Scenes from a Marriage

Not rated yet!
Director
Ingmar Bergman
Runtime
2 h 47 min
Release Date
11 April 1973
Genres
Drama, Romance
Overview
Johan and Marianne are married and seem to have it all. Their happiness, however, is a façade for a troubled relationship, which becomes even rockier when Johan admits that he's having an affair. Before long, the spouses separate and move towards finalizing their divorce, but they make attempts at reconciling. Even as they pursue other relationships, Johan and Marianne realize that they have a significant bond, but also many issues that hinder that connection.
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VJ Morton3
Right Wing Film Geek



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • Toronto 08 — Day 8 capsules
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Toronto 08 — Day 8 capsules

    A WOMAN IN BERLIN (Max Farberbock, Germany, 2008) — 7

    It doesn’t take a genius or a German-speaker to realize this film, which follows one woman and her neighbors for about a week during the fall of Berlin to the Soviets at the tail end of WW2, has had one word dropped from its German title. And the “Anonymous” strikes me as important (though we learn the story about this story at the end of the film, via title cards), because one of the things A WOMAN IN BERLIN is about is how shame can even follow actions done in-extremis. Nina Hoss plays the titular heroine and her performance here and in JERICHOW make her the TIFF Acting MVP. The performances in similar in their understated interiority with more than a touch of sullenness (this still actually embodies her performance quite well). Waz calls her performance in JERICHOW “wooden” (though in a complimentary way) and he’s not wrong: both roles are fundamentally about women keeping their heads down as they negotiate their status as sex commodities, which Hoss, certainly here, doesn’t play as “sexy.” It’s been a fact of war since THE ILIAD that victorious soldiers often seize or rape the defeated party’s women as a spoil of war and that women will try to avoid this via accommodations that we’d not hesitate to call whoring or concubinage in other circumstances, and is sometimes explicitly called that here. In fact, A WOMAN IN BERLIN is actually the first film in history to make me consider for a second (only a second) the radical-feminist position that all sex under patriarchy is rape as anything other than the rantings of the certifiable. But it’s more complicated than that — this film also shows that even actions taken in-extremis and under a structure of sin still objectively shape our souls. After all keep in mind, and A WOMAN IN BERLIN makes a couple of nods toward it including a dance scene, that the odious regime of East Germany will be built on the ashes that we see being created. “We have to be practical, Herr Hoch. Things will get better.” There is one scene — and all I’ll say is that it involves an apple pie — where the women of the building talk about Russian and German men in ways that I, at least, could hardly believe. The female Russian soldier that we see frankly has not a shred of sex solidarity. A WOMAN IN BERLIN is not a great film because it’s a bit too predictable and pat (though I was surprised and throat-frogged by the one suicide), though this actually may help its aim to be a LIVES OF OTHERS-type breakout German hit. (The audience I saw it with certainly liked it a lot.) It’s not as good as LIVES, but it could be a US hit; it’s certainly better than most of the more-accessible foreign films I saw and it’s more accessible than the most of the better foreign films I saw.

    GIGANTIC (Matt Asselton, USA, 2008) — 2

    When GIGANTIC was over, Missy Schwartz sitting next to me whispered words to me to the effect of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and I whispered back to her “makes the Coen Brothers look look De Sica.” As Pauline Kael once wrote about I-forget-what, GIGANTIC’s Bizarroworld contrivances feel more like “the captions a bright teen might write under a photograph” than a script. Caption contests can be funny or sustain a three-or-four-frame comic strip, but they really can’t sustain a feature-length movie. GIGANTIC is the sort of Indiewood comedy that ultimately quirks itself to death: the protagonist is a 28-year-old single man who has wanted to adopt a Chinese baby since he was 8 (this is as close to a central throughline as GIGANTIC has); a scientist dips his sandwiches in a mayonnaise jar and drinks blue athlete-concoction out of a chemistry-class beaker; a homeless man tries to kill the protagonist three or four times without the slightest explanation; a mattress salesman, **while trying to sell to clients** uses the n-word and the m-f word in his sales pitch; a business meeting takes place at a massage parlor where the three men are lined up in a row being obviously masturbated; a family ritual involves busting pinatas painted like political dictators. There is exactly one laugh in the movie: One character says “What’s a Countach,” the other responds “it’s a Lamborghini … (pauses to think) … it’s a car.” (I have now saved you the price of admission.) Anyone who criticized Sally Hawkins’s performance in HAPPY GO-LUCKY as too *much* is invited to look at Zooey Deschanel’s collection of quirks as the girlfriend here, to repent and to come to me for absolution. Anyone who complained of Paul Dano’s performance in THERE WILL BE BLOOD as bland and diffident is invited to look at Dano here, to repent and to come to me for absolution. I am available at 3 pm Saturdays, an hour before each Mass and by appointment.

    How is a movie like this possible? There is an exchange late in the movie between Dano’s mother and Deschanel (we’re talking about a girl who casually mentions being a prostitute the first time she meets Dano). The mother assumes the sage worldly tone of girl talk on the balcony looking out on the street at sunset, which clearly indicates Author’s Message, and says that “nothing’s normal.” There was a scene in REVANCHE where the identical point is made — well, it was in German and my notes on the subtitle actually say “this is perfectly normal.” (And however the constructions look, “everything is normal” is “nothing is normal” are actually the same thought.) But the REVANCHE line was said by a prostitute as she was snorting coke, which led me to think that perhaps it was ironic, and the film played out in the way I described below. A movie as aggressively ridiculous as GIGANTIC is only possible because the very notion of normality is now suspect — it marginalizes difference and reinforces the status quo by privileging its contingent normativities, you understand. Maybe I should go see BURN AFTER READING this week and get back to something realistic and normal.

