Tuesday, August 14, 2007
|Immersion: John Huston-I’d like some feedback
Current mood: anxious
So, I guess what I’m asking for is a CONSTRUCTIVE critique of the John Huston immersion writing from those of you who actually read any of it. I plan to eventually add to the writing and will be converting it into a series of books, which will be published at some time in the future.
Was any of it of use to those of you who actually make films? Was it of interest to those who do not but love them? Was it enjoyable whatsoever to those of you who are in neither category? Who else would you like to see an immersion of? I am currently planning to do Fuller, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Lang. Not right away, because I am about to start a 22 credit semester, at two schools, simultaneously. It should be MOST engaging and challenging, so who knows when the next immersion will even be POSSIBLE! Taking a film history class this semester (EARLY cinema) so perhaps I will write of that. I will probably have to anyway for the class, so why waste good words?
Well, I was going to do a sort of overview of the Huston immersion experience, best/worst, that sort of thing, but my damn pinky is killing me, so I will end here. Thank you to all of you who took the journey with me, thank you to all who stopped in to read a few lines. Really I would just rather hear anything ya’ll have to say now, I’ve talked enough about it………
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
|Immersions: John Huston Ch5
Current mood: exhausted
“It was the best time to be a racist English Imperialist” But that is FAR from all there is to it, in John Huston’s cinematic adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling story, “The Man Who Would Be King”. What an absolutely wry and crazy picture! An absolute delight! This is top form Huston, a great piece of literature to adapt, Sean Connery and Michael Caine as the leads, and all OVER the place are the themes that noone does better than Huston: Be careful what you wish for, you might get it and find it somewhat….lacking.” Great on location work, anytime Huston can get out into some godforsaken part of the world to tell his story he is in hog heaven. Lauren Bacall once said that John Huston had left his friends bodies strewn from one side of the Earth to the other. The story is of two ex-British soldiers who loved war and soldiering and masculine comraderie, even preferring it to “strong drink, or entanglements with women-red,brown, black, or white” until Sean Connery is made KING of “Kaffiristan”, basically North Afghanistan. Their plan is simple, they tell fellow freemason Rudyard Kipling (a newspaper reporter at this point in his life supposedly). “We shall put every penny we have into rifles and smuggle them across the borders to Kaffiristan. There we will apply as Army trainers to the first warlord we come across, train his army, conquer his enemies and make him king, and then subvert the throne, and loot the country from top to bottom.” Gun smuggling is no new thing to them, they also assure the staid Kipling, aghast at their audacity and ambitions. One hell of a cross country journey then occurs, at the end of which, pretty much everything goes according to plan, and soon they are kings. And then it gets complicated…. Connery becomes King and Caine the head of the Army, the natives hail Connery as a God, which both guarantees and dooms him. It is a blasphemy but that aspect is NOT emphasized, what IS emphasized is his blasphemy against THEIR religion, and ultimately, things go very, very badly for The Greatest Scot Actor. This is also a medititation on the ease and limitations of the Imperial mind. Yes it is easy to knock over a king or a warlord with modern technology, but then you have to stay there, and you can NOT win the peace without coming to peace with their culture and beliefs. The parallels between this fictional adventure in Afghanistan and our own current REAL LIFE adventures in Afghanistan are way more than uncanny they are fucking surreal. We sent a small number(11,000) of troops to Afghanistan, adopted the Northern Alliance warlords, kicked the Taliban back into the hills, and then subverted the Northern Alliance and installed UNOCAL executive Hamid Karzai as our puppet leader. But now he has to live there, and so do we. Thank god for NATO and the Canadians and Australians up there, but the Taliban is back, strong as ever or more, now launching direct frontal assaults on our bases there. So the story parallels just get fucking wierd. The difference is that nobody on our leadership can hold a candle to Sean Connery OR Michael Caine as a presence or as a man (or woman Condi). It is absolutely beautifully shot, with really well done and subtle special effects (watch for the miraculous avalanche!), the dialogue is priceless: “He asks, Are you Gods?” “Tell him we are not Gods, we are Englishmen, which is the very next best thing!” among other gems. Just terrific. The portrayal of the Afghans is of an almost one dimensional mob, a force of savage nature solely able to be focused by religion. 10 years ago we could have denounced this as an assured racist observation, 5 years of having to deal with and live in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban (who we trained and equipped for over 10 years, and then by proxy through Pakistan’s ISI), that vision of a people is now perhaps too close to true not to be embarrassing. Then again, 50% of their population is under 15 years old, and young adolescent men are easily inflamed and savage in their responses. Overall, this film is one hell of a good yarn, a good moral to it, a great looking flick and a sterling adaptation of the flavor of Kipling – Imperialist yet sensitive, un-PC yet compassionate, tough yet sentimental, fantastic acting performances by Connery and Caine, wonderful locations, a solid gold winner that will keep you arguing and talking for days!
