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

American Psycho [2000)

This is a terrifying movie.

A sick joke.

It’s funny, in parts.

And dripping with irony.

But the overwhelming characteristic of it is the disturbing nature of what is represented on film.

Indeed, American Psycho suspends disbelief (the jokes not withstanding) to inflict psychological terror on those who see this film.

Some viewers may not seem to be bothered.

They are either masochists.

Or they lack imagination.

But let me tell you my own frame of reference:  pizzagate.

Go ahead.  Look it up.

It is going viral on several media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube.

And it is just what I was talking about prior to the U.S. election.

Pizzagate is the theory that John and Tony Podesta, along with James Alefantis and his Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., are involved in a kidnapping and child trafficking ring for pedophiles who rape and then murder their young victims.

Another pizzeria ostensibly used for ritualistic sex murders might be the neighboring Besta Pizza (besta, as in beast).

There is an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence which points to the above being true.

But I cannot outline the entire conspiracy here.

Suffice it to say that dead babies, dead children, dead teenagers were potentially the fruits of these incredibly strange and evil proceedings.

As I have mentioned in the past, the organization through which this pedo ring is likely being run is the Clinton Foundation.

There are further revelations which seem to tie Department of Justice employees Andrew Kline and Arun Rao to this Satanic pedo ring.

Mr. Kline owns Besta Pizza.

[Update 12/16/16:  The ownership of Besta Pizza is in question.  There seems to be two Andrew Klines at issue.  Further, it appears that other persons may share ownership in this establishment.]

Mr. Alefantis was lovers with David Brock of Correct the Record and Media Matters.

And that’s where George Soros comes in.

Soros has given five-figure donations to Comet Ping Pong on multiple occasions.

And we can’t forget Jeffrey Epstein who used his plane (the Lolita Express) to make jaunts to his own private sex slave island in the Caribbean (I belive it’s in the Virgin Islands).

Bill and Hillary Clinton took multiple trips on Mr. Epstein’s Lolita Express.

Mr. Epstein is a registered sex offender.

Then there’s the Haitian angle.  When Laura Silsby was charged and jailed in Haiti for child trafficking.  Ms. Clinton was very interested in this case.

Put most simply, the information leaked by WikiLeaks has given researchers a cache of U.S. government documents written in a very strange code.

Pizza means girl.  Hotdog means boy.  Cheese means little girl.  Pasta means little boy.

Walnut means person of color or girl with undeveloped genitalia (uncertain).

Map means semen.  Sauce means orgy.

There are other codes involving handkerchiefs.  Indeed, there appears to be a long-standing code called “the handkerchief code”.

What I’ve written doesn’t even begin to describe the more lurid (and convincing) aspects of this citizen investigation.

But it did put me in the mindset to watch American Psycho.

I must say, this is a truly demented film.

I must have had two panic attacks watching this thing.

Because my mind keeps moving.

I certainly don’t want pizzagate to be true.

I hope it’s not true.

Because the carnage and evil wrapped up in it is almost unimaginable.

It’s sickening.  Disgusting.  Terrifying.  Revolting.  Terribly sad.

And those same words describe American Psycho pretty well.

In a technical sense, Mary Harron made a very fine film.

But I question her motives for doing so.

The sheer level of violence in this film is shocking.

In fact, it appears that the Hollywood mechanism is to make young people think killing is cool and normal (even gory ax murders) and make them think this by lacing the drama with humor and laughs.

It is a bizarre, insidious concoction.

I’m failing to see the connection to the art horror films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Something more sinister is going on here.

Set in 1987, Christian Bale is the psycho.

But he also (no doubt) represents white people in general.

He represents the conservative element in America.

The propaganda, then, is that conservatives are really (deep down inside) psychopathic, cold-hearted serial murderers.

What is REALLY ironic is that the Clinton pizzagate is (so far) populated solely by liberals.

And Hollywood is thoroughly liberal.

And so there’s a strange message being set up here.

We question the inspiration for this film.

And the characters who came to give the story life.

The acting is fantastic.  Christian Bale is great.

But I don’t see the point in making this film.

What could an actor possibly get out of playing such a role?

What could a director get out of directing such a film?

Is it really just for money?

