Archive for the ‘cinema’ Category

An Alastair Sim-Margaret Rutherford Masterpiece: The Happiest Days of Your Life

December 21, 2013

Silverwolf was tempted to call this essay “The Happiest Eighty-one Minutes of Your Life”, but since this is a film review, and not a description of a roll in the hay, it seemed more appropriate to call it by the title of the film.

“The Happiest Days of Your Life” is a masterpiece, and we wish we could have included Frank Launder and John Dighton in the hyphenated part of our title. Launder was the director and script collaborator, while John Dighton wrote the screenplay, based on his stage play of the same name. The material is of the highest, and the acting is of the highest, and in combination this film will take you out of your world, and throw you back into the world of British boy’s private schools in the 1950s.

The plot is a bit silly, and of course unbelievable, but on it is hung a whole series of very witty and clever episodes, with sparkling dialogue. It commences with the arrival of a new teacher at Nutbourne College, a boys private school presided over by the misogynistic Alastair Sim as Wetherby Pond, the headmaster. Due to an error at the British Bureaucratic Educational Ministry, a girls school, which is being evacuated, is mistakenly relocated to Nutbourne, but Sim does not find out until the last minute, and is forced to accomodate a hundred girls plus staff at short notice. The girls school, St. Swithin’s, is headed by headmistress Margaret Rutherford, who is both adamant and forthright, and will brook no nonsense. When these two personalities clash, the sparks fly.

At the same time as Pond and Whitchurch (Rutherford) are figuring out a way to deal with the situation, new spanners are thrown in the works. Whitchurch suddenly remembers that she has invited some of the girls’ parents down to see the new school, while Pond is unexpectedly visited by three of the Directors of the Harlingham School, an institution of which Pond has been aspiring to become headmaster, as he tells his staff in the introductory scenes of the film.

The efforts of Pond and Whitchurch to keep the two sets of visitors separate, and to not let them know that now the school is co-ed, require split-second timing. And there are awkward moments, as when a locker door swings open in the supposed girls’ locker room, only to reveal three pin-ups taped to the inside. See how Miss Whitchurch explains her way out of that one!

Then there are some very clever lines that the casual observer may miss the intent of: Pond laments in one scene that the British Railways “don’t know their L.M.S. from their Southern Region”, or Pond’s complaint of the Ministry of Education, which has been passing the school’s dossier from one department to another for days, that “We’ve got to sit here while they keep on passing around.” Or, while analysing John Knox’s Latin tirade, “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”, Pond asks the class what they should do with the word “trumpet”. Talbot, one of the students, leans forward and whispers in the ear of the boy in front of him. Pond explodes with “Talbot, take another hundred lines!”

Then there are some nice touches, like the great comedienne, Joyce Grenfell, suddenly writing here name in the dust of a table-top. Or the French Master, Jouet, who is perpetually asleep, being awakened, and coming out of his sleep conjugating a French irregular verb.

John Dighton, the playwright who turned to film, may be the most essential ingredient in this masterpiece of cinema, for it was his play on which it is based, and we imagine many of the best lines of the film must come directly from it. Dighton went on to work on two other British Comedy Masterpieces, Kind Hearts and Coronets with Denis Price, which is also a must-see, and The Man in the White Suit with Alec Guinness. Dighton also has credits for two other excellent films, “Brandy for the Parson” and “Folly to Be Wise”. 

Standouts in the supporting cast, besides Joyce Grenfell, are the ubiquitous Richard Wattis, who must have been in virtually every good British Comedy Film ever made back then, Guy Middleton as Victor Hyde-Brown, the sports master who loves to drink and smoke, gamble and chase girls, and Edward Rigby as Rainbow, the caretaker who can get you blackmarket whiskey or petrol. “Times is difficult” is his justification. Amongst the Directors of the Harlingham School we find the great actor, Laurence Naismith, whom Sir Laurence Olivier chose to act in his incredible “Richard III”, and also the very genial Stringer Davis, who was married to Margaret Rutherford, and who starred with her in several of the later Miss Marple films.

One also should mention the zippy musical score written by Mischa Spoliansky. The upbeat music has the viewer going from the get-go, and, though you probably won’t notice it on the first viewing, the score is used very wisely during the progression of the film.

The great Zen Japanese artists believed that a great work of art should always contain a flaw, since perfection was against the state of Nature, and there is one minor flaw in “The Happiest Days”. You’d never catch it if we didn’t live in the age of digital video, where you can observe a clip over and over in a short space of time. Imagine trying it with a 16mm or 35mm projector and film.

The flaw comes when Victor Hyde-Brown picks up the phone to check on his racing results with his bookie, and begins to speak to the operator (Joan dear) before he actually has the receiver and mouthpiece in place. We’ve seen this error over and over in old movies, and we suspect they didn’t bother to reshoot the scenes because they figured the audience would never catch it on the first viewing (when the mind must put itself into a state of belief in the reality of what it is seeing, or else it cannot play the game of watching and enjoying a film).

But the greatest strength of the film comes from Alastair Sim’s absolutely-flawless acting. Every gesture, every facial expression, every inflection of the voice is so professionally done, that one is aware one is watching a Master perform. Ten years earlier, Sim was an excellent actor, as can be seen in the Inspector Hornleigh series with the great Gordon Harker. By 1950 he was himself a Great Actor.

