Monday, August 31, 2015

The Hand of a Flat God

On the behalf of the United States I'd like to issue an apology to Diana Dors for her 1958 film I Married a Woman. It was shot in 1956, the same year Dors appeared in the bleakly wonderful Yield to the Night, probably her best role. I Married a Woman was likely her worst--one of only two films she made in the United States during the height of her career it puts her under the dull, crushingly stupid yoke of lazy misogynist American sitcom writing of the 1950s.

The title itself is an insult to everyone, implying the hackneyed petulance and dim witted manipulation Dors is forced to display in this film are somehow characteristic of all women. The movie mostly follows her husband, salary man Mickey Briggs (George Gobel) who works for the beer company through which he met Janice (Dors) when she worked as part of an advertising campaign.

We join the couple after Janice has learned she's pregnant, something which the laws of sitcom dictate she can't simply tell her husband. She's required to play stupid word games to gauge the veracity of his affections, indulging in over the top sobbing when he unwittingly gives wrong answers. The movie trots out so many cliches there's even a scene where Mickey actually comes home with lipstick on his collar.

Of course, he can't simply give Janice the actual innocent explanation, he has to act exasperated at her alarm and storm out.

Adolphe Menjou, star and supporting player in many fine films of the 1920s and 30s, here plays Mickey's boss, his natural elegance not being particularly appropriate in this greedy doofus rich man role. But an even bigger American star was caught up in this embarrassment of a film.

John Wayne appears in two scenes for an uncredited cameo as himself. He ogles Dors in the second scene for a cheap bit of comedy that nonetheless makes one dream of what might have been. A proper movie starring Diana Dors and John Wayne? That I'd like to see.

Instead we have this bullshit. I felt nauseated and exhausted after watching it. The movie did nothing to advance Dors' career in the States--American audiences showing good taste for once. It's a shame they didn't get to know her the way Britain knew her. About the only good thing to come out of I Married a Woman was a series of nice production photos of Dors, one of which I have as a desktop wallpaper among the many that my computer cycles through every thirty minutes.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Intrusive Inquiries

Evil is mysterious. There's something supernatural about it because the term can be used for so many different things. This is what makes it dangerous because it can be used to justify extreme actions. But is the total destruction of mystery an inexcusable violation? I think that's what Jean Rollin is saying in his 1968 softcore porno The Rape of the Vampire (Le Viol du Vampire), an often beautifully photographed film of beautiful women, naked or in translucent white gowns, roaming woods or crumbling mansions. I say I think that's what he's saying because there's very little coherence to this film's story.

It consists of two parts, the first part, also called The Rape of the Vampire, was originally a stand alone short film. The second part, Queen of the Vampires, was added to make the film feature length. It really feels like it. The first story, while a little meandering, is a straight forward enough intriguing New Wave criticism of analysis as a group of women who believe they're vampires are kept under surveillance in an old manor by three psychiatrists trying to convince them they're not vampires.

One of the women believes she's blind, one of them believes she's hundreds of years old. A scene of two people dressed as men--possibly men--have a sword fight which is echoed later by a sword fight between the vampire women who are shocked when one is killed by a sword thrust.

Or was she? Probably. I'm not sure.

The superstitious villagers take up arms against the women and there's a cut to a shot of the female psychiatrist wandering alone in a dirt field before inexplicably collapsing. One of her colleagues finds her and carries her away.

The second film seems to concern a vampire queen and her monkish followers as they track down the vampire women from the first film to strip and torture them. The woman who thinks she's blind is blinded and left to wander naked on the beach.

Meanwhile, the surviving psychiatrists collaborate on finding a chemical cure for vampirism. Their scenes of practising blood transfusions on naked vampire women are contrasted with scenes of the vampire queen ordering naked vampire women to be beaten with feather dusters.

Whatever the film's flaws, it has some genuinely beautiful photography. It was hard to get a bad screenshot.

