Early Days at the Movies
Real Women in
The Seventh Art's Seventh Heaven
So What Happened
POETRY AND PROSE
SO WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Why I Hated Some Recent Movies
won three golden globes at the
Oscars, and Francis Coppola’s daughter, Sophia, an ex-actress
good reasons, got the director’s award and now walks the
celebrities at Spring Fashion shows in
My loathing of Lost stems from recent disappointments at the cinema. As boardrooms have taken over from auteurs, screens have grown bigger and actors smaller, as though auditioning for television spin-offs. You watch them through the wrong end of a telescope. Incredibly shrinking. And the special effects diminish their voices, so you have to strains your ears. In Cold Mountain (2004), deafening torrents of blood and guts crosscut with pastoral scenes back home before the war (girlish laughter, blackguard jibes, bull dancing - all in slow motion, like the field of corn in Elvira Madigan (1967) without the Mozart piano concerto, just the odd bucolic whoop). It’s enough to make The Guns of Navarone (1962) seem sophisticated.
Kidman has etiolated herself to play the young Penelope in a
century backwater, knitting and nattering with the other war wives, but
as though she’d be more at home joining up. She once pumped
iron (To Die For,
1994), and will again, when movies come to their senses. Meanwhile,
on loan to the world of representative people, Nicole Kidman folded
under Tom Cruise’s wing and, when their marriage broke cloud,
the dainty morsel
was dropped at the foot of the
walked out of
Breasts too have shrunk to virtual nipples. I long for bodicerippers like The Pride and the Passion (1957), with Sophia Loren bursting out and Cary Grant as Anthony Quinn bursting in. Bunkum unbounded, unrestrained by taste and distracting details. All eyes were fixed on the décolletage. Would it pop out on the horse ride? Unlikely as it may seem, the preppy, prissy mother’s boy Cary Grant fell for ‘the promise of pneumatic bliss’ in the ‘uncorseting’ of Sophia Loren. (Archibald Leach, aka Cary Grant, was an inversion of TS Eliot, an English American rather than an American Englishman). And when Loren sent him packing, low rumours had it he consoled himself in the arms of other men, likewise smitten, unrequited. She unmanned Anthony Quinn in Heller in Pink Tights (1960).
you, Sophia Loren, swagger your priceless cargo through the streets of
Sophia, you had the pick of Clark Gable, Steve McQueen and Gregory Peck and, goodness gracious me, you ended up going ‘Boom boody boom boody boom boody boom’ with Peter Sellers (The Countess of Hong Kong, 1967). Popular choice, Marcello Mastroianni, fell asleep before you could finish your striptease (Marriage Italian Style, 1963). Another mother-lover made impotent by smotheration. So you put the dummy in the baby’s mouth.
You who were in everybody’s arms in dreams before the sixties went skinny, and what did you do but marry Charlie Bridges (alias Carlo Ponti), and now you are appearing on the Terry Wogan Show wearing Dame Edna spectacles and talking bambino English. It is as shamefully sad as Grace Kelly lowering herself on to the throne. The pulping of the pulpeuse…
O Doctor I’m in trouble.
They Won’t Be Making a Movie About This
Bertrand Cantat, lead singer of Noir Désir, and soi-disant poète of Pop, apologises for killing Marie, the daughter of Jean-Louis Trintignant. I take it personally, having been Trintignant for several years in the seventies. He always looked embarrassed (And God Created Woman, 1956. Or was it Roger Vadim who made Camille Javel into Brigitte Bardot?) and sorry to be himself (Il Sorpasso, 1962), which made his priggish performance in Ma Nuit Chez Maud (1970) mine. The embarrassment may have had something to do with his name, the least memorable and pronounceable in any language I know (or don’t know).
‘Easy’, says Welsh. ‘ Trant-eeng-yong.’ (But you have to allow for a butt stuck to his desiccated lower lip.)
Trintignant was the second best assassin in movie history, The Conformist (1970). The best was Alain Delon in Le Samourai (1967) directed by Melville, who was a genius compared to the flashy Bertolucci, who aged badly (like snow that stays too long on the ground, precocious auteurs tend to end up producing slush).
It should be said that Delon was also the best cinema boxer (Rocco and his Brothers, 1960). Eat your heart out Robert de Niro (Raging Bull, 1980) and spit it out Burt Lancaster (The Killers, 1954). Tough and tender as a street boy, everyone was his mother. And when the champion had him on the ropes, the audience wept. Delon, the Frank Sinatra of French cinema, and he didn’t need to sing.
In Court Bertrand Cantat thinks he is performing in a movie of his own making, the Trintignants as his supporting players. He is going for the minimal sentence, pleading regret, about as convincing as Fats Waller’s mugging of it, or Edith Piaf’s lack of it. He’s Ronald Reagan’s domestic rat in The Killers (1954), and wants to be exonerated. As though accepting an Oscar, he lists the thanks in advance for ‘forgiving him’, with special mention for Marie’s mother (who’s published a book wishing him canned for cat food). Only J-LTrintignant’s name is omitted. Difficult to pronounce, it’s true. But why tempt the second best assassin in movie history?
people tend to makes themselves tout petit when
speaking of Marie
Trintignant. They speak of her ‘bright little life’
extinguished by four
blows to the head. Four is a significant number in
Cantat got his seven years (three off for good behaviour, some more for ill health and a transfer to an open prison, outside which his fans will regroup). He will be back. Chabrol, who made Marie Trintignant immortal as the unhappy housewife in Betty (1992), said, ‘She gave herself totally. Too much. I used to say to her ‘Marie, come back to earth’.’
Maybe I, as Trintignant, should send Delon a gun. He’s still around, unloved by the gods for going on and on while conspicuously going off. Maybe he has one last performance as an assassin under his slouch hat.
Carry On Welsh
I say to Welsh, ‘mon frère, mon semblable, mon hypocrite lecteur’ (he pretends to read my work to keep me off his back). The bastard paints an evil flower, but Baudelaire annoys him. ‘Brother can you spare me a dime’, he quips. His bottom line is money, as mine is Les Fleurs du Mal. That’s what I think.
like his paintings. You think you get them. But look again, and
changed that changes everything. He is a one-man trompe
sees himself as a character actor contracted to Rank in the late
fifties, who plays bit parts so often that when he doesn’t
appear in a Carry On
film, a radio SOS would be broadcast. He left
would have made a perfect Tarzan. Spry as a monkey on his Charles Atlas
(‘without the milk’), and more intelligent than
Johnny Weissmuller. Though the
roll-ups have slowed him down, he would have been his own stuntman,
inventing slow motion in the age of Keystone cops. Special effects
been second nature to him. Tarzan’s cry, that is Johnny
played backwards on a dictaphone, could have been his after the sale of
twenty-year-old canvas (‘I always knew someone would want
it’). A pity they
went for the lounge lizard Lex Barker when Weissmuller went to fat. His
role before a stroke killed him was as a
When I tell Welsh this he nods with exaggerated approval, but adds, ‘I think once I was a television extra in a beach scene in Canet. But I missed the emission. I went to the pub to celebrate. Those were the days. My only regret was missing out on Shakespeare. I would have been a great gravedigger.’
‘Digging your own grave. I think I can arrange that’, I say. ‘Or Cassius in Julius Caesar. I always regret missing the school play.’