Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ai, ai, ai. Just watched Dead Ringers for the first time in a long time. Gods, I love Cronenberg. Sure, the idea of twin gynaecologists going mad and one of them creating some evil looking "instruments for mutant women" is a bit disturbing in itself. But there's something subtler about Cronenberg's style that gets under my skin so nicely. Something that has purely to with angles and editing--the bare bones, to which the subject matter is almost secondary.

I got the Criterion edition of Dead Ringers, which has been out of print for a while, so I had to order it used from Amazon. But it's worth it, knowing I have the Cronenberg commentary that's not on the newer edition.

Cronenberg does a good commentary. He's articulate, intelligent, and doesn't merely point out obvious things. Some commentaries are critics who seem to assume I've decided my first ever viewing of the film would be with their commentary, so they give me the play by play; "Here's Jimmy Stewart . . . He's playing the lead in the movie . . . Now watch what happens here . . . Neat, huh?"

Then there's the other end of the spectrum, like Marian Keane's commentary for Notorious, which really tells you more about Marian Keane than it does Notorious. I'm sorry, Marian, but a transitional shot that happens to feature a grandfather clock is probably not meant to be a penis.

But, then, it could be anyway. I saw an interview with Hitchcock's daughter where she talked about taking a film class where her father's movies were being similarly overanalysed. She went home asking her father if he really meant to put all that in his movies. He told her, of course not, but people are allowed to see whatever they like in the movies, and it pleases him.

Anyway, Cronenberg's commentaries are generally good. I liked an anecdote he related on the Videodrome commentary about an exchange he overheard between Deborah Harry and James Woods--Woods had to wear an uncomfortable, large prosthetic over his stomach of a vertical lesion in his pseudo-flesh. It was so uncomfortable that he griped to Harry one day, "I've ceased to be an actor and have become the bearer of the slit." To which Harry replied, "Now you know how it feels."

It's been a good Christmas for movies, a lot of which, actually, have commentaries I'm looking forward to listening to; Brazil, Star Trek II, The Circus, the Star Wars trilogy, the 1950 King Solomon's Mines, Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, and Akira Kurosawa's Ran. I haven't had time to watch any yet except Beauty and the Beast, which I intend to watch again, both because the movie wants to be watched again, and because I've been borrowing Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast production diary from Marty for over a year now, and it strikes me that this would be an excellent time to read it, especially as I've just finished the previous book I was reading.

I also reread King Lear in preparation for Ran (which is based on the play). This is the Criterion edition I've just gotten, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on the 42 inch screen. I have an older DVD edition of the film that isn't formatted for widescreen televisions, and since it's a movie in which Kurosawa consciously avoided close-ups, I think as large a viewing as possible would improve the film substantially.

I also went on a small CD binge, getting Charlie Parker's With Strings album, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, and two Oingo Boingo CDs. I'd been wanting more of the Boingo since Trisa played a collection of theirs on our trip back from San José, but, unfortunately, I'd only been able to find collections for the longest time. I don't like collections--they lack the structure of proper albums, and buying them usually means you end up buying most of the songs multiple times. But I found Only a Lad and Nothing to Fear for rather good prices, and I am pleased with them.

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