    CLOUD 9 (Andreas Dresen, Germany, 2008) — 7

    Let’s deal right away with the central “selling” fact of this movie about an adulterous liaison (see the festival guidebook, e.g.) — that it has some fairly explicit sex scenes involving characters in their 60s or 70s. Wags have already riffed off a current Canadian film and dubbed this one OLD PEOPLE FUCKING, though the couple of scenes, and they happen quite early, are not even close to hard-core, and barely soft-core IMHO. The thing is that while not deliberately disgusting a la Greenaway, the scenes are not a turn-on and so very obviously not intended to be that it was difficult for me to be offended by them. There are “good” reasons pornographers prefer young performers, but beyond that, CLOUD 9 is simply not directed as an erotic turn-on — Dresen uses a close-up heavy, Dogme-influenced style with long takes and natural light that is too matter-of-fact for the manipulations of porn. The film’s interest also extends far beyond the sex scenes — indeed, the most cynical part of me thinks that maybe the scriptwriter thought he had done his duty and could now make something interesting (OK, the sex is outta the way … let me get to the story, now). The adulterous liaison is discovered (a story like this really had no other place to go), but how it is discovered is not. Wife Ilse simply tells her boring but unsuspecting husband Werner without “having” to, simply for honesty’s sake about her and lover Karl. The scenes that follow are brilliant — worthy of Bergman’s marital quarrels in SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. Old hurts having nothing to do with the adultery at hand (“I raised your kids,” e.g.) are dredged up, and they sting worse and maybe in part because they’re true. Ursula Werner sobs for apparently minutes on end and hits the right emotional notes through her tears in a manner worthy of Ullmann. When Ilse tells their daughter about the liaison and her plans to move in with Karl (whose acts like a little puppy), we get this perfect exchange: “What was I supposed to do, lie to him? / Exactly.” There is a reason the confessional is private. Indeed, late during the film I remember thinking to myself, “Ilse and Karl are played emotionally exactly as if they were in her 10s or 20s,” which in some ways could be the point: authenticity is the shackles of youth, to paraphrase REM. But I though why make this story, well-done though it is, about old people — and then the last plot point answered my question. Among young lovers, it would have been unbelievable; not among 70-year-olds.

    STILL WALKING (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2008) — 8

    Seeing this film one day after A CHRISTMAS TALE, I realized that I couldn’t recall seeing two films so similar to each other in such a time frame while having no obvious immediate connection, either in terms of auteurial or other-talent influence or in terms of topical subject matter. Adult children visit the grandparents, with the kids in tow for an annual memorial for the death of a sibling. And the resentments and disappointments presided over by the memory of a dead child get played out. In other words, the reverse premise of Ozu’s TOKYO STORY, and Kore-eda does frequently use Ozu-like “pillow shots” of things like factories as breathing spots between events and at the start of the 2nd day, like another director might use a fade to black. But Kore-eda frames actions in multiple planes within the image (kids playing bust the watermelon in the foreground oblivious to what’s going on at the dinner table in the background) more than I recall Ozu doing. And at an earlier screening, Kore-eda reportedly said in a Q-and-A that his family resembled more a Naruse film than an Ozu.

    But compared to the Desplechin, Kore-eda works from the better script, I think, or certainly the less-contrived one. The family in STILL WALKING puts on a better show of finding one another tolerable, keeping up appearances and social avoidances — like turning the channel when the TV mentions a dead child. All of which is frankly far more believable than the open hatreds in the Desplechin family (e.g., why would Mathieu Amalric even show up, if this is how he feels about them or they him). One example: the line “so, how did you feel when your dad died” is said by one child to another. Children, who haven’t learned the social graces and filters, can talk that way believably; adults really can’t (and Desplechin’s film is full of lines at that level of either cluelessness or unbelievable cruelty). There are occasions in STILL WALKING when adults do say that kind of thing, for example a scene in which a (notably cranky) character talks about the difficulties of arranging marriages in a set of circumstances that just happens to also be the circumstances of another couple in the room. Kore-eda’s camera and actors act more disturbed, as though propriety has been breached. And the moments of open cruelty take place outside the victim’s ear — for example, the grandmother’s explanation (“maybe the gods will punish me; so be it”) for why she invites the man whose life her dead son saved to the memorial each year. Or they take place for only the victim’s ear — like the record of “Yokohama.” In other words, bitchiness is present in STILL WALKING but not the norm or is contained in believable ways. Still, Kore-eda’s direction isn’t nearly as lively as Desplechin’s. And combined with the lack of a through-line and the one-too-many resolutions at the end, this keeps WALKING below the category of Kore-eda’s best (NOBODY KNOWS and AFTER LIFE)

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    September 16, 2008 - Posted by | Andreas Dresen, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Matt Asselton, Max Farberbock, TIFF 2008

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  • Toronto – Day 2 – capsules
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Toronto – Day 2 – capsules

    12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 6)

    This comedy, in the blackly cynical vein of the Soviet-era East European political satires (early Forman, Munk, etc.), doesn’t really get cooking until the three principal characters all have finally gathered at the TV station for the talk show on whether there was a revolution post-Ceaucescu in their small town. The title refers to the moment when Ceaucescu abdicated, and where everybody was when the defining event of present-day Romania occurred (I type this on September 11). And the first 40-50 minutes or so of 12:08 are fairly routine semi-comic miserabilism as everybody goes through their pre-show day, which I found only intermittently funny. But then the show begins, and it’s a total hoot. The visual poverty and monotony of a low-budget small-market TV show causes the eyes to wander and thus alight on the gags as they happen (the best and most perfectly-timed one … I will be vague … involves origami). The show’s host babbles about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and watching him is like watching Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge try to keep face on KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU as the wheels come off around him and his self-importance is ground into the dust; the professor’s account of his revolutionary heroism is stripped bare (curiously, he never abandons it); the old man is the character who survives the glare of TV best, but he’s the one with the fewest pretentions, saying he wanted the $100 Ceaucescu had promised. The film’s moral: “enjoy the snow today; tomorrow it’ll be mud.”

