“But it wasn’t Stewie who was laughing at me. It was GOD!” – Amadeus on Family Guy

Just as I’m thinking I couldn’t possibly love Family Guy any more than I already did, they go and make an Amadeus-reference…! Wonderful! I love how “Heart & Soul” is the tune that Stewie plays when impersonating Peter. Mozart would totally have mocked Salieri with “Heart & Soul”, had he known that piece.

Em yrram, Seth MacFarlane! 

/marie

May 20, 2007. Films, Music, YouTube. 9 comments.

Nils Malmros: Lars-Ole 5C

One of my favourite movie directors is Danish director Nils Malmros. Most of his DVDs are released without foreign subtitling, something that irks me to no end, as they are – rightfully – internationally acclaimed (his movie Kundskabens træ [“Tree of Knowledge”] having received the Lübecker Nachrichten Audience Award in 1982, several of his movies having been shown at the Cannes Festival), and I would love to be able to share my love for them with the world. However, I figured that writing about the movies here on the blog might be a way of raising some curiosity about the movies and thus – perhaps –  a teeny tiny step towards an international edition of the DVDs. 

 

Lars-Ole 5C 

And so I will be reviewing a number of Nils Malmros-movies, starting with one of his first movies, Lars-Ole 5C (“Lars-Ole, 5th grade”) from 1973, and ending with his most recent production At kende sandheden (which has been given the international title Facing the Truth). I regret that I am unable to review his movies En mærkelig kærlighed [“A Strange Love”]  (1968 – Malmros’ first movie), Drenge [“Boys”] (1977), and Barbara (1997) as I have not been able to get hold of the films anywhere.

Lars-Ole 5.C was Nils Malmros’ first real success and a very important movie for the director. Five years earlier his movie En mærkelig kærlighed had been released and it had been a huge fiasco, the critics dismissing Nils Malmros as a bad impersonator of Francois Truffaut (by whom Nils Malmros was indeed very inspired, as he has stated openly several times). With Lars-Ole 5.C, however, Malmros started on a narrative style that has arguably become his signature as a director: The school-yard retrospective, that is, the capturing of a budding adult hurt, frustration and passion through the depiction of adolescent children manuvering their way through the micro-cosmos of the school yard, the school dance, the camp school – the limits of a child’s world. The movie was a success and took that year’s Bodil award (the Danish movie awards) in the category “Best Movie” and received some attention at the Cannes Film Festival. Shot entirely in humble black and white, Lars-Ole 5C is definitely a good movie in its own right, but seeing it, as I did, for the first time only after having seen Malmros’ later movies it is impossible not to regard it as a kind of study for these later works (Kundskabens træ in particular), and it is partly as such that I will be reviewing it here. 

Don José, 5th grade

In Lars-Ole 5C, we meet 12-year-old Lars-Ole (Søren Rasmussen), an average 5th grader who is in love, likely for the first time, in fourth grader Inger. Inger is, however, in love, and “going steady”, with Hanse, a friend of Lars-Ole’s. Distraught from jealousy Lars-Ole tells on Hanse who gets blamed and physically punished for a mischief, and Inger dismisses Lars-Ole as “mean”. At a school dance the still smitten Lars-Ole steals a dance from Inger during the rheinländer polka. That is really all there is to the story, but Nils Malmros tells it with a painstaking earnestness and an attention to detail that bears witness of an almost photographic memory when it comes to this tumultuous time of a person’s life, so that it is impossible not to get sucked into the story, remembering one’s own adolescent, and seeing the depiction of this particular adolescent as a monument over human sorrow and frustration.

Lars-Ole is a somewhat plain-looking boy and not remarkable in any other way than because of the passion that shines from his eyes that follow his beloved with the strained watchfulness of jealousy. Even his name is plain and common, and the movie title Lars-Ole, 5th grade will bear connotations of an almost comical commonness to the average Dane, harking of a clumsy hand-written characters on the torn cover of a much hated math book, and this wouldn’t have worked as well with a more exotic name like Hanse. This is hardly a coincidence: the poignantly plain young man, Lars-Ole, constitutes a type that is to be repeated throughout Malmros’ cinematography: The nice, but somewhat paralyzed male character who loses his great love to a more radiant, although often dubious, personality. A Don José, one might call him, losing his Carmen to the more interesting Escamilio, and it is obvious that Malmros has much sympathy for this kind of character. His name is Lars-Ole in this movie, it is Niels-Ole in another (Kundskabens træ), while he takes the form of a struggling Danish movie director in a third movie (Århus by night), and one might see him as Malmros’ alter ego – the character almost being Malmros name-sake in Kundskabens træ and sharing his profession in Århus by night 

Inger (Judith Nysom) getting something whispered in her ear, the image of aloof and esoteric feminitiy and delicacy in the eyes of a clumsy 12-year-old boy.

