Talking Fisher King proves to be as exhausting a task as expected – it’s hard to tell folks that at the end of all discussion, the film is really just what it is: an equivocal picture from a legendarily-maverick director produced as his first after obtaining a Hollywood agent, for a Hollywood studio, and most likely because he had a prior relationship with Robin Williams: the producers’ desired choice of co-lead. Jeff Bridges’ typically understated (and underestimated) performance aside, the picture is a case of no-decisions-made in which every storyline is given the full treatment, resulting in an overlong (bloated, let’s say) film with four or five endings, the last of which (with Williams and Bridges naked in Central Park as the skyline turns electric) finally crossing the line irrevocably from nearly-mawkish to unforgivably so.
If one chooses to tackle the film as a retelling of the Parsifal “holy fool” Grail story, one will find that it’s as straight forward as could be – and if one should go the Freudian route, it is only, again, what it is. The Red Knight as a symbol is awkward and obvious – the visuals are hamstrung and rote – and whatever it is of Gilliam that enchants on occasion, is plowed under a load of flat medium-shots in this one.
Gilliam, I think, spends too much time bemoaning his status as an underdog, un-trusted barnacle on the underside of the industry and not enough time embracing that moniker. It’s possible that he has too many bills to pay to be entirely comfortable with the “toxic” label (and I’m sympthetic with that, boy howdy), but selling out so completely here and again in The Brothers Grimm speaks to me of a moral weakness.
The Buddhists like to warn of the two deadly inclinations: the need for praise and the fear of criticism – and Gilliam, it seems like, is too often willing to give it all up for the keys to the executive washroom. I adore Brazil, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 12 Monkeys, et. al – and have come in my old age to appreciate the lawlessness of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (recognizing that my initial revulsion of it is exactly the appropriate response to its venomous anarchy) – but if you have to do Brothers Grimm to get another shot at a Harry Potter flick, I do wonder about the quality of your soul.
In any case, The Fisher King is way too long at about 140 minutes – especially if you’re presenting it in a film discussion series – but I will say that the Central Station waltz sequence remains enchanted.
Hoping to sneak in a screening/discussion of Fearless at the Gilpin County Library for a one-shot evening show in the next month or so. Am getting the widescreen laserdisc and intend to pack my machine up the mountain for the purposes of showing the film in its original aspect ratio.
We’ve mentioned it briefly here, I think, but for Fearless not to have a decent DVD release is one of the great tragedies of our favorite video medium. Personal peeve is Steve DeJarnatt’s Miracle Mile being released only in pan-and-scan. Here’s a question for the real geeks out there – best Laserdisc releases not replicated as of this date in the DVD age? (Especially now that Lucas is releasing the OT on DVD later this year.)
A discussion at Gilpin of Key Largo turned out to be incredibly pleasurable and fulsome, on the other hand, with a close look at Huston’s mise-en-scene centering the chat along with themes of high noir conventions (castration images key – with the Huston gag of having a palm tree penetrate a french window after Rocco proves himself to be firing blanks, the highlight) – and use of light and shadow (watch how Rocco's falls across McCloud's during moments of doubt). All agree that Steiner’s score is overwrought – but Richard Brooks, on board as a writer here, tells the best story from the set about ace shooter Karl Freund giving the aspiring director pointers by loaning him a few 16mm reels of stag films he’d shot in the ‘20s. The advice contained therein? Recalls Brooks: “Freund said: ‘Get to the fucking point’”.
Several programming meetings this week, too, with libraries around the state discussing the next several – most excited about a proposed horror film series through which I hope to program Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Laughton's Night of the Hunter, and Polanski’s Repulsion.
A documentary series, too, where I’d like to do the amazing corn doc Hybrid and Russ McElwee’s Bright Leaves.
Anyone, speaking of which, seen the musical stage version of Grey Gardens?
Lunchtime poll of the week involves which is the best, most socially-significant Hollywood blockbuster? I’m gonna’ offer up Predator just off the top o’the nut.
Here’s the screen capture: