Monday, May 24, 2004

You'd think that word would have gotten to me that the actual sad music in The Saddest Music In The World is by Chris Dedrick of The Free Design. The movie stands or falls on the music -- Kern/Hammerstein's "The Song Is You" sung in many, many arrangements, a good deal of very clever work on the cross-cultural contests between paris of countries' miserablism, a beer ad that had a recognizably Dedrick vocal arrangement. Of course, reviews I've seen don't really understand this is part of the film, but as an something appended to Maddin's image-making. Won't speak to Maddin's work in general, as I've only seen (and liked) a few shorts, no features, but the grainy, 16mm texture plus the Caligari-via-Les Carbiniers art direction (and very uneven performances) had the same problem as indie-rock -- no, see, that bit was supposed to suck. To the extent that the film is absorbing enough that you forget the idiosyncratic look for a while, the technique is beside the point. (Though Daniel pointed out last night that, as Maddin works with larger crews w/ a higher proportion of standardly trained technicians, it probably becomes harder to the get a less normal/transparent look -- so perhaps it is an achievement. Noted that Maddin and several of the actors were credited w/ extra camerawork.) Still and all -- given a choice between a soundtrack and a DVD, I'd take the former. "The Song Is You" has a terrific bridge -- modulates back to the last A section adeptly, and gloriously. Works well in the climax, where Mark McKinney plays it on an upright as everything burns around him -- the actual piano track is artful, the song present under noisy 'impassioned' pounding, and dramatically, it's a quote of Laird Cregar's mad scene in Hanover Square.

[Tangent -- as music is to film, lyrics are to music; the fact that someone was responsible for them is usually ignored. Even the reviews that mention Kern don't name Hammerstein. And neither recent NPR birthday piece on Fats Waller even names his most frequent lyric collaborator, Andy Razaf; one simply calls Waller the author of "Black & Blue," which, we learn, was "the first protest song." I commend to you the Razaf biography, also called Black and Blue, from a few years ago. This is to take nothing away from Fats -- just listening this weekend to vol. 4 of the 14 disc Italian set I picked up a while ago.]

Where had I seen the gamine, limited Maria de Medeiros, as the nymphomaniac, before? Ah, Henry and June, a terrible pseudo-lit movie. There's more to her than her limited U.S. (well, and now Canadaian) filmography suggests: At home in Portugal, she's also written and directed -- including a film based on 3 Pessoa stories.

Oh yes: I was the only person in the theater. (Of course, it was Friday afternoon at 12:40 -- but I think wide release on this one may have been a miscalculation.)

May start trying to post about (roughly) one item per, like normal people, so that I'll actually post more often rather than waiting until there's a daunting pile-up. (I draw the line at giving my glorified journal entries titles.) But, this from NYT photo critic Sarah Boxer. "But this time there are two kinds of evidence in play, and they are difficult to tease apart: the kind that tells you what was going on anyway and the kind that tells you what was being done for the sake of a photograph." (Read the piece -- like Luc Sante's, it's tighter and less rhetorical than Sontag's Sunday mag essay.)

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