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Will we be a couple? - Myth Happens

Sovay
Date: 2016-03-13 05:37
Subject: Will we be a couple?
Security: Public
Music:A Hawk and a Hacksaw, "Oh, Lord, Saint George, Bewitch Ivan, Make Him Mine"
Tags:patreon

I am feeling very much lately as though it is physically difficult to think. I need to do something major with my brain soon. Like write about Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire (1942). Read on for three movies I've seen recently that weren't that one.

1. I can't believe it took me until tonight to realize how great a debt all the Death Star scenes in Star Wars (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983) owe The Guns of Navarone (1961). We get to the climactic deployment of the guns themselves, as the British convoy approaches Keros in the trust that the "great, newly designed, radar-controlled guns" have been successfully neutralized by our heroes: they are immense as monuments, their cave-carved bunker legendarily impregnable to assault by sea or air; the gunners in white protective gear and goggles load the massive bores while the commander of the fortress stands over his charts and seated technicians with screen-reflecting faces monitor radio traffic and radar sweeps and I don't just mean that the stop-the-superweapon scenario is familiar, I'm expecting to see Peter Cushing or Michael Pennington somewhere among the straight-backed German officers in their grey uniforms. The place looks like a volcano erupting when it blows. I haven't seen The Guns of Navarone as many times as The Great Escape (1963), but I have lost track of how many times that is; I just don't think I had ever before seen it in a year in which I rewatched Star Wars. That movie really is an amazing grab-bag of personally remixed pop culture. No wonder nothing else feels quite like it, not even its original sequels.

2. On Friday night, rushthatspeaks and I saw Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Тіні забутих предків, 1965) at the HFA. It was part of a series curated by Guy Maddin; he wrote the blurb I've just linked to. I think the HFA should let him write all their film descriptions from now on. We actually own this movie on DVD; four or five years ago we found it in the half-off discard bin at Hollywood Express, thought they were crazy for letting it go, bought it on the spot because we had recently seen and fallen in love with Parajanov's The Color of Pomegranates (Նռան գույնը, 1969) and then never got around to watching it, perhaps out of fear that it wouldn't be as good. It is in some ways a very different kind of movie. Watching The Color of Pomegranates is like being inside someone else's head, or their poetry, or the icons of their art. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors films a meticulously naturalistic recreation of a culture in an emphatically non-naturalistic style, leaving an effect that is simultaneously stylized and documentary. It is beautifully shot, intensely musical, and when its folk-culture sense of ritual or epic breaks into the supernatural as the characters would recognize it, the realizations are powerful and plausible and demonstrate once again that digital special effects are nothing when compared with a tree bursting into flames or an actress with a thin dusting of birch-grey paint across her face. This is a movie in which a neglected wife becomes a witch and the sorcerer she summons falls out of the sky as a raven and changes to a man at her feet. A drowned woman appears at a window of a house that has been ritually barred to her, flattens her hand against the window and does not look dead in any conventional way except that time goes strange around her. Her soul browses as a deer around her grave. In between there is a lot of sheep herding, forestry, axe fighting, harvesting, Christianity. There is a holy fool, charcoal-faced, a mute storyteller. I would love to be able to evaluate the film's ethnography, because it leaves the impression that watching its protagonist's life gives a pretty good idea of the wheel of the year in his time and place, but I know nothing about the Hutsuls that I did not gain from the movie or from resorting to the internet when we got home. I was reminded of Pasolini's Medea (1969) and Kaoru Mori's A Bride's Story (2011–); Rush-That-Speaks thought of Ulrike Ottinger's Taiga (1992). The subtitles were terrible and gave us about every second or third sentence. Sometimes it was one in four. Parajanov's sense of time and narrative is legitimately elliptical, but we might still rewatch on DVD just to see what we were missing. I expect it to reward multiple viewings and wish a decent transfer of The Color of Pomegranates existed. Discovering that A Hawk and a Hacksaw had written an entire album of music inspired by Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors led me to the Sayat Nova Project's Mountains of Tongues: Musical Dialects of the Caucasus (2013), which I recommend.

