Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Vinyl on Film

This brother hasn't completely jumped back on the vinyl bandwagon, but he does appreciate the art of the 12" jacket.

The Great Silents

Was watching Corbucci's The Great Silence last week and, as I was marveling at the great Trintignant's completely silent performance, I started thinking about other impressive dialogue-less (or, largely dialogue-less) performances in otherwise all-talking films by actors who normally use their voices.  So, what follows is a sort of Rupert Pupkin Speaks-style list of others that popped into my head as I was watching Trintignant.  I'd be interested in being reminded of those I forgot and / or need to see.  What I dig about Trintignant in Great Silence or Warren Oates in Cockfighter is these are actors who's voices are normally important tools in their craft, as is the case with most actors in the post-silent era.  I'm a "less is more" person and I love minimalist, primarily visual storytelling, so to see an Oates, normally so verbose, in a performance where the rest of his body communicates for his voice, is an immense pleasure.

Oates' Frank Mansfield takes a vow of silence in Cockfighter.
Trintignant's Silence has literally had the voice cut out of him.
Joe Morton is enormously moving as the mute, displaced Brother from another planet and shows great comic skills, along with the requisite dramatic chops, as a friendly alien stranded in Harlem.  Jeff Bridges' wonderful performance as an otherworldly visitor in Starman was justly lauded in 1984, culminating in an Academy Award nomination.  Morton's turn in Brother, also from '84, is no less special.

Vincent Gallo is normally quite willing to shoot his mouth off, whether in character or in an interview, but he utters not a word as an enigmatic man on the run in Skolimowski's Essential Killing.  It's a really impressive performance as Gallo is physically taxed in very extreme weather conditions.

The following, are silent characters and performances that exist in talking films, but which don't follow the specific criteria I laid out above...

It's not a leading role nor a performance on the level of the above four, but Jack O'Halloran was a childhood favorite as Non, General Zod's wordless henchman, described by Brando's Jor-El as a "mindless aberration whose only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction."

A boxer turned actor, O'Halloran sells the violence and physical action aspects of his character as easily as one would expect, but he also articulates the childlike, funny side of Non.
I was more of a Superman watcher as a kid than Bond, but it seems obvious that Non was meant to evoke memories of this guy...

Another wordless brute who ultimately becomes sympathetic.
Tati doesn't really fit into my initial criteria, but one cannot not mention the work he did retaining the language of silent cinema, comedy specifically, decades after the end of the silent era.
An animated character, yes--more specifically, rotoscoped--but I do admire the makers of Heavy Metal, rightly accused of going overboard with the tits and juvenile humor throughout most of the picture, for closing the film with a half-hour long, deadly serious homage to Leone, Yojimbo, and Mœbius that stars a mute warrior woman.  Far as I can tell model Carole Desbiens never acted again, but those are her facial expressions, mannerisms and movements, which animators then traced over.

Monday, January 28, 2013

More from the Files of Film Bulletin

What a treasure trove for movie imagery back issues of this trade journal are.  I wish it wasn't so hard to find.  The Philadelphia-based publication once employed Joe Dante as a reviewer and managing editor so they knew what they were doing.

The best pre-Golan / Globus Cannon release and perhaps the most potent and important release in the company's entire history, including the more celebrated cartoon action extravaganzas of the '80s.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Films Within Films...or, Jurgensen x2

In the 1977 telefilm Contract on Cherry Street, cop Michael Nouri awaits c.i. Steve Inwood at the Queensboro Plaza subway station.  Note the tattered subway poster for William Friedkin's Sorcerer, also released in '77, to the right of Nouri. 
Yes, it's yet another example of this most exciting kind of synergy, this time Friedkin's Sorcerer turns up, in a way, in "dirty old New York" cop telefilm Contract on Cherry Street.  Interestingly, NYPD detective turned actor / consultant / producer Randy Jurgensen appears in both Contract on Cherry Street and Sorcerer.  Jurgensen broke into the movie game as a consultant on The French Connection...he was one of the cops who broke the case, along with Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.