    REQUIEM (Hans-Christian Schmid, Germany, 4)

    My friend J. Robert Parks told me that this movie, which I already knew told the same story as THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, was more like one of Werner Herzog’s “madmen” movies. Certainly “you can’t choose what God has in store for you” is a theme I’d groove on, and it’s certainly got a simple and powerful last shot, making it clear that the film is not about exorcism per se, but a Pilgrim’s Progress of lead character Michaela’s soul toward accepting martyrdom. The problem is that I didn’t find Michaela’s “touchedness” to be remotely interesting. Maybe she should have tried to conquer the Amazon or drag a boat over a mountain, instead of just living the life of an ordinary first-semester college student. She’s also a bit of an ugly duckling, and an epileptic who stops taking her meds. With fairly predictable results. She’s a religious woman, so she takes this be possession, but I don’t think REQUIEM is nearly as ambiguous as Robert does about whether she really is possessed. Its style is naturalistic, which tends to privilege natural explanations, and simply taking it as I did leaves no “gaps,” no “inexplicables.” I’m not asking for the EXORCIST “would you like some pea soup” scene, but couldn’t there be at least one scene that involves something a little supernatural, a little strange? Particularly when the film pointedly shows her pouring her pills down the sink and “times” most of her worst bouts of insanity with perfectly mundane causes for stress like having a college paper deadline.

    CLIMATES (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey, 9)

    This movie had me from the pre-credits scene. It takes place among some ancient ruins. There’s a man and a woman (played by the film’s director and his real-life wife, Ebru). They talk a little, but mostly seem bored, with themselves and with each other. The woman appears in a lengthy closeup in which her facial expression changes over about a minute from indifference to sadness to tears. And then a fly buzzes in her hair. CLIMATES has the feel of a Bergman movie — one of the first post-credits scenes is of the central couple and a pair of married friends, and it rivals the dinner-foursome scenes from THE PASSION OF ANNA or SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE for how whole universes of anger in swallowed in a glass of red wine. When an insect hits its cue, you know you’re in a the hands of a genius director. Although sometimes he is just showing off (the cigarette, e.g.), there can be no questioning Ceylan’s formal chops. There isn’t much drama, in the narrative-arc sense, in CLIMATES because these are two people who are what they are. Here, “character is destiny.” They’re made for each other, and not in a good way — each knows the other well enough to know when he’s lying, but also not to push the issue; each is as emotionally careless as the other. They’re apart for the middle half of the movie, but not to any great revelations or changes. Character is destiny. But see this movie in a theater, where you can really appreciate how careful and how deeply subjective is the film’s sound mix, and what an eye Ceylan has for using composition, depth of field and focal length to tell a psychological story, one of two people who, like the couples in LA NOTTE or 5×2, can neither be together or apart happily.

    A GRAVE-KEEPER’S TALE (Chitra Palekar, India, 3)

    Though I really like the Hindi pop cinema of “Bollywood,” I’ve not been a great fan of what I’ve seen of India’s “parallel” or art cinema, and it finally occurred to me why when watching this movie. For one thing, they cover a lot of thematic ground that can’t help but look outdated to this Western firangi. In TALE, DAY OF WRATH becomes a stock feminist morality tale and a screed against “superstitious religion,” by way of THE CRUCIBLE (there’s some Cassandra myth, too). For another, the acting styles tend to be just as artificial, albeit in a different way, as Bollywood’s song-and-dance extravaganzas. In TALE, the gorgeous Nandita Das acts the title role as if she’s on stage — strident, “gesturey” and obvious (if not exactly “loud”). But while “Bollywood” movies are about as unrealistic as it gets, much of the parallel cinema makes a neorealist show of being about important matters. In this declamatory, voicey acting style. Oil. Water. TALE is also not well-structured and kinda illogical, with about half the movie being a flashback to the origin of this “ghoul,” which is a “she’s your mom” tale, told by a character (dad) who has no reason at that moment to tell it (to son).

    VINCE VAUGHN’S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW (Ari Sandel, USA, 5)

    For the first 15 minutes or so, I thought this was going to be a real dog. For example, there was a scene of Vaughn, Jon Favreau and the whipping boy from DODGEBALL, and they’re improvizing a scene on stage in Hollywood. Only the director keeps cutting away from the scene to interviews and voiceovers of Vaughn and Favreau explaining what was happening (which was perfectly clear, BTW). But the film recovers some as it finds its shape — it’s really more an account of the tour than a film of the four performers’ standup comedy acts, which we never see for more than a minute or so of clips at a time. The comparison to Spike Lee’s ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY — which gave each performer about an uninterrupted 20-25 minutes with some intercalary material between each man’s whole set — is really not favorable. A standup comedian needs to build and get the audience in his hands. Still, I understand Vaughn’s motives for making this film this way. There WAS some drama on the tour — e.g., Katrina and Rita forced some changes in the schedule and one of the biggest laughs comes at a visit to a refugee shelter where the comics visit, along with the painter guy from THE WEDDING CRASHERS. Also, Vaughn’s comics — Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Mansicalco — are all relative unknowns (one even still has a day job), while Spike had performers who were all superstars, at least among black audiences. So Vaughn introduces us to them in the usual ways — giving bio stories, interviews with the four, meeting the family on tour, and cutting to relevant parts of that man’s routine. In fact, had the film-makers gone the Spike route and filmed a pure concert film, this film would have made a kick-ass “Making Of” supplement on that film’s DVD release. As a movie on its own … not so good.

