Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chat: The Golden Coach

Tracy: Let me get my Golden Coach notes. They are sparse, seeing as the title pretty much tells you a bunch about the movie.
  In that there is a Golden Coach.

Natalie: Ha! Yeah, I have no notes.

Tracy: Okay, my first is "Slaves! Awesome!" so this is sort of where I'm operating.

Natalie: HA! Oh dear. This movie. I kept trying to wrap my head around the nationalities involved. So it was an Italian-style story with an Italian troupe of "actors" in a Latin American country of no name (although Wikipedia says Peru--I don't remember that) where they all spoke English except when a joke was being made about there being a language barrier and all directed by a French dude?

Tracy: I know! My second note is, and you know how unusual this is for me, "this shouldn't be in English." It seemed like a really strange mix. And some stuff was just too obviously a SYMBOL. Like, for instance, the golden coach. It did teach me a lot about commedia dell'arte, though. I looked it up after, and I guess it was associated with the rise of the actress as a profession, and the attendant possibilities for power, money, self-sufficiency, etc. So I guess that makes sense thematically. Because though this is another woman who is obsessed with jewelry and bad at having an affair, at least she doesn't take it so seriously.

Natalie:  I know! I was surprised that there were no subtitles. It felt strange. So, re: golden coach. Is this just a retelling of the Golden Goose fairy tale? And, huh, re: commedia dell'arte. I wish this were a more interesting movie about those things. Because, YES!, goodness, how many movies are we going to see about women who are terrible at affairs? Although with this past week's news about Petreaus' mistress . .

Tracy: Oooh. Remind me of the Golden Goose fairy tale. I thought the c d'a was angle was the most interesting, as it also appeared to be extremely racist. But yes! Maybe people are just terrible at having affairs and movies are reflecting that! What did you think of the "stage-iness" of the movie itself? The way the curtain kind of opened at the beginning? Reminded me of Wes Anderson a bit.

Natalie: The Golden Goose per wikipedia (because I couldn't remember the specifics): "The hero is the youngest of three brothers, given the nickname Simpleton. His eldest brother is sent into the forest to chop wood, fortified with a rich cake and a bottle of wine. He meets a little gray man who begs a morsel to eat and a swallow of ale but is rebuffed. The eldest brother meets an accident and is taken home. The second brother meets a similar fate. Simpleton, sent out with a biscuit cooked in the ashes of the hearth and soured beer, is generous with the little old man and is rewarded with a golden goose. The goose has been discovered within the roots of the tree chosen by the little gray man and felled by Simpleton.

With the goose under his arm, Simpleton heads for an inn, where, as soon as his back is turned, the innkeeper's daughter attempts to pluck just one of the feathers of pure gold, and is stuck fast. Her sister, coming to help her, is stuck fast too. And the youngest, determined not to be left out of the riches, is stuck to the second. Simpleton makes his way to the castle, and each person who attempts to interfere is joined to the unwilling parade ranging from the parson, his sexton, and two laborers.

In the castle lives the King with the Princess who has never laughed. But the despondent Princess, sitting by the window and glimpsing the parade staggering after Simpleton and his golden goose, laughs until she cries. Some versions include an additional three trials. Simpleton succeeds in all with the help of his little gold friend and finally wins the princess, living happily ever after."

J walked in at one point and said "Is that a dude in black face?!" Because one of the players had a mask on that did, in fact, give him a black face. Sigh. And, yeah, everything about the Latinos was racist. It didn't remind me of Anderson then but I see what you mean now. At the beginning it was kind of interesting; at the end it was just, really?

Tracy: I can see some parallels there--this thing that stands for riches being coveted by everyone. So, according to le book, apparently :this is the first in Renoir's loose theatre trilogy." I'm sure we'll have to watch the other ones eventually. Most of it is summary, but at the end it says "The movie's surface frivolity and farcical plotting camoflauge a mature, even melancholy film about the fraught relations between love, art, and life." I guess. Francois Truffaut called it "the noblest and most refined film ever made." That I'm not so sure about.

