Top Secret! [1984)

And so we come full-circle.

As in the olden days.

When we first started.

Writing about spy spoofs.

And this is a doozy!

Val Kilmer’s first film.

As Nick Rivers.

Very much Elvis, but equally Beach Boys (at least on the opening number “Skeet Surfing”).

I would call this style of filmmaking “kitchen sink”.

It was a particular type of American comedy in the 1980s.

Fast jokes.

Set pieces.

Elaborate puns.

General silliness.

The setting is East Germany.

In the time of Markus Wolf and the Stasi.

Wolf retired in 1986.

The year after this film (1985), Vladimir Putin started his KGB career in East Germany.

But let’s talk about more important stuff…like how beautiful Lucy Gutteridge is!

A girl and a gun, said Godard.

And for a sequel, another girl and another gun…

Said I.

Port Said.

Fuad II.

Yes, Ms. Gutteridge plays the stunning Hillary.

Which roughly translates to “she whose breasts defy gravity”.

That’s a direct paraphrase.

What?

We almost get the Lawrence Welk Orchestra doing “Sister Ray”, but Nick Rivers and “Tutti Frutti” is close enough to alienate the visiting Russian operatic singer and his caricature faux-Nazi patron.

General Streck.

Not to be confused with Colonel Sturm or Sergeant Drang.

Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers (David and Jerry) strung us along the whole time.

And they directed a fairly decent film here…the triumvirate.

The Nutcracker turns out to be a ballet of literal protrusions.

The prop room is equally literal.

It’s both Joycean and daft.

But I had some genuine chuckles during this film.

They execute a priest as a demonstration.

And his Latin is a knee-slapping litany.

A greatest hits of that dead language.

Legal.  Medical.  String it together.  Make it flow.

Pig Latin.  Cow Latin.  Pidgin Latin.

Yes Elvis.  Yes Beach Boys.  And yes Beatlemania.

Sullivan.  Hysteria.  Hip sway.  Swooning.

Is it a bit of Fritz Lang with the magnifying glass?

Certainly prefigures the backmasking of Twin Peaks.

Swedish as a backwards language.

Like those hidden messages on (back to the) Beatles records.

I want to live in that loft of that Swedish bookstore…

clutching a volume of Strindberg and holding a Ms. Gutteridge.

How could anyone dream of more than two fireplaces at the top of a firehouse pole?

Many references.  The Blue Lagoon.  When Brooke Shields was just 14.

Like the Podestas, we end up next in the script at a pizza restaurant.

(!)

“Straighten Out the Rug” pulls out all the stops…and all the rugs…like Pejman Nozad on vitamins.

An incredibly detailed mock-up of the prison grounds complete with a toy train.

Bovine infiltration.

Eggs Benedict Arnold.

When instead of hollandaise, they’ve secretly replaced the sauce with Folger’s crystal gravy (on loan from the struggling PepsiCo).

While Trump protestors boycott every snack and cranny of this MNE.

But the dénouement is the underwater saloon brawl.

It is actually artful.  Postmodern.  High art in spite of itself.  Dodoism.

We must not forget the yeoman efforts of the great Omar Sharif in this film.

Sadly, Mr. Sharif passed away just this past year in his home country of Egypt.

At least he did not (presumably) need two hours of surgery to wipe the smile off his face.

“Who do you root for in the Virginia Slims tournament?”

“I always root against the heterosexual.”

“Do you know any good, white basketball players?”

“There are no good, white basketball players.”

All of this from the “Match?  Lighter.  Better still.” line which Robert Shaw sweated out of someone to fool his way into James Bond’s presence and trust for a short time…before he chose fish with red wine.

One wonders whether the East Berliners had the jelly-faced joy of seeing this arrogant Hollywood slap at the time of its release?

Most importantly, “kitchen sink” was the style of the ZAZ directors mentioned previously:  Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker.

Kentucky Fried Movie.  Airplane!  The Naked Gun films (with the exception of the last).