Wise Blood is wierd as hell, there is no two ways about it. This IS, though, I think, one hell of a ballsy picture. Brad Dourif is a returning soldier who was wounded (he got the purple heart), but “[doesn’t want anyone] to know where” and here I strongly suspect we are drawing again on “Let there be light” because Brad Dourif is crazier than a shithouse rat and goes downhill from there. This is a movie about faith, about losing that faith, about absolutely crushing guilt, abandonment, con artists, religion and dogma, and rural American society. It is offbeat, and taken from a book by Flannery O’Connor, another Irishman. I don’t know really how to describe the plot other than to say that the plot itself is not that important, it is a character piece through and through, and almost adheres to the rules of Absurdist theater (all characters are already in conflict). This is all about Man versus HIMSELF. It is heroic journey gone horribly wrong, what happens to all those who set out on a heroic journey and fail? Once again we have the themes that make it a Huston picture, characters searching for “the stuff that dreams are made of”, a collection of damaged, tragic, loser characters, and the horrible reality of finding the lie in the things you most aspire to and believe in. Classic attitudes in veterans of the Second World War. We just never lived up to thier hopes, and the sixties generation of self-indulgent fucks must have been even more particularly painful for those who had seen the price of peace paid with their friend’s flesh scattered over Italy, blown out of the skies of the Pacific, or burned in the ovens. With such a payment made on a Peace, and with what was done with it……. Well, it’s easy to see how Huston would understand where Flannery was coming from when he put it on paper. A young damaged veteran looking for something to believe in, desperately, while equally desperately screaming his belief in nothing. His “Church of Christ without Christ”, his paranoia, his oedipal complexes, and his inability to have any real intimacy outside of acts of extreme wierdness, make Dourif’s character riveting and confusing to watch. You just never know what the hell he is going to do next, but you are pretty sure it is going to be pretty crazy and he seldom disappoints. When he DOES disappoint, it’s fucking funny. Good movie, VERY wierd, and very RAW, previsions David Lynch I would say it would be fair to say. This is 1979 (made in 1978) and the Elephant Man comes out in 1980, Eraserhead (his Student film in Philadelphia) came out in 1977, but I would venture it would be a pretty big longshot that Huston had been exposed to Lynch. I would say that Lynch had definitely been exposed to Huston though. I mean, specifically, in my comparison with Lynch, Lynch’s period from Blue Velvet to The Straight Story (his best period I think, but I am not really a fan of his and I fucking HATE Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, but that is another Blog). Anyways, some of you nerds can have fun making those comparisons in more detail.
