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

 

Exit Through the Gift Shop [2010)

In the rogues gallery of cinema history there is now a place made available next to the immortal Elmyr de Hory.

And that spot rightly belongs to Mr. Brainwash.

Which makes Banksy an analog for Orson Welles.

And the whole thing begging to be let into the joke.

F for Fake.

And even that pernicious Truman Show.

The.

And another avant-garde situation piece:  The Party.

In terms of quality, Exit…has Truman beaten.

But it isn’t really a comedy.

Not if your life is a lot like that of Thierry Guetta.

And mine is.  [Minus a million bucks].

I mean, Elmyr is a sort of hero of mine.

And FFF my second favorite film ever.

So Exit…lacks the pointed humor of The Party and the timeless sophistication of FFF.

But it is a thoroughly enjoyable film.

I was pleasantly surprised!

Street art is exactly what you get.

Graffiti. And a stray graffito.

Making a film backwards.

Spray paint.

Reconstructing what never was.

Kilroy was here.

Watching the unwatchable.

Like the human genome project.

Banksy a director.

And if Shepard Fairey is looking for a fresh face, I would suggest Boban Marjanović.

He has a posse.

 

-PD

 

 

 

Playtime [1967)

This took a lot of watching.  Rewatching.

Last night…so tired.

Watched half.  Then rewind.  Dozed off.  Watch same half again.

First time I saw this (years ago) was on the big screen.

It really makes a difference.

That janitor at the beginning.  His strange pause and crouch.  His peering left and right.  His broom and dustpan.

Very little sweeping.  Just clanking.

Yes.  Sounds.  Sounds.  Sounds.  (Zounds!)

The vinyl chairs which return to their shape after you sit and dent.  The strange sound.  The strange quality.

“Quality”

Tradition of quality.

It might lead you to ask:  what was Jacques Tati trying to say with this film?

Answering that is no easy task.

Sure, this seems like a simple, lightweight film.  In some ways it is.

It’s enjoyable.  It’s lighthearted.  And yet…

There is more than a smidgen of Modern Times here.  And Tati, with his pipe…  More than a pipe-full of Sartre.  Sartre with his publication Les Temps modernes.  Even Sartre apparently thought highly enough of Chaplin to work under an homage headline.

And so, Tati…lost in the supermarket.  Lost in the buildings from 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle.  Same year.  1967.  Paris.  In the banlieues.

And very few words.

As I said.

A movie of sounds.

Yes.

But images.

Reflections.

Illusions.

It appears.

Optical.

Illusion.

And its reflection.

Double.

Mirror image.

Flipped.

Paris.

It appears that the buttons have been switched.  Very nice, WordPress.  Now I am “publishing” every time I intend to merely “save” (and vice versa).

That is the theme of the film.

Thingamajigs.

No no no.  Take your time.  Uh uh uh…hold on.  [click click click click]  Ok, now rise.

We wait for the entire hallway to be traversed in an absurd observation of ritual.

And from above…the cubicles.

One needs must occupy higher ground to see the big picture.  All of these busy bees become lost in the fray.

Afraid.

True.

And so it is not farfetched to guess that Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards were influenced in their masterpiece The Party (1968) by Tati’s Playtime (1967).

But with Tati there is even more.  An industrial ballet.  The poise of the service industry (and its opposite).  [Both]

A constant counterpoint like a comic Górecki.

Perhaps I have been hitting the wrong button all along.

Have I been saying these things out loud?

Yes, we wonder.

Technology.

We grew up in a different time.

The chairs were different.

The doors were different.

And since we are quiet and meek we spend an eternity in the antechamber.  In the darkened hallway.

How do we get out?

Yes, Paris…even then, perhaps?  A drugstore?  Yes.  Too depressing for anyone to look each other in the eyes.

The hum.  The constant hum.  Like Alphaville.  Like Oskar Sala’s Trautonium.  The Birds.  Bernard Herrmann as musical consultant.  But those noises.  Mixtur.

And several waiters will salt the troutonium…and grind pepper…and spread the sauce…and the couple has moved.

The main course has stayed behind.

Heated.  Reheated.  Set on fire.  Jubilee.

Turbot.

And lobster boy just cares about his hair.

Nerval.  Hugo Ball.

But that humming…like Metal Machine Music way ahead of time.  But creepier.  Like Raymond Scott’s music for babies crossed with Erik Satie’s musique d’ameublement.

