Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stolen Cars and Dizzy Madness

To a young person, morality can seem so crystal clear that quick, extreme actions seem perfectly reasonable for any transgression. So in 1960's Everything Goes Wrong (すべてが狂ってる, "everything is crazy"), also known as The Madness of Youth, a teenage boy feels bitter disgust when his mother starts sleeping with a man who designed a tank responsible for accidentally killing the boy's father during World War II. And that's just one of the things going wrong in this film. It's a film that might have been a ridiculous melodrama but works out to be a really effective portrait of troubled teenagers in Japan at the end of the 50s. Seijin Suzuki's bold stylistic choices and frenetic editing make the improbable string of events seem like dream logic, the film like a nightmare.

The boy is Jiro (Tamio Kawaji) who tells himself he's not so old fashioned that it bothers him his mother is sleeping with a married man--though he calls his mother a whore for taking money from the man. He claims to be bothered by the man's line of work. Like many Japanese films of the 50s and 60s, this one is trying to find its own way of digesting the war and the increasing influence of American culture.

Jiro, like Travis Bickle, is comfortable with a personal philosophy of zero tolerance even as he's a mess of contradictions himself. He rebels by joining a gang of car thieves. After successfully stealing his first car, he finds out the gang's initiation ritual is for the new thief to sleep with one of the girls in the gang. The movie spends a lot of time focusing on how consensual this is--we see one girl going home crying while three boys brag about gang banging her. Toshimi (Yoshiko Nezu), the girl we get to know best in the film, talks about how she wasn't sure if sometimes she really wanted to sleep with a boy or if she was just telling herself she did. As she got more accustomed to the gang life, though, she soon wasn't hesitating from helping to force new girls.

A shy girl hops onto the bar with Jiro--she seems to be his willing "prize" but the worldlier Toshimi pushes the girl aside and takes the reluctant Jiro to a love motel.

It turns out Jiro's not so progressive about sex as he thinks he is and he tries to insult Toshimi by giving her money. She's genuinely into him, though, heaven knows why, and she refuses the money despite the fact that she needs it for her friend Etsuko (Shinako Nakagawa) who needs it for an abortion.

Things start to get improbable when Etsuko tries to shake down Nanbara (Shinsuke Ashida)--the same man who's sleeping with Jiro's mother. After this the movie has car chases, murder, and sex, all presented a little too weirdly to be merely sensational. With feverish closeups and quick but evocative cuts, Suzuki's cinematic language turn this into a fascinating, dreamlike hell.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Robots Bring Zombies and Disorder

Nowadays television and movies have us well prepared for a day when we wake up and find most of the populace is either dead or mindless walking corpses. It was somewhat unusual, though, when 1964's The Earth Dies Screaming was released. This entertaining and oddly short post-apocalyptic film by Terence Fisher features a small, random assortment of people trying to figure out this suddenly strange world around them.

Shot and set in England, the film has an American at its centre, a middle aged test pilot named Jeff Nolan (Willard Parker). He's introduced without any preamble and it's almost like watching a silent film as we watch him drive up in a military jeep and wander around. He's as puzzled as we are by the sight of bodies scattered about the silent village.

Gradually a group of people accumulates around Jeff who's treated as leader by default. They compare notes about what they were doing at the time of whatever it is that happened to the rest of the population. I felt like the movie was trying to subtly suggest a weirder explanation than the one we end up getting, one of the things that makes me wonder if the film's runtime, barely over an hour, was intended to be so short from the start.

One thing that's certainly weird are the robots wandering around in space suits. They don't seem especially interested in the group until one of them, a society woman who'd been coming home from a party (Vanda Godsell) persistently pesters one. Later she becomes one of the zombies that roam the land--though not called zombies. But they are pretty close to the Night of the Living Dead style walking corpses introduced in George Romero's film four years later. Earth Dies Screaming's version has bulging white eyes and are pretty creepy.

