Thursday, 31 May 2012

Immortals (2011)

Billed by some as an artistic visionary’s riposte to the pompous, FX-driven, mythology-derived sludge that the CGI-riddled, post-The Lord of the Rings fantasy cinema has given rise to, Tarsem Singh’s Immortals proves rather that it’s extremely easy to be considered an artistic visionary by modern Hollywood, and how nice it is to be feted by the worshippers of anything resembling a crossover between early ‘90s alt-music culture and contemporary cinema, such as currently infest many critical rags. Immortals is one of the worst films I’ve ever managed to watch through to its conclusion: derivative, formless, witless, and downright excruciating in its lack of any coherent sense of drama and mythological meaning, Singh’s work here reveals that his sensibility has not deepened in the slightest since he made a name for himself directing music videos that showed off how many underground and foreign films he’d seen. Instead, he settles for caking his tiresome saga in a hyper-fluorescent MTV style that has to gall to filch imagery from the likes of Fellini’s Satyricon (1973), Sergei Paradjanov’s Sayat Nova (1968), Cocteau’s Orpheus (1949), and other doyens of the dreamily esoteric, to give a facile impression that this is something more than a completely by-rote script cobbled together by the most cynical of Hollywood hacks, and that Singh has created something actually arty and interesting.

For one thing, in spite of the great difference in stylistic repertoire, this is close to being exactly the same film as Marcus Nispel’s dreadful remake of Conan the Barbarian, released only a couple of months earlier. Story is reduced to an essentialist conflict in which a buff hero, clearly a hero precisely because he is buff, is enraged when a parent is slaughtered by a gruff and growly super-villain, defends an anointed female sought by said gruff and growly villain, as a thin pretext for soporific action scenes and, in this case, perfunctory mythological revisionism. With the Clash of the Titans series having already cordoned off the tales of Perseus as their cynically corrupted stomping ground, Immortals borrows from the tales of Theseus, once in legend the unifying king of Attica, slayer of the Minotaur, and perhaps the biggest man-slut of classical Greece. Singh and screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides however feel no need to really delve into those tales: instead, they largely ignore them, and offer instead the usual tale of a prole hero ennobled by divine mission. Here Theseus (Henry Cavill) is raised by his single mother Aethra (Anne Day-Jones) in a fishing village, watched over by an old man (John Hurt), actually the human guise of Zeus (Luke Evans), but Zeus is maintaining a hands-off approach to humanity in the hope Theseus will prove the necessary leader of the Hellenics, the citizens of a vaguely described, persecuted ethnic enclave. Theseus’ opportunity comes when King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, making an even bigger ass of himself than he did back in his supposedly lesser days of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, 1991) goes on a genocidal rampage, apparently after his family died in something or other, and he begins accumulating an army of spayed, masked thugs to kill indiscriminately, whilst he tries to track down a magical bow. Said bow was invented for killing Titans, but Hyperion wants to free the Titans from their underground prison where Zeus stashed them after the last heavenly war, in the hope they’ll take on the Gods in an apocalyptic auto-da-fe. After Theseus’ mother is murdered, and he’s victimised by a snotty Hellenic officer, Lysander (Joseph Morgan), Theseus is captured and enslaved, which puts him on a collision course with seer Phaedra (Freida Pinto), also taken captive by Hyperion, who needs her to find the magic bow.

Singh’s supposedly stylish, original approach is to hurl tropes of a dozen disparate cultures and eras holus-bolus at the screen, without any actual care for what meaning or context can be derived from this, as if all this is an excuse to jerk off hipsters with tattooed lower backs who wait tables in cafés where world music vibes play endlessly over loudspeakers. Whilst such a cut-up approach, tethered to imagery inspired by past-masters of oneiric cinema, would be justified if any sense of spiritual and intellectual depth was apparent, and if Singh displayed an actual gift for unmooring the viewer from literalism, the result here is inane and leaden. Phaedra and the other three members of her vaguely Sapphic cabal of seers are glimpsed swathed in pseudo-Bedouin robes and rocking in incantatory moves like members of a suburban Shakti clique. Stupid costumes that blend apparel copied from ancient frescos with ‘80s fashion spread chic proliferate, like the clunky golden armour the gods wear. Panoramas and buildings are reduced to Dali-esque, stylised and geometric arrangements, to increase the sense of this being some kind of abstract, universalist vision of the mythical past. But peering beneath this glitzy wallpaper, it’s impossible to not notice how constantly plagiaristic the concepts are, particularly from The Lord of the Rings series, like Hyperion taking over Phaedra’s temple and having his soldiers dig out underneath it, a la Sarumon’s tower in The Fellowship of the Ring, the wall which the Hellenics hide behind and which Hyperion penetrates is out of The Two Towers, and the collapsing mountain over the Titan prison is pure The Return of the King. At other points, Chan-wook Park is mercilessly referenced in laterally-moving fight sequences, and that last shot of Avatar with eyes snapping open in close-up gets another work-out.