Waiting waiting.  That’s a theme.  And all the illustrious portraits of CEOs past.

Is it a job interview?

And that’s Orly?  It seems more like a hospital.  Little hummingbird nuns and swaddled kids.

But we shall always live in Barbara Dennek’s dimples.  It sounds weird to say.

But it is luck.  Bad luck.  And then good luck.

And random error.  Entropy.

Chaos.

Can anyone here play the piano?

Yes.  Yes I can!

And some half-rate Edith Piaf gets up to sing her long-forgotten hit.

Except no one has forgotten it.  Once a hit, always a hit.

More or less.

The new religion.

The hum of neon.

All the desserts look sickly.  Even to the “chef.”  Must hide his mystère.  An apple with some sputtery whip?  An upside-down coffee mug?

Mmmm…

William S. Burroughs would doubtless have approved.  The man in the gray flannel suit (book).  But taken to theatrical limits.  Choreography of male primping.  Like Cary Grant on hallucinogens.  A surreal ritual.

Ritual.

This is sociology.

Anthropology.

Paris.  The modern man.

See him in his natural habitat.

See her shop.  See her sell.

See him work.  See him drink.

If you travel, you will see the tourist side.

On a trip.

With a group.

Activities planned.

Like a cruise.

And God forbid you become separated from the group.

Yes.

That is our little romance.

And Tati is meek enough to barely suggest to suggest (x2).

That M. Hulot might find love.

It would be a random day.

He would get pulled this way and that.

And winding up in some crazy, unplanned situation he would become sweet on dimples.

See him in his fishbowl.

Before there was Mr. Bean, there was Monsieur Hulot.

Before there was Forrest Gump.

Tell me…where are the “fancy goods”?  Perhaps silk.  Hermès.

Always caught at the turnstiles of life…

-PD

The Party [1968)

This is the holy grail of awkward.  For all us misfits, all us loners, all us wallflowers:  this is the glory of being a loser.  Sellers may have been better in Being There, but this is his most perfect film.

The name Hrundi V. Bakshi is to outcasts what Humbert Humbert is to perverts.  Sellers plays Bakshi in such a painfully ill-at-ease way that we just wanna give the guy a hug.  If you are looking for the fount from which sprang Napoleon Dynamite, this is it.

Hrundi says the wrong thing…at the wrong time…always.  Except for this one night when a beautiful starlet (ill-suited to such a vacuous profession) sees in him the spark which makes life worth living.

Bakshi may be a man of impeccable manners, but he is honest to the core.  However, he is prodigious when it comes to “stepping in it.”  From the very outset of the party, he must extricate himself from the first of many delicate situations.  It’s not easy being Hrundi.

Yes, Mr. Bakshi just wasn’t meant for this world.  He is like the dodo bird.  His heart is too pure and he is green in all but the Hindustani language.  Some might yell “racism” at Sellers in brown face, but it is really a very respectable portrait of an Indian man with great humility through and through.

There are few movies I enjoy watching more than this one.  Samuel Beckett never concocted a situation equal to the artful absurdity which Blake Edwards here captured on screen.

And so three cheers for Hrundi…and may all of us Bakshis find our Claudine Longets.  Birdie num num!

 

-PD

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas [1968)

I must hand it to Drew Barrymore.  She fought the law and she won.  It is nothing short of a minor coup (?) that she persisted in having this film shown as part of TCM’s Essentials programming (against, perhaps, the “better” judgment of Robert Osborne).  I’ve had this film in VHS form sans case awaiting the perfect moment to watch it.  That moment came tonight thanks to guest programmer Drew.

I should mention that I rather like Robert Osborne.  His love for film is unquestioned.  He has that twinkle in his eye…even when speaking about the most apocryphal “classics.”  It was truly a moment in my life when I first heard the word Cahiers pronounced…and the speaker was none other than Mr. Osborne.

On to the film at hand.  This really is a strange movie.  Mostly because it is not strange.  Peter Sellers plays what might best be described as Zeppo Marx for the entirety of the film.  I must, however, give it to director Hy Averback for having crafted a film which nicely calls into question the values people place on rather vacuous objects and principles.  At least the very last scene (Sellers hastily strolling down the street) finally achieves a sublime effect which was labored over for 94 minutes before being realized.  Sadly, this film has all the trappings of The Party (truly Sellers’ best performance) with almost none of the brilliance.  It is acutely agonizing to watch Sellers play the straight man.

 

-PD