sovay: (Claude Rains)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2011-12-06 02:36 am

The cramped monotony of my existence grinds me away

Of course, the posts I spend the most time on are the ones that attract the fewest comments. I should just accept this is how the internet works, but I keep wanting to talk about things anyway.

1. Anthony Lane on John le Carré. I can't reconstruct the remainder of this paragraph, which was killed by a computer crash. He's reading both the television and film versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy against the original novel, with support from the other Smiley novels. He should write about books more often; he's good with them.

2. Courtesy of [ profile] fleurdelis28: smiling Victorians. I love how goofy so many of these photographs are, especially the third and the last. I don't know if the first is really a bunch of students boating at Oxford, but existentially they feel as though they should be; most of them are successfully making eye contact with the camera, but one of them has glanced down at the wrong moment and another has been smiling just that fraction of a second too long not to look frozen. It's not an extraordinary picture; it's exactly as sweet and bad as most candid group photos, just more sepia. The second is simply a couple in a photo booth, strobe-flickering from sober-faced and formally seated, the kind of portrait that stares from the mantelpiece for decades, to completely adorable, dissolving in laughter and trying to hide from the camera. Also the wedding party where someone has snuck a kitten into the frame, because these things happen. The past is not more real when it's unguarded, but I still love these glimpses.

3. Andrew Swensen, "A Tale of Two Kreutzer Sonatas." The author was a professor of mine at Brandeis; he had a tremendous influence on the ways I think about film, literature, and the fantastic. The rest of the magazine is worth your attention, too.

4. It is not one of the great losses of cinema that Claude Rains did not get the part of Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), because Ernest Thesiger was a gift from the mad science gods, and likewise Dr. Gogol in Mad Love (1935), because of Peter Lorre, but I hadn't quite realized how close he came to being typed as a horror star. And probably would never have played most of the roles I love him for, but he would have been great. I just watched him as John Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935), which handles the source material's sudden stop partway through by reinventing it as a horror story from the beginning, very much in the style of other gaslight thrillers. Rains is younger than I've ever seen him onscreen, with a white, fevery face under his heavy black hair, so that he looks as symbolic as the split planes of his existence: a sweet-voiced cathedral choirmaster who twice a week Bunburys off to London to feed his opium habit. The Production Code must not have cared so long as no one said the word out loud, because the film opens in the Victorian equivalent of a crackhouse, inside one of Jasper's tormenting dreams, a clamoring delirium of spires and wedding bells and faces we don't yet recognize that crossfades nicely to his cleaned-up, daylight self proceeding down the aisle of a Sunday, his well-groomed boy sopranos falling into line behind him. He is the bad guardian of so many a melodrama, perving on one of his music students, sickeningly jealous of his nephew who's engaged to her, suffocating in the respectability of his position: "No wretched monk who ever groaned his life away in that gloomy cathedral could have been more tired of it. He could take to carving demons for relief—and did. What shall I do? Must I take to carving them out of my heart?" Of course, being played by Rains, he's not wholly unsympathetic; he's stricken by the realization that he's committed unnecessary murder and his subsequent attempts to make love to Rosa Bud slip badly from commanding seducer to tongue-tied crush as she recoils from him (note to self: the Anathea gambit never works); he ends badly and dramatically, the prey of guilt, dope, and genre convention. I still think the line "You can't go round strangling people without paying for it!" is funny.

5. The next thing I want to see via National Theatre Live: Travelling Light. I don't know the playwright, but I like Antony Sher, early cinema, and Jewish history; the combination looks worth the price of a ticket to me.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 08:07 am (UTC)(link)
A post like a Christmas stocking!

1. "Hence the dash of genius in those first three w'rds, enough to show that we are already in the hands of a supreme ironist: “The truth is.' It never just is. Truths are misty and multiple, like ghosts. Believe in them all you like, but you won’t pin them down."

2. Just lovely.

3. "(There might be exceptions if your family stages home performances of a Tennessee Williams play or stages a poetry reading, which I also heartily encourage.)"

4. "...(note to self: the Anathea gambit never works)..."

5. Ooh. That looks enticing.


[identity profile] 2011-12-06 09:07 am (UTC)(link)
Remarkable how the simple act of smiling makes you look modern. Those pictures are precious- and oddly moving. I adore the couple in the photo booth.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 02:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree that they're moving. I like reminders that the Victorians (and the Puritans) had a lot of fun.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 12:00 pm (UTC)(link)
The photo booth couple are my favourites, too. Delightful.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 12:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Those photos are *marvelous*--that last one, the photo booth one, is positively alive. The thing about the nonsmiling photos we're used to is that they're so deliberate; the smiling photos seem more spontaneous (especially that last one in the photo booth series), and that really is delightful.

I've heard so many versions of the no-wretched-monk quote in real life, from real people, that instead of impressing me with its intensity, it pulls me back to real life and makes me irked at the speaker.