Twitter Sonnet #785

Corkscrew albatross rolls beckon for nymphs.
Every streamer melted in the cook out.
Red cigarette scandals reject all sense.
The baroque bobble head wins at the pout.
A reclining yam shape haunted the moss.
The cinder signature revealed in time.
Cells calibrate coins in the atom's toss.
Twenty year wax returned a candle dime.
Feathers nightly draw blinds over the ice.
Rolling stomach planets are hot shining.
Screaming followed swarming white starry lice.
The scrambled egg's too often resigning.
Colourless mystery resolves in gauze.
Bracelets and bats bring boats of unknown laws.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Through All Time, Space, and Atoms

I love how Yahoo's weather page continually raises the highs throughout the day, every day. You'd think they'd learn. Just set it at 110 throughout August and September to be safe. Why not?

I hardly slept, it was so hot. I had two fans on me, too, one of them big. I finished listening to the pretty good 2005 Doctor Who audio play Scaredy Cat while numbly pulling myself through breakfast. Maybe it's my heat and sleep deprivation addled brain talking but I liked the two, seemingly unrelated stories of a colony experiencing an epidemic and millions of years later a group of scientists experimenting on a murderer. The two only tied together by a mysterious apparition of a laughing girl. And the Doctor, of course, and his companions. Charley barely seems to be in this one and C'rizz's own past as a murderer is brought up kind of awkwardly but otherwise this was a good audio.

In an effort to escape the heat which was even thick in the air in La Jolla I went to see a movie, Ant-Man, more because it happened to be playing in ten minutes from when I got there than because I had a burning desire to see it, though I didn't not want to see it. The film itself has that non-committal quality. It's okay, it's not great, it's not terrible. Dear gods, Disney has got to loosen up. This movie was in a fever grip of formula. Even the little hints of Edgar Wright's contributions felt like part of the Marvel movie treadmill--each film has been authorised a certain percentage of genuine personal creative investment, no more and no less. With each film it feels like Disney wants to take more of those scary variables out of the process, drifting further and further from the miraculously unrestricted flow of the first Iron Man film.

You may have heard Edgar Wright, director of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's film collaborations, was the original director of Ant-Man but that he left production due to creative differences with the studio. His name is still listed as Executive Producer and his name is still on the screenplay. Oddly, the director Disney brought in, the undistinguished Peyton Reed, didn't seem to have a credit that I noticed. Usually the credits go "A So and So Film . . . Directed by So and So," both at the beginning and end. Reed's name felt minimised--I didn't see it at all, I'm assuming I missed it because the directer must have been credited, right? It was inconspicuous, in any case.

Ant-Man's (Paul Rudd) goofy thieving friends are the most Wright-ish aspect of the film, the nerdy trio of guys like the bickering gangs in Wright's Pegg and Frost collaborations with Rudd's Scott Lang/Ant-Man being the straight man Pegg plays in Shaun of the Dead. Who knows what radical idea Wright had that Disney so objected to but there's plenty of Marvel Cinematic universe stuff injected--I rather liked the cameo by Peggy Carter at the beginning, her show, Agent Carter, by the way, is so ridiculously better than S.H.I.E.L.D.

The scene also features the most talked about effect of the film, the apparent breaking of the laws of time and space to give us a young Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. And I must say it is flawless--it looks like they cloned Michael Douglas. It's amazing. I can only imagine what'll happen once this technology gets cheaper and easier. Maybe Sean Connery will come out of retirement to play a young James Bond? Harrison Ford as 1930s Indiana Jones? Max von Sydow reprising his role as the knight in Seventh Seal for a prequel set during the crusade where he builds C-3PO in Jerusalem? Probably not. But the limits may well be only the scope of the profit motive.

Anyway, Ant-Man felt like an average episode of an average television show, elevated a little by Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. There was also an amusing use of "Plainsong" by The Cure. This was during one of the action sequences, many of which were pretty well conceived, drawing nicely on Scott's skills as a cat burglar. The movie could very easily have focused on this stuff and left his issues with his little girl, and the paralleled issues Pym has with his daughter played by Evangeline Lilly, out completely. It's all written very badly, with idiot plot style revelations, like where Pym finally reveals to his daughter the real cause of her mother's death which, once he's revealed it, doesn't seem to have been concealed from her for any apparent reason aside from giving her a superficial motive for years of resentment to create cheap tension. And these moments are broken up by beats of comic relief that come as regularly as clockwork.

