Movie Love Comics: Singin’ in the Rain

This is an adaptation of Singin’ in the Rain, published in Movie Love comics, April 1952, to tie in with the film’s original release. It seems clear that this was not intended to be the first place to encounter the film, but a chance to remember it. Scenes are sketched out so quickly (they have to cram the entire film into 12 pages) that they would surely be difficult to understand if you weren’t already familiar with the film. Before there was home video, and long before you could own a digital copy of a film on a mobile device and replay favourite scenes at any moment, paratexts like comic book adaptations did the job of replaying films for their fans. Continue reading

“All a Man Can Do is Look Upon it”: What’s With the Werckmeister Whale?

[See also How to Watch Werckmeister Harmonies]

And so continues a period of whale-watching at Spectacular Attractions. Having finally made the time to read Moby Dick over the summer, along with Philip Hoare’s Leviathan (a personal account of his fascination with whales, retracing the influences on Melville’s book), I got a bit interested in whales. I’m about to watch Lloyd Bacon’s mad, fast and loose adaptation from 1930, and then I’ll have a go at the other versions, some of which I’ve seen before, none of them recently. There are currently two (count them!) new adaptations of Moby Dick in production, the first a TV mini-series due for broadcast next year. It’s a German production with a British director, Mike Barker, and an American cast including William Hurt as Ahab and Ethan Hawke as Starbuck. The second is one of those “re-imaginings” that can bode so badly for all concerned, but it might just be crazy enough to work. It’s to be directed, alarmingly (but tellingly) by Timur Bekmambetov, director of gun-fetish gravity-mocking action movies like Wanted, and has no cast attached as yet. I’ll offer some updates as and when I can find them.

Read on…

Whale-watching: Forthcoming Moby Dicks

[The image above (like the one at the bottom of this post) is from a design by Paul Lasaine for an abandoned version of Moby Dick developed by Dreamworks, directed by the Brizzi brothers. You can see several more images at his blog. The plan was to tell the story from the whale’s point of view; a fascinating idea that the studio didn’t want to follow up. My whale fixation continues in a post about Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies.]

I’m planning to post updates here on Spectacular Attractions about the two forthcoming adaptations of Moby Dick, along with notes about earlier versions. It’s something I’m distracted by at the moment, so this is an outlet. If anyone has further information than I can gather from the Web, please add comments below.

Read on…

The Rain Before it Goes to Earth

In Jonathan Coe’s latest novel, The Rain Before it Falls, a character describes the joy of appearing as an extra in Powell and Pressburger’s Gone to Earth. Her excitement at getting close to Jennifer Jones is a hint at her burgeoning sexuality, but the recollection fits in well with the books central themes of memorialisation, and the power of photographic records to record some, but crucially not all, of the truths of a particular moment. The film gives her a glimpse into the past lives of herself and her friend. Coe illustrates the sequence vividly:

“I can describe exactly the clothes that Beatrix found for us to wear for our appearance in the film. This is not a feat of memory on my part: it’s because I have the film on tape now, recorded from the television some years ago, and she and I can be seen quite clearly in one of the earliest scenes. Oh, the excitement, of glimpsing myself – just for a few seconds – on the big screen, when I saw the film with my parents when it was first released! We went and saw it four or five times in a single week, just for that thrill. (And most of the time we were almost alone in the cinema, for it was not a popular film, not popular at all.) And then the poignancy of glimpsing myself – of glimpsing both of us – once again, when the film was rereleased almost forty years later, and I saw it with Ruth at that cinema near Oxford Street shortly after our dinner party. […] Since then I have seen it many times – so many times; it is the only moving record I have of Beatrix at all, the only one where she is not frozen in time. It is precious to me for that reason, mainly, although there are other reasons too.
Our little appearance takes place in what I believe the film-makers call an establishing shot. A sculptor is seen chiselling the date – 20 June 1897 – on to a memorial stone, against a background of bright blue sky. Behind this, already, we can hear the noise of horses’ hooves clip-clopping along the street. We then cut to the street itself – the bottom of the High Street, at its junction with Wilmore Street, so that the old Tudor guildhall and buttermarket buildings are also in view – and there, immediately, you can see Beatrix and me, standing in the left-hand corner of the frame, laughing and talking together.”

The description of the scene continues for a couple more pages. But as soon as I read it I knew that I was going to find a copy of the film and check whether or not this shot exists, and whether or not our two characters are visible in its left-hand corner. And here, with apologies for the dodgy old VHS quality, is, I think, the relevant shot:

It is a little spooky to see fictional characters transported into another medium. Maybe Coe anticipated the little frisson that would greet readers when they saw the film, as if throwing in an uncanny authentication of the story told in the novel. In the book, the dying Rosamond leaves a series of tapes for a blind girl whose family relationship is initially mysterious. On these tapes, she describes a series of photos that mark out key moments in her life. But the images never tell the full story, and sometimes they obscure it. Coe pulls off the neat trick of offering us, in this moment from Gone to Earth, a concrete example of an image that lies to us – it is, of course not Rosamond and Beatrix in the left hand corner of the frame. The image has just been borrowed and put to a new fictive purpose. I’d love to hear about more examples of books describing, and re-imagining scenes from actual movies.