Posts Tagged ‘roman polanski

02
Feb
15

Buried Alive With The Bride

I remember the first time I saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 in the theater in 2004. I remember it vividly because it contained one of the scariest scenes I had ever seen. I physically reacted to the scene in which Budd (Michael Madsen) buries The Bride (Uma Thurman) alive. But that scene was scary for me not just because of what was happening but also because of how director Quentin Tarantino shot the scene:

From The Bride’s point-of-view, as she lays tied up in Budd’s truck bed, we see Budd and his hired hand digging up a grave, obscured in darkness. An open coffin, with a rotted corpse tumbling out of it, lies next to them. This point-of-view shot is an extended take (it lasts maybe a minute), and it’s a long shot (the perspective is from several yards away). The camera never cuts or provides close-up’s as it might do in a standard horror movie that usually shows every last horrible thing that’s happening in minute detail from all angles. This POV shot provides a deepening of identification with The Bride character as well as a sense of dread, helplessness, and uncertainty; we think we know what’s coming. But do we really know for certain and can we control it?

Kill Bill long shot

This shot reminds me of another repeated shot, which also creeped me out. In Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, Trelkovsky, played by Polanski, sees strange human figures, including one that resembles himself, staring back at him from the bathroom window across the apartment courtyard.

Tenant

The next Kill Bill Vol. 2 scene then shows The Bride in a wooden box (it’s a close-up profile shot of her that will not cut away for awhile). Budd is hammering the box’s lid shut. He has given her a flashlight, which she accidentally drops, and then the screen goes dark for a pretty long time. At this point, we only hear what’s going on: Budd and his helper lower the box containing The Bride into the ground. They shovel dirt one clump at a time onto the box, and drive off. The Bride is now alone except for the flashlight, which she eventually finds and turns on. In addition to the lack of visuals for an extended period, the other remarkable aspect of this scene is that, like the wedding chapel massacre scene (from Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2) and the Japanese massacre scene (from Kill Bill Vol. 1), it’s black and white. Why? Does the use of black and white tie these scenes together? What do these scenes have in common?  They are all “iconic” scenes narratively and stylistically, as well as character-defining moments for The Bride in both films. They also play up the stylization of Tarantino’s homage to genre films and showcase the beauty of black and white. However, while emphasizing the stylization of Tarantino’s use of violence, the use of black and white also paradoxically dilutes the gratuitous amounts of blood and violence.

Kill Bill box shot

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01
Oct
09

A Dandy in Aspic

Laurence Harvey and Mia Farrow clowning around on the set of A Dandy in Aspic

Laurence Harvey and Mia Farrow clowning around on the set of A Dandy in Aspic

I’ve always wanted to see A Dandy in Aspic (1968). So much so that I had located a used VHS for $100 on amazon.com, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a movie I had never seen! And good thing I didn’t because Turner Classic Movies played it this past week as part of a Mia Farrow marathon. Dandy was Farrow’s movie debut; she had previously appeared on TV’s Peyton Place and would go on to star in Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 (its director Roman Polanski has been in the news lately). However, I wanted to see Dandy because of Laurence Harvey, one of my favorite actors. (Read my post on him).

Harvey plays Alex Eberlin, a Russian spy (don’t worry – he’s still BBC-perfect!) passing himself off as an English spy passing himself off as an English gentleman, a dandy. (You can also make loose connections between this passing off and Harvey’s rumored bisexuality, in which he supposedly passed himself off as a completely straight matinee idol.) He meets the childlike Caroline (Farrow). As both a model and photographer, she is active and passive at the same time, two sides of the same coin. Like Eberlin, her identity is fluid once you look past the gamine surface. As one character says, “He has no future, she has no past.” Caroline wants to break though Eberlin’s façade, but he won’t let her, although she might be hiding something herself.

Some interesting facts about the movie:

  • Harvey took over directing the movie when director Anthony Mann died in mid-production. However, Harvey is not credited in the opening credits.
  • Quincy Jones composed the jazz-inspired score.
  • The movie going over schedule contributed to the breakdown of Farrow’s marriage to Frank Sinatra. Rosemary’s Baby also going over schedule would seal the deal.

Harvey’s onscreen person is in full force here (see also Manchurian Candidate and Darling): cold, detached, and bristly. However, Farrow’s character is attracted to him at first glance, reminiscent of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Although Eberlin lacks Grant’s character’s charm, they are both inaccessible men with a dark side that attracts a woman who has hidden desires under a deceptive surface. Like Grant, the focus is always on Harvey’s appearance and surface manners; the Dandy script is always referring to or playing up how impeccable his manners are and how great he looks.  However, compared to his earlier movies, Harvey is starting to show his age (he would be dead from stomach cancer is five short years).

In Dandy’s world of spies and changing identities, appearances are deceiving much like in a great deal of Hitchcock’s work. Eberlin wants to return to his roots in Moscow, to his authentic self, but he never can. At one point in the movie, Eberlin says, “I haven’t found one [a mirror] that has interpreted my image correctly.” Known as an entertaining man, who was easily accessible to both fans and friends alike (if not to critics), Harvey could be talking about himself.