You want me to knock an AIDS documentary? Fine, sometimes the end of the interview segments are slowed down before fading out, but that only happens twice. And of course, there was no mention of the hateful acronym GRID, but then this isn’t a pedantic regurgitation of the facts.
David Weissman’s We Were Here is interested in people. It lets its San Franciscan interview subjects begin at the beginning, Ed Wolf as a gay man who couldn’t fit into the cliques, Paul Boneberg continuing the spirit of the hippie era, artist Daniel Goldstein’s early days giving out flyers with Harvey Milk, Guy Clark as a flower shop owner, Eileen Glutzer taking her college feminist ethos and befriending gay men. They were frank and at times humorous about their perceptions about gay sexuality and activity, talking about it as a form of rebellion, an inevitable part of masculine wiring or simply calling it love between friends and boyfriends. Archive photos and footage is very helpful in many sections, showing for instance the big billboards for bath houses when they were still legal in the city, or general images of the men in the peak of their youth which are innately tragic.
The documentary also eases into the beginning of the AIDS crisis, coming into their lives rapidly. Strong young men were becoming sickly, filling up beds and dying days later. The five separate lives of the subjects become strung together through activism. Glutzer as a nurse braves wards with AIDS patients. Goldstein becomes one of the first affected by the outbreak and survives through medical flukes and emotional rough patches. The film bravely shows the men’s appearances change after being infected and veers into different questions and responses within and outside the community. As a young gay man, admittedly I still don’t realize the disease’s real effects. The film is more hopeful than depressing, showing creative ways in which the LGBT friendly community helped each other, but both sides of the coin still exist, and I should probably watch this documentary every day. 4/5.
- The Image They Left Behind (towleroad.com)
There’s a hazy feeling in the air in some parts of the film, like in the opening and closing scenes that occur at night. However, that haze is more present in the afternoon when Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) follows a suspiciously young Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) out to a local, San Francisco churchyard cemetery. He walks carefully. He’s straining his eyes while paying close attention to her, his expressions somehow externalizing her cold fascination with a certain large gravestone. He sees her from afar, framed by wildflowers or in between trees or a grotto. The closer she gets, the more he’s inclined to hide himself. He wonders what she’s really like, the line between his duty to watch her for her husband and his fascination of her become blurry.
Here in Vertigo, Madeleine walks into the old Mc.Kit.Trick Hotel, opens the blinds and appears in a second-floor window, takes off her jacket, keeping a mannered elegance with those movements. Scottie follows in, asks the hotel manager about the woman on the second floor. Alas, Madeleine has momentarily disappeared. The woman becomes a ghost.
Director Alfred Hitchcock has 33 variations of the woman relatively going through the same things. Inhabiting someone else’s house and having to deal with its ghosts and history much connected to her own. She confronts questions about who she is and trying to grow up despite that history that hinders her. Madeleine is apparently possessed by a woman in her family tree, Carlotta Valdez – her ghost-like walks around the city hit important landmarks in Carlotta’s life. There’s a self-awareness and guilt within her psyche that haunts her. Scottie ends up lusting for Madeleine and her story, her dark American past. After rescuing Madeleine, she tells him about her nightmares instead of telling them to her husband.
Then there are characters like Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) who find it funny. At first.
I’m still not exactly 100% sold at Novak’s performance, but that one dancer-like foot out Scottie’s bedroom, elegance and a double-performance nailed a minute or two after gaining consciousness…
This movie owes Black Narcissus a lot, with its red filters and red dissolves and fear of heights.
Oh, and Judy Barton (Novak again), you are the best part of this movie, with you eyebrows and sass and masochistic guilt. Are your eyes really blue or green?
The man knows exactly what he wants, which one of my professors find really, really strange. He’s a San Francisco man, after all. I followed fashion between 2005 and last year and I can’t remember details within a dress if my life depended on it. Well, the man is an ex-cop, who for some reason remembers square necklines but can’t figure out that a suicide can’t have a Christian burial.
