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You can't talk Latin much. It's not like French - Myth Happens

Sovay
Date: 2013-10-03 22:03
Subject: You can't talk Latin much. It's not like French
Security: Public
Music:Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal"

Having finished arguing with pharmacies, and generally feeling like hell, I decided to watch Waterfront (1950), which I'd discovered on International Talk Like a Pirate Day and then not seen because the internet promptly went down for the rest of the day.

It's a quick little twist of a movie, with a melodrama plot and lots of location shooting. Robert Newton's name is first after the title, but he's not the protagonist; that's probably Avis Scott as Nora McCabe, daughter of a merchant sailor who abandoned his family in 1919 and fourteen years later blows back into their lives without remorse or warning, dragging in his wake a messy snarl of drunkenness and trouble with the law. Grown up to fend for herself, Nora's a sharp-tongued, self-reliant young woman who runs more of the household than her wistful mother, her younger sister hoping to marry her way out of the tenements, or their bright youngest brother learning Latin on a scholarship. She knew her father was snowing her all those years ago when he kissed her through the school gates and promised to return; now that he's back, she stares at him like something out of a horror movie, this aging man with his peppery grey hair and the same warm, unreliable grin. Newton's very good in the part, a less sympathetic take on some of the wayward types he's played (cf. The Desert Rats' Tom Bartlett). Confronted by his daughter, Peter McCabe is full of airy reassurances and confiding winks, but his temper scratches nastily to the surface when he doesn't get the loving reunion he wanted and in a fit of spite he goes very nearly from his wife's bedroom to a neighbor's bed. His long-separated spouse can speak kindly of him—"He never really had a chance, poor Peter. Taken away from school and sent to sea before he was George Alexander's age"—but the film doesn't make it an excuse for the monumental callousness with which he really seems to think he can just resume his former presence in their lives. For this reason I suppose Waterfront might be classifiable as a women's picture: the men are the catalysts, but the women are not the scenery. There's a poignant late moment between Peter and the son he never knew about, as he very gently and diffidently offers the boy a tobacco tin that came from his own father, plainly feeling it a very common return for two lines' declamation from the Aeneid. The film still closes on Nora and her new husband, the next generation that matters. Richard Burton is so young I didn't recognize him until his second or third scene, slender, smile-lined and lanky, with lofting dark hair; he can demonstrate to Nora that not all sailors go out with the tide and never come back, but after two years on the dole he can't convince himself he's still a fit match for her. It frustrates her that he insists on waiting to marry until she's no longer supporting them both, but when calamity strikes and he wants to offer his name as a statement of solidarity, she sets him straight as to her priorities: "It's knowing I've got you, Ben." And the very last shot isn't of any human thing at all, but the shipyards of Liverpool, the ships on the Mersey coming in, going out; it amazes me how many stories understand that the sea is under everything, it's what always and doesn't change. I think the film fails the kitchen sink test on the voices alone (almost no one makes any attempt at a regional accent, Lancashire native Kathleen Harrison mystifyingly included), but the cinematography is beautifully documentary of Liverpool's docks and bridges and knows how to turn as expressive as film noir at the right moments. Whatever this genre is, I think its defining entry is still It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), but I'm not sorry I saw this one. Seriously, worth it for the docklands.

I would be a lot more enthusiastic about the new BFI Player premiering on my birthday if I thought it would work in my country. I spent considerable time this afternoon determining that half the things I want to watch starring Robert Donat can't be found on the internet, let alone DVD. Even TCM doesn't seem to have heard of The Cure for Love (1949).

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nineweaving
User: nineweaving
Date: 2013-10-04 05:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I always like reading your film reviews. Hope you're feeling better.

And damn it all--why can't the BFI share its treasures?

Nine

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-04 05:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

I always like reading your film reviews.

I like writing them. What frustrates me about YouTube is people who put up their three favorite two-minute clips from a movie rather than the movie itself—I mean, good for you, thinking Robert Newton looks hot in his PJs, but I'd like to see the rest of Night Boat to Dublin (1946), too.

