Thursday, February 16, 2006

Deeply depressing.

There's something depressing about artists disavowing their work. It sucks knowing that if you see Prince in concert, you're going to hear something from The Rainbow Children instead of "Sexy MF" or "Gett Off."

That's the first comparison I thought of when I found this interview with the late, great Moira Shearer. It's from 1994 was the last interview that she gave; it's clear that her strained relationship with Michael Powell hadn't improved over the years:
Your last film appearance for Michael Powell was his notorious Peeping Tom.

Yes, I did that out of kindness of heart. Michael Powell arrived on my doorstep in 1959, with an ashen face and a large script under his arm. Could I help him? A small part - it would only take four days - the actress he had cast, Natasha Parry, had flown off to New York. At least, would I read the script? So I did, and thought it quite interesting, stupidly forgetting his sadistic streak. It was only four days in the studio and I saw nothing else of the filming, so the finished article was quite a shock.

Was it horrifying to do?

No, it wasn't. There was such an air of unreality and artificiality on the set and, as I've already said, Michael Powell was hardly the man to release emotion in his actors. I thought the critics were absolutely right about it*. I am only sorry that, recently, those violent boys, Scorsese and Coppola, have tried to make it into a cult film. It is deeply depressing.

Isn't that sad? She's in a work of art that's so cereberal, visionary, and raw that it took people decades to catch up to it and... she just dismisses it.

Deeply depressing, indeed.

*A critical sampler:
"The sickest and filthiest film I remember seeing" (Isabel Quigly, The Spectator);
"I don't propose to name the players in this beastly picture" (CA Lejeune, The Observer); "sadism, sex and the exploitation of human degradation" (Leonard Mosley, Daily Express);
"from its slumbering, mildly salacious beginning to its appallingly masochistic and depraved climax, it is wholly evil" (Nina Hibbin, Daily Worker).


At 4:55 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Dear Nerdy Comic Friends,

Any thoughts on this list? I don't have a lot to add (I'd read 7 of the top 25; 5 of the 7 are the top 5 titles, so...), but I love hearing what y'allz have to say.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

The Man Who Laughs
A Death in the Family
Black and White
Hush Vol 1 & 2
Dark Victory
The Cult
The Long Halloween
Arkham Asylum
The Killing Joke
The Dark Knight Returns
Year One

Those are the ones that I've read. Tower of Babel and that Wolfman/Perez one are on my list of stuff to get whenever i can remember to get them. As for the rest of them, whatever, i don't have enough time to waste on them. I do disagree with the list a bit in their ordering. I think Killing Joke is superior to Year One and Dark Knight Returns, but that's just personal taste. The Loeb/Sale stuff is more beautiful and fun than being a "great" batman story. I find Hush to be overrated. A death in the family is a classic story and should have been higher up. Um, yeah, that's all i got.

At 6:45 PM, Blogger girish said...

That Moira Shearer interview brings me down.
Dashiell, you're a connoisseur.
I'm embarrassed to admit I've read just one title from that list: Dark Knight Returns. (Loved it).
Guess I need to pick up Killing Joke and Year One next.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Ooooh, Girish, you are in for a treat. Those two titles are so excellent. And you must must must pick up Arkham Asylum, its art is too spectacular to miss.

At 11:19 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

if by "connoisseur" you mean fucking nerd then yes, i guess i am.

and Arkham is great, Gothic is a great Batman story by Grant Morrison as well. DC just announced he'd be writing a Batman title either later this year or next year. James Robinson of Starman fame will also be writing two Batman titles later this year. DC is doing a great job with their top tier writers by putting them on their top characters (Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns will be co-writing two Superman titles -- i think it's Busiek, at this late our i am second judging myself and it might be Jeff Loeb -- i really hope it's Busiek though).

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

" She's in a work of art that's so cereberal, visionary, and raw that it took people decades to catch up to it and... she just dismisses it."

Ummmmm . . . Peeping Tom is a terrible movie. I'd dimiss it to if I was in it. What, exactly, is so visionary? A serial killer whose method of killing takes so long that the victim could run away, come back and run away again before getting killed? I mean, Jesus. What a brilliant idea utterly wasted. When I think of all the fine films that use the creepy "filmic eye" to implicate the audience in violence and then compare them to this heavy-handed and obvious-as-kindergarten movie it makes me want to stab myself with a tripod leg.

At 5:55 AM, Blogger girish said...

Based on that cover alone, the Asylum gets added to the list.

At 6:35 AM, Blogger B.A. Slattery said...

I agree with Josh 100%. Everybody told me how "visionary" and "advanced" that film was ... and yeah, at first, it was neat watching this slow stalking dude kill in the first person, but then you realize, "He's doing it so slowly ... even a blind legless retard who is dead could get away from this guy."

There was zero suspense and zero character. I may've fallen asleep during this film it was so dull and long and lifeless.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Dashiell said...

Peeping Tom, to me, has always been a thesis film. One of those movies that you either by the concept he's dishing out, therefore not pondering on why the deaths actually take so long to happen. If someone says to me that he's doing it really slow, well i guess i have to bring up slow zombies which to me are the most unscary things in movies. I buy their concept so it doesn't bug me that you can sort of push them over and walk gingerly away. But i digress. I find the film to be slow and prodding (ha!), but a very smart idea at the time and one that i respect him for putting on the screen.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Dash beat me to it, but [Josh/Brennon] you're really going to discount that film because the murders are implausible? You're going to ignore that (a) Powell is a master visual composer and (b) the sick narrative games this guy is playing? Josh, you think of "all the fine films that use the 'filmic eye'"-- yeah, they all sprang from this fucking film. That's what makes this fucker groundbreaking. Don't make me get out my knife-tripod and use it on you, because I will. I will.

And, yes Dash, Slow Zombies are hella overrated.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Dashiell said...

I don't think that the "filmic eye" can be accredited to this one film, maybe the modern era of exploitational violence for violence sake, but even that really isn't a super modern idea. dziga vertov juxtaposed the iris of a camera with an eye several decades ago. i think it's just a more updated version of the same idea.

slow zombies only really bug me when people say that those 'dead' films are the scariest things in the world. the IDEA is scary, the excecution is not particularly frightening.

i just read acme 16, it was quite lovely.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

Yes, Ben, I will dismiss it because the murders are implausible. It's the only part of this movie worth dismissing. The rest of it is just more Powellish artsy compisition, plus a sprinkling of ideas that were visionary when (as Dash pointed out) Vertov and Eisenstein were coming up with them in the 20s and 30s.

Plus, I'm not a big fan of thesis films --- which is why I so heartily discount Godard and all his little buttchildren.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

You always gotta dig at the master don't ya?

At 10:22 AM, Blogger B.A. Slattery said...

Maybe the film is pretty -- a "filmic composition"; which, to me, spells "pretty film" -- but that doesn't make it good. I don't entirely discredit the film based on its implausible murders or the dragging deadly slow pace; I discredit it because it's boring. Perhaps this is the main flaw in "thesis films" -- which, to me, spells "neato ideas" -- they want to be so fucking thoughtful and deep they forget the importance of entertainment. If you wanna pump out a thesis on filmic eyes or tripod deaths, sit down and write it out, publish it in some obscure film magazine, and pleasure yourself with the satisfaction in having executed your intelligent ideas in an appropriate medium. That type of shit doesn't belong in films. And if it does -- and I know it can be done well -- it has to at least have a shred of entertainment to it. Otherwise it's a dull quasi-horror flick, terribly dated and wholly inaccessible to anyone looking to actually enjoy two hours in front of a television screen.


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