But the worst thing about the movie is the editing, particularly during the emotional moments. There are so many visual continuity distortions it feels like watching a trailer. One person will be wearing glasses and--cut, cut--the glasses are gone. Or one person will be making a tearful confession and--cut to actor obviously reacting to a different take, then back to actor whose tears are completely gone and who is now smirking. It's like seeing human bodies possessed by emoji.

Friday, August 28, 2015

All Spiders and Mermaids Welcome

A very tiny new spider set up its web between my mermaid and my toothbrush a few days ago.

I let it be and it had moved on a few days later. I hope it grows big and strong and gets rid of all the gnats and fruit flies I occasionally get around here.

Yes, I have a mermaid. What I really need is a scullery maid. I guess that sounds sexist. I wouldn't mind a scullery man or lad, either. But I think I'd still prefer a scullery maid. It took me eight minutes just now to clean my breakfast and lunch dishes. I'm tired of doing dishes all the time. Then there's the heat, of course, that makes me even more tired. I received a letter yesterday reminding me my lease is up on October 31 and I need to deliver a written notice thirty days in advance if I don't renew. And my rent goes up to $1,075 (from $975) if I do renew. This miserably hot little studio apartment with the management that puts obnoxious tourists across from me during the summer. It occurred to me, what am I doing in San Diego? I could get a miserably hot little apartment like this in Yuma, Arizona for half the price, and no-one in his right mind vacations in Yuma. I might be getting a two bedroom place in San Diego with my friend and in any case I'd want to finish at least this semester of school. But I started dreaming about going some place cheap, some place I could work on my comic without distractions like heat and people for three, maybe even five years. I was looking at places in Europe and the UK. I saw there are studio apartments in Manchester for the equivalent of 100 dollars. I told my German friend this morning who then asked if Manchester isn't rather like Detroit. I said maybe--but with a vastly lower crime rate, no guns, and better healthcare. The same German friend told me about studio apartments in Hamburg for the equivalent of 500 dollars. More and more, I think . . . I'm in the wrong city. With climate change, the heat's only going to get worse and with Republicans the rent is only going to get higher.

Anyway, I guess I have a couple months to think about it and investigate. If anyone has advice or suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

While eating lunch to-day, I read the new Sirenia Digest which contained the first two parts of Caitlin R. Kiernan's upcoming story Agents of Dreamland. The first part is a bit pulpy as Caitlin indulges in fun, spy movie character types. The second part is much better, indulging in the kind of scattered, obsessive, connect-the-dots thinking that makes The Drowning Girl so good.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Boiling and Frying

Hey, squirrel. I got your back.

The trolley station I went to Monday and Tuesday to go to school is absolutely crawling with squirrels. I saw at least ten while I waited for the trolley each day. On Wednesday, which is my shortest day since I only have Star Trek class, I drove to school and found I arrive there a full twenty minutes earlier than I do by trolley, even parking way off in a neighbourhood to avoid buying a parking permit. Though this has meant walking quite a distance to class in over 100 Fahrenheit weather. It was especially bad to-day because I decided to pack somen (cold Japanese noodles) and a hard boiled egg for lunch with a big ice pack and I had the paper brick that is The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton. I applaud my professor's insistence on no electronic devices being active during class but walking in the heat with this heavy bag the Kindle edition started to look pretty good, I can tell you. These amorous butterflies accompanied me part of the way, though.

A couple photography students asked if they could take my picture to-day. They said their assignment was to take pictures of challenging statements and they said that I looked like I was making an argument with my outfit which was grey slacks, white shirt, spectator shoes, grey fedora, grey linen sport coat, and green and yellow tartan bow tie. I said, "Yes, I am--everyone should dress this way."

The linen is light and not warm but still I'm ruing my decision to wear sport coats a bit. I'm just so addicted to having the pockets. Instead of cramming phone and camera into my pants pockets with wallet and keys, now I have the big pockets on the bottoms of my coats and a convenient place for pens and kleenex in the upper pockets.

Mind you, a sport coat was plenty sensible on Tuesday when it rained and got down to 77 Fahrenheit. This crow with the ruffled face feather represents that day.

