Archive for category Film
Do you ever get that odd sensation when you suddenly become aware that, for a while, you’ve been aware of something without really realising it?
Right, just me then.
Anyway, this happened to me most recently with The Artist and particularly its lead actor, Jean Dujardin. Over the last six months or so I’ve been (mostly subliminally) picking up bits and pieces about the film, and had this nagging feeling that I knew Dujardin (by name at least) from somewhere.
If you rewind about 13 years, you’ll find me in a small flat in a small town in France going through what, in hindsight, was somewhere between acute home-sickness and a mild borderline nervous breakdown, induced by a strange kind of loneliness, shyness, and inertia. I am of course making far more of this than I should, but I was very stranded in a very small town, and, with too much time on my hands, and most of that spent on my own, I turned a little eccentric. But not even in a particularly good way, I just did things like buying a house plant and naming it after France’s most recognised living cultural icon. Despite being a student at the time, there wasn’t even any smugly self-conscious ‘irony’ about this. It was genuine. Fucking hell, I’ve just remembered that before I left France I actually planted ‘Johnny’ somewhere where I thought he/it would get plenty of sunshine and rain (I don’t know whether the correct response to that sudden, unexpected memory is to blush, laugh, cry, or shudder. So I just did a bit of all four).
A couple of years later, my Mum breezily said “we did wonder if you were ok” which is my Mum’s way of saying “we thought you might have been going batshit mental”. Thing is, this was before the internet was anything like embedded in everyday life, so Christ knows what I would have been like with the facility to easily and, essentially, freely document my thoughts and ruminations at the time. Frankly, I’m quite relieved about that. Can you imagine?
So, yes, I spent a lot of time doing not very much, and a good portion of that was spent watching TV. Now, to be fair, I genuinely consider TV to be a cultural boon, and being isolated (etc etc yawn whinge whine) it was a brilliant way of exposing myself to something approaching the French way of life (much better than, say, going to a bar, buying a beer or two and saying a simple bonsoir to the locals).
In all the many, many hours of watching French TV, a favourite of mine was Un gars et une fille (A Guy and a Girl), a series of slices (dare I say vignettes? I do) of domestic life which I saw from its very first episode. Imagine a French version of Men Behaving Badly, with just one couple, without the god-awful laddish elements, and with a surprising amount of slightly-clichéd charm. Anyway, its two stars were future spouses (in hindsight, this seems inevitable) Alexandra Lamy and, yes, Jean Dujardin. And 13 years later, out of nowhere (from this uninformed idiot’s perspective, anyway), Dujardin has won an Oscar. Fair to say I didn’t see that one coming (Johnny the house plant may have done, but I could never tell what he was thinking. Inscrutable, you see).
I find it almost painful to watch these back; it reinforces my habit of allowing myself to act and think as if places and people don’t change when I leave them (for example, ex-colleagues’ children are, in my mind, the exact same age now as when we stopped working together five or more years ago). And so if I’m not careful France, to me, is still a place where they’re about to switch from one currency to another, where male politicians carry on like rutting chimps, and where the party of the extreme right is led by a bigoted fool by the name of Le Pen.
In effect, I’m instantly taken back to the time in question, and want to tell myself to get a grip, and get out of the flat.
And to stop watering that bloody plant.
And finally on Vertigo, an extended scene which captures many of the film’s key themes – obsession, a hint of necrophilia, love (of sorts), the echoes of the past – and features a beautiful example of one of the defining aspects of the film, in the use of the green neon light.
The next time you have a shade over 2 hours to spare, just sit down and watch it.
One of the things that struck me when re-watching Vertigo was how pleasant it is to have the credits up front: I’m much more alert, actually take an interest in the wider team who made the film, and don’t need to think “well I’d best turn this off and put the DVD away before it gets muddled up with Star Wars, The Wiggles, and Cars 2”.
This also gives me the excuse to listen to the music again [shudder].
There is no end of discussion about this technique from those who know proper technical things about film and cameras and stuff. I know none of this stuff, but I am pretty confident in asserting this to be some kind of genius.
(nice little plot teaser at the end by the way)
I don’t normally pay enough attention to film soundtracks. Bernard Herrmann’s score for Vertigo, however, grabs me right by the, well, the hairs on the back of my neck. It’s edgy, it’s creepy, it’s noisy, it’s quiet, it’s perfectly atmospheric, and it can quite easily unsettle the hell out of me.
More laziness, but frankly the content is so good you won’t begrudge me it. Or you will, but it won’t make any difference: an exercise in futility (something I’m familiar with).
Despite wittering on about Vertigo (or getting someone else to do it for me) a while back, I more recently watched it for the first time in a long time, and I realised I’d actually forgotten much of the plot detail. This was a good thing as I was able to rediscover it, watching it through new eyes to an extent, and making an extra effort to absorb as much of the detail and nuances as possible. Suffice to say I found it quite a profound experience and I’ve been mildly obsessed with it ever since (appropriately enough, seeing as obsession is at the very core of the film).
A sequence I find sofa-grippingly fantastic is where James Stewart’s character, ‘Scottie’, has a nightmare. I’ll not give any context, not for fear of revealing too much about the film but because I can’t be bothered.
Look, I’m barely posting at all, for lord’s sake don’t expect effort.
That said, if you do know the film, the bits of the nightmare where Carlotta Valdes appears scare me more than is explicable.
One of the things that was brought home to me when re-watching Vertigo was how surprisingly pleasant it is to have the credits right up front at the beginning of the film: I’m a bit more alert and paying a bit more attention, rather than thinking “right, best put the DVD back in the box before it gets muddled up with Star Wars, The Wiggles, and Cars 2”.
It’s also a nice excuse to listen to the music again [shudder].