Perhaps Hollywood knows that the American viewing audience is very desensitized as a result of decades of ultra-violent movies.

And so this one had to ratchet it up a notch.

The story is fundamentally sound.  [barring a few truly questionable scenes]

Hitchcock would have made a masterpiece from such a story.

But American Psycho just leaves me sick.

It’s a sick sense of humor which Hollywood seems to share.

That death is fun.  That killing is liberating.  It’s truly a psychotic ethos.

And so I leave my readers with a warning (for the first time ever).

See this film only in the practice of opposition research.

Furthermore, exercise extreme caution in watching this film.

It is engineered to make you psychologically and physically ill.

I’m glad to be more informed, but I never want to see this gratuitous filth again.

 

-PD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twin Peaks “Miss Twin Peaks” [1991)

Exploding plastic inevitable.

Factory strobo seizure.

A day.

Cross-dressing horror.

Bates.  Hoover.

A Bundy log.

A slick exterior.  Petrified.

We hold out hope.

Umbrellas.

Craven (brisure).

A strange look and a mystery.

 

-PD

Rosemary’s Baby [1968)

There are a handful of great horror movies.

Movies which came late enough to set the bar.

Although the early days of cinema were horrific.

A different style developed.

Rosemary’s Baby has a Hitchcockean subtlety to it.

And so Psycho would be the first true horror movie.

1960.

It was a new style of filmmaking.

But Roman Polanski advanced that style.

Here.

Perhaps we wouldn’t get another in this line till The Shining.

1980.

When great directors dabble in horror.

1960.  1968.  1980.

But horror is an everyman genre.

And so Tobe Hooper made a great one.

1974.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

1960.  1968.  1974.  1980.

A progression from subtlety to overt gore.

But all these films are artful.

Silence of the Lambs resurrected that tradition.

Art.

Fear.  Terror.  Poetry.  The flowers of evil.

1960.  1968.  1974.  1980.  1991.

We feel it in Twin Peaks.

Possession.

But perhaps no film captured the essence of the occult so artfully as Rosemary’s Baby.

It is a truly terrifying film.

Spooky.

But classic.

Austere.

Every element is well-placed.

It is an art film.  But equally a spectacle.  An entertainment.

Most notably, it is a philosophic reflection upon evil.

As I’ve said…science doesn’t admit such.

The existence.

But we have to wonder.

When such powerful people believe in such mumbo jumbo.

Whether there is power or not.  In their ceremonies.

They believe.  Ostensibly.

It is a frightening prospect.

A very disturbed element of the intelligentsia.

But always…

Always.

Strive.

To understand your enemies.

 

-PD

Dahmer [2002)

I almost didn’t make it through this one.

Several times.

Not exactly light viewing for me.

Some people…obsessed with gore.

I’ve never been that way.

But there is something fascinating about serial killers.

Not in an adolescent worship rebellion way.

Stories about serial killers are like car crashes.

Sometimes we can’t look away.

Perhaps we feel compelled to go into that deep place within ourselves.

We want to know the horror of truth.

We want to be able to handle the truth.

The truth is sometimes disgusting.

Panic-inducing.

If you live in a war zone, you are used to blood.

If you are a soldier who’s fought in a war, you’ve seen the worst kind of dying.

Dahmer is a different sort of death.

It is a feast for psychologists.

We want to learn how these things happen so that we can prevent them.

I’m no psychologist.

Far from it.

I’m just a student of life.

And so in order to really appreciate wild sunflowers growing by the railroad tracks, we must face Dahmer.

Let me just say that this film puts Ted Bundy to shame.

First because of director David Jacobson.

It is a masterful film.  An artful film.  Everything that Schindler’s List is not.

In stories like this…there is nothing more important to remember (as an auteur) than the banality of evil.

But Dahmer introduces a star:  Jeremy Renner.

But you know who really deserves some credit?

Those people that auteur theorists often forget about.

Production designer (Eric Larson).

Art director (Kelley Wright).

Costume designer (Dana Hart).

These functional elements are essential here.

You think The Nice Guys has a cool look to it?

It ain’t shit compared to Dahmer.

And Ryan Gosling (that fucking guy annoys me…Ryan Reynolds with a mustache)…

Funny thing is, The Nice Guys looks like a good film.