“The Happiest Days of Your Life” was also a trailblazer in the sense that it showed a comedy about a British private school could be a commercial success. This film undoubtedly was an influence on the creation of the St. Trinians series of comedies, also with Alistair Sim. You’ll note that Frank Launder, the director, also directed, wrote, and produced the five St Trinian’s Films, the first three of which are top-hole, while Ronald Serle, who did the background drawings behind the main titles, also did similar drawings for the St Trinian’s films.

All in all, “The Happiest Days of Your Life” will give you a very happy 81 minutes of viewing. It’s humor is wholesome enough that children can enjoy it, while quick-witted adults will garner an entirely different level of pleasure from its dialogue.

“The Happiest Days of Your Life” — a real Masterpiece.

Hoooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

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La Cinematheque Youtube: The Ancient Film Student’s Dream

September 27, 2012

If you could have told some of those film students 40-odd years ago that the films they were paying $2 (silver coinage) to see once in the theatre, they could, two score hence, see over and over for just the cost of their internet service, they wouldn’t have believed you. But that is the current reality on youtube and various other archives that have large stores of films in the public domain.

Never has the student of cinema had such an array of films to choose from, and one could, in the course of one twenty-four hour period, see all or most of the major works of countless great cineaste “auteurs”. The French were really the ones to push the “auteur” theory, that films are the direct and sole inspiration of one man, the director-writer, instead of the insipid Hollywooden-American factory technique (you can’t call it a theory) of churning out exactly what it knew it would take to bring them into the boxoffice. The “auteur” theory was prominent in Italian Cinema too, and in Svensk it was manifest in Ingmar Bergman. (Svensk cinema is where they take flickas to the flickers). In Hollywood, only a few survived the factory-production rigidity, like Hitchcock, but most were soon forgotten, as are most good technicians.

In Britain, one gets the feeling it was a combo of auteur and studio demands. But starting in the late fifties, it certain feels like films were becoming the expression of the director as auteur more than a puppet on the strings of the producer. However, everywhere, even in Europe, those who chose to go their own way often had horrendous problems financing their movies, like a compulsive gambler who has suckered so many friends out of money, he can no longer raise a stake. Welles and Fellini both had this problem sucking energy out of their creative drives. Welles bitterly described it as having to put 99% of his creative energy into raising money from producers and put only 1% of it into actually creating the film. We can only imagine what would have been produced if he could have put 100% into his films.

Paradoxically, we could say that there are now so many important movies that the serious film student “must” see, that if he were to see them all, his entire life would pass in the movie theater, and his lack of real life experience would make him unable to empathetically respond to the situations that arise in the film. Film is a veritable opium den where hundreds-of-millions, perhaps billions, of human beings live away their lives, watching a real-seeming fantasy that could never actually occur to them, especially in a socialist society that crushes and fragments the energy of the individual into a thousand superficial directions, and leads to a life lived in lines, dealing with bureaucrats.

Still, there have been so many amazing films made, one cannot but admire the medium as a vehicle that can say so much, almost everything, although it can never duplicate the interior thoughts and reality that a writer of fiction, especially in the first person, is capable of. Film can never express subjectively all that writing can, but no writing can duplicate the cinema’s specific moulding and manipulation of the viewer’s consciousness by the film maker so that they see only what he wants them to see, by his directing their attention. Writing is a dream created by the writer, but seen differently in the mind’s eye by every individual reader. Film is a dream in which everybody sees exactly the same images, but whose emotional reaction in the viewer always differs. (Though notice how, in intelligent discussion of a film, two different people can share the same subtle perceptions as to style or effect that show hardly any difference.)

Whether the film student should watch films at all, or start virgin with only the images in his head to guide him, and never let any other influence him (or even make films without ever having seeing a motion picture or operated a camera, as in the anthropological experiment of Worth and Adair’s, conducted in 1966, in which they gave cameras to a group of Navajos and asked them to film whatever they wanted from their own perspective, in order to learn how certain cultures look at things, something that never could be gleaned from just making films of the people in these cultures)— this is a decision that now few can make given the almost immediate stationing of the tot in front of the television or DVD player. Even the government schools are getting into the act, robotizing the brains of the small children in front of the computer screen, so that those brains can quickly become mechanical and uncreative, and fodder for that “high-paying job” that will never exist.. Soon there will be no unspoilt individuals.

But given the popularity of film, and its amazing possibility of letting us see Shakespeare’s Globe anytime, anywhere, and in any form we like, and for not even that while-a-way-a-shilling Shakespeare charged, we know that people are not going to give up this new form of crack cocaine, invented such a short time ago. And for those who want to study the past milestones of this medium, there never has been such an amazing school and campus of Film Studies as youtube, the cinematheque in a box on your desk.

Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww — Silverwolf

The Internationalization of Language: Another InterNet Effect

April 6, 2010

One of the more profound effects of the internet on the world, and world history, an effect which Silverwolf things has not been noted with due importance, is what he would call the “internationalization of language”. This occurs when people of differing cultures and languages are forced, or rather, are forced by the force of their own personal choice, to learn the languages of others, usually for motives of profit or romance. With virtually instant translators, and translating pages, making the ancient art of live translation one reserved only for tour guides, and the Socialists and Racists of the UN, the necessity for spending several tedious hours with a foreign dictionary to decipher a missive has been snipped off with bypass loppers.

