#7 Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean [1992)

No social skills.

None whatsoever.

Which makes him charming beyond description.

Like the “Velvet Gentleman” (Erik Satie)…six (velvet!) gray suits for six days of the week.

And Irma Gobb as Suzanne Valadon.

We can’t imagine Mr. Bean in the military.  Would be like a rather mute Group Captain Lionel Mandrake.

And Satie?  Well, it would have been more disastrous than Céline’s miserable stint.

Satie started an elaborate church, of which, he was the only member.

Popularity wrecked by eccentricity.

But preserved in little jewels throughout the piano literature.

I was dressing like a priest until yesterday.

Because of the tyrannosaurus rex threatening the manger.

Just what does he do for a living?  Bean Satie?

Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902.  And was Satie some sort of sage?

As Mr. Bean falls from the sky in the spaceship spotlight flown by St. Nick.

Every day is a miracle.

At the Schola Cantorum de Paris to learn counterpoint.

Fux!

Returning to school at age 39.  Same age as me.  Same riddle.  Same mystery.

Satie was a socialist.  Later Communist.

And Bean?  Which way would Bean vote?

No matter with this icy loneliness of Satie.

27 years and no one had every come to his residence.

But there is a difference.

Bean has the fire going.

A stocking for him and a stocking for Teddy.

Even a little stocking for the mouse in the wall.

That single, gold ornament.  A bit of tree lopped off and pulled through the high window.

You must say…Bean looks cozy.  Fire place and Christmas socks.

How does Mr. Bean remain so optimistic?

How is he so comfortable being alone?

He’s happy.

Sure, there’s the old bump in the road now and then,

but Rowan Atkinson keeps his character full of wonder and ingenuity.

I have perused many abominations claiming to be films on this night and ended back with a trusted old friend.

Merry Christmas Bean!

Hang in there old chap.

Keep that great, positive attitude and you’ll go far 🙂

 

-PD

 

#4 Mr. Bean Goes to Town [1991)

Oops…

Never get rid of a winner.

Director John Howard Davies had reeled in the first three episodes so that Rowan Atkinson’s brilliance was on full display.

Davies’ replacement by Paul Weiland and John Birkin was particularly painful here.

But there’s another possibility.

What happens when geniuses run out of material?

This really isn’t a very good episode of Mr. Bean.

But it does finally get going in the last bit:  at the magic show.

Matilda Ziegler’s responses (Bean’s girlfriend Irma Gobb) as she sits in the audience are priceless.  Atkinson’s unfamiliarity with the conventions of magic shows causes him to give away the game concerning several key props…all in a search for his pilfered wristwatch.

It really got a belly laugh out of me!

It should be noted that the previously-mentioned Matilda Ziegler was in a very highly-praised Channel 4 (U.K.)/CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) production with one of my favorite actresses of all time:  the Romanian genius/goddess/immortal Anamaria Marinca.  That television movie was called Sex Traffic.

Ziegler also teaches dramatic arts at the Norwich School.  Norwich (in East Anglia) is, incidentally, a UNESCO “City of Literature” (along with such head-scratchers as Iowa City (USA) and Baghdad).  Dear UNESCO,  Have you been to Baghdad recently?  City of Literature??  Really???  [UNESCO’s bestowal of this award upon the Iraqi capital was in 2015.]

As you can probably tell, there is a dearth of memorable moments in this episode of Mr. Bean.

 

-PD

#3 The Curse of Mr. Bean [1990)

Just who does Donald Trump think he is???

Answer:  Sam Walton.

It’s the big, goofy, mesh-backed baseball cap.  The ones with the plastic snaps and infinitesimally small corresponding holes.  And then the squishy, peaked frontispiece:  “Make America great again” –or– (alternately) “Wal-Mart”.

That is the Donald’s costume…out on the campaign trail.  It’s bold.  Comedic.  A bit like George H.W. Bush “shopping” for groceries out among the common folk and being dumbfounded by this whole newfangled barcode scanner.

Yes, Donald Trump:  man of the people.

And so who did Rowan Atkinson think he was with Mr. Bean?

Well, that one’s a whole lot harder to pinpoint.

We might know Chaplin.  And Sellers.

But then there’s all these other institutions which don’t quite translate outside of Britain…The Goon Show, Dudley Moore, The Goodies…

Just from whence was Atkinson pulling his stuff?

We want to think it’s all original.  And perhaps it is.

But influence is unavoidable.

And so with the third and final episode of 1990, Atkinson gave us The Curse of Mr. Bean.  [1991 would yield only one episode of the show.]

The curse…hmmm…certainly sounds like an allusion to Sellers’ Clouseau.

Whatever the case may be, Atkinson’s material is all tied together with a very cohesive theme this time:  fear.

Fear of the diving board (afraid of heights).

Fear of public nudity or embarrassment (lost his trunks in the pool).

And finally the orgiastic grand guignol of laughter:

fear of movies.

It sounds like a pretentious art school pop album.

For instance, the Talking Heads’ Eno-produced Fear of Music (1979).

But for Bean, the horror was more of the Freddy Krueger type.

Indeed, by December 30, 1990 (this show’s airdate), there had already been five (yes, 5ive) A Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

Churned out of the dream factory like diabolical cotton candy, they appeared in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1989.  The series then would recommence in 1991.  Which begs the question, just what was Freddy Krueger up to in 1986?  Laying low?  Vacationing?  The Caribbean?

To wit, Bean is scared witless while on a date (yes, those things where aspiring romantics “go out”) with the absolutely adorable Matilda Ziegler.

For those of you (like me) who can’t live without pithy character names, Ziegler’s role (like my beloved Enid Coleslaw) is that of Irma Gobb.

And Bean, therefore, is the man-child…the everlasting Gobbstopper [sic].

[Which is to say, Ziegler’s character is a reoccurring one.]

Perhaps we need to look further back to find a precedent for Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean…perhaps out of the world of comedy proper.  Perhaps to the Dadaists?  I can certainly imagine Mr. Bean dressed as a sort of human tampon à la Hugo Ball…with lobster claw hands.  Or maybe Bean with a lobster telephone courtesy of Dalí.  Certainly Bean would have a pet lobster to take for walks in the Bois de Boulogne with a ribbon for a leash like Gérard de Nerval.

But we perhaps perhaps perhaps need to look further.  To the wry humor of Marcel Duchamp.  To the childlike fancy and brilliance of a René Magritte or an Erik Satie.  Even, god forbid, the humor of a Mauricio Kagel.

Conductors don’t have heart attacks mid-concert?  Not according to Kagel’s Ludwig Van.

Yet Bean never crosses that line of pretension.

He’s never Anthony Braxton’s Quartet for Amplified Shovels.

No, Bean always remains funny.

And so, perhaps, nothing is more revolutionary than comedy.

This kind of comedy.

Absolutely scripted, miniaturist-perfect comedy worthy of Jacques Tati.

In that sense, we might say that Mr. Bean is like Peter Sellers having Charlie-Chaplin-like total control over a production.  At least that’s the way it seems.

Perhaps we would be criminally neglecting the director of these first three Bean episodes:  John Howard Davies.

But in such comedies, the thing really does speak for itself.

Rowan Atkinson fills every moment of screen time in these gems with his thoroughly inimitable charm.

 

-PD