But it’s vanilla…beige…compared to the cinema under discussion.

I’m not going to be wanting to see Dahmer again anytime soon, but it’s an essential film.

If you want to understand his crimes.

Bruce Davison is excellent as Dahmer’s father.

Artel Kayaru is really good!

Don’t discount the horror medium.

The “greatest creator of forms of the 20th century” (to quote Godard) kicked it off in earnest with Psycho.

Darkness is inextricably wound up in the light of cinema.

 

-PD

Hard Candy [2005)

Norma Bates.

[sic]

Meets Paul Kersey.

Vigilante.

You know…

It’s not often I watch horror films.

I had a bad experience once with the schlock of the genre.

Sleepwalkers (1992).

I never really forgave Stephen King for that one.

But perhaps the story was just muffed in the inept hands of Mick Garris?

Well, whatever the case may be:  Hard Candy is compelling cinema.

Yes, charge me with the crime of our age.

The worship of youth.

Ephebophilia is hammered into our heads by the nonstop spectacle.

It is chronophilia from 15-19.  Age range.

You’re attracted to young people.

So many nuances.

There’s hebephilia.  11-14.

Perhaps it is this which is most germane to our film.

Ellen Page is a star.

Sure, it’s a bit trendy…after Monster in 2003.

But I’ve seen that one…and Hard Candy is more compelling.

Ellen Page is more compelling.

Page plays a 14-year-old named Hayley.

Such a quintessential name.  Like Caitlyn (and its derivative spellings).

Top hit?  [Sponsored content?]  Hayley Williams of the band Paramore.

Youth.

Hayley Williams.  27.  Looks plenty young.

The worship of youth.

Red hair.  Porcelain skin.  Not a wrinkle in sight.

Hayley [sic].  Peak U.S. popularity in 1990s.

Et voila!  Hayley Williams born 1988.  That’s about right.

How about Haley?  Also peaked in the 1990s.  And about three times more common than the Hayley spelling.

[This is the honors-student logic of Hayley Stark in our film.  Really a genius detail.]

Let’s try Hailey.  Oooh!  Most popular yet!  And peaked in 2005 🙂

There’s also Haylee (trailer-trash rare…peak 2009), Hayleigh (a recent trend peaking in 2011…almost with a Cajun ring to it),  and the ultra-rare Haylie (a dainty spelling which peaked in 2007).

These are the keys to the safe.

Yes, it’s a very bad day for Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson).

Hell of a performance.

To wake up with your balls in your mouth.

Not just a figurative Quantum of Solace reference.

Sure, it’s a bit like Misery with Kathy Bates.

So, see:  the Norma Bates wisecrack wasn’t so off in another way.

Let me clarify.

Hard Candy is not a great film, but it’s pretty damned good.

The direction is good.

Patrick Wilson is good.

The scenario/script is good.

Ellen Page is great.

She’s not perfect.

There’s a few moments when the tension is so ridiculous that she almost breaks character.

Not a relaxing movie.

My first “horror” review.

I love Psycho.  It’s artful.

But chasing Hitchcock down that path can be a very treacherous exercise for auteurs.

David Slade does a fine job.

This film most certainly does not suck.

But again, Hulu:  I just wanted to watch a fucking comedy.

And your dramas still blow.

Ended up in horror.

God damn, you people suck at your jobs.

 

-PD

Les Yeux sans visage [1960)

Loneliness is hell.

An endless cycle of introspection.

As we each make our way through this life.

Every day.

We are judged by our faces.

A face and a mask.

Masked and anonymous.

There is no real point in recounting this tale to you.

If you wish to know it, you will seek it out.

We can whisper the hallowed name of Franju and almost be done with it.

Because I speak to everyone.

I don’t know who will find this post.

From my island I set this bouteille adrift.

Deriving the meaning through impressionist film criticism.

I am not critiquing the film, I’m critiquing myself.

I think, therefore I think I am.

Detour before the bridge.

But I also speak to the cineastes.

And for you I mention Alida Valli.

Because The Paradine Case is one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films.

But the spectacle calls for psychodrama.

Christmas at the zoo.

Christmas on Mars.

A Christmas gift for you.

From Phil Spector.

Sure.