Ass-jokes, secret spatiality, and falling from grace

Lars-Ole’s main problem, as well as his fellow Don Josés’, is that he is still so very insecure about himself and so uncomfortable with his own sexuality. This youthful character trait is particularly evident in Lars-Ole who is still partly caught within a kind of untimely “anal phase” (as far as Ericsson’s study of a child’s psychological development goes), and he and his friends are preoccupied with farts and ass-jokes which they tell each other amidst much giggling whenever the grown-ups aren’t around, with all the excitement and passion of young lovers throwing gravel at their beloved’s windows at night. This is as far as the boys have come when it comes to sexuality, but it’s something that they have to go through. The physical frames in which this anal preoccupation takes place is also significant: Lars-Ole and his best friend John find and explore a secret room and hallway in the deserted part of an old factory where they start meeting to exchange their boyish pranks and jokes. Secret rooms, hallways and other such cave-like spatiality is a theme that Malmros returns to later on in his cinematography, in Århus by Night, and it works as an efficient symbol of young boys’ exploration of their own subconsciousness. 

The grown-ups in Lars-Ole’s life definitely constitute the super-ego to the id this secret spatiality provides, and while Lars-Ole comes from an attentive and caring home (personified by a loving mother), it is remarkable how poorly the adults tend to administrate the power they possess in their relation to the unruly boys. The boys’ school teacher, a grim-looking, elderly man, is a constant threat in their lives, his big, stern hands dealing the boys slaps by way of punishment. Corruptly so even; the teacher plays favourites and puts force into the blows he deals his pupils according to his personal preferences. Lars-Ole and his friends probably find their first impersonations of evil in this man, and the importance of the movie lies in the fact that the action takes place around the time when the children lose their ability to preserve their goodness and innocence and stand up to this evil. Lars-Ole ought to stand by his friends, but his sense of moral and ethics is weakened by his adolescent love for Inger and the jealousy he feels against Hanse because she is his girlfriend, and Lars-Ole fails to protect Hanse. This incapability embues the love-struck Lars-Ole’s story: He is similarly unable to make a difference as he finds out that his younger sister Marie is getting bullied by classmates, and he abuses his mother’s credit account at the local bakery in an attempt at buying himself friends with cakes and treats. 

Lars-Ole 5C

Cameradery betrayed – Malmros’s lense catches the easily overlooked hurtful glances between 12-year-olds.

School-yard lense

It is this dilemma that lends Lars-Ole 5c its strength and impact dramaturgically and makes it into more than just a story of puppy love, and Nils Malmros’s directing provides for the artistic expression of the dilemma. Malmros is famous for his ability to direct children, and the boy actors’ loud and limit-seeking behaviour appears almost uncannily natural, as if they weren’t acting at all, the film simply depicting a random group of boys (this is not the case). The camera follows Lars-Ole’s dark eyes and their painfully heavy, lingering and longing gaze, contrasting it by delicious capturing of pretty little elf-like Inger’s dancing movements and the coquette, swiftly sweet smiles. Unrequited love and human failure are by no means innovative themes for a filmmaker to take up, but the photography of Malmros’s movies prevents the movie from veering off into the contrived; Malmros has the ability to position the camera so that a single cameo may tell a thousand stories, and a haunting scene shows Lars-Ole from his younger sister’s perspective. Her older brother walks away from her and leaves her on the lurk, his frame becoming smaller and smaller from her point of view, flanked by the wall-like forms of her bullying classmates who are cornering her.  

The black-and-white photography gives the film a raw, somewhat primitive air, rather than an artsy one as is sometimes the case with anachronistic black-and-whites, and Lars-Ole 5C does have something stumbling and fragmentary to it that is not there in his later, more wholesome films. But there is something very appropriate about fragmentary in the formality of a movie about adolescent life, and all in all Lars-Ole 5C is a little masterpiece and definitely recommendable to anyone who has the courage to re-visit the optics of those years of constant insecurity, of pimples and awkward explorations, that most of us are more than happy to have put behind us. 

/marie

May 18, 2007. Films, Reviews. Leave a comment.

Marie Ekberg

Marie and I were in Rome a year and a half ago. You have already seen some of our staged photos from that trip. But you haven’t seen my personal favourite: Marie posing as Anita Ekberg in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
Now as Marie was not allowed neither by our tight schedule (we were off to the airport) nor by the Italian authorities to step into the pool of the Trevi Fountain she did a combination of Anita Ekberg with the kitten and the Trevi scene. No kitten was available at that exact moment since there were quite a lot of Japanese at the site that day and they had scared away all the kittens. But you can imagine it I’m sure. And the black dress and the blond hair. Hey…maybe I should have done it…well. Here it is:

Marie with imaginary kitten

And just to remind you, la Ekberg:

Anita Ekberg with real kitten

/anna

February 25, 2007. Films, Photos, Staged photos. 2 comments.

Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic

So, last week I did a post on The Shining and this week I’d like to do a post on another iconic horror movie, namely Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 adaptation of Daphne de Maurier’s Don’t Look Now, which I watched for the first time a couple of months ago, and which made a deep impression on me as one of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen.

Don't Look Now

What fascinated me the most about this movie was the way scenes did not stand out to me while I was watching it. In that way it is different from any other horror movie I’ve seen, and as such I think it is somewhat problematic to even categorize the movie as “horror”. Contrary to most horror movies, that lend their strength largely from shock effect and whose plots consist of a building-up of a tension up until a certain point and then a release of that tension, there is such a singular flow in Don’t Look Now that blurrs the lines between past, present, and future.

The disruption of the timeline

And in a way that is much scarier than the trivial shock effect. It’s what we do all our lives; we seperate the present from the past and from the future, and thus we keep our own terminality at bay, I suppose. If we can count on a certain progression of events, generations passing generations, an order of things, a preceding b, then we are safe. Right from the beginning of this movie, however, this order gets mixed up: a child dies.

It’s remarkable, but probably not coincidental, that having children and the concept of parenthood plays such a predominant part in horror films. We are sickened when an alien bursts out John Hurt’s stomach in Alien like a perverted infant from a hellish caesarian section, we feel for Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist as she witnesses a kind of teenage rebellion gone wild through the demonic posession of her adolescent daughter, and there are at least half a dozen horror films out there that feature a woman suffering through the almost cancerous growth of a monstrous fetus and giving birth to a full-grown man. As much as we love our children, they’re the domineering little objects of our worst fears, and I guess nothing emphasizes the necessity of a predictable, steady progression of life as having children, which is of course why the idea of the death of a child is so scary to us; it disrupts our view of life as a straight line headed towards eternity, it brings us face to face with our own mortality.

It’s this face-to-faceness that constitutes Don’t Look Now I think, and it is within this mental space that main character John is trapped in the movie.

Restoration and the Sinking City

Of course it’s no coincidence that it is main character John who gets trapped this way. While his wife Laura remains open to the idea of a coexistence of life and death, listening to the psychic women’s claim that they have had apparitions of their deceased daughter, John seems to have problems with such a juxtaposition. He is a restorer by profession, his job is to restore that which is falling apart, to deny, in a way, the decay or mortality of the world, and it is ironic that John takes his wife with him to Venice while they’re struggling to recover after the loss of their daughter. Apart from being considered one of the most romantic sites and a popular destination for tourists, it’s difficult to find a city where the concepts of decay and mortality are more ubiquitous than in Venice. Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice main character von Aschenbach roamed the streets of the city, admiring the statue-like plasticity of a young boy all the while falling apart himself like a rottening fruit, and scientists are still trying to determine how this sinking city, resting unsteadily on bone-like piles, may be secured from getting consumed by the water constituting it. It is this menacing aspect of Venice, rather than a romantic idea of the city, that is explored in Don’t Look Now.

John has accepted a job in Venice, and throughout the course of the movie, we see him labouring indefatigably at restoring the architecture of the city, often seemingly using his work as an excuse to escape from what he perceives as his wife’s unhealthy coming to terms with their daughter’s death, her willing acceptance of death as part of their lives. He is in other words desperately trying to master terminality, to force life upon something dead.

The aged child

But as Freud and, before him, the folkloristic tradition of ghost stories have taught us, it is that which we try to repress that comes to haunt us, and of course John is not successful. Far from restoring through his work the sense of his life as a straight line that was threatened when he lost his child, John works himself closer and closer towards a confrontation with his own mortality. There are no straight lines in Venice: what is supposed to be constructive work almost has John killed as his scaffold gives way during the restoration of a church, John loses his way in the crooked Venetian streets, and Time is equally crooked – John sees his own future mourners passing by him as if they were part of the present.

But John continually refuses to accept this presence of death in his life, and thus it makes sense that what ultimately kills him is the mysterious dwarf that he encounters in a blind alley. The dwarf shakes his head sadly at John as he kills him, because it incorporates exactly the distorted timeline that John has been trying to escape. What John meets is the very epitome of his fears; he believes it to be a child, but the creature turns around and reveals itself to be wrinkled and old, it is an aged child, it is death and life co-existing, and it kills John.