Perhaps the greatest aid to this spreading of the knowledge of foreign languages has been the posting of film clips on the net in foreign languages with subtitled translations. This excellent method of absorbing foreign languages is well illustrated by a film such as “Dersu Uzala” by Kurosawa, in which an ethnic Goldi, with strong Asian features, who speaks a very primitive Russian, meets a Russian team of surveyors in the wilderness. Though he knew perhaps 10 words in Russian beforehand, by the end of the film, Silverwolf had probably learned an equal amount of new words, as he heard Dersu use the same limited vocabulary, over and over, to convey his “primitive” ideas to the Russkies. As we Silverwolves say to guests traveling through the forest, “Moy dom, doy dom” (my house is your house).

Perhaps another force driving the learning of the international languages comes from reading the comments written in chat columns by humans under 20. One can quickly gain the “in” words and phrases used in current parlance through this procedure, though of course not until one has a primitive but broad comprehension of the language. A beginner could not do this, but a second term student could.

Of course, this phenomenon was started years ago, in Europe, when books began to be published showing the titles of photos or art exhibits in the four main Euro languages simultaneously. It’s easy to see why so many Europeans were fluent in several languages, a process which Silverwolf thinks has a very beneficent effect on the brain, forcing it to memorize, retain, compare, and instantly translate. This process had been completely absent in America, where students struggle for years to learn a foreign language that they may read, but will rarely speak, and so will tend to forget. However, the massive influx of Latinos into the Southwest has brought about a similar simultaneous translation of signs, instructions, tax forms, etc. which, through osmosis, has slightly exposed the Anglo-Euro culture in America to Spanish, while Spanish-speaking students, in Silverwolf’s opinion, have a great advantage over the Anglos since it is their brains which will benefit from the necessity to develop two sets of language to communicate in.

Silverwolf thinks it may well be that this “internationalization” of language will lead to new ways of expressing the thoughts that seem to run through the heads of those Human Beings we Wolves are forced to share our earth with, an Earth which the Big Guy Upstairs clearly meant should belong to us Wolves alone. In fact, Silverwolf thinks that in one- to three-thousand years from now, our language will be as unintelligible to future speakers as Beowulf is now unintelligible to modern American high school students. Words will be pilfered from every language, first here, first there, according to men’s tastes, and the composite gallimaufry stew of the international language will have all the flavours of Mankind.

And so, Silverwolf can envision a future, several thousand years from now, where someone might send a postcard written in “Earthlish” (or email by thought-projection by then?) to a friend, while on their summer vacation, that might run something like this:

“Dear Hans,

Ich wanted de ecrire a usted wegen los jeunes filles yo ha deckoed promenading aroom la place de la Concorde. Sono a bunch buenos kvinner la, blondines, rothpellos, schwarzhairs, et otras pretty flickas. Nemmen dein pick.  Ha redden con ein, and she ma dite “Flake off, dork.” Pero, el segundo me sprachen tres jolie, and nosotros “made nice”.

Si usted is ever a Paris, io recommendare a usted go therein, et check out the local talent. Molti molti foxy madchen la, encircare el statue de il molto famoso Libertarian of il 21st Century, Senator Lobo Silverwolf, el Senator desde the State de Nevada, il y a 2000 years ago. Cette statue famoso, rests sur ein plynth inscribe mit los argots qui form Silverwolf’s well-known motto , “Liberty, Equality, Frugality”.

Dein amico,                   Werewolf.”

Undoubtedly, men will talk like this in the far future.

Es certo. Silverwolf lo speculare!

Hooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

Bogarde’s Rocket: Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)

January 17, 2010

Perhaps one of the earliest vehicles that helped launch the film-acting career of Dirk Bogarde was his excellent performance in “Cast a Dark Shadow” (1955), directed by Lewis Gilbert. In this film we can see all the characteristic strengths of Bogarde’s acting in protean form: the shifting in and out of working-class accents, the ability to charm and dissemble convincingly, the “losing control” of one’s emotions when pushed too far, all these are included in the character of Edward “Teddy” Bare, the evil protagonist of the film.

Basically, the film concerns Teddy Bare’s successful murder of his wife, a woman twenty to thirty years his senior (played by Mona Washbourne), for money; a successful murder attempt which backfires when “Tedeh”, as his first wife calls him, finds out that she left him no money, only the house they live in, although she was on the brink of re-writing her will so that Teddy got the filthy lucre too. Unfortunately for him, he murders his wife the day before she calls in the lawyer to change her will, a decision her barrister strongly councils against. But Edward doesn’t know this, so his successful attempt lands him nothing but the house, but “not a sausage” muneratively speaking.