Before there was The Silence of the Lambs.

And even a few months before Psycho.

There was Les Yeux sans visage.

For 1960, this was horror.

But there’s more here.

Like Angela Bettis in May (2002).

Who let the dogs out?

Who set the birds free in Hyde Park after Brian Jones died?

Who cares?

Write loneliness.

Though two roads diverged in a wood.

My face is finished.  My body’s gone.

Ask not what you can do for your country…

You’re not waiting for me to cite Houellebecq.

Because it’s understood.

I want to see the film in the morning light.

At morning sun (harmony in blue).

Morning effect.

Setting sun (symphony in grey and pink).

Grey weather.

Dull day.

Dull weather.

Full sunlight.

Road to Rouen.

Messiaen pulling out all the stops.

Eventually these corrupt regimes collapse.

The rich have the faces.

And there are always hounds of hell.

Echoing in the basements of ultimate fear.

As above, so below.

Caduceus vs. rod of Asclepius.

It is only when one runs screaming from the complex (Snowden) that healing begins.

SecDef Forrestal seems to have almost made it.

Before leaping from the 16th floor of the NNMC in Bethesda.

And yet someone felt compelled to drag Sophocles into the mix.

From Ajax:

“Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save

In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….

Woe to the mother in her close of day,

Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,

When she shall hear

Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!

‘Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–

No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail

Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale.”

Who set the nightingale free?

 

-PD

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNL Season 1 Episode 16 [1976)

I started writing about TV ostensibly as reportage on this medium relative to cinema.

With this particular episode of Saturday Night Live, the two converge in a unique way.

The host is Anthony Perkins.

Cinephiles will probably know him as Norman Bates from Hitchcock’s indispensable Psycho (1960).

Really, this is a remarkable installment of SNL.

Perkins actually delivers a sort of anti-monologue.

In another unnamed scene, he acts as a psychologist who relies on the power of show tunes (specifically “Hello, Dolly!”) to cure a hopeless case (Jane Curtin).

Perkins is magnificent throughout this odd marriage of the disposable and the timeless.

But we must also mention Chevy Chase.

By this time, Chase was becoming the star of the show.

I almost feel bad for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd (not to mention all the other talented players), but Chase lived up to the opportunity.

What is apparent in this particular show is that Chevy Chase was/is as talented an actor as Anthony Perkins.

I know that statement reeks of provocateuring, but I believe it to be true in several ways.

Namely, Chase was able to keep a straight face during some hilarious bits.  Put another way, it’s hard to be serious while evoking laughter.

We see Perkins have more trouble with it.  It’s not easy.  And so Chevy Chase has probably been unjustly maligned as a mediocre actor when the opposite is true.

Witness, for instance, the opening sequence of this March 13th airing.  It is highly-intelligent humor.  I could see Samuel Beckett getting a kick out of it.

And so the writers would get credit.  Yes, it is a brilliant concept.  The show had been toying with more-and-more self-referential humor.  Not to give too much away, but the first skit is the equivalent of writing music ABOUT MUSIC!

I’ve done it.  Truly, it takes a damaged soul to end up at such a twisted place.

And so thank God for Saturday Night Live…these outcasts and miscreants who gave the world a laugh starting in 1975.

They were always surprising.  That’s the key.  Even with the trademark “fall” at the beginning of the show.  Something in each episode is astounding.  Cutting-edge.  Leading-edge.  Bleeding-edge.

This show is no different.  What a masterstroke to pair Anthony Perkins with Betty Carter.

At first, I was thinking Betty Davis.  I mean, come on:  this was 1976!

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Betty Carter is magical here (particularly on her first number).

I’ve never been into jazz vocalists.  I know the big names.  Ella Fitzgerald.  Sarah Vaughan.

They never did anything for me.

I hate to admit that.

I can listen to instrumental jazz all day.  It is divine!

Indeed, the only jazz vocalist who mattered to me was Billie Holiday.  Particularly her last album Lady in Satin.

But Betty Carter is something different.

It’s real.  Bebop VOCALS.  Not a bunch of showoff scat singing.

Betty Carter sang like a horn player.

Saxophone…Coltrane.

When she locked down on a note she held it…like it was keyed in her blood.

What breath control!