The story lacks anything like interesting development, the characterisations are so thin it’s a wonder they don’t speak in comic book speech bubbles, and whatever validity Singh wanted to bring in evoking a sense of the past through artifice is constantly deferred in favour of shameless pandering to the 300 crowd in the series of amazingly unexciting action scenes. Singh sneaks in fashionable cruelty and hints of his familiar S&M peccadilloes to give this stuff an illusion of being more adult that the otherwise sub-adolescent plotting and conceptual depth would indicate. The captive Titans are all hanging, biting on gags, and Singh proffers a variation on the infamous Roman torture device of a steel elephant, here a bull as per Hyperion’s symbolic fondness for the beast, within which people are locked and slowly roasted. Singh ghoulishly hints at victims inside, until he can’t resist having the other three members of Phaedra’s cabal prove to be held within at one point. Testicles are crushed with hammers, faces scarred, and other acts of sundry cruelty flit by. In the final rumble of Gods and Titans, their whirling weapons cleave each other into hunks and digital muscles and intestines fly about in super-saturated pixelated hues, apparently completely oblivious to the contradiction of such anatomical precision in creatures that are beyond the familiarly corporeal, and just flying along on a slipstream of way-cool gore. Worse, there’s no actual conceptual depth to back up Singh’s pretences: the tension between human and deistic world-views is trucked in from every other modern fantasy film, Hyperion is a boringly obsessive and one-note villain, and whilst Cavill’s undeniable athleticism and hints of charisma, which hopefully will bear fruit when he plays Superman, endows Theseus wit superficial attractiveness as a protagonist, he’s finally even less compelling in terms of deed, speech, and gesture than the denuded Perseus Sam Worthington finished up playing. Stephen Dorff is momentarily diverting as Stavros, the compulsory sidekick of less elevated moral fibre that Theseus and Phaedra pick up, but he can’t make you forget that his role came out of the bottom of a cereal box.

By the time we get to Theseus’ inevitable rousing speech, so clichéd by now you can practically make up the dialogue beforehand and it would surely sound close enough, I was sunk deep into my chair groaning in pain at the desultory lack of real imagination on show here. There are potentially interesting but largely senseless and isolated concepts throughout, as in a subplot of how Zeus tries to keep his fellow gods from intervening on Theseus’ behalf; when Ares (Daniel Sharman) does so, Zeus kills him with a lash of his fiery whip. Flourishes that suggest a demythologising approach to the mythical matters at hand – the Minotaur is here simply one of Hyperion’s heavies with a barbed bull mask on; the labyrinth is the Hellenics’ twisty burial chamber – are rendered pointless and self-contradicting when gods are romping around in disco outfits, and worse yet, reveals that far from elucidating some surrealist-derived, psychologically-informed take on the Greek myths, Singh’s window dressing is actually painfully ignorant of the symbolic meaning and potential of the material. Flickers of inspiration throughout Immortals offer a minatory charge and hint at the film Singh perhaps thought he was making, in images like Phaedra reviving Theseus by dribbling water from her mouth into his, their conversing when he’s caked in oil and she’s spotless, and the image of a grief-stricken Zeus holding his daughter Athena (Isobel Lucas), slain in combat by the Titans, disapparating amidst crumbling stones and the massed blue meanies. But these images, like most of the film via Brendan Galvan’s photography, seem better suited as background illustrations for a decent video game, or stills in a fashion photographer’s portfolio. There are exactly two substantial moments in the film: the first comes when Phaedra seduces Theseus, longing for some manly lovin’ and a respite from her painful burden of  prophecy, stripping down (at least, Pinto’s body double strips down) and hopping into bed with the weight inherent in the first sexual act heightened by the awareness here of its spiritual repercussions. Once fucked, however, Phaedra is rendered instantly irrelevant to the drama as the usual macho matters rise to the fore; the only clear memory I have of her in the second half is of Theseus ordering her to hide as she cowers behind a door. Whatever this movie is, it sure as shit ain't Racine. The second moment is in the finale as Theseus and Hyperion battle to the death, Theseus slowly driving his knife into his enemy whilst rhetorically taunting him. Both of these scenes are intimately carnal reckonings. The rest just proves that if there’s anything worse than empty bombast, it’s pretentious empty bombast.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Civic Mythology in Cinema: a sequence from Gallipoli (1981)

An academic piece.

Amidst the visual and narrative sprawl of Peter Weir’s 1981 film Gallipoli, the sequence in which the film’s heroes Archy (Mark Lee) and Frank (Mel Gibson) spend a brief interlude in the house of a pastoralist family after their gruelling trek across a vast salt lake, stands out in spite of its brevity for several pointed reasons. On a narrative level, this sequence contributes to the forward motion of the story, marking the point in which Frank decides to join the army along with Archy, thus placing him on the same trajectory as his new friend, directed inexorably towards Anzac Bay. It is also an islet of compressed and efficient screenwriting and directing by David Williamson and Weir, as the sequence contributes not only characterisation, as aspects of Archy and Frank’s burgeoning friendship and individual expectations are examined, but also the engagement with the historical context and underlying social, gender, and ideological presumptions which fill out the film’s self-mythologising bent. Gallipoli actively seeks to engage with and transmit a specific national image of the past and, by implication, of the present and future, through its employment of such mythology. This sequence presents, in miniature, a cross-section of the film’s version of the epoch and its society, creating a carefully woven tapestry of psychological, physical, and social cues, which help Weir in his attempt to capture “the burning centre that had made Gallipoli a legend.”

