Tonight’s midweek movie is a classic from 1969, starring the always magnificent Maggie Smith. Based on the bookof the same name, by Muriel Spark.
Here’s the trailer for the movie, to give you a taste of this comedy mini-masterpiece, which has a twist in the tale, as the idyllic dream Miss Brodie offers the girls as a vision of the life that lies ahead of them starts to unravel at the seams.
A formidable lady, indeed. It was said of her that
“The Brodie set did not for a moment doubt that she would prevail. As soon expect Julius Caesar to apply for a job at a crank school as Miss Brodie. She would never resign. If the authorities wanted to get rid of her she would have to be assassinated.”
Muriel spark uses a variety of pithy phrases attributed to Miss Brodie, which not only cause us to laugh, but hint at the darkness which emerges later on, as the girls’ relationship with her continues. It is an ambiguous movie, because we are encouraged to have a fondness for Miss Brodie, while later are shocked by some of the hidden character traits which emerge as we discover more aspects of this complex character. Some may be left at the end of the movie with the impression that they, like Miss Brodie, might “rather deal with a rogue than a fool” So, take your seats quietly, pencils at the ready, and above all, “Pay attention, girls!!!!!
Fitzcarraldo is a Werner Herzogmovie made in 1982, about a rubber baron called Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, who decides to build an opera house smack in the middle of a Peruvian Jungle. It’s a highly improbable story, unless you know that’s it’s based on fact. Little tip to bear in mind, Fitzcarraldo was an Irish guy, and they do mad well. Here’s a trailer to give you a little appetiser.
Find out how he got on in his amazing adventure and struggles with obstacles the natural environment presented along the way; at one point he has to find a way to get a very large boat over a pretty big mountain, and solves the problem the only way he can find, which is, of course the hard way! The quality of the version I found online isn’t great, but if you love adventure, and inspirational stories about stubborn people who don’t take no for an answer, this is one for you. The movie is in two parts, which are both available here:
There was also a fascinating documentary made about the making of the film, also from 1982, which you can find here:
Recently I’ve been looking through some of my favourite film clips, and YouTube is a great place to relive favourite movie moments, as it’s choc-a-bloc with delightful fragments that allow you to revisit some of the moments that stick in your mind from movies you’ve watched in the past. Some of the short clips seemed to suggest little stories to me, and of course YouTube allows you to create and upload your own video mash-ups, so I thought I’d enjoy putting my own mashed-up imagination to work in telling a story of my own. It didn’t have the same narrative elements as the original movies, because in choosing small moments and editing them together something different is bound to happen, and the short format (under 4 minutes each) meant that the two clips I came up with as a result of using a free-association technique to link ideas meant that the results were impressionistic and more ambiguous than a full-length movie would allow for.
The limitations imposed by what clips were available to me dictated the story told, as least as much as the length of time to tell the story in did. One idea suggested to me by the clips I was looking at was the theme of the moon, and I used this as a glue to hold the pieces together, so ideas didn’t fly off in too many directions at once. I’m gonna talk about some of the metaphors suggested in the visuals, but I’d prefer to let you see the first video before I talk about them, because I don’t want to pollute your experience of watching it by pointing out what it’s about. It’s open to interpretation, and the viewer decides what to bring to the story, as much as the story-teller does. So here goes; the first part of me likkle diptych is called Donna’s Moon Story.
It’s terribly flawed in lots of ways, rough around the edges, quite literally, since I didn’t get my aspect ratiosright, resulting in the black borders producing a frame, and the Windows Movie Maker software I used crashed every time I tried to apply transitions to smoothen the ragged joins between clips. However, that’s another story, and maybe the raw, abrupt quality that resulted suited the raw energy of the subject matter, which, though I wasn’t aware of it as I was making it, resulted in a nightmare dream theme emerging. The borders turned out to be a lucky mistake too, as they give a voyeuristic, peering through a letterbox, dissasociated feeling to the scenes.
I decided, when I looked at it afterwards, that it was a nightmare of sorts. It surprised me, in that I hadn’t initially set out to represent a dream, but of course the moon will produce dreams, not all of them wholesome or peaceful, and the music I found in the copyright-free music section of YouTube’s Creator Studio, now unfortunately missing the transition tools it apparently once had, provided a hammer-like soundtrack which, I thought, added to the menacing, uncomfortable quality of the visuals. Short scenes and quick cuts were used to keep the pace insistent and add to the anxious atmosphere. Sexuality is an obvious theme, as it was in the original movies the clips are taken from, and violence seems immanent. Carnality is a main theme in the video, in case you didn’t spot it already ha ha.
The eyeball-slashing moment was one that had always been unbearable for me to watch whenever I see Luis Bunuel’s ‘Un Chien Andelou’, and I felt it’s uncensored version was too jolting and repulsive to include in the mash-up, as it would destroy the dream-like quality too much, so I applied a filter to the short scene, (luckily, filters are still a thing in the Creator’s Studio), and also used filters on the last two ‘scenes’, though they are clips so short I can hardly bring myself to call them that. The woman’s screaming face at the end was far more effective as a result of the filter, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t fade the filters slightly on the eyeball scene, as the intensity of the filter obscures the climax of the video a bit too much, I think, for the intensity of shock I was aiming for. The abruptness of the ending implies the sleeper awaking from a nightmare produced from the depths of their unconscious.
The second video in the diptych is also a dreamscape, but a more pleasant one by far. The theme of female sexuality is in contrast to the male energies that run through the first piece. Can you spot the moment when orgasm happens?