So Edward sets about finding a new, well-heeled older widow, and finds her in the person of Freda Jeffries, played very strongly by Margaret Lockwood. Thinking he’s found another treacly pushover like his first wife, Edward tries to stampede her into buying a piece of property, but the strong-willed Mrs. Jeffries, now Mrs. Bare the Second, will have none of it, as equally she will have none of “Ed” sleeping in a separate room, as he casually suggests. (The transition from his first wife Monica’s “Tedeh” to his new wife’s straightforward “Ed” is a subtle but revelatory mutation.) As she puts it, she’ll go “pound for pound” with her new husband, but nothing more. As she laughing jokes before they are married, she had been tempted a couple of times to re-marry, but then she discovered that her suitors were “more interested in the money-bags than in the old bag”. The fact that she can laugh so heartily at this joke shows Mrs. Jeffries is not only a good sport, but also a realist. And Lockwood gives such a strong, believable performance throughout that one would have to say she actually steals the best acting award from Bogarde in this flick. And one can see why Hitchcock pegged Lockwood for her role in “The Lady Vanishes”, although “Cast a Dark Shadow” affords her a much wider range of acting situations to display her talent. And director Lewis Gilbert doesn’t lose the opportunity to capitalise on Lockwood’s legs, as did Hitchcock in that early scene from “The Lady Vanishes” where Lockwood prominently displays her nice appendages while standing on a chair. Here, Gilbert photographs Lockwood from a low angle, with her legs crossed, and we start to gather that Edward Bare was not wholly without carnal motives when he hitched up with Lockwood. But looks are incidental to the acting talent which serves Lockwood well in this film.

Bringing up third place in the Thespian honors is Kay Walsh, who gives a straightforward, realistic performance so different from her later role as a neurotic medium in “Seance on a Wet Afternoon”, Bryan Forbes’ little masterpiece, which co-starred Richard Attenborough in a character that looked and acted very similarly to his performance in “10 Rillington Place”. And rounding out the cast are Robert Flemyng as the lawyer who sees through Bare’s game immediately, and Kathleen Harrison as Amy, the maid, who is about as bright as paint — dull, matte latex.  But Silverwolf digresses.

The final scenes, in which Lockwood realizes she has married a cold-blooded killer, and the final denouement which gives the reader a certain “schadenfreude” as evil reaps its own reward, leave the satisfied feeling one should feel at the end of a detective novel (the film is based on one by Janet Green) or thriller film. And the genre differs from the typical whodunit, in that the audience knows early on who the murderer is, and the main question is: will he get caught and if so how? This is a technique used frequently by Georges Simenon in his psychological novels, which has become quite widespread in mystery-detective-thriller literature, and which probably originated with Dostoyevsky in “Crime and Punishment”.

Before going we should also mention the highlighting of Lita Roza, the former singer with the Ted Heath Orchestra, in the nightclub scene, a chanteuse whose brief appearance  matched her brief career in films. But what is of interest in her performance is not her herself, but the performance of the bald-headed extra in the slightly out of focus background, who nods his head approvingly, seems to speak to some invisible companion as he points out the singer with his cigar, and smiles. Truly a stunning performance from an extra, so subtle that most viewers will miss it, and one of the best efforts by an extra since Silverwolf saw that hog run out of the roadway as the gang of outlaws galloped into town in Michael Winner’s “Lawman”. But Silverwolf digresses again.

All in all, one must say that Bogarde’s performance in this film shows him as an artist way ahead of his age in maturity, a quality one sees in many top-drawer actors. Albert Finney, Alan Bates, and Tom Courtney all exhibited a similar feeling of mastery in their acting at a very early age. In modern times one can sense this quality also in Dominic Monaghan and Honeysuckle Weeks. But in Bogarde’s case we can plainly see that extraordinary acting talent that launched him into that vaunted circle of the top British actors of the 60s to 80s period: Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Alan Bates, Albert Finney, and Tom Courtney (and please forgive Silverwolf for leaving out the legions of other incredible actors that seemed to spring up like mushrooms after a warm rain in the British Theatre and Cinema). In fact, the role is probably a bit too thin and confining for Bogarde (as mystery characters are prone to be) but it still gives him a wide scope to show his acting talents.

So, if you want to take your mind off your short positions in the stock indexes and the currencies for a few, brief, blissfully worry-free hours, Silverwolf would strongly recommend you take a decko at “Cast a Dark Shadow”, one of the early booster stages of that extraordinary acting phenomenon known as Dirk Bogarde.

Hoooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

The Past As Now: The Photography of Prokudin-Gorskii

September 7, 2009

Silverwolf has just seen an amazing set of photographs that have had for him the same kind of significance as when he first saw footage of a U.S. high-altitude plane, flying so loftily above California that he could see the entire outline of the State. Then there was his first seen shot of Earth-entire, something that no philosopher before him had ever seen. What would such a viewing have done to those fertile minds?

The photographs in question are those taken by Prokudin-Gorskii of Russian scenes during the years 1907-1915. Due to some triple color technique beyond Silverwolf’s limited wolf-intellect to understand such technological magics, these photos look like they have been taken yesterday with a modern camera, the images are so sharp, and the colors so vivid. And what is so shocking is that it reveals that a century ago, things looked exactly as they look now in their reality.

Those of us weaned on black-and-white imagery of WWII, or worse, the black-and-white cum hurried-marionette footage of WWI with its notorious undercranking, have come to accept from childhood that reality prior to 1946 — the full color reality we have all known since childhood — was of a different caliber. Hitlerism, and the entire world, existed in grainy black-and-white, with fuzzy edges and bad sound quality. But not many years back now, the popularization of some of the American color footage of the War made us realize that it was not so long ago. And then the serieses in color, like America at War, and the release of many super-sharp color photos of Nazi chieftains at official events, made it seem even more temporally proximate to our own time. We stopped fooling ourselves that WWII looked different in reality from Malibu Beach 2002; yes WWII had existed in color, and the colorization made it seem less sinister.