This sequence consists of three interlocking scenes: Archy and Frank dressing for dinner, in which the two men mock each other for their sudden attentiveness to their appearance, the conversation of the two men with the pastoralist family, and then Archy and Frank retreating to their beds, whereupon Frank reveals he is reconsidering his choice to avoid joining the army. In terms of direct narrative flow, these scenes follow on directly from those immediately preceding, in which Frank and Archy cross a vast and inhospitable salt lake after being deposited in the middle of nowhere by the train they think will take them to a city, and lead on directly to an abortive attempt by Archy to teach Frank to ride a horse: Frank’s lack of skill in riding for the time being keep them separated once they join up. For the two heroes, the homestead represents a welcome respite from the rugged landscape, and also a graze with a higher social level then either man is used to, one being a roustabout, the other a labouring vagabond. Archy and Frank neatly embody two distinct variations on a stereotyped ideal of the Aussie male: Archy is a rural lad of pure, naïve outlook, physical prowess, and spiritual simplicity, and Frank, the more urbane, larrikin type with a gentle cynicism that camouflages a spirit essentially in accord with Archy’s. The oppositions that the two men offer in their disparate personalities, and also their unity as swiftly unshakeable mates and Australians, are consistently used throughout Gallipoli to signify the tension between these spheres of Australian life. “Frank’s character as one fearful of war is out of character to the man of the myth, the polar opposite to Archy’s innocent, sacrificial, heroism,” (Melksham’s words), yet the story of Gallipoli is the story of their essential, unshakeable unity in that opposition.

Whilst it is then apt to admit that “in nostalgic films such as Gallipoli (…), mateship is seen an innocent and noble form of bonding,” as Dennis Altman said in a 1987 article, that bond is enabled by the disparate personalities and personal competitiveness of Archy and Frank, and whereas before this has been expressed in sport, here there is the men’s efforts to appeal to the family’s attractive daughter Mary (Robyn Galwey). The first scene, depicting the two men fastidiously grooming themselves, presents homosocial humour as Archy laughs at Frank’s slick appearance and Frank ripostes, “Don’t wear out the leather on them boots, will ya?” This exchange reveals much: mutual masculine scorn at a sudden desire to look good, with the consciousness of the violation of the presumption of the unpolished, expedient lifestyle favoured by real blokes, an underpinning of the larrikin sense of humour, coupled with anxiety over class status, and their nascent move into the environs of the squatocracy, in a family parlour, a familial and feminine-friendly space where decorum and bearing are currency. The undertone, too, of sexual competition, serves both a significant thematic purpose that is revealed as the scene plays out, and also, incidentally, illustrating that Archy and Frank are not homosexual, a seemingly necessary corollary to the film’s celebration of mateship. The room the two men are given to sleep in, worker’s quarters with tin walls and bunks, indicates their status in regards to the household, but they are given momentary distinction by their crossing of the lake and Archy’s intent to join up, thus inspiring a compromised but consequential moment of egalitarian feeling for the characters, one which matches the moment of national evolution engulfing the country.

The family consists of Mary, her mother Laura (Phyllis Burford), father Lionel (Don Quin), and Gran (Marjorie Irving). Mary is the first member of the family the two men have met, in the moments immediately prior to the sequence’s commencement, in which she watched the two men approach her from the wilderness. Mary, with white linen strapping a broad hat to head, is here an image of idealised femininity who, along with the colonial house, stand on the edge of like an outpost for civilisation. This contrast possesses supplementary meaning to the iconic image of the two men in the midst of vast desolation, setting up an opposition of masculinity, and its link to the rugged landscape, and the house with its genteel but incomplete family unit. Galwey’s Mary suggests a previous archetype of idealised femininity in a Weir film, Anne-Louise Lambert’s Miranda in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), similarly pursued by a innocent young hero in an equally doomed quest, except that whereas in Picnic the innocent sacrifice is the young girl, and the film’s dominant paradigm is that of the Anglophile, feminine world of the Appleyard school, here it is the polarised masculine world of mateship, labour, sport, and war, momentarily coming into contact with its opposite. In the hallway outside the parlour, Mary takes a drinks tray from a serving girl to carry in to the family and their guests, a move that matches the two men’s efforts to ‘rise’ in smartening themselves up in adopting the servile task herself for the sake of social lubrication and flirtation. Mary remains throughout the sequence an inviting and responsive emblem of all that men like Archy and Frank might reasonably aspire to, crystallising in the moment in which Mary says to Archy, “Most of the boys around here have joined the Light Horse.” An implicit aspect of this sequence’s dynamics, for as Trevor Melksham says of another passage of the film, the language has little to do with the underlying meaning of the character exchanges, is elucidated here by Weir’s framing of Mary, seated, gazing up at Archy in particular with adoring eyes. Archy, in addition to his physical qualities, possesses a dazzling cache in his intent and nature that has powerful social and erotic appeal.

