Tag Archives: film

Arise! An imaginary film scene

13451558.ae0c8028.560

Recently, I came across an article published in 1945 in the New Yorker entitled “Return to Place Pigalle”, where Joseph Wechsberg, originally from Czechoslovakia,  describes returning to Paris as a US soldier and meeting the musicians he used to play with there in the 1920’s.
The musicians describe the experience of playing in  Nazi-occupied Paris and leds to a discussion  of a violinist-cellist called Maurice, who is remembered for the following:

After 2 A.M., by which hour many of the German customers, not having been brought up on Pommery and Veuve Clicquot, were under the tables, Maurice’s favorite sport was to get up and announce in German that the orchestra would play “Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles.” (Maurice had been born in Alsace and spoke German fluently.) The plastered Germans would crawl out from under the tables, make an effort to stand at attention and fall flat on their faces. The French customers would start laughing, and in the end an S.S. man who wasn’t quite drunk would call in the nearest patrol and have the drunken Germans arrested.

I think that this would make a marvellous sequence in a film. In fact, it would be even better if the gag was repeated two or three times in a row. Of course, there is no need for the soldiers to be Germans. I think that Russians would be a good alternative, simply on musical grounds, since the Russian anthem has a swaying quality to it which would well accompany the efforts of drunk soldiers to stand up straight. Even better perhaps, Chinese soldiers, once you know that the Chinese national anthem begins with the call qǐ lái (起来) –  Arise! or Stand Up!

 

Ninety Train Rides

When I was a child, my family used to travel from Britain to Italy most summers to stay with my Italian grand-parents. Every time we crossed the Channel I was sick. I was given all kinds of advice, sometimes from other passengers, and I tried hard to apply their methods.  I remember “stare at the horizon and don’t look at the waves” and “bend your head to the right every time there is a swell”. There was a different method every time but none of them worked. There was never a ferry on which I wasn’t sick. Once I thought I had succeeded in making the crossing unscathed but I threw up when we were only about fifty yards out from the harbour.

Perhaps this is why I became so fond of trains. Getting on in Calais or Boulogne was salvation. I fell in love with the sounds, the rhythm, the wild swinging as you passed from carriage to carriage. And I remember how much I liked the landscape of the North of France. And the grime and soot of the Gare du Nord in Paris. And the  prospect of buying a soft drink called Pschitt! from a platform vendor. (In French it is supposed to suggest the sound made when you open a fizzy drink bottle, but to the ears of a very young English boy it sounded much more excitingly outrageous).

Since then I have been on trains on four continents and a lot of those trips have been among my best travel experiences.So I was delighted  to come across an article in Salon magazine entitled “The Irresistible Appeal of the Train Movie” , which discussed the best film sequences with trains. Number one on the list was Days of Heaven, a film I liked a lot, but to be honest I didn’t remember the opening sequence below.


Read more…

Masters in Conversation – the Hitchock Truffaut tapes

Truffauthitchcock
I am not sure that there has ever been a book about film quite like François Truffaut’s interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. Two masters discuss the craft of cinema. Truffaut listens carefully and gets Hitchcock to provide full disclosure of what he thinks is needed to make a film tick.
I have had the book for a long time but I have only just discovered that you can listen to the tapes online or download them here.
If you don’t speak French don’t worry. Wait for the introduction to end and you will hear Truffaut being translated into English and Hitchcock answering in English.

Sideways to Le Havre

Since this place is  a station, perhaps there should be some trains  every now and then, so here is the brilliant opening sequence of  La Bête Humaine with Jean Gabin steaming into Le Havre.

Mexican Bus Ride

Bunuelbus_ride

Mexican bus ride was the US title given to a Buñuel film called Subida al cielo (Ascent to Heaven). What follows is about a Mexican bus ride of my own and has nothing to do with the film, I just liked the poster and it is always worthwhile mentioning Buñuel, but you can see an
excerpt here.

My ride started in Cuautla, in the state of Morelos. Its main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Zapata, and it still has his train, which it takes out for a walkabout every now and then.

A Mexican friend of mine once told me that when she was a kid her mother had taken her on a week’s vacation to Cuautla and they had gone to the cinema every night and every night had seen the same film. That is the kind of thing you do in Cuautla.

I had the following interesting experiences in Cuautla, – buying a voltage convertor, being offered live chumiles to eat (I declined), hearing a train whistle and thinking I was going to see Zapata’s train and finding out it was a toy train full of kids,

converter

Voltage Converter

chumil

Chumil

                                                               

zapata train

Zapata’s train

toy train kid

Not Zapata’s train











encountering a butterfly (more -though not much more- about this here), going to a shoe-shop and watching a friend buy sandals, looking for a beer and getting directed to a saloon-style cantina for real men only, managing to get out of the cantina two hours later, being asked to hold a baby, but most of all catching a bus.  (I must admit that I couldn’t find a picture of a chumil and the insect shown is actually a tumil – but I can’t tell the difference, it might just be an alternative spelling.)

I can’t remember whether the bus (to Puebla) was the Estrella Roja or the Oro line. We climbed up through the mountains on a bumpy, narrow road. Somewhere which looked like nowhere a boy got on and started selling lollipops. “Paletas, paletas,”
he went up and down the aisle. He must have sold one, because I heard him say “Gracias”. Then he sat down next to the driver and looked with a gentle gaze at the road. The driver caught my attention because he talked to the kid, who couldn’t have been more than twelve, respectfully as one would talk to an adult. After about twenty minutes the boy got off. Another place which looked like nowhere. He crossed the road and stood and waited for a bus going the other way, shuttling I supposed all day from one nowhere to another.

“Not much profit for that much time”, I said to the driver.

“He’s doing OK”, the driver said. And he asked me where I was from. When I told him I lived in Rome, he said “Estàs muy lejos de tu rancho.”- (“You’re very far from home”- although I liked the suggestion that I might actually have a ranch). And then he started talking about things. He had been all over Mexico, all over Central America, and through the United States, driving buses. He collected a stone from every place he went to. “Which is the place you would most wish to have a stone from ?” I asked him. “Palos”, he said, “where Columbus set sail.”

He told me “My brother is an engineer, my sister is a lawyer, but when I see a bus go by, I want to drive it.”  He was reading a poet I hadn’t heard of. Later I discovered that he was very famous in Mexico, though much less outside Mexico: his name was Jaime Sabines, and he quoted some things to me. Here is a poem about the moon by Sabines.

When we drew close to Puebla, he pointed out three volcanoes, la Malinche, Iztaccíhuatl, and the very lively Popocatépetl. I thought that, considering it was boiling away, Popocatépetl had a useful rhyme with kettle. And then as we drove into the elegant city and down to the bus terminal, he said, “Gringos don’t know how to whistle” and this is more or less what he said by way of explanation.

                                                      455pxcartelparaenlistarsealservic_3