This is France, but we’re not bothering with subtitles or even accents, because those hadn’t been invented yet in the 1950’s. WWI, fighting against Germany, with rightly celebrated tracking shots through the trenches, from the clueless higher-ups patrolling the men they know nothing about, to the middleman Major Kirk Douglas, a serious star some five years after The Big Sky. Posh general Adolphe Menjou (in one of his final films) has pressured scar-faced general George Macready (evil older husband of Gilda) into commanding an attack to capture a hill in exchange for a promotion. The attack will be a huge failure, killing hundreds of men. Two higher-ups (Gen. George and Lt. Roget) will act supremely dishonorably, the former by sending men to die in a pointless and poorly-planned maneuver and ordering fire upon his own troops, the latter by personally killing a subordinate with a grenade in a cowardly moment. But both will get off without punishment, instead picking three soldier representatives to die by firing squad for the operation’s failure, futilely defended in military court by Kirk.

Three dead men: Paris (Kiss Me Deadly star Ralph Meeker) because he’s the only witness to Lt. Roget’s murder of a soldier, Ferol (Timothy Carey, who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie, but it’s wonderful) and Arnaud (Lloyd the Bartender from The Shining), who had a great pre-fight speech about death vs. pain, and gets knocked down by Ferol in their holding cell and has to be executed while unconscious on a stretcher.

I thought of it as a powerful anti-war film (with a different approach to the insanity of war than Dr. Strangelove), but Gary Giddins’s commentary says it’s not exactly anti-war, but “about power, class, manipulation and the absurdity of war as a continuation of those civilian instincts.” He also says the pre-battle politicking between officers isn’t in the source novel.

The Future Mrs. Kubrick:

Menjou at Marienbad:

J. Naremore:

Kubrick is especially good at drawing sharp visual and aural contrasts between the château where the generals plan the war and the trenches where the war is fought. The Schleissheim Palace outside Munich, where much of the action takes place, later became a location for another film that depicts upper-class intrigues amid the architecture of a decadent past – Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad – and the opening sequence in the palace interior, where Adolphe Menjou suavely manipulates the ramrod stiff but insecure George Macready, was influenced by one of Kubrick’s favorite directors, Max Ophuls, who had died on the day it was staged.

Thinking about this movie again thanks to Room 237. It’s nice to sit down with a “proper film” like Wolf of Wall Street, an austere classic like Winter Light, an idiosyncratic puzzle like Upstream Color, but in some ways, Kubrick knocks them all on their asses. From the start it has a commanding power and grace that seems unreal. It’s a motherfucker of a movie.

At a party, Dr. Bill meets his med school friend (Pianist Nick) and two hot babes, but he escapes upstairs to help save host Sydney Pollack’s prostitute from an overdose, while Bill’s wife Alice (for once, seemingly not a Lewis Carroll reference) dances drunkenly all night with a suave Hungarian.

That night, Alice accuses Bill of infidelity, mocks his total confidence in her by confessing an infatuation with a naval officer last year.

Called away because friend Marion’s father has just died, she confesses her love for Dr. Bill just before her boyfriend arrives.

After being pushed aside by rowdy homophobes, Bill allows himself to be taken inside with prostitute Domino (Vinessa Shaw of The Hill Have Eyes Remake), who has masks on her walls, foreshadowing many masks to come, but after a call from his wife he leaves.

Bill comes across the bar where his pianist friend (Todd Field of The Haunting Remake) plays, and wrestles the details of Nick’s next engagement out of him.

Fully flowing wherever this weird evening will take him, Bill goes to a costume shop to get a mask and cloak, awakens the proprietor (Rade Serbedzija, Boris the Blade in Snatch) who discovers his young daughter fooling around with a pair of Japanese men in wigs.

To the masked ball, where it turns out Bill is immediately suspected for having arrived via taxi. Much nudity, an actually-pretty-tame orgy, and taunting masks everywhere as Bill gets caught and kicked out.

The next morning things aren’t going too well for people Bill met last night. Nick has disappeared (according to hotel clerk Alan Cumming), the costume shop man has reached an “arrangement” with the wig men and offers to rent out his daughter to Bill, Domino got news that she’s HIV positive, and Pollack’s prostitute (who Bill suspects was his rescuer at the masked ball) has turned up dead.