    THE HOST (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 8 )

    Just about as much exhilirating pure fun as you can have with a monster movie, with THE HOST showing that it’s still possible to make a monster movie like they did in the 50s and 60s, the film the JURASSIC PARK series should have been. It’s funny without being intentionally campy. While being scary and gripping, with a well-designed monster. And being visually inventive and knowing exactly how to frame a shot for maximum shock (or laugh) value. The lengthy scene of the monster’s first attack on the beach is hereby given a “For Your Consideration” plug for year-end award polls (hint, hint). There’s also a quarrelsome family that makes the film, kinda like SHAUN OF THE DEAD only not quite as tongue-in-cheek, largely a comedy for long stretches … my favorite such scene being the exchange in the car, where someone notices he’s not mentioned in news reports. My only real complaint is that THE HOST gets kinda flabby in the third act, largely forgetting the comedy and becoming semi-serious. And it’s not clear from the coda who has (else may have) survived. But generally, this is Midnight Movie catnip.

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    Toronto -- Day 2 GradesIn "TIFF 2006"

    Toronto capsules -- day 10With 2 comments

    TIFF Capsules -- Day 5In "Cristian Mungiu"

    September 11, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

    1 Comment »

    1. […] WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW was released Friday and I’ve added a link at the right to my review from then. I didn’t really recommend it back then, but I must acknowledge that the memory of it plays […]

      Pingback by Enough about Romania « Rightwing Film Geek | February 9, 2008 | Reply


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  • Skandies runners-up — scripts
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Skandies runners-up — scripts

    I need to catch up on Bahrani's earlier films, MAN PUSH CART and CHOP SHOP. He has a clear gift for writing and direction that don't come across as writing and direction.

    Jane Campion, BRIGHT STAR — Yeah, there’s all that sissy Keats poetry and stuff, but that isn’t why Campion’s script is good. It’s because she begins from the POV of a character with artistic impulses of her own (I wish she’d done more with the feminist fashion-as-women’s-art subtext) and because she makes images that match without mimicking the poetry and/or letters being read.

    Pedro Almodovar, BROKEN EMBRACES — Shucked it away earlier than usual for a Pedro script because, at the end of the day, it just takes too long to peel away all the layers. But nobody can braid storylines, play with multiple levels of discourse, and find an emotional connection in garish gestures and details than Pedro can.

    Brock Norman Brock and Nicolas Winding Refn, BRONSON — I thought about short-listing Refn’s operatic direction, but then decided … no, here what works is really the script, which structures the film around several bold conceits. Tell a biographical story in an un-biopicky way — as a stage autobiography, performed without a real fourth wall by a man who wants to create his own legend in our mind. While at the same time, resisting the “Rosebud” temptation to have the gimmick be the explanation for “Bronson’s” life.

    Andreas Dresen and Jorg Hochschild, CLOUD 9 — I compared this film in my Toronto capsule to SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, and no higher compliment exists. The script structures itself around a to-and-fro between sexual reverie and bitter quarrels, the latter gradually taking over and then finally enfolding things.

    Wes Anderson, FANTASTIC MR. FOX — Yes, I relented after declaring Wes! dead to me after THE DARJEELING LIMITED. Primarily because “Roald Dahl cartoon” sounded like something that would anchor and restrain him. It does somewhat, or at least makes the archness less annoying. It’s may be Wes Anderson’s CHICKEN RUN, but that’s still CHICKEN RUN.

    Chris Rock et al, GOOD HAIR — Yes, seriously. It IS a documentary, but in the genre of the comic essay, not cinema verite. And while I don’t know how much of the on-screen comedy is improvised, when it’s being done by the same person performing and co-writing the voiceover, it’s enough to consider it a unified writing work. And on those terms — it was really funny. And edumacational without being hectoring.

    Bahareh Azimi and Ramin Bahrani, GOODBYE SOLO — I freely admit that the last third is a bit … not exactly “contrived,” more like “telegraphed.” But like the Italian neorealists AO Scott and others have compared him to, and contrary to how Bahrani’s (and the Italians’) films look, Bahrani meticulously plans everything after working it all out with his non-pros. Everything that looks accidental or “real” is in Azimi and Bahrani’s script.

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    February 9, 2010 - Posted by | Skandies

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⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

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  • From Bozo to Bertolucci: How Not to Watch the Films of Ed Wood, Jr.
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]4,128 words

    Andrew J. Rausch and Charles E. Pratt, Jr.
    The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood [2]
    Albany, Georgia: Bear Manor Media, 2015

    “Even a terrible piece of shit is somebody’s dream.” — Andre Perkowski

    “It turns out that making movies is really, really hard.” — Joel “MST3k” Hodgson

    “You’d screw a cockroach if it turned you on!” To this, Toni says she would not screw a cockroach because cockroaches are black, and she will not go black. — Fugitive Girls (Ed Wood, 1974)

    Constant Readers know that I loves me some bad film,[1] and especially — though not exclusively[2] — the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr.[3] So I immediately obtained this book when I first heard about it from the estimable Joe Blevins of the Dead2Rights blog. The blog features “Ed Wood Wednesday,” an attempt to exhaustively examine the complete films and fiction of Wood, Jr., week by week. I thought this would be more of the same, but it’s actually a rather confusing and disappointing book.

