Category Archives: Cam

Six Figures (2005)

Director: David Christensen

Screenplay: David Christensen

Here’s a surprise: a sharp, penetrating character study that doubles as a multilayered essay on domestic violence – made in Calgary, of all places. The location may not seem thrilling, but one soon discovers it is integral to the story.

A thirtysomething couple with two young children arrive in the latter-day boomtown Calgary, hoping to earn enough money in their new jobs to purchase a house and put down roots. The wife, Claire (Caroline Cave), finds employment at a local art gallery, where her ingenuity and savvy with customers quickly draws the attention of her (profit-hungry) boss. The husband, Warner (JR Bourne), has a head position for a non-profit community organization, whose acronym is, ironically enough, M.O.R.E..

The nagging pressure of getting ahead in a city so focused on material gain begins to weigh on the couple. At the non-profit, Warner must remain on probationary status with the board of directors until he can prove himself capable of fixing the damage left by his predecessor’s shifty accounting schemes. Before such time, Warner will not claim the salary necessary for Claire and him to afford a down-payment on a house.

Tensions rise between the couple. A spectacular blow-out at Claire’s work finds Warner storming off in a huff. Shortly thereafter, while alone at the gallery, Claire is bludgeoned with a hammer by a mysterious assailant, leaving her in a temporary coma. When police move in to investigate, they find that Warner is the only feasible suspect.

Adapted from an American novel by Fred Leebron, Six Figures marks Calgary-born documentary filmmaker David Christensen’s first and, to date, only foray into narrative feature filmmaking (he returned to the Toronto Hot Docs festival this past spring with his latest non-fiction feature, The Mirror). His direction here is remarkably sensitive, almost meditatively tuned to the implicit tensions between characters which threaten to explode with each passing exchange of dialogue, gesture, glance (e.g., an ostensibly innocent game of slap-hands played between Claire and Warner turns progressively unsettling). This slow-boiling unease, accomplished through a judicious use of soundtrack, master-shot framings and long-takes, among other strategies, has earned Six Figures aesthetic comparisons to the work of Michael Haneke.

Six Figures also demands favourable comparison with the Austrian master for the way it exposes how people in the present are doomed to inherit the conflicts of the past (Haneke’s Caché provides the superior example of this). Warner, for example, has not only inherited his predecessor’s malfeasance at work; he also seems to have inherited the violent temper his mother (Joyce Gordon) subjected him to as a child, possibly incriminating him further in the assault on Claire. If Warner is to (re)gain the trust of the other characters, and of the audience, he must prove himself capable of conquering his inheritance – of breaking the chains tying him to the indiscretions of the past.

The title “Six Figures” resonates in multiple ways. It can be seen to refer to both the salary that so agonizingly eludes Warner, and to an unseen sixth character in the story – indeed, the mystery figure who catalyzes so much of the five central characters’ (Claire and Warner; his parents, and her mother) grief. This latter figure is ostensibly Claire’s unknown attacker (if not Warner, then who?), but one could also argue that the “sixth figure” represents Claire’s absent father, a man whom we learn through subtle clues was an abusive presence in Claire and her mother’s life. (This absentee father also completes the set of three married couples in the film – Claire and Warner; and their parents – that together comprise a case study in marital and familial dysfunction.) Whichever way one chooses to interpret this ambiguous “sixth figure,” the term connotes a destructive influence in the collective characters’ lives: an axis-point of conflict and tragedy.

-Cam

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Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Director: Leo McCarey

Screenplay: Walter DeLeon and Harlan Thompson

Finally arriving on DVD in North America, through Universal Home Video’s intriguing “Vault Series” of manufacture-on-demand DVD-Rs (available exclusively through Amazon.com), Leo McCarey’s Ruggles of Red Gap is a very pleasing fish-out-of-water comedy enhanced by the director’s humanistic feeling for his characters and their social condition.