But events a hundred years ago or more, had they really existed in color? It was impossible to believe.  Had the people in those early films really not moved like tabetic marionettes vivified by Benzarene? Of course they had. They were such evil times that men must have had to be different from the folks in “Our Town”.

Prokudin-Gorskii’s photos shatter that pleasant delusion, as they show us Russia in all its blazing glory, an incredibly beautiful land where serfs were held as slaves, and the Czar’s tyranny mulcted the poor masses. Here are young girls, tea plantation managers, remote-living old hearties who must have been crazed by the silence of the woods; and people at their daily toil so arduous that it would have made American part-time workers seem like aristocracy. They all actually existed, and existed in a color realism just as vivid and fresh as our own world. Indeed, our own world, and the cosmos, is now a hundred years older and less fresh than those “youthful” days of the Earth.

Like no other documents he has ever seen, Prokudin-Gorskii’s photos show us that the Past was always as real as the Now.

But what will the Now look like in another hundred years?

Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

Silverwolf’s Unorthodox View on Copyright

December 24, 2008

Silverwolf believes that, when it comes to artistic creations such as writings, conventional music, photography and film, and virtually any other medium, there should be no such thing as intellectual copyright.

First, let’s examine the worst reason for this view: the often bandied about Leftist “solidarity” of so many artists with “The People”. Anyone who adopts a Communistic attitude towards material goods should surely support such a Communistic view towards copyright. So, Silverwolf must wonder why, after so many decades, he still sees those little circled “c”s on so many artistic products emanating from Stage Left. Surely, such individuals should believe that they owe their all to the proletariat, and certainly forcing the prolls to have to purchase artistic creations is one of the most hypocritical activities a Leftist could undertake, in Silverwolf’s view.

But now let’s examine the actual reasons for why virtually all artistic Copyright is a fraud.

Firstly, all the components used in these creations are themselves creations of others, who are not receiving one iota of credit or material compensation for having their creations used currently. Do Shakespeare, or the Hathaway descendants, receive one penny in royalties when someone uses a word first coined by Shakespeare in one of their verbal compositions? Literally, every word we use is the creation of an individual, or a collective society which spread the use of a word (and probably a word created by someone long forgotten). When contemporary writers use these inventions of others, do they ever bother to annotate each word with a reference, or even a word of thanks, to the first person listed as having used it in the Oxford English (Unabridged) Dictionary? Silverwolf has never seen it. Are not these writers committing flagrant theft? Yet, they then have the gall to claim that their arrangement of these creations of others deserves some kind of special treatment, and even belongs to them, and that people should have to pay money for their arrangement of these words, for a very long time indeed.

Music presents a very similar situation. The notes were invented long ago, as were the instruments used to reproduce them. Anyone claiming copyright on music, should actually have to pay copyright to the inventors of notes and silence, and the inventors of musical instruments. Likewise, virtually all musical ideas are based on previous musical ideas, often created by a forgotten musician at a fraternity beerbash, or created hundreds of years back by some drunken Renaissance man. Monteverdi and Frescobaldi are probably at the root of all modern music, but who ever gives them a cheer, or even a word of thanks, at the rock concert? Such ingratitude!

Of course, photography and film also fall into this category. Since all photons are created by Providence, and the photographer or film maker is certainly not creating the light but rather the Process of G-d, it really is a bit much to have people claim that a photograph is “theirs”.  And Cinema presents us with merely a more complex art which is at core made up of the other arts we are discussing: writing, music, the capture of photons. Actors, as Hitchcock realized, are merely cattle, conditioned to deflect the photons in whatever pattern the director chooses to choose (and then claim as his own).

(And here we digress to record an actual conversation that took place, so legend goes, on the old Hollywood trail.

Billy: Mornin, Hitch. Sure is a fine lookin herd of actors we got us here.

Hitch: Yep, they ought to make some fine prime sirloin, once we drive em in to Hollywood.

Billy: Man, they sure are dumb critters, aint they?

Hitch: Yep, jes give em a little of that buttered flattery, and they’s is tame as a caponed rabbit. Then you can move em around, just so, so that the photons hit there faces just right. And voila, you got another hit.

Billy: Whats vowala mean Hitch?

Hitch: I dunno? Say, you and the boys are certainly gettin a reputation out in these parts. They’s startin to call you the Wilder Bunch.

Billy: Hitch, one day the names of Billy and the Wilder Bunch will be known from coast to coast.

Hitch: Well, you jes make sure it’s for the right reasons, or they’ll be no shortages of witnesses for the prosecution.

Billy: You sure got a strange sense of humor, Hitch.

Hitch: Yeh, and you got what they call “Prisoner’s Ears”. Well, Billy, I’d say it’s goin to get dark pretty soon round here.

Billy: You sure know your lighting, Hitch.

Hitch: Yep, I sure do, don’t I. Better get them doggies bedded down for the night, Billy, and pronto.

Billy: Aw, Hitch, you know it dun’t take more than a minute or two to get an actor and them heifers bedded down together.)