With a different but equally powerful appeal, Laura says, “I do love the Light Horse uniforms!” whilst Lionel states, “If I’d had a son that’s what he would have joined too.” The Light Horse gains the lustre of special distinction or, as Frank later puts it, “The Light Horse – that’s got a bit of class.” The Light Horse has links to an older world of landed gentry and agriculture, or, again as Frank puts it, “Toffs and farmer’s sons,” and, more remotely, mounted knights. Archy bears much resemblance to mythical knightly figures in his transparency, dedication, and determination, for whom Mary becomes then a fitting lady fair. As Melksham describes it, “Weir (draws) on classical mythology to root the Anzac myth into classical myth by creating an immortal hero upon whom to centre a cult.” Frank, in contrast to the guileless Archy, characteristically appropriates an earlier line of Archy’s, “All you need is your watch and the sun and you can find your way anywhere!”, to present a confident and persuasive demeanour to the family, and his employment of the euphemistic “business interests” similarly signals both his ambition and his capacity to wrap truth in a glib raconteur’s package. Yet he still finds Archy has gained the upper hand in this contest for the family’s admiration. Archy and Frank are sportsmen, another trait associated with the quintessential Aussie male, and they are used to the distinction, and the reward, this brings: Frank is confident enough of winning in the first race to suggest it isn’t the first time he’s made such a bet. But this distinction, this sequence suggests, is momentarily losing its strength as a means of impressing the ladies, so to speak; in the moment of national maturation, it’s Archy’s guileless patriotism that is now the social and sexual cache. One appropriation gives way to another as, upon sensing the specific respect Archy is given for his intention to join, Frank begins to reconsider his own attitude, keen to the social distinction the Light Horse might convey and, in a time when everything is pointing towards war service. Frank’s reasons for choosing this option are enlarged upon in the culminating scene in which he mentions his plans, now impossible, to start a bike shop with the winnings of the race he lost to Archy. Thus a convergence of influences presents Frank with the inevitability of joining up, and he will try to take the most advantageous alternative this offers.

The parlour’s environs squarely evoke a familial atmosphere, a feel of genteel inclusion and closeness: family photos on the walls, polished silver, depicted in a group shot in which the men stand and the women sit before them in the foreground, both marginalised but also in a spectator’s position, the two interlopers actors upon a stage of family where they are being assessed for worthiness. The lone note of specific tension introduced comes when Gran challenges Frank in his plans not to join up: “While the Germans are crucifying kittens on church doors in Belgium?” This line provides one of the film’s relatively few engagements with the background of World War One, its propaganda, the wider political context, and the social dissemination of that context through discourse. Gran’s pointed question is a demand for action, and also a set of absurd, emotive images, for which there is no comfortable or easy riposte, and the momentarily sheepish look of Frank and Archy reveals the discomfort such rhetoric is intended to provoke. Gran here in her single line becomes the voice of the pro-war party across the British Empire, creating the melodramatic need for action. Mary and Lionel step in to save the two mates from this momentary humiliation, with their positive pronouncements on the Light Horse, and as they speak their lines, the only close-ups not on Archy and Frank are proffered, lending their more positive pronouncements more weight and appeal. Gran operates as rhetorical stick to the carrots proffered by the rest of the family.

That carrot is however just as manipulative, as each embodies for the two young men objectives for the returning hero: for Archy, who has no apparent family beyond father-figure Jack (Bill Kerr), and Frank, who has a father (John Murphy) and plentiful siblings but no mother and no sense of belonging in his society. Lionel and Mary become then icons of a social embrace, patriarch offering the nominal place of son, and Mary as prize of beauty. This would be an idyll for a post-war state, a complete and settled patriarchal family unit, which can be interpreted as equivalent to an Imperial family, too. When the two young men retreat to their room, enthused and partly drunk, what is revealed is not simply that Frank now wants to join up, but that he and Archy are destined, after coming together for initially pragmatic reasons, to be inseparable friends: the images of the two men lounging in their beds, excited by the elusive promises of their evening, suggests sublimated sexuality as well as comradeship. “It (Gallipoli) has been described by some as a male love story,” film scholar Brian McFarlane has reported, and this moment is mindful that mateship, as Archy and Frank embody it, is a bond associated with frontiers, violence, and labour, inimical to settled, domestic, feminine niceties, and imported Euro-centric world view that is still the aspiration of the pre-Gallipoli Australia portrayed here, and mateship is a substitute for and relief from traditional family structures and sexual couplings. Before they can truly come ‘home’, Archy and Frank must, as mates, brave a different frontier as a mutually supporting unit, the perfect axiom of mateship in such a context. 

The intense, building bond of the two men is deepened in this scene where the invites presented might threaten it, revealing how closely bound up this ideal of masculine friendship is not only with their immediate experiences, but also the exigencies of a great communal activity, that is, the nation going off to war: “Mateship…is supposed to have been born in the bush, then galvanised in the trenches of World War I,” as Jane Freebury put it in her 1987 essay ‘Screening Australia: Gallipoli – A Study of Nationalism on Film.’ But Gallipoli also depicts the alienation of the emerging Australia from its colonial roots, and the British Empire, its sire. As the narrative engages with the clash of attitudes between the Australians and British officers, and the final portrait of Aussie soldiers sacrificed for Imperial war aims, the film exposes tensions of world-view introduced in this earlier scene, as the two men travel from the point of utmost isolation, upon the salt lake, to engagement in a moment of history that straddles world, empires, and eras, a shift which the journey of Archy and Frank actualises in physical and emblematic movement. The pastoralist family comes, incidentally but inevitably, to stand for a world that is unobtainable to the two young men until the call to Archy’s final blood sacrifice is answered. Because the promises and threats presented by the family are proved illusory or incidental: the Light Horse will finish fighting alongside the Infantry as cannon fodder, against the Turks and not the Germans, and the young knightly hero will be consumed by the dragon he seeks to fight. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Coda: For The Love of Film