If you think I'm crazy, you should see all the kids in sweaters and hoodies. Though that's not the most confounding fashion trend. There's also the general shorts and flip flops on guys, the pervasive urge to dress like four year olds. Two things among the young women I've noticed that aren't quite as bad but are more perplexing--a lot of girls wear open backed tops and dresses with visible bras. The first time I saw this, I thought the young lady had dressed carelessly but I've seen enough now to think this is a thing. A little more subtly weird is the sudden popularity of short, pleated grey skirts. They're not sexy, they're not pretty, they don't look professional, they don't look especially cosy. All I can think of is a general drive to be dull, I can't think of any other motive behind this trend.

Anyway, I'm beat. This week has felt like ten. Here's one last shot from the trolley station:

Twitter Sonnet #784

Polydactyl pterodactyls flew straight.
The teeth of buildings were swallowed by lifts.
The gold abacus was a useless bait.
Trauma monitoring took place in shifts.
The lifted witness veil revealed the box.
Sure Pandora did not intend the masque.
The room campus was strewn with paper socks.
Even the gods can't really multitask.
Inevitable costumes enlarge time.
Sliced apple clouds cut capers in the red.
In storms monochrome planes struggle to climb.
Brittle leaves scratch what's already been said.
Long distance sunlight surrenders to base.
Sev'ral red mushrooms rejected the case.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where We're Supposed to Be

We still live in a world with a class system and there are other social devices in place that make sure people go to and stay in specific jobs or modes of living throughout their lives, usually for generations. But the American idea is that everyone's created equal and everyone is supposed to have the same shot at doing whatever they want. This is why it's intriguing to imagine a situation where calamities beyond human control intervene to jumble the order of things, a situation where past experiences and social positions don't become irrelevant but suddenly take on new value and less artificial meaning. This was a fantasy so nice director John Farrow shot it twice, first in 1939 as Five Came Back and then in 1956 he remade his own film under the title Back from Eternity. They're both good movies, Back from Eternity significantly better in a way that feels very much like a final to the first film's rough draft.

A U.S. passenger plane operating in Latin America, piloted by a hard bitten, world weary, but exceptionally skilled man named Bill and his younger, exuberant co-pilot Joe, take on a diverse assortment of passengers. A young, soon to be married couple, an elderly professor and his wife, a gangster escorting his boss's little boy, a murderer under custody of a bounty hunting detective, and a bombshell drifter, on her way to a job that amounts to a less lucrative and more dangerous form of prostitution than the ways she'd been selling herself to men throughout her life previously. In addition, the plane has one attendant, a steward in the original film, a stewardess in the remake. A sudden, terrible storm forces the plane to crash land somewhere in South American wilderness and, of these twelve people, as the first film's title informs us, only five come back.

The original film's screenplay was partly written by Dalton Trumbo, the subject of an upcoming film starring Bryan Cranston as Trumbo. For all we know, he may have contributed to the remake, since this was during the time he was blacklisted and he wouldn't have been officially credited if he did contribute. It's intriguing to think about him working on the film because of its radical political nature. The story doesn't so much argue for Communism or Capitalism, although once the crew and passengers have formed their makeshift community it would probably be best described as Communist. It's more about the inherent value of human beings and the idea that their potential might be inhibited by the way society functions.

In the little world created by the survivors, the gangster is a useful contributor because he's a good shot and can hunt. The detective becomes a burden and criminal, the idealistic young couple find themselves at odds as the would-be groom becomes a destructive drunk. Most significant off all is the murderer who establishes a friendship with the professor and becomes valuable not because he seems to reform in this environment, though he claims to have, but because he's a murderer.

The second film improves on the first in many ways, though it retains quite a lot of the dialogue. Useless scenes and side plots are excised, like the co-pilot buying lunch for the young couple and a scene of the murderer stealing a gun in the police office. Bill loses his bizarre backstory of being a circus pilot whose wife dies while performing on the wing of his plane (I actually kind of liked this weird bit of information but I can see how Farrow might have thought it distracting). The main difference was in casting--there's a sense in both cases Farrow couldn't have the highest calibre talent in all the roles so the best casting had to be deployed strategically. I think the first film, once it was finished, revealed to Farrow the characters for whom a good performance was really necessary and the ones for whom it would not be as crucial. The best actors in the original film are Lucille Ball and John Carradine as the bombshell and the detective, respectively. The best actors in the remake are Robert Ryan and Rod Steiger as the pilot and the murderer, respectively.