I apologize if this post slightly veers away from an erudite interpretation of the film. However, this movie, intentionally or not, is a warning to young girls out there – if a man wants to change your hair, it’s the first sign of control and abuse.
Is Hitchcock or San Francisco to be blamed for the hotel names with puns?
‘I wanna stop being haunted.’
The flamenco-like musical score by Bernard Hermann pauses, Scottie calls her Madeleine, telling her that he’s in on her prank. The movie ends with one of the most real, well-acted uncomfortable scenes I’ve seen ever. I’ve always thought of Stewart as malleable into any type of man from all-American to creepy, and here he lets it all out. I can only imagine how Hitch and the two actors choreographed this, as Scottie confronts her with one emotional accusation after another, his body pressing into hers, his hand on her neck.Sometimes their faces are obscured.
Then he pushes her higher. The music begins again, like a bumblebee this time.
Vertigo’s screening at the Bell Lightbox tonight at 8:45. Lastly, AFP reported yesterday that Kim Novak has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Get well soon, Ms. Novak.
- Kim Novak surfaces to retrace past in boxed set (sfgate.com)
- Actress Kim Novak undergoing breast cancer treatment (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
Worst movie ever?
A friend of a friend who saw this with me said that the worst movie ever is “Battlefield Earth.” That apparently was a Tower of Babel-like effort, watching the fall of a multitude of bricks, just like the worst movie ever must be.
But then I’m paraphrasing what my TA said in person, while showing two scenes from the film to his class, that seeing “The Room” can make anyone appreciate all the other movies ever made because this one’s made so artlessly. Most of the other terrible films has consistent shot by shot continuity but they’re dragged down by a bad script or bad acting. The terrible editing can also make the movie earn its title.
What else? That Lisa (Juliette Danielle) cheating on Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) with Mark looks like Jesus porking post breakdown Britney Spears – also that Juliette Danielle, not the worst actress in the world, sounds like Britney Spears is gross. And yes, she should cheat because Mark’s cuter. Nice casting, Wiseau! And that the sex scenes are like white people and the Robert de Niro Frankenstein cast in a Tyler Perry movie. And that I’m starting to hate guys who buy their girlfriends flowers.
And the offensive interior decoration that looks worse than Harpo’s taste in china. It could be worse – the red/white/brown colour scheme that dominates the rooms don’t drive me crazy. But the random gray marble columns and pipes that ugly up the red walls. That the cast insists on having sex on white surfaces and that is unacceptable except for hotel rooms. That tinted windows and heavy curtains in homes are for poor film productions or Greta Garbo. That hideous faux ermine stole on the sofa with dour looking throw pillows. How a man or his girlfriend manages to have no gay friends in San Francisco is beyond me. Why are there lamps in front of windows? Why do the prints lack character? Why is there a makeshift seating at the foot of the stairs? Why does the hearth look like it was never lit? Why does Lisa’s friend lie down on the couch like that? How rude.
And Lisa’s blonde hair and jet black eyebrows. And Lisa wearing blue eyeshadow after having sex.
And Johnny’s tragic fashion sense looks worse because of his face.
And the worst reaction to a blow job on a friend’s living room.
Tommy Wiseau, after realizing that this is a black comedy and passing it off as thus, and people aren’t buying it. For a few seconds, he gets a believer in me when I hear Lisa’s mother complain about the people who come and go in the house. Then she talks about her cancer again and I’m back at realizing that she’s Wiseau’s unintentionally surrealist creation, just like every other character.
This movie also shatters every other person’s dreams of making a film out of their broken hearts and worry that they might end up repeating this.
How was this in the big screen? I’d say go and see in with a friend on DVD/whatever first. Then go to the screening. Half of the crowd’s surprisingly good-looking but they’re a rambunctious crowd. I couldn’t even hear what the characters were saying half the time, and for a while I’m thinking this is just a mediocre movie with too much hype. And I was sober.
They did, however, hold the sanctity of that flower shop scene and quieted down. And the shadows of the spoons thrown towards the screen was mesmerizing to look at.
May 21 at the Royal, for those who dare.