Monday, April 10, 2006

Get Drunk and Be Someone

First, a brief recommendation of the musical variety. After Diana Ross starred in the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues in 1972, she recorded an album of jazz standards entitled Blue, that was later shelved, perhaps because it ran against her pop image. Anyway, it's being released June 20, and it's a delight. It's use of strings is subdued and never overwhelms the melody, as Ross serves each tune with her sugary sweet voice. No straining melismas here, just some of the best songs ever written sung with professional subtlety.

Then there's Fallen Angel, an Otto Preminger noir from 1945. Oh my. Dana Andrews is stalked by the camera. It tiptoes behind him, embarrassed of the next space he'll latch onto. He's a parasite that jumps from host to host: first the local mentalist, then the local loose woman of morals, lastly the straight-laced daughter of the town patriarch. Expectations overturned. Andrews' smooth-talker unmasked as insecure depressive in astonishing scenes of gender throwdowns - goes from stealing kisses to skulking in corners from one smirk from the loose woman's mouth. Turns out she's not that loose. Plot goes off the rails - the normal naughty pleasures and last minute moralizing disappears for something far Passion differentiated from love, hero becomes self-abnegating fool pulling down shade to block out the Sunday service; love something that is worked on, not materializing magically. But it doesn't skimp on detail: former lover smells dead woman's pantyhose before police interview; cop delicately puts on white gloves before smacking him around; expression on diner owner's face; shadows upon shadows. Revelatory little film. Finest Preminger I have seen - supplants Bonjour Tristesse.

Thing seen and loved that is perfect and speaks for itself: John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln.

Thing seen that is often hilarious but gratingly provocative but I'm glad I saw those old women's tits and that tour-de-force conversation in a bar that builds and layers intricate digressions in the midst of creepingly closer camera set-ups: 4.


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