Saturday 5 December 2015

A Cinephile Diary (3) - Supercinephile Barrie Pattison's week.

Lev Kuleshov
Well dear diary, this week finds me still writing up material from the European trip. Trying to document Lev Kuleshov’s serialesque  Luch Smerti, I found a copy buried away on the net. It’s fuzzy, un-translated and running fast but it gives a chance to check the content of the print caught at the Jerome Seydoux Foundation.  There is also a clip from Kuleshov’s splendid The Great Consoler   on YouTube but, as well as those same defects, it’s only the tame opening with Khokhlova selling a tie to a big store customer.

Material like this is pretty much inaccessible here but I dialed up Mae Clarke in 1932’s Parole Girl   instantly and, unlike most of what YouTube offers, this one is sharp and has the full range of tones. The bulk of these Columbia programmers, which have been out of circulation for eighty years, are non events so it was an agreeable surprise to find this one was fun viewing. A couple of substantial talents were punching below their weight here, writer Norman Krasna (Dear Ruth, The Devil & Miss Jones) and Clarke given one of her rare lead parts she pounces on the chance.  

Forever a footnote as the recipient of  Cagney’s grapefruit in Public Enemy, here she is presented attractively and makes quite wrenching her plea to the store manager, who has caught her out, not to ruin her life by sending her to jail. Director Eddie Cline did his best film Million Dollar Legs at this time and he’s on form. Generally a comedy talent working with Keaton, Wheeler & Woolsey and W.C. Fields, he breaks up the serious material here as with Spec O’Donnell’s attempt to sell magazines interrupting a key confrontation or Clarke sitting on Ralph Bellamy’s lap to bluff boss Ferdinand Gottschalk, in his winning bit part. Villain Hale Hamilton also has a comic presence, which is unexpected, and takes the edge off some of the dodgy material. Krasna’s characters keep on surprising us, though he has to battle the Pre-Code formula of suggesting  edgy material without actually showing anything  salacious. 

As long as I’ve been watching movies I’ve noticed that popular entertainment like this makes a better connection with it’s audience than the so called Art Cinema of L’Inhumaine, The Serpent’s Egg or Il Grande Bellezza.

Against this argument witness Knight of Cups which Terrence Malick doubtless considers belongs to the tradition of Luis Bunuel and Ingmar Bergman, though there’s more Bruce Connor in the mix. It is more approachable and stylish that his recent work, even if it could easily lose forty minutes.

The Chinese A Fool which is a mixed offering and Hotel Transylvania 2 make up the week’s movie going. Though Adam Sandler’s career is supposed to be in decline I’ve seen three of his new films in a month. The Cobbler is a disappointing change of pace though it comes from Thomas McCarthy, the director of the admirable The Visitor and Win Win.  Pixels is the familiar combination of innovation, big budget staging and knockabout which I have always enjoyed and HT2 in 3D is just fun. It’s the classic toon formula with a gag in every shot.- great pace and design with Sandler spreading through it like a virus - voicing the lead,
writing the script and using his mates and his offspring as support. 

Also in the popular corner I’ve started in on the Gerard Jugnot discs I brought back. His first movie as director Pinot simple flic (France, 1984) should be indigestible with it’s pratfall comedy, action and Fanny Bastien starkers but it plays remarkably well. Jugnot and Sandler are among the most important of the people making films now but try and find any recognition of their work. 
Gerard Jugnot

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