There's another effective scene where another member of the group (Peggy Hatton) hides in a closet from such a zombie and she peers fearfully through a lattice while the it searches the room for her. It kind of reminded me of playing Alien: Isolation.

The group is nicely and credibly put together. Dennis Price plays a man with a sinister ulterior motive which for some reason the film never gets around to revealing and Thorley Walters plays an amusing, befuddled alcoholic. There's also a young pregnant woman in the group (Anna Palk). In one scene I thought effective Jeff watches her from outside while he's standing guard as she nervously gets some milk from a refrigerator. It's a nice moment with no dialogue that conveys how Jeff takes some simple pleasure in the sight of someone acting in a familiar domestic manner. Which makes it all the more effective when one of the robots in space suits shows up.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Many Shades of the Expanse

Last night gave us a new episode of The Expanse that was the opposite of last week's filler episode. Lots of stuff happened this time--really well executed stuff. SyFy already looked like assholes last week for cancelling The Expanse, they look colossally obnoxious now. In the unlikely event that someone else doesn't pick up the series, this one is destined to sit alongside shows like Firefly and Farscape. It'll cement a beloved legacy for the show while crystallising the image of the suits behind the cancelling as clueless dicks.

Spoilers behind the screenshot

Or maybe, like Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker), they'll preserve their reputation by the timely reveal of a powerful traitor like Errinwright (Shawn Doyle). I liked that scene although I didn't believe someone as cagey as Gillis would openly tell Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell) how glad he was to have someone to take the PR hit. But it was kind of worth it for the "Oh . . . shit" look on her face.

Still, she's probably better off with a guy who wants to do the right thing to look good than with the guy who apparently is committed on an ideological level. The Expanse often questions how really constructive it is to be dedicated to an ideal, to be pragmatic, or to be impulsive. One of the weaker points in the episode, Amos (Wes Chatham) with his "I am that guy" moment, executing the doctor who'd experimented on children so Prax (Terry Chen) wouldn't have to, was predictable but again demonstrated how moral purity doesn't get the job done--or possibly gets the wrong job done. But, like John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Amos sees there needs to be Praxes who aren't "that guy".

For some much more effective gunplay, we had Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and her cat and mouse with that poor kid who'd become a protomolecule hybrid. This sequence was way better than anything in the new Avengers movie because the action always made it clear exactly what each participant was capable of and what their motivation was. Bobbie's rear view camera on her helmet was nicely used, trusting an audience probably used to video games to follow it. And everything was coordinated so we had a sense of how fast Bobbie could move in comparison to the monster. A really effective sequence.

The action sequence on the Agatha King was pretty good, too, with that poor plucky UNN sailor (Sydney Meyer) we barely got to know. Meanwhile, Alex (Cas Anvar) and Naomi (Dominique Tipper) made it to the funkiest bridge in the galaxy.

I'm not sorry to see Admiral Nguyen (Byron Mann) go. Not so much because he's despicable as that he's more two dimensional than the villains back on Earth.

The end of the episode was good in spite of what looked like the most awkward post-coital cuddle I've ever seen on television.

I know the bunks are small but those two look like hastily stashed department store mannequins. Not much room for expanse there. I do like how consistently Holden's (Steven Strait) nose has stayed red since it was punched a couple episodes back. I love this show's attention to detail.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Close Shadows and Inmates

Is it selfish to be angry all the time? What if anger is the only sensible response to a ridiculous and dying world? 1959's Look Back in Anger, based on John Osborne's play, doesn't spend much time explicitly talking about the past but one scene where one of the story's more mild mannered characters vaguely observes "Something's gone wrong somewhere, hasn't it?" seems to point to a fundamental decline in the state of things. I couldn't help thinking of the origin story put forth in episode eight of the new Twin Peaks--like the Beats in the U.S., a culture that seems very much to've influenced the world depicted in Look Back in Anger, there's a sense of something having gone wrong with the fundamental fabric of human society for which everyone is paying a price on a deeply personal level. The film resolves a little too cleanly for my taste, something that later "Angry Young Man" films seem to improve upon, and some of the supporting characters could've used more fleshing out, but this beautifully photographed film centres on one fascinating character played by Richard Burton.

