Entries in Rita Hayworth (6)
Hit Me With Your Best Shot S6.10
Mid Season Finale (See all the pics tonight at 11!)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
Directed by Orson Welles. Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.
Though we're usually tasked to watch the same film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, today for the Orson Welles Centennial, participants had their choice of three films. I chose The Lady From Shanghai (1948) largely because the only image I ever see for it online is Orson Welles seizing Rita Hayworth, both of them reflected by mirrors in the über famous "Crazy House" finale. It's one of those movie sequences you learn by osmosis just watching other movies (remember Woody Allen's take on it in Manhattan Murder Mystery?) even before you get around to this 1948 noir (Technicall IMDb says 1947 but it was released practically everywhere in 1948). Though the hall of mirrors contains roughly 50 shots that could justifiably be called "Best" it's their proximity and their dizzying accumulation of lies (all about to shatter) that really does it for me so I looked elsewhere.
The Lady From Shanghai is gorgeously uncluttered. It's as if only the basic tropes have room to exist: the femme fatale, the narrating dupe, the shadows, and the crimes. It's so self aware it even toasts its own genre halfway through...
Here's to crime!"
You might even call it minimalist despite the famously baroque visual finale. It was the fourth Orson Welles picture and the first to be ignored entirely by the Academy when it opened in the summer of 1948 but it won the important battle: standing the test of time.
The movie plays its hand immediately, informing you that Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) will be Michael O'Hara's (Orson Welles) undoing. But every time you look at her, which is often since Welles and Lawton Jr give Hayworth star vehicle closeups throughout, you hope it won't be true. One very smart recurring visual motif is that Mrs Bannister is bathed in light more often than she's in shadow. She so clearly has her own key light that at the tail end of the movie's first sequence, when Welles jumps in a horse drawn carriage with her, their images seem artificially conjoined since he's so shadowy and she's so bright.
But this lighting motif is a lie, one you catch if you a) believe the narration and b) listen to the dialogue of the film's oiliest and most repulsive character who refers to the paradise around these rich sharks as a "bright guilty world." One notable exception, the one I'd select as Best Shot if I could have two conjoined images to illustrate a point, is when Elsa and O'Hara meet in an quarium. This time they're both bathed in shadows though something is very different about the shots: when O'Hara stands next to the glass they're like harmless magnified fishies; when Elsa picks a spot to stand the marine life is far more disturbing, gasping for air.
But for Best Shot I'm going minimal, and brightly lit, conveying the intoxication of Rita Hayworth. The shot below is breathtaking in its sensuality; Elsa gets the full glamour treatment, the glistening eyes and slightly parted mouth, the soft but ample lighting. But Welles doesn't rest on his co-star and lover's beauty alone. There's an impressive array of choreographed movement that keeps whiplashing the camera back to her, reclined, through lots of business with her three men and one cigarette. You're constantly aware of the relationships between the four principles. This is is not a typical triangulated affair or evil quartet but a circle with Elsa Bannister always at its center.
And since we're speaking of juxtapositions, if you pair this hypnotic sequence -- your eyes are getting heavier... You will do whatever Rita breathily implores! -- with an even more brightly lit but far less serene shot of her face in the climax, this star turn reveals itself as quite a bifurcated triumph; it's half fawning iconography (until the mask of her glamour finally drops) and half shifty performance.
By all means if you haven't seen this movie -- or any of Orson Welles's masterpieces, do.
[Editor's Note: While Magic Mike is in theaters we're revisiting memorable stripteases. Here's Jose to talk Gilda.]
When I was thirteen, I found Madonna's SEX on eBay and bought it. Upon its arrival I showed my new prized possession to everyone including my father who for a while seemed enthralled by the Queen. Upon finishing leafing through the book he came over to me and quoted something he'd said to me many times before and it was this: "I'd rather have a fully clothed Rita Hayworth than a naked Madonna".
I dismissed him. But then a few years later I watched Gilda.
This sexy noir from 1946 has Glenn Ford playing a gambler who perpetuates the classic Hollywood curse that the more you want to run away from someone, the more you'll run into them. His life becomes a living hell when he runs into his ex-lover, the title femme fatale played by Hayworth. The movie mostly concentrates on having them despise and then love each other and along with evil Germans, fake deaths and shocking twists, makes this a truly unmissable event.
However the film is mostly remembered for being Hayworth's pièce de résistance and especially for her outstanding song numbers including her performance of "Put the Blame on Mame"
Oh look! via the Film Stage via Splash via Twitter or some such, it's Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (written by the often genius Tony Kushner)
©Michael Phillips / Splash
According to Jeff Sneider he hasn't dropped the accent off camera since filming began. We are glad that Daniel Day-Lewis decided to be an actor again but we also hope they let him cobble his own shoes for these roles so he can indulge in all of his creative pursuits simultaneously.
The Awl Choire Sicha wonders why dudes can't have sex in movies anymore
The Onion "everyone giving up on John after latest movie recommendation."
Thompson on Hollywood Viola Davis to be honored at the Santa Barbara Fest... which is, as you know, a hotspot for Oscar campaigns.
