's computer I've dredged up to use, and the damn things never get published! Quelle Domage! Anyway, this is the first of apparently 3 of those posts...

Recommended on that lovely list of things I had to look up were the movies of Kenneth Anger (Specifically "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome), and also John Waters, (specifically "Pink Flamingos"). Being the obedient student that I can sometimes impersonate, I made it through both. I had to turn the Director's Commentary on, and occasionally poke myself, to stay awake, but I did!

Kenneth Anger does make amazingly odd, sometimes short, films. He has been doing so for something crazy, like 75 years. I am surprised I had never heard of him, especially since I have had to sit through class discussions of Matthew Barney's work frequently. It's pretty obvious watching "Inauguration" where the "Cremaster" B.S. comes from. A drug laden, sleepy man in heavy make up, swallowing jewels makes his way through a series of rooms and performs several tests. There are angry, transforming female characters, repetitive, obnoxious noises, dream sequences and overt sexual bizarreness. There is symbolism everywhere, but none of it seems to be exactly culturally referential, instead more imagined. However, this is very low tech, filmed in someone's house, and there's a wonderful integrity to it that I find lacking in "Cre."

I made it through about 11 of Anger's films, and by far my favorite involved a midget dressed in 17th century clothes running through an Italian water park. His wonderfully creative, simple film making could have used more editing, but was absolutely gorgeous. I almost wished pieces were run slower, and that I was just able to leave them on in the background, almost as still photographs rather than films.

The opposite was true of "Pink Flamingos," as anyone who has seen it possibly could attest. I have a lot of respect for John Waters. I love him in interviews, and think that his passion for making films can't be matched. But, as it was intended to, the film just grossed me out. As much fun as I could tell they were having making it, I really wouldn't have gotten through it without the commentary. Mr. Waters was constantly telling side stories that were much more fun than the actual film. One was about the trans-gender flasher,"Government would pay for your tits, but you had to pay for your snatch yourself," I believe was the quote, "And now she's living in the Mid-west, has a couple of adopted kids. Nice Girl! I wonder if she ever watches this movie..."