The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu [1980)

Again we come back.

Revitalized?

Perhaps.

Definitely living with chemistry.

Better living ahead?

Maybe.

But death followed for Peter Sellers.

This was his final film.

And so it is spooky (in a way).

It came out two weeks after his death.

I must admit.

I had a hard time watching this one at first.

On first view, it wasn’t that funny to me.

Indeed, it is a rather strange comedy.

But let’s get really strange.

The executive producer was Hugh Hefner.

Follow the white rabbit.

And now we shall come to QAnon in full force.

Is it real?

Is it bullshit?

Fred Manchu.

Call me Fred.

Who is QAnon?

They don’t mention much about rabbits anymore, do they?

And like me, they are fond of taking inordinately-long pauses between bursts of communication.

Transient random-noise bursts with announcements.

My brain is coming back.

Watch out, world!

Fred Manchu did laundry at Eton.

Eton blue or shelduck blue.

Sid Caesar or Cyd Charisse.

Caesar’s Palace or…

Down to brass tacks.

Tax?

This film is in parallel to (believe it or not) Live and Let Die.

Jane Seymour (Bond) and Helen Mirren (Sellers).

And Sellers in Casino Royale of 1967.

Not to be confused with the best Bond film made thus far:  Casino Royale of 2006.

Seymour (OBE)

born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg

Mirren (DBE)

born Helen Lydia Mironoff

Live and Let Die (1973) was really the breakout performance of young Seymour’s early career.

There is juxtaposition…because you might know Seymour best as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998).

Sultry “Solitaire” (Seymour) is hardly recognizable next to her twenty-year-senior “Dr. Quinn”.

But sex sells.

And it just goes to show that HARDLY ANYONE gets to start off classy.

Stay classy.

In our film, the promiscuous Alice Rage (Mirren) ironically (?) gets an undercover job as a double for the Queen of England.  She then falls for the black-fingernailed Fu Manchu and becomes the 166-year-old (?) villain’s wife.

For those who only know Mirren as The Queen (2006), it is worth revisiting her early years for a jolt of WTF.

Though Mirren had been working in film seven times as long as Seymour when she took this role of Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, it was still something of a feather in her cap (one might imagine).

And though we might suspect this was the depth of her crappy early roles, it wasn’t.

The previous year, Mirren had been in the infamous film Caligula (produced by Penthouse magazine).

[as noted earlier, our film was a Playboy Productions venture with Hugh Hefner acting as executive producer]

Further, Mirren played a prostitute in the contemporaneous Hussy of 1980.

If you only know Mirren from American Treasure:  Book of Secrets, I can imagine your shock.

BTW…don’t make the easily-forgivable mistake of confusing Mirren for Judi Dench (the “M” of the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig-era Bond films).

Which brings us back to Q.

Is QAnon legit?

Where is Q?

Why hasn’t Steve Pieczenik commented on Q?

Is Q a “flypaper coup” (to quote Wayne Madsen re: Turkey’s failed coup)?

Hard to say.

For me.

One thing is for sure:  Mirren and Dench both appeared in 1968’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Burt Kwouk makes a brief appearance early in our film…as he drops the MacGuffin (after drenching his burning sleeve with it).

Look to Stonehenge.

Moreover, Steve Franken (the butler from The Party) plays Sid Caesar’s FBI partner here.

Franken was disgraced Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s cousin.

Let’s see if Q has posted anything.

Nope.

Weird.

 

-PD

 

The Disorderly Orderly [1964)

So here’s another movie I was wrong about.

Kinda like how I was wrong about Stan Laurel appearing in The Bellboy.

At least I think I was wrong.

Did I say that?

Because it turns out it was an impersonator.

But back to this here movie.

I couldn’t appreciate it on first viewing (all couple minutes I lasted) because Jerry’s style was so pungent.

Jerry Lewis.

A new star in my firmament.

Peter Sellers still reigns supreme in my pantheon.

