You can stream Jerzy Skolimowski‘s Moonlighting (’82) but every now and then a Bluray comes along that you just want to own. Because on some level owning this or that title will make me feel good and affirmed. And because I want to re-experience the mesmerizing big-screen impact when this great allegorical film played during the 1982 New York Film Festival. I have it in my head that this British Bluray will somehow deliver a better facsimile than ever before. I love that moment when Jeremy Irons is lying on his bed and staring at a photo of his girlfriend (Jenny Seagrove) and suddenly she seems to come alive within the frame, very slightly and somewhat erotically. I’ve been remarking for years that the world is divided into two camps — those who hear Moonlighting and think of Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard and those who think of Irons and Skolimowski and that ending with those shopping carts crashing into the wall.
Ridley Scott‘s The Martian (20th Century Fox, 11.25) is about Matt Damon somehow figuring out ways to survive on Mars for months on end despite being stranded with meager supplies of water and food. The film has a healthy roster of costars — Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels — so it’s not some man-alone thing like Castaway or 127 Hours, but even if Damon’s ingenuity allows him to survive (and I’m presuming it will) I just don’t believe the U.S. government would spend God knows how many hundreds of millions (billions?) to send a rescue mission to save him. I think the powers-that-be would say, “We’re very sorry but every now and then you have to face reality and stand down and let nature take its course.” The film is based on Andy Weir’s book, which I’m not going to read as preparation.
I’ve just finished reading a 5.24 Salon piece about an allegedly strong domestic drama called Bad Hurt, which played at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival but currently has no commercial distributor. Bill Curry‘s article, titled “Karen Allen’s brilliant comeback: A Raiders of the Lost Ark star forsakes Hollywood for a brilliant, blue-collar film,” describes Mark Kemble‘s film, an adaptation of his 2007 stage play called “Bad Hurt on Cedar Street,” as an American kitchen sink drama — “a good movie that felt very real.”
“American cinema never got into social realism,” Curry writes. “Italian neorealists like De Sica, Rossellini and Fellini had counterparts in British ‘kitchen sink’ auteurs such as Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson in new-wave film movements everywhere in the world but here. Such films show people trapped by income, education or family circumstance who don’t get rescued by upward mobility or the kindness of strangers. In America the idea of anyone being trapped in the system is heresy, but after 40 years of political and economic stagnation that may be starting to change.”
With Cameron Crowe‘s Aloha opening three days hence with no buzz and no currents in the wind except those that spell dread, how much worse could the reception be if Crowe and Sony had adopted Hollywood Elsewhere’s pet title for this calamity, i.e., Son of Deep Tiki? Especially with certain native Hawaiians reportedly disapproving of the Aloha title, which they feel is “a disrespectful misappropriation of culture and simplifies a word that’s rich with meaning”? I’m asking anyone with modest Photoshop abilities to take a crack at a Son of Deep Tiki poster. I’ll post the best of the submissions. C’mon…it’ll be easy. The more subversive, the better.
A few days ago and for no timely reason at all A.V. Club‘s Mike Vanderbilt posted a piece about original reactions to William Friedkin‘s The Exorcist, which opened in December ’73. It reminds you how jaded and cynical the culture has since become. The Exorcist gobsmacked Average Joes like nothing that they’d seen before, but you couldn’t possibly “get” audiences today in the same way. Sensibilities have coarsened. The horror “bar” is so much higher.
But there’s one thing that 21st Century scary movies almost never do, and that’s laying the basic groundwork and hinting at what’s to come, step by step and measure by measure. Audiences are too impatient and ADD to tolerate slow build-ups these days, but Friedkin spent a good 50 to 60 minutes investing in the reality of the Exorcist characters, showing you their decency and values and moments of stress and occasional losses of temper, as well a serious investment in mood, milieu and portents. It had the trappings of class — a genuinely eerie score, flush production values and the subdued, autumnal tones in Owen Roizman‘s cinematography. It was only in the second hour that the shock-and-awe stuff began.
The best parts of The Exorcist don’t involve spinning heads or pea-soup vomit. I’m talking about moments in which scary stuff is suggested rather than shown. The stuff you imagine might happen is always spookier.
Such as (1) that prologue moment in Iraq when Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) is nearly run over by a galloping horse and carriage, and a glimpse of an older woman riding in the carriage suggests a demonic presence; (2) a moment three or four minutes later when Merrin watches two dogs snarling and fighting near an archeological dig; (3) that Washington, D.C. detective (Lee J. Cobb) telling Father Karras (Jason Miller) that the head of the recently deceased director Burke Dennings (Jack McGowran) “was turned completely around”; (4) Karras’s dream sequence about his mother calling for him, and then disappearing into a subway; (5) that moment when Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) mimics the voice and repeats the exact words of a bum that Karras has recently encountered — “Can you help an old altar boy, father?” My favorite bit in the whole film is that eerie whoosh-slingshot sound coming from the attic.