Prizzi’s Honor is fun. Straight up, well written, crackingly paced, sexy, flirty, dangerous, FUN. It kicked all kinds of Oscar ass and it is immediately obvious why. Huston shoots it closer to a fairytale than a gangster movie, yet it never shirks from realistic(to semi-realistic) portrayals of violence, even if unseen (such as the execution in the garage) or gory (Knife in throat). The story is a cross/double cross story of a Mob made guy (Jack Nicholson – GREAT FUCKING GREAT IN THIS!Oscar nomination(loss) for Best Actor), his jilted romance (Angelica Huston – FANTASTIC!! HOT! Noone shoots her more beautifully than her father and she won the picture’s only Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), his new flame and professional hitter (Kathleen Turner), his Dad(John Randolph), his jilted romance’s Dad and Boss-Capo (Lee Richardson), and the ringleader of the whole circus, Don Corrado Prizzi (William Hickey, nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Nominations without victory went to John Huston for Best Director, Best Picture (longtime Huston producer John Foreman), Best Editing, Best Costume, Best Writing.
THIS IS THE ORIGINAL Mr. And Mrs. Smith(Pitt-Jolie). They both get contracts to hit the other. Charlie Pontana(Nicholson) is stuck between Turner, Huston and Don Corrado, and of course the code of Prizzi Honor, which is ultimately the all deciding factor. Once again characters dreams come true and turn sour, once again Huston has his meat and potatos in theme and the visuals are exquisite. It must be said, especially as we approach “The Dead”, that Huston adheres to the old-school school of thought that the Director’s job was focused on getting the script right, getting the performances, and then putting the camera in the right place for the DP to make the picture look great. Preminger, Wyler, Hathaway, are of this school. It is not the place of the Director to be a visual stylist, it is the job to be a storyteller who prevents style from interfering with the story. It is sort of the Style-without-style style. Perfectly valid. That is not to say that Huston doesn’t have it in him, he Does, and he flexes those muscles every once in a while, but it is NOT his emphasis. He is too clever for grandstanding ala Godard, Greenaway, or Lang. He prefers to weave his spell with LOTS of dialogue, most of it brilliant, a literary sensibility, and really deep characters. Most of his best movies are adapted from Novels. This style, however, lets the DP’s SHINE! And that is why Huston’s work always fits so perfectly into the era it is created in, and frequently the place as well. In Italy he looked more Neo-Realist than the Italians. In Britain, he was the quintessential British parlor mystery master. His Irish films are passionate, saturated affairs, his Noir is the least refined expressionism with the highest quotient of GRIT. He even out-new-waves many of the Nouvelle Vague in the last place you would think to Look (Red Badge of Courage). Huston knows how to hire the right DP for a job. Casting the crew of a picture is as important or even more important than casting the right actors.
Prizzi’s Honor has plenty of plot twists, and finds Huston in a fatherly mood. Clearly the most compassionate (even as he orders murders) character in the place is Don Corrado (look for him later as a pet shop owner in “My Blue Heaven”-Herbert Ross). Clearly Huston, at this late point in his life, is driven as much in his desire to make Anjelica a star (and he does), as he is by the sheer joy of making movies. They say that he was on his death bed three times, and every time it was the hiring to do a picture that lifted him back to the world of the living.He was a man of great depth of passion, of love for his comrades, of massive love for his children, and for his many wives, but most of all, for the act of Directing Motion Pictures and MAKING ART. Prizzi’s Honor bounces along to the strains of Rossini, and if Huston ever grandstanded, this would be the picture that he did it. There is such joy in every camera movement, in every cut, it sings out – I want to have FUN! I want to LIVE! even if that means pulling the trigger ultimately on those you love. Ironic. Amazing. Joyous, and mercillesly clever in it’s plot twists, and character’s agonies. Only someone as smart as Huston could make Warped Humor as fun as this, and only a cinema Master could sew such a perfectly balanced tapestry. This was Huston’s 2nd to last picture.
And then, the end.