This really is a cute film.

And while most of it would have pushed the envelope for 1984, it would almost be a G-rated movie by today’s standards.

Still, there are some jawdropping moments…such as The Anal Intruder (with the Cuisinart on the shelf [in the jailhouse now]).

Turns out the Christopher Atkins character (played by Christopher Villiers) had gotten all the joys of the Russian sailors who rescued him…including sodomy, Karl Marx, Lenin, L. Ron Hubbard, and one more bloke.

And so we wonder…couldn’t the Butthole Surfers have made it into this film?

Just barely.

Three years later they would drop the masterpiece Locust Abortion Technician.

Ah, the Reagan era…

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “Beyond Life and Death” [1991)

Epic failure.

Success of self-sabotage.

Keep cryptic the pearls before swine.

The end.

In 25 years.

Mona Lisa with more than a mustache.

L.H.O.O.Q.

Completely smeared to oblivion.

Lackluster.

Groping for meaning.

Strobe transcendence momentarily.

Largely garbage.

A big “fuck you” to the system which let it fail.

A sign off…a kiss off.

A dead mall of shoehorned narrative.

Masterpiece of world literature ending with the word “poop”.

It is Dodoism.

Bathos.

But there is redemption.

The most awkward dead air ever.

Shuffling bank manager.

Savings and loan.

A painful gait.  No edit.

No cutaway.

John Cage in primetime.

And in that redemption, mystery.

A most perverse incursion of prime time real estate.

There’s a différance.

A memetic virus.  A viral meme.  Scorched motor oil.  And coffee rainbows.

At such a time, you admit defeat.

You show the process.

You rage.

Falling well short of the mark.

Fire walk with me.

 

-PD

Невиност без заштите [1968)

[INNOCENCE UNPROTECTED (1968)]

I’m taking a wild guess here.

Because life is the greatest complexity.

Only yesterday I was tempting death.

But my name is Deathwish.

Death, for short.

A hard name to live up to.

I’m taking a guess that I have been forgotten…by most of those who meant so much to me.

Such a maudlin (Magdalen) sentiment, but fitting after such a lackluster evening.

If you have read this far, then you are likely qualified to view the ikonoclastic (!) film Innocence Unprotected.

It’s a film about a film.  Wikipedia really likes Croatian.  I suppose because of the Roman letters.

So the original film is question was ostensibly called Nevinost bez zaštite.

It was made during the war.  1941.

Under Nazi occupation (just like Les Visiteurs du soir).

But our 1968 film (the film about a film…sort of) is by my favorite Serbian director:  Душан Макавејев.  Which is to say (with pity) Dušan Makavejev.

And about that title…well, it sounds the same.  That enigma “Serbo-Croatian”…but I can only guess (“taking a wild guess here”) that it was Невиност без заштите.

It flashes before my eyes so quickly.

The H that sounds like N.

The B that sounds like V.

The upside-down N that sounds like I.

The C that sounds like S.

The b with its tail in the crosswind…blowing west to east…which, mercifully, sounds like a B (or b).

The 3 that sounds like a Z.

The Roman numeral III with a floor beneath it…like a Greek temple without a roof…sounds like “Shhh…(peaceful)”.

Those are the tough ones at issue.

Cyrillic letters.

Yes?

Now that I have bent linguistic steel like Dragoljub Aleksić, we shall move on to more pressing matters.

Bending spoons.  Like Uri Geller.

An Israeli.  You know how much I love Israelis 🙂

It is true, in a sense.

Once upon a time…that the French and the Jews were my favorite people.

Completely true.

What happened?  How did I get bent from my Henry Miller humanism?

How did I move to a Jean-Luc Godard humanism?

Shouldn’t humanism value all humans equally?

Yes.

In my wrath…in my protective love for the Palestinians I have said some very unkind things about the Israelis.  Nothing I’m sure they haven’t heard before.

I am not really at the vanguard of anti-Semitism.