Hope you're feeling better.

Thank you. Better than yesterday (better than derspatchel), not fantastic; arguments with pharmacy, however, successfully concluded. Tomorrow night I will see Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard on a big screen, which should make up for a lot of the way this week has gone.

And damn it all--why can't the BFI share its treasures?

Well, they are! Just not outside of the UK! This is more frustrating than DVD region codes.

Edited at 2013-10-04 06:15 am (UTC)

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nineweaving
User: nineweaving
Date: 2013-10-04 08:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

It's not as if the BFI would be preventing sales of the unobtainable...

Good heavens. The Brattle will be screening The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T!

Nine

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Sovay: Cho Hakkai: intelligence
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-04 08:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Cho Hakkai: intelligence

The Brattle will be screening The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T!

TEN. HAPPY. FINGERS.

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Sovay: I Claudius
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-04 16:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:I Claudius

As I said when there was an outcry against the BBC ceasing to broadcast to the US, a wave of Americans voluntarily sending in taxes to Britain would almost certainly turn this around.

If it's a matter of paying for content, I don't have a problem with that; Netflix gets my money, too. I just wish it would be an option overseas.

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steepholm
User: steepholm
Date: 2013-10-04 07:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I wonder when it stopped being possible for British-made films to ignore the fact of regional accents? I simply can't imagine a film set in Liverpool today, whether or not it was kitchen sink, not getting the accents right (or at least trying to) - but it was clearly not thought necessary in the '40s, beyond Cockney and Scots, perhaps. In between we have the Welfare state, the angry young men, the counter culture, but as late as 1971 there's Get Carter, in which all the main characters belong to the underworld of Newcastle and Gateshead, but in which Geordie accents are as rare as hens' teeth. Perhaps that's an outlier, though.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-04 18:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

I wonder when it stopped being possible for British-made films to ignore the fact of regional accents? I simply can't imagine a film set in Liverpool today, whether or not it was kitchen sink, not getting the accents right (or at least trying to) - but it was clearly not thought necessary in the '40s, beyond Cockney and Scots, perhaps.

I do associate the change directly with the kitchen sink movement/British New Wave. Before then, I think of regional accents in British film more as a marker of class (or other social status) than geographical verisimilitude. I am thinking at the moment of Eric Portman, because I like him; I've heard either his native Halifax accent or a version of it in three roles, and in all of them it's signifying something about the charater. Tom Earnshaw the co-pilot in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) can be jokingly dubbed "a future Mayor of Halifax" because it's a propaganda movie emphasizing the pulling-together of all sorts of people; Jim Hobson, leading seaman on hydrophones in We Dive at Dawn (1943) is a taciturn Yorkshireman whose working-class accent and mess of a home life are explicitly, quizzically contrasted with his obvious intelligence and his knack for languages; and Charlie Forbes the factory foreman in Millions Like Us (1943) isn't just a blunt-spoken token of solidarity, with his prickly, skeptical romance with an upper-crust girl from Kensington he's a question about the world after the war. As magistrate of Chillingbourne in A Canterbury Tale (1944), however, Portman doesn't sound anything like Kent even when the character is meant to be as rooted there in the bend of the Pilgrims' Road as the old Roman coins he digs up; presumably it would distract from those low, thrilling lectures he gives about earth and time. Otherwise I mostly associate regional accents (in that period) with comedy. One of the reasons I want to see Donat's The Cure for Love is the BFI's mention that he used his own Mancunian accent for it, which for obvious reasons I'm curious about. And if I think about Hobson's Choice (1954), I'm pretty sure at least John Mills and Brenda De Banzie are doing creditable Northern. But it's sort of a local color thing.

I could also be totally wrong. My knowledge of British film is not comprehensive. Someone must have tracked this in print, though.

but as late as 1971 there's Get Carter, in which all the main characters belong to the underworld of Newcastle and Gateshead, but in which Geordie accents are as rare as hens' teeth. Perhaps that's an outlier, though.

