Veronica Lake, the ultimate special effect, in I Married A Witch, René Clair, 1944.
The insouciant cheekiness of this comedy/fantasy's central conceit allowed the movie to get away with the sort of (near-literal) murder which normlly would have had the Production Code Authority issuing hundreds of kittens. Lake's disinterested and dizzyingly potent erotic presence sold the whole thing as no other presence could. Filmmaker Guy Maddin recounts the stars own sad story in a delightful essay accompanying the new and indispensible Criterion Collection release of the movie. Lake's charm is such that you immediately forget the sad story as soon as she shows up on screen.
Here's a downed tree on Carroll Street between Smith and Court. My Lovely Wife (follow her on Twitter!: @ClaireicalError) were among the very lucky ones in terms of Hurricane Sandy last night, coming through with power intact and only a measly interruption in various digital services. Our neighborhood is a mess but not nearly as much as others are. This was no joke and continues to be no joke.
It's tough after all the anxiety and post-storm confusion to know exactly HOW to help, beyond extending an immediate hand to neighbors who might be in need. I'd say to anyone out there who wants to lend aid from afar or not so afar, a visit to the website for the Food Bank For New York City is a good place to start. As is, as always, the Red Cross, both the nationwide site and the Greater New York site.
If you have more pertinent links, or stories to tell, or just wanna check in, the comments are open for that. Be well, all.
Elise Lhomeau and Denis Lavant, Holy Motors, Leos Carax, 2011
She sank upon her knees beside his pillow, took his thin hand in her own; begged him not to make an effort—not to tire himself.
His face was of necessity serious—it was incapable of the muscular play of a smile; but its owner apparently had not lost a perception of incongruities. "What does it matter that I am tired, when I have all eternity to rest?" he asked. "There is no harm in making an effort when it is the very last. Don't people always feel better just before the end? I have often heard of that; it's what I was waiting for. ever since you have been here; I thought it would come. I tried two or three times; I was afraid you would get tired of sitting there." He spoke slowly, with painful breaks and long pauses; his voice seemed to come from a distance. When he ceased, he lay with his face turned to Isable, and his large unwinking eyes open into her own. "It was very good of you to come," he went on. "I thought you would; but I wasn't sure."
"I was not sure either, till I came," said Isabel.
"You have been like an angel beside my bed. You know they talk about the angel of death. It's the most beautiful of all. You have been like that; as if you were waiting for me."
"I was not waiting for your death. I was waiting for—for this. This is not death, dear Ralph."
"Not for you—no. There is nothing makes us feel so much alive as to see others die. That's the sensation of life—the sense that we remain. I have had it—even I. But now I am of no use but to give it to others. With me it's all over." And then he paused. Isabel bowed her head further, till it rested on the two hands that were clasped upon his own. She could not see him now; but his far-away voice was close to her ear. "Isabel," he went on, suddenly, "I wish it were over for you." She answered nothing; she had burst into sobs; at last he gave her a long groan. "Ah, what is it you have done for me?"
"What is it you did for me?" she cried, her now extreme agitation half-smothered by her attitude. She had lost all her shame, all wish to hide things. Now he might know; she wished him to know, for it brought them supremely together, and he was beyond the reach of pain. "You did something once—you know it. Oh, Ralph, you have been everything! What have I done for you—what can I do to-day? I would die if you could live. But I don't wish you to live; I would die myself, not to lose you." Her voice was as broken as his own, and full of tears and anguish.
"You won't lose me—you will keep me. Keep me in your heart; I shall be nearer to you than I have ever been. Dear Isabel, life is better; for in life there is love. Death is good—but there is not love."
"I never thanked—I never spoke—I never was what I should be!" Isabel went on. She felt a passionate need to cry out and accuse herself, to let her sorrow possess her. All her troubles, for the moment, became single and melted together into this present pain. "What must you have thought of me? Yet how could I know? I never knew, and I only know today because there are people who are less stupid than I."
"Don't mind people," said Ralph. "I think I am glad to leave people."
She raised her head and her clasped hands; she seemed for a moment to pray to him.
"Is it true—is it true?" she asked.
"True that you have been stupid? Oh no," said Ralph, with a sensible intention of wit.
"That you made me rich—that all I have is yours?"
He turned away his head, and for some time said nothing. Then at last—
"Ah, don't speak of that—that was not happy." Slowly he moved his face toward her again, and they once more saw each other. "But for that—but for that—" And he paused. "I believe I ruined you," he added softly.
—Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (Chapter LIV), 1881, from the 1985 Library of America edition
There has been an awful lot of...stuff written pertaining to the "Greatest Films Poll" sponsored by the British Film Institute and Sight & Sound magazine (which I was fortunate enough to have been invited to vote in); I am not inclined to contribute to any of the polemecizing per se but would like to note that the top picks in both the final poll result itself and the individual ballots is giving me an incentive to revisit some pictures I haven't seen in some time or perhaps maybe not at all. Mizoguchi's haunting ghost story, which I myself threw under the bus in favor of Sansho Dayu, and then threw Sansho Dayu under the bus and PUT NO JAPANESE FILMS AT ALL ON MY BALLOT (like many have said, in more polite ways, doing these ballots is completely fucking impossible), is now available, like Sansho, in a wonderful high-def edition from Eureka!/Masters of Cinema if you are fortunate enough to own an all-region Blu-ray player. On my coffee table right now: Arrow Cinema's U.K. Blu-ray of Wajda's Ashes And Diamonds (Martin Scorsese's ballot; also Francis Ford Coppola's ballot; it would be lovely to think they maybe hashed it out in a phone conversation but probably not, and in a sense it's sweeter to think of this affinity as having long gone un-reiterated); Tartan DVD's U.K. standard-def edition of Ingmar Bergman's 1949 Prison (Abel Ferrara's ballot; a reading of the synopsis for the film suggests an inspiration for Ferrara's own very underrated Snake Eyes/Dangerous Game); and Kino Video's Avant Garde: Experimental Cinema Of The 1920s And '30s, which features Joris Ivens' 1929 Regen, which is on Apichatpong Weerasethukal's ballot.
Jacqueline Wells and Boris Karloff, The Black Cat, Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934.
It's useful to go back to the well every now and then, rediscover what got you entranced by film in the first place. For me it was stuff like this. I caught it on a bigger-than-normal screen on Friday night with Bride of Frankenstein and It Came From Outer Space at Film Forum; all screened for the house's invaluable Universal 100 series. This shot in particular says an awful lot to me. Its existence also compensates for much else. Good to be reminded of it.