…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “1976

Hysteria: Roman Polanski’s The Tenant

Simple misunderstandings can ruin already precarious relationships between coworkers or neighbours. Roman Polanski has made a movie about that called The Tenant. He plays the titular tenant, a Polish immigrant named Trelkolvsky who lives in the same building as Shelley Winters‘ concierge character and some senior citizens. They, by the way, want to uphold the quietness of their building by keeping families out and not reporting to the police during robberies. It’s also the kind of building that has old plumbing but the landlord Monsieur Zy (Melvyn Douglas) audaciously asks for 5000 francs a month. And they think that he’s a playboy because he had one party in his apartment with his very coarse coworkers.

The apartment’s original tenant is Simone Schoul, who has left the apartment furnished. Even the walls have their own identity as she has apparently left some of her teeth behind a wooden wardrobe. The movie shows this urban condition when people live, sit and meet the same people others have. We inhabit spaces with histories like hearsay but that littleness doesn’t make it insignificant. We think of ourselves as ‘individual’ but individuality, after all is only marked by how we differ from the other and it is more difficult to assert our identities when the other multiply around us, surrounds us and makes us claustrophobic.

At the same time Polanski is weary of asserting individualism as he presents a coworker/best friend character as the Trelkovsky’s foil. The latter is a man who would be rude when his neighbours complain about him. Trelkovsky doesn’t want to become that person but he gets lumped with his best friend because of ageist prejudices and other reasons. But that’s the same way that first or bad impressions last in others’ and in our own eyes.

I wasn’t sure about Polanski’s performance while watching the movie but I’m starting to like it more and more. He hugs and almost juggles the trash he has produced with his first and only party, taking it down the stairs. He becomes the frazzled man with his screech-y voice eventually snapping at people equally for the smallest reasons and it’s funnier watching that anger coming out from a man with a childlike face. The movie feels sleepy after the forty-five minute mark, going into a cycle of Trelkovsky meeting his girlfriend Stella (Isabelle Adjani), the neighbours complaining and him moping. All of that while waiting for him to come out in drag which…

Image: Taxi Driver

(Am I the only one who thinks that Travis Bickle threatening to karate chop someone is less harmful and more lovably dorky? ph. Warner)

Network at the Bloor

Network(Like Noah’s Ark. ph. secret)

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That is Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) jeremiad proclamation, echoed by a handful of New Yorkers decorating its apartment walls. Seeing this on the big screen will incite wonder and dread, the first of many proclamation within this movie.

One of the components of a movie or it to be considered a favourite is the crazy. I mentioned this in my post about “Twelve Monkeys,” but you’ll hear different pitches of it in “Network.” The movie is one dialogue explosion surpassing the previous scene, culminating with a last and fucked up solution.

Sidney Lumet, one of my favourite directors,  is the hand that rocks this film. His theatre background is well demonstrated here, again handling Paddy Chayefsky’s eloquent script like it’s Shakespeare. Howard Beale asks his audience to be involved the same way Lumet provokes his audience to new crazy heights. The characters referring to the fourth wall reminds us that a self-aware fictional lie is better than the comforting one.

Everyone else who has seen this movie will talk about its parallels today. We’re at the ‘Golden Age of Television’ now, but that doesn’t stop “processed instant God,” as Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) says, to seep through and turn every viewer into a madman. Imagine a Glenn Beck who cannot understand Ayn Rand.

I want you get up now, turn off your computers, get up on your chairs, and go to the Bloor tomorrow night at 9. Plan this. Take at least one other person with you. See the movie and find out whether “Rocky” should have won. You have to see this movie before you die.

The Shootist

(Just in case. ph. secret)

I love watching people in movies who are past their prime. Not like Meryl who gets offered roles like she’s still in her thirties, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The characters I am talking about are old and will not shut up about it. “I’m John Wayne, I’m old and I have cancer, make sex with me!” Lauren Bacall, who pretty much takes Wayne in as her second movie-husband, ain’t having none of it.

Surprisingly John Wayne comes off as a benevolent figure in “The Shootist,” when he retreats to Carson City and wants to go out without an elegy. He’s a cowboy with the same practiced drawl, and we can’t take that away from him. He can go from hot to realist to sensitive father to psycho to now this, a man who wants to be left alone without being misanthropic.

(Down but not out)

Since other amateur shootists will not leave him alone, he decides to leave the world with a five man seppuku. SPOILER, he invites three other shootists to a saloon, a less claustrophobic version of the run down taverns in the Old West. This rub out is happening in 1901 after all, not 1871. We might think that he wants to test the three at who is deserving to take out the big man himself. But none of these guys fit the bill, he eventually outlives these guys by a few seconds. He’s gonna die and take four with him (three a bartender who, by traditionalist creeds, is a bad agent in society). His purgation of the bad elements in the burgeoning Carson City is his dying wish and gift to his Christian landlady, Bond (Lauren Bacall).

Bound For Glory

(Cowboy with a contract. ph. secret)

One of my shortcomings in movie blogging is talking about the social context of the narrative instead of how film delivers the narrative. This is true when I talk about historical pieces like “Bound For Glory”, that’s all I see.

As the caption in that screen shot says, Woody Guthrie is like a modern cowboy, with a twist! The film begins in Pampa, Texas, and no offense to anyone who lives there now but the film’s depiction of the town is fucking tumbleweeds. And this is the middle of country and a part that’s already considered “The West.” This isn’t a Brigham Young type of frontier-ism – the traditional West still isn’t good enough especially by the Depression, and an American can only expect to go further to succeed. And when he gets there he mingles with Oklahoman fruit pickers in California, gets his radio show, struggles with his union beliefs and fame and family.


Great cinematography, but of course I have a few complaints. The movie, like the real Woody, stayed too long in Texas and also a bit longer in the other places the character finds himself being. David Carradine does some good work playing a small town boy but comes short at making him sympathetic. He can’t juggle his beliefs and his family, a mid-20th century version of the workaholic dad who always misses his son’s big baseball game.

I’m still baffled yet in reverence of New Hollywood because they could make movies about socialism with jazz hands. The contradiction of being pro-union while working in a sponsored radio show isn’t stressed in the film, although that’s probably a more contemporary way of thinking. Tip: If someone wants to do an agenda movie, they can use the immigration in California in the 30’s and use Okies as a metaphor for the way Mexicans are treated today.

In which my blog’s name becomes kinda ironic

(A lot of fish in the sea? ph. screencaps from iTunes download)

I saw “The Cove” this past Thursday. To call it a documentary fits the rudimentary description, but the word “documentary” however implies certain qualities among the film that might make those prejudiced against it turn away. “The Cove” shows shots of people talking or groups of people doing fascinating or horrifying things, but that’s not all there is to the movie. Instead it actually has a deeper aesthetic value and pattern.

The first shots in the film are, if I’m right, taken from infrared cameras, then a few more from night vision. We hear the deep, benevolent voice of Louie Psihoyos, telling his audience that he did his best to try to make the movie legally. This first scene, both in visuals and words, warns us of not being allowed to see and roadblocks and denials. The movie also shows other people who have tried to do what Psihoyos as his team are doing, and failing. Some get murdered, as indicated by stills of web pages announcing these deaths.

Psihoyos’s documentary tells the story of dolphins being hunted in the coastal town of Taiji, Japan. He learns about this from Rick O’Barry, an Alfred Nobel figure in his transformation from TV show producer to dolphin activist. Seeing some of the action, he assembles a group with different skills helping him expose what’s happening. They have to do everything at night, which explains the infrared and the night vision. SPOILER ALERT, but they use the infrared cameras to install regular digital ones and hide it in the right places, they go back to the hotel rooms to look at the footage, the screen goes black, we as the audience go underwater, and the infrared and night vision fully contrast the clarity of what’s recorded.

And this movie makes me jealous that this guy only went to one week of film school.

And this movie makes me unable to hate Hayden Panettiere, not that I did in the first place.

(Just like a wavin’ flag. ph. secret)

I also saw “All The President’s Men” on TCM the same night, and I’m not sure whether I would be equally erudite with this movie as I was on “The Cove.”

The movie stars Dustin Hoffman (playing Carl Bernstein), the greatest American actor in the New Hollywood era. The first few scenes of the film made me think that he’s unfairly playing second fiddle to Robert Redford (playing Bob Woodward), but both men even out eventually.  Not to mention that this is the first time I’ve seen Robert Redford act, and I feel shitty and reductive for saying that but I haven’t checked out his oeuvre yet. It still seems that Redford gets a 60/40 in the movie because he gets mano-a-mano with Hal Holbrook’s Deep Throat, their meetings sprinkled with neo-noir elements. I guess it’s more cinematic that way for a person to meet another instead of being interrogated by two.

The reason I bring up the Deep Throat meetings is because the first movie I’ve seen of the subject is “Dick,” where both Woodward and Bernstein meet “Deep Throat.”

Both movies show how the little guys are intelligent and can beat the bullying big guys with a rock and slingshot. and in “All the President’s Men,” Bernstein’s friendliness and hunger and Woodward’s innocence complement each other. They’re both underestimated but as we realize, one brain’s as good as the next, as both guys meticulously look at details and scour the right interviewees and follow the money, as Deep Throat has said.