Anita Ekberg takes over the bombshell role. Ekberg was kind of the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bombshells. The extreme quality of her physical presence not only made up for her lack of ability as a performer it enhanced her intrigue and sometimes made her expressions of emotion more charming and effective. Lucille Ball may have been a better actress, but Ekberg better fills out what this role requires, if you take my meaning.

One might reasonably question whether an actor of Robert Ryan's ability was necessary for Bill but it's nice having him along in any case. The most important factor was the casting of Rod Steiger as the murderer, played adequately but unremarkably by Joseph Calleia in the original.

Steiger immediately gives humanity to the man. His conversation about head shrinking with the professor when the murderer is introduced is still eerie and gives us the feeling he's a dangerous man--and that the professor's intellectual curiosity might outstrip his ethics--but with Steiger there's a genuine human warmth to it, a real interest in the subject rather than a cold, cartoon villain sadism to it.

The second film is also enhanced by additional backstory being given to the gangster and a better handling of the way he hears that his boss has been killed, leaving the little boy without parents. The bombshell, originally Peggy but renamed Rena, is also given more story--the film opens with her being savagely treated by the previous man who'd been keeping her. He pushes her down and tears off her jewellery. I was amazed the first film got past the Hays office, Back from Eternity seemed transgressive even for a film from a time when the influence of the Hays office was becoming much weaker.

The remake also adds a wet cat fight which may not have been strictly necessary but I'm not complaining. Any excuse to get Anita Ekberg wet . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wherever You Go, There are Witches

If you wanted to make a movie about a meek, pleasant woman with anxiety and growing concern about hints that something secret and sinister is going on, you couldn't do better than Joan Fontaine. She played that kind of role throughout her career, from her first leading film roles to her last, 1966's The Witches, a decent, somewhat unusual Hammer horror film that falls short of its potential.

Gwen (Fontaine) is a schoolteacher whom we meet teaching English in an unspecified West African country. Her last two terrified students flee the school when the place is besieged by not very authentic looking witch doctors.

We don't see and we're not told what happens next because there's a cut then to Gwen back in England recovering from a nervous breakdown she'd suffered from the incident. She applies for a teaching position in an idyllic little village and is surprised when she's accepted despite her lack of references.

As she settles in, clues are dropped for her and us with nice subtlety. Is there something odd about how gleefully the butcher talks about meat? What about the dolls little Linda Rigg (Ingrid Boulting) encourages a boy in her class to play with? Did Linda really break her arm in an accident or was it her grandmother, as one of the students whispers to Gwen?

The movie relies on a lot of nice location shots in a real village, not unlike other Hammer films of the time. It's primarily the presence of Fontaine that makes this film so different. Instead of Peter Cushing rooting out evil, Fontaine presents us with a much more passive protagonist than Hammer movies of the 60s typically had. As such, there's a sense of the writers not quite knowing how to move things forward at times, the ending of the film in particular not feeling quite right for her character. I was hoping that we'd learn her experiences in Africa had conferred on Gwen some knowledge of magic unknown and dangerous to the witches of England but it ends up just being two unrelated horrible encounters with witches in Gwen's peculiarly unlucky life.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Returning Ghosts and Corpses

I dreamt last night I was watching the first episode of the upcoming new Twin Peaks series. In my dream version, James Hurley was inhabited by the spirit of Leland Palmer. This was conveyed by a shot of James Marshall smiling and dissolving into a shot of Ray Wise smiling with the makeup from Fire Walk with Me. I remember shots of Sheryl Lee looking concerned but I can't remember much else specific except the very end of the episode. There was a sudden cut to a desert at night where a group of about twenty plainly dressed Mexican men and women were lit by a white fluorescent light and were huddled around a spot in the ground where some were digging for a treasure of some kind. One announced, "We found it!" but then a cgi Bob with glowing eyes came out of the ground and killed them, I'm not sure how, they suddenly became a pile of mutilated bodies. Bob crawled over them towards the camera like he did towards Maddy in the season two première, he said something but I can't remember what.