 In fact, the Copyright notion is so ridiculous when it comes to film, that filmmakers have often given a sop to their collaborators by endlessly listing their names at the end or the beginnings of “their” films. The Collectivist nature of filmmaking must be overlooked, and the fiction maintained that it is a film by “so and so”. But you’ll notice that the Producer, the fellow who writes the check that sets the whole process in motion, is the one who usually gets the last credit. In his mind “He” is the real maker of the film. Yet, none of these will admit that it is the photons, the ancient words, the long-ago created notes, the previously discovered technical effects, and the hit-and-miss theatricals of quondam films, that brings about the latest “creation”? Kinda like saying the cook made the meal, when it was the farmer who actually grew the food, and the trucker who hauled it to town, and the boxboy who unpacked it onto the shelf, and the gas company that supplied the cooking fuel. Nor do they ever point to the creators and the manufacturers of cameras as the real creators of photography and film. Have you ever seen a film created by “Bolex” with the assistance of a lot of so-and-sos?

Moving on to a completely different class (apparently), we come to that of “inventions”, those devilishly ingenious gizmos that eccentric American grumpy old men have been developing in their “shops” for a good century now. “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”, is the ubiquitous response when readers come across these gems in some popular mechanical magazine. Up to that moment, no one had ever thought of that, but when presented to the mind of the non-inventor, the first question is “That’s so obvious, why did that never strike me?”  Well, the obvious and existential answer is that  it never struck you because you were not bright enough to ever have it cross your mind.

The famous “grapefruit squirter shield spoon cum juice wiper” is a prime example. What enterprising mind came up with the idea of a grapefruit spoon with an attached shield to protect the devourer from those nasty spits of acid juice that have wreck so many a suit? It was bad enough to not have thought of such an obvious one. But to not transcend this very obvious improvement with the further refinement of a battery operated shield wiper, so that the devourer could continue to make sure he wasn’t swallowing any seeds, shows the non-inventor the poverty of his imagination.

But in this case, has the inventor really invented something new, or merely taken two old ideas, the windshield, and the windshield wiper, and applied them to the necessity of FED officials who have to attend early morning prayer breakfasts, in which the main prayer is that the world will continue to believe in the US Dollar, before they attend Congressional hearings ,where the entire financial nation will be watching every bead of sweat on their beaded brows?  To have grapefruit juice stains on their FED official ties could seriously undermine the international stability of the Dollar, and therefore there was a huge market for these spoons, at whatever price one could unload them to the FED for, certainly many times their actual value, as is permitted now. When the penny dropped, and it finally dawned on the Democrats that it could also be used to keep egg off their ties, before they questioned the FED officials on television, it’s use spread to the Liberal halls of congress. Some of the Congressional Women even used it to keep egg off their coiffures.

The point being, inventions follow the same pattern as so-called artistic creations. They are constructed from the tiny atoms of truth found by earlier scientists, and then re-arranged into new patterns, but certainly not created from scratch. (The exception being when there is a scientific revolution that completely sweeps away all the former misbeliefs, like the abandonment of the “ether” and “phlogiston” theories. Or the discovery of sub-atomic particles, which look more and more like patterns of energy without substance, save for that energy. And does this prove that Bishop Berkeley’s Subjectivism is perhaps the ultimately true philosophy?)

So lets away with the fraud of Copyright, of invention, of creation! There is only the tired repetition of the artistic maxims,  ad nauseum ad infinitum, over and over, and occasionally a new arrangement which the artistically starved pounce on as “the latest creation”.

G-d created everything long ago. All Copyright is is the malappropriation of G-d’s creations under the guise of the ego.

Silverwolf’s blogs were created a billion years ago. All he is doing is manifesting ancient atoms of axioms. There is no creation involved. Why, Silverwolf’s so-called “creations”  are as determined by the laws of physics, as much as a black hole, or the start of combustion in the old potbellied stove. So if you don’t like them, don’t put the blame on him. It’s not his fault, and he really had nothing to do with it.

Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwww! — Silverwolf

Silverwolf on Maggie Rutherford’s Minor Miss Marple Masterpiece: Murder At the Gallop

August 28, 2008

Every few months or so, when Silverwolf tires of getting his financial knee well up into the marriage prospects of the Stralasian Dollar kangaroo-butchers, and the Nacadian Dollar baby-seal clubbers, he takes some R-and-R by kicking back and watching one of his old grainy video tapes. And on this occasion, moved by some unknown whimsy, he happened to decide on Margaret Rutherford’s minor Miss Marple masterpiece, Murder At the Gallop (1963, George Pollock, director,) co-starring Robert Morley, Flora Robson  and Charles Tingwell. It also features the lovable Stringer Davis, as Mr. Stringer, and it is interesting to watch the interaction between Rutherford and Davis because they were married in real life. Since, prior to 1965, persons over sixty were not permitted to have sex in England, Margaret and Stringer had to been made elderly single friends for the film to apparently get past the British censors. Things have loosened up since Sir Mick came on the scene.

The film begins with the usual believability of a Christie mystery. Miss Marple (Rutherford) and Mr. Stringer are collecting for some local charity and decide to visit the elderly wealthy recluse, Mr. Enderby. Finding the door open, they enter his mansion just at the moment that Mr. Enderby emerges at the top of the stairs, clutching his heart, and topples down the entire flight to his death. (And here Silverwolf would like to ask how it is that these elderly reclusive men, living in these huge mansions, manage to do all the housekeeping on their own?) It turns out that Enderby was scared to death of cats, and someone has planted one in his house, to trigger the heart attack that was likely because Enderby had a weak heart. Sure. I’ll believe you, Agatha. Thousands wouldn’t. The typical farfetchedness of Christie, trying to work the sticky bits back into the hole of her narrative.