3. I have been describing Hail, Caesar! (2016) as "insubstantial but fun." As a series of sketches on different genres of mid-century Hollywood blockbuster, it's utterly delightful: I started laughing the moment a road-weary centurion in the time of Tiberius invoked the Baths of Caracalla and may actually have applauded the lonely-sailor dance number "No Dames," which starts somewhere between On the Town and South Pacific and ends up closer to Provincetown and Fire Island. (Seriously, I knew Channing Tatum could dance, but I didn't know he could tap-dance on tabletops while an exasperated waiter whisked the tablecloths out from under his feet. He's not Gene Kelly or Donald O'Connor, but he's not bad, either.) The parodies are just the right envelope-push past plausibility to be really funny while still retaining the nostalgic affection that the film is apparently relying on, if its thesis really is that cinema is a kind of transcendence and that enabling the creation of foolish, fluffy, Technicolor dreams, even if sometimes that involves paying off the world's most inefficient Communist cell and slapping Capitol Pictures' biggest star across the chops, is work worthy of the world's redeemer. As a movie in its own right, though, it never really coheres. It doesn't add up to anything more than itself, which is a problem for a deliberately miscellaneous plot that switches between threads as if pointing toward some unexpected resonance, and if the anticlimax is purposeful, it is nowhere near as effective as the same maneuver in The Big Lebowski (1998). I would have liked the whole thing better if everyone in it had been even half a dimension more real. I think we are supposed to take Josh Brolin's crisis of job-related faith as the moral center of the action, but the scene in which I turned out to have the most emotional investment was the studio-arranged date between Alden Ehrenreich's Hobie Doyle and Verónica Osorio's Carlotta Valdez—respectively, an acrobatic singing cowboy who has just been dropped into a mid-Atlantic drawing-room comedy and a Carmen Miranda-esque performer of hip shimmys under tutti-frutti hats—which has been staged as a photo op for the gossip columnists, but which turns almost immediately into the real thing as the two young people hit it off and bond over their weird entertainment skills. I also feel a bit sorry for the Communists, who failed to script their kidnapping plot as tightly as any of their prizewinning pictures. Otherwise the movie mostly looks like George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Scarlett Johansson having fun, which is fine, but I can get it for better value by rewatching O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) or The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). That said, everything we see of the epically Biblical trainwreck Hail, Caesar: A Tale of the Christ (1951) is pitch-perfect and hilarious and we wouldn't have it without Hail, Caesar! the minor comedy by the Coen Brothers, so, you know, see it if you get the chance. I may also have applauded the anecdote about Danny Kaye. [edit] Alex von Tunzelmann has a theory about the meta nature of the film which, if accurate, at least gives it some intellectual substance.

I seem to have written through the changeover to Daylight Savings. I didn't think I had gotten quite so slow as to misplace an actual hour. Excuse me while I see if I can sleep. These notes brought to you by my forgiving backers at Patreon.

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Lady Mondegreen
User: ladymondegreen
Date: 2016-03-13 12:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Reading this caused me to fall down an immense rabbit hole over lunch st the Israel Museum.

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Sovay: Sydney Carton
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-13 20:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Sydney Carton

Reading this caused me to fall down an immense rabbit hole over lunch st the Israel Museum.

I am sorry for the time taken away from the Israel Museum, but if the rabbit hole was Parajanov-related, I regret nothing.

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Lady Mondegreen: Rainbow cat
User: ladymondegreen
Date: 2016-03-13 21:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rainbow cat

It was not a Parajanov rabbit hole. It was a Clark Gable rabbit hole and there were doors and furniture falling all around, and I had time to observe it as I fell. I learned a lot about the man who apparently bought my wedding silver before me, and now I have some serious ick factor.

But I was waiting for everyone else to eat, so it was usefully distracting? It kept me from running off to the antiquities exhibit without everyone else? Looking back, that probably would have been a better choice, but given how angry my hips are after that many hours in a cold, marble environment, it was probably the right choice. *sigh* so much museum, so little time.