And Sacha Baron Cohen still takes the cake for living comedians.

But Jerry Lewis is breathing down Peter’s neck.

And so this film ranks up there.

The Nutty Professor is still probably the best.

And Cinderfella holds a dear spot in my heart because it was the film which proved to me that Lewis was not merely a one-hit-wonder.

And The Ladies Man is really one of the artful, top Lewis films.

And so The Disorderly Orderly is in this rarefied air.

It’s better than The Bellboy.

It’s better than The Family Jewels.

Hell…  Maybe I should watch those again!

But really.

Jerry Lewis was super-talented.

Indeed, let’s delineate a bit.

Lewis directed (and starred in) The Nutty Professor.

But Cinderfella, an earlier film, was directed by the great Frank Tashlin.

Why great?

Lewis deftly directed The Ladies Man while starring in it as well.

But Tashlin was back as director for this film (The Disorderly Orderly).

And so Tash was integral to the career of Jerry Lewis.

I really can’t imagine Jerry’s oeuvre without a Cinderfella.

It is indispensable.

While The Disorderly Orderly might be slightly less timeless, it is still quite an achievement.

Verily, it is a strange film (truth be told).

Indeed, about 3/4ths the way through, our film takes a turn towards dark, psychological energy.

Dreams.

Nightmares, really.

Shame.

Transgression.

Jerry Lewis as a peeping tom is bizarre.

As a stalker.

[especially considering that the real-life Lewis would be stalked in the ’90s by a man named Gary Benson (who subsequently spent four years in prison…ostensibly for stalking Lewis {according to the infallible Wikipedia})]

Humiliation.

Let’s dissect.

There should be some comparison to Mel Brooks’s’s High Anxiety.

“neurotic identification empathy”

Amen, brother!!!

Let’s list the timeless characters:

Julius Kelp

Fella (!)

Herbert H. Heebert [whose moniker bears a striking resemblance to Nabokov’s world-class pervert Humbert Humbert]

and Jerome Littlefield.

This list will grow.

Soon.

But for now, we can consider the timelessness of dear, squeamish Jerome Littlefield.

Too sensitive for this world.

Definitely too sensitive to be an MD!

The whole drama with psych patient Susan Oliver is thoroughly bizarre.

The film language dips from a rollercoaster zenith to a stomach-bottom nadir.

WTF, Jerry Lewis?  WTF?!?

But remember, this is a Frank Tashlin film.

Or is it???

Every Jerry Lewis film is THOROUGHLY DOMINATED BY HIM.

It is obvious that improvisation plays a large part in the final product.

Not to mention silent gestures which loom larger than any script ever could.

Suffice it to say, The Disorderly Orderly is a sort of “flawed masterpiece”.

No, it’s not on the level of La Règle du jeu, but Frank Tashlin was no Jean Renoir.

And yet…Jerry Lewis was.

In his own way.

Which brings us to a perfect non-ending.

Jerry Lewis is an essential part of French cinema.

Put that in your ceci-n’est-pas-une-pipe and smoke it!

 

-PD

 

The Bellboy [1960)

This one is pretty good.

I didn’t give it much of a chance at first.

Sometimes black and white movies are hard to watch.

[if you grew up on color]

Kinda like silent films are hard to watch.

[if you grew up on sound]

And sorta how Shakespeare is hard to read.

[if you grew up on comic books]

This one doesn’t rival the top dog [The Nutty Professor].

It doesn’t begin to touch the neck-and-neck silver medalist Cinderfella.

But it’s a whole lot better than The Family Jewels.

Which is to say, black and white sometimes trumps color.

The Family Jewels had everything it needed.

Except that it’s a mediocre film.

The Bellboy has nothing it needed.

Kinda like Psycho.

But it OVERACHIEVES for its resource level.

What is most significant about The Bellboy is that it truly has NO PLOT.

It does, however, have characters.