Well, folks, the 2012 Film Preservation Blogathon has wrapped up, and I can say without hesitation that it’s been a great success. The six days of the blogathon saw 112 bloggers post 208 essays, articles, commentaries, and features on the behalf of this unifying cause. We beat our total donations from last year handily, netting $6,490. Sadly, this isn’t enough to achieve the result we were aiming for, which was to bring in enough to pay for the ASAP presentation of The White Shadow online; there’s still so much work to be done in preparing it, including paying for the recording of the soundtrack, that needed every cent of the official target of $15,000. But that was an extremely ambitious target by any standards, and what we have brought in is the seed from which this evergreen shall rise eventually. Rather than lobby for more donations, we’ve decided to rest on these particular laurels, although of course you can still donate at any time, through any donor link on any of the blogathon posts. And given how many of those there were, and of such high quality, I’m sure we all still have a lot of reading to do in the near future. 

My profound congratulations to all who helped to make this a genuinely global event for cinephiles.

And for those of you who got a little more than congratulations out of this, a full list:

Shannon Fitzpatrick has won an autographed copy of Roger Ebert’s memoir Life Itself.

Rebecca Naughten is the proud new owner of the autographed copy of Betty Jo Tucker’s Confessions of a Movie Addict.
Peter Nellhaus won the French Notorious poster. 

Aurora Bugallo gets the photo of Alfred Hitchcock and the giant telephone,
The NFPF’s Treasures DVDs have gone to Jill Blake, Thomas Bolda, Kenji Fujishima, Catherine Grant, Katherine Kehoe, and Lee Price.
Of course, we owe extra-special super-duper thanks to the NFPF, Donna Hill, Betty Jo Tucker, and Roger Ebert for contributing these prizes. You guys are all more awesome than spending Christmas with the Avengers.

From myself, Marilyn, and Farran, thank you, and have a good year.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

...The End.

Postscript: because I'm a really nice guy (you guys owe me something now, preferably in a bottle), I present two late-comers:

Silken scribe Sheila O'Malley, she of the Sheila Variations, is fascinated by the antiheroism of Cary Grant's Devlin in Notorious...

...and Jill Blake of The Cinementals has also seen Notorious, except this time at a theatrical showing at the College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA, which is cool beyond all reason, although the projection left something to be desired.

Oh, and Jill, you are the winner of Friday's donor draw - congratulations.

And a very (very) late contribution from Noel Vera at Critic After Dark!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hold on for a thrilling finale...

It's the last day of the blogathon, friends, and what an event it's been: for all of you who have laboured so hard and so long to keep this cauldron of cinephilia on the boil, I salute you. But the end will prove, I know, equal to Alfred the Great's propensity for memorable climaxes, and never fear: there's plenty of room for all, so you won't have to fight for a place on the last day here like Roger and Valerian above, although you might still like to, and that would be your own affair. Later in the day I'll have the winner of yesterday's draw for donor prizes. And remember, there's also still plenty of time to donate, and the bigger and fatter the donation, the more our father who art Hitchcock will smile upon you from...whichever section of the afterlife he currently prefers to reside in.

FLASH: Thursday's Lucky Draw winner was Thomas Bolda! Congratulations, Thomas.

Friday, 18 May

Over in the ceaselessly toiling, malefically hued, smoke-shrouded depths of the Krell Laboratories, mistress of mad science Christianne has given the floor to guest writer Lokke Heiss, who recounts his experience of indulging all of Hitchcock's silent works in 1999, the centenary of the Master's birth.

At the AMIA Student Chapter of UCLA, another cabal of sinister geniuses labours to produce scintillating movie commentaries as well as new frontiers in acronyms: today Jon Marquis reconnoiters Hitchcock's late masterpiece, Frenzy, specifically the immortal scenes of Alec McCowen's attempts to eat, and how they form an ingenious sabotage of traditional exposition, amongst other pleasures.

The bounteous and beatific Brandie of True Classics considers the case of Young and Innocent, one of the more unusual suspects from Hitchcock's run of '30s British classics.

The nefarious mastermind Jaime Grijalba of Exodus 8:2 considers the proliferating similarities between the visuals of Psycho and episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Speaking of which, Darren at the mOvie blog continues his exploratory reports on episodes of that seminal show, with "A Dip In The Pool", in which the Master collaborated with another hero of a dark and wicked wit, Roald Dahl. And sorry about that last link Darren: html is the devil's work.

Astounding all, the wondrous and waggish Laura attacks from her not-so-secret base at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings to consider Rope, a recent conquest in her efforts to topple the Hitchcock canon.

Not to be outdone, Matthew of The Chiarascuro Coalition sings of the tragedy of poor Margaret, the crofter's wife who makes The 39 Steps an indelibly darker and richer experience...

...whilst W. B. Kelso returns to life just when everyone throught he was dead, with the last of his series showcasing vintage ads and articles, with one of Hitchcock's original obituaries at Scenes From The Morgue, and a commentary on the trailer for Frenzy at Micro-Brewed Reviews...

At Memories of the Future, intrepid voyager through time, space, and mind Jesse Ataide investigates a little case of Suspicion...

...whilst esco 20, aka he who is By Film Possessed, takes a deep, deep dive into Shadow of a Doubt.

