Monday, June 18, 2007


Friday night Mark, Sam and I went to Cinematheque after an early dinner. Cinematheque Ontario has its showings at the Art Gallery of Ontario (currently being overhauled to a design by Frank Gehry). The theatre is small and perfect for movie-viewing. Only bottled water is allowed and any kind of whispering is discouraged and the lights go right down, so you are not distracted by anything. It's an ideal environment for letting yourself get lost in a movie.

First up was Johnny Guitar (1954), a bizarre Western with Joan Crawford as the terrifyingly self-contained saloon-owner, Vienna, whose ex-love, Johnny Guitar, is played by Sterling Hayden, whom she has summoned to town to protect her and play his guitar in her saloon. Basically she's pro-railroad and progress and all the other characters in the area are pro-cattle, anti-railroad. Mercedes McCambridge plays the uptight Emma Small who is obsessed with destroying Vienna. The acting is surreal - huge facial and body reactions (reminiscent of Eisenstein) that are punctuated by crashing musical chords (music courtesy of Victor Young who pulled out all the stops for this one). This movie has the flat, vibrant colours of souvenir postcards from the period (although this picture is only black and white). Joan Crawford goes through about five vats of lipstick and a non-stop array of well-fitted, mannish attire, except for one scene where she wears a very against-type, super-feminine white dress, which retains its pristine condition even after holding the bleeding Turkey (a man, not an animal) in her arms. I'd like to know more about this movie, including why anyone found Crawford the slightest bit appealing and cast-worthy. She's quite terrifying. Maybe it's some sort of bondage appeal. She does spend a lot of time in black leather. Hmm. Well, I don't get it. I liked Sterling Hayden though. He could drop by my desert island anytime.

The second movie was Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), very appealing for its nostalgic 1980s fashions, especially the shoes! I had shoes like that! And what a title in the original: Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios. This was my first Almodovar movie. I had kind of held out, for some reason thinking I probably wouldn't enjoy his work, but this was so much fun - wacky, wonderful, neurotic fun, which is all the more charming in rapid-fire Spanish. Two of the characters happen to be voice-over artists, and at one point are dubbing scenes from Johnny Guitar into Spanish (hence the connection and the clever programming by Cinematheque). Apparently Almodovar considers a particular scene between Crawford (Vienna) and Hayden (Johnny) as possessing the most romantic dialogue ever, so he found this clever way to incorporate it into his own movie.

Johnny: How many men have you forgotten?
Vienna: As many women as you've remembered.
Johnny: Don't go away.
Vienna: I haven't moved.
Johnny: Tell me something nice.
Vienna: Sure, what do you want to hear?
Johnny: Lie to me. Tell me all these years you've waited. Tell me.
Vienna: [without feeling] All those years I've waited.
Johnny: Tell me you'd a-died if I hadn't come back.
Vienna: [without feeling] I woulda died if you hadn't come back.
Johnny: Tell me you still love me like I love you.
Vienna: [without feeling] I still love you like you love me.
Johnny: [bitterly] Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Unfortunately there seemed to be something wrong with the air-conditioning and it was overly warm. I ended up falling asleep during the bit in Johnny Guitar which is then dubbed in Women on the Verge, so I thought that maybe Crawford and Hayden had appeared in another movie together. The guys set me straight though. Thanks guys! And thank you Mark for organizing the evening. Your taste is impeccable as always.

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