[particularly Stanley (Jerry Lewis)]

So then, taking the French love of Jerry Lewis into account, one might say that The Bellboy is a rather intellectual (!) series of situations after the manner of Debord.

Or further, that The Bellboy is a long-form work of nonsense in the mold of Finnegans Wake.

Whichever comparison is most fitting, The Bellboy stands up as a watchable, enjoyable movie.

One more thing…

There ARE true (true!) flashes of genius in this film.

The sequence with Milton Berle.

Bits with Stan Laurel (and Stanley [Lewis]).

Prefiguring Peter Sellers by way of multiple characters (Lewis playing himself as well as the bellboy Stanley).

The Jerry Lewis oeuvre is very interesting indeed.

 

-PD

The Brothers Grimsby [2016)

This one approaches masterpiece.

Spy spoof.

But falls off in the second half.

And yet, it is a real treat.

In the vein of Ali G.

Sacha Baron Cohen is the most important comedian working.

Aside from my other hero, Donald Trump.

There will never be another Peter Sellers.

Never another Andy Kaufman.

But we have Cohen and Trump.

As you were, lads.

 

-PD

Ali G Indahouse [2002)

It has been such a short amount of time.

I am watching movies now rapidly.

Catching up.

Knocking the cobwebs out.

Learning how to write again.

Wassup?

Staines.

London.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s first starring role in a feature film.

And the first cinematic glimpse at Borat (a cameo in a Sellers-like, multi-character moment).

A good film.

Funny.

This is basically Liam Gallagher condensed into a strong appellation…or aftershave…of exotic origin.

Perhaps in a green bottle.

A very rewarding watch.

Not as good as the artful Borat, but not bad at all.

Cultural reference point may be “baggy” culture of Manchester (Madchester).

Hip-hop as embraced by rockers.

Indeed, we see Ali G. meet his bitch Julie when they were both nerdy goths.

So this wasn’t Ali’s first disguise.

Rap was not his first obsession.

Ali was once a long-haired, sweaty thing in a fishnet shirt.

Very Flock of Seagulls.

Or maybe Cure.

Yo, this movie is great!

Very funny.

Check it!

Rap here.  Rap there.

England.

Why can’t they try out the red button on a shithole like Wales?

Because the PM is the PM of Wales as well.

It’s all coming back.

The facility.

Let the word vomit commence.

Friends.

The only way to succeed at writing is to not choke to death on your dinner.

Very bad for your career.

Unless you are already published.

At which time, your oeuvre appreciates in value.

But unpublished, it is like pissing in the dark lose-lose.

We learn new phraseology.

BRB

 

-PD

Borat [2006)

This may be the funniest film ever made.

🙂

Really!

An erudite film critic shouldn’t admit such, should they?

But I learned long ago that I must have my own voice.

I can scour the Earth for every film to which Jean-Luc Godard made reference in Histories(s) du cinéma, but I still must contend with my own personal predilections.

We like stuff because it resonates with us.

For me, the realization was with the Romanian New Wave…and ’80s American comedies 🙂

The serious, austere, heartrending, bleak works of the Romanian New Wave have not been canonized by Godard.

Godard, the man, will (sadly) pass away.

Which is a terrible thought to me.

Because he has made his best films [sic] in his “later” years.

But the Romanian New Wave was “mine”.

I discovered it by accident.

And I dug a little deeper.

I would say about 90% of Romanian film resonates with me in a powerful way.

Almost as much as French film resonates with me.

But then I had to come to term with ’80s American comedies.

These were the things on which I grew up 🙂

And there is no greater joy in my film-viewing experience than to see a film which elicits hyperventilating belly laughs 🙂

And so, Borat [directed brilliantly by Larry Charles].

If Sacha Baron Cohen never again makes a good film, he’s still a genius in my book…based solely on this one masterpiece.

No, it is not Citizen Kane.

But it is something.

Something closer to Cohen’s hero Peter Sellers.

And to the bent mind of Andy Kaufman.