He also appeared on screen, for the first time, in French Connection in a humorous role as the sergeant in the police garage.  In that film, Gene Hackman would win an Academy Award for playing Egan surrogate Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle.  Two years later, Robert Duvall would essay another Egan-inspired character, Eddie Ryan, in Badge 373.  Logically, Jurgensen appears in the latter film, as well, as a cop alongside Duvall, in the finale at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Jurgensen's connection with Sorcerer and French Connection star Roy Scheider would carry over to The Seven-Ups and Still of the Night.  With Friedkin, he would collaborate on French Connection, Sorcerer, The Brink's Job, and Cruising.  Jurgensen's undercover work in the '60s in the gay community of Greenwich Village, and the cases related to those assignments, directly inspired the narrative of Cruising.

Essentially, if you've seen a New York City-set, '70s policier or two, you've almost certainly seen some of Jurgensen's work, whether it be in front of or behind the camera.

Sorcerer remains at the center of a lawsuit put forth by Friedkin, charging the two studios who financed the picture, Universal and Paramount, with withholding profits owed to him and mismanaging the distribution and stewardship of the short: both studios plead ignorance as to who controls Sorcerer, which has kept it out of circulation on home video and the repertory circuit as of late.  Friedkin tweets that an end is in sight to the litigation.

Jurgensen plays movie trivia games with his partners, which include Frank Sinatra, over the airwaves in Contract on Cherry Street.
Jurgensen counsels Roy Scheider in Sorcerer.  Note the very pronounced collar Jurgensen sports in each screen shot.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

British Radio Advert Not on the DVD: The Silent Partner (1978, Daryl Duke)

The late Daryl Duke mostly directed for television in his native Canada, but there were a handful of feature credits as well, which include two superior films: Payday and The Silent Partner.  The former, from 1973, is a particularly dark and uncompromising character piece starring Rip Torn as an out-of-control, ego-maniacal country singer.  Made at a time when there was no shortage of provocative, challenging character studies, often of deeply flawed people, Payday stands out for its unvarnished view of its rather unappetizing main player and his world.  It's highly recommended, as is The Silent Partner, made five years later.

Just past his peak years of stardom, Elliott Gould headlines this Canadian tax-shelter jewel, as a mild-mannered bank clerk who tangles with a vicious thief played by recent Oscar winner Christopher Plummer.  Canadian Plummer looks to be returning home and getting as far away from the Sound of Music and Broadway as possible, relishing the brutality of his character here.  The always interesting Susannah York co-stars as one of two women in Gould's life.  French-Canadian singer and sex symbol Celine Lomez is the aforementioned "other woman" and a very young John Candy appears, in a fairly straight role, as a fellow bank employee.

The Silent Partner was based on Anders Bodelsen's novel Think of a Number, which was adapted by Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt for a 1969 film of the same title.  Both, alas, are unavailable in English translations, as far as I can tell.  For The Silent Partner screenplay, future White Dog scribe and L.A. Confidential helmer Curtis Hanson very adroitly moves the narrative from its native Denmark to North America.

EDIT: I was a bit hasty in writing that Bodelsen's novel wasn't available in English, as one commentor helpfully pointed out to me.  It's the original Danish film adaptation that appears to remain un-translated into English.  It appears the book was first available to English speakers in the late '60s, making it a little easier for screenwriter Curtis Hanson to adapt the novel than I had previously imagined.

The Silent Partner DVD from Lionsgate is barebones, but, most importantly, is 16x9.  I haven't located a trailer yet, but this radio advert from England (featuring a North American-accented English v.o.) is an entertaining diversion for fans of the film.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back in Print: Zoo Station (formerly Christiane F.)

The much lamented house flood that took with it most of my paperback book collection several years ago, claimed several rare, pricey items including the U.S. mass market paperback version of Christiane F.: Autobiography of a Girl of the Streets and Heroin Addict, published by Bantam in '82.

Happily, I've just learned that a newly translated English-language version has just hit the U.S. market for the first time in 30+ years.  Though I would really like my old copy back for its retro, nostalgic qualities and rarity, it's good that this book will finally be available again to English-speaking readers, particularly the young adult audience this scary cautionary tale was intended for.  There's a really interesting look behind the scenes of how this new edition came to be and what went into its re-translation...I hope this means the story's rough edges and graphic content won't be softened to satisfy the inevitable zealots.  As effective as this story is--and true--I think it's safe to assume this will not be welcomed with open arms in all U.S. high school curricula, sadly.