All his life, John Huston loved James Joyce. He often said that his reading of a smuggled copy of the then banned book “Ulysses” was the singlest greatest changing point in his life. The Dead, is an adaptation by Huston’s son of James Joyce’s tale “The Dubliners”, and he recieved an Oscar nomination for screenplay for the work. It is challenging. It is deep. It is a simple quiet unhurried and immensley personal portrayal of a Christmas dinner at the upper class home of the Dublin family Conroy. Anjelica plays the lead, and Donall McCann her husband. It is poignant without being maudlin, paced without dragging, penetrating on a par with Bergman’s best. There is no plot at all. There is characters who discover through reminiscence and discussion the difference between the living and LIVING, between the dead always being with us and the Dead living through us. This is a very short picture actually, 83 minutes, it gets in and gets out leaving us sort of hanging which could not be more appropriate. It is jarring, and we understand to a tiny degree, the sensation of hanging between the screen world and the real world, perhaps between the world of the living and of the Dead. It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, getting also an Oscar Nomination for Best Costume. You sort of slip into the world, it makes you LIVE with these people, in that sense it could be an extension of that theme from The Man Who Would Be King, but told from the perspective of an insider, of an Irish diaspora who knew the Irish in his bones and knew Joyce too, as opposed to the confused racist moral pragmatism of an English Army sergeant. In short, this movie is one hell of a swan song for one of the greatest American Directors, and one of the greatest directors in the whole of the world.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
|Immersion: John Huston Ch 4
Current mood: recumbent
In the beginning there was nothing, and the Lord said “Let there be light”.
So begins John Huston’s cinematic adaptation of the first 23 chapters of Genesis, titled “The Bible” which is more than a bit of an overstatement, though Kansans would love it as it is a true literary adaptation, as opposed to a propagandistic preaching or an “interpretation” in a denser more literal sense. Obviously, the size and scope of the WHOLE Bible would make it’s FULL adaptation more challenging even than “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy plus the Hobbit(which I sincerely hope Peter Jackson makes). It seems clear to me that Huston came to the same conclusion, and his decision in approach was “when you get lost, go back and begin at the beginning.” which is certainly as valid as any other choice from an artistic and not theological perspective. Touchy stuff to play with, “Holy Books”, draw the wrong cartoon these days and people have riots that they use you as an excuse for-and by the way FUCK ALL THOSE PEOPLE who would riot and commit violence over a WORK of ART whether it be over Mohammed cartoons, Mapplethorpe, or Piss-Christ by Serrano, they rioted over Bunuel, and Wagner too. The fact that Art says to those people “FUCK your SENSITIVITIES” and continues to do what it does, is why there is any “civilization” AT ALL. Art exists to drag the society of man kicking and screaming away from it’s status quo of animal savagery, through either exploding “sacreds” which exist more as methods of control than as actual sancitity or as reaffirming or creating other “sacreds” more suited to the realities of the immediate time and place, through satire, provocation, inspiration, examination, manipulation, masturbation, self-destruction, self-sacrifice, beauty, lust, play, extension, and reflection Communicated as SELF-expression and described as a form of TRUTH. The Bible, as Huston treats it, is thereby resanctified by this 1966 film. Huston approaches the Bible as a “really good book with some good things to say” and as a work of Art rather than a work of dogma or “sacredness”. It is because of this approach that he is able to genuinely express any of it in the cinematic form whatsoever. Indeed it is a good book and does have many good things to say. I personally prefer the New testament actually taken from “the horse’s mouth” as opposed to the part Huston adapted, but we have covered why that worked out like that-in my opinion. Is it a flawed film, certainly, how could it not be. There are More, and more personally held, ideas about a book like this than you can count, so it is almost as interesting to examine what aspects Huston brings to the fore. Chief among these is an absolutist unwavering OBEDIANCE to GOD. I think it is no accident that the movie ends with the “psych-out” near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, beyond the ruins of Sodom which are a mirror of San Pietro. Remember, this old testament God is not the cool compassionate merciful God of the New Testament, and in fact there is almost an implication that God’s faith in humanity needs testing as much as our faith in him needs testing (specifically Abraham’s episode with Isaac). I mean if everything were all predetermined anyway, why bother testing Abraham? It isn’t really a test if it is predetermined, God KNOWS that he isn’t going to let Abraham kill Isaac, and he KNOWS that Abraham is willing to do it and WILL do it if ordered. So one must accept that this test could be as much a test of God’s faith in us as it is of ours in him, it definitely points to the existence of a choice, which if not followed, could possibly undo the workings of God’s “plan”. Very heavy stuff this book, this movie. No inbreeding with Eve either, since apparently, as the book reads, there was only Adam and Eve, they got pregnant and had Cain and Able, Cain killed Able and got sent “East of Eden to the land of Nod” where he started having kids – WITH WHO??? -then Adam and Eve had Seth, and then he had kids -WITH WHO????- you see the dilemma, but then, none of this is Huston’s fault. It is a great looking film, good SFX for it’s time, well acted for the most part by George C. Scott, Ava Gardner, John Huston himself as Noah. EPIC 3 hours run time, I really suggest that people check out as many Biblical pictures as possible, and this would be at the top of any list of those.