Natalie: Three?! Sigh. At least it's a "loose" trilogy. Apparently one is a French musical and the other has Ingrid Bergman--both already sound better than this one. I see the melancholy (more so than the frivolity really) but not anything noble or refined. Eh. I wouldn't keep it.

Tracy: Me either, since I know we're going to watch more Renoir before this project is over.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Golden Coach (1952)

I don't normally write these intros but our intrepid intro writer is *already* on her Thanksgiving vacation-- Sigh. We won't talk about how jealous I am of that little fact--so I figured I'd give her a break and just write something sub-par and we'll get back to our usual tasks after the holiday.

This little French film about an 18th century Italian commedia dell'arte troupe in Peru was filmed in Rome, is apparently one of three of a loose trilogy, and was based on a French play. If you can wrap your head around all of those nationalities, toss in a golden coach (yep, an actual coach made of gold), a few would-be lovers of the female lead, and the fact that the French director is Jean Renoir (the son of THAT Renoir) and we're in for an interesting view.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chat: All about Eve

Natalie: I can chat All about Eve if you want.

Tracy: Sure! So I think it's sort of appropriate that we're doing it this week, since watching it this time I kept thinking how much like a horror movie it was.

Natalie: It WAS sort of like a horror movie. There were a lot of "knowing" camera shots on Eve's face. Kind of like a horror movie might do with the killer.

Tracy: Yes! And this creepy liar, insinuating themselves into your life and into your house and nobody else being able to see what a monster they are. What did you think of how she is eventually brought to heel? I was sure that critic was gay.

Natalie: And the terror of the person being, well, terrorized while no one believes her. Total psychological thriller in some places. Yeah, eh, I was sure he was gay. While I liked her being put in her place and her lies being brought to like, I didn't like the rape-y force with which it was done. He wouldn't have done that if he were exposing a man.

That reads wrong--I meant Yeah, eh about the bringing to heel, not the gayness of the critic.

Tracy: It was totally rape-y! And doesn't something about the ending suggest that all professional women--or at least actresses--are replaceable parts, and that the only way for women to get real meaning is to get married? In some ways, the movie is so great for women because of the wonderful roles (including Marilyn Monroe's!), but it's retrograde too.

Natalie: The ending totally suggests that. As does Margo's retirement really. Not that she can't retire but she doesn't need to retire ONLY because she's getting married and dude will be there at 6am. I love the Marilyn cameo, well, not really a cameo since she wasn't famous yet; so, bit part. I agree--the plot movie does a lot to dispel the aging actress idea that says 30 and 40 something women can't be on stage but then it plays right into that. And, we don't get a married woman who works or does anything but meddle. Karen is a great character but she's the only married, educated woman we see and she does nothing but lunch and cause trouble.

Tracy: And take back her cheating husband! I know the movie isn't totally interested in whether they had to do any work to repair what happened with Eve, but Jesus. So do you think that Eve's name also is sort of anti-feminist? THIS is the essence of women?

Natalie: Do we actually know he cheated? I thought it was just Eve's lies. It seems like they would have had to do quite a bit of repair work. And then a lot of maintenance. Ooooh. Her name is a touch problematic. The move does nothing to say that her character is an abnormality and the end suggests it's completely normal for actresses at least.

Tracy: I guess we don't--I just assumed she was successful with him since she failed with Mr. Margot--and gay critic dude seemed to think so too. And I don't know--when he ran to her during the fake breakdown . . . but it is ambiguous. And yeah--I think the actress thing is important, which makes Marilyn's bit part important. It seems like there's no other way to be successful other than to instrumentalize yourself in that way, and that encourages the kind of lying (acting?) that Eve does.

Natalie: There's a strange look between him and Karen in the bedroom but I think that's all besides Eve's questionable info. Oh, yeah, gay critic dude. Interesting. Marilyn seems the more benign version. She knows what she's doing but she's not trying to destroy other people in the process. But, I guess Marilyn has the body to do things that way.

