“We need to get Liam Nee­son on side, we need to in­crease the num­ber of sword­fights and we need to make ab­so­lutely sure that Death loses”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

OK, Ing­mar Bergman’s 1957 film, a key work in the cinema of gloom, does seem to end with Max Von Sy­dow’s Knight be­ing led to obliv­ion in the com­pany of Death him­self. But isn’t this scene some­thing of a su­per­nat­u­ral vi­sion? The se­quence could, surely, be rea­son­ably com­pared to Bobby Ewing’s more pro­saic, less al­le­gor­i­cally driven death in the TV se­ries Dal­las. We’ve got past all that post­war ex­is­ten­tial rot now. So, the Knight is still alive and, hav­ing been messed around some­thing rot­ten, is as mad as hell. Look, Bergman had the mak­ings of an ex­cel­lent sword-and-sorcery pic­ture on his hands be­fore he mucked it up with un­nec­es­sary wit­ter­ing and too much fo­cus on board games. We need to get Liam Nee­son on side – the new, kick-ass Liam; we need to in­crease the num­ber of sword­fights; and, most im­por­tantly, this time round we need to make ab­so­lutely sure that Death loses. What sort of mes­sage did The Seventh Seal have for view­ers? Where’s the re­demp­tion? Yes, we un­der­stand that Or­son Welles pi­o­neered ab­surdly deep fo­cus, sets with vis­i­ble ceil­ings and all sorts of other baloney that no­body re­ally cares about. But the film seems in­sanely con­fused about the great­ness of its own pro­tag­o­nist. He founded an em­pire, for Pete’s sake.

Any­way, it seems that the ca­cophonous opera singer played by Dorothy Comin­gore gave birth some months af­ter leav­ing Kane and ten­dered the child for adoption. Some­how, he ended up in Aus­tralia and founded a me­dia em­pire that ul­ti­mately took over all the world’s news­pa­pers, most of its satel­lite TV and a good por­tion of the in­ter­na­tional movie busi­ness. Un­like Welles, Joel Schu­macher, di­rec­tor of Bat­man & Robin, will bring out the warmth of his pro­tag­o­nist. It will have a happy end­ing with the hero be­ing cel­e­brated at an of­fi­cial UK en­quiry con­vened to cel­e­brate the in­tegrity of the press. Al­fred Hitch­cock fi­nally got it right with Dial M for Murder. In that film, he demon­strated that the key to a fine thriller is not the care­ful main­te­nance of ten­sion or the with­hold­ing of vi­tal plot points; it is, rather, the promis­cu­ous use of 3D. For­get the shower scene in Psy­cho. Re­mem­ber that bit in Dial M when Grace Kelly stuck her hand right down the cam­era lens. That’s proper film-mak­ing.

Un­doubt­edly, the great­est er­ror in Hitch­cock’s ca­reer was his de­ci­sion not to use 3D for Ver­tigo. It’s made for the process. Weird things are for­ever fly­ing madly at the lucky, con­fused viewer. The good news is that Scot­tie, the hero of the piece, doesn’t die at the end. So, he can hap­pily spend Part Two dan­gling from cranes, grasp­ing the un­der­car­riage of he­li­copters and evad­ing gi­ant ro­bots from the cen­tre of the Earth. To ap­peal to the younger de­mo­graphic, we may have to drag the de­tec­tive back from re­tire­ment age. Chan­ning Ta­tum sounds about right. Now, here’s an idea that re­ally sits up and de­mands at­ten­tion. It’s about time the in­dus­try made a se­ri­ous at­tempt to unite the high­brow and the main­stream. Sergei Eisen­stein’s silent “clas­sic” has a great deal go­ing for it. There are quite a few ac­tion se­quences. The Rus­sian had clearly learned from Brian de Palma and knew to em­ploy lots of tricksy mon­tage shots. But, like so many sup­posed great films, Bat­tle­ship Potemkin is re­ally miss­ing out on the alien fac­tor. What about a com­bined se­quel: a film that blends the best of Peter Berg’s 2012 en­ter­tain­ment and that 1925 ex­er­cise in left­ist pro­pa­ganda? Now we’re talk­ing. Rather than de­press­ing the au­di­ence by mutiny­ing, the crew of the Rus­sian ves­sel band to­gether to re­pel an in­va­sion by snake peo­ple from Al­pha Cen­tauri. Aside from any­thing else, it will make life eas­ier for film students. For­get rot­ting food and smashed spec­ta­cles. That tu­to­rial can now dis­cuss mas­sive ex­plo­sions and com­puter-gen­er­ated fly­ing saucers. Ter­rence Mal­ick re­ally missed a trick when he made his con­tem­pla­tive 1978 film about mis­er­able peo­ple har­vest­ing wheat in the dark. We’re not just talk­ing about the dis­ap­point­ingly drab at­tack by blood-thirsty lo­custs (though Roland Em­merich would surely have made some­thing tasty of that se­quence). The orig­i­nal fea­tured two of the great shag-happy stars of the era: Richard Gere (pri­apic in An Of­fi­cer an a Gen­tle­man) and Brooke Adams (at the rumpy pumpy in Lace). And they play lovers who, for most of the pic­ture, make like brother and sis­ter. Saucy! Days of Heaven should have had more mois­ture than Water­world and more grunt­ing than Quest for Fire. We need the Brooke Adams char­ac­ter to get in­volved in some proper, undi­luted in­cest ac­tion. And, of course, we need the gun­fights to start a great deal ear­lier. Mal­ick can only di­rect if, af­ter only pep­per­ing Tree of Life with di­nosaurs, he prom­ises to in­tro­duce the gi­ant lizards into ev­ery sec­ond scene. Se­ri­ous cinema of­fers so many pos­si­bil­i­ties for out­ra­geous, un­nec­es­sary se­quels. What about a fol­low-up to 2001: A Space Odyssey in­volv­ing a search for the miss­ing space­ship? How about a se­quel to Chi­na­town in­volv­ing, erm, oil in­stead of wa­ter? We could maybe en­gi­neer a mu­si­cal re­work­ing of Fellini’s 8½ called, maybe, Nine. The no­tion of The God­fa­ther Part III is, per­haps, too silly to con­tem­plate. Hang on. Ap­par­ently, all these things have ac­tu­ally come to pass. This smar­tass fea­ture re­ally has no rea­son to ex­ist.

Knight moves: The Eighth

Seal

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