A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958)

Alec Guinness in The Horse's Mouth
Gulley Jimson: Alec Guinness
Dee Coker: Kay Walsh
Sara Monday: Renee Houston
Nosey: Mike Morgan
Sir William Beeder: Robert Coote
A.W. Alabaster: Arthur Macrae
Lady Beeder: Veronica Turleigh
Abel: Michael Gough
Capt. Jones: Reginald Beckwith
Hickson: Ernest Thesiger
Lollie: Gillian Vaughan

Director: Ronald Neame
Screenplay: Alec Guinness
Based on a novel by Joyce Cary
Cinematography: Arthur Ibbetson
Art direction: William C. Andrews
Film editing: Anne V. Coates
Music: Kenneth V. Jones

The artist as mad eccentric is such a tired and familiar trope that artists should complain about it. But it remains true that the only way art can find new paths for itself is by going against the grain. It just remains to be seen how much anti-establishmentarianism one can get away with. Gulley Jimson gets away with a a lot -- theft, trespassing, and malicious destruction to start with -- in The Horse's Mouth, mainly because people think he's a genius (and his art a good investment). And in spite of his grubby egocentricity, there's something lovable about him -- at least the way Alec Guinness writes and plays him. The film doesn't really have much to say about the role of the artist in society or the venality of the art business beyond the obvious points, but director Ronald Neame keeps it buoyant with the help of Guinness and company, and with the especial help of Sergei Prokofiev, whose music for the film Lieutenant Kije (Aleksandr Faintsimmer, 1934), Kenneth V. Jones borrowed to great effect. Guinness was nominated for an Oscar for his adaptation of Joyce Cary's novel, to which he added the great visual gags of Abel's block of stone crashing through the floor into the apartment below and the Beeders and Alabaster being swallowed up when they unwittingly step out onto the rug placed over the resulting hole.

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