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Sovay: I Claudius
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-13 21:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:I Claudius

It was a Clark Gable rabbit hole and there were doors and furniture falling all around, and I had time to observe it as I fell. I learned a lot about the man who apparently bought my wedding silver before me, and now I have some serious ick factor.

I have to ask where your wedding silver comes in.

so much museum, so little time.

The eternal dilemma.

*hugs*

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Lady Mondegreen
User: ladymondegreen
Date: 2016-03-14 00:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

The wedding silver was an accidental Etsy find when we were getting married. It purports to have been bought by Gable while he and Carole Lombard were furnishing their dream home, but that she never saw it, because she was killed in a plane crash. I mostly just liked the silver, which is why I put it on our registry. My parents wound up buying it for us.

The silver has clearly been through several sets of hands over the years. Hopefully it has been imbued with less tragedy and we will give it some love.

And now rest, and hopefully more museums tomorrow.

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obzor_inolit
User: obzor_inolit
Date: 2016-03-13 16:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors! Paradzhanov is a mythical character known to everybody (intellectual, that is) of my generation. People who came before us (and maybe some of us) really knew him. I only know his movies and his art.

There is a new-old version of The Color of Pomegranates (the original author's version restored in 2014, the widely-seen version was edited by another filmmaker

http://www.colta.ru/articles/cinema/4702?part=8

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Sovay: Haruspex: Autumn War
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-13 19:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Haruspex: Autumn War

Paradzhanov is a mythical character known to everybody (intellectual, that is) of my generation. People who came before us (and maybe some of us) really knew him. I only know his movies and his art.

I think we found him originally through Pasolini (in turn, mostly courtesy of Derek Jarman), but I can't imagine not knowing about him now. I have just found three short films of his on the internet and I am very curious.

What is his other art like? I imagine the same dreamlike, iconic collages as his movies, but he will probably turn out to have done something completely different.

There is a new-old version of The Color of Pomegranates (the original author's version restored in 2014, the widely-seen version was edited by another filmmaker

Thanks for the link! We would have watched whatever version was available in the U.S. in 2011. The tableaux were striking and definitive even then.

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obzor_inolit
User: obzor_inolit
Date: 2016-03-16 16:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

If you click on this you'll see the Google results for Параджанов коллажи

https://www.google.ru/search?q=%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B6%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2+%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B6%D0%B8&newwindow=1&biw=1212&bih=679&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjttvqZ1cXLAhWrBnMKHUCzA_wQsAQIGg

He also was known by staging something like performances to greet friends (and just those who he wanted to impress). Once he wanted to find a white horse to greet Andrei Tarkovsky but he could find only a donkey.

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obzor_inolit
User: obzor_inolit
Date: 2016-03-16 16:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Цвет граната: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ4IJ-cFLCE

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obzor_inolit
User: obzor_inolit
Date: 2016-03-16 17:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

And a documentary film about Paradzhanov in English https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTEccToXBGE

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Josh
User: schreibergasse
Date: 2016-03-13 23:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Glad you're feeling better!

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Sovay: Sydney Carton
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-14 01:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Sydney Carton

Glad you're feeling better!

Well, I am not exactly feeling better. I just insisted on staying awake until I had done something with my brain. But thank you!

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gwynnega: lordpeter mswyrr
User: gwynnega
Date: 2016-03-13 23:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lordpeter mswyrr

Wow, I've never seen anything by Parajanov, and clearly I must!

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Sovay: Haruspex: Autumn War
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-14 01:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Haruspex: Autumn War

Wow, I've never seen anything by Parajanov, and clearly I must!

He's wonderful. The Color of Pomegranates is a biography of the eighteenth-century Armenian poet Sayat Nova, "King of Song"—he has a birth name, but he's never known by it. It's done in tableaux, colors, quotations, repeating motifs. The central figure is played by four different actors; another doubles at least five parts. As a boy, the poet is played by a beautiful, clambering, grave-eyed impish child; as a monk in later life, by an actor with the face of an Orthodox saint. As a young man falling in love with a king's sister, he's played by a long-eyed, long-browed, slightly saturnine actor who turns out to be the actress Sofiko Chiaureli, who also plays the poet's female lover, the blind angel, the mime-dancer with the mirror, and a figure at the end whom we interpreted as Mary, although she's crowned with roses and oak leaves and has a chicken on her shoulder. She's absolutely amazing. Photographs don't do her justice. You have to see the film. Even in flickery, faded Netflix transfer, it was an amazing experience.