Surrender to Suburbia '79 / '82 (Or, "In My Room")

On the audio commentary track recorded with novelist / screenwriter Cameron Crowe and director Amy Heckerling for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Crowe take a couple minutes to praise Jonathan Kaplan's Over the Edge and its influence on him when conceiving Fast Times.

Indeed, there are some visual, aural, and thematic similarities shared by these two classic portrayals of suburban youth of the late '70s.  Although filmed in late 1981 and released the following Summer, Fast Times still seems to belong more to the '70s, which is appropriate given its roots go back to 1979, the year Crowe went undercover at Claremont High School, outside San Diego.

This video marries Crowe's comments to some of those elements present in both films.  Robert Romanus and Michael Kramer, who feature prominently in this video, share a rememblance:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Movies in Books: Phantasm -> Fast Times

"Whenever possible play Side One of Led Zeppelin IV...and take her to Phantasm."

Of course, Mike Damone famously championed Zeppelin in Fast Times at Ridgemont High the film and novel, both by Cameron Crowe.  In the book, Mark Ratner plays Zeppelin IV and takes Stacy to see the new film Phantasm.  In the film, probably due to licensing issues, "The Rat" plays "Kashmir" from Physical Graffiti and there is no mention of Phantasm or any other movie.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Don Coscarelli the other night in between a screening of his new film John Dies at the End and his third, perhaps most beloved, film Phantasm.  I was surprised to learn that he did not know of Crowe's mentioning of Phantasm in Fast Times, the novel.  He wanted to know why Crowe and / or director Amy Heckerling chopped this reference from the film version.  That, I said, he'd have to take up with them.

As I understand it, Crowe now controls the rights to the novel, which was last in print in '82 in conjunction with the release of the film.  I hope he reprints it, as my copy has a broken spine as well as cover fading, and prices on the secondary market are quite prohibitive.  I was lucky enough to find a used copy over twenty years ago in a shop for $8.  The book may be out of print due to the fact that some of Crowe's "classmates," chiefly Mark Ratner inspiration Andy Rathbone, during his undercover time at Claremont High weren't so keen on his portrayal of them in the novel.

Friday, January 11, 2013

1979: Ooh Child, Over the Edge of Phantasm

1979's Over the Edge and Phantasm both feature narrow escapes by their adolescent male protagonists from exploding cars driven by villainous antagonists.  Music is Valerie Carter's version of "O-o-h Child" heard at the finale of Over the Edge, in lieu of director Jonathan Kaplan's preferred "Baba O'Riley."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More Of That Connective Tissue

I was on my way to a double feature screening of Don Coscarelli's John Dies at the End and Phantasm last night, when I stopped at a comic book shop to browse for a few minutes.  Looking through the store's back issues of Epic Illustrated, I noted this issue featuring a story by Roger Zelazny:

I haven't read any Zelazny, but his name is familiar to me from seeing it on the billing block for Damnation Alley, which is based upon his novel of the same name.

As for Phantasm, I've seen it countless times, but never on 35mm.  Granted, the print was scratchy, pink, and faded, but it still offered clarity beyond a conventional DVD and television set-up.  So, turning my head sideways, during the below scene, I could read the text on the cover of the book on Mike's desk: Roger Zelazny, My Name is Legion.  Checking the Phantasm Wiki page afterwards, I saw that this product placement had previously been noted there.  But, for me, this is another of those odd, movie coincidences that I--and I'm sure many other film-obsessed sorts--seem to experience on a regular basis.  I can only guess that Coscarelli or another member of the crew was a fan of Zelazny and perhaps this book in particular.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Give the Gift of Music: Some Dynamite LPs on Film

In both Taxi Driver and Christiane F. a woman is given an LP by a man, an LP we will later find out she already owns.

Whilst jogging yesterday, the iPhone shuffled to Kristofferson's "Jody and the Kid" from The Silver Tongued Devil and I, which got me thinking about the date scenes with De Niro and Shepard in Taxi Driver, in which she expresses shock at his ignorance of Kristofferson and pop music on the whole.  And, then, today, on his birthday no less, Bowie released his first single in a decade or so.  So there you have it...the trivial bits and coincidences that made this post come together and actually have a bit of relevancy.

And, not for nothin', Taxi Driver and American Gigolo are both penned by Paul Schrader and feature record store scenes, as illustrated above.