Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Human Metal

I feel like David Cronenberg's 1996 film Crash is both dated and ahead of its time. I think the dated thing may only come in terms of the controversy it stirred, actually. I saw an episode of Family Guy last night where the baby, Stewie, and Brian the dog come across Stewie's parents naked and high on the couch while Lois, the mother, insinuates the father, Peter, is trying to sodomise her. Imagine something like this on The Simpsons, in the early 90s when there was public controversy just about Bart Simpson's bad attitude.

I watched "Bart Gets Hit by a Car", a season two episode of The Simpsons, and thought again about how The Simpsons' focus on insight into human behaviour is so different from Family Guy's to-day. You have the absurdist stuff, like the phoney Doctor the Phil Hartman lawyer gets who's so over the top phoney, but there's a basic sense of characters trying to process this world in their imperfect ways in the episode, particularly from Marge, Lisa, and Bart. Family Guy has been criticised for taking its characters so far from who they were when they were created, but I actually think this is a result of one of Family Guy's strengths, that it's willing to deviate from a template when something more interesting comes along. Stewie as the evil warlord is less interesting than the more difficult to pigeonhole character he's become, a possibly closeted homosexual whose infant appearance seems to work as a visual metaphor for a sexually confused personality. And Brian, who's gone from the smart ass dog to being something more nuanced, a guy with a bit of an ego, an intellectual who has good perspective about some things, but frequently overestimates himself.

When we consider how tremendously popular Family Guy is, it's interesting to note how the personalities of Brian and Stewie reflect the culture. We've become a much more analytical culture as well as a more sexually open culture, at the same time a much more cynical and jaded culture, due in large part to the internet. Or, more specifically, the saturation of information and porn. Internet forums are often pissing contests between people off-handedly demonstrating knowledge or wit, however puerile, and of course it's hard to go a day without seeing porn whether you want to or not.

So Crash, a movie about people who are so sexually jaded they look to car accidents for stimulation, may have more relevance to-day than it did in the 90s. And yet the characters still feel so fascinatingly cold. Deborah Kara Unger's performance in particular is interesting. When she's having sex with Elias Koteas in a car wash, he looks like he's about to literally devour her, but the look on her face is like she's remote controlling her body from a space station.

She's not intentionally blocking the experience. You sense an intelligence trying to analyse sensation in order to obtain the correct formula for pleasure.

Koteas' character seems to be the fertilising element in the group of lifeless individuals, the one genuinely weird guy among people trying to get in touch with the humanity they've gotten so removed from.

Koteas talks about the gradual fusion of man and machine and how it's leading to a new life form and I think about how much more applicable this is to the integration of the internet into human society.

Twitter Sonnet #359

Skeletal Jolie personifies fear.
Double Roger Thornhills float like petals.
Colin Firth just doesn't want to be here.
The Artist's win's like Aladeen's medals.
Yellow mountains only exit in pairs.
Curly eggs cannot see your new glasses.
Remember umbrellas in black nightmares.
Cherry Hell has surplus backstage passes.
Sensitive light switches watch the restroom.
Dental floss extends across the crack street.
Burning apple sockets portend a doom.
Ancient yoghurt was sometimes topped with peat.
Scorn toast shaped liked Alexander Graham Bell.
Phoney metal retracts in a paint shell.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arranging the Dreams

Doing my Japanese homework to-day felt like scraping the inside of my skull with a metal spoon. There was a test last night and I think I did well on it, but doing the homework assignment to-day I find I've totally forgotten so much already. I'm constantly having to go back and look things up, and then sometimes the book decides to spring things on me that haven't even been covered yet and are hard to find in my Japanese dictionary because they're conjugated versions of their plain forms that have no resemblance. I guess this stuff is supposed to help you learn by making you look for it, but I really don't think my brain works that way. It just seems to be slowing me down in every way. It feels like I'm doing seventy percent of everything wrong.

I got through the test because I made flash cards and memorised all the vocabulary words. But none of this is making me feel like I'm actually learning the language. Maybe I'm too impatient. We're being taught grammar and things but not in a way that's really helping me assimilate it. I'd like to have a discussion about how the language reflects the fundamental difference in how thoughts are organised by native Japanese speakers. For example, in the previous chapter we learned that "fat" as in describing a fat person is a verb not an adjective in Japanese. Futoteimasu, in the act of gaining weight. It doesn't literally translate to someone gaining weight, it's more like being in a state marked by weight gain. Thin is similar--yaseteimasu, being in a state marked by weight loss.

I watched the first episode of a new, not particularly good, anime series called Black Rock Shooter yesterday and I was excited to find I understood most of what the characters were saying without the aid of the fansubs, I guess because modern colloquial Japanese is very simplistic and also because the main character of this series had a tendency to look at things and just speak a single adjective (aka, red, aoi, blue). Then one of the characters said mitte miru which the fansubber translated as "We will go and look." I know miru means look or see, I know mitte is the conjugated form of miru that makes it the command, "Look." But why would mitte miru mean, "We will go and look"? I know it's customary to omit nouns and pronouns referring to oneself and the person spoken to, but how did mitte miru come to mean that?

But again, most of what characters were saying in the episode I was able to understand. The night before, I'd watched Kurosawa's adaptation of The Lower Depths again, in which I'd understood almost nothing.

But gods what an amazing film. I've never read the Maxim Gorky play it's based on--I hear Kurosawa adapted it rather faithfully but in any case his movie is such a brilliant portrait of the importance of abstract thought to the human mind. I think before I thought it may have been about how delusion is essential to the impoverished, but now I think it's more about how poverty makes fragile and naked the delusions fundamental to the human experience. The compulsion to arrange perceptions in a way that satisfies one's needs.

The tinker who prides himself on his work ethic as the only one who spends his day working among the other denizens of the flophouse. He points to his sick wife as the only thing holding him back from a successful career, but when she dies he sells his tools to pay for her funeral and for this reason he complains that he still can't find the success he deserves.

The samurai who may or may not have actually been a samurai, the prostitute who talks about the john who'd told her of the essentially noble nature he saw in her. As the pilgrim points out, it's important to listen to her story not because it may be true but because it's important to her to tell the story. The pilgrim may or may not actually be a holy man, but Bokuzen Hidari's delivery when he tells the tinker's wife about the afterlife is so beautiful, one doesn't care whether he's the real thing. I honestly wouldn't mind having a con man like that by my deathbed.