It’s real stuff.

If you want to hear a little bit of New York in the 70s, here’s a bit of jazz to do any place proud.

Carter was from Flint, Michigan, but she sounds right at home broadcasting from the biggest stage in the world.

There’s TV, and then there’s SNL.

 

-PD

M [1931)

Perhaps we pay too much attention to the story.

We all love a good story.

But the mark of the genius filmmaker may be found in their method of narrative.  The art of how they tell their stories.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t thrilled to return to this Fritz Lang masterpiece, but I’m glad I did.

It is very much how I feel about Hitchcock’s Psycho.  It is a wonderful film, but it’s not something I want to throw on once a week during the course of kicking back.

M, like Psycho, is a supremely tense film.  Nowadays, when we think of Hitchcock, we might reflect on his tastefulness.  Think about it (says Jerry Lee).  In Hitchcock’s day (a long, productive “day”), things which are now shown with impunity were positively disallowed for a Hollywood filmmaker.  Blood and guts…no.  Hitchcock was forced to artfully suggest.

The strictures guiding Fritz Lang (29 years earlier) were even more conservative.  But even so, M is a genuinely terrifying movie.

Terrifying films are rarely relaxing.  They are not meant to be.

But as I had seen this one before, I was able to focus more on the method employed by Lang.  The truth is, M is a masterpiece.  It really is the treatment of a brute subject (murder) with incredible subtlety.

What is most radical about M is its counterintuitive take on crime.

Within this film, crime is divided into capital and noncapital offenses.

In M, a band of criminals exists which seeks to put a serial killer out of business.  It may seem a strange turn of phrase, but this killer is bad for the business of other criminals (mainly thieves and such).

A town in terrorized.  The police regularly raid establishments.  You must have your “papers” with you at all times.

And so those who survive on crime are so desperate as to adopt (temporarily) the same goal as the police:  catch the killer.

It is not giving much away to tell you that Peter Lorre is the killer.  This is not a whodunit.  It’s a “what’s gonna happen”.  That I will leave to your viewing pleasure.

While I am on the subject of Lorre, let me just say that this is one of the finest, weirdest performances in cinema history.  The final scene is one of absolutely raw nerves.  Lorre is not the cute, vaguely-foreign character he would become in The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca.  Lorre is stark-raving mad.

His attacks of psychosis are chilling to observe.  But really, it is his final outburst which tops any bit of lunacy I’ve ever seen filmed.

Today there would likely be plenty of actors ready to play such a macabre role, but in 1931 this was a potential death wish.

That Lorre put his soul into it tells us something important about him.  First, he was capable of being more than a “sidekick” (as he was in the previously-mentioned Bogart films).  Second, he was dedicated to the art of acting.  Lorre was not “mailing it in”.  Playing such a role can’t be particularly healthy for one’s mental state.

But there’s a further thing.  His final monologue is filled with such angst.  Let us consider the year:  1931.  In the midst of the Great Depression.

But also we must consider the country:  Germany.  These were the waning years of the Weimar Republic.  Three important dates would end this democratic republic:  Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor (Jan. 30, 1933), 9/11 the Reichstag fire (Feb. 27, 1933), and the Enabling Act (Mar. 23, 1933).

The era of M (1931) was the era of Heinrich Brüning’s “deflationary” monetary policy as German Chancellor.  I put deflationary in quotation marks because Wikipedia’s current description might better be termed contractionary monetary policy.

As Wikipedia would tell it, Brüning was essentially instating fiscal austerity (that hot-button term of recent times) concomitantly with the aforementioned monetary approach.  This was, of course, the failure which paved the way for Adolf Hitler to take control of Germany.

And so we find that the historian Webster Tarpley is right when he refers to certain modern-day policy makers as austerity “ghouls”.  Either conservative/fascist leaders across the globe have no grasp of history, or they are looking forward with anticipation to the next Hitler or Mussolini.

It should be noted that Tarpley is coming from a socialist perspective rooted in the Democratic Party of FDR.  His opposition, therefore, would likely brand him as liberal/communist and through slippery-slope logic see the policies he espouses as paving the way for the next Stalin or Mao.

And so goes the political circus…ad nauseam.