And then the 70’s happened, while not quite instantly. The fact is that the late 60’s were a bad phase for John Huston, crap movies mostly. Reflections in a Golden Eye is particularly bad and bafflingly so, you have Richard Burton, Liz Taylor, and Marlon Brando, with Huston directing it shoulda rocked and it sucks so bad it hurts my feelings. BUT THEN… he is reborn yet again by going back to his youth. Fellini says that every film he or any other Director makes is always and cannot ever not be, autobiographical. It is logical then, that Huston would find his metier again with a lowkey, Conrad Hall ASC shot piece called “Fat City”. Fat City incidentally is Stockton, California. This is a story about losers, and about dreams, and about hard reality for 2 boxers and a manager of boxers (played by Coach from “Cheers”). Stacy Keach is a washed up boxer who was sold out in a fixed fight in Panama by the trainer. Jeff Bridges is a young turk with a glass jaw who gets talked into trying to “go professional” because he “is a natural”. He falls into the hands of the inept and just loser manager, and does not do well. Both fighters are brought low by relationships with women. Keach with an Alcoholic(as he is) “freethinker” with an on/off con/excon boyfriend. Bridges with a good woman who gets knocked up by him, and they decide to take the job/domestic life path. The trainer continues to live, as a parasite, on boxers and boxing. This is a very personally felt movie, and Huston is both compassionate and unsparing of the realities of the RING and the lives that enter it. Huston was at one time a pro-boxer himself, and made it to State champion of California as a young man through an “unorthodox boxing style”. He no doubt had to fight in places like Stockton, and was in long enough to get an osmotic sense of the world. It shows. Low key, relatively flat story trajectory, good movie. Very French New Waveish, but with the “look” of an American 70’s Maverick movie, courtesy of Connie Hall, ASC.
“I had some problems with the “Law” here myself”
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is a classic tale, written by John Milius (so you know it’s rough and tough and big and butch), and wonderfully photographed under VERY challenging conditions by Richard Moore. This movie I could go on and on about (and will, but not as much as I COULD), as a piece of TRUE INNOVATION, in a whole variety of ways. Milius is a great writer of macho-live-by-a-code pictures, and a fair director himself (The Wind and the Lion, Flight of the Intruder), so the departure from traditional cinema language (using incidental characters directly speaking to the camera as narrators to insert vignette episodes into the picture), and jumping in and out of dream-like sequences of personally subjective(by Roy Bean) moralizing. The whole idea of “rule of Law” is given a serious reverence which is all the more confusing by the fact that the IDEA of law, is used to cover complete blatant hypocrisy, corruption, robbery, murder, indeed Roy Bean becomes Judge after a rampage of vengeance which has him kill at LEAST a dozen men AND women who have conspired to rob and kill him. Victoria Principal makes her acting debut in the film as the Mexican mistress and later wife and baby-momma of Bean, and she really is very good. Paul Newman plays Roy Bean, and has an absolute BALL doing it. Amazing performance, FASCINATING philosophical positioning and deliberation, and the scene with him drunk, and the drunken Black Bear is worth watching the whole picture for alone. Just terrific, interesting, innovative cinema. Shows the dawn of a good decade for Huston.
