The Beginning

I am not in the mood to write tonight, but felt like I should anyway. Just a bit. So David Niven wrote a great book, Bring on the Empty Horses about his life in Hollywood. The chapters are broken up by people, so there's chapters on Hepburn, Chaplin, Gable, Hearst, all the big movers and shakers. Niven is a great writer and creates a heck of world of L.A. in the 40's through the 60's. If you live here, its sorta essential reading. I should add that Charlotte Chandler's biography on Groucho-Hello, I must be going!, is also a great essential reading on L.A. and the movie scene, but of the seventies (when Chandler basically lived with Groucho till he died).
The first thing I saw Niven in was A Matter of Life and Death. It was also the first Powell/Pressburger movie I saw. And Jack Cardiff photographed. And Raymond Massey snarling. Beyond that, I have forever since used both the typeface seen in the film in all my art when needed, as well as try to capture that particular shade of blue/grey used in the movies opening. So yeah, its lead to a lot of stuff this movie.
I am constantly thinking of all the weird cool stuff they put in it. Like how, unlike every other movie featuring the afterlife, the earth bound scenes are the ones in color, not the other way around. they're right anyway-is there anything more boring than the idea of heaven? The wonderful portrayl of the angel of death as a charming gay, poetry loving, frenchman from the 18th century who likes to pout.
also: a naked boy on beach playing a flute, a soldier emerging from the beach missing a boot (I also steal this regularly), the best version of heaven's waiting room, the best opening scene of falling in love and committing suicide at the same time. The movie is also great at harshly satirizing the english and american ways of life while at the same time embracing them (you cant get more english the the trifector of niven, Roger Livesey, Robert Coote...though I guess you could have Robert Morely in there...and on the other side, you have Massey, the ultimate American actor). That's probably why I often think of Dan Clowes with this movie. He does the same thing with his characters-they are both ridiculous and full of intergity.
Anyway its great how it lives and breathes in it's ow artifice. Which you dont see much these days (though The Departed and The Aviator did in their own great ways). It's all fake, its all ridiculous, and its super charming for that reason. I think of movies like Scum and A Taste of Honey a lot, but thats because they are powerful in a completely different way. A matter of Life and Death is sorta what I want out of every movie. And sorry for the complete left turn, but thats why I love comics. It's so transperent in its fakeness and yet as a reader/viewer you dive in and work with it and embrace it.
For some reason A Matter of Life and Death is not available here on dvd. Criterion has released a bunch of Powell and Pressburger movies, so its got to have to do with rights being tied up somewhere, somhow. But you know, this maybe one of those hidden good things in life. It plays all the time in rivival house theatres and thats only way you should watch this-on a big screen, projected.
Okay go to sleep. No more posting about movies.

posted by sammy at 1:05 AM