Madonnarama So it's true. Madonna will be singing on the soundtrack of W.E. (which I was suppose to see yesterday but oops. my schedule lately. blargh) on a song called Masterpiece. Before you get all hot and bothered about "Oscar nomination!" remember that no matter how genius the song -- and she's written some classics for the movies -- the Oscar music branch hateth her. (No, I can't fathom why.)
Ooooh, an animated tribute to Drive (I'm having ADD today. Can you tell?) It's vaguely spoilery except the chronology is kinda off.
Super Punch offers up the best comic book covers of the year and a running gag of Thor Goes Hollywood movie referencing wins "best marketing stunt". It is pretty fun. Don't you love this Loki as Mark Zuckerberg bit to your left? You know what's.
The Hairpin remembers Rita Hayworth, scandals and all.
Animated Short Predictions 10 finalists have been announced so I reconfigured that particular Oscar chart. Boy was I way off base on that category.
KTLA Speaking of short films, here's a video bit on African Chelsea, one of the buzziest contenders for Live Action Short. It's only 7 minutes long.
Did I tell you that I was suppose to interview Jessica Chastain today but she had flight troubles or something? It didn't happen. Me sad.
Rope of Silicon Hi res photos from Ridley Scott's Prometheus
In Contention Guy Lodge makes a please for Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. That's going around. There are even petitions. I stupidly didn't carve out time for it during its blink and you miss it NYC week and now there's no screener. Argh!
Finally, I look forward to John Waters ArtForum "TOP TEN FILMS" list every year because John Waters has such an inimitable point of view. He writes and thinks fun eccentric things about movies and he used to make fun eccentric movies. True to form his list is eclectic and interesting and it's nice to see Pedro Almodóvar get props for a movie that's been weirdly underdiscussed. I giggled at Waters take on The Tree of Life.
You’d think I’d hate this film, and I almost did—until I realized it’s the best New Age, heterosexual, Christian movie of the year.
But then I had to gag, and not in the good way, when he honored Kaboom as "well written". Ugh. I hate that movie. I want Gregg Araki to grow up again. Mysterious Skin and then REGRESSION. No fair!
Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with one of the sultriest musical numbers ever committed to film.
Nightclub acts are scattered throughout the seamy annals of film noir. For starters, you've got Lauren Bacall singing "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" at the casino in The Big Sleep, and Veronica Lake putting on a magic act in This Gun for Hire. Live music, cut with equal parts despair and eroticism, is just perfect for noir's postwar underworld. In Gilda, Rita Hayworth outdoes every other noir chanteuse with her unforgettable rendition of "Put the Blame on Mame." It's sexy, sassy, and bundles up the film's themes in a black satin ribbon.
By the time the nightclub performance arrives, though, we've already heard Hayworth rehearsing the song twice. She's humming along to it during her indelible introduction ("Gilda, are you decent?" / "Me?") and later, her paramour-turned-husband Johnny (Glenn Ford) catches her singing it for Uncle Pio, the old washroom attendant. Throughout, the song acts as Gilda's leitmotif, emblematic of her fearsome sexual power. It's a side of her that the jealous, overprotective Johnny doesn't want anyone else to see.
The Film Doctor 10 questions regarding 127 Hours
Cinebeats Tura Satana (RIP)
Slant new book on Spike Lee's classic Do the Right Thing.
Latino Review EEEeeeee. "Ursa" could be the villainess of the rebooted Superman. Good luck trying to top Sarah Douglas's bitchery in Superman II (1980). Although, I'm heartened that Rosamund Pike is in the running. She deserves a big high profile movie star breakthrough.
Go Fug Yourself reveals their SAG best & worst dressed from their substantial readership polling. Was I supposed to know that Rooney Mara was Kate Mara's sister? The things that slip by you...
Pajiba "Top 5" Stars Unworthy of Their Status
Cinema Blend wonders if James Franco isn't spreading himself dangerously thin. He might be Oz: The Great and Powerful now in addition to nine other projects.
Pop Matters reviews the box set "The Films of Rita Hayworth". Ugh, why didn't I get a copy for review? Incidentally, if you ever happen to see Tonight and Every Night (1945) you'll feel a strange sense of deja vu. It's the same story as Oscar nominee Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) albeit told in a different tone and from a different angle.
Finally, be very afraid: Finding Neverland The Musical is heading your way soon. I'm only joking about being afraid. The songwriting team employed here did the enchanting music to Grey Gardens and Peter Pan is a long time stage tradition so why stop now? Plus, if you think about it certain gaggy, twee or pushily sentimental projects could (hypothetically) work much better with the distance from reality that song and dance can provide in much the same way that animation lowers our guard to things we'd think weren't soggy with sentiment in live action. I actually think that The King's Speech, which I think is a good film but no "best", would make a fine musical; the King doesn't stutter when he sings so right there embedded in your concept is the opportunities to show songs as transcendent rescue from daily troubles. Sounds perfect for a movie musical... though you'd have to have had a different cast. I'm not sure anyone would have wanted to see/hear Colin Firth (Mamma Mia) or Helena Bonham-Carter (Sweeney Todd) singing again, now would they?
P.S. Unrelated: Pixar's 25th anniversary was just a few days back. Some words coming up this week.