But all dreams, all carefully assembled perceptions of reality, are dismantled by desperate circumstances in The Lower Depths. To put it in Nietzsche's terms, The Lower Depths is about the failure of the Apollonian. I was reminded of this rather beautiful bit from The Birth of Tragedy;

Thus the Apollonian tears us out of the Dionysian universality and lets us find delight in individuals; it attaches our pity to them, and by means of them it satisfies our sense of beauty which longs for great and sublime forms; it presents images of life to us, and incites us to comprehend in thought the core of life they contain. With the immense impact of the image, the concept, the ethical teaching, and the sympathetic emotion, the Apollonian tears man from his orgiastic self-annihilation and blinds him to the universality of the Dionysian process, deluding him into the belief that he is seeing a single image of the world (Tristan and Isolde, for instance), and that, through music, he is merely supposed to see it still better and more profoundly. What can the healing magic of Apollo not accomplish when it can even create the illusion that the Dionysian is really in the service of the Apollonian and capable of enhancing its effects--as if music were essentially the art of presenting an Apollonian content?

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Can Survive on Clouds of Sugar, My Bald Darling

So you went ahead and did it, Academy. You gave the Oscar to The Artist just to spite me. I know you did. It certainly didn't win on its own merits.

I can't say I hated the whole broadcast. Billy Crystal was funny at times, though mainly I guess I'd say he didn't have any particular flavour, which is what I think Oscar producers wanted. There was a Cirque du Soleil performance that fell spectacularly flat--the two stoned faced, flying Cary Grants to some icy Danny Elfman music kind of exemplified the disconnect between the shaved cat self-important self-caressing and the actual joy of movies the evening's theme was ostensibly intended to be. Maybe a close second in that department was a montage of famous movie lines with oh-so-precious soundtrack added, giving an embarrassingly weepy ecstatic undertone to Dustin Hoffman yelling, "I'm walkin' here!" Oh! Dustin Hoffman is walking here! This precious movie moment ought to be encased in a diamond swan, dipped in chocolate and placed in our bathtubs for us to cuddle while we're naked and clean!

Yeah, so the Academy Awards are actually really creepy. It's like having lunch with someone you normally get along with, whose personality you instinctively respond to, and discovering that while you've been talking he's been masturbating under the table.

And may I just point out again that the movie that won for best picture rather undeservedly used music from a great movie that wasn't even nominated for an Oscar when it came out. The Oscars aren't about celebrating movies, they're about the idea of celebrating movies, and so you can't celebrate good filmmaking until you're twice removed from the source. It's like how everyone pretends Angelina Jolie looks good while I couldn't stop thinking of a draugr from Skyrim;

That block of writing tattoo on her arm only emphasises the impression of someone who's been living in a concentration camp. She had great hair and a great dress, but it was like seeing Gollum in drag. Though I think Gollum had a little more meat on his bones.

Speaking of Skyrim, I hadn't realised two Skyrim voice actors, Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer, were both nominated for best supporting actor. Christopher Plummer certainly deserved the win, though I'd have said he deserved it for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which wasn't nominated the year it came out. When Plummer gave his acceptance speech, it demonstrated again how an older actor almost inevitably does better onstage unprepared than the younger generations. He made a joke about how he had been working on his acceptance speech since he was born eighty two years ago that wasn't particularly funny but it worked because he delivered it well. Every single young actor flubbed at least once on stage last night, but Plummer was at ease and intelligible.

But Hollywood honours its own, sooner or later, and will be very proud of itself for doing it, unless you're Sean Young trying to get into a party.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Perils of Entertainment Not Faced

Oscar predictions from me? I predict The Artist will win. Maybe Hugo, I'd prefer Hugo won, but I think the Academy will choose The Artist just to spite me.

Hugo's not a great movie, but it was better than The Artist. I'd argue too Sacha Baron Cohen would make a better silent film star than Jean Dujardin. His upcoming movie, The Dictator, looks like it may be partly a homage to The Great Dictator, even. I'm glad the Academy is letting him walk the red carpet in character now. Which is not to say I think the Academy has developed a sense of humour.

Yesterday brought the eighth episode of Nisemonogatari, the beginning of a new story arc. The previous one, involving a con man who infected Araragi's sister with a bee demon of some kind, ended rather disappointingly with a face off conversation with the con man that lasted a long time and essentially went nowhere. This new arc seems like it might be a little more promising--continuing in the Bakemonogatari tradition of analysing anime and manga trends, this one is apparently going to explore the issues of sibling incest that underlie a lot of anime and manga stories. This first episode has managed to be simultaneously disturbing, funny, and sexy.

Araragi's sister Karen asks him to introduce her to Kanbaru, but he'll only do it on the condition that she let him brush her teeth for five minutes, figuring she'll never withstand the experience--he doesn't want Kanbaru and Karen to meet because he's afraid of Kanbaru seducing her. Little does he suspect the act of brushing Karen's teeth would lead to something much worse for the both of them.

I do love an anime that treads dangerous ground. So few do. The new story arc has a good new theme segment. The right mix of creepy and cute;

Twitter Sonnet #358

Iris spirals scrunch the trash out toothpaste.
Gamera haunts the foil ear canal.
Magazine salad leaves no ink to waste.
Nostrils are run by the nosehair cabal.
Buying badges drains nature from crayon.
Your grey matter can't directly make sperm.
Soft dinosaur suits are wrong to try on.
Rubber throats do not work in the long term.
Vulture shaped potatoes await dead dirt.
Intestine banding marks a bad wet vid.
Coated rats on stilts must remain alert.
Good goats know they've no message for a kid.
Beige hats hide thinning and romantic hair.
Caramel geta will stick on the stair.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chickens are Most Illogical

I'm almost finished watching Arrested Development, I only have a few episodes left. It's been a sometimes ingenious string of comedy logical turns. My favourite episode by far being "Forget-Me-Now", a rather breathtaking exercise in wordplay. Maybe my favourite line in the series concerns the character Gob (pronounced like biblical Job)--he's one of Michael Bluth's siblings, and when Michael confronts the family about kidnapping his girlfriend, Rita, who had nearly been injured by Bluth brother Buster, their mother mutters she wished "Buster had finished the job!"