The only other thing I remember about the dream is that someone had a picture of Pete Martell on a desk. I think I can predict now that David Lynch will probably recast Bob rather than do some complicated cgi--he already recast Donna once, after all--but Pete Martell will be treated as deceased. You just can't replace Jack Nance, the actor who played him and who died a few years ago. I could be wrong, though, there's no telling with Lynch. I could sort of see him casting Harry Dean Stanton as Pete Martell . . . well, no, not really. I'd like to see Stanton return as the character he played in Fire Walk with Me anyway. There was a couple years where Stanton was turning up in everything, it seemed, even The Avengers. He was also in INLAND EMPIRE, Lynch's previous film, and was in five of Lynch's movies total. According to Wikipedia he's 89, it's nice to see he's still working, one of Hollywood's eternal figures. I mean, he was in Cool Hand Luke. I think I first saw him in Alien.

I bought Prometheus on Blu-Ray a couple weeks ago and finally watched it yesterday. I got it used for five dollars from the used book store next to one of the Japanese markets. Unfortunately whoever owned it last threw away the insert which included the code that would've allowed me to watch the "digital version", basically an HD version one can watch on one's computer. Which is a terrific idea for getting around Sony's bullshit prohibition on letting computers play Blu-Rays. Every movie should be released this way.

I was impressed again by Prometheus--I saw it twice in theatre, this was my first time seeing it from the comfort of my couch, which, as visually magnificent as the movie is, I think may be an even better way of seeing it. It makes it easier to drink the movie contemplatively like a cup of tea and I found myself thinking about how much the movie is about death anxiety. The body horror of Alien becoming a more metaphysical rumination on the thoroughly physical nature of humans and their relatives. "After all this, you still believe," David says when Elizabeth takes her cross back. I love the fact that she believes and the movie offers not one shred of evidence to back up her belief. It makes me all the more hopeful for the sequel to be made. I'd like to see the Engineers revealed as being organic vessels for a species that appear to be lumps of internal organs and muscles. All that Giger art is inside out human body so it might make sense for a culture that produced such architecture to be one that has always, from the very beginning, been confronted by the reality of the workings of the body.

I was also astounded again that people complain about the writing in Prometheus, that people claim to find it confusing. I kind of feel that the movie was simply too good for people to accept. Here's a nice video featuring a takedown of all the bullshit complaints people had about the film:

Twitter Sonnet #783

Nirvana spaghetti was in the cab.
A bubble ride took place in diverse spots.
Trails of confetti formed paths to rehab.
Only bikinis can connect the dots.
Breaded crucifixes restrain cherries.
Surprised ghosts find the stars are edible.
Glowing prisons blink across for ferries.
Only lime stamped pages are credible.
Fluorescent handkerchiefs restrain the pond.
Hologram helicopters carry age.
Wires evaporate throughout the wand.
Humanity tallies chalk of the page.
Blue balloon black horizons cheat deserts.
Paper trolleys go to leather concerts.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Insistent Blank

One might question the habit of mixing one's inability to connect with others in one's personal life with one's inability to connect with others in business. In Wong Kar-wai's 1995 film Fallen Angels he takes stories originally intended for Chungking Express until that movie's two stories ran long and expands them into another sweet and insightful rumination on lonely people in the city, this time focusing more on their jobs.

The work lives of the protagonists are intimately--or in a way totally incapable of intimacy--wrapped up in their love lives. Instead of one story abruptly ending and the other beginning, this time the movie cuts between the two throughout, one story following a hit man named Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai) and his partner (Michelle Reis), the other following a mute, mentally impaired young man named He Zhiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and his delusional and unhinged friend, a young woman named Charlie (Charlie Yeung).