But I said it to be hurtful.

Strong words.

Because I was mad.

I’m sure Norman Finkelstein is a fine person.

Anyone who would argue with Alan Dershowitz must basically be alright.

As for Dersh, any lawyer who would deign write a book called The Case for Israel (in 2003, no less…year of the Iraq invasion) must have a loose screw.

As for me, all my screws are loose.

I don’t give (nor do I receive) a fuck.  Err…

That is Innocence Unprotected…a rather Dodoist film which wonders whether the dots of my most recent ellipsis were italicized.  The dots.

It would be like writing a poem about Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” (in full-on ekphrasis mode) and calling it “Howl”.

To say there is a considerable amount of film quotation in Невиност без заштите would be an understatement.

It is truly (Poetically) a film within a film.

I dreamt.

And as I did,

I hawked plywood espadrilles

in Belgrade.

Proudly,

to fund my feature film.

Writing is an attempt to live again.

Which is to say, if I begin to live again, then

I shall have to stop writing.

Not like this.

In misery.

Like Baudelaire.

Who only ever laid a hooker.

Because Jeffrey Immelt has neither the time nor mental capacity to read Walter Benjamin.

And that’s why General Electric will fail.

Because the futures of most things are the opposites of their current states.

The future of marketing?  Anti-marketing.

Because people are tired of being tricked.

They want a refreshingly frank admission of inferiority.

And the endearment begins.

Capitalism hasn’t yet cashed in on socialism.

Because to do so would mean its death.

Both.

Trump and Sanders frozen for all time.

Which would mean the humorous death of politics.

And MegYn Kelly would pull her hair out as she stumbled down the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

A lifetime wasted.

But not over yet.

There’s still night school.

She could learn a useful trade.

Now that journalism is dead.

But maybe in some Ethiopian rainforest the last shrub of curiosity/courage/integrity sits waiting for some Amazon former Fox News reporter to scale its unwieldy 39 feet…to take a clipping from the top.

Journalisa arabica.

Caught in the middle like 5 Broken Cameras.

Nothing could curse a presidential candidate more now than positive coverage by Fox News.

Fox News:  a more toxic endorsement than David Duke.

So now they change their tune.

Which begs the question:  does that mean you think that Republicans were rational (God forbid) to oppose Trump so long?

Or was it merely their house organ which disapproved of the ginger waker?

“Wake up kids!  I didn’t go to the University of Pennsylvania for nothing!!”

I would…as a paean to Mr. Georgia Guidestones himself, like to “expand upon” Gone With the Wind.  You know…add some rap music to certain scenes, show Clark Gable brushing his teeth, and such.  And then call it (wait for it…):  Gone With the Wind.

Yes?

Because that last period is almost certainly italicized.

It was not good enough to be amateur.

But Makavejev fixed that.

 

-PD

 

Senso [1954)

How does love turn into hate?

Does it ever work the other way around?

Hate into love?

Because the natural course seems to be love into hate.

Vulnerability into hurt.

Hurt into resentment.

And somewhere along the continuum, God forbid, revenge.

Senso, despite its extravagant period costumes and generous budget, is still a product of neorealism.

Sure…it’s hard for most of us to relate to a Countess.

That’s why I can’t read Tolstoy.  I can’t read Fitzgerald.  Not even out of curiosity or hatred.

I can only read Dostoyevsky.  I have only ever related to the outlaw.

Of outlaw literature.

But cinema does a funny thing.

We may not be able to really “get into” Il Trovatore or Der Freischütz, but occasionally a talented auteur can make us appreciate the truly foreign:  a higher social class.

In this case, it is the highest.

The nobility.

In English we might (but probably won’t) know it as the Third Italian War of Independence.  How confusing.  That would seem to entail a July 4th (for us Americans) three times a year (assuming there wasn’t a fourth war).

In plain terms, it was Austria vs. Italy (rather like a soccer match).