Borat Sagdiyev is the epitome of awkward…once he is placed within American society.

He is from the “backwards” land of Kazakhstan.

[of course, there is a great deal of exaggeration in this film…because such caricature can be quite funny]

The special thing about Borat (and Cohen, working through Borat) is that HE INSULTS EVERYBODY 🙂

Borat very much prefigures the Trump Presidency.

Not to mention the young Trump supporters fond of Pepe the Frog 😉

The idea is, “Lighten the fuck up!”

Laugh a little.

Laugh at yourself.

And, naughty naughty, laugh at what you’re not SUPPOSED to laugh at.

The forbidden subjects of laughter make us laugh the heartiest.

Our conscience kicks in.

We feel BAD about making light of such and such.

But it is a reflex:  it just simply is fucking funny 🙂

Nothing is going to take the fun out of this world quicker than those who scrub history, those who censor films, those who impose sensitivity training liberally…

Let’s get nitty-gritty.

Ken Davitian is excellent as Borat’s assistant Azamat Bagatov.

Nothing like having to hairdry the balls of your boss 🙂

[not to mention “back pussy”]

Yes, the humor is SO WRONG.

So bad!

But, as I overheard two days ago at the video story, white guys still reminisce fondly about Eddie Murphy standup routines.

Not exactly my bag, but I get it.

[and black guys, hispanic guys…Eddie Murphy was very much a “taboo” comedian]

Which brings us to Lenny Bruce.

I love Lenny Bruce.

Guy was messed up.

But he was brave.

So the point is, crude humor is maybe not the smartest…maybe not the best influence on society…but we need a little of it, it seems.

Maybe it’s because we’re all sinners?

I don’t know.

I don’t want to get too theological.

If I was a better Christian, perhaps I would repudiate Borat.

But I simply cannot do that.

And so I’ll keep it brief:

God works in mysterious ways.

I may be wrong.

But this film helps my heart with a laughter unlike any other.

 

-PD

Sen Kimsin? [2012)

It’s been a long time since I “visited” Turkey.

Indeed, it’s been awhile since I reviewed an actual movie 🙂

Film critics should review films, right?

Not sporting events.  Not YouTube videos.  Not the Double Windsor of Trump’s necktie.

Well, I am guilty as charged.

I like sports.

And occasionally a video on the Internet has immense impact on me.

And I like Trump.  Sometimes I disagree (strongly) with what he does.

But mostly I agree.

So far.

But as I was saying, I have not reviewed a Turkish film since my initial foray into the national cinema of Anatolia.

In retrospect, I actually reviewed two Turkish films long ago:  Hudutlarin Kanunu and Susuz Yaz.

What is really complex is the “i” with no dot.  I don’t think I have this anywhere on my WordPress possibilities.

But we will forget about that for now.

[at least I can copy and paste]

🙂

Which is to say, it is hard to top Yılmaz Güney.  Hudutlarin Kanunu is a really special film.

But we must move into the modern era…and see what the Turkish are doing now, right?

Well, Sen Kimsin? may not be a perfect film, but I really enjoyed it 🙂

There is something about Turkish humor which I love!

So let me tell you about this motion picture.

First of all, it is currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S. (!)…

Yes, Netflix seems to all-of-sudden be glutted with Turkish films (which is, for me, a good thing).

And we will get to geopolitics shortly (the strange case of U.S. forces “guarding” the Turkish border [to prevent attacks on the Kurds in Syria?!?]).

Actually, let’s get to that now.

Webster Tarpley (whom I stopped listening to quite awhile ago…when he started calling Trump a Nazi) was forever railing about closing the Jarabulus corridor.

Jarabulus is a Syrian city very near the Turkish border.

Tarpley maintained (if I remember correctly) that ISIS (which, like al-Qaeda, was created by the U.S. [according to Pieczenik]) was being supplied mainly from Turkey.

Tarpley continuously insisted that closing the “Jarabulus corridor” would starve the supply line(s) of ISIS.