Pollack has Bill over to talk him down, and Bill arrives home to see his wife has found the mask, so he tells Alice everything.

The next day they go toy shopping with their daughter. Alice: “Maybe I think we should be grateful – grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.”

Cruise plays so overconfident that his character seems on the verge of being a huge asshole, flashing his doctor’s license all over town like a cop, but he also plays unhappiness and remorse so well that it’s hard to judge. Kidman spends too much of her screen time drunk or stoned, moving and speaking very slowly, but nails the last few scenes.

I enjoyed Rosenbaum’s article, and a detailed analysis of symbols on Vigilant Citizen. I knew I’d easily find such a thing, based on the level of Kubrick analysis/lunacy displayed in Room 237.

From an amazing article by Tim Kreider in Film Comment (although note that he buys into the Room 237 theory of The Shining being about the massacre of the Native Americans):

The real pornography in this film is in its lingering, overlit depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of end-of-the-millennium Manhattan, and of the obscene effect of that wealth on the human soul, and on society. National reviewers’ myopic focus on sex and the shallow psychologies of the film’s central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element in the film – the trappings of stupendous wealth, the references to fin-de-siecle Europe and other imperial periods, the Christmastime setting, or even the sum spent by Dr. Harford on a single illicit night out – suggests more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Stanley Kubrick’s inadequacies as a pornographer. … Kubrick’s films are never only about individuals. (Sometimes, as in the case of 2001, they hardly even contain any.) They are always about civilization, about human history.

I can’t believe people took this movie as serious criticism of The Shining and complained about its arguments instead of reveling in Ascher’s technique. He wastes no time showing us the Shining obsessives and conspirators on-camera, or obtaining rebuttals from people involved in the original film’s production – just uses these stories and fantasies to spiral further inside the movie, revisiting and altering footage to suit him, bringing the rest of Kubrick’s films into the mix (one speaker is visualized using Tom Cruise from Eyes Wide Shut). It’s a clear progression from his short The S From Hell to this – can’t imagine where he’ll go next.

Noel Murray says it best:

The Shining can’t be a coded confession by Kubrick that he helped fake the moon landing and a metaphor for the Holocaust and a symbolic representation of the American government’s slaughter of the Indians and a subliminal-message-filled exploration of deviant human sexuality and a complicated structuralist film that’s essentially 2001 in reverse. Or can it? Room 237 joins the ranks of classic documentaries like Rock Hudson’s Home Movies and Los Angeles Plays Itself that encourage cineastes to take a closer look at the secret messages that movies send, and to ask whether they’re intended or not—or whether it matters. What makes Room 237 work so well is that Ascher shows the same Shining clips over and over, with different interpretations, letting only the voices of the theorists and the images from the film (plus a few other relevant movies) tell the story. The effect is intense: a deep dive into the rabbit hole of semiotics, which leaves viewers more alert to what’s really on the screen.

Quintín:

The manipulation of the film material, the juggling of meanings, the associations connecting truth, memory, and film in Room 237 add up to something very enjoyable, as a kind of a fresh pleasure in film viewing, which is not exactly the same as the essay-film format, nor the usual patchwork in the found-footage genre. Made with no clear tradition behind it, Room 237 invites us to a dance with a cinema that is daring and free.

Perfect movie about the perfect crime.

Johnny is Sterling Hayden (not a very “Johnny”-looking actor, but this was his second Johnny after Johnny Guitar), perfect-crime-planner, with a demeanor nearly as serious as the Dragnet-style voiceover guy who keeps telling us the time. He tells his girl to meet him at the airport, then proceeds to pull off a racetrack robbery with a bunch of inside men and a professional horse-sniper (Timothy Carey, a few years before his opus World’s Greatest Sinner).