When Michael asks suspiciously, "What job?" their mother, apparently shocked by her own error, says, "Did I say 'job'?! I meant Gob!" and points an accusatory finger at him.

Elsewhere in television dimensions, I'm happy to say I finally got to see a good episode of Star Trek last night.

Go on, Spock, we all know you want to kiss Scotty.

The main reason The Galileo Seven is so good is that it's primarily concerned with Spock's character and does a credible job (and I mean job!) setting up a life or death situation where the shuttlecraft is stranded on a dangerous planet and Spock's in charge. You have the usual friction between Spock and McCoy but also the Vulcan/human cultural divide between Spock and the five other stranded crewmembers.

One comes away liking Spock's ideas more than maybe the episode intended. Kirk's kind of douchey laugh at Spock at the end for having made a decision apparently based on emotion drives us further towards accepting Spock's explanation of it, which lies within the realm of logic and in fact makes sense.

I know there are episodes of the original Star Trek series I haven't seen--I used to watch the show as a kid, but of course networks would generally replay the same ten or so most famous episodes over and over. But even most of those I haven't watched in over fifteen years so they feel practically new, which is nice. Though I have to admit I'm surprised by how easily Doctor Who from the period outdoes Star Trek in the writing department. Maybe not standout episodes, but it seems like Doctor Who had more consistent quality.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Better for Postcards

Unfortunately, gorgeous design is, for the most part, the only good thing about Chico and Rita, a 2010 Spanish animated film which is nominated in this year's Oscars. It's an ode to jazz in the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily bop, focusing on the fictional Cuban duo of piano player Chico and singer Rita, who, unfortunately, has a distinctly modern style of singing. The film's story is also a pretty disappointingly standard musician rise and fall biopic, hitting standard notes of tragic and unlikely misunderstandings between the two musicians, peppered with walk-ons from actual famous musicians. The dead faced quality given to the characters by the lousy animation sort of mirrors the weak characterisation. This is a movie best experienced in stills.

The one scene I really liked was Rita waking up naked and going over to the piano to sing accompaniment to Chico's piano the morning after they'd slept together. I imagine there are few sweeter experiences. It's followed by a moment I enjoyed in a completely different way as Chico's girlfriend discovers them and a catfight ensues while Rita's still naked.

I do love a good catfight.

After this, the story settles into dry recountings of how one person went off to become a star in one place, another person went off to work with someone else. Plot points are dispensed like gumballs as Rita becomes a movie star in New York, Chico and his manager see Chano Pozo get killed after watching him play with Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, Chico and Rita meet again at a party, have some perfunctory dialogue, the popularity of kidney beans in Cuba is referenced, Rita loses her career when she complains onstage about segregation.

The movie's as a series of memories apparently ruminated over by an aged Chico who's reduced to shining shoes to earn a living before a modern popular jazz princess finds him and the two have a wildly successful world tour, which seemed like the final piece of evidence for me that the filmmakers were surreptitiously trying to make the statement that modern jazz is just as good as jazz in the late 40s and early 50s, which, sorry guys, just isn't true. The hushed speak/singing that would never actually work in a club environment that you have the woman playing Rita do emphasises that you can't play in the same ballpark.

There is some good music when the movie uses recordings of people like Monk, Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. I'd maybe like to see a series of music videos for those recordings designed by Javier Mariscal but animated by a better animation studio.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Plot Spray

I'm glad I'm not the kind of Trekkie who has to obsessively retroactively make canonical sense of sloppy writing on Star Trek or I think watching "Miri" and "Conscience of the King" back to back would give me a nervous breakdown.

"Miri" has the Enterprise discovering a planet that is an exact duplicate of Earth in terms of oceans and continent shapes. This is revealed at the beginning, but no-one ever refers to it again or seems particularly interested in speculating why and how this occurred. On the planet are the ruins of a civilisation that resembles Earth in the 60s. The only people left are children we later learn are hundreds of years old because of an immortality potion the adults came up with centuries back. The drawback is it kills you when you enter puberty.

Kirk beams down with McCoy, Spock, Yeoman Rand, and two red shirts. Red shirts are known for dying, but these two took the unique route of just disappearing for a large portion of the middle of the episode. The group is stranded on the planet when they catch the now apparently airborne disease created by the ancient potion and are slowly dying and can't risk going back to the ship to contaminate everyone. There's a gang of misfit kids who make things difficult for the crew by decoying them out of the hospital lab where McCoy and Spock are working on a cure, then stealing their communicators while they're gone because for some reason every single one of them took off their communicators and left them on the desks. This is horrible because McCoy only has seven days to find the cure and it'll be harder without access to the Enterprise computers. One would think the two security officers, still armed, would be able to handle a pack of children to get the communicators back, but, then, one would think these security officers would also have communicators of their own, two reasons I guess the episode tried to carefully distract us from the fact that it had established the two fellows as being there.

Kirk's love interest in the episode is a prepubescent girl who has a crush on him. With her help, he has to reason with the gang of children. All the logical inconsistencies of the episode apparently in service of the idea that sometimes adults do know best and kids ought to listen to them.

"The Conscience of the King" is named after a line from Hamlet and involves the head of an acting troupe, Karidian, who may be an infamous mass murderer whom only Kirk and one other guy are capable of identifying. This is repeated again and again throughout the episode despite the fact that we see Kirk comparing photographic records of both the troupe leader and the mass murderer.

And, despite the fact that the photos make it clear they're both the same person, much of the episode is about Kirk investigating whether or not this is so. He conceals his investigation and motives from Spock and McCoy for absolutely no reason.

Kirk's love interest in the episode is Karidian's daughter who's introduced playing Lady Macbeth with her father playing Macbeth. Yes, Karidian, the guy in charge of the troupe, cast his daughter as his wife. And no-one mentions this once. Although the episode is built around Shakespeare references, it's clearly written by someone with an extremely weak grasp of Shakespeare as is reinforced by the climactic scene where there's an argument about whether Karidian should be allowed to go back on stage to finish a performance when he's just left the stage in his role as the ghost of Hamlet's father after having just been talking to Hamlet, the last time the Ghost appears in the play except for an off-stage line.