Perhaps the best acting in the film, apart from Miss Rutherford, is conveyed by the portly but meticulous image of Robert Morley. With his characteristic cool aplomb of the Tory Country Squire, Morley is superb as the owner of a horse-riding club, replete with accommodations for weekending couples. Very top-hole indeed. Morley, as Hector Enderby, the brother of the former deceased  Enderby and also Cora Lanskonie, and only one amongst numerous relations of that former wealthy woman, now deceased, only seems to light up when it comes to horses, saddles, and the hunt, and so it is that Miss Marple manages to insinuate herself into his riding establishment. Catching a glimpse of her strange and archaic saddle, Morley begins to rave about it, quotes a date of it’s making about 60 years in the past, then excuses himself and revises it down a few years. He suddenly recognizes Miss Marple’s name as having won a riding contest about a thousand years before, in her youth. And it’s truly hard to image the bag-eyed, slack jawed Margaret Rutherford as ever having been a young girl. It’s also interesting to contrast Rutherford’s weathered visage, making her look older than her years should have dictated, against the salubrious and well-preserved corpus of Stringer Davis, her husband. Silverwolf wonders if Rutherford was into tobacco or the juice? But that doesn’t stop one from loving her as an actress, and routing for her performance. It’s eldritch to think that this actress, who could memorize so many lines, and play so subtly, should end with Alzheimers.

Playing contrapuntally to the characters of Rutherford and Morley is Charles Tingwell as the hard-headed young inspector, who dislikes both Rutherford’s meddling in the case and Morley’s frigid Tory sangfroid in the face of a murder charge. Morley doesn’t like the fact that the police presence is hurting his custom, even though it’s his own brother and sister who’ve been murdered.

Finally, there’s the beautifully homely Flora Robson, the long-careered film actress who had played Elizabeth I in younger days. Her magnificent ugliness almost made her beautiful, and it sure took guts to be a woman actress with such a face in an age that was starting to worship the visage wonderful. Robson gives a top-notch performance as Miss Millcrest, the mild-mannered, milquetoast assistant to the former Cora. Blended with her are three or four minor character actors, whose names have been lost to posterity, like those one-hit bands of forty years ago, who disappeared after their first albums. After seeing their wooden, mundane, and prosaic performances, you will appreciate better the talents of Morley, Rutherford, Tingwell, and Robson, and why Silverwolf doesn’t even bother to mention them by name. Let’s be generous and say they fill out the canvas of the film.

One should also mention the treat of seeing Maggie and Stringer do the Twist out on the dance floor. A bygone memory of a bygone age. Nor to be forgotten is the interesting musical score by Ron Goodwin. His use of the harpsichord, playing solo notes, was very effective at creating an eldritch atmosphere, both in this and the other Rutherford-Marple productions.

The ending, and the solution to the mystery of this Agatha Christie-factory product, are top-hole, and follow the typical Christie cataclysmic denouement on the visual screen. We can barely recall seeing this film as a young wolfcub and enjoying it, or perhaps it was another in the series of four “Miss Marples” Rutherford made. When you’re a young cub, there’s nothing like a mystery at the Saturday Matinee, with an old witch solving a murder, somewhere in Civil Rural England. Enough to make you forget you had to go back to school on Monday with the humans.

In all, marvellous escapist better-quality junk, done by some superb actors. Nice clean engrossing fare to remove one’s brain from reality, for an hour and some. All in all, the Wolfmen’s Critics Kinematicus Circle declares it a Minor Masterpiece. And thus we get our title, Maggie Rutherford’s Minor Miss Marple Masterpiece.

We’ll howl our approval of the Wolmen’s Circle designation, and consign our agreement with that august body.

Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

Antonioni: The Eldritch Concatenation

October 19, 2007

Silverwolf was stunned. For he had written an eulogy on the putting down of the artist Bergman by the Big Guy Upstairs, and had spoken eloquently of his feelings on the passing of the Master in Silverwolf’s brilliant but sensitive blog on said subject( Bergman: The Big Eye Closes). He had also exhorted the populace of the world net to employ, as much as possible, that grand old Scottish word  “eldritch”, meaning weird, in Silverwolf’s grand old blog, “The Eldritch Project”,  of which he had been requested to permit publication in a upcoming textbook on successful blog writing, but which permission he declined to grant. Any voluntary ceding of ones rights undermines Magna Carta. In meeting the needs of decorum and shunning the cheap ploy, Silverwolf had begged his readers and blog disciples (there are many in Malaysia) to only use the word in genuine situations.  Little did he realise he would have ample opportunity to use it when he first escaped the narrowing rigours of writing on economics and politics, and flung his view to the finer fields of life, where the artists live, with pretty models (and nice wine with a Heffner-imitating briar pipebowl of Borkum Riff — but sometimes one smoked Flying Dutchman or even Cherry Blend). For it so happened, in surfing the web, that he discovered that the 2nd of the great European Triumvirate, Michelangelo Antonioni, who inspired Silverwolf to want to direct films in the auteur tradition of the French,— Michelangelo Antonioni, in Silverwolf’s opinion the greatest film maker who ever lived, —died on the same day as Ingmar Bergman. Truly an eldritch coincidence.

