Archive for March 3rd, 2010

The world boils down to those who want safety and those who want to live. Safety is easy to understand. Life isn’t. The impenetrability of Mulholland Drive stems from a remarkable acknowledgment of just how dark and lovely is the drive we’re on. Mulholland Drive does tell a coherent story.   But it is a story hollowed out and scrambled on behalf of a display of almost universal self-betrayal. In succumbing to that gravity one retraces horrors going on forever. Thus the movie comes at us like a lava-storm from a volcanic explosiveness – a Pandora’s Box – whereby straightforward personal and public action defers to a more complex sequential power.

Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

Within a scenario crowned by countless dazzling moments, the performance of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” (“Llorando”), at Club Silencio, by Rebekah Del Rio, to an audience including the protagonist detectives, Betty and Rita, musters a level of detonation setting it apart and constituting the key to what could be an impenetrable evening out. An M.C. goes to bemusing lengths of histrionics insisting that at the Hôtel de la Silence there is no band and all the singing is taped. “Everything is illusion!” Then a plump, rather dowdy figure emerges from the curtains, her suddenly riveting face fills the screen and she lip-syncs a tidal wave of despair. The two investigators, who earlier that night had consummated their love for each other in a culmination brimming with beauty and forward momentum, begin to tremble and cry, tears streaming down their cheeks. For Rita it was tears alone; for Betty it was tears following from convulsive shaking. The performer collapses. The tape blazes on. She is carried from the stage, and Betty reaches into her glowing purse for a closed blue box (a Pandora’s Box), the blue key to which figures as ever more specifically crucial for their resolve to overcome the car-crash induced dilemma of Rita (and that of Betty, with no car-crash to blame), namely, “I don’t know who I am.”

Though a wide swathe of French New Wave cinema enacted again and again (none of the components of which more ardently, wittily, gracefully and pervasively than Jacques Demy)—as did Michelangelo Antonioni in Blow-Up (1966) and Wong Kar-Wai in In the Mood for Love (2000)—a secret tribute to the American film noir, Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and its serious business with Pandora’s Box, no American filmmaker would see the point in sustaining such a puzzling congress until David Lynch, a born exponent of horror and noir, manufactured his astounding vehicle, Mulholland Drive (2001). Among myriad instances of sureness of touch for such an endeavour about Pandora’s Box, was his assimilation of Demy’s epigraph to his first feature, Lola (1961), namely, “Cry who can/Laugh who will” (“Pleure qui peut/Rit qui veut”), attaining to the stature of an axiom of dynamical integrity. To maintain sufficient buoyancy (and its glee) upon the strike (kiss) of eventuation, calls for courageous and loving maintenance of that deadly opening. To settle into personal leadenness is to become lost in a zone of self-dramatizing and self-tormenting despair, notwithstanding adept compensatory manoeuvres (like the sensual coherence bursting through the performance of lostness by Rebekah Del Rio). Therefore, the giving in to tears and its implication in resentment undermines all the promise of their concerted dedication to casting light on Rita’s history—her past, of course, but also on powers more immediately pertaining to the present and future. With the onset of the tempting show of decadence in the club, a precipitous shift occurs. They return to Betty’s aunt’s townhouse, Rita recovers the blue key to the blue box having strangely materialized in Betty’s purse in face of the plunge that was the delivery of “Crying,” confronts an abyss, and finds that Betty is no longer there. Where she has gone is into the matrix of “Diane,” Rita’s homicidally possessive, betrayed and resentfully blue (crying) former lover. Demy had no interest in his players’ actually fitting into the personae of A.I. Bezzerides’ noir about Pandora’s Box, choosing instead to flick out echoes of the high risk action in such a way as to diminish those players in their historically honorable positions. Lynch, on the other hand, was attentive to the twists of quantum energies deposited by Bezzerides in the configuration of the credits to Kiss Me Deadly, coming about from the top of the screen but reading backwards from bottom to top. On making a move, one has been already visited by an electrodynamic double, moving downward at speeds superior to those of the straightforward output. In this way one’s unfurling of intent includes an outset of challenge to proceed aright. This structure of action encourages Lynch to oversee shifts from one incarnation (Betty’s wholeheartedness) to another (Diane’s half-heartedness). The pre-credit vignette of swing dancers of the era of Kiss Me Deadly, i.e., 1955, shows some of the jivers occasionally losing themselves in delving into large silhouettes of dancers (black holes). That motif constitutes the grounds for a panoply of startling and puzzling narrative twists. (A second vignette of heavy breathing under a bed sheet—redolent of Christina on the highway about to encounter Mike’s car—would be Betty, now Diane, having plunged from Club Silencio and the blue box suddenly palpable in her purse.) (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1922 20m) DVD1/2

Secret Policeman’s First Ball

p  Joseph M.Schenck  d/w  Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline  ph  Elgin Lessley

Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Eddie Cline,

How many people today have really seen any Buster Keaton films?  Of course many have seen the house gag from Steamboat Bill Jnr and the train sequence in The General, but who has actually seen the films in question?  Hopefully, since the advent of DVD and the superb Keaton box-sets in the States, France and eventually the UK, that will be rectified, but his shorts are another matter.  As with Chaplin, though the shorts are available, they are unjustly overlooked.  Critics may rave about them, but rave about them to each other, rarely actually converting anyone to them.  So how can I hope to convert anyone to Keaton’s shorts?  The first thing is to make sure I pick the right one and, in this reviewer’s opinion, there are three all-time great Keaton shorts, all of them from the annus mirabilis that was 1922; The Electric House, The Paleface and, my favourite, Cops.  It certainly isn’t that I like Cops any the more, but that it rather has a truly Keatonian narrative style.  The Electric House is a joyously hilarious piece of pratfall farce exquisitely rehearsed and The Paleface a wonderful tale of Buster’s running into some Indians.  Yet Cops is definitive Buster in that, like his greatest feature The General, it’s an escalation of gags.  Keaton’s most typical works are like cinematic Rossini overtures, building to crescendo upon crescendo with each gag topping the previous one and the pace quickening by the minute.  That much is certainly true of Cops(more…)

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