This episode's such a mess, it's hard to see if it had any heart at all. There's something in Karidian's argument that the people he killed were due to a decision he had to make in order to save more lives, but this is a bit lost under the laughable over the top acting from the guy playing Karidian. Maybe not as laughable as some of this dialogue, though;

Twitter Sonnet #357

Autumn wheel chairs turn their balloons yellow.
Garlic oil gives lanterns aroma.
The man with A shaped hair's a kind fellow.
Shuttle crafts sway while treating glaucoma.
Experience starts with spatial guitar.
Inverse party favours intensify.
Piñatas portend the backyard red star.
Don't be ashamed if you must calcify.
Orange teeth conceal mashers soundly sleeping.
Jelly beans may have marbles in their midst.
Every straw on the camel's worth keeping.
Shouting cats clammed up in the Blitz.
The twelve vegetables of dusk melt to black.
Powers circle the festive hats they lack.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Baby Rabbit Didn't Run

This is a baby rabbit I saw yesterday on my way back from the store. I was carrying a plastic bag of bread that made a lot of noise while I adjusted my camera but the little fellow didn't run away, not even when I got close enough for a macro shot;

He did finally run into the bushes, though not very far. He didn't seem sick or injured, I think either he was frozen in fear or just not old enough yet to properly fear humans.

How can I stay mad looking at a baby bunny? I have cooled down a little since last night but fundamentally my feelings haven't changed.

One could look at it really as Hazanavicius says he intended it, as a tribute to Vertigo or the music of Bernard Herrmann. After all, Stanley Kubrick used lots of music that wasn't originally written for his movies. I just recently praised Lars Von Trier's use of Wagner in Melancholia.

I think, on reflection, a lot of it has to do with the fact that Vertigo wasn't nominated for any Oscars, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, and The Artist is the favourite to win on Oscar night. For the eccentricity of it being a silent film, The Artist is still a very proper film. It praises Hollywood history and doesn't have a particularly dangerous plot, two things Hollywood loves to honour. It's neck and neck with Hugo, Martin Scorsese's own love letter to Hollywood history that also isn't a fraction of the quality of Raging Bull or Goodfellas, two films the Academy failed to award Best Picture when they clearly were the best pictures among the nominees (well, The Elephant Man was also nominated the year Raging Bull was, which was also a brilliant film).

Hearing music from Vertigo in The Artist is like seeing a big, beautiful python nailed to a wall in the waiting room of a corporate office. It's safe, straight As industry, where everyone can make it if you do everything right, kiss the right asses, bottling the Dionysus whose main priority was art. The fact that the movie's called The Artist is one of the series of slaps in the face it represents.

This is What I Call Theft

I can't remember the last time I was this angry. I really can't--I'm viscerally, stupidly angry. It's 2:39 am and I'm hot. It's just . . . irrational, maybe. I don't know. It's entirely possible I'm being unfair.

Okay. I just watched The Artist. For the most part I would say it's a bad film. I respect, in some ways, where the filmmakers are coming from. I appreciate some of the homages to the silent film era and Jean Dujardin isn't bad, he kind of looks like Adolphe Menjou. Berenice Bejo, as the female lead, is just awful--she has that kind of skull face that's popular for women in some circles these days and certainly looks way out of place for a 20s starlet. Yes, thin was in in the twenties, but this lady has a certain legitimised anorexic face that smacks of this young decade. Every still of her face looks like pictures from a shopping mall novelty photo studio.

But that's not why I'm really mad right now. And I can tell I'm past rational, I'm ready to get up and start pacing with rage. The reason I'm so mad, to put it simply, is that The Artist uses a lengthy portion of Bernard Herrmann's score from Vertigo.

And I know what you might say. The other part of my brain's already been saying it to me; I've enjoyed movies using scores from other movies plenty of times. I've even enjoyed the use of Bernard Herrmann in Kill Bill. And it's not like Re-Animator where Richard Band outright stole music from Pyscho without crediting it--and even then, I was able to enjoy aspects of Re-Animator, though what Band did did piss me off (and I don't buy that he intended it as a homage meant to be recognised). But when the piece from Vertigo started up in The Artist it was excruciating. The feelings just happened and I have to analyse myself to figure out why. Is it because Vertigo is holy to me, because I have an extraordinary love for it? Is it just that the action happening onscreen in The Artist is unworthy of the music? Maybe that's it. Anyway, after getting the nasty surprise while watching the movie, I found out I might have been forewarned if I'd read the movie's Wikipedia entry;

On 9 January 2012, actress Kim Novak stated that "rape" had been committed in regard to the musical score by Ludovic Bource, which incorporates a portion of Bernard Herrmann's score from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo (in which Novak had starred). In the article published by Variety she stated that "I feel as if my body - or at least my body of work - has been violated by the movie". "This film should've been able to stand on its own without depending on Bernard Herrmann's score from Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' to provide more drama," she continued. "It is morally wrong for the artistry of our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what they were intended," she continued. "Shame on them!

I have to say, I am very much with Kim Novak on this. I mean, I don't like to use the word "rape" except when referring to actual rape and I still feel that talking about a misappropriated musical score as rape isn't a good idea . . . but. But I have to say there's something in it. I would definitely call it an assault and a rather intimate one. I don't know, I guess if I wasn't afraid of the word and concept getting trivialised I'd say, yeah. It's a rape.

I remember another time I felt this kind of angry--in a high school art class where I'd come to class one day to find some kid had stabbed holes in the breasts and crotch of a little clay sculpture I'd made of a woman. Part of what made it so hard was the telling myself that I was being stupid, that it was just a little sculpture, not even a good one. The assault coupled with the built in impression that you have no right to feel the way you do, because it's stupid to feel that way.

Also in the Wikipedia entry is The Artist director Micel Hazanavicius' response to Kim Novak;

The Artist was made as a love letter to cinema, and grew out of my (and all of my cast and crew’s) admiration and respect for movies throughout history. It was inspired by the work of Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder. I love Bernard Herrmann and his music has been used in many different films and I’m very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly and I’m sorry to hear she disagrees.

And what about that? Let's look at movies I've enjoyed that use music Bernard Herrmann wrote for other movies. Kill Bill, like nearly all Quentin Tarantino's films, conspicuously uses music from other movies. Even if you don't recognise the music, you're aware of it, either because of sound quality or just because you know it's what Tarantino does. And there's 12 Monkeys, the Terry Gilliam movie that uses parts from the Vertigo soundtrack, but it's in a movie theatre where the characters are actually watching Vertigo.