The sex appeal of the inorganic

One of the reasons why this movie interested me so much was that at the time when I watched it, I was working on a presentation for one of my university classes about Mario Perniola’s The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic. The idea that philosopher Perniola presents in this book is that idea that the process of reification that our culture initiated along with Industrialisation might find its ultimate accomplishment in a kind of reification of what is traditionally considered to constitute our closest relation to biology, the most compressed form of our own timeliness as mortal creatures (rise – climax – fall), as well as the very precondition of human life: sexual intercourse. Thus, with the reification of the sexual act, Perniola states, we conquer biology. We reach a kind of superhuman level where the borders between time and space, between our own and our counterpart’s flesh, between genders, between the animate and the inanimate are annulled and we break free from timelieness.

This came to my mind while watching Don’t Look Now not because I saw in this movie a dramatization of Perniola’s idea, but because I saw in the movie the exact opposite of it, and in fact I think the movie helped me a great deal to understand what Perniola is trying to express in his extremely difficult and rather evasive book. The timeliness, the relation to biology that Roeg’s movie depicts is exactly what Perniola states that we might escape through a reification of the sexual act.

Interestingly, the sex scene in Don’t Look Now is a good example of this. Probably in accordance with the idea of Venice as a honeymoon kind of destination, John and Laura indulge in sexual intercourse during their stay in the city. The sex scene is remarkable in as much as it’s placed centrally in the movie, it’s very graphic, and it goes on forever. I’ve heard this mentioned as the greatest sex scene ever in a movie, and I guess I can see what one would mean by that, although not as far as “most sensual”, “sexiest”, or “most exciting sex scene” goes. What I liked so much about it was the way it depicted the terminality of the sexual act. Through the juxtaposition of images, we see John and Laura getting dressed at the same time as we see them undressing, and seperating at the same time as we see them penetrating each other. For mortality is very real and omnipresent in their lives, whether they are willing to accept this or not, and their sexual act is theoretically ended as soon as it’s begun, because the rise of excitement between them only predicts a corresponding fall. Which is exactly why I would never think of the scene as a particular exciting one, and I don’t believe that it was meant to be, either. Unlike most cinematic depictions of sexual intercourse, the sensation that is emphasized in this movie is the decline, rather than the increase of excitement.

Thus in Don’t Look Now what we find, one might say, is an exploration of the sex appeal of the organic. It’s a study, not of an elevated superhuman level devoid of time, but of the opposite; the compressed form of the concete human condition to which we are bound by biology, and within which time and timeliness is the predominant factor. John strives to conquer as a mortal creature within the biologic realms of life, and thus he fails and is trapped in a blind alley, face to face with his own death, the geriatric within the child, the fall entombed within the rise of his excitement.

I actually kind of screwed up that presentation I was to give on The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic, nerves and awe at the complexity of Perniola’s idea preventing me from communicating exactly what I felt I’d learned from the book, but in terms of personal enrichment (as opposed to academic achievement and success) I really feel that the book has opened my eyes to some interesting ideas, as I hope the above will show. Don’t Look Now as well as The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic, whether one agrees with me or not that their opposition creates a kind of connection between the two, are very recommendable.

/marie

January 21, 2007. Films. Leave a comment.

Dies Irae at the Overlook Hotel – on US-criticism in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

I haven’t been around much on the blog these past few days, the reason for this being that my asshat boyfriend broke up with me this Monday. Accordingly, I have been very busy hiding under my blanket in my room, eating the occassional candy bar, listening alternately to “Dove sono i bei momenti” and  Johnny Cash’s “Cry Cry Cry”, and feeling sorry for myself. I’m proud to say, however, that on Monday night I was actually resourceful enough to get out of my room and go seek out Anna’s pleasant company. Definitely a good idea, that! Possibly urged on by my own anger and hurt, I brought with me a DVD with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to show Anna, who, reluctant towards horrors, had never seen the movie before. She liked it!

The Shining

And so did I, although this was not my first time of watching it. I really think it’s a masterpiece, not just as a horror, but among films in general. The musical score, the art direction, everything works brilliantly under Kubrick’s direction, and the acting is equally wonderful: Jack Nicholson is awesome in what I’ve always considered to be his signature part . Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy is appropriately doormat-y and annoying. Probably a socially awkward person, it makes sense that Wendy would agree to cut herself off from the world for five months along with her borderline-abusive husband – plus the film gets this deliciously alarming edge to it because it’s hard not to identify just a little bit with Jack’s character, when he gets annoyed with his wimpy significant other. I’ve heard that Kubrick really did everything he could to stress out Duvall during the filming with the result of Duvall being a nervous wreck all the time, and while I think that’s a terrible thing to do to a person, I have to say that it works! Finally little Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance (it’s so wonderfully creepy that two of the main characters share names with their portrayers!) delivers a very good and understated child performance, which is important as he is in many of the most poignant scenes in the film. A favourite moment is Danny’s encounter with the ghosts of the two dead girls in the hallway. “Come and play with us, Danny!”. Brrr!