The Mackintosh Man is better the second and third times you see it. It has a very unique perspective on the morality of the cold war, and the spy game in general. Is it really all just “hired contractors”, and nothing more than a deadly but playful game? Ostensibly the movie is about smoking out a Mole in British Intelligence, but Huston makes the picture into much more. Paul Newman is back as the Mackintosh Man, or rather “Mackintosh’s Man” as that is the name of his boss, the head of counterintelligence (MI5).James Mason is a great heavy as usual.Huston is very happy in the making of this film as it takes him back to Ireland to work, and it is a pretty fun picture as an entertainment. At times, Huston lets philosophizing and literary style contemplations drag things a bit, so it has a patchiness, and many people really hate the ending, but I found it refreshing.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
|Immersion: John Huston Ch3
Current mood: accomplished
Well, if you go to Italy and make a film for David O. Selznick, starring his girlfriend, and not a particularly large budget, you are almost certainly going to get some Neo-Realism on you, and Huston did. The film is called “Beat the Devil”. Definitely a lesser work, made on the cheap, but fascinating because Huston demonstrates again his ability and desire to incorporate changing styles. This round of European exposure will figure in the upcoming “Unforgiven”, as well as the French Nouvelle Vague. Huston is always looking, always trying new things as a Director. Since his apparent strengths are: 1) Incredible writer with an ear for dialogue and a gut for story. 2) Painterly eye in compositions, yet with a very unintrusive camera style. Stylizations are always motivated and used sparingly. He is an old school Director who operates along Ovidian lines. 3) Unparalleled ability to translate literature to the screen and have it retain its literary gravitas.4) Definitely lets the crew around him put their stamp on it, which is why his internationally produced movies do not seem very American craftwise, and are always much closer to the country’s cinema they were produced in.
“Beat the Devil” is kind of limp. It has a fun ending, but it seems, lifeless. This was the last time that Huston and Bogart were able to work together, Bogart died soon afterwards of lung cancer, I believe. Smoked till the end, too. This picture was mostly put together as a last hurrah, and it feels that way. Peter Lorre is along, as is the minister brother from The African Queen. Toss in Jennifer Jones(for financing from Selznick) and Gina Lollabrigida (to make it easy to work in Italy) and you have a good time to be had by all. The story revolves around a con man taking some criminals to Africa from Italy to scam some mineral rights supposedly on Uranium rich land. Everything goes wrong, a series of comic mishaps allow some mildly interesting inter-relational things to happen and voila, tie it up with a surprise ending and you got a picture and everyone gets to go to Italy, hang out and get drunk. MORE than enough reason to do a picture. But it won’t be a very good picture, probably – it depends on the booze to film ratio- and this isn’t.
CALL ME ISHMAEL.