Does making it conspicuous, giving a little knowing wink in the act of using it, make it okay? I guess it does. But maybe more than that, 12 Monkeys and Kill Bill are good movies and The Artist isn't. Well, more than that--12 Monkeys and Kill Bill aren't saccharine, shallow pieces of shit.

The scene where the Vertigo music is used is where Dujardin is about to kill himself and Bejo is rushing to the scene to stop him. Why does he want to kill himself? Because he found out that Bejo had been buying his furniture when he'd been auctioning it off after his career as a leading film actor went to pots. Basically he was being a big, huge, baby. Or rather, the movie had to come up with something so we didn't have Happily Ever After at the one hour fifteen minute mark. Never mind most silent films were under an hour.

The central flaw in the movie is weak fucking characterisation. Particularly as regards the apparent intended main theme of the movie--a man dedicated to his art form. Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent movie star whose career is jeopardised when movies go to sound. When his studio boss, played by John Goodman, tells him it's over for him and for silent films in general, Valentin quits and goes off to finance a silent film he directs and stars in.

Valentin's story is reminiscent not only, as many have pointed out, of the plot of Singin' In the Rain, but it has elements of different actual silent actors' lives. The insistence to continue to direct and to finance himself his silent films into the 1930s is reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, but, of course, Chaplin actually pulled off a successful career at this. A leading lady finding success in talkies helping out her former leading man who's down on his luck because of his unsuitability for talkies is reminiscent of Greta Garbo getting John Gilbert a part in Queen Christina.

The difference there is that John Gilbert didn't give up the way Valentin did. And Gilbert died miserable without a miraculous lightweight solution like at the end of The Artist. In any case, Valentin never comes off as a man consumed with getting his art seen by people, just as a guy consumed with getting seen and respected by people. His motives are so pathetically shallow and are taken so seriously it turns the stomach. The movie also lifts scenes from the Douglas Fairbanks Mark of Zorro and inserts Dejardin's face in the close-ups, though Fairbanks was happily retired by the time talkies came around. More to the point, it emphasises how despite being silent, black and white, and 4:3 aspect ration, The Artist fails at capturing the timing in terms of editing and composition. You can see too much Spielberg influence in The Artist's close-ups. And while silent films were often simple hearted, The Artist is just the wrong kind of simple.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's Creepy Tuesday

This is the spider I met in the house last night--a nice big one, about the size of a quarter, the biggest I'd met in a while. She was waiting on the stairs.

I remember three dreams from last night. There were screaming peppermint dollhouses--red and white striped with porch awnings that looked like the tops of their mouths and sad, dark, curved at the top, windows for eyes. Their screams weren't audible, but they swayed from side to side, at their tops, like background characters in a Silly Symphonies cartoon.

In another dream, I was leading Argonauts in ancient Greece on a quest of some sort. We killed a giant with dark, messy hair, and cut its head off. One of our group was chosen to take the head back to Athens or wherever we'd come from so we tore off the side of a wooden shack and threw it off a bridge into the river, then tossed the guy and the head onto it. The current carried him a ways before he found a shovel to use as an oar.

And in my first dream of the night, I was in a little dive club in a bad part of town and David Bowie took the stage, revealing he partially owned the club. The next day, he and I searched for the club on foot on a reddish soil, desert land landscape with white buildings seemingly always at a distance. He didn't seem to remember being famous--he and I were hurrying in our search because we planned on getting to Tori Amos' wedding at Comic-Con later that day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Safe Place to Stay

Very little is directly explained to the viewer in Gespenster, Christian Petzold's 2005 film. It's a movie about people with fantasies about how reality ought to be and who try vainly to make reality suit their ideas with willpower alone. It's a sad, good film delicately put together, the characters and the story fading in and out of existence with a sort of bittersweet absence of beginning and end.

A teenage orphan, Nina, is at the centre of the story and seems to serve the other characters as a medium for their ghosts. Having drifted through different foster homes and group homes, Nina's quiet and her personality has seemed to have been stunted. But evidence is shown of detailed fantasy realities she creates to give meaning and significance to the people and things she encounters. Toni, a thief who Nina meets early in the story being beaten in the park, becomes in Nina's diary the subject of a rape fantasy. When Toni actually does enter Nina's life, Toni invents her own fairy tale past for the two of them, a trite story about a boating incident where one met the other when she rescued her from drowning. We soon learn that this story is concocted by Toni as something to sell to a group of people casting couples for a reality series.

No-one seems impressed by Toni's unimaginative tale, but they seem more disturbed when Nina weaves a stranger, more complicated story about how she'd dreamt of Toni before she's met her, had seen her gang raped in a dream before meeting her at school where she was the clique queen.

But, although it's decided Toni and Nina won't be cast in the reality show, the only male member of the casting committee invites the girls to a party where he uses them for his own sexual fantasy.

Toni has little trouble abandoning the new dream she'd put together with Nina, and we'd seen earlier in the film how she'd kept her heart on a mercenary leash, demonstrating love and loyalty to her unseen girlfriend Susanne before being betrayed, and we see her trying to convince an old boyfriend of her love for him when she needs a place for her and Nina to stay. It's impossible even to tell if Toni is straight or gay or bisexual.

Also in the movie is a middle aged woman who approaches Nina claiming to be her long lost mother. This is shortly after Nina had become friends with Toni, and Toni clearly seems threatened by the older woman using Nina as a vessel for her dream.

In the end, though, Nina remains as much a spiritual orphan as a literal one as she only seems to share these realities with others temporarily. It sort of reminded me of The Lower Depths, which was also about people living in extreme poverty. Both stories make clear the tormented existence these poor people lead where they both desperately seek faith but are conditioned to trust nothing.