I’ve seen The Shining twice before, but upon re-watching it the other day with Anna, I discovered something that I’d quite overlooked (hee!): The theme of US-criticism! I find this to be a most interesting aspect of the movie, as it gives it almost a kind of allegoric quality (thus defining it as more than just a horror).  I’m sure I’ve not hit upon anything groundbreaking here, but I’d like to explore this aspect of the movie in this post, notwithstanding. 

The allegoric atmosphere, I would say, is established right from the beginning of the movie, with the absolutely beautiful opening scene. Dies Irae in the soundtrack accounts for the universality and the pictures, too, point toward something bigger than just one little hotel: The camera pans through a vast and beautiful American mountain scenery, while the trombone booms out the centuries-old apocalyptic tune. An air of doom hovers over America, a point stressed a little later on in the movie, as Jack takes Wendy and Danny for a drive with him on that same mountain road and the family discusses a dark chapter of American history: The cannibalistic fate of the Donner Party.

The most obvious example of this criticism is probably the point made early in the movie by Stuart Ullman (very nicely depicted by Barry Nelson) about the Overlook Hotel being built upon an old Indian burial ground. The first time I watched the movie, I didn’t think much of this, disregarding it as a classic move within a horror flick – the idea of burial grounds being cursed somehow, boding evil or anyone who disturbs the peace of the slumbering souls in the soil, and all that. But naturally there’s more to it than that, it’s a native American burial ground, and as Ullman almost proudly announces: They had to repel a few Indian attacks as they were building the hotel.

Male Pride and The Overlook Hotel

But Ullman is unmistakably proud of this hotel that was erected despite these little hindrances (such as justice for the Indians… and human compassion…), and so is Jack as soon as he’s got the job as the caretaker and starts identifying himself as a hotel employee. The imagery found in Jack’s lines in the course of the movie betrays a kind of male pride in his work as the caretaker, that goes beyond the practical procedures of looking after the hotel (indeed we never really see him occupied with said procedures – Wendy is the only one we see doing any actual care-taking work around the building). “Did you ever stop to think about my responsibilities?!” Jack asks in a poignant scene in the movie, and earlier on his argument for not leaving the hotel to find a doctor for an obviously distressed Danny is that leaving the hotel would mark him as a kind of failure. “It is so f*cking typical of you” Jack sneers at his incredulous wife, “to create a problem like this, when I finally have a chance to accomplish something! (…) I could really write my own ticket if I went back to Boulder now, couldn’t I?! Shoveling out driveways, working in a car wash! (…) Wendy, I have let you f*ck up my life so far, but I am not going to let you f*ck this up!”

Jack is talking about the novel he’s intending to write, but indeed he might as well be talking about his title as the caretaker, as he seems to feel the same way about this job as his alleged profession as a writer: It appeals to his male pride, and the mere presence of a woman in his life (it seems unlikely that a weak and humble as Wendy should be able to f*ck up anyone’s life!) is a threat to this pride, in as much as she represents something cyclic, centred around the small things in life, the idea of going to work solely to cover basic needs, working in a car wash and the like, and thus she is a threat to him and his mission, as a man. The dialogue always reminded me of this sculpture, by sculptor Rudolph Tegner (Earthbound, the work is called).

Equally, when ghostly Delbert Grady wishes to urge on Jack in his work as the caretaker, he does so by taking him to the men’s room where he implores of Jack to step into character as a patriarch (“Perhaps [your wife and son] need a good talking to.”) and shares with him how he, himself, kept in control his two children – two girls, no less. Grady mocks Jack for lacking those same patriarchal qualities when Jack has been momentarily overpowered by Wendy and is locked in the storage: “I see you can hardly have taken care of the… business, we discussed. (…) I and others have come to believe that your heart is not in this. That you haven’t the belly for it. (…) [Your wife] seems to have got the better of you.”  

Now, what does this, Jack’s male pride have to do with US-criticism? Well, nothing, one might argue. But it also just might have something to do with it. I definitely think that this side of Jack alludes to the imperialistic policy that one may or may not associate with the USA, this ambition to accomplish things for the sake simply of accomplishing them, to erect a great monument, to do something that is greater than man and woman and their petty needs. Arguably this is what finds its expression in the way Jack’s little son is dressed: Throughout the movie we see the boy wearing sweaters with American icons stitched into them: Mickey Mouse’s winning smile decorates a sweater in one scene, in another it’s the Apollo 13, erect and proud as the Overlook Hotel.

“Great party, isn’t it?”

But getting back to my initial point about the Native Americans and the sense of doom over America that haunts this movie as much as any ghost – I think the motif of the ghost party is a very interesting one in the light of this theme I’m exploring. The concept of ghostly partying is often seen within the genre of horror; we find it in Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, the idea of a feast of the dead is crucial in zombie flicks, and then there’s the deadly party in what I find to be The Shining’s most interesting horror predecessor: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mask of Red Death”.