For example, now I want to rewatch that movie and listen to its voices. I was not qualified in high school to differentiate the accents at all.

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steepholm
User: steepholm
Date: 2013-10-04 20:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Thanks for that.

Get Carter is a great film, but I was almost thrown out of it by the accent thing. Michael Caine is meant to have been working in London for a few years, but he's still cast as a Geordie (he sounds like he does in everything else). Same with the majority of the cast, if I remember: some sound a bit northern, but not Geordie - it's very odd.

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handful_ofdust
User: handful_ofdust
Date: 2013-10-04 14:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I ordered BluRay copies of A Field in England and Blood on Satan's Claw, which supposedly work around the country codes. Here's hoping!

Gotta say, I love your reviews as well. I'm hoping to get some reviewing done myself, once I've got "Hexmas" cleared off my plate.

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Sovay: I Claudius
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-04 18:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:I Claudius

which supposedly work around the country codes. Here's hoping!

Seriously! I really want to hear what you have to say about A Field in England.

Gotta say, I love your reviews as well. I'm hoping to get some reviewing done myself, once I've got "Hexmas" cleared off my plate.

I really need to write up Byzantium and Berberian Sound Studio. I've just felt too stupid for days.

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ap_aelfwine
User: ap_aelfwine
Date: 2013-10-05 04:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I'm glad you finally got to see Waterfront and that you liked it.

I would be a lot more enthusiastic about the new BFI Player premiering on my birthday if I thought it would work in my country.

I find that sort of thing very frustrating as well. It wouldn't be so bad if at least we could somehow pay for a piece of content, but seeing it dangled free but unavailable is almost cruel.

Did I ever point you towards Gafa (2006)? It's thirteen and a half minutes of mildly fantastic* Irish-language comedy; I think the subtitles get the point across adequately, or at least folk whom I've shown it who needed them seemed to find it amusing.

Any road, it's free.

*Passengers on an Ireland-Saudi Arabia flight in a rather Fifties-looking propeller plane include an openly gay couple; somebody else falls several thousand feet and is completely unharmed.

Edited at 2013-10-06 12:38 am (UTC)

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Sovay: I Claudius
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-06 08:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:I Claudius

Passengers on an Ireland-Saudi Arabia flight in a rather Fifties-looking propeller plane include an openly gay couple; somebody else falls several thousand feet and is completely unharmed.

I'm not sure that an openly gay couple is mildly fantastic, but I'm with you on the falling from several thousand feet. Thanks for the link!

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ap_aelfwine
User: ap_aelfwine
Date: 2013-10-06 18:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I'm not sure that an openly gay couple is mildly fantastic...

I don't think I phrased that very well, and I'm sorry for it. The plane looks like something out of a time when that wouldn't be likely--to the best of my knowledge they'd only run large jet airliners on a four thousand mile flight today. Then again, the level of publically displayed affection on the part of all the passengers would be anachronistic in the Fifties or Sixties, at least by Irish people.

I suppose that the movie is altogether temporally a bit off the moorings. Then again, there aren't Irish-speaking, hurley-playing tribes in the Sahara, either.

Thanks for the link!

Most welcome!

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Sovay: Morell: quizzical
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-06 20:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Morell: quizzical

I suppose that the movie is altogether temporally a bit off the moorings. Then again, there aren't Irish-speaking, hurley-playing tribes in the Sahara, either.

Fair enough.

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asakiyume
User: asakiyume
Date: 2013-10-05 11:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Did you see Waterfront on YouTube? I'd like to give it a try.

the men are the catalysts, but the women are not the scenery.

Excellent line.

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Sovay: I Claudius
User: sovay
Date: 2013-10-05 17:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:I Claudius

Did you see Waterfront on YouTube? I'd like to give it a try.

Yes; unless the link is broken, that should be it at the top of this post. I hope you enjoy!

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