Writing about the last two Lubitsch films isn’t going to happen. I liked both The Smiling Lieutenant, and One Hour with You opens with a corker of an exchange:
Cop: You can’t just make love anywhere!
Wife (about her husband): Oh, yes, he can!
And another character has a great line, which is “I like my women wrong.”
It’s fair to say that these films are good, they’ve got a great tone, to which Lubitsch was a master. But they are not great triumphs, they are light enjoyments, lesser than To Be Or Not To Be, or Trouble in Paradise, or even The Shop Around The Corner, which strike me as his masterworks (I like Heaven Can Wait, but it’s not as sexy as his best).
I spent my weekend at the New Beverly, as I like to do, and saw Carrie and Zapped on Saturday, and then two movies Sunday that I hadn’t seen before, which is rare and always welcome. I’ve seen a lot of movies, you see.
The first was THE APPLE. I had read Nathan Rabin’s delirious account of the film in his My Year of the Flops articles, but had not seen the film until yesterday. I’ve long wanted to write a book about Canon films, and I always wanted to devote a chapter to their musicals. You’d probably have to devote a chapter just to THE APPLE, because it’s one of the greatest accomplishments of bad art that has ever been produced. Directed by Menahem Golan, one of my favorite things early on was a cut every thirty seconds (on the beat, too) to a guy swiveling in a chair and exhaling cigar smoke. It worked rhythmically but made no fucking sense at all. One time a couple years back I got very very high and was watching Baby Einstein videos with some friends and I lost my mind because the imagery is near-random, and yet art does not happen in a vacuum. And the idea of an editor putting effort into this assembly of nonsense, the idea that it became an auteur’s dream to cut from a stream of water to a smiling happy baby saying “sunshine” to a cat rolling on the ground, the idea that in someone’s mind the cuts made sense sent me into hysterics. That’s what’s so great about truly inspired bad filmmaking, the sense of someone thinking that there are really good ideas in all of this, and Golan had a good editor for the film, and the musical numbers have fine choreography, it’s just the content is so batshit nuts that you cannot believe what you’re seeing.
A limited amount of the highlights:
-They go to hell, and get offered an Apple, but also are presented with a vampire
- Somehow in the future (1994, natch), a record company is all powerful, but doesn’t control everything, except that the police make sure you wear a sticker on your face or you get a ticket (the record company is played as fascistic), something highlighted by the markers and the fact that one of the protesters is Jewish.
-The main character grabs (unceremoniously at that) his landlady’s boobs for no reason.
- The film keeps getting crazier, which is no mean feat.
- The main characters are basically Adam (Alphi) and Eve (Bibi), and Eve gets corrupted, so Satan sends femme fatale Mandi after Adam, who then sings a song where she tells the main character that she wants to take him deeper and deeper insider of her, where it’s tighter and tighter. The character has two songs like this, where she basically expresses what’s apparent on screen.
- Joss Acklund plays a hippie with an open shirt and knife on his belt.
- At the end of the film God shows up out of nowhere in a giant station wagon in the sky. Let me repeat, God shows up in a station wagon in the sky.
THE APPLE achieves something that only great art can: it becomes indelible. Ironic good bad taste is absurd, either you should admit you like crappy X for what it is, or get some real taste, but there’s something about truly and profoundly misguided and demented outsider art that it can achieve a bizarre hinterland level of genius. Rock N Roll Nightmare, Night Train to Terror, there are a couple of films like this where it doesn’t really matter if you like it or don’t, you simply give up and give in. You are with the picture, whether it succeeds on its artistic intentions or not.
Unfortunately for Eli Roth, Edgar Wright just showed The Phantom of the Paradise, which would have been the better double feature. STUNT ROCK is an entertaining film, and director Brian Trenchard-Smith (a real Mensch at that) introduced the film with no prompting from anyone. He just showed up, and (as I understand) was there tonight, and will be there tomorrow. I could tell it was him because he was wearing a Leprechaun in Space jacket, a film he had directed. AWESOME. He also did Dead End Drive-In and Escape 2000. I got to bullshit with him briefly, and he was friendly and cordial. I mentioned the trailer’s cult following, and I’m sure that came up tonight.
For those who don’t know, Harold Jay Knowles has led the cult for this film by showing the Stunt Rock trailer at Butt-Numb-A-Thon for much of that festival’s run, and if you haven’t seen the trailer, watch it right now. I’ve watched it repeatedly, and will continue to whenever I need to feel cheered up. The movie is too good to be truly amazing, the trailer sets you up for something more awesome than the film can deliver. Mostly because it contextualizes all the stunts and rocking as separate events. The director gave up the ghost by saying that the film is much like his trailer-work (the man spent years cutting trailers), and the film is – as he said – a virtual 90 minute trailer of events, of set pieces. The film doesn’t even bother to have much dramatic heft, and so the film ambles (much like Zapped) with no clear narrative drive. The film would have made a great double feature with Rock N Roll Nightmare, which I can’t recommend enough.
So, thank you, Eli, it was a great weekend of films.