I headed straight back down the stairs into the unconscious for this second story, as the staircase with the shadow moving across it suggests at the beginning, and the footage of the swimming pool, taken from the classic horror movie, ‘Cat People’, combined with the cave entrance shot (female body part symbolism, anyone?) creates, hopefully anyway, a sense of anticipation, which resolves into some kind of clarity of theme only towards the end, when the kiss over the abyss happens. From then on the dreamer continues the dream in a state of sexual arousal, with the climax occurring at the red star explosion, followed by the slow turning wave at the end. The male body features in the way that the female body does in the first, except that it is integrated with nature, unlike the first piece, where the female body is mechanical and distanced from the natural world, and it is the male energy which is in touch with the cycle of nature, under the gaze of the moon.
Of course, the materials I had to work with are masterpieces of cinema, and if you have not seen or heard of some of these movies already, I recommend that you give them a go. if you didn’t much enjoy my little movies, there’s sure to be something in here you like. Here are some links to help you find the movies.
Tonight’s big movie is a Kubrick horror masterpiece, The Shining. Even if you are not a big horror fan, there’s lots here to delight the eye and the mind. The cinematography is superb, with the subtle use of a fisheye lens emphasises the immense empty spaces of the hotel interiors sucking you into the action. Jack Nicholson as wonderful as the hotel’s new off-season caretaker, who brings his family to the remote location with plans to write a book. Things take, let’s say, an unusual turn for the worse. I was lucky enough to see this one on the big screen when it first came out, and have watched it several times since, always discovering new things. I have included a short documentary feature about the movie as a bonus.
I hope you enjoy the horror as much as I did! Click on the image to be brought to the movie site with your no registration, front row seat waiting.
Finally, I just want to give a shout-out to some wonderful people I had the honour to attend a party with tonight. Well, it was more a work-related gig, to be honest; I was playing barman for the night, over at one of my favourite bars, the Hoax Wars Defamation League. It turned out to be a whole lot of fun and laughs, and I got top tips from this guy, Delbert Grady, that really helped me and everyone else have a good night.
I trust that the hangovers won’t too bad tomorrow, folks. Cocktails have a lot of vitamins in them, and a laugh does everybody some good. People should do it as often as possible. Life is not as scary and threatening as it may seem in the darkness of the movie theatre, when you are lost in the magic of the big show.
I present tonight for your mild amusement a 1986 BBC documentary, in which the once beautiful, and still intelligent (well, not outside this documentary, as the lady is now deceased) Ms. Brooks tells the fascinating story of her Hollywood career, and details events in the making of Pandora’s Box, which, though later it became a classic, didn’t get good reviews on its release in 1929. This, despite the fact that the story had had many successes already on stage and film, with the Danish star of another version of the movie, Asta Neilson, playing the heroine, Lulu. We could nickname her Loopy Lulu, as her love life seems a bit out of whack, to say the least. I don’t wish to spoil the plot entirely for you, but Jack the Ripper enters into it towards the end. Talk about a plot twist! It’s a pretty dark plot all round, and the absence of dialogue just adds to atmosphere. Let Ms. Brooks tell the story first; she is a great yacker, and can tell it well.
I can’t find footage of Asta Neilson in Earth Spirit, so you’ll have to settle for her doing her Hamlet act instead. Here’s a nifty little clip of that. It’s a bit, well, faggy, frankly, but maybe it’s just me that thinks that Hamlet may have been a bit of an Emo (and no, Neon [also now deceased, but doing a Banquo’s ghost on it, but I digress] I’m not an Emo, probably I’m more of a Neko, if anything at all), but not necessarily gay as such. Who knows, if a Hamlet without any talking is a thing, gayness without gayness might be too. Projector, please!
Who cares, except as it’s relevant to giving good Shakespeare. Here, have some Laurence, who gives great Shakespeare.
And for comparative purposes, the same soliloquy given by Richard Harris, who, although going down the drama queen route some, is delivering the goods in a much more robust fashion, partly because he has to emote loudly enough so those in the cheap seats can hear every syllable.
I’ve been yakking too much, I know. Aw, shaddup already, I hear you say (I hear voices so frequently these days). A bit of silence would be a relief at this stage. Zip.
I love listening to classical music. It can bring you to the most wonderful places in your imagination. Disney’s masterful feature animation ‘Fantasia‘ visits a good few of these places, and how gloriously imaginative is the music of the great composers like Modest Mussorgsky, whose ‘Night On Bald Mountain‘ provides a ‘musical picture’ on the theme of a St. John’s Night Witches Sabbath. Disney caught the menace in the music perfectly in the imagery and movement of the animated spectres and spooks of darkness.
Loving it as much as I am? I hope so, because this movie certainly made classical music accessible to its audience in 1940, as I hope it will for you too, if you aren’t already a classical music fan. If you fancy listening to some more, with a change in tempo, here’s some more of the magic of Disney. Ludvig van Beethoven does depressed and moody awfully well, but the Pastoral Symphony (Opus no. 68 ) is one of his sweeter, happier works.
Disney’s images to accompany the music are charming and sweet too. The following video features two versions of the same footage alongside each other for comparison. If you are the sort of person who likes fiddling about with reading the sleeve of the album cover too while listening, I can’t help you out, but I can provide a link to an analysis of some of the metaphors and mythological references that abound in the movie.
Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Let’s make it a night, settle down and relax in style like a satyr, pull up a log and grab a pipe to blow bubbles in order to not-think better, kick the shoes off to let the hooves breathe, and enjoy taking a nice trip with these cute little mushrooms, who like dancing around to the Nutcracker Suite by llyich Tchaikovsky.