Returning to film, we must at least consider this situation in Germany.  The country was still paying war reparations from WWI (though this was becoming impossible because of the internal economic woes).

What is perhaps most astonishing is how much Peter Lorre’s character prefigures the Hitler caricature which has come down to us from history.

War-based societies have a compulsion to kill.  Germany found out the hard way that this is not a healthy default.  Sadly, today’s Germany has not checked the most warmongering modern country on Earth (the United States) enough to make any difference.

The United States has, for a long time now, been breathing…seething for a war.  The “masters of war” are all wearing suits.  Only suits want to go to war.  A true warrior does not want war.  Only those who will go unscathed actively invite war.

But there is an insanity in suits.  A compulsion.  Don’t let the suit fool you.  A suit is, for us grown-ups, the equivalent of a piece of candy…or an apple…or a balloon for a child.  A suit advocating war is saying, “Keep your eyes on my suit.  I know best.  Trust in me.  Look at my impressive degree.”

The suits like places such as Raven Rock Mountain.  The suits won’t be on the battlefield.  And don’t let the 10% who actually fought in a war fool you:  they were in non-combat operations.  Their daddies made sure of it.

So keep your eyes open for the M of American cinema.  Who is the next fascist to take the stage?  Hitler had a Charlie Chaplin moustache.  How dangerous could he be?  Trump has a ginger comb-over.  Surely he’s harmless, right?

 

-PD

 

Lola Montès [1955)

Throughout human history, many strands of activity have intertwined.

Let us take but two and ponder them for a moment:  romance and war.

Ah, romance…

What is romance nowadays?  Is it a glossy paperback with dog-eared corners?  Is there a mane of red hair?  A swelling bosom?

Or is romance chivalry?

After you.  Je vous en prie.

No.

Romance has not survived.

Who are we kidding?

For romance to have survived, love would also have had to survive.

But wait…

I see…here and there.  Is that not love?

Ah…romantic love.  A different thing.

I assure you, dear reader, if you have made it this far into my ridiculous litany of theses that you shall be rewarded for your efforts.

What we have here is the final film by the great Max Ophüls.

I have heard this picture described as a flawed masterpiece.

Pay no mind to such estimations.

This is the product of a genius spilling his guts onto the celluloid canvas.

Film.  Celluloid.  When did it start?  When did it end?

Once upon a time, film was flammable.

And our film is certainly flammable.

Martine Carol, who plays Lola Montès, is one of a kind.

This particular performance…I must admit, this is one of my favorite films…such a powerful experience.

But Carol is not alone on the grand stage.  No…  This production would not be the breathtaking spectacle it is without the incomparable Peter Ustinov.

Ustinov is the ringmaster.  As in circus.

The important point to note is that Ophüls made a psychological metaphor of the circus…and created a film which is probably the longest extended metaphor ever captured by motion picture cameras.

But it is not a typical circus.

It is a nightmare circus.  A cusp-of-dream circus.

Every shot is effused with symbolism.

The little people…haunting Oompa Loompas…little firemen from a Fahrenheit 451 yet to be filmed.  Bradbury had published in 1953.  But it would necessitate Truffaut in 1966 to make the thing so eerie.  It is that specific vision…the firemen on their futuristic trucks…which Lola Montès prefigures.  The little people.  From Freaks by Tod Browning through Lola Montès to the cinematography of Nicolas Roeg.  And the tension of Bernard Herrmann.  From Psycho to Fahrenheit 451.  And even Oskar Werner (who plays a sizable role in Lola Montès).  From here to Truffaut.

But the nightmares are only horrible because her life was so vivid…Lola Montès.  First with Franz Liszt.  And then with mentions of Chopin and Wagner.  Even Mozart…

This was romance.  A different time.

What love would sustain a warrior in battle?

Simple love.  Honest love.

And yet, what love drives a man to the edge?

Romantic love.  The femme fatale.  Why is it that we never hear of the homme fatal?

All kidding aside, I want to make a very serious point about Lola Montès.  It is my belief that this film represents an admirably feminist perspective the intensity of which I have seen nowhere else than in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile).

For 1955, Lola Montès was a harrowing epic.  Because Max Ophüls was a true auteur, it has lost none of its wonder…even in our loveless, edgy world.

 

-PD