I followed a course at the university last year about 19th century American literature, and my professor intriguingly read this short story as a criticism of the USA: Prospero is the name of the prince in the story, and thus he is a namesake of the Columbo-ish Prospero of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The sociological problem that Poe points out and criticizes in his story (according to this interpretation) is that of trying to exclude the rest of the world and prosper selfishly within a closed party. As one will remember, in “The Mask of Red Death” Prince Prospero has invited all his friends to reside with him and party at his castle and create their own little microcosmos there, while outside the rest of the world die a painful death from a plague called The Red Death. But in the end Death catches up with the party in the shape of a eerie, grim-reaping stranger among the party guests, and the inhabitants fall all the more rapidly, one by one, because of their exclusive lodgings. One might try to live by a selfish policy and follow one’s mission of creating a world of one’s own, erecting castles over the tangled roots and the messy soil, and put oneself above the rest of a miserable, suffering world, but ultimately Death and an inbred, claustrophobic kind of consumption thrive within such closed parties. Another party, the Donner Party painfully demonstrated this (while snowbound forced to resort to the most hideous claustrophobically horrifying scenario: that of human flesh within human flesh – cannibalism), and it’s pretty much the same thing that the Overlook Hotel party bears witness of. Upon having driven away the natives, they can party forever at the Overlook Hotel, celebrating their victory. 

This is the party they strive to maintain and a crude form of xenophobia is the result of this striving. It is therefore hardly coincidental that Afro-American Dick Hallorann, very much in touch with his origins (as implied by the heavily emphasized posters of Afro-iconic women in Hallorann’s room) is the potential rescuer for Wendy and Danny as they wish to break out from the hotel. The hotel ball is a consumptious, claustrophobic kind of party. All the guests are dead, and as if the Roaring 20s-setting weren’t decadent enough in itself, we become witnesses to grotesque scenes of sex, death, and bestiality mixed together (the infamous bear-suit blowjob scene, as well as Jack’s make-out scene with the dead woman in room 237). Surely it’s no coincidence that we learn at the very end that the never-ending ghost party was a Fourth of July Ball!

Once again, I’m probably not the first one to point out this theme. And it’s possible that I’ve misinterpreted several of the above mentioned scenes. But I do think the US-critical theme is there in Kubrick’s theme, and I think it’s an interesting point to explore! Another intriguing level to what I think is one of the best horror films ever made, and I’m sure I’ve not even discovered half of all the points supporting this theme. What, for instance, is the significance of shrewd and sympathetic little Danny, who actually does manage to break free from the party? I hope, and imagine, that I’m not quite done finding new levels to the movie.

/marie

January 12, 2007. Films. Leave a comment.

May the Pie be with you!

A little quiz:
From which films are these quotes?

I ate his Pie with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

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I like that one. It sort of de-grotesquefies the whole thing.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Pie.

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A Pie. Shaken, not stirred.

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May the Pie be with you.

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They may take away our Pie, but they’ll never take our freedom!

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I have always depended on the kindness of Pie.

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Me too, Blanche. Me too.

Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my Pie, in this life or the next.

Which movie was this quote from?

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This last one is related to this wonderful little sketch that Marie sent me the other day.

/anna

Need I remind you why we like the pie? Ok, then: because it’s goooood.

January 5, 2007. Films, Internet Findings, Quizzes and polls, YouTube. Leave a comment.

Miranda Hobbes Was Salieri’s Spy!

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to share with you a discovery I have made: Cynthia Nixon a.k.a. Miranda on Sex and the City was the maid who served in Mozart’s household in Amadeus!!!

Cynthia Nixon as Mozart's maid

I never made the connection until I stumbled upon a site about Amadeus and saw her picture. Probably because there’s quite a long way from the woman who asked her boyfriend to estimate the time period within which he wished to snuggle so that she could plan her day, and got arrested because she celebrated the fact that she’d lost enough weight to fit into her skinny-jeans, to the anaemic young girl who was supposed to spy on Mozart, but mostly just whined a lot (as Anna replied when I texted her excitedly this morning about my discovery: “che vita maledetta é far la cameriera”*). Kudos to Nixon for an obviously wide range as an actress!

 Anyway, heh. What a fun discovery.

/marie

*this being Despina’s lament about a chambermaid’s harsh life in Cosí fan Tutte. Anna is the only person I know who would be able to think of such a reference. Anna is so awesome.

January 2, 2007. Films, Music, Opera. Leave a comment.

The name is Craig, Daniel Craig

Well, actually I thought it was quite entertaining, Casino Royale. I generally like James Bond films. You know: for-what-they-are-etc-etc-etc-blah-blah-blah-and-all-that-a-well-educated-female-should-say-when-discussing-mainstream-action-movies.
And of course the new volume in the Bond series had a special Danish side to it with no less than two Danish baddies – the blood crying über-baddie Le Chiffre a.k.a. Mads Mikkelsen and the-behind-it-all-baddie Mr White (doesn’t that have a certain Paul Auster ring to it?) a.k.a. Jesper Christensen.

