Friday, 23 February 2007

Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t ‘Ve?)

Of course you have, and as long as it wasn’t someone who preferred the Roland Gift massacring of the above song to the sublime original you can be let off.

A thousand years ago in the 1980s, besotted by minxish gamines with sharp wicked eyes and smiles and even sharper haircuts, I fell in love with Louise Brooks, or rather a dozen postcards and posters of her, holding herself challengingly, projecting a total awareness of her charm and a wry amusement at its power.

The effect was amplified by reading at University the two Wedekind plays on which her most famous film ‘Pandora’s Box’ was based and discovering at the university library a book on the film full of stills revealing that even caught by the movie camera she was capable of captivating (you must have come across the phenomenon of carefully contrived beauties made by artful lighting, who fall apart under less loving scrutiny, it’s a blow but you usually still have the stills to comfort yourself with).

The plays rollick along rather excitingly and there’s something quite Angela Carter in the naughty but innocent creature of desire that wanders through them, she’s part victim, part passive hero, part architect of her own oblivion, childlike and childish, feminist and fun and I could only imagine how great the film version might be.

Last night we saw the film, it was ordinary. There were occasional pleasures in staging and bits of comic business and the uncanny resemblance of Fritz Kortner as Dr. Schön to Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier in both look and deed, but it’s really not a great film. The few bits of filming I could wholeheartedly approve of were in the way the camera follows the female star hungrily and the care with which she is framed and lit, excluding a few extreme close ups where glistening starburst highlights on her teeth and eyes, seemed rather too artful and ridiculous and put one in mind of the photoshop lens flare used on dodgy photomontage book covers.

Even without this occasional nonsense Louise Brooks is spectacular, more alive than anyone else in the film, possibly because she was an American actor in a German Expressionist drama, but who cares- she glittered, scowled, sobbed, smiled wickedly and playfully, demanded total attention, and, lets be clear here, looked damned hot.

It was such a relief- she was beautiful and she could act (bear in mind my longest sustained glimpses of Brooks performing beforehand had been in a not entirely edifying ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’ video, from the days when OMD was one person*).

You have to see her, even if she ends up in a peculiar foggy 30s/Victorian studio London looking like she’s living with Steptoe and Son and dying at the hands of an actor whose version of madness went out with Doctor Caligari. You must be assimilated. Obviously, she can never belong to you and your desire for her will destroy you and all else you hold dear but she’s so worth it she should advertise hair products.


*Andy McClusky is a much shorter name than ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’, he was mad not to use that. It’s not like anyone buying records in the early 90s who had any band loyalty to OMD wouldn’t have known his name, or any of the kids would be more inclined to buy ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ because of a faintly silly sounding band name, is it?

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