The film opens in Paris, 1908. Charles Laughton portrays the Ruggles of the title, a stodgy British servant whose world is turned upside down (or right-side up) when his master (Roland Young) loses his services in a poker game to a nouveau riche American couple. Hilarity ensues as Ruggles discovers that his new employers, a Mr. and Mrs. Floud (Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland), helplessly lack the social graces befitting masters of the house. The husband, for example, encourages Ruggles to drink on the job, leading to a very amusing and very touching sequence in which Ruggles gets soused and goes for a blissed-out ride on a merry-go-round.

Mr. Floud further insists on calling his new manservant by the nonsensical sobriquet “Colonel.” This particular faux pas incites a major misunderstanding back in the Flouds’ hometown of Red Gap, Washington, where the locals confuse the nickname “Colonel” for a genuine military designation, and celebrate the humble butler Ruggles as a distinguished member of the British Army. His social standing thus flipped, Ruggles grows to appreciate the life of an (accidentally) independent man, and resolves to strike out and make something of himself in his newly adopted country.

In the hands of McCarey and Laughton (who gradually suffuses Ruggles’ droopy, solemn countenance with pride, dignity, and good humour), this is a very sweet story of personal triumph over class barriers. So sweet in fact that one is tempted to forgive the whiffs of Hollywood flag-waving (see: Ruggles’ recitation of the Gettysburg Address in a Red Gap saloon), and the complementary aggrandizements regarding how far individual rights and freedoms actually extended in America at the time (the Flouds’ Black maid and Chinese servant are conspicuously forgotten about in all the hoopla surrounding Ruggles’ ascent to independence). Though it’s never quite as funny as Lubitsch’s Ninotchka (1939), another assimilation-of-foreigners comedy (in which Garbo the communist learns to laugh!), Ruggles does claim the highroad over the latter film by avoiding easy condescension about how bad-off Ruggles was before his American conversion. To wit, McCarey doesn’t hard-sell America’s superiority over other nations and ways of life, but makes a gentler point about how much more fun, enlightening, and affirmative life among equals can be.

-Cam

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Perfect (1985)

Director: James Bridges

Screenplay: James Bridges and Aaron Latham (based on Latham’s articles for Rolling Stone Magazine)

Here I am again, stuck in the ’80s, like some broken Jan Hammer record. Between posts on Thief of Hearts, A Night in Heaven, and now Perfect, reviewing sexed-up, widely reviled stuff from the Reagan-era Hollywood assembly line is fast becoming my schtick here at Wipe. I might as well make this a running feature of the blog: “Searching for Sex in Reagan Hollywood’s Junk Trunk.”

Maybe it’s my fault for continuously seeking out such films; I admit I’m fascinated by ’80s Hollywood as an era of vulgar ostentation, cheeseball culture, and recrudescent conservatism. There’s also something extra-horny about Hollywood in the ’80s (perhaps it was all the coke being passed around at Don Simpson parties). The perspiring hardbody seems to be the sex object par excellence during this time; sweat and athleticism (or muscles) are fetishized (see Flashdance for arguably the key female figure of this fetishization; or really any Stallone movie for the macho-violent male alternative). What struck me about James Bridges’ Perfect as I watched it recently was not only that it took as its main focus Hollywood’s obsession with sweaty, fit bodies (the obsession to be “perfect”), but that it actually, almost in spite of itself, yielded insights into this phenomenon. I also found the film noteworthy for being less asymmetrical in its sexual politics than is usual for films of its type, i.e. ’80s Hollywood entertainments where the plot pivots around the problem of facilitating coitus – the methods used, the ethics involved, the reasons behind. And yeah, I realize I’m casting a broad net here.

Perfect sets out to blow the lid off the L.A. sports gym culture of the early ’80s. Based on articles by real-life Rolling  Stone writer Aaron Latham (who also wrote the script for Perfect), the film follows journo Adam Lawrence (John Travolta, playing the Latham part) as he braves the California gym scene to research a piece on how fitness centres are fast replacing single’s bars as the primo destination for eligible, lusty bachelors and bachelorettes on the West Coast.

