Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Happiest Millionaire (Norman Tokar, 1967)

I'm stunned at how progressive Disney was with sexual politics in the late 1960s. The Happiest Millionaire follows a homosexual horndog played by Tommy Steele aka Toothy McTootherson (or is that Tusky McMammoth?). He goes cruising the openly secular (!) John Davidson (of That's Incredible! fame).
I mean, he really lusts after him!
Eventually, they get it on at a gay bar.
And a good time is had by all.
Just kidding. That was my willful queer misreading to stay awake in the final third of this Three. Hour. Movie. In truth, it features an ancient heteronormative gambit - not only does the film end with the requisite formation of the heterosexual couple (Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren) but that formation must be celebrated, here by a community of prisoners they just met (although the Detroit song that scores the celebration is one of the few nifty numbers).
There are some touching moments throughout, especially from the underappreciated Fred MacMurray who has a tough time letting go of his daughter.
But as with all roadshow musicals ever, it's too long, too eager to please, too clueless, too too. Worth noting, though, is a cute breaking of the fourth wall...
a mention of Benghazi in song (rendered as "Bengasi")...
and a scene in which alligators are accidentally frozen but then thawed back to life which may have influenced Disney (who died just as production on this film was wrapping) to cryogenically freeze himself.


Sunday, May 07, 2017

L'inconnu de Shandigor (Jean-Louis Roy, 1967)

L'inconnu de Shandigor is a Eurospy parody in the vein of Joseph Losey's Modesty Blaise from just the year before. But where the latter draws out some emotional resources from what feels like a personal project for Losey, L'inconnu de Shandigor rests content with poking fun at the genre. Granted, it does so with curious longueurs and absolutely gorgeous photography courtesy of cinematographer Roger Bimpage. Damn near every frame is screenshot-worthy. And Serge Gainsbourg is in there somewhere playing a cog in some sort of international espionage intrigue. I assume only suckers will follow the narrative trajectory closely. It's all quite wacky and inventive. But that's all it is and too soon, wacky and inventive becomes dreary and exhausting. As with the similarly flashy and empty Les idoles, L'inconnu de Shandigor pats itself on the back for its deep knowledge of and play with genre conventions. So you can pat along with the creators or you could choose a weightier option, say, the forgotten Joan Crawford-Fred MacMurray spy-nonsense thriller Above Suspicion (Richard Thorpe, 1943).

Oh another thing it shares with Les idoles - a grasp of rock 'n' roll as capitalist tool (yawns).


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Americaner Shadchen aka American Matchmaker (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1940)

1940s Bronx in Ulmer's Yiddish curio Americaner Shadchen aka American Matchmaker.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ulysses in the Subway (Paul Kaiser, Marc Downie, Flo Jacobs, Ken Jacobs, 2017)

The avant-garde trains us to step off the capitalist treadmill and pause on some useful-in-its-uselessness image or sound. I've been mesmerized by a rainbow sliver on a CD tower created by light caught on an overturned DVD. And I always stayed to listen to my garage door close because it evoked the gong-rattling guitars of My Bloody Valentine's "All I Need." So I was receptive to Ulysses in the Subway, a 3-D algorithmic picturing of a sound journey taken by Ken Jacobs of a subway ride up to 42nd Street and then back down to his loft near Chambers Street where his wife Flo (Penelope in this Odyssey) awaits him. But it put me right back on the capitalist treadmill.

The idea here is to awaken our hearing to the sounds around us by providing a graphic representation of their complexity, an effect enhanced by the 3-D which allows us to dive into the sound-images. Often, they resembled the perspective of looking upon miles of city lights from high on a hill. The problem is that the sounds themselves weren't recontextualized and the sound-images didn't do enough to transform that deadening "Stand clear of the closing door please" announcement. For millions of New Yorkers every day, this is capitalism's repetition compulsion at its most pummeling and Ulysses didn't deliver it from us. And soon, everything about the project felt just as oppressive as those eternal announcements, from the fact that the journey never wanders above 42nd Street to the leisure implied in Jacobs' stopping to listen to an endless steel drum performance to the hoary narrative of the male wanderer and the female waiting at home. 

Ok so it wasn't for me. But I'll tell you who it was for. At the Q&A afterward at MOMA, an old man asked where he could hear these sounds. Clearly, the man hadn't been underground in some time, if ever. So come with me and watch the Show Time boys do their thang. Marvel at the purple explosion all over the walls and pillars in the Union Square station of black man named Prince at various points in his history. Keep your eyes open for the light orgy just before you reach the 125th Street station. Oh you've never up this far before?

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sooooo Not The Gayest Musical Of Them All!

The Great American Broadcast (Archie Mayo, 1941)

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Ingrid Bergman after a day of work in Europa '51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952)

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Various 2016 screengrabs

Demon (Marcin Wrona)
       Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

Krisha (Trey Edward Shults) 
 The Measure of a Man (Stéphane Brizé)
 Little Men (Ira Sachs)
Le fils de Joseph (Eugène Green)

 Tower (Keith Maitland)
 Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)