Chiffre and White
You see? He is behind it all…

Jesper Christensen is, by the way, one of my absolute favourite actors. He made my childhood happier as Nana’s dad in the wonderful tv series Nana, and he has in recent years made a lasting impression in several born classics in Danish film (most notably as Kaj in Bænken, The Bench from 2000).

But back to Bond – or let’s just admit it: Daniel Craig. And this is actually by public demand. I got these adjectives from a friend I would never have suspected of hiding a Bond-fan in her heart: “A splendid combination of boyishness, (slightly anarchistic) drive, politeness and über-masculinity (whatever that is). He was a real cutie! (too brawny, I must add though).”

So is he too brawny?

Overkrop

Definitely!
But besides from that I must join the fan club. I think Daniel Craig was a real cutie too. Blue eyes and all. And I liked the idea of him learning to be Bond – you know all the small things that makes him the extravagant feinschmecker he is: The tailored suits, the shaken, not stirred, etc. He had all the rest from the beginning: the rogueisness, the toughness, the humour. And what nice blue eyes;-)

My friend also wants to know what else he has done, this Craig fellow. I remember his face from Elizabeth where he played the ruthless killer-monk John Ballard. He also played Francis Bacon’s lover George Dyer in Love is the Devil. Quite impressive in that role too. Marvelous and discomforting film by the way. I have heard he did well in Sylvia (as Sylvia Plath’s husband Ted Hughes). That’s what I know about him. IMDB tells me he is going to play the mysterious and cold Lord Asriel in The Golden Compass that is being filmed now. Looking very much forward to that. The Golden Compass and the whole trilogy of His Dark Materials (by Philip Pullman) is wonderful and when reading children’s books a subtle and much more complex alternative to Harry Potter. My warmest recommendations. I noticed Nicole Kidman is going to play the even more mysterious and even colder Marisa Coulter – I think it will be very good. Oh, and the Bond Babe Eva Green is in it too. Pie!

My friend also wants photos! Like this perhaps?

Briller

The intellectual version – is that what my bookish friend is dreaming about? I like that. Too.
But I think perhaps she is referring to this kind of photos:

Bond/Craig
And I agree. I am not one to turn down a nice suit and a couple of…blue eyes, either.

/anna

December 4, 2006. Films, Reviews. 4 comments.

Terkel in Trouble

Marie and I are nice girls. You know that. We have always done our homework, we speak almost like the Queen, we listen to opera, we are good to the animals and elderly citizens and we prefer eating ecological products.
But we also like to be out of character. And being out of character for the two of us has to include Terkel. Terkel is only 12, he’s ugly, his language is foul and he does not stand up for his friends. And yet – we love him.
This is Terkel:
Terkel
His film is called Terkel in Trouble, it’s for children and was one of the biggest commercial successes in Danish theatres in 2004.
A couple of weeks ago we realised that Terkel is out there. He actually roams large parts of Europe. The UK of course, but also Germany and Italy. Even Norway even though they tried to ban him because of his language (oh these Norwegians – when are they going to relax?).
I am especially glad to present you with the Italian trailer.
Terrrrkel! Aren’t those r’s marvellous? Terrrrrrrrkel! I love it. And I love that Eros Ramazotti quality this song gets when sung in Italian. Well, perhaps not the lyrics:
Fanculo a te, sei troppo un cesso e tua mamma gonfia banane giganti a mazzi da sei.
I will not translate that since I am a nice girl. I will only say that it involves someone’s mother and some giant bananas. In bunches of six, even.

It comes in German too.

In Germany they have copied the Danish version to perfection since one person makes all the voices. In the Danish version it was Anders Matthesen (who is also the man behind the story) who is a stand-up comedian and a genius. He made a lot of radio for children and many of the characters in Terkel in Trouble are from those radio programmes.

There are some hilarious songs in Terkel in Trouble and then there is one with a more sombre tone. Unfortunately I cannot find it in English. So you’ll have to watch the Norwegian version.
I’ve translated the lyrics for you:

This is the story of the boy named Quang
He’s 7, lives in Thailand and his working day is long
He gets up early and goes to bed real late
Quang has a lot to do even though he’s just a boy

Each morning a quarter to five Quang walks down alone
through hawthorns and thistles, to a boat by the river shore
The water is cold and dark but the family has debts
so he dives for pearls, mostly without any luck.

So what the fuck makes you think
I will listen to your complaints
that you don’t like your spinach and your allowance is too small
You have your fast food and your nintendo, you have time for play and fun
and there are thousands of children
who wish they were in your shoes.

