Saturday, October 23, 2010

More on Fake Beards

Fire of Conscience (Dante Lam, 2010)

Above, Leon Lai and the ostentatiously fake beard he wears throughout Fire of Conscience. The false donegal clings poorly to Lai's slightly pockmarked cheeks, but the real kicker is the moustache, an unnaturally-shaped sliver of hair spirit-gummed to his upper lip.

Further material for pseudopogonological studies: slapdash fake beards are nowadays largely the domain of supporting characters and cameo roles, so seeing a lead actor sport one throughout a film is a little disconcerting. Also: the beard seems to be restricting the movement of Lai's face, which is normally pretty expressive, giving him a perpetually glum expression; he looks like a man whose lower face is being strangled by a stubble-parasite. And: the presence of plenty of actors with real beards (unlike in, say, Landru, where everybody has a fake beard) leads to plenty of strange moments, such as a confrontation between Lai and a supporting player who sports a real beard similar to Lai's fake one; Lai, his face constricted, looks a little like the other man's waxwork double.
Hard, Fast and Beautiful (Ida Lupino, 1951; photographed by Archie Stout)

The terrifying first four shots from the climactic tennis match in Lupino's Hard, Fast and Beautiful. For much of the actual scene, the players are in close-up, but at the beginning, they're ant-sized. Low-angles, high-angles -- everything looms over the players. The shadowy journalists sitting courtside are framed to look like giants, and the announcer is isolated atop a stark celestial pedestal -- St. Peter as imagined by Albert Speer by way of Edwin B. Willis.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Long Kiss Goodnight (Renny Harlin, 1996)
Fedora (Billy Wilder, 1978)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ad for Stella Artois (Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, 2010)

The auteur as adman, wherein a strong pictorial sensibility is divorced from its thematic context to sell beer via a cynical, late Peter Sellers-style gag.
Micmacs à tire-larigot (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2009)

The politics are, as they say, "admirable," but this is really little more than an '80s-style "save the store" ensemble comedy prettied up with aesthetic quirks and topical references. If only Jeunet wasn't so insistent on billing this as a "satire" (of what, exactly?) and would just admit that what he's really made is a farce, and not a bad one -- out of all of his films (and I include the Caro collaborations here), this is the one least suffocated by its production design, though his trademark combination of humanist sentiment and one-dimensional characterization is as misguided as ever. It is possible to make a serious statement about the military-industrial complex in a film where the main character drives around in Tempo Hanseat, but Jeunet lacks the moral / intellectual rigor to match his over-detailed sets, and the stuff about arms dealing seems less like a genuine stance and more like a passing fancy, a cause du jour. Decency triumphs, we all clap at the end and nothing changes, because the politics are not those of the real world -- they're merely part of Jeunet's hermetically-sealed universe -- and it's hard to fathom how any of his silly business could provide models, solutions, etc. (in contrast to the silly business of Lewis, Tati, Chaplin, Tashlin, Taurog, et al.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Viktor Bout, photographed in 2009 by Sukree Sukplang (Reuteurs)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gave me a shiver / I Spit on Your Grave (Michel Gast, 1959)

Monday, October 4, 2010

9/27 - 10/3

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
FM / TRCS (Coleen Fitzgibbon, 1974)
Found Film Flashes (Coleen Fitzgibbon, 1974)
Internal System (Coleen Fitzgibbon, 1974)
Princess of Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier, 2010)
Restoring Appearances to Order (Coleen Fitzgibbon, 1974)

Beauty and the Beast (Juraj Herz, 1978)
"Cutting Cards" (Walter Hill, 1990), episode of Tales from the Crypt
"Dead Right" (Howard Deutch, 1990), episode of Tales from the Crypt
Like You Know It All (Hong Sang-soo, 2009)
Little Big Soldier (Sheng Ding, 2010)
On Tour (Mathieu Amalric, 2010)
The Suspect (Robert Siodmak, 1944)
"The Switch" (Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1990), episode of Tales from the Crypt

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Calling Again

Like You Know It All (Hong Sang-soo, 2009)

Further adventures in the depiction of phone conversations in cinema: in this typically Hongian (cell phone, ugly room, cigarette, unremarkable lighting) scene from Like You Know It All, the sound design goes against the conventions of depicting a phone call from one character's "aural point of view" by mixing the voices of both actors at more or less the same level. There's none of the cheesy "tinniness" that's used to simulate a phone receiver, nor are either of the actors talking directly into a microphone; we hear both voices as a person sitting in the room with them would hear, though the image only ever shows one of the characters (if I recall correctly, Hong uses a similar technique in Lost in the Mountains).

But Hong goes further: he mixes in voice-over narration at a similar volume, so, while the image shows the actions of one character as he wakes up and has a cigarette while answering a phone call, on the soundtrack we hear the interplay of three vocal parts (two from the same actor, but recorded differently -- dialogue on the set, monologue in a studio).

Friday, October 1, 2010