No, the Anathea gambit never works--though in context, how does the remark apply? Is it the Rains character or Rosa Bud (! what a name!) who's trying to save someone by offering carnal pleasures? (The question comes off sounding snarky, but I'm genuinely curious about how it works...)

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 06:34 pm (UTC)(link)
Halfway through the proposition, even he can tell this was a really bad idea.

LOL. I can just imagine--even without basic familiarity with the story, I find the scene amusing!

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 02:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I do love the smiling Victorians. Unguarded, the past doesn't seem as much like a foreign country as it does in its more formal moments. Thank you for guiding me to those images.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 02:51 pm (UTC)(link)

The Smiling Victorians gallery is charming (and reassuring in its revelation that the Nineteenth Century had some capacity for silliness.) I agree the past is more real when unguarded and, in that vein, have you watched Electric Edwardians? The film contains a trove of clips from footage shot in the wee years of the Twentieth Century by cinematographers Mitchell and Kenyon. I write about it at length (and link to some YouTube clips) in my entry of 27 March 2009:

I shall read Lane's musings on Le Carre with interest. Still have not seen the remake of Tinker.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 11:23 pm (UTC)(link)

I was going to leave the exchange there but have been reflecting on my decision to avoid the film. As a lifelong disciple of Brit-TV (Beeb shows were common on the content-starved Canadian networks of my childhood), I was surprised by how cold the adaptations of Le Carre's novels left me. Despite Alec Guiness's monumental portrayal, the George Smiley of my imagination was (and remains) for me the definitive version. My conception of the inner circle that painstakingly mourned, rebuilt and redeemed the Circus is likewise too precious to risk on another cheap celluloid outing. (Guillam, Connie, Esterhause and the rest are treasured friends whom I hate to see trashed.) Spy novels are a guilty pleasure for us lit types and perhaps that is why I think they should remain just that: novels. I leave you with one name, and one recommendation for your post Le Carre reading. Trevanian, Shibumi. (And if we meet in Toronto next November, Moscow Rules. Nudge, nudge.) Cheers.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 03:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Of course, the posts I spend the most time on are the ones that attract the fewest comments.

And the ones I jot down as a reminder to myself get the most.

I love the photographs.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 08:43 pm (UTC)(link)
There's a difference, I think, between finding a post interesting and having something to say about it: there's an overlap, certainly, but they aren't the same thing.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 04:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Ha! I was sure you would've been watching Drood. We stumbled on it halfway through, and it conflicted with Cal's bedtime/Steve watching Castle. I'm happy to hear about it, though.

[identity profile] 2011-12-06 04:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I think that your large posts invariably address multiple and sometimes esoteric topics at some depth; so they become daunting to address because people would like to contribute more than soundbites or emoticons.

Lane's article is perceptive and eloquent, although his adoration of "the old British ways" always seeps through: he practically swooned in his Leigh Fermor essay. I have read every single one of le Carré's novels. I watched both parts of the TV series (Tinker, Tailor and Smiley's People) twice -- once in a marathon session over new year's eve/new year's day -- and I intend to see the film. When I do, I will almost certainly write a comparison and a larger opinion of le Carré's work.
gwynnega: (Ernest Thesiger)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2011-12-06 09:10 pm (UTC)(link)
I wish I'd seen Drood! I love Claude Rains.

[identity profile] 2011-12-07 06:45 am (UTC)(link)
Of course, the posts I spend the most time on are the ones that attract the fewest comments. I should just accept this is how the internet works, but I keep wanting to talk about things anyway.

And well you should be wanting to talk about things. Here, I'll try to help add more comments to this, in some effort to make up for the internet's perversity.


I'm sorry for the computer crash. I like the piece you've linked--I'll have to read some le Carré sometime.


These are lovely. I especially like the last one. It almost seems as if the couple are in a sort of photobooth, but I wouldn't have thought those existed in their time.


I'm going to have to think more about this one. Thank you for sharing it.

I still think the line "You can't go round strangling people without paying for it!" is funny.

I do like that line. I'm trying to imagine how it could not be funny, but I suppose I've not heard it in context, so.


I hope you get to see it and enjoy it very much. It does sound a grand concept for a play.

[identity profile] 2011-12-07 10:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! It's always good to have the best reading order clarified.

I have this strange feeling that one of his, maybe Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, was on a shelf in the basement when I was eight or ten, and that I read part of it, as one does at that age, with the painsome feeling that, although one knows all the words, there's some adult secret involved in actually finding meaning in them, a secret which one hasn't learnt and one can't see how to learn. And nothing of the dull schoolday round of spelling and geography and the Northwest Ordinance and French stories about children pushing the same wheel round, except their wheel has mostly French on it and is in Lyons or Trois-Rivières, would seem to offer one any hope that ever one will learn it.

Or at least that's how it was for me.