    It starts with the physical book (or Kindle) itself. We’ve got two authors, with two “Author’s Notes,” singular, but not attributed to either in particular. The subsequent text is mostly in the plural, although sometimes lapsing into the singular, so it’s hard to tell who’s saying what. This main text is surrounded by another two “Forewords” at the start and about ten interviews by one or the other or both authors at the back, followed by an “Afterword” by yet another author.

    But my real confusion — and subsequent disappointment — arise from the content. There are several “generations” of Wood criticism displayed here, and most are not to my liking. To explain this, I need to sketch in some background for the Wood layman, for which I will make use of a useful model suggested by Joe Blevins the Three Waves of Wood.

    For the last few decades, Ed’s name always meant something to people, but exactly what it meant depended on the tenor of the times. Wood’s first wave of after-death notoriety occurred in the early-to-mid-1980s and was spurred by the publication of Harry and Michael Medved’s The Golden Turkey Awards. Only the rudiments of Eddie’s life and work were widely known at the time, so the first wave was marked by mockery and derision. Wood was merely a cross-dressing clown who made cheap and incredibly amateurish flying saucer flicks. For many, this is still the predominant public image of Ed Wood, thirty-plus years later, so we can safely say that the first wave was the most influential and durable of the three. During this wave, Eddie’s most famous films from the 1950s (the “big three”: Glen or Glenda?, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Bride of the Monster) were staples at rep houses and campus theaters, where they were loudly and joyously jeered by hip audiences.

    The second wave happened in the early-to-mid-1990s and was centered around Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and its literary progenitor, Rudolph Grey’s Nightmare of Ecstasy. It was, in a way, a response to the first wave. Second wavers sought to rehabilitate Eddie’s image somewhat, while still snickering at his life’s work. Much more information about Ed Wood’s life was known by then, including his debilitating alcoholism, his war record,[4] his prolific career in pornography, and his tragic and poverty-stricken final years. Appropriately, Eddie was treated with more sympathy and understanding by second wavers, though he remained a figure of fun to them. Wood was still a clown, but now he was a tragic clown; he’d been upgraded from Bozo to Pagliacci, so to speak. Besides Burton’s film and Grey’s book, the second wave was notable for the appearance of several loving yet cheeky and irreverent documentaries (typified by Ted Newsom’s Look Back in Angora) which sought to put Wood’s cinematic lunacy into some kind of understandable context while still having some guffaws at his expense.

    Third-wave Woodology . . . has been made possible by advancements in technology, including search engines and social media. These online breakthroughs have made it much easier for writers and researchers to access and disseminate information as well as stay in contact with other like-minded fans. . . . [T]he Wood cult — which had been largely dormant since the Clinton years — began to rise from its slumbers in the 21st century with crucial new books (Ed Wood, Mad Genius; Blood Splatters Quickly), DVD reissues (Big Box of Wood; Ed Wood’s Dirty Movies), and special events (the gallery exhibition of his paperbacks;[5] a week-long New York film festival). Pvt. Wood has been officially called back into service. Hopefully, the third wave of Wood’s fame will be the one which finally “gets it right” by painting the most complete and honest portrait yet of this surprisingly-complex man. Learning from the first and second waves (without letting our thinking be dictated by them), we third wavers can now use all the information at hand to accurately and evenhandedly assess Eddie’s strengths and weaknesses, and we can identify what is still unique and fascinating about Ed’s work, while not losing sight of its shortcomings or spoiling all its fun. Perhaps in this sense, time has been a gift to us. As Ed recedes further and further into the past, he can now get the fair day in court he has been denied for decades.[6]

     

    Having just transitioned myself from second to third waver, courtesy of Rob Craig’s Ed Wood, Mad Genius, and seeing Craig’s name among those of the interviewees for this book, I naturally snapped it up as a further work of the Third Wave, extending both Craig’s analysis and its content (with the inclusion of the porn, “lost” films, etc.[7]),

    Alas, the authors prove to me very much of the Second Wave, still seeking, as Blevins says, to “put Wood’s cinematic lunacy into some kind of understandable context while still having some guffaws at his expense.”[8]

    Even the author(s) sense how odd this is, with these remarkable confessions in their “Authors Note (2)”:

    In the course of writing this book we discovered that some people revere Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s work in a different way than we do; they don’t revere it more, just differently.

    We are not in the camp who laughs at Wood and labels him a failure, nor are we a part of the camp who labels him a misunderstood genius and a genuine artist.

    We tend to fall somewhere in the middle on that scale; more than anything we admire Wood’s endless passion for creation, be it personal films, pornographic films, or lurid paperback novels.

    Our beliefs regarding Wood’s work tend to be somewhat different than the more academic writers like Rudolph Grey and Rob Craig, . . . Are [his films] really art? Or, even more to the point, are they really artless? We don’t really support either of these positions.

    Reading the actual movie capsules that follow, all this on the one hand / on the other hand business seems to boil down not to a happy medium but simply lands the authors in the Wave Two camp: Ed was au fond talentless chump, but you have to admire his grit, spunk, gumption, and all-American stick-to-it-ivness.

    What follows is more of a forced march though Wood’s work, each movie (of the one’s the authors deign to recognize as “a real Wood film”) receiving a more or less elaborate synopsis,[9] with the author(s) adding observations on Woods’ ineptitude — though seldom stooping to what one interviewee later calls “sneery Medvedian tropes”[10] — and usually — but not always, especially in the “porno” section — giving Ed a gold star for effort.