Twitter Sonnet #356

Tall rats marvel at doubling potatoes.
Illusions dizzy the hapless snacker.
Raindrops fall like small Nelly Furtados.
Birds can't flee an Imperial tracker.
Seven skittles skitter in the wind pit.
Scarcer candies drown in mutant Hudson.
Rubber armour ambushed the numb rabbit.
Cool space introduced Virginia Madsen.
Cocoanut snow globes decoy a picnic.
False news is bad news except when its blocked.
Pawn bars arched over the sleeping Kramnik.
Cats see fleshy knights at night end up socked.
The nine nachos drew blood from a dead bean.
It was the last satellite to be seen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Keep Damp

The sun set to-day under a frog shaped cloud. I think this indicates a wet spring.

Speaking of things that resemble frogs;

I wonder if the makeup artist asked him or herself, "Could I possibly make this guy's skin worse?" This is from the Star Trek episode "Dagger of the Mind" which aired in 1966. I wonder what they used in the 60s to give people that ultra sweaty sheen. Spock had to give the guy the first ever Vulcan mind meld in Star Trek history and I do wonder if Nimoy wished they could've towelled the guy down first.

It's a decent episode. It's about a prison colony run by a guy named Adams who's using dangerous new technology to microwave the evil out of criminal brains. Kirk beams down to the colony alone except for his girlfriend of the week, Dr. Helen Noel, played by Mariana Hill who would go on to play Fredo's sloppy drunk wife in The Godfather Part II. Maybe the movie's casting director remembered her as the woman in "Dagger of the Mind" whose dress wouldn't stop riding up;

This episode was before Dr. McCoy going on away missions became standard procedure--Dr. Noel also works in the Enterprise science department and is sent down as McCoy's expert in psychology. Maybe this is why she constantly takes Adams' side over Kirk's before they find out the guy is crazy, though it seems to have more to do with events alluded to but never described in detail at an Enterprise science lab Christmas party which Kirk attended. Whatever happened there, it leads to Dr. Noel using Adams' machine to make Kirk think he'd carried her off to his quarters. Before she can finish, Adams enters the room, restrains her, and brain washes Kirk into thinking he's passionately in love with Dr. Noel. Dramatic kissing scenes follow of the so wrong but so right variety, romance is left unresolved, and by the next episode Dr. Noel is but a memory in the minds of the viewers. I guess this is why Kirk started finding his girlfriends on away missions.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dancing Outside the Ozone Layer

This, in a nutshell, is the central dilemma of Mikio Naruse's 1951 film Dance Princess (Maihime 舞姫)*. The introduction of greater social freedom for women by the U.S. occupation following World War II is seen in this movie to present the rather existential problem of captivity in freedom, like a lot of Mikio Naruse's movies. One might call them domestic films noir. Dance Princess is a fascinating, perhaps a bit too broad, blunt perspective on family dynamics in post war Japan.

I was reminded a little of The Red Shoes--I remember someone saying how the British film, made just after World War II, was partly intended to state that now that people were finished dying for their country, it was time to die for art. Dance Princess also features a ballerina caught in a love triangle, though of a more conventional variety than seen in The Red Shoes. I do suspect The Red Shoes was an influence on Dance Princess, but rather than being about a woman torn apart by her passion for her art and a desire for a conventional romance, Dance Princess is about a woman torn between the possibility of getting what she actually wants and remaining in a painful but stable, and traditional, relationship.

Namiko (Mieko Takamine) is a ballet instructor who's been carrying on an affair with one man for more than twenty years, but has two children with her husband who are both around twenty when the film begins. Her husband, Motou, and she have remained in the unfulfilling relationship out of a sense of duty and tradition, but now the new western values going around have presented Namiko with a decision.

The girl in the first screenshot is a friend of Shinako, Namiko's daughter, who's working as a stripper in order to support her husband and child. She tells Shinako she's not sorry to work as a stripper, that she chose to do it, but saying she wished she could give away her freedom seems to imply she believes there could have been a more ideal situation if she simply hadn't the choice to work as a stripper. Which sounds a little like bad faith to me.

Shinako herself, played by the adorable Mariko Okada in her first role, is finding herself reluctant to marry after bearing witness to her parents' relationship, and the implication seems to be that she may never marry. Like many of the choices, the movie doesn't seem to approve or disapprove of the choice, but the music, and the characters' sense of uncertainty and doom, seem to point to a certain foreboding quality about these untested waters.

Like Naruse's Meshi, released the same year, the movie, in the end, ostensibly seems to come down on the side of a traditional relationship, yet at the same time it could be read as people being marched off to a spiritual execution. It's mono no aware, like so many of Naruse's films, and the characters are gradually restricted more and more by their own decisions.

*There's no Wikipedia entry for the film. The possibly fansubbed copy I downloaded** is called Dancing Girl and imdb lists the movie as The Dancer but 舞姫 translates literally to Dance Princess.

**Something I might bother feeling guilty about if anyone had bothered releasing this movie in the U.S. within the past sixty years.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are Androids Happy to See You?

This is clearly a stalactite in Kirk's hands. And nothing else. Apparently a lot of people see it as something more. I can't think why.

It's from the early episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (hint: it's not stalactites) which I watched last night. It was written by Robert Bloch, disciple of H.P. Lovecraft and writer of the story Hitchcock's Psycho is based on. There are references to Great Old Ones in the episode, but it seems to be more about human interaction than Lovecraft's stories generally were. Apparently the episode was heavily rewritten by Gene Roddenberry, and it does feel like a more troubling story about the nature of the human mind is slightly buried by Star Trek business. But it's an effective episode, in any case.

Oh, wonderful, beautiful Star Trek dames. On the left is an android--the episode concerns Kirk and Nurse Chapel caught in subterranean ruins on a planet where a human scientist, Korby, Chapel's fiance, has discovered alien technology for manufacturing androids. He demonstrates to Kirk Andrea's (the android dame) lack of emotions by having her kiss Kirk then having her slap him. Her lack of emotions, though, later can't withstand two kisses from Kirk.

Kirk imposes his mojo apparently to prove that the androids have emotion, so that he can argue to Korby later that androids are dangerous, totally logical emotionless beings. Yes, I wrote that right, the story in fact doesn't add up. Which I suspect has something to do with the rewrites.

However, in its current form, there is still something in it. When Korby realises the contradiction in proving androids are just as good as humans by daring Kirk to give an android any equation to solve, there's an interesting moment of android madness the script clearly didn't know where to go with, so all the androids die. It kind of works though when one interprets it as a human mind falling into an error in judgment, proving its love and sensitivity with reason.

