What I Peeped: Day Eleven
As per my feeling like ass (see below), I did manage to pull myself together long enough – but just barely – to catch two fest films. Thanks, DayQuil!
Triangle (Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To, Hong Kong) Is the Exquisite Corpse the new omnibus film? Hopefully – it’s more fun to watch as directors build on eachother’s work rather than operate mostly in private. But turns out the wouldbe Heroic Trio of Hark, Lam and To were schooled by three Amerindie nobodies – the recent The Signal, no matter its flaws, had an energy and inventiveness, particularly in its middle section, mostly missing from this somewhat turgid case of a good idea/so-so execution. It’s not that Triangle’s wholly invention-free: it may start off plot-heavy and laborious, but the middle section makes a nice sideline into hysterical melodrama before the third goes for the lightly goofy. What’s most sad is what’s done with Hark: the major stylist of the three, he needed to follow someone up, not start things out, as he appears to have calmed the hell down for the greater good. Still, I think I like this EC structure. Let’s make it a trend, shall we?
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920, John S. Robertson, USA): Based solely on this respectable take on the Robert Louis Stevenson yarn, Robertson wasn’t a premiere stylist of the silent era. His lighting can be moody (Jekyll’s lab is lit like a grotto), but this is mostly a case of keeping the story moving and allowing John Barrymore to chew some scenery, establishing mood coming in at third. That’s not necessarily a knock: Robertson’s storytelling is well-paced and Barrymore is captivating as both the sweetly naive Doctor and his funny-faced alter ego, all the moreso because the use of makeup and camera tricks is minimal. The Spencer Tracy version from 1941 doused the setup in Freudian goo; this one obsesses, somewhat queasily, over class, with Barrymore dipping below his status and tainting everything he touches. His relationship with Hyde is close to a drug addiction, one that turns him into the upper class’ worst stereotype of the rancid impoverished. I’m not convinced the film agrees with this view, though, as it’s clear that Jekyll himself is crossing class lines by trying to marry a woman above him. Questionable. But interesting.
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