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 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

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby [2006)

This is a pretty damned perfect film.

Depending on where you’re coming from.

I set out for San Antone and I never felt so good.

“”

It might seem like a light watch (and in many ways it is), but Talladega Nights… captures something essential.

Will Ferrell distinguishes himself here as something of an auteur.

Sure, it’s really just an extended George W. Bush impersonation transposed onto the milieu of NASCAR, but there is quite a remarkable naïveté here from Ferrell.

It is kayfabe all the way to Alabama.

Ferrell never gives away the game.

Did Will Ferrell despise George W. Bush?

Did Will Ferrell secretly love George W. Bush?

Was Will Ferrell completely apolitical at this time?

It doesn’t matter.

What we see in his role as Ricky Bobby is pure.

There is something of Andy Kaufman in his performance.

Ferrell plays this role as if in a trance.

And this makes this film truly remarkable.

Sure, there are a ton of one-liners throughout.

The one-liners hook you in.

You see a bit on TV.  You hear a quote by the water cooler.

But when you finally sit down to view the whole film, you are greeted by a very complete work of art.

And, it must be said:  the brilliance of this film hinges as much on Sacha Baron Cohen as it does on Ferrell.

The two play off one-another.

Don’t be fooled:  Cohen’s turn as the Perrier-sponsored NASCAR driver Jean Girard is not a gratuitous cameo.

There is real drama here.

Real tension.

But most of all, it is one of those rare times when two comedic geniuses face off and create a sum greater than the parts.

Indeed, this may be Cohen’s best film role aside from the timeless Borat…

Cohen’s Girard comes off as a rather insipid, tongue-in-cheek Bond villain.

Think Hugo Drax.

Moonraker.

All caricature.

But it works.

Because Cohen mixes in an equal part Serge Gainsbourg.

For my money, there are few things funnier than seeing a NASCAR driver reading Camus’ L’Étranger WHILE DRIVING!!! 🙂

And there are so many of these moments.

Many of them are lowbrow.

Redneck.

But this film is classic.

This is truly a slice of Americana.

And, at the same time, it is a good story about overcoming anxiety.

Amy Adams plays a very important, mostly-understated role as Ricky Bobby’s assistant.

Her impassioned monologue in The Unfriendly Possum (before she climbs up on the table and makes out with Ferrell) is truly a bit of acting brilliance.

She channels something.

Can you buy that?

Can you just pay an actress to be that good??

No.

Not necessarily.

Adams adds a depth which this film dearly needed.

Cohen added a bizarre twist which perfectly seasoned the whole concoction.

But Ferrell is the big enchilada here.

Adam McKay did a nice job reeling this one in.

But he had a juggernaut in Ferrell.

Truly a special film.

It is a niche film.

But I live in that niche 🙂

 

-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

Hugo [2011)

It’s hard to imagine that perfection would be possible in 2011.

In this very uncinematic era ruined by technology.

But it takes a genius to produce art from tech.

And it takes an artist to produce art.

Martin Scorsese was well up to the challenge.

As the weirdo I am, The King of Comedy has always been my favorite of his films.

Rupert Pupkin spoke to me in a way that perhaps only the totality of Dr. Strangelove ever similarly did.

But Mr. Scorsese had the brass to undertake a project which should have been doomed if only by its trappings.

Films have tried and generally failed at relative tasks.

City of Ember, for example.

But Scorsese was not deterred.

Not least because he had the magical trump card:  Méliès.

Which is to say, he had the story to end all stories (as far as cinema is concerned).

The big daddy.  The big papa.

Papa Georges.

But first things first…

We must give credit to Asa Butterfield (who looks like a cross between Barron Trump and Win Butler in this film).

Butterfield is no Mechanical Turk.

Nay, far from it.

But automata (or at least one particular automaton) play a large role in Hugo.

And why “Hugo”?

Kid living “underground”?  Victor?  Les Misérables?

Yes, I think so.

And it’s a nice touch by the auteur (in the strictest sense) Brian Selznick.

[Yes, grandson of David O.]

We’re at the Gare Montparnasse.

Torn down in 1969.