And then today we have these headlines:  “US troops patrol Turkey-Syria border after strikes on Kurds”.

That was CNN.

It required immense (and worthwhile) effort to not click on that article.

Fuck CNN!

They don’t even deserve italics…

“US troops deployed at Syrian border to prevent clashes between Turkish & Kurdish forces”.

That’s RT.

[Russia Today]

Hmmm…

I thought Turkey was part of NATO?

I thought NATO was the greatest thing since sliced shawarma??

I thought the USA and Turkey were on the same side???

Well, maybe not.

Which brings us back to that “failed coup attempt” last year in Turkey.

July 15.

Now, if the U.S. is today (literally) protecting the Kurds from the Turkish (which even CNN and RT can agree upon).

And the U.S. has nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey as part of NATO’s “nuke sharing” program (which is well-known).

Then what the fuck is going on here?

Is Erdoğan such a dipshit that we have to work AGAINST him (while keeping nuclear weapons in his country)?

If that’s the case, then it would not be farfetched to think that the U.S. had some part to play in the failed coup attempt of last year.

Motive?  Check.  Means?  Check.  Opportunity?  Probably.

As for the U.S. forces on the Turkish border (inside Syria?), their location is not clear from the reportage I am seeing (whether Jarabulus or not).

In a moment of weakness, I clicked on CNN.

The gist there seems to be that the Turks and the Kurds hate each other, but that the Turks and the Kurds are the closest “anti-ISIS” allies of the U.S.. 🙂

Boy, if that’s not generalizing things…

Which is why we need comedy.

And why this will seek to be a film review from here on out.

First, let’s translate Sen Kimsin?:  “who are you?”.

Who are you?

This phrase becomes very important during the course of Sen Kimsin?.

Tolga Çevik is the star of our film 🙂

He’s very funny!

Truly, he has some great comedic talent!!

And so this whole film is a bit like The Pink Panther minus Peter Sellers.

But Tolga Çevik does a very admirable job 🙂

Actually, as you’ve noticed, I can’t stop smiling after this film.

There are so many wonderful parts to it.

Indeed, Çevik is the fumbling/bumbling detective (!) who gets made for a useful idiot.

But the ID was only half-right.

He’s an idiot, alright.

But he’s completely useless 🙂

And I know the feeling.

I really related to Tolga Çevik’s character Tekin.

Director Ozan Açıktan did an excellent job of letting Tolga’s talents come to the fore!

But this comedy of errors just wouldn’t be the same without the priceless contribution of Köksal Engür.

You know, the Turks are a brave people.

And seeing the great humor of Köksal Engür reminded me of that 🙂

But let us talk about the beautiful ladies of this film.

Zeynep Özder is really charming as Pelin 🙂

But I must also give credit to the villainess Pelin Körmükçü.

Wow!  What a beautiful 46-year-old woman!!!

Anyhow, these ladies are distracting.

But this is just a plain fun film.

It is meant for enjoyment.

And there is some great dialogue (particularly between Tekin and Ismail).

I thoroughly recommend this film as a fun way to learn a little more about Turkish culture 🙂

Thank you, my friends!

-PD

The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956)

Netflix seems to be down tonight.

I tried several times.  Several movies.  Several fixes.

And so it is only fitting that history should trump the ephemeral stages of technological development.

Yes, time for a good old VHS tape.

And not a film about which I’ve previously written.

While I have surveyed many of the early Hitchcock films, I never wrote about the original version of this film.

1934.

To my knowledge, this is the only film of Alfred Hitchcock’s early career which he chose to remake.

Just on this fact alone, it would seem that the story was either very dear to the auteur or that he couldn’t resist something about the plot.

Granted, the two films are considerably different.

Even on a surface level, the 1934 version was (of course) in black and white.

But this was a VistaVision, Technicolor production.

1956.

22 years later.

For better or worse, I was familiar first with the earlier version.