Burton plays Jimmy, a young man who earns a meagre living from a market stall despite being a university graduate. His two flatmates are his wife, Alison (Mary Ure), and a young Welshman named Clff (Gary Raymond). Later, Alison's friend, Helena (Clarie Bloom), joins them and in one conversation between Helena and Cliff, I got the sense of the two being governors of opposing political philosophy of the state populated by Jimmy and Alison. Cliff tells Helena how hard he's worked to keep Alison and Jimmy together and Helena doesn't understand why.

Jimmy is constantly in a rage. He channels it into his trumpet playing in a local club--his admiration for the great jazz musicians of the day, seen in posters for Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson that decorate the walls of the flat, seems another page taken from the Beats. He also takes out his anger by deliberately insulting his wife and friends; in his calling Alison a "cow" constantly he displays a casual misogyny designed more to hurt people around him than to sell them on any heartfelt philosophy. He hates Helena even more, his insults suggesting he sees her as morally smug though we never learn very much about her. Presumably he feels that way about her because she's been trying to get Alison to leave him.

Jimmy also sublimates his anger into fighting for an Indian immigrant named Kapoor (S.P. Kapoor) who works in the same market. He constantly receives unfair treatment from the market inspector played by a young Donald Pleasence. Kapoor provides an clear external manifestation of the corruption of reality Jimmy perceives at all times.

There's also the influence of young misfit American films at work like The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause and Richard Burton shows a Shakespearean actor can give the method actors a run for their money. Even when he and Cliff are messing around with a double act they've rehearsed for their own amusement one senses the constant undercurrent of resentment in Jimmy. He always seems to be picking at the people around him, as though desperate to find they, too, have the anger beneath their complacent masks.

Alison and Jimmy aren't always fighting and when they make up they tend to do a strange role play where he pretends to be a bear and she a squirrel, seemingly a reference to Ibsen's A Doll's House. Since this seems the only time the two are comfortable with each other and their relationship, one wonders if Osborne is making a point about what was lost when this game was cast aside in A Doll's House.

In the Wikipedia entry for the song, there's an uncited note that says David Bowie's "Look Back in Anger" has nothing to do with Osborne's play. If that's true, then all the resonance the lyrics have with the story must be an extraordinary coincidence. Certainly I hate Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" even more now. The Bowie song has something in the fury that builds in a constant state of forced stasis and gradual decay that certainly seems to be part of the film.

Twitter Sonnet #1114

The minute hand banana peeled the watch.
A time appointed classic brass to tack.
An idle sprint suspends at needed Scotch.
Direction eased for wind and falling slack.
Spaghetti arms can hold a saucy kid.
Appointed pasta kneels before the pot.
A boiled face emerged beneath the lid.
A mind assembled dinner serves a lot.
The empty picture frame remembers glass.
A station stopped beside a moving train.
The faces of the ticket slowly pass.
An anger came to market all in vain.
A retrospective soured well and bad.
A rainy time and long the lodgers had.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Life of Lois

After hearing Margot Kidder passed away yesterday I decided to watch Superman II again last night (the Donner cut). The first film's better than either version of the sequel but I feel like Kidder has more screentime in II, despite being fifth or sixth billed. This is probably do to other actors' agents being better negotiators, leveraging clout for higher profiles. Thankfully to-day actors seem to have too much shame to pull that kind of thing.

Superman II is a movie about shame, Marlon Brando's ghost (in the Donner version) imbuing Superman with the sense of duty--telling him virtue is its own reward in an earlier scene, setting up the idea that having a relationship with Lois is too selfish. To be fair, a relationship does take a lot of time and Kal-El probably already wastes too much time being Clark Kent. There are probably at least a million horrible things happening every minute in the world that would benefit from Superman's attention.