Wong Chi-Ming and his partner have turned their disconnect from each other into a sort of private ballet. Her job is to scout locations and people for Chi-Ming's contracts, then he goes in and kills people. He likes his job, he tells us in voice over narration, because he likes someone else deciding for him whom to kill. He feels that ideally a hit man and his partner should keep as much distance as possible. He carries false pictures of a fictional wife he shows to old schoolmates he runs into. No-one knows him, and he keeps himself from knowing anyone else.

His beautiful partner seems obsessed with him, not unlike Faye in Chungking Express, their lack of intimacy seeming to be a key ingredient in her obsession. We watch her masturbate while thinking about him more than once and she lingers in spaces he once inhabited.

He Zhiwu also speaks to us in voice-over despite the fact that he's unable to speak to anyone else. In an amusing distortion of entrepreneurship, he breaks into places of business at night like butcher shops and ice cream trucks and runs the places as though they were his. His method of procuring customers typically involving tackling them and force-feeding his product. He does this all without speaking, using his "profession" to force the bubble created by his isolation onto other people. He functions in the world, after a fashion, the way he's supposed to but he does so in a way that fundamentally nulls any meaningful connexions, however trivial.

During one of his aggressive customer procurements, he meets Charlie. She seems totally unaware of his attempts to push an advertisement in her face because she's busy having an impassioned telephone conversation. Forced to wait, he's also forced to become privy to her private drama about her boyfriend leaving her for someone called Blondie. This evolves into the two of them riding his bike every night looking for her boyfriend or Blondie, though the places they go seem so random one wonders if Blondie and the boyfriend even exist and whether this is just an excuse for Zhiwu and Charlie to spend time together even though the whole time she only just barely seems aware of his presence, treating him more like an employee.

Yet we do meet a Blondie, a prostitute played by Karen Mok with whom Chi-Ming sleeps with a few times, and she arbitrarily develops a fixation on him. It may be the same Blondie, but I found myself contemplating the idea that Chi-Ming's beautiful unnamed partner is actually a psychic projection of Charlie's. Chi-Ming's partner almost never speaks and it's Charlie, roaming randomly about the city, who seems obsessed with a boyfriend who's run off with someone named Blondie, precisely what one would infer is the partner's problem.

Either way, this is another stylish, wonderful film from Wong Kar-wai.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Incoming Retrospect

We're really going to miss Steven Moffat when he's gone. I've been watching a few episodes again from the first Peter Capaldi season of Doctor Who this past week and I found myself paying attention to all the things people take for granted about Steven Moffat that almost no-one else can do. Just look at the episode "Listen"--I really don't think I appreciated how many things that episode manages to do at once. There's the genuinely cutely awkward dialogue of a first date, there's Danny being over-sensitive to a believably awkward remark from Clara about how he'd know what it's like to kill someone, the haunted house spookiness of the last human outpost in the universe, the rumination on the usefulness of fear and how friends can give us our own good advice back at us because we really do forget. It's like a symphony, all these elements related to one another in meaningful ways and working on their own, like the clock gears in the opening sequence.

Who the hell is going to replace Steven Moffat one day? Can you think of anyone who could? Certainly no-one else working on the show now. Toby Whithouse is okay, Mark Gatiss is thoroughly wretched. I was impressed by Jamie Mathieson's episodes but, again, they're not nearly as brilliant as Moffat's. Fortunately Moffat really doesn't seem like he wants to stop any time soon, hopefully he'll be around a long time.

I guess if there's any Doctor Who writer who can do anything like what Moffat does I'd say it's Robert Shearman who writes for the audio plays. Or he used to, it looks like he hasn't written one in a very long time. He also wrote the Ninth Doctor episode "Dalek" based on one of his audio plays--the audio play was much better. Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts were both recruited from the audio plays, I never understood why them and not some of the better writers.

I only listened to one audio this past week, a 2005 Seventh Doctor story called LIVE 34 presented in the form of a radio news station broadcast. Taking place in a human colony in the future, I thought it rather nicely captured the feel of 24 hour news channel shows, including a sort of Anderson Cooper field special where a reporter goes to meet and interview the "Rebel Queen" who turns out to be Ace. Meanwhile, the Doctor's running for president. It wasn't a great story, the end particularly ties up a little too neatly and quickly, but it was pretty good.