It is a film I should revisit.

But it was not what I would call a “home run”.

The one aspect of the original which one might miss in the remake is the presence of Peter Lorre.

But we must move on to the future.  The present.

1956.

Jimmy Stewart plays the leading male role.  A doctor from Indianapolis.

Doris Day plays his wife.

The action is set for a good bit in Morocco.

Specifically, Marrakesh.

Indeed, the beginning of the film is a sort of travelogue.

In other words, its a good excuse to show off the exotic locale in North Africa.

Camels.  Veils.  [that one’s important]  The social tradition of eating with the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand.  While leaving the left hand in the lap.

All very edifying and exciting.

But Doris Day is suspicious from the start.

If we knew nothing of Hitchcock, we’d say her paranoia was unfounded.

But, in fact, it’s Jimmy Stewart’s ease which is the fateful misstep early on.

And so this movie is about suspicion.

Who can we trust?

In this age of anxiety (thank you W.H. Auden), everyone and everything is suspect.

The only true bliss is ignorance.

[and perhaps my only wisdom is that of paraphrase]

One thing which escaped me the first time I saw this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (in the theater…lucky me) was a funny detail about Brenda de Banzie.

Yes, dear readers (and fans of Peter Sellers), Ms. de Banzie would later appear as the annoying, flamboyant Angela Dunning in The Pink Panther (1963).

Indeed, her role as the terror of Cortina (d’Ampezzo) was her second-to-last film.

But here she is a much more mysterious character.

I will leave it at that.

We get some interesting things in this film.

“Arabs” in disguise.

Which is to say, certain personages of the spook variety in brown makeup (and native garb).

One need not look very far back in history to find a poignant parallel.

Consider, for instance, the “Basra prison incident” of 2005.

I’m guessing that T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) would provide another example, though I am no expert on this matter.

As are almost all Hitchcock films, this one is a tense affair.

Doris Day, in particular, does a surprising job of portraying the personal terror of her character.

Perhaps most notable about this film is the musical component.

As an accomplished percussionist in my own right, I heartily appreciate Hitchcock’s attention to the intricacies of an orchestral percussion section.

Indeed, the film begins with a close-up of this little-featured “choir” (in addition to the three trumpets and three trombones at the bottom of the frame).

What is most remarkable is Hitchcock’s use of the musical score (in various permutations) to tell this unique story.

Funniest is the shot of the cymbalist’s sheet music.

It is nearly a complete tacit…save for one fateful crash.

I fondly remember (with some measure of anxiety) a time when I manned the cymbals for the overture of Verdi’s La forza del destino.

It was a similar affair.

Interminable waiting.

And if you miss your one crash?  Even in rehearsal?

Well, you are screwed!

The judging stares of oboists are enough to melt a man…

But the musical score appears elsewhere.

In the private box.

Perhaps a page-turner for an assassin.

Most vividly, Hitchcock makes the score come alive in a fascinating series of extreme close-ups.

It is like a very erudite version of “follow the bouncing ball”.

So yes…some of our action happens at the Royal Albert Hall.

In an interesting twist of fate, usual Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann garners copious screen time as the conductor…OF ANOTHER COMPOSER’S WORK!

Were it Beethoven, I’d understand.

But the piece is Storm Clouds Cantata by Arthur Benjamin (who?) and D.B. Wyndham-Lewis (not to be confused with [Percy] Wyndham Lewis).

And yet it is a moving piece.

The London Symphony Orchestra sounds lovely (really magical!) in their on-screen segments.

But the real Leitmotiv of our film is “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)”.

Speaking of magic…it is always a gossamer thing to hear Doris Day sing this song in The Man Who Knew Too Much.

I remember a time when I didn’t know this song at all.

Being in a studio with Corinne Bailey Rae and hearing a playback of her wonderful band own this song.

And my discovery of Sly and the Family Stone’s inimitable version (sung by Rose Stone).

