Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Brief Note on the Ass

Viva Las Vegas (George Sidney, 1964; photographed by Joseph Biroc)

Besides being the simplest and most abstract of all of the Elvis movies and imagining Las Vegas as a city built by Oskar Fischinger and not Bugsy Siegel, what Viva Las Vegas has going for it is that it contains one of the most sublime shots of a woman's behind in the history of cinema.

Because it is located at the back of the body and not in the front, and below the waist and not above, the ass does not accidentally find its way into the frame, the way a neck or a bare shoulder or cleavage does. As one always consciously frames a face, one always consciously frames an ass. I'm not talking about those shots of asses that are given motivation by either dialogue or the excuse of a "character's point of view." The ass, like the Citroën DS, the donkey and red couches, has a special place in cinema, and as the presence of Citroën DS, a donkey or a red couch is often the mark of a good film, so the ass, photographed shamelessly and for the sheer pleasure of its shape, often represents the most nakedly honest moment of a film (I remember an advance screening audience bursting out in laughter when the camera panned down as Kate Beckinsale bent over in Whiteout, probably the only moment anyone enjoyed in that movie).

"There's nothing like the movies ... Usually, when you see women, they're dressed, but put them in a movie, and you see their backsides," Godard has Michel Piccoli quip in Contempt. And of course Godard himself was instructed to shoot extra footage for the film by his producer to make use of Brigitte Bardot's willingness to show her ass. Breasts and chests are dead serious: they have a history in painting, sculpture and literature that makes them respectable subjects for an image, even when they're not. But it is in filming asses, whether men's or women's, that filmmakers most obviously give themselves away.


Darren said...

Posts like this are the reason I'll never give up on the film blog-o-sphere. Awesome.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Thanks, Darren. Someday this will expanded into "A History of the Ass."

The Floating Red Couch said...

We should create an ass blog-a-thon----

the form of the hips, a woman's sway as she walks slowly down a corridor: the bottom controls the body and the silhouette.

many props

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