Barman Joe Sawyer (in movies since 1930) and cop Ted de Corsia (private eye in Lady From Shanghai) and money man Jay Filppen (of Run of the Arrow) are on board, but sweaty, nervous cashier Elisha Cook Jr (12 years after playing the sex-crazed drummer in Phantom Lady) gives up too many details to his bitch of a wife (Marie Windsor, whose follow-up was Roger Corman’s Swamp Diamonds), which she relays to her boyfriend – who beats Hayden (and the money) to the post-heist meeting place. Everyone gets shot – everyone, even Elisha’s wife who wasn’t even there, and Timothy Carey after insulting parking lot guy James Edwards (of The Steel Helmet). So now it’s just Hayden, who rushes to the airport among heavy police presence, with all his cash in a just-purchased flea-market suitcase with broken locks. After pulling off the perfect crime, Hayden forgot to plan a perfect getaway.

Watched on the Plaza’s big screen in HD. No screengrabs, but here’s a wonderful photo of the male supporting cast from Criterion’s site:

Amazing looking movie, shot by Lucien Ballard (who started with Josef von Sternberg) and produced by James Harris (who’d later make the bizarre Some Call It Loving). Writer Jim Thompson also did Paths of Glory, and his novels would be adapted for Coup de torchon, The Grifters and The Killer Inside Me.

30 Rock seasons 1 & 2

So apparently I like sitcoms now. Katy and I enjoyed this a lot. I don’t want to talk about TV shows (“remember that one episode?”), so instead I looked up the credits.

Writers with movie connections: Tina Fey and Kay Cannon (co-producer of Baby Mama), along with veterans of Norm, Animaniacs, Just Shoot Me, Spin City, The Weird Al Show and Futurama

Directors with interesting credits: Dennie Gordon (Joe Dirt, What a Girl Wants), Don Scardino (lead actor of Squirm), Gail Mancuso (lead director on Roseanne), Beth McCarthy-Miller (Demetri Martin’s show, 200+ eps of Saturday Night Live, the superbowl halftime show when Janet Jackson took her shirt off, Nirvana Unplugged), Michael Engler (Sex and the City episodes), Scott Ellis (an upcoming movie from the writer of Untamed Heart, he hopes), Adam Bernstein (It’s Pat: The Movie), Juan José Campanella (oscar winner The Secret In Their Eyes), Richard Shepard (The Matador) and Kevin Rodney Sullivan (Barbershop 2).

Oh, the guests!
Paul Scheer (as the head page) and his Human Giant costar Rob Huebel, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Buscemi, David Schwimmer (as “Greenzo”), Kristen Wiig, Edie Falco, James Carville (yay), Andy Richter, Matthew Broderick, Conan O’Brien, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Reubens (as the last of the Hapsburgs), Isabella Rossellini, Charlyne Yi, LL Cool J (as “Ridikolus”), Wayne Brady, Nathan Lane, Molly Shannon, and hundreds of TV people I don’t know.


The Mighty Boosh season 1

I didn’t care for this at first, but oh boy did it grow on me. I’d like to thank Fumi for insisting for years that I watch it.

Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) started out on Edgar Wright’s Asylum, which I really must watch now that I’ve found a copy. He and Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) were in the seemingly popular Nathan Barley and the barely-known-to-IMDB Unnatural Acts together. Naboo seems to have only ever been Naboo, which is fine by me because he is a perfect Naboo.

Director Paul King made a darkish Gilliam-esque movie called Bunny and the Bull with some Boosh cameos, and worked on a promising-sounding show called Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.


Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes (2008, Jon Ronson)

A fascinating look through Kubrick’s research with glimpses into his working methods and various obsessions (like collecting stationery, and having a location scout photograph every single doorway in a certain neighborhood, only to have Kubrick end up creating the doorway in a studio). Can’t say I was enthused by Ronson’s role as gleeful narrator, but I’m thankful for his valuable work peeping at Kubrick’s private life and showing us the results (especially dug the rapid-fire location-photo montages set to the music from the Clockwork Orange sex scene). Lots of talk about Eyes Wide Shut and a couple never-completed projects, so I wonder why there wasn’t a single mention of A.I.. Ronson wrote the book The Men Who Stare At Goats was based on, and he hopes he’s written the book Edgar Wright’s next movie will be based on, but he shouldn’t hold his breath.

Not much left to say about Dr. Strangelove, since I’ve nearly memorized it by now.

Groovy font on the titles.

DS1

George C. Scott is actually better than Peter Sellers in this movie.

DS2