The dashingly dextrous disseminator of Dubai, no dubiety, aka Hind Mezaina (see, that's what you get when you encourage me) wraps up a week of wonders at The Cineaste by showcasing a interview with Hitchcock on the television show Monitor, from 1964. A must-watch for Hitch fans.

The indefatigable crew at Limerwrecks come to the end of their journey but not before offering more of what they do best: Jim "Norm Knott" Siergey composes upon a theme of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Hilary "Surly Hack" Barta sounds off and rounds off.

...and David Cairns contributes his own lines as well as links over at Shadowplay.

The great and all-seeing Ed Howard brings his epic trek through early Hitchcock to an end with the original The Man Who Knew Too Much at Only The Cinema.

Brian Doan at Bubblegum Aesthetics comes through with a piece that boils the Hitchcock touch down to essentials.

Meanwhile, at Hell on Frisco Bay, a whole other Brian speaks of the NFPF, the rise of digitalisation in cinema, and film festivals showing newly restored films he's going to be attending, which I suspect he wrote purely for the purpose of making me feel insanely jealous...

...and at 21 Essays, Lee Price is celebrating concluding an awesome series of posts with a sixth that ties together Hitchcock, Blackmail, the MacGuffin, Michael Powell, and Alma Reville in a great big cinephile slashfic. Seriously, kudos, Lee.

Strictly Vintage Hollywood presents an approximation of Hitchcock's second feature and the only one of his films that is considered lost, the elusive The Mountain Eagle.

The sartorially splendiferous Stacia of She Blogged By Night is another hypnotised by the seductive sway of Rope...

...and Adam Batty at Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second joins the ranks peering into the shadows of Shadow of a Doubt; and that site's Hitchcock-a-thon will continue throughout the weekend, like those guests who just won't leave after a party's over, but they're so much fun to have around you just can't kick them out...

...but Marc Edward Heuck of The Projector Has Been Drinking has chosen to celebrate Hitch's showman side, as the master of marketing.

At Silent London, Pamela Hutchinson naturally has the silents of Londoner Hitchcock on her mind, in specific his actual debut as director, The Pleasure Garden.

At U.S. Intellectual History, Ray Hiberski discusses Notorious.

Strictly Vintage Hollywood, not satisfied with rocking our world all week, offers up Mary Mallory's glance at another Graham Cutts and Alfred Hitchcock collaboration, The Passionate Adventure, a project that first brought Hitch into the orbit of the Selznick clan...

...and Sean Gilman brings it home with a glass of Champagne - that is, Hitch's 1928 silent film - at The End of Cinema.

At John McElwee's Greenbriar Picture Shows, part two of a study of the impact made by The 39 Steps in the US upon first release, marking the beginning of Hitchcock's arrival as an international filmmaker...

...and at Cinema Sight, they rage, rage against the dying of the light with two last day posts, as the crew rounds off their top ten of Hitchcock's films with their individual picks for Hitch's absolute best, but you'll have to click to see what they are! And Peter J. Patrick discusses Hitchcock's way with actors, moving beyond that "actors are cattle" jive to study how well he handled stars and got them to play against type. Thanks for all, guys.

KC, not the one with the Sunshine Band but of the far more awesome Classic Movies, has collected together a formidable set of links to pieces on Hitchcock around the web at the moment, including one piece that presents the irresistable what-if notion of Ian Fleming's interest in getting Hitchcock to direct the aborted James Bond film that was later transmuted in Thunderball, and which caused Fleming so much legal heartache.

And in true Hitchcock style, we return to where it all began, as Ferdy on Films hosts guest writer Paroma Chatterjee and her piece on Suspicion.

High Def Digest wraps up that site's buffet of Hitchcock posts for the blogathon with David Krauss' look at Hitch's fondness for one-word titles.

Adam Zanzie of Icebox Movies finally gets his backside around to contributing (I kid 'cause I love, Adam) as he jumps into Hitchcock's visually innovative The Ring, and finds it a mixed experience.

At Shadowplay, David Cairns continues to stun through his dedication in offering a study in Hitchcock's use of vertigo-inducing high and overhead camera angles and aerial shots.

Darren Mooney concludes his survey of the trove of riches that are the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents at the mOvie blog, with a look at "The Horse Player". All hail Darren!

At Moving Image Achive News, the team there have pitched in to raise consciousness of the blogathon and its purpose, and Caylin Smith takes a look at the film all this fuss is about - The White Shadow. They've also posted a piece on their Facebook page.

At They Live By Night, the mysterious beast whose rampant cinephilia is feared by all bloggers known as Bilge Ebiri writes about perhaps the most atypical and least-known film in Hitchcock's oeuvre, Waltzes From Vienna, and finds the signs of Hitch's grasp on cinematic rhythm glimmering through the costume drama trappings so interesting he wonders if Hitch wasn't a maker of musicals all along...

...and Joe Thompson of The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion hits the end of his drive through Hitchcock-related historical ephemera at 100 MPH, as he takes a leaf through 1933's The World Film Encyclopedia and looks at the entries on Hitchcock, Cutts, and the other neglected heroes of The White Shadow. That's some class scholarship, Joe.