Here are a couple rabbits that were hanging around outside my classroom on Wednesday;

Twitter Sonnet #355

Inchworm braille goes unseen on a Tuesday.
Nobody's glass was scratched by white carpet.
Trickling dust turns fibres to a pale grey.
False buds clack against labial trumpet.
The red torso holds a mutant squirrel heart.
White leaves spiral over the formica.
Pain walks in a red suit through the Wal-Mart.
Eyelid reefs capsize rum in Jamaica.
Monday's moon ignites Thursday's mood tree wood.
Flames of Tuesday vanish down Wednesday's drain.
Weekends are what Earth never understood.
Friday bulges with the cash of the sane.
The first day dawns in the heart of a droid.
Asexual stalactites fasten void.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Illuminati Go to the Bathroom

I've decided Japan has the best porn in the world. 2003's The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai isn't as good as the 70s Japanese exploitation films I've been watching, and it's not quite as witty as it thinks it is, but I have to love a movie that features a woman masturbating with the cloned index finger of George W. Bush while a man on television wearing a flat Bush mask speaks to her.

Sachiko Hanai starts the movie off as a prostitute specialising in role play--we watch her playing teacher for one man, incorrectly instructing him that New York is the capital of the United States. Her destiny takes a turn, however, when she interrupts a meeting in a cafe between a North Korean and a Middle Eastern agent.

The North Korean shoots down the Middle Eastern man before shooting Sachiko in the forehead. This does not kill Sachiko.

At first she walks around like a zombie before she prods the hole with a pencil causing the bullet to press against a part of her brain that activates heightened mental powers.

Sachiko begins working out complex equations and devouring the knowledge she finds in a variety of books, and in one case even devouring a book.

In one of the movie's funniest scenes, she tracks down the author of one of the philosophy texts and reflexively does her academic erotic cosplay routine while carrying on a genuine philosophical argument with him.

Well, it's not a truly profound argument, though she references an argument by Nietzsche that I happened to have read a week ago. In fact, the movie takes the argument of rationalism versus sensual chaos as its central motive as the point at the end seems to be that increased intelligence and knowledge ultimately leads Sachiko to see her hedonistic existence as the ideal one.

It's a sweet, slightly nihilistic film with some genuinely effective humour and even more effective sex scenes. You just don't find this effective combination of sexiness and humour outside of Japan, except maybe in Monty Python.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Real Cold Blood

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how George Lucas shouldn't let himself be bothered by internet commentators. Then a couple days ago, he was quoted at AICN as saying this;

The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom.

I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.

And I just want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. Do I even need to address what's wrong with . . . ? Oh, I'd better . . .

Shooting someone before he obviously intends to shoot you is not shooting someone in cold blood. If we're going to be generous, we could say that Solo was fighting a little dirty, which would be in character. I mean, it's a character establishing moment. But, gods, not--I can't believe I'm even--GGRYGHNGHH!!! Lucas? The fuck is wrong with you?

Oh, and that's just part of it. It's not just that he's saying Han shooting first is cold blooded, it's that he's saying Greedo had always shot first and it's just bad editing that somehow obscures this. AUGH. In that case, your real editor was a very benevolent deity or ghost who did us all a huge fucking favour. But your ego just couldn't handle giving control over to a happy accident, huh?

On the other side of the coin to-day, I want to say I dearly, dearly love Alan Moore. Not just because he's a great writer, but because of statements like this where he talks about how the comics industry infringes on artistic integrity. As Moore says, this is a problem throughout entertainment media, but so rarely do you hear someone actually acknowledge publicly what's plain as day because their mouths are taped up by contracts everyone signs because the impression has been generated that it's the Thing to Do. Moore knows better, and oh, how I love this quote;

I thought about it for a while--I could perhaps sue, although I suspect DC would be very comfortable with that . . . They have a whole battery of lawyers who could continue to fight this case for decades. And it’s not like I’m after money. It’s always been about the dignity and integrity of the work. I just want them not to do something. There’s no point in wasting resources for decades, when effectively, if there’s a legal case, I’d be prohibited from speaking about it, which DC is more worried about.

Just the simple fact of someone having more faith in direct communication with the people than in the legal system pleases me unspeakably. And I believe he's right. Oh, love this man.

So how do I let my stance on George Lucas stand next to my stance on Alan Moore? Well, at the end of the day, I do think Lucas ought to have control over his creations. Though I don't think artistic integrity is as simple as saying it's about an artist having absolute control over his work. A lot of being an artist is more about seeing what exists and arranging it than about creating something from scratch. One can see this in the fact that Watchmen is itself a commentary on superhero comics, with characters loosely based on DC superheroes. The problem is when the heavy, machine hand gets involved. Lucas doesn't want Han to shoot first because it's too morally ambiguous. Lucas feels that maintaining creative control means knowing exactly how everything in the story adds up to a specific impact. And this, as Nietzsche observed (I'm still reading Birth of Tragedy), wasn't just anti-Dionysian but anti-art. And Nietzsche says part of Euripides' problem was that he allowed his internal critic, generated from his perception of other critics' opinions, have too much impact on his work.

An artist needs to stay wary of philosophies that say there's an algorithm, a way Things are Done.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cars Can Be Very Hard Eggs

I am such a ditz lately. I left for school yesterday without my backpack, and then, later, I locked my keys in my car in the mall parking garage an hour before class. I had put my keys in the ignition, then suddenly decided to study for my kanji quiz there in my driver's seat.

I got out of the car to use the JC Penney restroom before I left, forgetting where I'd left my keys. My sister has Auto Club and we had to trick one of their guys into stopping by, telling him it had been my sister who'd locked my keys in my car. I came up with a more elaborate story we didn't use, about how we'd been watching The Parent Trap and she'd said, "Wouldn't it be weird if we switched places for a day?" To which I replied, "Ha! You couldn't even switch cars with me for a day!" And a wager ensued.

The guy ended up getting into my car surprisingly easily. He only needed two tools--some kind of balloon thing which he wedged between the passenger side door and the door frame, which he inflated to get the door open just enough to snake through a heavier duty version of the old straightened clothes hanger. After a couple tries, he popped open the lock, not even damaging my car. With just two small, simple devices, this guy who wasn't wearing a uniform and who was without a car of his own because his tow truck wouldn't fit in the second level of the parking garage where I was, easily got into my car without a single mall security guy stopping him. It gives one pause, I suppose. I was just happy to get my car back before the tea I'd left in the cup holder had gotten cold.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I watched my favourite Valentine's Day movie, in fact my all time favourite movie, Vertigo, last night. I celebrate in my own way.

