It’s a funny thing. Sometimes movies that struck our eyes and ears as modernist when we first encountered them years ago, slowly start to appear more classicist with the passing of time.
I’ve seen Point Blank three times now — once on the big screen, only to realize that this is an essential big-screen movie — and it only gets better. But also, the things that once smacked strongest of modernism — the Resnais-ish temporal fragmentation, the non-naturalistic sound design, the dream/reality shuttlings, and most importantly, the aggressively abstract and expressionist use of architecture — now seem harmoniously blended, coherent. The style isn’t spilling over ‘in excess’; instead, it seems to be always serving, as classicism does, the subjects and themes of the film. (No value judgment implied here, by the way — my heart belongs equally to classicism and modernism!)
After watching the movie last night, I looked up Manny Farber and marveled once again at the evocativeness and accuracy of his description:
Whatever this fantasy is about, it is hardly about syndicate heist artists, nightclub owners, or a vengeful quest by a crook named Walker (Marvin) for the $93,000 he earned on the “Alcatraz drop.” The movie is really about a strangely unhealthy tactility. All physical matter seems to be coated: buildings are encased in grids and glass, rooms are lined with marble and drapes, girls are sculpted by body stockings, metallic or velour-like materials. A subtle pornography seems to be the point, but it is obtained by the camera slithering like an eel over statuesque women from ankle across thigh around hips to shoulder and down again. Repeatedly the camera moves back to beds, but not for the purposes of exposing flesh or physical contact. What are shown are vast expanses of wrinkled satin, deep dark shadows, glistening silvery highlights. The bodies are dead, under sedation, drugged, or being moved in slow-motion stylistic embraces. Thus, there’s a kind of decadent tremor within the image as though an unseen lecherous hand were palming, sliding over not quite human humans. It’s a great movie for being transfixed on small mountains which slowly become recognizable as an orange shoulder or a hip with a silvery mini-skirt.
In a sickening way, the human body is used as material to wrinkle the surface of the screen. Usually the body is in zigzags, being flung, scraped over concrete, half buried under tire wheels, but it is always sort of cramped, unlikely, out of its owner’s control. At one point in the film, Marvin walks over to a public telescope at Pacific Palisades and starts squinting at a whitish skyscraper. It is one of the mildest scenes since the birth of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, but after the endless out-of-control cramping of bodies, the serenity of the composition and the reasonable decorum make for a fine blissful moment.
Ashamed to admit this, but due to no particular reason other than negligence, I've seen nothing else by John Boorman. Care to recommend any of your favorite Boorman films? And if you like, share your impressions about them, if you feel like it?
A few links:
— Darren posts capsule reviews of the films he caught in San Francisco.
— Mike Newman at Zigzigger on "Irony, Sincerity, and Fountains of Wayne." (I'm nuts about Welcome Interstate Managers and just picked up the new one.)
— At DVD Panache, Adam Ross has interviews with several bloggers including Andy Horbal, Dennis Cozzalio, Tuwa, David Lowery, etc.
— Curtis Harrington has died. Here's an old Voice tribute by Chuck Stephens; a brief account of his films by Mike Grost; and an interview with Harrington about Orson Welles at Bright Lights.
— Walter at Quiet Bubble on Brakhage's The Act Of Seeing With One's Own Eyes (1971).
— Craig Keller on Lubitsch and the married couple.