Still, it's weird to stick to such a point of logic when we're talking about a movie where Superman can reverse time by reversing the Earth's rotation and it seems to take an hour for that kid to fall down Niagara Falls. And Margot Kidder looks so sweet in the super shirt.

Richard Donner, director of the first film, was fired from the second film and replaced by Richard Lester, who received credit for the theatrical version released in 1981, despite a lot of footage having been shot by Donner. Donner finally released a cut in 2006 which, among other things, restored Marlon Brando's scenes to the film--he'd been entirely cut in the Lester version. But there are a lot of other differences, too, like the fact that the first scene with Kidder and Reeve is entirely different.

I'll admit the juicer scene in the Lester version is a little funnier than the scene in the Donner one where Lois starts to figure out Clark bears an uncanny resemblance to Superman. But I like the energy of the Donner version better. Nothing quite equals the His Girl Friday inspired tone in the first film's first scenes with Lois but Donner maintains a sweetly innocent tone that every incarnation of Superman since has taken itself too seriously to attempt. Even though Lois drawing glasses on a picture of Superman clearly seems to have been inspired by a thousand conversations people've likely had that began with, "Why doesn't Lois ever . . . ?" It's the story playing catch up with the too clever audience but at the same time reminding us that such nitpicking misses the point.

Kidder never seems dumb when she's not seeing the Superman behind the bumbling Clark--she had the sense to play it straight and like the screwball comedies that inspired most of her scenes with him there's plenty of other things going on to distract her from examining him. Why should he be the centre of the universe? The common criticism is that Clark is a long term joke Superman is playing on Lois but in the Donner films the persona is almost like a form of self-punishment, an exercise in keeping himself humble. It's like he's silently pleading with Lois to be his dom but she hilariously has no time for it aside from a few random crumbs of cruelty. And kudos to Lois for not falling into that black hole. Kidder's performance in particular is as much a surpassingly human take on Lois as Reeve's is on Superman. In spite of my problems with the Zack Snyder films, I do think Amy Adams is good casting, but Margot Kidder is always the "real" Lois for me.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Truth in a Precarious Circle

Pride, humility, amorality, and morality--all are thwarted by an enchanting woman in the great 1945 film Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis). A film with the scale of a Balzac novel that establishes its world through a network of distinctive characters, it also boasts extraordinary production values meant to rival Gone with the Wind--and somehow the whole thing was made in Nazi occupied France.

After a sweeping introduction to the "Boulevard of Crime", densely populated with street performers, regular people, one very significant ragman, and presumably criminals, we zero in one woman a barker identifies as "Truth". Anyone who pays the price can see her in the nude in her tent where she sits in a barrel of water gazing in a hand mirror.

This is Garance, played by Arletty, a famous French actress who was later convicted of treason for her affair with a German officer (the sentence was 18 months confined to her château). Over the course of the film, we see Garance exhibits a similar, if not greater, lack of restraint in the men she chooses to have affairs with. But the film focuses primarily on four men who fall for her; the cool criminal, Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), the great actor, Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur), the Comte Edouard de Montray (Louis Salou), and, perhaps the one man to truly capture Garance's heart, the mime, Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault).

A great mime in real life who went on to star brilliantly in Renoir's adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Barrault plays Baptiste with great skill, his performances funny and yet oddly graceful in his voluminous white pierrot costume.

Each of the men is about performance or artifice in some way. When the Comte demands Lacenaire's name, the criminal, who's gone by so many names that giving one would be almost meaningless now, replies, "Is it not absurd to ask people who they are? . . . They give you the easy reply: a name, a title. But who they are really, who they are deep down, they conceal with great care."

Lamaitre, when he realises he's genuinely jealous of the man Garance has affection for, is so peculiarly pragmatic about his feelings that his main reaction is pleasure that now he can finally understand Othello. The scene is promptly followed by Lemaitre starring in the great play by Shakespeare.