Football.  Footie.  FTSE.  Yes…

All rather humdrum after the smoke has wafted away.

Idiots, they call us.

Those who fight.

Some join an army.  Very brave.

Others expose themselves needlessly.  What might be termed “impulsive” or again “thoughtlessness”.

What does this?

In both cases, pride (generally speaking).

Sure, a professional soldier makes a decent living (as long as he or she is living), but said soldier is a chess piece of one type or another…always manipulated from above…lacking autonomy.

And yet, perhaps, no price is too high to pay people who are willing to die to defend their country.

But we must define country.

Defending those who cannot (for one reason or another) defend themselves is indeed honorable.

Defending the abstract structures and mechanisms of a state, perhaps less so…

And yet, a pride can infuse the defense of all of this (either separately or collectively).

And then there is the rebel.

Perhaps the rebel will never again find his army in the first world.

In terms of class warfare, then, the United States is a frozen conflict zone.

Just like Abkhazia or some other little-talked-about blip on the map.

Is there a class war?

Should there be a class war?

Shouldn’t wars of all kinds have been evolved out of existence long ago?

Yes?

No…the rebel shan’t find his army in America.

The battlefield has changed.

And as bathos is my witness, “love is a battlefield”!

Discourse on Benatar.

Cannot contain the dodo on his perch.

But never does Luchino Visconti stoop to such poor taste.

No.

Fever pitch, yes.

But poor taste, never.

Because he is telling Spengler’s story.

And he is still telling WWII.

There can be no avoiding that.  Nine years later.

It must be couched in allegory.

And I, like Baudelaire, am nourished by my own misery.

All of this I owe to Walter Benjamin.

Avoid the jalapeno pronunciation.  ~ath do us part.

Alida Valli gets to show more of her breadth here than in the criminally underrated Paradine Case (no pun intended).

Pennies and “the” will be eliminated from the verbal money supply.

Farley Granger is more of a maniac than in Rope (the Hitchcock closest to my snob heart).

Most importantly, Visconti sets the mood with Bruckner’s 7th Symphony.

And now Carlo Maria Giulini’s recording for Deutsche Grammophon makes more sense.

Senso in what sense?

Direction?

Love leaves you with a worthless compass.

The sun begins to revolve around the Earth.

What a perilous pleasure.

That we hope for forever until our end of days.

No matter the hurt…always more.

For the romantic.

 

-PD

Pokolenie [1955)

You think you’ve lost because you don’t know the truth.

Right now.

This very second.

But it takes a lifetime to mull and savor.

Each bit of propaganda proffered.

Yes.

I am a coward.

But honest.

Just scared.  Scared at the rustle of leaves.  Worthless in battle.

When pursued by dumb, fearless slabs of meat.

The brave wear white.

Purely afraid.

We have no real dream to comb out.

And you say we’re not in a real war.

But we are playing chess with Lucifer, age-old.

And so now I apologize to Bobby Fischer.

If you can get to that.

Because he started multiple games.  At random.  In progress.

Textbook tells one way.  And wake up early works well.

But weird candlelight attic window can’t be replicated.

The most valuable aberration.

For now I have created language.

And I no longer need you.

Your wars have ceased in importance.

Because I can implode your machines.  Which you rely on so heavily.

Andrzej Wajda a third time.

Tadeusz Łomnicki was a Daniel Craig orphan here.

And you think left better off a poem.

Why shoehorn Cahiers?

We can all do it for the sake of a Urszula Modrzyńska.

Curls to comb out like Marx’s beard.

And our Jewish comrades.

It’s no joke.

Keep the beat, Tadeusz Janczar.  Neu!  Neu!  Neu!

Like Klaus Dinger.  Single-minded.  Double-footed.  Almost an arm to spare.

You will see Roman Polanski act.

And scream.

Like Beavis.

Ah!  Ah!  Ah!

No Butt-Head doth stem the bathos.

Dodoism, now and forever!!!!!!

 

-PD