Or was it coincidence? Silverwolf has noted three such “coincidences” in history; and all in fields of passionate interest to Silverwolf.

Firstly, there is the very eldritch coincidence of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the two key composers of the Declaration of Independence, dying on the same day, and that day was July 4th.

Secondly, the very eldritch congruency of two of the major British comedians of their day, Frankie Howard and Benny Hill, dying within one day of each other.

And finally, the death of Bergman and Antonioni on the same day boggles the mind. And one starts to doubt the premise that these are coincidences, and it seems to one these events are more like eldritch concatenations, linked in series, as if the creative muses wanted to sweep the shelves clean in one massive clearance-sale of talent.

Silverwolf was led to want to make films when he was asked, 40 years ago, by Dmitri Schlesinger, if he’d like to go see an Antonioni marathon being held at the Nuart Cinema on Santa Monica near Sepulveda — four films were being shown: Il Grido, L’Aventura, Eclipse, and The Red Desert (Il Deserto Rosso). Silverwolf had seen L’Aventura on Channel 9 one night after he’d come back from one of those high school dances that were so much fun, and invariably left one in a Romantic mood, which was just the right one for watching foreign films which, unlike their American counterparts, seemed to be almost exclusively about love problems. And boredom.

When Dmitri and Silverwolf stumbled out of the Nuart, almost eight hours later, blinded by the California light, Silverwolf thought he wanted to make films.

After his Italian period, Antonioni seemed to change. The master of reality, shot in black and white, seemed to lose a certain magic in his films the further he moved away geographically and culturally from Italy. “Blow-Up” was nice, the shots showed the usual Antonioni care and instinctual sense for putting the camera where G-d would have put it, but the final statement of the pantomime tennisplayers playing with an imaginary ball, as if he were saying to us, reality is what you think it is, not some immovable reality — a view Silverwolf disputed (and still disputes) —left us with a vague uneasiness, as if the master who had showed us concrete reality, was now disputing the truths he had taught us.

In the  pre-video years that followed, Silverwolf saw “The Red Desert” a dozen times in kinemas. It is perhaps the “greatest” film ever made.

It is hard to recall films after not having seen them for decades. Even after a few years, many of the actual shots and minor business of a film are forgotten by the mind, and one retains at best a few dozen freeze-frame images that one projects in rapid mind slide-show when another wolf or a human mentions a film by name. But Silverwolf remembers that  “Eclipse”, in that one viewing, seemed like a surreal masterpiece, especially in that sequence where Antonioni gives us a 7 or 8 minute movie within a movie, of shots with no dialogue, of pure images of such incredible juxtaposition, that the sense of an intelligence beyond man directing the editing becomes palpable.

A coincidence? I doubt it. Surely an eldritch concatenation.

I’ll howl to that. Hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww.       Silverwolf

Bergman: The Big Eye Closes

July 30, 2007

Seems like it always happens like that, when you’re in a hurry, trying to prepare the treacle-thick tisane of caffeine which Doc Edell told you makes the thoughts jump more quickly across the synapses, like Jesse at the Nazi Olympics.  Then it hits your eye and you know a continuity, a certainty that was always in your life, is gone. 

And you sit there stunned.  You almost have to chuckle.  Can G-d really do that, in a split second?  Can it really be? Bergman is dead.

You’ve felt it before.  When Fellini went, and Moravia, and Lennon, and Krishnamurti.  A vast emptiness on the earth, for a vast brain has dissolved.                                                        

You remember the movies: “Persona”, “Wild Strawberries” ( a film made 30 years ago and taking months to make to deal with the obsessive fear he had about an event that took place a day or two ago), “The Virgin Spring”(which I recently re-viewed after 30 years, and, as with the Stones,  you have to say its ‘just another masterpiece”); “The Magician”, in which Max von Sydow looks as gaunt as a frutarian, “Sawdust and Tinsel”, on and on the masterpieces roll off the assembly line at GeniusMovies Inc. (GM). Sven Nykvist, and an acting troop like having the Royal Shakespeare all to yourself on a desert island to shoot your latest absurdist one act play. Pretty good Scandi-competition for Brits., “Please get Ms. Christie and Mr. Bates on the phone.  Yes, I’ll wait. That long!? Oh, all right, I’ll ring back.” Lotta a quality there. USDA No.1 Grade Foreign Film.  Good value for the dollar right now with the distributors, ‘specially with the Franc gettin’ pummeled with the Valery D’Estaing scandal right now.  — Oh, yeh, whose she, some French actress? — Yeh, I think she was in that Bunuel film with Moreau and DeNeuve.—O.K. Well, tell ya what, I’d take 5 Bergmans, and 3 Antonionis if you throw in “Umberto D.” and “Il Bidoni”.—It’s a deal! 

You see, Silverwolf must cover his sorrow with his prolixity and puerile levity, always trying to steal the show, even from his teacher and mentor in an art he never practiced. But Silverwolf has learned to die to the past.  The standard bearer stumbles, the banner tumbles, but is grabbed by the wolf before hitting the ground(in Texas it must be burned if it makes contact with the earth). The cliches come, the old bromides are repeated, “One door closes, another door opens.” Silverwolf thinks “As long as an artist’s work is being perceived by the public, or comes in contact with any human consciousness, that artist is still alive”. Skol, brother!

Hoowwwwwwwoooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.————-Silverwolf