Quang is the eldest out of ten
so he’s the one to cook dinner when the day is over
There are mouths enough to feed
and that is often hard
So Quang has bought a tube of glue
they will sniff for dessert.

When Quang has put the small ones to bed
he is really tired himself
But he must into to town again
even though it’s night
He has a date that he planned yesterday
with his boyfriend, Heinrich Schulze, who is 45 years old.

So how can you tell me
that your life sucks
Please see it all in a larger perspective
Think about others than yourself
Learn from my song
Remember you’re all right
if your life is not like Quang’s.

Right. And you know what? The hippie guy with the guitar, Gunnar (or Justin), has the voice of Toby Stephens in the English version! Now that is what I call out of character, and it means I will have to buy the English version when it comes in dvd. Just to hear Quang’s song! Toby Stephens is my latest crush (cf.) and him being part of Terkel in Trouble does not curb my crush the least. On the contrary! Now, just a reminder…
Toby/Justin

And now for those patient ones of you who aren’t Norwegian, Italian or German: The English trailer.

Terrrrkel!
Forside
/anna

October 25, 2006. Fandom, Films, Music. 3 comments.

On Gender and Age

Since I am in bed (or on the couch as it is) with a bad cold I have been watching films all day. Only romantic ones of course since my brain is so filled with snot that there is nothing else for me to watch. Or whatever… a bad excuse is better than no excuse, eh? First I saw the BBC adaptation of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from 1996. I did because it features Toby Stephens for whom I have begun cherishing a grande passion (or however it goes according to Mr Rochester). The lead role is taken by Tara Fitzgerald who portrays the tormented Helen very well. It is fascinating to see her transform from young happy girl to tried wife of a malignant alcoholic and then into a happy and mature woman. Mr Markham (Toby Stephens) seems a little bit vague but then what Helen is looking for is stability and love not ardent fervour and I guess Mr Markham will be an excellent and happy match.
What struck me most was that while just now Toby Stephens has matured and made his way to one of literature’s great romantic heroes – Mr Rochester of Jane Eyre, Tara Fitzgerald has in the same series been transformed from young heroine to evil aunt Reed. First we have them together as a couple:
Tenant of Wildfell Hall

And then we have them as Rochester and Reed:
Mrs Reed

Rochester

Ten years have passed and Toby Stephens has grown hotter while Tara Fitzgerald obviously has been reduced to an asexual, sick and bitter female. And their ages? Mr Stephens is 37, Ms Fitzgerald is 39.

The day’s other film was Sense and Sensibility. Marie, forgive me, I know thou likest not Jane Austen – but what would you have me do? I cannot continue watching Jane Eyre for crying out loud. Well, the thing is – there it was again. Also this film was made about a decade ago. In it Emma Thompson plays Elinor Dashwood who is quite young despite threatening spinsterhood. Another character is Colonel Brandon portrayed by Alan Rickman. Colonel Brandon is described as a middle aged man of about 40-45 years. In the end he gets the very young Marianne Dashwood played by Kate Winslet. In real life there is about 30 years of age difference between the two.
Well, now to my comparison. Both Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman star in the Harry Potter movies. While Mr Rickman seems to have grown younger in the ten years that have passed (just judging from the amount of grey hair):
Brandon Rickman
Snape Rickman

Ms Thompson seems sadly aged:
Dashwood Thompson

Trelawney Thompson

I can tell you that Alan Rickman turned 60 this year while Emma Thompson turned 47. I think this proves a point (though I do not think Severus Snape is hot), which is that male actors are allowed a longer span of time to do normal roles while the actresses must see themselves faced with character parts almost before they turn 40. Emma Thompson did try, we must allow her that, since she was around 35 when she played Elinor Dashwood who probably should have been about ten years younger.
And now my general point: men are regarded as alive and kicking when it comes to love and relationships and…well life much longer than women. It may be that we laugh at the idea of Elinor Dashwood being a sad spinster at the age of 25 but there is still some truth to it even though we might add ten or fifteen years to that number today. But while a man of 35 is only just a real grown up man, a woman of 35 is past her youth. Or is this too much? I think there is some truth to it even though this may be a bit extreme. And I think it sad and wrong. Let’s change it.
And I don’t mean that the men should turn to character roles when they are close to 40. Remember I am still harbouring that passion for Mr Rochester – no – we must have more female role models. And not only – we should change our ideas about what women are and aren’t and can and cannot do at certain ages. This is one of the large underlying issues left to treat in terms of equality. One of those issues you don’t think about first when talking about equality and therefore one of those that are important to bring to the light. Not least since our life expectancy is continually prolonged and thus proportionally minimising the female period of sexual attractiveness and vital activity. It is neither fair nor right.
/anna

October 13, 2006. Films, Television. 7 comments.

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