    Which is not to say that our authors — or at least one of them — don’t have the makings of a fine critic. They can get off a zinger or two; here, describing a film by a latter-day Wood Wannabe:

    In Wood’s films the performers at least looked like real actors, but in this film a fair number of the actors look like they were rounded up at the nearest Starbucks.

    Their strictures — unlike the urban legends of the First Wave critics[11] — are pretty much always accurate, at least; as my mentor, Dr. Deck, said of Walter Kaufmann’s commentary on Hegel, it’s usually accurate but never profound.[12] For example, occasional bits like this:

    This flashback-heavy film can be seen as Wood’s own perverted version of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (1973).

    Now that’s a film I’d like to see! And that’s the sort of thing a critic like Rob Craig, as we’ll see, could really do something with, beyond being a one-liner. And I admit that this capsule summary of Ed’s porn flick The Class Reunion (1972) did have me laughing out loud:

    Imagine The Big Chill (1983) without the groovy soundtrack or the life-reaffirming conversation, and with everyone having lots and lots of sex, and you will have a pretty good idea of what this picture is.[13]

    Speaking of that hymn to the self-regard of ’60s Boomers, the authors are far too prone to substitute moral tut-tutting for cinematic criticism. For example, in The Violent Years (1956), the girl gang of teen delinquents meet their Waterloo after their fence hires them to smash up a classroom, à la Bart Simpson, to please some “foreign interests.” Our authors comment that

    This is, of course, ridiculous, and goes to show just how paranoid and uneducated Americans (and, in this case, Ed Wood) were at that time regarding Communism. Why would Communists care if a classroom is vandalized? Presumably to destroy the American way of life, which is silly to say the least.

    Well, “of course,” it is after all a film written, if not directed, by Ed Wood, Jr.[14] But the idea that fears of Communism, however exaggerated and melodramatic in presentation, are “paranoid and uneducated” is simply elitist goodthinking claptrap. Notice that the authors don’t just think that “Extra: Commies hire teen gang” is silly — it is — but rather the very idea, not just the bizarre treatment, of Communists wanting to sabotage American education. Ever hear of the Frankfurt School?

    Arguing the point would be to fall into the same trap, substituting politics for criticism. But it is symptomatic, I think, of the authors’ inability to do just that, to engage in serious cinematic criticism (rather than cataloging “cinematic misadventures”). They are quite unable to take a profoundly conservative man, like Ed Wood, Jr., seriously.[15]

    After decades of “commie-symp” education, people like our authors are unable to even understand how it was precisely the “educated,” such as Francis Parker Yockey or Lawrence Dennis, who would understand the threat of Communism. Educated on today’s simple Liberal shibboleths, our authors are unable to grasp the complexities of a man who cross-dressed but despised “fags” in his movies; who “who longed for the public to accept his own sexual condition as a transvestite” but loathed those he always called “beatniks.”[16]

    The authors are especially censorious about Wood’s “hypocrisy” in denouncing pornography in films like The Sinister Urge (1962) yet ultimately being forced to become a pornographer himself in the ’70s.[17]

    Of course, the whole point is that Wood was forced, by poverty and alcoholism, to such depths, and who among us can say what we would do in similar circumstances?[18] In Love Feast (1969) he himself appears, drunk and bloated, and the authors lay it on:

    Wood spends a great deal of this picture in baggy, ill fitting underwear, crawling around on all fours and acting silly. . . . Clearly his idol, Orson Welles, who sank as low as to do beer and wine commercials, would never have made a film in which he wore only underwear.

    Well, thank God for that, for both of us, but rather than attacking the authors’ lack of charity — and thus descending to their level — let me point out that this is an example of where a true critic, looking at the man and the work without malice, can provide us with some insight. Here’s Rob Craig’s take on the same film:

    Placing Wood as the male lead in this sorry debacle removes all pretense at erotica, for he is depicted as a bloated old man, with slurred speech, greasy long hair, and a propensity to stumble around — in short, a drunken bum. The end result of tossing this flabby old stumblebum into a sea of taut young bodies is that The Love Feast comes across as a crude and cynical sex farce, a total mockery of its intended genre and a slap in the face to the then-ascendant Sexual Revolution.[19]

    Arguable, perhaps, but at least he’s trying, rather than taking the easy way out as the paradoxical — or is it, hypocritical? — Liberal Scold.

    As a final example, consider this reflection on a key plot point in Jail Bait, Wood’s 1954 follow-up to Glen or Glenda? and arguably his magnum opus:

    This is where Wood’s usual illogical thinking once again comes into play; Don says he will give himself up to the police, but not for another three days. The father agrees. However, it is never said what exactly Don plans to do for those next three days. More than likely this is just an excuse to further the plot by having Vic capture Don, which he does immediately.

    By contrast, for Craig, the three day occultation of the body is not Wood’s “usual illogical thinking” but rather part of the evidence he adduces for discerning no less than the myth of Osiris as the deep structure of the film.[20]

    The authors do, I must admit, address this issue head on. Quoting Craig’s assessment of the aforementioned porn flick, The Class Reunion,

    Within all the deadening sex and pointless plot twists lies the true soul of the poet-philosopher, featuring contradictory yet fascinating observations on sexual mores, socio-political phenomena, and the deathless existential riddles shared by the human race.

    They add:

    With all due respect, we disagree with this assessment. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    Fair enough; but as mentioned above, I actually like their Big Chill take the same film and wish they had been free-spirited enough to just go with it, and stop all the finger-pointing.