At one of the gyms Travolta meets Jessie (Jamie Lee Curtis), a popular aerobics instructor whom he immediately targets as the central figure in his piece, being most drawn to her sexually. She refuses to let him interview her, explaining she’s been burned before for trusting a journalist (more on that later). But Jessie has no qualms about going to bed with him, and in fact is the first to make a pass, doing so by typing “Wanna fuck?” on Adam’s word processor – a pre-cell phone example of “sexting,” to be sure.

Even as one appreciates the brazenness of Jessie’s sexuality (in contradistinction to the repressed female leads in A Night in Heaven and Thief of Hearts), one cannot help feeling a little bemused by Jessie’s conviction that she doesn’t need to trust Adam as a journalist to want to have sex with him. Integrity is not an immediate issue for Jessie and Adam’s sexual relationship; in the beginning, it’s just “physical, physical” (to quote one of Travolta’s erstwhile co-stars). A very funny sequence (that’s also supposed to be very sexy) has Adam and Jessie facing off in one of her aerobics classes, where she pushes an increasingly risqué set of groin exercises, as if to test Adam’s ability to match her, hump for hump, in sexual endurance. The inherent narcissism of Jessie’s routine – she becomes more attracted to Adam the more he imitates her, and we might say vice versa – is enhanced by the mirrored walls of the aerobics room. In essence, the whole act of the group workout becomes masturbation en masse, with each person concentrated on his/her reflection (Jessie and Adam act as each other’s reflection). The sequence imbricates a fetish for the hardbody with an obsession over self-image, in the process becoming a perfect microcosm of ’80s vanity, topped off with an utterly vacuous pop beat (“Shock Me” by Jermaine Jackson and Whitney Houston).

Yet – surprise, surprise – Perfect is not only out to peddle gyrating gym bodies and superficial sex. Eventually serious complications arise in Jessie’s ongoing distrust of Adam as a journalist, when she discovers that he has, after all, been crafting a totally exploitative piece on the fitness centre and its horny-but-good-hearted patrons (one of whom [Larraine Newman] carries a reputation as “the most used piece of equipment in the gym,” a nickname Adam shamelessly picks up on and builds his cynical article around). Jessie breaks off the affair with Adam, remembering all too well the hurt once caused by a journalist who betrayed her trust by writing an unscrupulous article about her relationship with her Olympic swim coach. In order to woo Jessie back, Adam must take a dramatic, unprecedented stand on behalf of ethical journalism. I suppose we’re to understand from this that being “perfect” is about more than having a wicked hot bod – it’s a matter of possessing honesty and integrity, too. Razzie-founder John Wilson, in The Official Razzie Movie Guide, cuts through this baloney quite aptly, arguing that Perfect‘s real message seems to be: “Standing by your journalistic principles is good for your sex life.” It’s a shallow premise, but at least the film has a more balanced notion of what a sex life is than sleaze like Thief of Hearts and A Night in Heaven.

If anything can be said to carry Perfect, it’s Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as Jessie. It’s a legitimately sexy star turn. The actress whipped herself into terrific shape for the role; she makes the aerobics routines sizzle, as hilarious as they often are.

And the film’s soundtrack’s not all bad. I’m now hooked on Dan Hartman’s “Talking to the Wall” thanks to Perfect – and thanks also, in no small part, to the hot-blooded Jamie Lee cardio-choreography that accompanies the song in the film.

-Cam

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A Night in Heaven (1983)

Director: John G. Avildsen

Screenplay: Joan Tewkesbury

From the Oscar-winning director of Rocky (1976) and the co-writer of Nashville (1975) comes this unbelievable mess of an ’80s romantic drama-fantasy (dramantasy?), centred on a Florida community-college professor’s affair with one of her students, who moonlights as a male stripper. The professor, Faye (Lesley Ann Warren), is having marital problems at home (her husband [Robert Logan] has lost his job at NASA, and is too tired or defeated to make love at night); the student, Rick (Christopher Atkins), is a bright but cocky 21-year-old who is paying his way through college working the peeler circuit under his nom de strip “Ricky the Rocket.”