Edited at 2016-03-14 01:51 am (UTC)

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Swan Tower: albino owl
User: swan_tower
Date: 2016-03-14 18:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:albino owl

If you have already blogged about Deadpool and I missed it, my apologies. If you have not, I find myself very curious what you did/would think of it. I was not at all certain I would like it, but it managed to stay on what I consider to be the good side of its particular humor line, present a surprisingly moving vignette of "you have just been diagnosed with cancer" in the middle of a movie for which the words "surprisingly moving" ought to be wildly out of place, fail the Bechdel Test but still do a better job with its female characters than many of its ilk, and wreak a great deal of metafictional havoc.

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Swan Tower
User: swan_tower
Date: 2016-03-14 18:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Also, and totally unrelated: I think you're the one who originally clued me in to the Museum of Artifacts blog, but in case you're not still following it, this coin made me think of you.

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Sovay: I Claudius
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-14 18:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:I Claudius

this coin made me think of you.

I'm honored!

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Sovay: Sydney Carton
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-14 18:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Sydney Carton

If you have already blogged about Deadpool and I missed it, my apologies.

I am afraid I have not. I am going through a period of intense exhaustion; I wrote a little about Jeeves & Wooster (1990–93) and The Dawn Patrol/Flight Commander (1930), but the last actual movie review before this one was Mr. Skeffington (1944) and then a note about The Caine Mutiny (1954). I caught a double feature of The Blue Dahlia (1946) and This Gun for Hire (1942) last Thursday with derspatchel, but am finding them difficult to write about because the second one requires thought. I had plans to see Deadpool previously, but they fell through. I've been told I'd like it.

I was not at all certain I would like it, but it managed to stay on what I consider to be the good side of its particular humor line, present a surprisingly moving vignette of "you have just been diagnosed with cancer" in the middle of a movie for which the words "surprisingly moving" ought to be wildly out of place, fail the Bechdel Test but still do a better job with its female characters than many of its ilk, and wreak a great deal of metafictional havoc.

I would like to see it!

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drwex
User: drwex
Date: 2016-03-14 18:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

What do you make of the theory that much of Star Wars is cribbed from Kurosawa flicks?

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Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-14 19:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rotwang

What do you make of the theory that much of Star Wars is cribbed from Kurosawa flicks?

My knowledge of Kurosawa is not comprehensive: I've seen Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Yojimbo (1961), Sanjuro (1962), and Dreams (1990), meaning among other things that I've missed all his film noir. I've seen as much of Ran (1985) as exists in Chris Marker's A.K. (1985). So to me Star Wars doesn't look like outright lifting so much as fascinatingly refracted influence—visual, thematic; I think Lucas' perceptions of Japanese jidaigeki must be part of what gives the first film its real sense of alienness, which none of the sequels or prequels ever quite repeated—but someone who's seen Throne of Blood (1957) or The Hidden Fortress (1958) or more of Ran than a gorgeous deleted scene might disagree. See cucumberseed's "The Love Song of Admiral Piett."

Edited at 2016-03-14 07:09 pm (UTC)

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drwex
User: drwex
Date: 2016-03-14 22:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Thanks, I'll check that out.

I'm a _huge_ Kurosawa film. The word "genius" gets tossed around so much but I think he really qualified. Ran is excellent, but it did not affect me the way Kagemusha did. (I was so distraught by the end of Kagemusha that it was two years before I could watch another Kurosawa film. (It was in 1981, a very different time and I was a different person, but it really is an overwhelming ending montage.)

Anyway, Hidden Fortress is the film most often cited as inspiring Lucas in the structure of Star Wars but it was not evident to me, even after watching the films back-to-back.

And now, having read the linked poem I am so very pleased. "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" is my favoritest poem ever ever ever. I've been known to ask people out by quoting "Let us go then, you and I."

But not recently, because really nobody gets it.

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