Wikipedia informs me the "Paradis" of the title in French is understood to refer to the gallery seats in a theatre, the people performers are working to please. So it makes sense that everyone in the film is caught in continuous loops of unrequited love. In a particularly cruel mismatch, Baptiste is in love with Garance while Nathalie (Maria Casares), an actress, is in love with Baptiste. Baptiste tries to console Nathalie because he knows how she feels but no amount of empathy is sufficient to respond to the fundamental need. Nothing stops this wheel from moving.

But while I watched the film I was considering "Paradise" in an economic sense and it did seem to me that the people I was watching could afford their dramas because of the world that supported them. Even the thief seemed to be one more in the interest of amusing sport than out of need--Garance likes to visit him, she says, because he likes to talk and she can relax and watch (again, a kind of performance). He delights in describing his amoral philosophy. But there are people on the fringes of the action, like a beggar who pretends to be blind that Baptiste befriends, or the ragman from the beginning, that suggests another world existing in the same time and place. In the case of the ragman, possibly waiting to tear the other world down--in one remarkable scene, he storms the stage to attack an actor dressed as a ragman like himself.

So it's perhaps fitting that Baptiste initially can't give in to his ardour when Garance reveals to him how casual she is about sex, a decision that haunts him for the rest of the film. He's protected by his morality no more than Lacenaire is by his amorality or the Comte is by his position and wealth.

The opulent production design and costumes are complimented by beautiful cinematography by Marc Fossard and Roger Hubert. The film's visuals have a lush, fantastic quality that emphasises a sense of mythic tragedy in the story.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Deborah Milton's Supper with Prince Rupert

Happy U.S. Mother's Day, everyone, especially to mothers. To-day also brings a new chapter of my infrequently updated web comic, Dekpa and Deborah. Watch as Deborah tries not to embarrass herself at supper with some very important people in one of the biggest palaces in the world a few decades before it mostly burned down. Which adds some challenge to drawing its interiors, let me tell you. Special thanks to my friend Ada for translating some dialogue to German for me.

Twitter Sonnet #1113

Imposter brands condition houses mute.
A turning wheel presents a faded prize.
A tea deprived of hue has ill repute.
A cake success upsets the winning pies.
A passing cap removes a bottle doubt.
Containing ships and punch the glass redeems.
A single stone defined a spinning route.
The searching clouds would rain success in teams.
A world progressed within an hour's time.
A fancy's brand of chips traversed the thought.
Rebuilding beads begat a spirit climb.
Computers built the deep and cosy cot.
A slice of ill reputed cake arose.
A seal at tea a fish would fain propose.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Harsh Persuasion

It seems the galaxy always needs sorting out because of people who think the galaxy needs sorting out. Luckily we have the Seventh Doctor who's doing something like that in the good 2013 audio play Persuasion. Starting with a pair of gods whose perfect benevolence is diminished somewhat when they're fighting for survival, the audio play moves in time and place to Germany in the aftermath of World War II and reintroduces the character of Elizabeth Klein.

Introduced in the 2001 Seventh Doctor audio play Colditz as a Nazi, Klein (Tracey Childs) became one of the Seventh Doctor's (Sylvester McCoy) most provocative companions in a series of subsequent audio plays. Sometimes written as a villain, sometimes as a reluctant pupil as the Doctor taught her the fundamental problems in Nazi philosophy, she certainly always held my attention. Mostly the writers avoided being too naive on her subject matter, sometimes she came off as too two dimensional to be a proper companion. In Persuasion, writer Jonathan Barnes sidesteps the issue by introducing an alternate incarnation of Klein, an Englishwoman who now occupies the Doctor's old role as scientific advisor to UNIT. But she clearly has some ties to Nazi Germany as when she follows the Doctor, like Alice following the white rabbit, into the TARDIS, he "accidentally" takes her to a hidden scientific facility in Germany where Allies are picking over the ruins for Nazi research.