Tracy: True. I do have to say, like I said on the phone, I so love Bette Davis in this role (pre-taming of the shrew). She's so magnificent in her snarky rage.

Natalie: I LOVE Bette Davis in this role! I love her face and all of the close-ups. She has a magnificent control over her body and the way she shows emotion. Was she in Taming of the Shrew?

Tracy: Not that I know of--though she would have been GREAT--I just mean after she decides to get married, it seems like that great body and voice deflate a bit.

Natalie: Oh! That makes sense! But, Taming of the Shrew related, she and Elizabeth Taylor shared an amazing ability to portray anger on film--Taming and Who's Afraid for Taylor, especially.

Tracy: Yes. And not make it seem hysterical or weepy, but rather like a righteous storm. Incidentally, book reminds us that this film holds the record for the most female acting nominations (4!). The rest of the info is about how its a great movie about show business, witty screenplay, etc. Also says "its only flaw is Baxter" (Eve). I thought she did a decent job with a pretty impossible role.

Natalie: Absolutely--anger in a way that makes you uncomfortable and back away from the screen a bit. Hooray for female acting nods! How is Baxter flawed? I thought she did a pretty good job. I mean she's playing opposite Davis. Who's going to do that with as much force as Davis?

Tracy: Sounds like they had a problem with the character--"ambition in a womanly form" or something. But that seemed to be the point, yeah?

Natalie: Huh. Yeah. That seems the entire point. She looks innocent and sweet and therefore you don't expect the vitriolic conniving from her. And that makes her ugly in a way her face can't. It also shows a transition between the slightly problematic high school girl, Eve, and Margo.

Tracy: And what's interesting is that there doesn't seem to be a drop-off in talent. No one accuses Eve of being a hack, just a liar. Wonder if the problematic high school girl is any good either?

me: That's true. Eve is apparently incredibly talented and, now that she has an award, she won't have trouble getting roles. Maybe that's some of the commentary, too. That women HAVE to do this sort of thing in order to get into the game. Eve didn't have a prayer otherwise--the way Marilyn was pushed over by Eve and her connections.

Tracy: I think so. And I wonder what Margo had to do to get where she is.

Natalie: Right? It MUST have been a lot because her parents were ... farmers? shop owners? Something that wouldn't get her theater connections.

Tracy: Maybe that's why she cottons on to Eve before anyone else (that and she's trying to steal her man). So now I'm coming back around to thinking the movie IS feminist.

Natalie: Yeah, to give Eve a chance but Eve isn't interested in the slow apprenticeship and gets dirty to speed things up. That way it does seem more feminist. I think what it is is a lot more complicated than it seems. Which is interesting in an of itself. Also, we don't see the male oppressive machinery so much. We know the men are the playwrights and directors and producers and generally in charge but the guy with the money is malleable (just not reliably so), the playwright is a little flaky and attached to his wife's opinions, and the director is devoted to Eve. But what we see is how these men help the women they love/like, not how they oppress them...

Tracy: That's true. They might be clueless, but they certainly don't disrespect or devalue women. The way some people do. On Facebook.

Natalie: HA! I can't imagine of what you speak :) So, does that respect and value (the director and the writer, probably the producer, too, all know that it's the actress that makes their work famous) make it more feminist?

Tracy: For me, it's more the equal footing on which the women stand that does. So I guess the respect more so than the value. Because if it's just that the actresses add value to the product, that could be objectifying or dehumanizing, but it's more that everyone is co-creators in the artistic product, and everyone is taken seriously. Then people fuck up as people do, but at least it's not because "oh she's a woman and hysterical." I don't think anyone accuses Margo of that, even when people haven't realized the truth about Eve yet.

Natalie: That makes sense. No, I don't think anyone accuses Margo of being hysterical. The director does about his fidelity but that's a different matter.

Tracy: Yes. Which is really refreshing. So verdict = feminist and list-worthy for me. You?

Natalie: Me, too! I'm happy we got to see an enjoyable one!

Tracy: Yes!