And the charming young Miss Rachel, who is seen so often parading the sunny boulevards holding aloft her cream-coloured light-deflecting mantle that she is now widely referred to by the hoi-polloi as The Girl with the White Parasol, expounds with solicitous delicacy upon the subject of one Miss Ingrid Bergman, who starred in some of those new talking pictures directed by that frightful Mr Hitchcock, and especially one called Notorious, which sounds, well, notorious, but we would not know, as we avoid such vulgar pastimes.

At Kine Artefacts, the eliptically effusive Ellie explores the problems of working with old nitrate film, that delicate, dangerous and endangered material upon which the entire legacy of early movies rests, and celebrates the skill of those who take it upon themselves to save it and store it.

Old salt Buckey Grimm wraps up his series on places where films are stored and restored at Mindless Meanderings with a brief but charming photographic paean to the little workshops where the archivists labour.

And roaring out of times still to come, riding upon a wave of curved space, The Futurist! pauses on adventures only long enough to hurl us his piece on Family Plot, Hitchcock's very last movie, which is darned apt for the last hours of our last day.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

This is your captain speaking…

…as you can see, this blog is not really This Island Rod, per se, but in fact This Lifeboat Rod. Never fear, this is still a refuge from the cruel sea, the bloody conflict, the insanity that turns man against his brother, and the horror of Michael Bay’s movies. Your captain and crew, all one of us, are ever-ready to save bored and horny socialites, sneaky Nazis, angry working men, the lost and confused, the shell-shocked and the maimed – in short, all you flotsam of the internet, left stranded and bedraggled and still desperate to make the last two days of the For the Love of Film blogathon an experience to savour.
So sit back, relax, ration your water, fend the sharks off, and join us, for the best of the film blogging world’s most incisive intellectual exegeses, paeans to remembered awesomeness, and celebrations of all things cool.

First, please join me in a hearty cry of thanks for Marilyn at Ferdy on Films and Farran at Self-Styled Siren for their ceaseless labour and attentiveness over the past four days. And an equally hearty cheer for everybody who's contributed the time and effort necessary to give unto us this collection of truly excellent posts - you crazy kids!

And now please remember that as great as the enthusiasm we see in all these posts is, and worthy in and of itself, this Blogathon has a serious purpose, to raise money to give Graham Cutts’ The White Shadow the showcasing it deserves for the enjoyment of film fans all over the internet. So please, donate. For the Love of Film. We beg you. Or we'll have to steal it, like Janet Leight in Psycho. And we all know how that finished up.

So now down to business - today’s fresh-baked steaming tray of new posts:

Thursday, 17 May

The redoubtable, indefatigible, inexhaustible, indomitable, and just plain super Sam Juliano of Wonders in the Dark has composed a sterling, attention-raising piece about the Brigham Young University Film Music Archives, and their peerless work in tracking down, obtaining, restoring, and releasing original movie score recordings.

With her customary sang froid, excess of energy, and ineluctable intelligence, Christianne from Krell Laboratories has given us a post a day this week, and the latest is one on Hitchcock's last British film, and the work of his the Master was least happy with, Jamaica Inn; Christianne wrestles with her feelings for the film and also the legacy of its place in the Medved's The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time. A legacy to which I personally, blow a very loud raspberry to.

Meanwhile, International Blogger of Mystery Bill Kelso continues to compile a remarkable series of antique advertisements for Hitchcock's films at Scenes from the Morgue, the latest being original newspaper and magazine ads for Suspicion, Rope, and Psycho. He's also done a piece looking at the original cinema trailer for Psycho at Micro-Brewed Reviews.

The sinuously synaptic Sinaphile Ariel Schudson has a piece on the role of children in Hitchcock's movies at the blog of the AMIA Student Chapter at UCLA, and the way the adults and those children in his films are often oddly interchangeable.

The canny David Cairns of Shadowplay has for our reading pleasure presented a piece on the 3D version of Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, with some fascinating discursions into Hitch's use of space in the film and its similarities to the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu (note: link to Shadowplay links on to The Daily Notebook at MUBI).

The one and only Ed Howard of Only the Cinema continues his series on Hitchcock's early films with Number Seventeen.

Dave Enkosky of KL5-Film, the site which has my favorite movie blog banner in the universe, presents the trailer for North By Northwest after a brief but engaging commentary where, he claims, the film in question "broke my Hitchcock cherry". So we have that in common, too.

Meanwhile, rugged man of cinematic action Andrew Welch talks Rear Window at Adventures in Cinema, with some particularly interesting comments on the villain.

At the aptly titled We Talk About Movies, Vincenzo Tagle analyses the intricate visuals of Hitchcock's silent fight drama The Ring.

Way over yonder at the mOvie blog, everyone's favorite self-described Irish nerd Darren Mooney continues his look at episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with the episode "The Hidden Thing"...

...and over at Limerwrecks, the dreaded duo of David Cairns and  Hilary "Surly Hack" Barta continue to terrify the countryside with artfully witty doggerel: today their poetic subjects are those nice young boys of Rope

Peter Labuza of picks out an intriguing continuity flaw in Psycho and follows where it leads his thoughts...

...whilst Tim Lacy at US Intellectual History digs into the voyeuristic implications at the heart of Rear Window.

The redoubtable Lee Price, whose blog 21Essays has been a ceaseless engine of creativity in this blogathon, studies Blackmail and Hitchcock's gift for depicting loneliness, through the device of an imagined argument between Hitch and Michael Powell.