In fact, aliens from all over the cosmos are turning up looking for Nazi secrets. Although this Klein has no apparent memory of travelling with the Doctor, the story does in essence pick up on their conversation about whether or not peace can only be achieved by a powerful central authority who believes in sacrificing the few for a potential improvement for the majority. The Doctor's eventual position on this is a little vague, which was possibly inevitable, but it's a nice story. Set evidently just before the 1996 TV movie, this is a Seventh Doctor who somewhat resembles the one seen at the beginning of that, and it sounded like it was the 1996 TARDIS interior, too--though another companion, Will (Christian Edwards), introduced in this one, describes the interior as though it were designed based on a movie adaptation of The Time Machine than by anyone who'd actually read the story, which sounded like a dig at the 1996 TV movie to me. Which I enjoyed--the only good thing to come out of that movie was Paul McGann, in my opinion.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Strangely Familiar Bull

I decided to spend all day working on my comic to-day so I got an audio book to listen to, William Hurt reading Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. I thought I'd never read it but what started as deja vu became a definite feeling that I'd read the book before. I have no memory of when or why but I definitely knew the book. It's not bad, anyway I like the narrative structure. I suppose that's been said.

William Hurt is an odd reader, his inflection often seemed wrong. Sometimes his tone would go up at the end of a statement like it was a question, sometimes he ran sentences together when it seemed inappropriate. But as I went on I got used to him. By the end I thought he had kind of a classy, Robert Mitchum-ish voice. I've seen him in plenty of movies; Hurt, I mean (I've seen Mitchum in a lot more). I remember he impressed me most playing against type as a gangster in David Cronenberg's History of Violence. He put on an accent in that and he doesn't hesitate from putting on the variety of accents in The Sun Also Rises with varying degrees of success. It was a nice way of keeping the characters distinct.

I love how much time Hemingway devotes to describing experiences that don't have any explicit connexion to the main plot, but then, of course, they do. Describing a day spent fishing with another guy he establishes his state of mind and gives an impression of the passage of time between the last time he saw Brett, the woman everyone in the novel's in love with, and the next. It helps emphasise the importance she has in the minds of the male characters too--something he gets closer to directly stating when he says, when it was just him and two of the other guys, it felt like six people were missing. I guess that's all part of Hemingway's "Iceberg Technique", where he deliberately doesn't directly emphasise important things. It's a good technique.

Not only have I read the book I feel like I've also read a lot about it. I do remember a class a couple years ago where the use of the word "nigger" was discussed. I think the book also came up when I took Women's Sexuality, I certainly remember hearing the Third or Fourth Wave Feminist angle on it in any case. Wikipedia has a section on its anti-Semitism. Maybe it's the way Hurt read it but I felt like some of the characters were anti-Semitic, not the book itself. The one Jewish character, Robert Cohn, even seems to be the protagonist at the beginning of the book at first and Hemingway gives him a pretty complex and even sympathetic backstory, talking about his time in college, his compulsion to take up boxing even though he didn't really like it. But the fact that he was good at it was good for his self-esteem--he comes across as a real person, not a caricature, anti-Semiic or otherwise. But that might be only because he's based on a real person. Certainly all the characters seem tolerant of anti-Semitism.

I'm not a fan of bullfighting, something that the action of the book revolves around, literally and thematically. I'm a vegetarian, though I generally say not for moral reasons--I've just never liked meat. But bullfighting seems excessively cruel to the animal. I could sort of appreciate what Hemingway says about the pride in the professionalism, how the crowd cheers more for the young, risk-taking matador over the more polished but careful one. It becomes an interesting way into discussing Brett's fascination with the boy. An integral part of the innocence that attracts her to the much younger man is the pride and skill he has in killing this magnificent animal. I suppose one could read into it an attempt to reconnect with a pre-World War I romanticising of warfare. There is something eerie and lovely about it. Bullfighters still don't impress me, though.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Palette Expanse

I feel like there's a tug of war between directors on The Expanse--between directors who like coloured lighting and directors who don't. This week's decent episode where tensions came to a head saw the bridge of the Agatha King turn purple.

