Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movie Moments, 14: Audrey and Bud Smile a Little Smile for Me

Manfred tipped me this movie blog Shadowplay, by David Cairns, thereby causing me much pain as many of the movies he covers I haven't seen and feel I must see immediately--and then devote my life to writing about film. I'm still not done with Slovakia, however, and though I have a two-weeks extension, I shouldn't be writing this at all. (But you're getting tired of hearing that.)

Cairn writes a lot about British cinema, which I know little about, including Hitchcock's British films.
Note to bink: read the terrific post on the characters in your favorite film, The Lady Vanishes.

He also assembles a collection of Cinema EUPHORIA, "the little moments of cinema that make you full of happiness the way John Travolta is full of puddings." [I'd say "the way Bill Shatner is full of pudding," but same difference.]
Sort of like my Movie Moments, except mine aren't necessarily happy-making moments.

He pumps other people for their choices that meet his Cinema Euphoria Credo: it makes you happy.
I want to ask you all too:

This clip is from Cairn's Euphoria #2 (he gave up numbering them after #58): a bit of Audrey Hepburn's screen test for Roman Holiday. He writes that director William Wyler "told Thorold Dickinson, who was shooting this test, to let the cameras roll on after the test was supposed to be over, and just talk to Hepburn, to get an unaffected, natural look at her."

She's horribly stiff until the last moment, when she is illuminated with the memory of how art sometimes, sometimes, can trump fascism.

This is one of the most astonishing moments I've seen on film.

It reminds me of a nonpolitical little smile on film that similarly astonished me: Bud Cort breaking the fourth wall as Harold in Harold and Maude. I say it's nonpolitical, but actually Harold is struggling for self-determination against his mother, (Vivian Pickles, pictured here too), a colonizing steamroller of materialism. (This is 1971, the US was still in Vietnam.) He resists by taking death as a lover and by faking his suicide over and over to get a rise out of his usually imperturbable mother.
When he does finally get a reaction, he glances sideways, out of the frame, and gives us a sly smile, making us his collaborators.

The look is at 0:50-1:00 here.

I saw this film the summer of 1974, when I was thirteen, and I remember the shock I felt when he looked at me. Thankgod filmmakers don't use this much, but it really did reach out and grab me, not just emotionally ("Oh, this boy is like me!"), but intellectually ("Oh, human beings like me are making this film, this is a construct!"). It made me very happy. Altogether full of pudding.

I wonder what I'd think of this film if I'd first seen it as an adult. It's easy to pick it apart as a romanticization of the search for freedom, with all the heavy handed moralizing that goes with that; but then, it's a morality play, even if I couldn't see that. When I was a kid, it was entirely real and hugely important to me. If videos had existed, I'm sure I'd have watched it to tatters.

I see now, too, what a lifesaver is was for me--not just because I saw it after my first dreadful year of high school, but because my mother, like Harold, saw death as liberation. The movie was my Maude--a life force that exhorted, "LIVE! Otherwise you'll have nothing to talk about in the locker room."


Manfred Allseasons said...

If you are starting with screentests, I am obsessed with Marlene Deitrichs from The Blue Angel...its really sinister somehow, I have to remind myself she's just acting...!


Rudyinparis said...

Oh, wow, as I watched that 57 second clip, I was thinking, well, my goodness, how much can be conveyed in 10-9-8 seconds? And then... that smile!

bink said...

Great movie blog by Cairns that you linked to. His take on Lady Vanishes pretty nearly matches mine, so of course he is brilliant!

All those Brit films he mentioned put my head in a spin! I copied down 16 I'd never heard of! Netflix better not let down finding these!

fresca said...

MANFRED: That makes me an idea to write a whole book about cigarettes in film---when she picks the fleck off tobacco off her tongue...
I shall post a collection of other people's moments soon.

RUDY: I thought the exact same thing, as the seconds ticked down! And then that last line, and the smile, and tears sprang to my eyes.

BINK: I know! I have missed a whole vein of cinema! Share your Netflix finds with me, OK? (I dropped it for the summer... though maybe I'd better pick it up again.)