So begins one of the all time greatest books ever made by an American hand, and so too does John Huston begin his movie translation. Gregory Peck for once is the absolutely PERFECT man for Captain Ahab, the blaspheming maniac who challenges God and is cast down for his pride and his sin. If you don’t like the book, you won’t like the movie, let that be said right now. Huston translates the book with all its warts and all its glories. The characters breathe life even in tiny roles like pip the cabin boy, or Mate Stubb. Huston sticks to the pluralist nature of the book, and every race creed and color is represented in the ship’s crew, highlighted are the ship’s harpooners: Queequeg – the son of a cannibal chief and heathen polynesian from a fictional island, Tashtego-a former plains Indian tired of spearing buffalo now harpooning whales, and Dagoo – An African of noble bearing. The first mate, the wise and religious and moral Mr. Starbuck contemplates mutiny at Ahab’s blasphemies, but, well, you’ll see if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie – A crazy or evil whaling boat captain whose has been mauled by a white whale is hellbent on revenge and hunting down the mystical whale. What is REALLY going on is a man is trying to defy nature at every turn, to conquer or kill it, and in so doing launch a direct attack on God himself. You know what happens to those who challenge the throne. It ends badly. The movie however has a KICK ASS ending! It looks incredible, and the boat is REALLY full sized. Watch this one time and you will cringe every time some “pirate of the caribbean” hops into his tiny little ship and sails it away like its a fucking car! It takes DOZENS of men climbing all over all that rigging to get it to do ANYTHING. Those fucking boats are HUGE. 100+ men on the crew of a simple whaling ship, pirate ships and the like had crews larger than that! Well, who cares and who would even know any better anyways. Stupid people get what they deserve.
Moby Dick did not do well at the awards that year, which is a shame. The tone of the picture is at times a bit strident, but hey, it’s MUCH more accessible than the book, considered by some a difficult read (I had to read it as a little kid and I loved it. One of the “classics” that my parents insisted I had to read to ever be “Cultured”). The costumes, the ship, the whale, are all tip top in my book. If you can handle a shitload of straight up for real old school sea shanty nautical crazy sailor whale hunting speech and slang, you will love this movie. Just know that it is a pretty pure translation of the book.
The Unforgiven is a bad movie. I’m sorry, but there it is. It just is bad. It is badly paced with the primary deciding conflict coming up and being pretty much fixed around the end of the first act, making the third act really pointless. It doesn’t make sense either. The wierd superdelineated and later made “ok” bloodwise, relationship between alleged Indian baby Audrey Hepburn, and top tough guy rancher cowboy Bert Lancaster, just does not work. The ending Does NOT get them back to where they once were, nor does it actually resolve anything other than slaughtering a shitload of Indians, and sort of reuniting with the rabidly Indian-hating-and-wanting-to-kill-em-all brother (ironically played by Audie Murphy, real live bad ass war hero (Congressional Medal of Honor-LOOK HIM UP)). The look and sound of it is TOTALLY spaghetti western 4 years before the man with no name first appears. It was also produced in Italy. Perhaps Huston is the real father of the Spaghetti Western “Look”?
The Misfits. John Huston makes a French New Wave movie. In the sense of a lot of cheap gimmicks like Godard? No. In the sense of a ruptured structure examing an underworld of cast off’s ala Truffaut? Yes. This movie was written by Arthur Miller specifically for Marilyn Monroe, as he sat in a motel awaiting the resolution of his divorce from his first wife. By the time it was made, Miller and Monroe were in tatters and about to get a divorce. Born in Lust, turn to Dust – Born in Sin, Come On In. This movie is littered with absolutely autobiographical lines for everyone of the burned out, burning out, or dying stars in it. Montgomery Clift is drunk 24/7 with Monroe on set, who is having a nervous breakdown about starring with her absolute male idyll, a man who she previously had told people was her father. Arthur Miller as mentioned before is past the end of his rope with Marilyn. Gable is old and dying. The eye of this Hurricane is John Huston, who is the ONLY person that everyone loves and admires. From this deep well of sorrows in real life, Huston pulls out the finest performance of Gable’s career, and far and away the greatest performance by Monroe. It will be their last picture alive. Waiting hours for her to get to set, when she finally got there, Huston mined gold. Together this team of Misfits made simply one of the best movies ever. Sorely underrated, often overlooked, not only did this PROVE what was suspected after Niagara, that Marilyn Monroe actually could ACT, but we FINALLY get to see Clark Gable play someone OTHER than CLARK GABLE! Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter, Theater Veteran BADASS character actors round out the tight little cast, and this movie sizzles. It is SO ahead of it’s time for an American movie. It’s camera angles, use of handheld and first person photography, even POV shots that are outside the “subjective objective” style of Hollywood (MS character looks, CU insert what character looks at, MS character reacts “seeing it”) and totally keeping with the Cahiers du Cinema stylistic arguments. It is an exceptional movie all the way around. WATCH THIS FILM AND GET DRUNK DOING IT. LIKE REAL DRUNK. LIQUOR NOT BEER OR WINE.
