Tuesday, August 26, 2003

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Lest you think I've spent all my time with my nose buried in one floppy pamphlet or another, I've been watching some movies over the last few days as well...including a couple that have been on my "want to see list" for a few years now.

First up is Kissed, easily the best film I've ever seen about necrophilia. That's right, necrophilia- and it's not some low budget exploitation film made to get a quick buck but a sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of a definitely deviant practice. The deviant in question is one Sandra Larson (Molly Parker, above), who we first see as a young girl obsessed and fascinated with death. When she would find a dead animal, she would take it to a special burial ground and perform an elaborate ritual before she buried it, rubbing it on her body in what she called "the anointment". As a young adult, she is shown working at a flower shop but is soon employed at a funeral home after she makes a delivery and is so overwhelmed by the atmosphere that she asks to work there. Sandra, you see, believes that she's performing a sacrament of sorts, and acheives a kind of transcendence in which she "knows" her partner and comforts him, complete with white light and heavenly voices. Eventually, in college studying to be a mortician, she encounters a young man in a coffee shop who is attracted to her, and she likewise. She reveals her secret to him, and at first he's curious but becomes obsessed as time goes on with her and her habits, and while you're sure that no good will come of their relationship it takes an unexpected, but fitting, turn. Kissed deals with some pretty unpleasant stuff in a smart, reserved fashion. There's no explicit sex in the film, even though director Lynne Stopkewich makes it pretty clear what's going on. A memorable, sometimes disturbing but often beautiful film, it certainly enables me to come as close to understanding a necrophiliac as I ever want...and also makes me think maybe I might want to be cremated when I go.

I also caught the HBO film RKO 21, a fictionalized account of one of my favorite films, Citizen Kane- the genesis, filming, and subsequent struggles with its subject, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Excellent performances by Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles, Roy Scheider as RKO studio head George Schafer, and Melanie Griffith, of all people, as Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress. She's no Claire Danes in The Cat's Meow, but she's pretty damn good. The filmmakers play fast and loose with the facts in the name of dramatics...but amazingly, it all works and you get caught up in the story just the same. The period detail is excellent, and the recreations of certain Kane scenes are spot on. I recommend that if you see this, see Kane afterwards to see what the fuss was about.

With all the recent Bob Hope tributes in mind, I sat down and watched his 1961 film Bachelor in Paradise on TCM this morning. It was aired as part of TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" theme, in which they spotlight a different film legend each day in August, and this was part of co-star Lana Turner's tribute. Made one year after I was born, I got a kick out of seeing furniture, clothes, cars, grocery store boxes and so on that I remember from pictures from when I was a baby. The story itself was a bit of antiquated fluff about Hope, a notorious bachelor and author of racy books about life in different countries, being forced by the IRS (his accountant had absconded with Hope's money and left him penniless and in debt to the government) to move into a planned community in California, where he intends to research and write a book about life in the suburbs in order to pay off his tax debt. Assuming an alias, he acts as advisor and benefactor to all the lonely, neglected housewives in the neighborhood, romances bachelorette Turner (whose house he rents), and pisses off all the husbands, and "hilarity ensues" until all misunderstandings are resolved and Bob gets the girl, for once. Like I said, this is all very dated-there's a scene where Hope encounters an odd little neighborhood girl in the grocery store parking lot as he prepares to go in; she's curious about the stranger, and she wishes to go with him to the grocery to help Bob out. She asks her mother, and her mother says OK! Yes, that's right! Can you IMAGINE that happening today? Bob would be in jail so fast his head would spin! Dated, yes-but it's fun, and I found myself chuckling several times. Also gotta mention the cool, jazzy score by Henry Mancini which kept impressing itself on my ear. So it's well worth a watch, if nothing else but to see a world that just doesn't exist anymore.

I've got at least three more movies that I've wanted to see for some time now, but haven't been able to find to rent and managed to miss them on cable: the recent Lost in La Mancha, the documentary of the failed filming of Terry (Fisher King, Adventures of Baron Munchausen) Gilliam's Don Quixote movie with Johnny Depp; The Whole Wide World, a 1996 film with Vincent D'Onofrio as Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard and Renee (sigh) Zellweger as the love interest; and 1995's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, with Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker in this tale about her life and her role in the renowned Algonquin Round Table. Kissed was one of those films, and now I've seen it; so I suppose hope springs eternal. It took me 24 years to finally see Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr's Son of Dracula, which turned out to be an awful film but I'm one of the biggest Nilsson (and Beatle) fans there is, and I just had to see it.