Twitter Sonnet #354

Brittle bananas are turning pale blue.
Sidelong glances are pushing out the eye.
Cold scarlet sight shattered before Abu.
Diamond crabs are a ancient velour lie.
Chins will extend when the noses have died.
Eyebrows observe peasant iris tenants.
Conical screens leave nowhere to hide.
Toon impotence is the Phantom Menace.
Half a sun of water clocks daydream coin.
Time's moustache sadly droops on money day.
Bloody noodles steam bathe in the byoin.
Memories of avocado decay.
Heart shaped toys rattle under stucco cloud.
Just white peppermint makes the night sky loud.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Believe in the Monster

A lot as been said about 1954's Godzilla (ゴジラ) as an allegory for postwar Japan and the world political environment surrounding the atom bomb. It clearly does deal with these issues, and in concept rather interestingly, but in deployment rather awkwardly. For the psychological effects on Japan of World War II, I could point out a lot of superior films--Record of a Living Being, Floating Clouds, Stray Dog, Drunken Angel, and many others. As a monster/disaster film, putting aside the allegory, Godzilla is mostly unsatisfying, inferior, as Roger Ebert observed in his review, to the much older King Kong.

The movie begins with the mysterious effects of the mostly unseen monster--ships lost at sea, strange tidal conditions. When Godzilla does set foot on land, we don't see him clearly, which is wise, but somehow the shots of people panicking and buildings crumbling don't quite achieve the sense of menace I might have thought they would.

Takashi Shimura has a role in the movie as a top scientific advisor to the government. I guess Takashi Shimura is to Godzilla as Ian Holm was to The Day After To-morrow, though Godzilla is at least a better movie than that waste of time. Both films are filled with blatant scientific inaccuracies and senseless behaviour on the parts of the protagonists, but there's a certain poetry to these flaws in Godzilla.

Shimura was the biggest star in the movie, having been playing leading roles in popular films for over a decade at this point, but he's given the somewhat insurmountable task of making us sympathise with his desire to keep Godzilla alive for scientific purposes while the monster is rampaging and killing scores of defenceless people. When the weight of carnage gets too much for even the filmmakers to comfortably continue with Shimura's initial motivation, the character's reduced to being just another shocked bystander.

Foremost in the plot are Emiko, the daughter of Shimura's character, and the two men in love with her, Ogata and Serizawa.

Serizawa's a sort of mad scientist with a conscience. He's been locked in his laboratory wearing an eye patch for years, developing a device that when dropped into a fish tank splits all the oxygen atoms in the water resulting in the live fish being instantly turned into floating fish skeletons. He's been keeping this discovery a secret while he tries to think of a positive application for it, but he reveals it to Emiko under the condition that she tell no-one.

After seeing the horribly wounded victims of Godzilla at a hospital, Emiko painfully decides to break her promise and tell Ogata about Serizawa's device because it may be the only way to stop Godzilla. Emiko can't simply go to Serizawa herself to convince him to use the device because I guess that's a man's job, and she can't tell her father, the chief scientific advisor to the government, because telling the Serizawa's rival for her affections gives us the opportunity to tie a pissing contest to the argument over whether or not to use a weapon of mass destruction.

But Serizawa's fierce reluctance to use the device is interesting when one compares it with the relative eagerness with which the U.S. developed and deployed the atomic bomb. My favourite part of the movie was the climax where Ogata and Serizawa walk slowly on the ocean floor with the device in search of Godzilla. There's no logical reason why the device needed to be deployed by hand, but one appreciates how Serizawa regards the situation--his desire to kill himself in the process not only to destroy all knowledge of how the device was constructed but also just as a reflection of what using such a weapon means. It's not in any sense a good thing, just a horrible necessity. Akira Ifukube's beautiful, sombre score emphasises this and this scene has my favourite shot of the monster, walking slowly, obscured by underwater haze.

As the victim of the weapon, one could see Godzilla in a way as a metaphor for the Japanese people, or rather the dark mirror self image that develops from the mind of the abused, who looks for sense in senseless destruction by seeing himself as monstrous.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Instantaneous Infinite

Few movies got as much mileage out of star quality as Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. I watched it in blu-ray last night and I think the most exciting thing about blu-ray to me is just that it gives me a new excuse to watch, and a slightly fresh perspective on, a movie I've watched billions of times because I absolutely love it. blu-ray, too, I guess slightly removes the evidence of the digital barrier between me and the reality of the movie, it's a little closer to watching it on film.

I don't think there was a huge difference, though, between my DVD copy and the blu-ray. Here's a comparison of cropped unresized screenshots;

My DVD copy was released by Criterion and the blu-ray was done by MGM which may explain why the DVD copy looks slightly less washed out. I suppose the image is slightly sharper, but it is really hard to tell. I think I was able to see Mrs. Sebastian's facial expression sooner when she was coming down the stairs.

Anyway, it's always a pleasure watching that movie. It may be Hitchcock's most sensually shot film, ruminating in closeups of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Hitchcock finds material in their faces not just because they're beautiful but because they give such subtle and complex performances. Who would have thought the master of screwball comedy in the late 1930s, Cary Grant, could here communicate so much with eyes, the twitch of an eyelid, the darkening of a brow. But his restraint as Devlin is so perfect--we don't need exposition at all to see how he's been burnt by a woman somehow, how it's made him shut up inside himself. It's ingeniously tied to his perspective on his and Bergman's different social positions. When you watch him in this movie, imagine watching him from Bergman's perspective--he never projects more than Devlin realistically would for how much people get from him, and yet he communicate volumes. He's cool and like he's just barely holding himself together.

And Bergman is so excellent as the POV character, her eyes searching for the tiniest scrap of the affection and faith she hopes to see from him, but she's confined on her own isolated journey of duplicity with Claude Rains. She gives a subtle and communicative performance, too.

Getting tired of this movie would be like getting tired of a forest--I'd tell you it's only because you're not looking hard enough.