Archive for March 17th, 2010

Lynch in his films engages his muse in a furtive way:
she is too hot to handle…

© 2010 by James Clark

A film so dark, violent and bloody as Inland Empire does not readily translate as abounding in whimsy. Notwithstanding that concealment, the movie does carry a peculiar payload of delight.

On bringing her wild drive to a close at an L.A. mansion where she was based while making a movie, some scenes of which were going to be shot in cost-effective Poland, Nikki Grace, played by Laura Dern, lowers herself into a sofa in the salon at high tea time, looks across the table at a far less bashed up mustering of herself and then looks around to find Laura Elena Harring, a.k.a., Rita, from Mulholland Drive. They smile and each blows a kiss to the other, the latter’s kiss having the inflection of Betty’s, “Taunk you, Daahlink.”

That latter bit of Slavonic fizz is about all the Poland you get in the glamorous, witty and subtle precincts of the realm of Rebekah Del Rio, Empress of the heart-stopping range of “Crying.” There is, of course, Betty’s Canada, readily emitting an uncool quotient as unsettling as Poland’s. (When Betty first meets Rita and blurts out that she’s just in from Deep River, Ontario, her new friend closes her eyes and reels slightly against a picture on the wall, not entirely because she’s just been through a near-death shake-up.) But Betty was a product of introspection indoors during long winters, and conjuring arcane, atypically slanted dreams to ward off a frozen nightmare, and as such she could go some distance with Rita toward a cogently hot “somewhere.” She eventually heeds the Cowboy’s advice to “wake up” to safe and easy rewards, leaving Rita confined to a solitary vigil on behalf of real excitement. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1928 88m) not on DVD

Long live Russia!

p  Adolph Zukor, Jesse L.Lasky  d  Josef Von Sternberg  w  Josef Von Sternberg, Herman J.Mankiewicz, John F.Goodrich, Lajos Biro  ph  Bert Glennon  ed  William Shea  m  Gaylord Carter  (video reissue)  art  Hans Dreier

Emil Jannings (Grand Duke Sergius Alexander/General Dolgorucki), William Powell (Leo Andreiev), Evelyn Brent (Natascha Dobrova), Jack Raymond (assistant director), Nicholas Soussanin (adjutant), Fritz Feld (revolutionary), Michael Visaroff (Serge),

A year after the release of avant garde classic The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra, Josef Von Sternberg directed another film for whom the title would not have been inappropriate.  The final command of the title could be interpreted one of two ways, and could even equate to a euphemism.  Did it refer to the words of his last command, or rather to the last position of command he held?  I tend to veer towards the latter, and that’s what is so typically Von Sternbergian about the whole enterprise.  The great Josef was cinema’s great master of artifice, as showcased in his exquisite series of films with Marlene Dietrich, but people forget that The Blue Angel was a turning point, the changeover of the guard, with its two stars pivotal to Von Sternberg’s career.

            Command details the fortunes of a Russian general, also a cousin of Tsar Nicholas II, who is left in command on the eastern front despite awful conditions, supplies and lack of men.  Finally he disobeys imperial orders and takes a stand (“I would take any risk to prevent a needless sacrifice” he declares to seductress Brent), but fate takes the matter out of his hands when the Revolution sees the overthrow of the Tsar and his country’s withdrawal from the First World War.  All of a sudden, his general’s train quarters are overrun by revolutionaries and he barely escapes being hung, before being degraded over and over by the men he once commanded.  He is helped to safety by the sacrifice of a woman (Brent) who had previously hated him and, dazed and confused, he crosses the Atlantic, where “the backwash of a tortured nation had carried still another extra to Hollywood.” (more…)

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