Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Medium Report

Usually this space is reserved for a "Media Report," but once again we are looking at a single medium: in this case, movies of which I have recently watched portions. I had to call McNeil this morning while I was watching part of THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP. I needed to know whether he thought comedy was an essentially conservative genre. McNeil said that people could think of it as conservative because of how often it ends with a wedding, but he also thought that the wedding might be a device by which to disguise, justify, or excuse the anarchic or antisocial or subversive aspects of the comedy's main body. Yes, sometimes that's the way McNeil talks! THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP is a - what should I call it? - ideologically confused film, I guess, coming as it does near the end of the "Hipster Hegemony" period immortalized by McNeil and myself in the coffee table book we're never going to write. It could be that by reveling in the exciting, sordid details of "underground culture," the movie - like a lot of the ones McNeil and I discuss in our imaginary book - actually argues for the triumph of the "square," or of the "swinger" who learns that this "square" life isn't so bad after all, yes, the reformed, sanitized swinger. THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP should not be watched by newcomers to the "Hipster Hegemony" idea. Peter Sellers takes off his shirt a lot in it - he's a regular Frasier or Gordon Ramsay (in fact Sellers plays a restaurant critic) in that regard - and boy does he have a hairy back, which is perfectly okay. It is none of my business that Peter Sellers happens to have a hairy back! I have nothing against it. I've just never noticed before, that's all. I guess it also should have occurred to me that Peter Sellers might have had a makeup person apply ersatz back hair, being a stickler for character-defining detail as he was, but I certainly doubt it. But the main thing I needed to tell McNeil (and never did, sidetracked about philosophy and aesthetics and other grand things as we were) is that THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP contains one of those movie rock bands that he especially loves. I didn't catch the name of the band (maybe it's in the closing credits) but the song they keep playing goes, "Arabella Cinderella, what does she do?/ Turns into a pumpkin at the stroke of two." Terrible! And the accompanying music is that big movie studio approximation of what a groovy rock band should sound like. (For a later, more informed "post," "click" here.) Next, I would like to admit that I may have been too hard on the shady psychiatry in THREE ON A COUCH, because I just saw some even shadier psychiatry when I watched part of an old movie called MANHANDLED. It starts out with a guy telling his psychiatrist a recurring dream he has, in which he conks his wife on the head - fatally - with a "quart sized perfume bottle." That's a real quotation! Then the psychiatrist tells him not to worry, that people have crazy dreams all the time, and that everything he says will be held in the strictest confidence. This is funny, because there is a woman (Dorothy Lamour) in the room, taking notes on everything the guy says. "Oh, don't worry," says the psychiatrist (I'm paraphrasing), "she has been with me for four years and is very discreet." Then the guy leaves, and it turns out Dorothy Lamour has been working with the psychiatrist for no more than a few weeks, but the psychiatrist didn't want to make the guy nervous. That's not even the bad part! The bad part is that the psychiatrist IMMEDIATELY CALLS THE GUY'S WIFE! He invites her to his office in the dead of night, and says something like, "Hey, your husband keeps dreaming he's clobbering you with a perfume bottle, what do you make of that, huh?" And he says something like, "Do you think he's crazy?" I'm not kidding! I mean, isn't he asking the wife to do HIS JOB? And then he gets Dorothy Lamour to READ THE ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT TO HER. Some bad stuff happens after that, of course. But what did the psychiatrist expect? I turned it off pretty early, even though the great Dan Duryea was playing Dorothy Lamour's downstairs neighbor, a typically wonderful sleaze. Hey, do you know what? The search feature on the "blog" still isn't working correctly - it says I have never mentioned perfume before, for example - so it takes me forever to find the right "links." The "links" no one ever "clicks" on! And I know no one is reading this! It's too long! Yet still I try to get it right. That's how much I care about you, the leaders of tomorrow.