Spoilers after the screenshot

I kept thinking Admiral Nguyen (Byron Mann) was kind of an idiot. Why antagonise the crew of the Agatha King by being so obviously secretive? When he started firing at UNN ships I thought we were about to see the last of him. But then he fired off those missiles. I guess superior technology is one way an unlikeable dipshit can take over.

Meanwhile, most everyone else was thinking about their kids. Even Naomi (Dominique Tipper) has a kid named Filip we've never heard about and apparently he was a big part of her decision to send the protomolecule to Fred Johnson. I don't feel like we needed more motivation from her at this point for that. Maybe he'll become more important later, right now it feels like filler.

A lot of the stuff on the Pinus felt like filler this week. Alex (Cas Anvar) telling Bobbie (Frankie Adams) about how they killed the protomolecule monster, additional bonding between Amos (Wes Chatham) and Prax (Terry Chen). I think the floating tool disaster pretty well established the friendship between Prax and Amos in addition to Amos always voting to look for Prax's kid.

The Agatha King stuff was more effective and watching the strands of mutiny slowly come together was nice--Souther (Martin Roach) getting taken out at the end was an effective surprise. The episode certainly left me wondering what's going to happen with Mars and all these rebelling UNN ships.

Twitter Sonnet #1112

Important texts; a set of dotted clouds.
A promise turned ignitions past a date.
The matte depicts a car in velvet shrouds.
This busy image still is young and late.
Suspicious faces sound a softened rock.
The granite depths deliver dusty tones.
The ankle like a fork absorbed a shock.
In Morse a madness spoke in sequent stones.
The car alarm was herald of the mode.
Approaching kings betook to court behind.
So Orson Welles predictions blithely strode.
What alien and strange may yet remind.
A tie provides a plate for mouths to sigh.
A hat extends above the tails to sky.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Nicolas Locked in the Cage of Youth

I never would've thought Nicolas Cage's career was going to go anywhere if all I'd seen was 1983's Valley Girl. This teen romantic comedy directed by Martha Coolidge is more interesting for its subplots left strangely incomplete than for its vaguely Romeo and Juliet inspired central tale.

Closer to Lady and the Tramp, the story follows working class Randy (Cage) and his unlikely romance with a valley girl with the not terrible subtle name of Julie Richman (Deborah Foreman). I guess because she's rich. We're not dealing with Charles Dickens here.

It's hard to say why the two are so into each other. After he crashes a valley party, she goes with him on an adventure to the wrong side of the tracks at which point she says she feels some inexplicable connexion to him. And that's all the explanation we get except for a montage of the two goofing off.

A lot more interesting is Elizabeth Daily as Julie's friend Loryn. Early in the film, Julie's ex-boyfriend, Tommy (Michael Bowen), aggressively makes out with Loryn, which she reluctantly goes along with, but he stomps off angrily after getting her top off when she says making out with her means they have to go steady. This was probably meant just to establish that Tommy's an asshole and Julie's better off with Randy but watching Loryn struggle with how to tell Julie about this, and wondering if Loryn's going to succumb to the comfort of the status quo, is twenty times more captivating than anything Julie and Randy get up to. Daily gives a surprisingly subtle performance which draws attention as much as her beautiful, atypical looks.

Speaking of atypical looks, I never realised Nicolas Cage's chest hair formed something like the Bat Symbol:

I guess he really was miscast as Superman. It's like his hair grew to perfectly fit a shirt with its top three buttons undone.

There's another kind of amusing subplot where another of the teen guys possibly falls for the mother of one of Julie's friends but like the Loryn subplot it ends before it comes to what seems like it's going to be its natural conclusion. Instead we get Randy's improbable attempts to win Julie back when the inevitable obstacle comes between them--he somehow gets jobs at all the places she goes to with her friends. I guess you could say that's creepy but their whole relationship is so vaguely sketched it's hard to say what is appropriate between the two.