But few movie music moments equal Doris Day in her Marrakesh hotel room singing “Que Sera, Sera…” with little desafinado Christopher Olson.

The only ones which come close are Rita Hayworth (actually Jo Ann Greer?) singing the Rodgers and Hart masterpiece “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” the next year (1957) in Pal Joey and Ms. Hayworth “singing” (actually Anita Kert Ellis) “Put the Blame on Mame” in Gilda (1946).

An interesting note about this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much…

It seems to be a sort of forgotten classic, wedged as it is between the first of my Hitchcock “holy trinity” (Rear Window, 1954) and the other two perfect films (Vertigo, 1958, and North by Northwest, 1959).

Actually, this was a period of experimentation for Hitchcock.

Our film most precisely follows the odd comedy (!) The Trouble with Harry (1955) and precedes the black and white hand-wringer The Wrong Man (released later in 1956).

But The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) should not be forgotten!

It is such a beautifully-shot film!

Robert Burks’ cinematography is divine.

And George Tomasini’s editing is artfully deft.

Like To Catch a Thief (which is actually on Netflix in the U.S. [last time I checked]), The Man Who Knew Too Much is a film which perhaps needs multiple viewings to be truly appreciated.

-PD

What About Bob? [1991)

We all need a little therapy.

Laughter 🙂

And sometimes we need a story that hits real close to home.

For me, this one does the trick.

Multiple phobias would be an understatement.

And I can relate.

You know, it’s sometimes these types of movies which make me the most weepy-eyed.

But only temporarily.

Bill Murray really knocks it out of the park on this one.

But Richard Dreyfuss is equally essential to the “trading places” dynamic at work here.

And not least, Frank Oz directed a sort of masterpiece with this film.

Bob, the protagonist, would make an excellent spy (in some regards).

His stalking skills are world-class (bar none).

But Bob has no malice in his heart.

He just needs help.

But woe unto the genius who becomes the apple of Bob’s eye.

Yes folks, Richard Dreyfuss’ patience is tested as much as Herbert Lom’s (as Chief Inspector Dreyfus…one “s”) ever was by Peter Sellers as Clouseau.

That is very much the dynamic which is at work in our film.

Leo Marvin (Dreyfuss…”ss”) is a very bright psychiatrist.

He prominently displays his bust of Freud in his office and, while on vacation, at his lakeside home.

His son is named Sigmund.

His daughter, Anna.

And his wife looks much Jung-er than in her picture.

[I couldn’t resist]

But Bob is the kind of guy for whom the “block caller” function on your iPhone was invented.

As I said, however, Bob would make an excellent member of the intelligence community if he were not a practically-paralyzed nutbag.

Bob has problems “moving”.

But, to be frank, Bob has problems with everything.

Each and every activity which most people take for granted presents a unique hurdle for the perpetually-nervous Bob.

And I can relate.

Boy, can I!

Yet, what Bob lacks in conventional “people skills”, he makes up for with an endearing, warmhearted ease that he imparts to everyone he meets.

People love this guy.

If they take a second to get to know him.

And so we start with a patient (Bob) and a doctor (Leo).

But the lines blur early and often.

And so what director Frank Oz seems to be pointing out is something which Harvard professor Clay Christensen pointed out in his book How Will You Measure Your Life? not so long ago.

While Dr. Christensen makes clear that his former classmates at the Harvard Business School all seem to share a certain dissatisfaction with their lives (regardless of their tony jobs at McKinsey & Co., etc.), his thoughts on “disruptive innovation” occasioned an invitation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to speak on this latter phenomenon.

So what I mean to say is this:  yes, this is self-help, but it’s serious, serious stuff!

Funny enough, that seems to describe Bob quite well.

Operation Nifty Package could have been shortened by nine days (and spared the royalties to ASCAP and BMI) had a Bob Wiley merely been sent in to chat with Manuel Noriega 1989/1990.