One night Faye and a couple of her girlfriends visit the club (“Heaven”) at which Ricky is the star attraction. When he emerges for his big supergalactic dance number, among the hordes of ogling women he locks eyes with Faye (who obviously likes the kid, despite recently flunking him out of her class for his glib effort on the final exam); Ricky zeroes in on her with a series of sexy moves, and after some initial reticence on her part the two are caught in a passionate open-mouthed kiss. This will naturally have ramifications over the rest of the film, as Rick and Faye attempt to resolve their (forbidden) feelings for one another, while her suspicious husband battles with jealousy and his own feelings of inadequacy.


As much as I’ve tried to synthesize the plot for you, A Night in Heaven has to feature one of the most (unintentionally) incoherent narratives you’re likely to see out of Hollywood. Several critics (notably Roger Ebert) have surmised that large sections of Joan Tewkesbury’s potentially interesting script were excised in the cutting room, occasioning some pretty glaring leaps in the plotting and sizable gaps in the character development. I’d estimate that the husband, Whitney, suffers the most from the vagaries of the editing (for which director Avildsen is also credited). His character arc is meted out in choppy, bizarrely staggered scenes, the most random of which happens upon Whitney calmly loading a gun at his kitchen table – an almost surreal image given the filmmakers have yet to hint at this point in the story that the character is either suicidally depressed or homicidally suspicious enough to have any use for the weapon. (What Whitney finally does with the gun is equally random and ridiculous.)

I hasten to admit that A Night in Heaven does contain one extraordinary scene: the aforementioned “Ricky the Rocket” striptease. (Note: all stills in this review are taken from this scene; the scene itself can be viewed here.) The opening moments of this striptease are alone worth the price of admission: as the club emcee works the all-female audience into a frenzy of anticipation, Ricky, garbed in a disco-inspired version of an astronaut suit, rises from a blanket of fog to the opening chords of Jan Hammer and Next’s “Like What You See”; when the thumping beat of the song kicks in, Ricky takes to grinding his crotch along one of the club’s handrails as though riding a rocket like a bucking bronco. It’s all marvelously lit (love those glinting bubbles!), photographed and – yes – edited. Christopher Atkins, no doubt beloved by many as that curly-haired dude from The Pirate Movie (1982), brings an irreverence and joie de vivre to the striptease that makes it both hilariously over-the-top and surprisingly sexy, if in a highly corny sort of way. (Atkins was rewarded with a Worst Actor Golden Raspberry for his efforts; sometimes I think the Razzie folks have no sense of humour.) And in case you’re wondering, the scene doesn’t shy away from its gay connotations either, as Ricky at one point grabs the hand of the male emcee and, to the latter’s delight, playfully rubs it against his crotch.

If I were pressed to put my serious-face on and analyze the scene further, however, I’d have to concede that it does seem to evince an off-putting power imbalance (or power reversal) in the relationship between Ricky and Faye; if the latter is professionally-speaking an authority figure, she is mainly subjugated by the sexual authority of her pupil Ricky in the strip club, and at all points afterward in their affair. Faye seems positively intimidated by Ricky during the striptease, and because Ricky clearly senses this, there is a temptation to read the boy’s aggressive sexual come-ons as his (subconscious or not; harmless or not) revenge on Faye for flunking him in class – a way for the libidinous lad to gain the upper-hand. Though the film tries for a time to sell Faye and Ricky as a pair of kindred spirits (I think; one can never be sure with the editing), it remains obvious that Ricky acts as the sexual master of the relationship, guiding a trembling Faye through her paces as they conduct their illicit affair.