    Adding to the confusion — or perhaps clash — of viewpoints, but increasing the value of the contents significantly, are almost a hundred pages of interviews with Wood enthusiasts of various sorts, and the two Forewords, one by Ted Newson (author of Look Back in Angora) and an Afterword by David C. Hayes (editor of Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood, Jr.)

    Among the interviewees, the standout, of course, is Rob Craig, whom I’m tempted to call the Camille Paglia of the Third Wood Wave, and here does much to redress the balance on Wood, and gives us some sense of his almost divine enthusiasm for cinema:

    The first viewing of a film is sacred thing — what I call the “virgin viewing” — preferably without any foreknowledge whatsoever about the film or its history. In this first viewing, if one pays attention, one can easily discern the spirit if you will, of its maker, and the effect is often electric.

    And he continues to promote the kind of “close watching” we’ve endorsed in our own film reviews:

    Any interesting artist, in any medium, may create works which contain within them certain recurring themes, plotlines, characters and concerns which are valid to see and valid to enjoy.

    Even a supposedly bad filmmaker like Wood has, if you care to look, a lot going on in the films.

    When I actually got down to a close reading of [Larry Buchanan’s films[21]], so many things started to pop out at me, like the constant presence of a heroic “super-couple” who saved the world, Homer-like, from all evil, within a grimly realistic, deeply depressed, suburban setting. I knew that the same would be true with Ed Wood, and it was.

    Most of the reviews of the Wood book accused me, rather predictably, of over-interpreting, hallucinating, or just plain making things up in the films in order to create a pseudo-academic critical analysis of a bunch of bad films which should by no means be looked at seriously.[22] (My favorite review was in Video Watchdog, which suggested I should “go outside and get some fresh air!”)

    Craig also reiterates themes in his reading of Wood that we’ve connected to the alt-Right’s notion of Archeofutursm or Palingenesis:

    Any cultural text which resonates and entertains (i.e. “holds up”) years after its manufacture has something going on which cannot be ignored.

    Wood was either ahead of (or outside) his time.[23]

    I was also excited to learn of another interviewee, New Jersey’s Andre Perkowski, who, although apparently making terrible Ed Wood homages — yet more confusion, why are these people letting themselves be interviewed by the writers who savaged them in the main text? — is also responsible for “a three hour adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ Nova Express” and a “Super-8 gutter kung fu epic” dubbed by no less than Phil Proctor (Firesign Theatre), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), and Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu (MST3k). Now that’s another film I want to see!

    In the end, I can’t really recommend this book to anyone but an Ed Wood completist, who may find enough of interest to balance the irritation with the authors’ tone and Second Wave attitudes, or just wants the exhaustive film production details. Anyone who really wants to know why Ed Wood matters should still make the effort to read Craig’s sometimes post-modernly portentous tome.

    Ed Wood had, and more importantly has, something to say to us, both in the archeofuturistic themes of his films, and in his example of how to work outside the official cultural system.

    “Look what Wood did with a couple hundred bucks, a few thousand bucks, and some close friends — he made films that almost everybody knows about, that have endured, that are still loved by many. I consider this a great feat, actually. [He] forged entirely unique — if rough — products using only his wits and immediate resources, and playing entirely by his own rules.” (Rob Craig)

    “Despite boldly proclaiming “MADE IN HOLLYWOOD, U.S.A.,” this was some other sort of Hollywood.” (Andre Perkowski)

    As David C. Hayes says in his Afterword:

    He wasn’t simply some Hollywood hack job, Ed Wood had a voice. His films had their own language and he was actually SAYING something. What that something was and how important it would be to humanity was up for debate but it was something.

    Notes

    1. See my “Essential Films . . . & Others,” here [3]

    2. I’m still in the early stages of an essay on the cinematic oeuvre of Coleman Francis which should establish him as the true Orson Welles of Grade Z move-making, as well as likely becoming my own opus maximus. Or kill me.

    3. Why? See my “Getting Wood: Closely Watching the Cinematic Alchemy of Edward D. Wood, Jr.,” a review of Rob Craig’s Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2009), here [4].

    4. A Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart; killed many a Jap and was tortured in a POW camp. “Wood is said to have been a model soldier and a vicious fighter. . . . his teeth bashed out from being struck with the butt of an enemy rifle and having his leg disfigured by gunfire.” One wonders how many manly men of the man-o-sphere would fit that description?

    5. “Ed Wood’s Sleaze Paperbacks [5]” curated by Johan Kugelberg and Michael P. Daley; November 2–December 4, 2011, at Boo-Hooray in Soho. Also the site of a recent exhibit of Corvoiana — “The Death Centenary of Baron Corvo [6],”curated by Johan Kugelberg; All Saint’s Day, November 1st, 2013 — see my “e-Caviar for the Masses” here [7].

    6. Wednesday, April 15, 2015; “Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 59: ‘Cult Movies’ No. 11 (1994) [part 2 of 2],” here [8].

    7. Blevins is a bit skeptical: “The focus is on Ed’s canonical feature films as a director and writer. The book’s Amazon page states that the authors will be ‘providing in-depth looks at the 29 existing films written and/or directed by Wood.’ . . . I’d certainly be curious to learn which movies constitute ‘the 29 existing films’ in the eyes of Messrs. Rausch and Pratt, since I’d put the total at around 40.”

    8. Blevins is a bit charitable in his notice: “Tonally, this looks to be rather less formal and academic than Rob Craig’s Ed Wood, Mad Genius from 2009, but the general scope of the new book seems to be about the same as Craig’s. . . . While Craig’s book is largely quite serious, this one claims to be ‘hilarious and reverential.’” As Blevins says about the claim to cover “all” of Ed’s films, we’ll see about that.