Which is to say, Bob Wiley represents that person we all think we know:  the most annoying person in the world.

They don’t come along often.

But when they do (and we are their captive audience), it makes psychological warfare look like child’s play.

So indeed, from the perspective of Dr. Leo Marvin, Bob Wiley must have seemed like a human weapon intent on wrecking his life.

The problem was that Dr. Marvin had become more focused on accolades (Good Morning America) and money than on the excellence of his caregiving.

Dr. Leo’s kids see this quite clearly.

Kathryn Erbe is excellent as Anna.  She shows true generosity to Bob and an open heart.

Charlie Korsmo is wonderful as Sigmund.  He does the same.  He treats Bob as a person, not a patient.

But this film is therapeutic for me in that it shows (albeit in caricature) some of the very problems I go through on a daily basis.

Fear of the edge.  Ok, let’s just make this the edge.  No no, I can’t see what you’re doing from back there.

Bob has a certain bit of Forrest Gump in him.

Dumb luck.  Or serendipity.

But really, Bob is an expert on psychological problems…because he has lived them.

Mind as battlefield.  You might see it on the endcap of your local book store.

But for Bob, that’s not just a catchy title.

It’s life.

You’re in a lake…for the first time ever…because someone has just pushed you in…and you are kicking your legs, trying to get back to the pier…but you swim under the pier, because you’re nervous…and all you can say is, “Am I gonna die?”

It’s funny.  Unless you’ve lived a situation which maps neatly onto that microcosmic display.

So slowly we see Dr. Leo deteriorate.  It’s partly because Bob is so bonkers, but it’s also because Bob is succeeding where Leo is failing.

Saying a kind word.

A compliment.

A smile.

A joke.

Laughter.

Fun!

We don’t any of us hold all of the cards.

You might be beautiful, but you might be a moron.

You might be rather homely, but simultaneously brilliant.

Human talents and intelligence(s) operate on an infinite number of intersecting planes.

For each of our talents or attributes, we are weighed by the “market” of human opinion.

Illustrating that great scientific query:  “In relation to what?”

One human in the lonely crowd.

And one attribute in a body and mind full of vast potential.

Bob looks pathetic in a rain slicker at 1 a.m.

With his knee-jerk reactions to thunderclaps.

And Bob looks thoroughly bizarre with his goldfish in a jar around his neck.

But these are the humans we need.

These are the spice of life.

Some would condescend and venture “salt of the earth”.

But I am sticking with spice of life.

What really gets it is when Bob pulls a sort of witless Al Kooper and ends up on live national television via Joan Lunden.

And so we return to patience.

That virtue.

It’s a test.

And patience is its own reward.

You will find the value society places on this most essential human attribute.

Yet, this patience must be tested.  Stress tested.  Like a bank.

Over years of potentially infuriating situations.

If you make it through, relatively unscathed, there’s a good chance you picked up the tools necessary for significant patience.

But we cultivate our own patience when we recognize its priceless effect upon our own lives.

How many times would you have been up shit creek had there not been a patient person there to pull you in to shore?

If we are smart (and lovers of humanity), we emulate this patience we’ve seen in action.

We make it part of our persona.

But it will be tested!

As in a crucible!!

And so what about Bob?

Bob is the oddity which places us in just the right perspective.

A bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

Yes friends, Dr. Leo has some issues which he is not working through.

He never saw a Bob coming.

He had no contingency for this sort of personage.

And so he is off-guard.  Mean.  Ugly.  Nasty.  Snotty.  Vile.

Dark humor doesn’t have to be that dark.

How do you deal with your fear of death?

Consider developing a fear of Tourette’s syndrome.

Et voilá!

The great Paul Laurence Dunbar understood this concept…that in helping others, we magically forget about our own pain.

One more possibility about Bob as an intel employee.  If he found a superior whom he highly respected, there would be a bond of trust which would be invaluable.

This has been Death Therapy, with your host:  Pauly Deathwish. 🙂

-PD