The List of Adrien Messenger takes Huston to England and Ireland and the film once again, LOOKS BRITISH. It is a disguised celebrities in bit parts try and name them gimmick movie pasted onto a British detective picture. We are at least spared too many “british reveals” with Camera placement and movement still along American lines. The story is really quite good. Think “Kind Hearts and Coronets” meets Sherlock Holmes as played by George C. Scott, He’s quite good actually. Black and White photography, a jolly good who done it with a good bit of catching him out! We are treated to Huston’s infatuation with Fox hunting. He eventually became Master Of The Hunt in Ireland, where he had an estate. Huston was an avid hunter his whole life, and after 22 years in the business as a Director, he became more and more fond of working his lifestyle into his pictures. Drinking, Hunting, Travelling, these are Huston’s guiding lights. He makes a string of off kilter to just plain bad movies in the 60’s. Perhaps self-indulgence and self-rot were a larger malaise than just the “counterculture” in these times?
Night of the Iguana, however, FUCKING ROCKS! This is so tense and so dark and so smart and so INTENSE!! Tennessee Williams wrote this Play and Huston translated it, this is when he is at his best. This movie is HOT, it’s so hot you can SEE where the censorship is, because the progression is so true, when the payoff is missing, YOU NOTICE. HOT HOT HOT AVA GARDNER! So Carnal only Kim Novak could surpass her. The kind of woman who looks like she could fuck you in half. In real life when she was married to Frank Sinatra, someone asked how a 100 pound waif like Sinatra could satisfy a woman like her she responded “He’s a hundred pounds, sure, but 90 of that is Cock.” Wow, I have to say that this performance stacks up to Mogambo, I think her acting in Mogambo is better (she said it was the best she ever did), but I LIKE her so much more in The Night of the Iguana. Richard Burton is fantastic as a faithless expriest, Sue Lyon is the dirtiest little girl (I believe she went on to play THE Lolita) you ever wanted to throw out on her ass -arrgh! What a FREAK!, Deborah Kerr as the voice of reason. If you know Tennessee Williams, the man and his work, this movie is like, 10 times better, if you don’t it is still hot.
Synopsis: Richard Burton is an expriest who is now a tour guide trying to keep his job down Mexico way, he is also having a nervous breakdown.He has a tour group consisting of a bunch of hefty ugly American women, 1 15 year old temptress blonde spoiled brat(Sue Lyon) led by a crazy vindictive and hysterical repressed Lesbian. In an effort to keep them incommunicado so they can’t complain and cost him his job, Burton hijacks their bus and takes them to a resort run by his friend Ava Gardner and staffed by her two half naked beautiful maraca playing “boys” who she goes “night swimming” with. The resort has been left to her by her dead husband who was a cuckold and impotent, and they were a happy couple. While they are there, the oldest living poet at 97 years shows up with his watercolor painting granddaughter (Deborah Kerr). Stir well, Shake, and pour over the rocks of a “Rum Coco”. “Or do you want some pot, you look like you could use something special.”
H O T . Check this out with a snootfull of liquor, not beer or wine, and get cerebral. Some of the best dialogue EVER written. CRACKLING. It proves that you CAN have a movie where people talk a lot and it works. Of course with Tennessee Williams on set doing rewrites and cuts with John Huston, you gotta expect that. Jody observed that John Huston probably has more dialogue in one scene than John Ford has in One MOVIE. She could be right, but it’s so GOOD!