It’s a fairly ludicrous proposition – that the young, still-boyish Ricky could hold such sexual sway over the mature professional Faye (or perhaps it’s Lesley Ann Warren I’m thinking of) – but at least the film seems to understand this (e.g., by including an absurd scene meant to parallel the main action of the plot, in which Whitney goes to a job interview at an arcade-game company only to find that the position’s been filled by a ten-year-old boy), even if at the same time it fails to excuse the ideology behind making Faye so sexually timorous. As in Thief of Hearts (another piece of cheesy ’80s eroticism I reviewed, rather facetiously, here) the lead female character of A Night in Heaven seems fundamentally incapable of instigating sex on her own, requiring the assertive advances of a man (or man-boy) to unlock her sexual desires; this has the effect of not only denying female sexual self-determination, but also of positioning the male as both sexual liberator and sexual superior.* This is perhaps best encapsulated in Heaven by the first image of this review, where Ricky is framed from below, haloed like a glistening angel – a saviour – looking down on Faye, come to rescue her sexual soul. I’m not sure A Night in Heaven is quite coherent enough to constitute a thorough repudiation of female sexual autonomy (as Thief of Hearts does), but it does seem caught in that typically reactionary mindset of ’80s Hollywood that makes female sexual fantasy look alarmingly like male sexual fantasy. I’d love to track down Tewkesbury’s original script and find out where Avildsen’s film significantly truncated, and perhaps corrupted, her material.

Despite everything I just said, I stand by my claim that the dude from The Pirate Movie does a mean striptease.

-Cam

* Jonathan Demme effectively reverses this standard in his wonderful Something Wild (1986), in which Melanie Griffith’s flaky, fun-loving character liberates Jeff Daniels from his tight-collared repression by whisking him into bed before he knows what hit him. Griffith actually seems to enhance Daniels’ life, making him more adventurous, whereas in A Night a Heaven, Ricky only succeeds in subjecting Faye to his sexual whims, leaving her guilt-ridden about her extra-marital indiscretions.

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IMDb Top 250: The Sting (1973)

WIPE VS. IMDb

(Warning: If you haven’t seen the film, there may be spoilers below.)

Director: George Roy Hill

Screenplay: David S. Ward

IMDb rank: #99

IMDb user quote: “The caper movie uber alles . . . A magical plot, dead on art direction, brilliant supporting roles (most notably Robert Shaw, ya falla?), and the guiding hand of Redford/Newman chemistry make this one of Hollywood’s great films.” – moman818, from Los Angeles, 10/10 review

Wipe’s take: The Sting marks the second and final pairing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, an enduringly popular duo whose initial collaboration Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – also directed by George Roy Hill – currently sits at #148 on the IMDb top 250. It came as a bit of a surprise when The Sting took home an armful of Oscars in the spring of 1974, including Best Picture (it had been virtually shut out of the Golden Globes, earning only a screenplay nomination); however, by this time the film, a late-December-’73 release, had struck it big at the box-office and started a sensation on the Billboard charts with its soundtrack, composed mainly of old Scott Joplin piano rags adapted by Oscar-winner Marvin Hamlisch.* Today The Sting appears to have lost little of its ability to charm audiences, who remain enthralled by the Redford-Newman iconography, and perhaps even more so by the film’s playfully convoluted plot, which is divided into segments (“The Set-Up”; “The Hook”; “The Tale”; etc.) detailing the various stages leading up to the film’s climactic con (“The Sting”). As in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the keyword for The Sting is “fun”; its champions are most likely to laud the film as a supreme example of “pure entertainment.”

Viewing The Sting for the first time recently, I was indeed entertained, if not supremely so. I doubt I’m alone in confessing a penchant for films in which the characters hatch a plan that unfolds in carefully delineated stages towards some tremendously rousing payoff (I’m thinking not only of caper flicks but of prison-break perennials like The Great Escape [IMDb #100], The Bridge on the River Kwai [#70], and The Shawshank Redemption [#1]). The Sting follows this line of plotting admirably (it certainly had me “hooked,” to use the con-man parlance), except I would hesitate to call its climax rousing. When we finally reach the point at which the con-men played by Redford and Newman swindle the gangster Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) out of a half-million dollars, the victory occurs rather hastily (taking place within the last ten minutes of the film) and with surprisingly little fanfare.