Kenji Fujishima, the esteemed ringmaster at My Life, at 24 Frames Per Second, delves into another less celebrated Hitchcock film, the "anti-spy thriller" Topaz...

... whilst the eminent Peter Nellhaus of Coffee, Coffee, and More Coffee deftly gives his immense knowledge of Asian cinema a Hitchcockian twist, as he takes on the Rear Window-esque Taiwanese film Zoom Hunting.

...and Eric Bondurant of The Movie Review Warehouse changes tack to look at the effect of the vast gaps in the silent movie catalogue on the way we perceive that era, and in particular the way the pioneering work of early female directors like Alice Guy and Lois Weber is obscured in assessing both their careers and the impact they had on cinema culture at the time.

At Mindless Meanderings, the experienced Buckey Grimm offers more rare photos detailing the Library of Congress Paper Print Collection and its efforts to remaster its vast collection of historical documents and media, and a link to a newspaper piece he wrote on the subject of film restoration there in 1997.

At Backlots, Lara delves into the 1926 Lon Chaney The Phantom of the Opera, a pillar of silent film culture...

...and high in the gilded, fog-shrouded towers that crown the mighty citadel of Vanity Fair, James Wolcott talks up our Blogathon.

At Strictly Vintage Hollywood, Donna takes a look at Hitchcock the actor, photographer's model, showman, and married man - in specific, married to the great Alma.

The voices inside Sean Cohen's head at High Def Digest are having an ongoing row over the quality of The Birds and this is distracting colleagues from completing their own posts for the blogathon - so we can only pray they can sought it out soon.

At The End of CinemaSean Gilman's ongoing  descent into the netherworlds of early Hitchcock sees him delving into Hitchcock's wild and woolly, expressionist-influenced comedy-adventure, Number Seventeen.

The team at Cinema Sight have been sorting through their favourite Hitchcocks all week: here's the latest fruit of the endeavour.

Flash: at High Def Digest things now progress apace, as film writer extraordinaire John Carvill has contributed an "unscientific analysis of the Blu-ray editions The 39 Steps & North by Northwest."

At InessentialsTimothy Yenter is another for whom North By Northwest was a pivotal film lover's experience.

Darren Mooney at the mOvie Blog continues to expand his studies of Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes, this time analysing Hitch's self-satirising humour in "Mr. Blanchard’s Secret".

The indubitable dabbler from Dubai, Hind Mezaina of The Culturist, contributes a fifth epic piece for the blogathon, this time tackling the fascinating topic of the many dream sequences in Hitchcock's films...

...whilst over in a Wide Screen World, Rich ascends The 39 Steps to a place of cinephile delights.

The one man unafraid to mix the culinary and the cinematic, Ron Deutsch of Chef du Cinema, will serve up three more Hitchcock recipes.

At Not Just Movies, Jake takes on Notorious and finds it a work of unusual subtlety and intricate skill for the Master...

...whilst the ostentatious Odienater, aka the oracular Odie Henderson, talks The Birds at Tales of OdieNary Madness...

...and at Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog, Paul Etcheverry writes a blog - specifically taking on Hitchcock's most atypical, yet thematically linked films, the screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith and the neglected and personal early sound work Rich and Strange.

Speaking of rich and strange, Joe Thompson of The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion continues his explorations of old film yearbooks for Hitchcockian ephemera to trace how Hitchcock was seen in the movie world before he became a singular icon, and digs up other delights in the process.

At MSN, Kate Erbland hacks her way through the jungle to discover the lost treasures of the Academy Film Archive...

...whilst the axiomatic Sean Axmaker, denizen of ye olde Parallax View, celebrates Abel Gance's much-restored epic Napoleon.

Feminéma is comin' at ya with a reverie regarding Anna Ondra, the first Hitchcock Blonde.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

For the Love of Film…start your engines!

Ladies and gentlemen, the time is here.  A time to love, a time to die, a time…to blog.
Yes, the third annual Film Preservation Blogathon is nigh: official kick-off time is Sunday, May 13, 10:00 a.m. (US East Coast Time) and ends on Friday, May 18, 10:00 p.m. (USECT) (give or take a few hours), so if you haven’t composed your sterling masterpieces of scholarly, critical, and appreciative exegesis, get motivated. This year, the three participating blogs are all sharing host duties on a rotating roster: Marilyn at Ferdy on Films will be your fearless leader Today and Monday; Farran at Self-Styled Siren will be your goddess of choice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I will be the stern and ruthless taskmaster for all the slackers on Thursday and Friday. So let the thought of my whip cracking against your buttocks as you labor in the dazzling, life-sucking sun to complete this cruel potentate’s monument to cinematic restoration spur you to finish and post your pieces more quickly!

And for donors, remember that pharaoh's might is great and his generosity even greater: 10 of you, to make up for your lighter pockets, will walk away the richer with a NFPF Treasures 5: The West box set, featuring the two short films, The Sergeant and The Better Man, the restoration of which the first For The Love of Film blogathon helped fund. Those two shorts came from the same amazing New Zealand trove of short films in which this blogathon's annointed project, Graham Cutts' The White Shadow, was also found.

And don’t forget: all blog posts MUST contain the donate button and/or link:

If you don’t have the link on your post, it will not be included on the blogathon home page.
Here are the donate buttons: