Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I couldn't feel any better or I'd be sick

Went to the Filmmuseum in Vondelpark, on Tuesday. North by Northwest. One of my two favorite movies. As it turns out, I still get very much excited while watching this. Like a little boy, before his first vasectomy. Still, at the same time, in some hidden corner of my mind, there's a streak of sadness because of that as well. It seems that it's impossible to share this particular state of mind with anyone, no matter how well one would know me. But then I realized I never seriously tried to convey what this movie means to me. I should say one thing: what I'm about to write cannot substitute watching the film yourself. But perhaps I can make some of those moments visible that send little jolts through my spine every time I watch them on the screen.

The title sequence is a slick piece of visual magic. Perhaps it's too deliberately cool to be really liked, but not to worry, this will be the first and last time that something in this movie might go above our head.

There is this concept which I like to call dream logic. Things that make perfect sense and are causally connected, but only in a particular setting (originally: in my dreams), but that would turn out to be completely non sequitur chains of events if interpreted by the harsh rules of reality. An example? How about 'attempted murder by getting someone drunk, then forcing him to drive a car' (reckless, yet hilarious driving ensues). Another one? Maybe 'pulling the knife out of someone who was just assassinated (not by you), in the middle of the United Nations reception hall'.

Speaking of the UN General Assembly building, please understand he simply had to go there, there was never really any decision he could make about it. Call it compulsion, if you must. Those are the laws of the movie universe. But since this is the moment that really sets things in motion, aren't you glad at least it turned out to become the most beautiful sequence of the whole movie.[1]

Mother. Despite the way he acts, I believe he kind of loves her, in a Madison Avenue ad executive sort of way. Sometimes I wish I would want to write fanfiction. Then I would write a scene where she meets with Vandamm, somewhere towards the end of the movie. He's the main villain, would you have guessed it by the name? The possibilities of those two getting at each other's throats would be limitless -- although I suspect that, ultimately, they would reach a deal where Vandamm is allowed to drop a rock on the protagonist, as long as she is allowed to take her son's wallet afterwards.

This takes place about 20 minutes into the movie. And removes any doubt whether this is a suspense film (Hint: is not). I also took the name of this blog from there.

This is where we witness the smartest flirting scene inside the dining car of a moving train, like, ever. Maybe 'foreplay at the table' would be a better description. But it's okay because it's the 50s. People didn't really have sex back then, which means the innuendo is completely innocent and charming. But why, Mr. Hitchcock, wherever you are, did you have to follow it up with the most awkward kissing scene in movie history. The hands, those awful hands, why do they follow me into my nightmares?

Why is Thornhill so grumpy the morning after? That's just, ungrateful, you know.

Don't mention the war. Okay.

The iconic scenes, crops and heads, strangely leave me comparably cold. Perhaps because I wasn't able to discover them myself when I first watched the movie. You cannot really make something your own if others already told you that and why you should really appreciate it. Guess this means you actually shouldn't read this post then.

This is the original, rather respectable version. Lebowski -- sorry: the Dude shouldn't hang around elderly porn barons.

No, not really. It doesn't seem like he respects the proceedings at all.

Don't get me wrong, this man is dressed as sharp as I ever would hope to be. He mentions Cary Grant regularly, as a shining beacon of impeccable style and manners. But I guess men did wear their pants rather high back then.

This is the house I want to live in, at some point in the future. Maybe I like it even better than the original by Mr. Wright. Is that his last name, by the way? How can you tell when the first names stop and the last name begins?

I somewhere read someone speculating about Leonard's special relation to Vandamme (it was not assumed to be symmetric, though). I didn't agree at first, but now I do.

The magic of Technicolor and early bluescreen techniques. Nature clearly loses in comparison.

It all ends with a tunnel. Just ask Seymour Skinner what his feelings are about those.[2]

The whole thing is pure camp, sure.[3] But it is sort of my personal medicine cabinet of campy edification, and sometimes I'm glad it exists.

* * *

[1] [Edit] I would really like to show you at least this sequence... Let's see, maybe it won't be taken down.

(Me: "There is no copyright violation going on here." *waves hand* Copyright holders, monotonically: "Yes. We can clearly see there is no copyright violation going on here.")

[2] On the cell phone. "Sorry mother, I was driving through a tunnel." - "I don't want you driving through tunnels, you know what that symbolizes." [Season 10, Episode 16]

[3] Ironically, Sontag's Notes on Camp explicitly mention the movie to be an example of something that fails to be camp. I think it's a function of time to some degree, so maybe she was right back then.