Site of this famous 1895 derailment.

train_wreck_at_montparnasse_1895

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m up to 1,261.

But we press on…

Because Méliès was about dreams.

And Hugo is about dreams.

les rêves

And Scorsese has been “tapped in” to this magic at least since he portrayed Vincent van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (Kurosawa-san’s best film).

I must admit…I was a bit confused for awhile.

Something told me Scorsese had transformed himself into Méliès.

It was only later that it all made sense.

Ben Kingsley.

I mean, Scorsese is a great actor (Van Gogh, etc.), but he’s not THAT great!

But I’m jumping ahead…

Sacha Baron Cohen is very good in a somewhat-serious, villain role here.

I fully expected the immensely-talented Cohen to “ham it up” at some point, but he instead gives a very fine, restrained performance which fits like clockwork (sorry) into the viscera of this exquisite film.

But let’s revisit Sir Kingsley.

What a performance!

The loss of a career (Méliès).

The loss of a previous life.

The fragility of celluloid.

All to end up running a pathetic souvenir shop.

Toys.

Very clever, but still…

Such a fall from grace.

Into such obscurity.

I can only compare it to the trajectory of Emmett Miller (which was so artfully documented by my favorite author of all time [Nick Tosches] in my favorite BOOK of all time [Where Dead Voices Gather]).

The speed at which technology moves has the potential to reduce the most eminent personage to mere footnote at breakneck speed.

It was so even a hundred years ago.

And the process has now exponentially accelerated.

But we are coming to understand the trivialization of the recent past.

We are holding tighter to our precious films and recordings.

Because we know that some are lost forever.

Will this vigilance continue uninterrupted?

I doubt it.

But for now we know.

Some of us.

That today’s masterpieces might slip through the cracks into complete nonexistence.

Consider Kurt Schwitters.

The Merzbau.

Bombed by the Allies in 1943.

Es ist nicht mehr.

Into thin air.

But such also is the nature of magic.

Poof!

Skeletons later evoked by Jean Renoir in La Règle du jeu.

Scorsese is a film historian making movies.

And it is a wonderful thing to see.

And hear.

Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre more than once.

As on a player piano.

With ghost hands.

And the gears of the automaton.

Like the mystery of Conlon Nancarrow’s impossible fugues.

I’m betting Morten Tyldum lifted more than the spirit of gears meshing in Hugo to evoke the majesty of Alan Turing’s bombe in The Imitation Game.

But every film needs a secret weapon (much like Hitchcock relied on the MacGuffin).

And Scorsese’s ace in the hole for Hugo is the Satie-rik, placid visage of Chloë Grace Moretz.

Statuesque as water.

A grin.

A dollar word.

The beret.

And the ubiquitous waltzes as seen through keyholes and the Figure 5 in Gold.

Hugo is the outsider.

Scruffy ruffian.

Meek.  Stealing only enough to survive.  And invent.

But always on the outside looking in.

Below the window (like in Cinema Paradiso).

Ms. Moretz’ world is lit with gas lamps.

And you can almost smell the warm croissants.

[Funny that a film set in Paris should require subtitles FOR PARISIANS]

Assuming you don’t speak English.

Tables are turned.

But Paris draws the cineastes like bees to a hive.

THE hive.

Historically.

And that is just what this is.

History come alive.

But another word about Ms. Moretz.

As I am so wont to say in such situations, she’s not just a pretty face.

Though they are faint glimmers, I see an acting potential (mostly realized) which I haven’t seen in a very long time.

The key is in small gestures.

But really, the key is having Scorsese behind the camera.

It’s symbiotic.

Martin needed Chloë for this picture.

And vice versa.

We get a movie within a movie.

And (believe it or not) even a dream within a dream.

Poe is ringing his bell!

Or bells.

“Lost dream” says Wikipedia.

Yes.

It is as bitter a music as ever rained into Harry Partch’s boot heels.

To have one’s life work melted down for shoes.

Rendered.

To click the stone of Gare Montparnasse.

In an ever-more-sad procession.

Méliès becomes the vieux saltimbanque of which Baudelaire wrote.

Such is life.

We never expected to end up HERE.

Astounding!

-PD