Sunday, August 17, 2014

All Civilisation was for Candy

Did you know there's a movie where John Astin upstages Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, John Huston, Walter Matthau, Charles Aznavour, James Coburn, and a beautiful naked woman? Ringo Starr, too, but maybe that's not so surprising. The movie is 1968's Candy based on Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg's novel, a satire of pornography. Maybe it's inevitable even a satire of pornography would be sexy anyway when it features the beautiful Ewa Aulin the title role but mainly this movie is a mockery of male ego and philosophy.

We meet Candy Christian at school where she's attending a class taught by her professor father, T.M. Christian, one of two roles played by John Astin. He's a conservative fellow worried about Candy's dating habits. He may have cause for worry, too, since Candy is portrayed as an absurdly guileless and accommodating young fantasy woman.

The movie then introduces the first man to take advantage of Candy, a rock star poet named MacPhisto who enters the school auditorium to adoring teenage girls and a wind machine.

Richard Burton plays MacPhisto delightfully, knowing exactly how to portray this fellow in love with his own use of language and dramatic . . . pauses. Burton is of course one of the best stage trained actors in cinema history, the kind trained to focus his performance on calculated inflection and timing. In Candy he's very much making fun of himself.

It's very appropriate that Marlon Brando turns up at the end of the film as a bookend--one of the most famous method actors of the 1950s, Brando represented an acting style almost the opposite of Burton's. Brando plays a phoney Indian guru who talks about rejecting the materialism of the world--which mainly seems to involve taking Candy's clothes off.

The movie is a series of vignettes, in each one Candy encounters a man who's introduced as having a complex and fervent philosophy about life only in the end to inevitably reveal it as a posture, a pretext to have sex with Candy.

In addition to playing Candy's father, Astin plays her lascivious uncle, Jack, and it's in this role he's most entertaining. When a biker gang of Mexican women come to take vengeance on Candy for taking Ringo Starr's virginity, Astin tries to offer them his watch which he proudly tells them, "shows the phases of the moon."

That face of Astin's is so great and he knows how to underplay it just right, saying almost every line perfectly straight. My favourite scene in the movie involves Candy and her family being rescued by a plane of paratroopers led my Walter Matthau. Matthau's posturing is patriotism and he impresses Candy with his devotion and love for his country. He orders his men to count off and they do, all twenty four of them, and Matthau remarks on how impressive his men are. To which Jack replies, "I'll say, all those men counting up to twenty four without a single mistake."

Twitter Sonnet #657

Tea compounded with coffee bore manors.
Parliament's arms waved for lopsided flight.
Two thirds of Hell's host has written banners.
Crooked trees still sing of a lanky wight.
Saws in chorus cremate the burning rope.
Animal coffee appeal woos sugar.
Tree-lined purse strings help Gulliver to cope.
Weirder rain drips like a living Frogger.
Motionless Hobbes giants watch the tadpole.
Queries clamp the minotaur's last blood vein.
Animals drag the elves to the south pole.
Taffeta clogs the prom's old water main.
Boomerang pipe elbows exasperate
Rogue plumbing trying to repatriate.

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