Perhaps this is to the film’s credit. In an age where Soderbergh’s glitzy, preening Ocean’s trilogy sets the standard for its genre, it’s certainly nice to look back at a caper film with the good grace to underplay its climactic grift, and with the modesty not to bask in its own cleverness for too long. When Redford’s character declines his cut of the big score, telling Newman “Nah, I’d only blow it,” it’s a sign that both the character and the film itself basically mean well – for neither does it seem ultimately about the money, but rather about the humble rewards of pulling off a great story. (Actually, in the Redford character’s case it’s also about earning retribution for a pal Lonnegan had murdered. Almost forgot about that. Probably because the film’s so darn good-natured you tend to overlook the grisly murders that occasionally crop up.)

One other aspect of The Sting intrigues me, and that’s the handsomeness of Redford and Newman in contradistinction to practically all the rest of the major cast onscreen. Now, obviously, one expects that the best-looking people in the average Hollywood film will be its stars (except where Judd Apatow is concerned), but there seemed something especially pronounced about the unattractiveness of everybody but Redford and Newman in The Sting. (It also doesn’t help that Redford never looked fitter than he does in this film. Wow he’s dashing.) I’m not the first person to notice that the two lead women in The Sting are not what you’d call “conventionally attractive.” This wouldn’t bother me at all if one of these women didn’t happen to turn out to be a treacherous assassin (knew she was funny-looking for a reason!), and if the other weren’t relegated to a very unimportant role, despite the fact she’s playing Newman’s live-in love interest (knew she wouldn’t get much screen time!). Meanwhile, Robert Shaw’s character is made noticeably less attractive by means of a padded hunchback (if I’m not mistaken), and by a herky-jerky limp (which, in fairness, Shaw brought with him to the set from a recent handball accident).

Again, I should not be shocked that Redford and Newman turn out to be the most beautiful people in the cast. But I did detect a little more effort than usual put into foregrounding their beauty by surrounding them with mortal-looking people. (Plus I’m not even sure the two actors share many shots together. Better to admire them in separate close-ups I guess.) Even if I’m right, and this is the machinery of movie-star vanity at work, it hardly overwhelms the picture, which, as I previously stated, is pleasantly modest in tone and approach.

Does the movie merit top-250 status? I would say no, but it does belong near the top of any person’s list of “Movies with Impossibly Attractive Male Leads.”

-Cam

* Hamlisch’s score is often credited with reviving a ragtime craze in America, but the truth is that Joplin’s music had already enjoyed a popular resurgence a few years prior to The Sting, when Joshua Rifkin’s album of Joplin rags sold in excess of 100,000 copies in the United States. Still, the zenith of the craze has to be located in The Sting soundtrack’s reign at the top of the Billboard 2oo for five weeks in May and June of 1974. Semi-interesting footnote to all this: A Joplin biopic – called Scott Joplin – was released in 1977, starring Billy Dee Williams, and directed by Jeremy Kagan – a.k.a. the guy who would go on to direct 1983’s much-maligned The Sting II.

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Devi (The Goddess) (1960)

HAPPY 50th 1960-2010

Director: Satyajit Ray

Screenplay: Satyajit Ray

Met with controversy upon release in its native country of India, Satyajit Ray’s spellbinding Devi squarely lays the blame on superstitious religious belief for the dissolution of a family. As the film opens in late-19th-century Bengal, Umaprasad (Soumitra Chatterjee), a young student, is departing his teenage bride Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore) to return to his university studies in Calcutta. While Uma is away, Doya remains on a large property living with Uma’s father, brother, sister-in-law, and kid nephew. The widowed father Kalikinkar (Chhabi Biswas) is a devoutly religious man, and seems a bit unstable, but is blithely fond of Doya (calling her “mother” as a term of affection).

