Somebody tell me what Clint Eastwood is actually saying here. Let’s stand up and pull together? Not with the Tea Party nutters coloring the conversation. Clint has been an Eisenhower conservative almost all of his life and I respect that, but there can be no coming together with the wacko Cantor right — they’re demonizers and toxic liars and shills for the corporate malignants who have all but crippled this country.
I’ve written plenty about the problems afflicting Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s Cleopatra. But the multi-region British Bluray is visually beautiful, and if you can somehow make yourself ignore the film’s elephantine, glacially-paced, dialogue-driven nature and just focus on the lavishly expensive Todd-AO splendor and the large-format clarity, it’s a nice high-def bath.
And as always, the highly intelligent “making of” doc, Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood, is more than worth the price.
I’ve been susceptible to the perceptions of UCLA film professor Howard Suber since the mid ’90s, which is when I first listened to his incisive commentary on the Criterion Collection laser discs of The Graduate, High Noon and Some Like It Hot. Three months ago I asked Suber for specially burned DVDs of these. When I returned from Santa Barbara this morning I found discs of Suber’s Graduate and High Noon commentaries laid on top of the films. Here’s a small portion of the Graduate disc:
I chose this portion because Suber points out the highly significant contributions of The Graduate‘s production designer Richard Sylbert with the black and white wardrobes and interior design, etc. There’s a lot more to this 1967 classic than just story, dialogue and performances. It’s really quite an integrated audio-visual tour de force.
The Graduate images in the clip are a third-generation dupe of an old laser disc so naturally it doesn’t hold a candle to more recent DVD and Bluray versions. I don’t know what the reason is for the skips and the speed-ups.
Suber’s latest book is called Letters to Young Filmmakers.
Leaving aside my oft-vented feelings about the Oscar worthiness The Artist, I succumbed to the charms of Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo during Saturday night’s appearance at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre. Their visit was my final Santa Barbara Film Festival event, and it was probably the most pleasant. The word is actually “fizzy” — they gave off a kind of contact high. I sat down in my seat thinking “oh, God, here we go” and left with a very different attitude.
Tweet #1: “What I got from Dujardin and Berenice Bejo tonight was something along the lines of ‘we’re Europeans…all the praise & hoopla is fine but what do you expect us to do?’ Tweet #2: “It’s very nice to be loved and applauded, but this is all bullshit, no? It’s fine & we like it but can we get real? No?” When a reader expressed astonishment, I replied that “I’ve never said Dujardin or Bejo or The Artist aren’t likable or charming. It’s the excessive Oscar adulation I can’t stand.”
I was driven back to Los Angeles early this morning by Brigade’s Adam Kersh. We left SB at 4:30 am. I was dropped off at the corner of Riverside and Coldwater at 6 am. (Kersh had a 7 am plane to catch.) West of Memphis principal Mark Byers shared the ride.
I caught Joe Berlinger‘s Under African Skies, an okay doc about the history and legacy of Paul Simon‘s Graceland, at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. And I liked…well, went with it for the most part. But I couldn’t settle into the substance for a reason that some might find superficial. But I don’t think so.
Under African Skies has two narratives — the making of Simon’s landmark 1986 album and a 2010 South African reunion with the original musicians, and Simon coming to grips with the political blowback to Graceland. Simon was criticized for having swooped in and exploited a South African sound (and the musicians he hired to play it) for selfish or myopic careerist ends, and for ignoring a United Nations-enforced boycott against the apartheid government of South Africa.
Berlinger’s film is a decently constructed recollection and exploration as far as it goes. I felt myself drifting from time to time as the talking heads (South African musicians, engineer Roy Halee, Quincy Jones, friends and flunkies) all seemed to be reading lines from the same script, lines that recalled the elation and excitement of recording Graceland 25 years ago and the delight in everyone getting back together for some new performances, etc. The review of the political climate 25 years ago felt sufficient but rote. A sense of familiarity (we’ve all seen docs like this before) and orchestration began to gather around me like a shroud. But it played well enough. I stayed with it as much as I could.
The fact is that a factor completely out of left field kept interfering with my concentration. I don’t mean to sound cruel or cutting, but the honest truth is that Simon’s curious appearance kept messing with my head. He’s clearly had work done, and there’s something “off” and unnatural about his eyes — something faintly Asian — and his face in general, especially the area under his chin. It just doesn’t look right, and for this reason I was unable to fully settle into the film. Lord knows we all get older but there’s always some kind of rapport between a person’s appearance at age 44 or 45 (i.e., Simon’s age when Graceland was released) and 70, which Simon turned last October. He just looks oddly different, and this fact keeps competing with the other stuff. The result is an off-balance sensation. I kept telling myself to focus on the creative and spiritual, but it was a battle all the way.