    9. One Amazon reviewer complains about a lack of “spoiler alerts,” as if the pleasure of viewing a Wood film came from narrative surprises. On the one hand, as Rob Craig says here, “If you asked me what are the worst movies ever made, I would unhesitatingly start with Star Wars (1977), Ghostbusters (1984), and E.T. (1982). . . . They are utterly predictable. . . . The sheer awkwardness of Wood’s films makes them easy targets for perfection-oriented souls who don’t like to see any missteps or incongruities in their film narratives, preferring squeaky-clean, predictable corporate product.” On the other, as we’ll see Craig himself saying later, the genius of Wood’s films is that they, unlike other Z-grade product, richly repay repeat viewing, what I call “closely watching.”

    10. “Ridiculous” occurs at least eleven times, usually referring to dialogue. One sometimes feels the authors are straining at gnats: asking what could it could mean when a policeman has “a cold problem” (i.e., what we would call today “a cold case”).

    11. “The Wood revival [was] inspired by The Golden Turkey Awards, by the brothers Medved. [Michael Medved is] the Gene Shalit clone (or a well-dressed Ron Jeremy) who . . . actually interviewed a few drunks and liars to get background on Wood, hence worldwide mistaken impressions in general and specific (i.e. that Plan 9 from Outer Space is the worst movie ever made), including uncountable errors about the films and the man.” — From the “Foreword” by Ted Newsom. By the way, those readers who may think my own reviews are somewhat “unfair” might consider Newsom’s remark that the interviews making up Rudolph Gray’s Nightmare of Ecstasy were “rearranged by topic by editor Adam Parfrey of feral Press, but neither felt fact-checking was necessary.”

    12. Hegel: Texts and Commentary; Hegel’s Preface to his System in a new translation by Walter Kaufmann; (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1966).

    13. As to how “life affirming” the original is, see my essay “Of Costner, Corpses, and Conception: Mother’s Day Meditations on The Untouchables and The Big Chill,” here [9] and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    14. As the boys on the Satellite of Love would advise us, “Repeat to yourself ‘it’s just a show/ I should really just relax.’”

    15. I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure author Rausch had no problem with reliably commie-symp (as Wood would say) Orson Welles in his 2008 Making Movies with Orson Welles: A Memoir (with Gary Graver). Welles himself, as I point out in my “Breaking Badge: Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad” (here [10]), was a great enough artist to portray the evil Hank Quinlan so intimately that audiences took him to be the hero, not Charlton Heston’s boring Vargas.

    16. The authors suggest that Ed’s use of the term “beatnik” well into the ’70s shows he was “out of touch,” I would suggest it shows that, like Jack Kerouac, another deeply conservative artist, he had too much contempt for them to pay them any continuing attention. As they note, Ed was a lifelong fan of Jack Webb, and Dragnet’s “just the facts” approach profoundly influenced his tendency to use a police procedural framework in his films. Coleman Francis, by the way, was frequent bit player on Dragnet.

    17. Perhaps this Rausch, author of Dirty Talk: Conversations with Porn Stars (2015). “Many of the pornographers are depicted as swarthy, Armenian-looking fellows with ugly scars and brooding personae,” which seems like realism to me, and recalls the comparison above, of neocon Michael Medved to Ron Jeremy — isn’t that supposed to be a bad thing? Again, the authors are outraged when their porno pals are portrayed as a “band of low-life smut peddlers . . . connected to the American Mafia.”

    18. As William Burroughs would say, “Wouldn’t you?” Or as Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

    19. For more on this and Ed as a “unique cross between a libertine and a prude,” see my review of Craig, op. cit.

    20. See Craig, op. cit., and my review, op. cit.

    21. Such as Zontar: Thing from Venus or Attack of the The Eye Creatures [yes, sic.]

    22. I hear you, Rob!

    23. On the distinction of men against, with, and outside of Time, see Saviti Devi, The Lightning and the Sun, ed. R. G. Fowler (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

     

    ...
    (Review Source)

The Weekly Standard Staff1
The Weekly Standard



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Louis and Woody
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    ...
    (Review Source)

Soiled Sinema2
Soiled Reviews



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻


  • Nocturnal Animals
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)
      While I would not really expect a flaming fag fashion designer that once recommended that all straight men suffer the supreme de...
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Summer with Monika
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Over half a century before the rise of the somewhat pathetic internet culture M.G.T.O.W (aka ‘Men Going Their Own Way’)—a group th...
    ...
    (Review Source)

PJ Media Staff1
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • The 3 Most Poisonous Movie Clichés of the 60s and 70s
    (”Scenes from a Marriage” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle Ed Driscoll and I had fun last week with my brainwave about the preposterously-named Adam Smith's freakish drive-by harassment of a (preternaturally Zen) Chick-Fil-A employee.I was struck by the incident's similarity to the famous "diner" scene in Five Easy Pieces (1970), right down to the "chicken": var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Five Easy Pieces Diner Scene', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Ed quoted a film critic who held up that scene "as the point where American movies began to celebrate gratuitous anger."Anyone who's watched other drivers careen out of the parking lot after the latest Fast & Furious movie has to admit that films affect our behavior; that cinematic ideas and attitudes trickle into the cultural water table, and sometimes pollute it.To take one trivial instance: I've written before about the influence all those 1970s "Satanic children" flicks had on my decision not to have kids.Three other movie tropes from that era impacted audiences in ways that continue today.(Language and content warning:) var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Eddie Murphy is RAW while describing Italians and Rocky explicit HD', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/8/15/the-3-most-poisonous-movie-cliches-of-the-60s-and-70s/ previous Page 1 of 4 next   ]]>
    ...
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