One night Kalikinkar encounters a vision in his dreams that convinces him his daughter-in-law Doya is the reincarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali. Shaken, the old man informs Doya of her divine status and positions her at an altar at the steps of his house, where the townspeople may come to worship her. Many are skeptical of Kalikinkar’s ravings, including Doya herself (note her scrunched toes in the image above) and her concerned sister-in-law, who keeps a watchful eye on Doya’s imposed conversion to goddess; meanwhile, the staunch rationalist Uma is stunned and angry with his father when he finds his wife objectified as a deity upon returning from Calcutta. These skeptics are challenged, however, when Doya’s “divine” presence appears to revive a peasant’s lifeless son from the dead, before everyone’s eyes. Even Doya begins to believe in her divinity, though she cannot quite say if she feels any differently inside when questioned by her husband (“Don’t you feel that you are human? Aren’t you my wife?”). It takes a tragedy within the family to expose the fallacy of Doya’s “healing” powers, and by this time many of the relationships between the central characters are irreparably damaged.

Satyajit Ray is an acclaimed master of realist filmmaking, his best loved films being perhaps the Apu Trilogy (1955-9), which took inspiration from Italian neorealism to chronicle the life of a young man growing up in South East India. A departure of sorts from the director’s realist roots, Devi proves Ray is equally adept at insinuating an atmosphere of the supernatural on film. Though we are eventually persuaded to dismiss Doya’s divinity, Ray earlier succeeds in clouding our judgment of the situation by inviting us to behold Kalikinkar’s arresting vision of Doya as the three-eyed mother goddess Kali, and by subsequently refusing to explain the apparent resurrection of the young peasant boy. There is also a spine-tingling scene set on a deserted beach – and scored with swirling, ominous music by Ali Akbar Khan – where a wide-eyed Doya, transfixed by the image of a broken down altar stuck in the sand, intuits the potentially harmful consequences of rejecting her divine calling. Here and elsewhere, Ray expressively blurs the boundary between piety and madness, confusing even the objective viewer.

This isn’t only a tale of superstitious versus rational belief, however; Ray is also concerned with mining the fraught territory of the generation gap in India, where the traditions upheld by the aged Kalikinkar clash with the modern-minded (in truth, increasingly Westernized) values embodied in his son Uma. Not surprisingly, the one who suffers most in this conflict is Doya, who essentially becomes an object of dispute between Uma and Kalikinkar, with each in his own way claiming rights to her. Critic Richard von Busack contends that “[Doya] is literally a battleground between the old and the new India”; fully cognizant of this fact, Ray locates the ineluctable tragedy of the story in the frazzled countenance of the young girl. Doya’s final, ghostly retreat from the household becomes the film’s truest vision of the uncanny: an image fit to haunt both traditional and modern India.

-Cam

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Happy Weekend.

I was stunned today when I came across this (NSFW) clip from Orson Welles’ never-completed final film The Other Side of the Wind (circa 1972?). Certainly formally brilliant, but I’ll leave it to you to decide: is it pornographic? Misogynistic? Subversive? Genuinely erotic? Other?

I just don’t know what to think of it. It’s such a charge to the senses. Taken in its isolation from the rest of the film, the scene is almost dangerously provocative and mysterious.

The Other Side of the Wind is a satire about an old-guard Hollywood director (played by John Huston) who in the early seventies decides to make a “sex-and-symbolism” picture, in order to keep up-to-speed with the New Hollywood countercultural movement (typified by such films as Easy Rider). I have no idea where the above clip fits into the story; possibly it emanates from the film-within-a-film. Hopefully soon Peter Bogdanovich or somebody will tackle a final edit of Welles’ raw material and we’ll really be able to sort out this scene’s meaning. (Or have it complicated even further.)

If nothing else, here’s proof that Welles’ career as a director can hardly be defined by studio films like Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil.

How did you react to the above clip?

-Cam

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